I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
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Today's read: 13 minutes.
We breakdown the big night for Democrats. Plus, a reader question about Marianne Williamson.
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Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that the last few days have involved some controversy. On Monday, I moderated a fiery conversation for our YouTube channel and podcast. My two guests were Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, an Arab intellectual who grew up in Egypt hating Israel but became pro-Israel as he learned more about the issue, and Dan Cohen, an American Jew who grew up thinking Israel was his homeland but is now staunchly anti-Zionist.
After the discussion, Mansour expressed his regret joining the interview, calling Cohen a paid propagandist for his work at the Russia-funded RT America and suggesting I wasn't smart enough to understand what had just happened. Cohen returned fire, calling Mansour a paid propagandist for his work for a group fighting anti-Semitism that has received money from the Israeli government. It was all very messy and got lots of attention in places on the internet that I don't think any of us should spend much time sweating over.
But... I actually thought the conversation was pretty interesting, and about 80% of the debate is valuable. At the very least it was a good way to see how two people who strongly disagree on this issue can frame the same events in such different ways. So: We'll be releasing the video and podcast to everyone this Friday, on Veteran's Day, despite that typically being a day off for us. This is me giving you a heads up to keep an eye out for it.
- The House voted 234-188 to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI), the lone Palestinian-American in Congress, for her rhetoric about the conflict in Israel. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in the vote. All but four Republicans voted in favor. A censure carries no practical impact, but is considered a severe condemnation from colleagues. (The vote)
- House Republicans pulled their version of the 2024 Transportation and Housing spending bill from the floor after it became clear it didn't have the votes to pass. (The reversal)
- Parts of the U.S. Capitol complex went on lockdown yesterday after a man with a rifle was spotted near the Senate offices. After refusing to put down the gun, the 21-year-old was tased and arrested. (The arrest)
- President Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a three-day pause in fighting to allow the release of more hostages and delivery of humanitarian aid. (The talks)
- During oral arguments, the Supreme Court appears likely to uphold the legality of a law that makes it a crime for people with domestic violence restraining orders to purchase a gun. (The arguments)
- REMINDER: The third Republican debate takes place at 8pm ET tonight in Miami. (The preview)
Tuesday's election results. Yesterday, voters across the U.S. cast ballots in gubernatorial races, state House races, state Supreme Court races, and on ballot measures related to abortion and marijuana. In most of the contested and closely watched elections, Democrats and abortion rights activists prevailed.
In Virginia, voters flipped the House of Delegates back to Democratic control and preserved a Democratic majority in the state Senate. The win came after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned on a promise to pass abortion restrictions if Republicans won control of both chambers. Specifically, Youngkin promised to pass a ban abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the mother's life. The response to his anti-abortion message, which is somewhat moderate among Republican governors, was being closely watched by Republicans nationally. Virginia is the only southern state that has not implemented abortion bans since Roe v. Wade fell.
The 100-seat Virginia House of Delegates flipped 51-47 in favor of Democrats, with two races too close to call as of publication. Democrats also won 21 seats in the 40-member Senate, with one race still too close to call as of publication. If Democrats lose that race they will still have a majority, but it would be a net gain for Republicans in the state senate.
In Ohio, voters approved a constitutional amendment that ensures access to abortion, the latest major victory for state-level abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Ohio, where former President Trump beat President Biden by eight points in 2020, became the seventh state where voters instituted constitutional protections for abortion access. It was the only state to consider a statewide abortion question this year.
The state’s ballot measure, Issue 1, declared an individual's right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions," which encompasses abortion, birth control, fertility treatments, and miscarriages. The amendment allows the state to regulate abortion after fetal viability, which was defined as the point when the fetus has a "significant" likelihood of survival outside the womb. 56.6% of voters voted yes for the measure, while 43.4% voted against it.
In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear defeated his Republican challenger Daniel Cameron. Beshear held onto the governor's mansion in a ruby-red state that Trump won by 26 points in 2020, despite the fact Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) both endorsed his opponent. Beshear made abortion a centerpiece of his campaign, while Cameron tried to tie him to President Biden. Beshear also received praise for cultivating his own personal brand separate from the national Democratic party, which has earned him the highest approval rating of any Democratic governor in the country.
At the time of publication, Beshear was leading the race with 52.5% of the vote to Cameron's 47.5% with over 95% of votes tallied.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Dan McCaffery was elected to the state Supreme Court, extending Democrats' majority to 5-2. Both Democrats and Republicans invested heavily in the race, with more than $20 million pouring into the election from the candidates’ campaigns and outside groups, who saw the contest as a referendum on abortion rights and mail-in voting. As in 2020, the court is also expected to navigate a slew of election challenges if the 2024 election is close.
Carolyn Carluccio, McCaffery's opponent, drew national attention during the race for initially telling the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board she had "no idea" if Biden won the 2020 election before backtracking on her comments. McCaffery won 51.4% of the vote to Carluccio's 45.7%.
“The people have spoken, and while the outcome was not what we hoped for, the democratic process has once again prevailed,” Carluccio said after the race was called for McCaffery. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to my supporters for your time and your belief in our vision for a fair and impartial judiciary.”
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves won re-election, fending off a challenge from Democratic candidate Brandon Presley. Mississippi has not had a Democratic governor in over two decades, and Presley staged a surprisingly strong challenge, with polls showing a close race leading up to election day. Ultimately, though, Reeves — who was first elected governor in 2019 — won the race comfortably with 51.8% of the vote to Presley's 46.9%.
The race was one of the few bright spots on the night for Republicans nationally, but was disrupted by issues at polling places after the state's largest county ran out of ballots and voters had to wait in long lines to cast a vote. A local judge in the Democratic stronghold ordered polls to stay open an extra hour, and the county commissioners — all Democrats — took blame for the mess, saying they had underestimated the turnout and were ill-prepared.
Elsewhere, Democrat Gabriel Amo won the Rhode Island special election for the 1st Congressional district, becoming the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress. In Philadelphia, Democrat Cherelle Parker became the first woman to be mayor of the city, running on a platform that included pledging to hire hundreds of cops and reinstating stop-and-frisk tactics. In New York, Yusef Salaam (D), who was one of the exonerated members of the "Central Park Five" and spent almost seven years wrongly imprisoned, won a city council seat in Harlem. Along with passing constitutional protections for abortion, Ohioans also voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, becoming the 24th state to do so. In St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, MN, voters chose City Council member Nadia Mohamed as their next mayor. Mohamed is believed to be the first Somali American elected as mayor of a U.S. city.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some commentary about the night from the right and left, then my take.
What the right is saying.
- The right is disappointed by the results and concerned about Republicans’ string of election losses since the Dobbs decision.
- Some say conservatives should remain committed to the pro-life cause but accept compromises on the issue.
- Others place the blame for the party’s underperformance squarely on Trump.
National Review’s editors said conservatives should “take the long view on the fight for life.”
“The adversaries and false friends of the pro-life movement will undoubtedly use this loss to try to convince pro-lifers that their cause is politically toxic and that they just ought to give up. In the mind of anyone who knows the truth that abortion deliberately kills an innocent human being, giving up on the most important human-rights cause of our time is unthinkable,” the editors wrote. “But the loss in Ohio does occasion a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges the pro-life movement faces now and what will likely be a long battle ahead.”
“In the long term, the pro-life movement needs to change many more hearts and minds of Americans to win a long-lasting victory across the country. Such change will likely involve seeking incremental gains and prudent legislative compromises,” the editors said. “Advocates of same-sex marriage suffered a string of 32 losses at the ballot box before succeeding for the first time, in the bluest of states, in 2012. We disagreed with their objective, and both sides are more entrenched on the abortion issue, but their success serves as a reminder that a string of defeats at the ballot box is no reason to believe a cause is lost.”
In PJ Media, Matt Margolis asked “what the heck happened in Kentucky?”
“If you said in 2019, after Democrat Andy Beshear was elected governor of Kentucky, that he would get reelected four years later, I would have said ‘not a chance.’ He ran against notoriously corrupt and incredibly unpopular Republican incumbent Matt Bevin. It was a victory by the slimmest of margins, under a unique set of circumstances that certainly would be corrected four years later. And, on Tuesday night, it wasn’t,” Margolis said.
“Contrary to what many in the media and the Democratic Party will say, this election wasn’t a referendum on Trump, or a warning sign that 2024 is going to be bad for the GOP. There is, however, an alarm bell that the GOP must take note of,” Margolis wrote. “Beshear made abortion an issue of the campaign, and did so effectively… make no mistake about it, the GOP does have to make some changes if they don’t want to lose races like this in the future.”
In The Washington Examiner, Zachary Faria argued “the GOP needs to stop lying to itself about its Trump losing problem.”
“At some point, Republicans need to look their losing problem in the face. The issue is Donald Trump, and Republicans are going to continue to lose until they recognize that fact,” Faria said. Tuesday’s results come “after Trump-endorsed candidates, particularly those who embraced his stolen election lies, crashed and burned in the 2022 midterm elections. President Joe Biden is wildly unpopular, voters hate the direction of the country, and for the last two years those voters have kept backing Democrats over Republicans. The common denominator remains the perpetual loser that is Donald Trump.
“If the last two years are not proof that Trump’s current general election polling over Biden is a mirage, nothing will be. Every major GOP loss from the last two years can be directly traced back to Trump and the abysmal candidates he has supported or the candidates he has dragged down with the stink of his stolen election absurdities. How many more times do GOP voters want to smash their heads into a wall and hand Democrats the keys to power?”
What the left is saying.
- The left is heartened by the Democrats' strong showing and encouraging the party to continue making abortion its leading issue.
- Some praise leaders like Andy Beshear for showing that voters will reward competent governance from Democrats even in conservative states.
- Others say the results are a rebuke of the narrative that the Biden-led Democratic Party is in trouble in 2024.
In Slate, Ryan Teague Beckwith said Glenn Youngkin put “all his chips on new restrictions on abortion” and lost.
“Youngkin’s focus-grouped and poll-tested Big Idea was to neutralize the issue of abortion—a losing issue for Republicans since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year—by focusing on a 15-week ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother,” Beckwith wrote. “If the plan had worked, Youngkin would have instantly been a national Republican hero, showing the party how to overcome its greatest weakness with suburban women voters in a key state.”
“That was about as likely to happen as, well, Larry Hogan or Chris Christie beating Trump. But it’s definitively over now, and Youngkin’s abortion plan is a big reason. Voters keep telling Republicans they want to protect access to abortion,” Beckwith said. “Earlier this year, they flipped the majority in the Wisconsin state Supreme Court over the issue. And on Tuesday, they enshrined abortion rights in the Ohio state constitution. Virginia proved no different.”
In MSNBC, Teri Carter wrote about “why deep-red Kentucky just re-elected its Democratic governor.”
What’s most surprising about Beshear’s victory is “how unsurprising it is,” Carter said. “Beshear is one of the most popular governors in the country. And as someone who lives in the heart of rural Trump country, the signs of Cameron’s defeat — or lack thereof — have been here all along.” During the pandemic, “we were looking for a Mr. Rogers-type figure to tell us what to do to stay safe and that, in the end, it was all going to be OK. And there was our governor — no longer called Governor but simply ‘Andy’ — on our televisions every evening, without fail, looking us in the eye. A trusted leader. One of us.”
After a series of natural disasters in Kentucky, “Beshear and his team were visible on the ground, and with the compassion and trust he’d banked during the Covid crisis, he rallied all Kentuckians to support our neighbors,” Carter wrote. “One advantage of being the incumbent is you get to use the bulwark of your office to promote your successes. Whether announcing a new investment in Kentucky or delivering checks to small counties like mine for infrastructure, Beshear showed up in person, shook every hand and garnered much goodwill.”
In USA Today, Rex Huppke suggested “Biden might not be such a drag for Dems.”
“Several political narratives died Tuesday night at the hands of voters, marking a nontragic and fully deserved end to days of nervous liberal-pundit blah-blah,” Huppke said. On abortion, “It’s clear Americans continue to not like having their rights taken away, and that spells serious trouble for the Republican Party.” Meanwhile, “Trump, once again, showed he’s no kingmaker. Biden, following several days of Democratic wailing and worrying about whether he’s the party’s best bet in the 2024 election, failed to drag Democratic candidates and Democratic-supported initiatives down.”
“Which raises the question: Why is so much attention paid to Biden’s approval ratings and his age when the Republican Party as a whole seems radically out of touch with American voters in blue states, and even in some red states? And why is the Democratic guy whose party keeps winning having to justify his reelection bid while the other party embraces an incoherent dude only three years younger who keeps leading Republicans to embarrassing election losses while facing 91 state and federal charges?”
Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.
- It’s encouraging to see that voters care about issues over party.
- The candidates in these races also mattered more than which party they belonged to.
- If I had to forecast what this means, it’s that voters are going to care a lot about abortion and accepting the 2020 election when it comes time to cast their vote in 2024.
I find a lot of these results encouraging, not because Democrats won, but because these results demonstrate that voters can separate the issues they are facing locally from the issues that infect all of our national politics. That seems like a good thing to me.
How did a Democrat get re-elected governor in a state that went for Trump by 26 points? Voters paid attention to the candidates, not the letter next to their names. How did a state like Virginia end up with a widely supported Republican governor and two state chambers run by Democrats? Gov. Youngkin made this race about abortion, and Virginia voters didn't like what they heard. How did Ohio, now a Republican stronghold, vote to protect abortion rights and legalize marijuana despite its conservative bonafides? Voters there turned out for an issue they cared about, and party politics don't determine how voters feel about individual issues.
I think all of this is a good sign. It seems our country is not so totally drowned in red vs. blue national politics that voters can't narrow it down to the people and issues they care about.
The results are also fascinating in that they contrast so heavily with what we just covered yesterday — a national environment sour on President Biden. Aside from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who can breathe a sigh of relief but can hardly feel good about having had a competitive race, Democrats prevailed in basically every race that was being watched closely at the national level. While the party has to deal with the fact its candidate for president is deeply unpopular in polls, Republicans have to deal with the fact that they have underperformed in almost every major election since Donald Trump's 2016 victory. And their losses are even more stark if you start the clock at the fall of Roe v. Wade.
It's quite obvious to me that abortion is still central to a lot of what we are witnessing. My piece from a year ago titled "It's abortion, stupid," is aging nicely, and I think it applies to what we just saw in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
I also think it is worth pointing out that the obsession with the 2020 election continues to be a loser for Republicans. As a Pennsylvania resident I was already interested in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race, but I became especially interested especially after Carluccio stumbled on a very simple question about whether Biden won in 2020 or not. Her slip-up, and the outcome, is another reminder that candidates who question the 2020 election outcome are going to face repercussions from voters.
Relatedly, for all of Beshear’s success, it’s also true that the best performing statewide GOP candidate in Kentucky was Secretary of State Michael Adams, who strongly rejected talk of a stolen election and dominated his primary challenger. Adams ran on expanding voting rights, which was smart: In 2022, Republicans who denied the results of the 2020 election did two points worse, on average, than their Republican counterparts.
Taking all of this together, if you are looking for some kind of overarching narrative to extrapolate from these elections to the national mood, here's what I would offer:
President Biden has huge vulnerabilities heading into 2024, but the last few elections paint a very favorable political environment for Democrats. Simon Rosenberg, the Democratic strategist who was one of the few people that rightly predicted the 2022 election, puts it this way: "I'd rather be us than them." I think Rosenberg is right that Democrats are stronger nationally and in the important swing states.
But why? How can that be true when so many people disapprove of the Democratic president? Because voters strongly disagree with Republicans' positions on abortion and election integrity, and because those two issues continue to be the centerpieces of the elections we're witnessing. And they aren’t on poll respondents’ minds now, but they will be front and center in 2024 on election day. All the terrible polls for President Biden aren't going to change that, and I’d expect more of the same real-world results unless and until Republicans adopt a new strategy to address them.
Your questions, answered.
Q: Your interview with Dean Phillips raises the question of why you haven't had a similar focus on Marianne Williamson, another potential challenger to Biden?
— Paul from Deerfield, IL
Tangle: I'll start by just conceding my bias here: I don't take Williamson seriously. I do not think she has anything close to the qualifications to be president, and I don't think in any of her previous runs for office she has demonstrated a realistic understanding of the job she is asking for.
Williamson is an author, motivational speaker, and self-help guru running a 2024 presidential campaign on anti-corporate populism and a foreign policy of peace. She is generally very, very left on key issues, such as supporting the Green New Deal, universal free pre-k, shutting down nuclear plants, and banning assault weapons. She has faced controversy in the past for calling Covid vaccines “draconian” and for abusive treatment towards campaign staffers. I think a lot of her positions are divorced from moderates in both parties and I struggle to see any way she could put a dent in Biden, especially given her difficulty in simply running an organized campaign.
But there are other more relevant reasons: Williamson already put forward a weak showing in the 2020 Democratic Primary and was even running well behind RFK Jr. before he declared as an independent. For all that time Williamson has just been a background player, and her impact on national politics is not only slim in my view but has been proven to be slim in the real world.
But this question did make me reevaluate that position, because two big things have happened since RFK Jr. dropped out. First, Rep. Dean Phillips (MN) entered the Democratic primary. Then, the recent NYT/Siena College poll showed Trump polling well ahead of Biden in swing states. That brought new attention to the primary, which right now has only two people in it with any kind of head-to-head polling numbers: Biden and Williamson.
That will change once we see how the voters respond to Phillips, but as it stands right now, you’re right to say that Williamson has been getting overlooked. Even in our coverage of Phillips entering the race, we framed it as an unusual challenge to an incumbent, all but dismissing Williamson out-of-hand. So to that end, here's my promise that we'll reach out to her campaign and ask her to come on for an interview.
Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.
- 0. The number of abortion-related referendums supported by pro-life advocates that have succeeded since the Dobbs decision in June 2022.
- 7. The number of U.S. states that have voted to protect abortion access since the Dobbs decision.
- 17. The number of U.S. states with a ban on all or most abortions.
- 0.4. Andy Beshear’s margin of victory over Republican Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s 2019 gubernatorial election.
- 5. Beshear’s margin of victory over Daniel Cameron as of this morning.
- 46%. The percentage of people who voted in Ohio in 2023 who said they voted for Biden in 2020, according to ABC News exit polls.
- 43%. The percentage of people who voted in Ohio in 2023 who said they voted for Trump in 2020.
- 313,000. The approximate number of votes cast in New York City in the 2023 election.
- 4.6 million. The approximate number of active voters in New York City.
- One year ago today we wrote about last year's election day.
- The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter was Bernie Sanders showing off his reflexes.
- Generic Democrat: 949 Tangle readers responded to our poll asking who they would vote for if they were to participate in the Democratic primary, with 44% saying Dean Phillips. 27% said Joe Biden, 4% said Marianne Williamson, and 25% said someone else, with Joe Manchin, Gavin Newsom, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Bernie Sanders getting the most write-ins. "Amazing the generic Democrat beats Trump by 8 points," one respondent said (in reference to the NYT/Siena poll).
- Nothing to do with (actual) politics: Scott Alexander's imagined, extra challenging Republican primary debate.
- Take the poll. If the 2024 election were held tomorrow, which issues would matter the most to you? Let us know!
Have a nice day.
A group in the UK is looking to one common species to help improve the health of its marine ecosystems. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the northeast coast of England, the Wild Oysters Project in the UK just released 10,000 oysters to the water in the belief that they will improve the environment. Oysters filter their food out of the water, and in doing so can filter 50 gallons of water per day, or over 100 liters, cleaning out nitrogen and other pollutants. Their reefs also form natural and important breakwaters that reduce storm impacts on the shore. “Today marks an important milestone in our journey to restore native oyster reefs to British coastlines,” said Wild Oysters Project Manager Celine Gamble. “We’re optimistic that the 10,000 oysters will thrive, reproduce, and grow on the new reef.” Good News Network has the story.
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