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When paid family leave was briefly dropped from congressional Democrats’ massive social spending and climate bill earlier this fall, the outcry was swift.
Women and caregivers suddenly were calling lawmakers and advocates, and they were sharing their own stories on social media in huge numbers, said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, a national advocacy group, during a virtual event with reporters on Tuesday.
“I think people assumed this was a given, that why would you drop paid leave in a pandemic?” Huckelbridge said. “And when that happened, there was outrage.”
She added: “Women, caregivers, have been dealing with unimaginable circumstances these last few years. And I think it felt tone-deaf to them.”
The Democrats’ “Build Back Better” bill that passed the U.S. House did ultimately restore four weeks of paid leave for workers who need to care for a new baby or ailing loved one or recover from their own serious illness.
But that provision is at risk of deletion in the Senate, due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin III, (D-W.Va.).
Payback at the polls?
Huckelbridge and other advocates and Democratic pollsters who spoke to reporters on Tuesday said a failure to take action on a national paid leave program could have significant political consequences for Democrats in 2022.
The U.S. is one of only a few countries in the world — and the only wealthy country — that does not have a national paid family leave program.
Yet creation of such a program is overwhelmingly popular across party lines, particularly with younger voters and among suburban women in key battleground states.
“It may not be bipartisan in the Congress, but it is bipartisan with the public, particularly in America’s suburbs,” said Celinda Lake, of Lake Research Partners, who was the leading pollster for Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
It’s also one of the most popular provisions in the Build Back Better package. Research from Global Strategy Group, a Democratic consulting firm, found the issue has support that’s on par with allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Paid leave also was the only provision tested from that legislative package other than the Medicare provision that gained majority support from voters in both parties — a rare feat in an extremely politically divided era.
In the Global Strategy Group’s survey of battleground voters, Democrats trailed Republicans by 3 percentage points in a generic question of which party’s candidate a voter is more likely to pick.
But in a follow-up question specifically comparing a Democrat who supports paid leave to a Republican who does not, Democrats hold a 13-point edge, said Joey Teitelbaum, lead researcher on the group’s battleground polling.
Teitelbaum said the research found the issue is one that may motivate voters who would otherwise stay home, but only if those voters see Democrats following through on promises of action on paid leave.
One-third of voters in the survey said they would rather stay home on Election Day than vote for a Senate candidate who opposes access to paid leave, with higher shares of women ages 18 to 44 and Black female voters agreeing with that statement.
One key group of swing voters in the 2022 elections, Lake said, will be white, non-college-educated women ages 40 to 65 — a group that has many women in the “sandwich” years of caring for children and aging parents.
Another key group will be women of color and younger women under 40, “who lean very Democratic, but also wonder what the Democrats are doing for them,” she added.
“So whether you’re talking about the strategy of persuasion, or you’re talking about the strategy of turnout, this is one of the few issues that is at the top of both of those agendas,” Lake said.
Moving paid leave from a campaign promise to a policy achievement will take a shift by Manchin, who has said he supports the idea of paid leave but does not back creating a new national program in the pending legislation.
Huckelbridge said Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who have been heavily involved in work on a paid leave program, have told her and others that they believe Manchin is “movable” on the issue.
But they acknowledge that the current bill — which would be passed through the reconciliation process, allowing Democrats to approve it without any Republican votes — is the only path forward on the national level.
“We have to do this in Build Back Better. There is no bipartisan path anytime soon that will deliver real results for families,” Huckelbridge said.
If that fails, advocates say the movement has grown stronger during the past year. In some states, the fight may move to the state legislature, describing a rise in state-level interest.
“We will see this be an issue in state legislatures and at the ballot box in states,” said Vicki Shabo, senior fellow for paid leave policy and strategy at the think tank New America. “And the federal issue is not going away either.”
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President Donald Trump has attracted a number of conspiracy theorists and people dedicated to the belief that an operative known only as "Q" was delivering messages from inside his administration. Over the past several months, however, those Q followers have turned against several Trump allies. Now his former chief of staff is coming out against the QAnon group.
In his new book, Meadows implies that the supporters are essentially nothing more than kooks
“Even major newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal devoted thousands of column inches to fringe conspiracy movements like QAnon, attempting to impute the bizarre ideas of that movement onto the average men and women all over the country who simply wanted President Trump back in the White House," the book says, calling QAnon a "fringe conspiracy movement."
In another section, Meadows noted that he assumed that "most liberals pictured" assumed that the average Trump supporter was a "middle-aged white man with a big Pepe the Frog tattoo on his chest, probably shouting racist epithets and telling anyone who would listen that the aliens were coming back to get him at any moment."
No one believes "all" Trump supporters are caricatures. But, Meadows has an odd characterization, in large part because those stereotypes actually exist. A Sept. 2020 Trump rally had supporters chanting "white power" and "f*ck Black lives." A tattoo artist revealed an increase in those asking for meme tattoos in 2018, including Pepe the Frog. It was inked on the man's wrist saying, "Feels good. Man," two years after the symbol was adopted by "keyboard Nazis known collectively as the alt-right," VICE News reported.
While there aren't a lot of alien abductees willing to come forward, Trump promoted a doctor named Stella Immanuel, who "alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious," the Daily Beast reported in July 2020. "She has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens."
Trump fan Lou Dobbs also pressed Trump on the UFO issue.
“Actually a lot of my friends are very concerned about what the federal government is doing when it comes to UFOs,” Dobbs said in an Aug. 2020 interview with Trump. “So if I could just ask you are we going to commit, are you going to commit more resources to exploring UFOs and open the documents to the public.”
One conspiracy theory talked about in the Q-movement includes claims of interstellar lizard people, which began before Trump's campaign. There's even a film that talks about the conspiracy theorists that believe in the alien lizards, linking it to the false QAnon theory about a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.
Meadows's opposition to QAnon may mean he turns into another target of the group that is fiercely protective of the former president and what they believe are his ongoing efforts to stop Satan-worshiping child abusers.
One of Trump's inner circle has become a target among QAnon followers who think he's gone to the "dark side." Michael Flynn, the former general who has long pushed Trump's 2020 "big lie" election conspiracy is on the outs with the Q fans. Flynn took the QAnon oath, he signed books with a frequently used QAnon slogan and even cultivated followers who thought he was the "Q" informant. Then Lin Wood revealed that Flynn called the QAnon "total nonsense."
"And I think it’s a disinformation campaign created by the left," said Flynn.
The moment came after QAnon followers believed that Flynn was secretly a Satanist and even prayed to Satan in a prayer that included invocations to "sevenfold rays" and "legions." Q followers, always keen to keep an eye on possible Devil-worship, concluded at the time that Flynn has gone to the dark side.
Mark Meadows book is on sale now.
Marjorie Taylor Greene: Jan. 6 defendants are being mocked in jail 'because of the color of their skin'
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on Tuesday suggested that people who allegedly rioted on January 6 are facing discrimination "because the color of their skin."
Greene made the remarks during a press conference that unveiled a Republican-back report on the January 6 defendants who are currently housed at the D.C. Jail. The event also featured Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
When she was asked about nationwide criminal justice reform, Greene argued that Nation of Islam literature should not be available in jails.
"Or information and curriculum that informs them because of the color of their skin, this is why they are being treated this way," the Georgia Republican said. "As far as the difference in the jail though, it's very clear, the Jan. 6 defendants, they were not allowed to participate in any of the continuing education curriculums that we were shown that other inmates and other pre-trial defendants are allowed to participate in."
"None of those things were offered for the Jan. 6 defendants," she continued. "They were isolated in a separate wing of the jail, where they are abused, where they are ridiculed, where they are mocked because of their political beliefs and because of Jan. 6 and because of the color of their skin."
Watch the video below from C-SPAN.