One year to the day after Donald Trump was named the winner of the Presidency in 2016 (while losing the national vote by 3 million), we review what appears to be the remarkable 'blue tidal wave' that swept across much of the country in Tuesday's contests in about one-third of the states. From big races to small, from high office to city councils and boards of education, voters turned out in impressive numbers and Democratic candidates reportedly performed very well in the bargain wherever they ran.
Democratic candidate Ralph Northam walloped the Trump-supported GOP candidate Ed Gillespie by some 9 points for Governor in Virginia, a clear rebuke to both the President and the racially-based scare campaign both he and Gillespie ran on. Democrats also won for Lt. Governor (only the second African-American to win statewide since the Civil War) and for Attorney General. In perhaps the biggest surprise in the state, voters also turned out at least 15 Republicans from the state's House of Delegates which, depending on some challenges and "recounts", may result in a stunning Democratic takeover of the state's lower chamber that had a 66 to 34 GOP majority before last night. (VA also moved from 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems to optically-scanned hand-marked paper ballots this year. So, at least there will be something to count in "recounts" there this year.) Minorities of all sorts — including the first openly transgender candidate who replaced a homophobic hard right incumbent — won in the VA House, where Dems out-voted the GOP by more than 200,000 votes. Nonetheless, thanks to Republican gerrymandering, they may still end up in a slim minority there.
Dems also took over the gubernatorial mansion in NJ from the wildly unpopular Chris Christie and won re-election for mayor in NYC by a landslide. African-American candidates won mayoral victories for the first time in cities from North Carolina to South Carolina to Georgia to Montana to Minnesota. Topeka, KS picked up its first Hispanic mayor and Hoboken, NJ now has its first Sikh mayor. And, in Maine, voters overwhelmingly approved the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which will result in health care for some 80,000 Mainers if the dumbest Governor in the nation, Paul LePage, stops blocking it. (It is also likely to inspire similar ballot initiatives in 2018 in other states where Republicans are denying federally-funded health care to their own residents.) It also appears that the last Republican-controlled legislature on the West Coast, the Washington state Senate, has fallen to Democratic-control, creating a "Blue Wall" of states in the West from Canada to Mexico. So it was a good day for Dems, and seemingly a very troubling omen for Trump and the GOP in 2018.
Meanwhile, it's been just days since 26 were massacred and 20 others shot by a man with a semi-automatic rifle in Sutherland Springs, TX. But Republicans have already made clear they intend to take no legislative action in response. Our guest today, however, legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN of Slate, has a fantastic idea that Democratic-controlled states could implement almost immediately. It's one that works around the NRA's 2nd Amendment challenges, as well as the outrageous federal "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" (PLCAA) of 2005, which largely granted total immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits filed by victims.
"PLCAA is an entirely unique law. There is literally nothing else like it in the federal code," Sterns explains. "This law literally erased hundreds of years of laws and statutes, and jury verdicts, and forced all states to comply with this federal statute that basically prevents anybody from successfully suing a gun manufacturer or a gun seller, and gives them complete immunity to be as negligent as they want."
Stern's idea, as he explains, would result in help for victims of gun violence (more than 300 per day across the country) and their families, who often face bankruptcy after such incidents, as gun violence costs some $2.8 billion each year in health care costs alone. The measure would also force the gun industry to finally pay up for at least a small part of the unspeakable damage, pain, suffering and injury that they help to inflict every day on Americans.
State's "need to propose a special tax on the income of gun manufacturers and gun sellers that is high without being exorbitant. Tax their profits at every stage. They make a huge amount of money, so this would not burden them. This would not shutter manufacturers. But it would force them to pay a lot more, millions more, every year in taxes. What the legislature needs to do is take this extra revenue and place it in a fund that is explicitly designated to be paid out to victims of gun violence. When people are shot, and it is not at all their fault, they should be able to draw money from this fund to pay for their medical expenses and other care. There should be no cap, no limit on it. And no one would be able to raise a Constitutional objection. This is perfectly compliant with the Second Amendment and PLCAA."
Listen to today's show and please see Stern's excellent piece at Slate this week as well. Then get your state legislators busy! Many already have similar funds for victims of all sorts, like those harmed by the vaccine industry. This, Stern argues, should be a no-brainer for states like California and, perhaps now, even Virginia.
Finally, we close today with a few comments from Stephen Colbert that help bring all of the topics discussed on today's show together and into stark perspective…
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