Populists left and right seek social media control

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On the roster: Populists left and right seek social media control - Scott unveils bill to curb police brutality - Fauci pleads for caution as death toll rises - Trump offers donors $1.2 million convention package - Somebody call Shrek

POPULISTS LEFT AND RIGHT SEEK SOCIAL MEDIA CONTROL
The progressive populists on the left and the nationalist populists on the right are in a state of high alarm over the way tech companies do business.

This is one of the main proving grounds for the direction and durability of the bipolar populist movement that emerged out of the Panic of 2008 and subsequent recession.

It was technology, particularly social media, which in large part facilitated the movement’s success against the broad, bipartisan establishment. Now, as the movement is solidifying into an establishment of its own, leaders from both ends of the spectrum are looking to fence in the horses they rode to power.

At the progressive pole, Facebook is the preferred target. Some Democrats, who partly blame the social media giant for their 2016 defeat, are furious because the company does not do more to limit what people can say on its platform.

At the nationalist pole, Twitter is the preferred target. Some Republicans, including the president, are outraged because they believe the company is unfairly limiting their speech.

While they may disagree about what speech these corporations should or shouldn’t allow, they agree on how to punish them for their perceived abuses.

The threat from Sen. Josh Hawley, a rising star of the populist right, is the same as from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a doyenne of the populist left: The companies must change their policies to match their demands or Congress will rescind legal protections the platforms currently enjoy and the federal government will start regulating social media content.

Hawley’s latest bill, released today, would create a new system for social media users to sue the companies for claims of bias. It joins his other proposals that would, among other things, try to limit the time users spend on social media and establish federal oversight of content.

That matches the approach of the Ocasio-Cortez group in the House. Democrats are warning Facebook that if the company does not establish content standards that meet their demands, lawmakers will roll back protections that let the companies administrate users’ posts and set standards without being held liable for posts.

You can’t sue Twitter if someone uses the platform to defame you. You have to sue the user. But you can sue the New York Times for libel over an article it publishes by someone else. The threat from both Ocasio-Cortez and Hawley factions’ is to let users sue social media companies for content posted on their platforms, effectively wrecking their business models.

The nationalist and the progressive populists are also in sync on the threat of federal action against tech companies’ business practices. As the Trump Justice Department is exploring anti-trust action to break up big tech firms, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is coming after the companies for targeting users with ads suggested by their profiles.

There are efforts on the left and right to rein in Google and Amazon, too, but it is social media where the fight is the most urgent, and that stands to reason.

It’s unlikely that the nationalist populist revolt that put President Trump in the White House could have ever gotten off the ground without social media. Imagine what Pat Buchanan could have done in 1992 with a Twitter pitchfork brigade.

Similarly, there would have been no Bernie Sanders democratic socialist wave for Ocasio-Cortez to surf without social media and online fundraising. Their message has been the same for 50 years, but they have tools Eugene McCarthy and his crew did not.

Team Nationalist and Team Progressive are understandably alarmed that their preferred vehicles to obtain power are in the hands of private companies.

Corporations are designed to produce profits for shareholders, not facilitate political movements. And as the companies mature alongside the movements they have helped facilitate, shareholders may seek paths that reduce the populists’ advantages.

For now, the threats seem mostly like political theater. There’s no chance of this Congress taking action as sweeping as Hawley and Ocasio-Cortez imagine. There are enough free-speech liberals and free-market conservatives to prevent that.

But it is easy to see how through this election year and in the Congress that follows, this could be a place where populists left and right will seek to establish a new power structure with themselves at the center of it.

THE RULEBOOK: ONE WOULD THINK
“Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit?” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 6

TIME OUT: THE MIRACLE OF THE SUPERMARKET
The Atlantic: “Long-suffering as one of the thinnest-margined businesses in existence and one of the least-looked-forward-to places to visit, the supermarket has, for more than a decade, been under assault from e‑commerce giants, blamed for making Americans fat, accused of contributing to climate change, abandoned in favor of restaurants, and, in parts of the country, disappearing at a concerning pace. … Yet in recent months, the supermarket has assumed a new centrality in Americans’ lives. Cashiers, stockers, distributors, wholesalers, packers, pickers, and truck drivers have, even in the absence of adequate health safeguards, continued working to ensure that shelves stay stocked. Foodtowns, Nugget Markets, and Piggly Wigglys have emerged as crucial lifelines, spawning a broad reappreciation for one of the most distinctly American institutions. Grocery shopping is no longer one in a long list of mundane errands. For many people, it’s the errand—the only one—and it now seems not inevitable, but somewhat amazing to be able to do at all.”

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SCOREBOARD  
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE 
Trump: 41.8 percent 
Biden: 50.2 percent 
Size of lead: Biden by 8.4 points
Change from one week ago: First week of average
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 41% - Biden 55%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 42% - Biden 49%; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 43% - Biden 50%; IBD: Trump 42% - Biden 49%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% - Biden 52%.]

BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes) 
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.6 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: 40% approve - 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 42% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 54% disapprove.]

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SCOTT UNVEILS BILL TO CURB POLICE BRUTALITY
Fox News: “Senate Republicans on Wednesday unveiled their ‘Justice Act’ police reform legislation to hold officers accountable with an enhanced use-of-force database, pursue restrictions on chokeholds and create new commissions to study law enforcement and race. Sen. Tim Scott, the lone African-American GOP senator, spearheaded the legislation in the wake of George Floyd's death and nationwide protests demanding racial justice -- including activists' calls to dismantle police departments. He framed the legislation as a bridge between law enforcement and communities of color. ‘The answer to the question of which side do you support is ‘I support America,’’ Scott, R-S.C. said, ‘And if you support America you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority. If you support America, that means you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job, go home to their family. It is not a binary choice. This legislation encompasses that spirit.’ Scott said the overwhelming number of officers in America are good people. But he acknowledged the real fears people of color have about encountering the police.”

Poll shows huge support for protests, concerns over racism - Quinnipiac University: “With the United States at a moment of racial reckoning, voters say 68 - 27 percent that discrimination against black people in the United States is a serious problem, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. There are wide gaps by party, as 96 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents say discrimination against black people is a serious problem, while only 34 percent of Republicans say that. Broken down by race, 95 percent of black voters, 76 percent of Hispanic voters, and 62 percent of white voters say discrimination against black people is a serious problem. … Voters support the protests 67 - 28 percent. … More than half of voters, 57 percent, have a favorable opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement, while 30 percent have an unfavorable one. Voters think 55 - 38 percent that protests around the country calling to end racial inequality will lead to meaningful reforms.”

FAUCI PLEADS FOR CAUTION AS DEATH TOLL RISES
WSJ: “Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned the nation risks a resurgence of coronavirus infections should states fail to remain vigilant as they reopen their economies. ‘When I look at the TV and I see pictures of people congregating at bars when the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that, that’s very risky,’ Dr. Fauci said in an interview Tuesday. ‘People keep talking about a second wave,’ he added. ‘We’re still in a first wave.’ … With coronavirus infections increasing rapidly in a number of states, Dr. Fauci said a relaxed approach to public-health measures that reduce risk and spread poses significant hurdles to state and federal efforts. Throngs of people have gathered in many parts of the country, often without social distancing or mask wearing, prompting new warnings from state leaders of a return to shutdowns or possible punitive actions.”

Cuomo under increasing scrutiny for nursing home deaths - ProPublica: “On April 3, Stephanie Gilmore, a 34-year-old nurse working at the Diamond Hill nursing home in Troy, New York, was summoned to a supervisor’s office. The home’s administrator and nursing director were there to relay some distressing news. Gilmore said they told her that a resident in the home had recently gone to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19. The resident was set to return to Diamond Hill, making her the first confirmed COVID-19 case at the 120-bed facility north of Albany. The risks to the home’s staff and other residents were obvious: The virus was ravaging nursing homes across the country. But the week before, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his health commissioner, Howard Zucker, had all but made such discharges mandatory. If a hospital determined a patient who needed nursing home care was medically stable, the home had to accept them, even if they had been treated for COVID-19. Moreover, the nursing home could not test any such prospective residents — those treated for COVID-19 or those hospitalized for other reasons — to see if they were newly infected or perhaps still contagious despite their treatment. It was all laid out in a formal order, effective March 25. New York was the only state in the nation that barred testing of those being placed or returning to nursing homes.”

States look to Colorado as guide for safe reopening - Politico: “Colorado was the first Democratic-run state to reopen from a coronavirus lockdown, and so far it has avoided the fresh spikes in infection rippling across the West. Its measured approach could be a lesson for the country on how to reopen effectively. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stood out because he embarked on a slow and methodical economic recovery in late April — even before the White House’s stay-at-home guidelines expired. Polis limited when restaurants and other businesses could reopen, at first only allowing curbside pickups at stores, imposing strict social distancing on salons and other personal services and prohibiting gatherings over 10 people. Colorado also benefited from a relatively young, healthy, active population that bought into the state public health officials’ message about wearing masks and social distancing. That experience could influence other states as localized outbreaks pop up even as people clamor for a more rapid reopening of the economy and something resembling a more normal way of life.”

Jason Gay: ‘If there’s no baseball, will you miss it?’ - WSJ: “This is what the past couple of months have taught us: Humans evolve. We miss our rituals and past behaviors – but we adjust. I have not worn nice pants since the Super Bowl. It’s fine. I’ve become the Steve McQueen of Drawstring Sweatpants. I rotate the same three T-shirts. I will probably never go back to personal sartorial dignity. … This is what baseball needs to know. The creaky old pastime is fighting again, yowling about how there might not be a 2020 season, how the billionaire owners and millionaire players can’t come to terms on a deal to play a pandemic-shortened season. It wants us to yowl, too – demand that all parties come to the table and hash this dispute out. It wants us to get very, very, angry, and act like this is very, very important and very, very essential. But the danger isn’t public anger. It’s ambivalence. It’s whether there are enough people who care enough to care.”

TRUMP WOOS DONORS WITH $1.2 M CONVENTION TRIP
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is enticing big-spending donors to the Republican Party’s convention in August by offering packages that cost almost $1.2 million dollars per couple. Trump Victory, the joint effort of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, sent out invitations Tuesday with details of the perks available at the convention in Jacksonville, Florida, from Aug. 24-27. The invitations, obtained by Bloomberg News, offer various tiers of support, all with different levels of access to Trump as well as RNC and campaign officials. The offers rise by increments to a maximum of $1,161,200 per couple for the ‘Presidential Trust’ package, which guarantees premier access to the convention arena, with ‘special Trump Victory hospitality,’ including lounge benefits, priority seating and a behind-the-scenes tour. There is also a ‘Vice Presidential Trust’ for $580,600.”

Biden keeps up torrid fundraising pace - Fox News: “Joe Biden hauled in a record amount at a virtual fundraiser on Monday evening with the help of former Democratic presidential primary rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Biden’s campaign said the that the former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee raised $6 million from 620 donors attending the online fundraiser. That’s the largest haul to date for the Biden Victory Fund, the joint fundraising operation set up jointly by the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee in late April. Biden praised Warren, adding, ‘Thank you for asking your friends to help me out. It's the biggest fundraiser we've ever had. And it's all because of you. Thank you.’ The event was hosted by Warren as well as retired software entrepreneur Paul Egerman and National Center for Learning Disabilities board member Shanti Fry. Soon after the conclusion of Monday’s fundraiser, the campaign announced that Biden will team up with his boss for eight years – former President Obama – for a virtual fundraiser next week.  The June 23 event is Obama’s fundraising debut for his former vice president and will target small-dollar donors.”

Scaramucci and other GOPers launch pro-Biden super PAC - Axios: “A group of prominent Republican operatives that includes former officials from the Trump and George W. Bush administrations are launching a super PAC to turn out GOP voters for Joe Biden in November, organizers tell Axios. The ‘Right Side PAC’ aims to identify former Trump supporters across the country who have cooled to the president's approach in office and convince them to vote for Biden, says founder Matt Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired after 10 days as Trump's communications director and later turned on the president, also is part of the effort. The PAC will initially target voters in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. They'll use digital, mail and telephone to reach voters. They'll encourage absentee voting. They do not have plans to run TV ads.”

Judge denies Oklahomans’ efforts to block Trump's rally - SF Gate: “A Tulsa judge on Tuesday denied an effort by city residents and business owners to block President Donald Trump from holding an indoor campaign rally this weekend that some fear could further the spread of the coronavirus. The lawsuit in the district court of Tulsa County sought a temporary injunction against the company that manages the 19,000-seat venue, the BOK Center, ‘to protect against a substantial, imminent, and deadly risk to the community,’ according to a copy of the complaint. Judge Rebecca Nightingale denied the request. There have been mounting concerns among Democrats, civil rights activists, and even some Republicans that Trump's rally could inflame racial tensions in Tulsa and contribute to further spreading of the coronavirus. Some opponents plan to protest Trump's presence. At the same time, Trump's supporters eagerly awaited Saturday night's gathering, already lining up four days ahead of time.”

ETHICS COMMITTEE CLEARS LOEFFLER ON STOCK SALES
Politico: “The Senate Ethics Committee has ended its investigation into Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s stock trades, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the Georgia Republican. The news comes three weeks after Loeffler’s office said the Justice Department had also dropped its probe into her stock trades. Deborah Sue Mayer, the Ethics Committee’s chief counsel and staff director, wrote in the letter that the panel examined stock transactions made by both Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. ‘Based on all the information before it, the Committee did not find evidence that your actions violated federal law, Senate Rules or standards of conduct,’ Mayer said. ‘Accordingly, consistent with its precedent, the Committee has dismissed the matter.’ It’s a welcome development for Loeffler, though significant political damage has already been done as she seeks to stay in the Senate past November.”

Dems settle on challenger in key Atlanta suburb race - Roll Call: “Public policy professor Carolyn Bourdeaux was declared the outright winner Tuesday of a crowded Democratic primary in suburban Atlanta, as absentee ballots continued to be counted a week after the chaotic June 9 elections. Bourdeaux had 52.7 percent of the vote in Georgia’s 7th District in tallies posted Tuesday afternoon, when The Associated Press called the race. … Bourdeaux was below that level last week, when the AP said she would face a runoff with Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, who had 12.4 percent. Progressive activist Nabilah Islam was a close third in the six-candidate field, with 12.3 percent. Bourdeaux was the 2018 Democratic nominee and unexpectedly came within 1 percentage point of beating GOP Rep. Rob Woodall. Woodall was one of the first House members to announce his retirement this cycle.”

Dems dump Sasse challenger over raunchy texts to staff - NYT: “The Nebraska Democratic Party has withdrawn its support for its Senate candidate, Chris Janicek, after he made sexually explicit comments about one of his campaign staff members in a group text that included her. The party said in a statement on Tuesday that it had received a copy of the text messages last week, and that party leaders had met with Mr. Janicek on Thursday and urged him to drop out of the race. On Monday, Mr. Janicek refused to do so, and the party’s executive committee voted unanimously to withdraw its support and resources from his campaign. ‘Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment,’ Jane Kleeb, the chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said in the statement. ‘Our party will not extend resources or any type of support to any candidate that violates our code of conduct and doesn’t treat men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pergram: Debate about offensive symbols, icons on Capitol Hill sprawls far beyond the Confederates - Fox News

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to restore paroled felons’ voting rights - NYT

AUDIBLE: BOOM. ROASTED.
“Y’all still wearing those kente cloths over there @SenatorDurbin?” – Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., tweeted in response to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called the GOP police reform bill a “token” approach during his floor speech.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I'll be brief. ‘His supporters, you included, I’d guess, like that he kicks over hornets’ nests.’ That's why people voted for him. People were convinced that he wouldn't stand for the status quo. Ya gotta kick some hornet's nests to drain the swamp. I love the Halftime Report!” – Yvonne McGowen, Dacula, Ga.

[Ed. note: Quite so, Ms. McGowen! Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.]

“We don’t really need a legislative branch of government anymore. The SCOTUS seems to be able to take care of both jobs. In the ‘old days’ laws were made in pursuance of the Constitution. I have tried hard to find something that upholds the power of the federal government to regulate personnel rules in private businesses but it’s just not there.” – Jim King, Chesapeake, Va.

[Ed. note: To get to days that old, Mr. King, you’d have to go back at least a century. I’m not talking about what the Constitution says about the power of the federal government to regulate private enterprise -- a subject beyond my ken and to which have been devoted enough articles to lift the Supreme Court to the moon. But the “old days” would have to predate not just the administrative state expansions of the second half of the 20th century, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New Deal restrictions on commercial activity and Progressive Era labor regulations before them. There is no doubt that our Congress is in a pitiful state, having devolved its own power for the sake of political comfort, but I would argue that the courts have taken a less activist role in recent years. The doctrines of judicial restraint and deference to Congress have waxed, not waned.]

“‘Twelve years ago, Barack Obama ran for president as an explicit opponent of same sex marriage.’ Please provide your source for this claim.” – Stephen Meyer, Albuquerque, N.M.

[Ed. note: Here you go!]

“Presidential candidates with women vice presidents are 0 for 2 so far. I´m not saying it could hurt, but why does Biden think a women vice president will help him that much? Even for Hillary, who was a presidential candidate, women didn’t turn out that much compared to Obama. Why does Uncle Joe think a woman vice president would improve his chances that drastically?” – Akiva Neuhaus, Miami

[Ed. note: While I can see something to the argument that Sarah Palin hurt John McCain’s chances in 2008, I hardly think it’s fair to blame her or Geraldine Ferarro for their parties’ respective defeats. I can’t imagine any running mate saving McCain or Walter Mondale. Biden’s pledge to pick a female running mate was not about the general election, anyway. It was aimed at wrapping up the nomination of a party that was deeply frustrated by the failures of what at first seemed a promising crop of female contenders. Biden’s promise was aimed at women holding out for Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Democratic voters are majority female and these considerations, especially following Hillary Clinton’s Hindenburg act, are a big deal. As for the general, I don’t think gender matters nearly as much as you or they seem to think. I think what will matter for Biden are the qualities and capabilities of the woman he chooses. If Biden picks someone smart, capable and politically astute, she will be an asset. If he picks an unqualified goofball, it might do in his candidacy. Candidate qualities make the difference, not gender.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

SOMEBODY CALL SHREK
WAGA: “A place in the north Georgia mountains that celebrates the magic of make-believe finds itself facing some real-world troubles. … It’s easy to zip past Sleepy Hollow. It sits along busy Highway 515 near Blairsville, tucked behind some trees on a piece of land that rolls gently up to a home and workshop. On that land, Art Millican has built a world of whimsy, a collection of gnome houses and fairy cottages that children can play in for as long as they like. Or as long as their parents’ patience holds out. … But if you haven’t seen Sleepy Hollow, you better get up here quick. It will soon be gone, to make way for a $103 million highway widening project. … If the two sides can’t agree, the state is allowed to condemn the property and let the courts decide the value.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“A debate over the relationship between religion and government is about the meaning of our national existence.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The New Republic on April 9, 1984.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.