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Wake Up To Politics - February 21, 2020

Wake Up To Politics - February 21, 2020
Wake Up To Politics - February 21, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, February 21, 2020. 1 day until the Nevada caucuses. 256 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

The latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics podcast is out! The new episode is all about political polling — its history, its future, and tips on how to interpret it — and features my interviews with MSNBC's Steve Kornacki and FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich. Listen here and don't forget to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform!

Leading today's newsletter: An exclusive excerpt from the new book, "The Ones We've Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America," by TIME correspondent Charlotte Alter. The book is a fascinating and richly-written look at rising millennial leaders; I'm so excited to share a piece of it with you:

Exclusive book excerpt: "The Last Dinosaurs"

Millennials are both the first digital natives and the last dino­saurs: young enough to have grown up online but old enough to remember what it was like before the ubiquity of the internet.

Their young lives spanned the biggest technological shift since the in­dustrial revolution: most millennials were born before cell phones were widely used, yet now almost all carry one in their pocket. They grew up be­fore the internet was available to ordinary people in most homes; now most of their professional and social lives take place online. Social media didn’t exist in their early adolescence; now social media companies have the power to shape not only their personal lives, but their democracy. According to Walter Isaacson, one of the great chroniclers of the digital revolution, the transformation to a digital world included three big shifts: the rise of search engines (Google was founded in 1998), the rise of crowd-sourced collabora­tion (Wikipedia launched in 2001), and the transition to mobile (the iPhone was released in 2007). All three of these shifts happened right smack in the middle of the millennial adolescence.

Most technological revolutions this massive don’t happen this fast. The telephone, for example, dates to the late nineteenth century and quickly be­came a popular luxury, but it was out of reach for millions until seventy-five years after it was invented. Radio and television took years to reach every living room in America. The rapid acceleration of technology in the first years of the twenty- first century is literally unprecedented. Never before has so much technology changed so fast, for so many people.

Unlike members of Generation Z, who were born into a digital universe and have never known anything different, millennials are acutely aware of how much has changed since they were children. They remember what it was like before the internet: calling up friends on home phone lines, calling Moviefone to find movie times, fighting over CDs in the car. Of course, Gen Xers and boomers also remember the analog age—probably much better than millennials do—and many of them are just as digitally nimble even if they spent more of their adult lives in a pre-internet world. But one day, far in the future, millennials will be the last people on earth who remember what it was like before the internet changed everything.

Being a kid in the 1980s meant getting a remote control for the first time, recording birthday parties on a camcorder, and trying to reach your parents on their pagers. In 1984, only about 8 percent of households had a computer, but households with kids were more likely to have one. These kids were the first to spend hours playing video games. They went to Blockbuster to rent VHS tapes of E.T. or The Princess Bride that had to be rewound after each viewing (“Be kind! Please rewind!”). They listened to tapes on Sony Walk­mans (you’d have to flip the tape after forty- five minutes or so), and then, once the ’90s rolled around, they could listen to Spice Girls CDs on a Sony Discman.

Things started to accelerate in the 1990s. In 1990, only 4 percent of Americans had a cell phone—ten years later, more than half would have one (mostly those block Nokia phones—flip phones would come later). By 1993, almost a quarter of US households had a computer, but they were mostly used for word processing, games, and calculations. When millennials were in elementary school and middle school in the mid-1990s, internet access was just beginning to spread.

Max Rose, House of Representatives, New York’s 11th District, spent the 1990s with a beeper that his mom would use to reach him if it was an emergency. If he wanted to talk to his friends, he’d call their home landline and would have to say, “Hi, Mrs. So‑and‑So,” and then ask for the kid. Finally, in 2001, he got a flip phone which could store only a hundred numbers.

The kids of the late 1990s were the first in history to have their social experiences mediated through screens. Kids like Max (screen name: Small­RedR) would race home from school, rush to the desktop computer, log in to AIM, and wait there until his friends logged in or his crush’s screen name popped up. Haley Stevens, House of Representatives, Michigan’s 11th District, (screen name: HaleyBooyah) spent high school printing out her AIM chats with boys from camp and putting them in a little folder to save for later analysis.

But between 2000 and 2007, America experienced a technological inflection point. By the year 2000, 65 percent of kids under seventeen had access to a home computer and 30 percent had internet access at home. It was also the first year that more people had internet than didn’t (even if it wasn’t quite home broadband yet) and the first year that Americans were more likely to have a cell phone than not (53 percent of Americans had cell phones by 2000). The iPod was invented in 2001. DVDs eclipsed VHS tapes in 2002. Facebook was launched in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, the iPhone in 2007. In the course of a few short years, technology had changed the way people found information, listened to music, and kept in touch with their friends. For millennials, it meant being born in an analog world and growing up in a digital one. In February 2005, only 5 percent of millennials used a social networking site—by early 2010, three-quarters did.

So someone like Haley would have started high school in 1997 listen­ing to music on a Discman, calling her friends on their landlines, and pasting disposable-camera photos into her scrapbooks. By the time she graduated from college in 2005, she would be listening to music on her iPod, texting her friends on her cell phone, and posting her photos to Facebook. In less than ten years, everything had changed.

From THE ONES WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR by Charlotte Alter, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2020 by Charlotte Alter.

Continued below...

Lawmakers warned of Russia meddling to help Trump in 2020

U.S. intelligence officials warned House lawmakers in a classified briefing last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 presidential campaign to boost President Donald Trump's re-election, the New York Times and other news outlets reported Thursday. The interference is reportedly aimed at both the ongoing Democratic primaries and the general election.

According to the Times, Trump berated Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about the disclosure the day after the briefing, complaining that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — the lead manager in the House impeachment proceedings — had been present. On Wednesday, less than a week later, Trump announced that Maguire would not be appointed to the top intelligence post on a permanent basis, instead installing Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a vocal presidential backer, as acting director in his place.

(Aboard Air Force One late Thursday night, the president said he is considering tapping Rep. Doug Collins as his permanent director of national intelligence, a choice that would avoid a messy Republican Senate primary in Georgia)

Other personnel changes have also been made at the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI) in recent days: Acting Principal Deputy Director Andrew Hallman and General Counsel Jason Klitenic are both reportedly on the outs, while White House aide Kash Patel — a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who was the lead author of a report criticizing the FBI's Russia investigation — is joining the agency as a senior adviser, according to Politico.

The removal of intelligence community veterans from ODNI and addition of ardent loyalists like Grenell and Patel are in line with other staffing moves President Trump has made since he was acquitted by the Senate earlier this month. Trump has ousted or reassigned a number of officials seen as disloyal (impeachment witnesses Gordon Sondland and Alexander Vindman, the latter's brother and fellow national security aide Yevgeny Vindman, "Anonymous" suspect Victoria Coates), while bringing back favored hands to the White House (such as longtime aides Johnny McEntee, who originally resigned due to gambling issues, and Hope Hicks).

“We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections. If reports are true, and the president is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling," Schiff said in a tweet Thursday evening.

Friday Roundup

Nevada caucus preview: Nevadans will caucus on Saturday, the third contest in the Democratic presidential primary. According to RealClearPolitics, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is heavily favored in the state, taking 30% in an average of recent polls to former Vice President Joe Biden's 16%. Biden is followed in the average by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (14%), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (13.7%), businessman Tom Steyer (10.3), and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (10%).

Nevada is the most diverse state to vote in the 2020 campaign so far: Latinos make up 27.3% of the state's population, an advantage for Sanders, who has led among the ethnic group nationally and in Nevada according to numerous survey. More than 70,000 Nevadans have already participated in the caucuses through early voting (an amount almost equal to the entire 2016 caucus day turnout), but concerns persist about a redux of the chaos from Iowa's caucuses earlier this month. According to NBC News, the "new early-voting system, high turnout, and questions about a never-before-used digital tool" has led many experts to fear delays and problems in reporting the caucus results.

Stone sentenced to 3+ years in prison: A federal judge sentenced Roger Stone, a longtime friend and political adviser to President Trump, to serve three years and four months in prison on Thursday for his attempts to impede the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"The truth still exists; the truth still matters," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a lengthy speech before announcing her sentence. "Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses."

Four career Justice Department prosecutors who were involved with Stone's case quit the matter last week after President Trump tweeted opposition to their sentencing recommendation and Attorney General William Barr personally intervened to shorten it. Trump said Thursday that Stone "has a very good chance of exoneration"; according to Politico, the president is widely expected within his circle to eventually grant Stone a pardon.

Breaking — U.S., Taliban to begin partial truce: "The seven-day 'reduction of violence' deal promised by the Taliban will begin on Friday night, a senior U.S. State Department official said, without specifying the exact time. That will start the countdown to the signing of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States at the end of the month," the Associated Press reported this morning.

"That peace agreement, to be signed in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 29, will pave the way for a withdrawal of U.S. troops and intra- Afghan negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the peace agreement will also lead to an eventual permanent cease-fire."

Excerpt: "The Last Dinosar," continued

Continued from above...

It’s impossible to quantify all the ways the digital revolution transformed how millennials thought. It might be easier to list the things that weren’t af­fected by the digital revolution, such as the temperature at which an egg will boil, or that people still put their pants on one leg at a time. The full extent of how digital technology has fundamentally shaped millennial and post-millennial social behavior, psychology, and even brain chemistry won’t be fully understood for years.

So it’s not a surprise that nearly a quarter of millennials say their use of technology is the single most defining characteristic of their generation. And the contours of early internet culture—democratized information, an ethos of disruption, the power of networks, an emphasis on identity—would define millennial politics as well.

Search engines totally changed young people’s relationship to informa­tion. Knowledge became something that could be accessed at the click of a button, not something accumulated over years of research. Facts became more easily available, arguments more forcefully made, and a universe of information was opened up to young people who were just beginning to interrogate their own beliefs and ideas. This democratization of information meant millennials had less use for gatekeepers who once shaped public dis­course, or for experts who were once considered the arbiters of truth. That came with some benefits, such as more access to diverse perspectives that had been historically ignored by traditional news outlets. But it also came with dangers: with the rise of misleading blogs, easily edited Wikipedia pages, and pompous but ill- informed Facebook posts imploring followers to “do your re­search,” misinformation spread so fast that it became difficult to tell what was true online and what was false. This glut of information bred widespread skep­ticism of institutions: by 2015 only about a quarter of millennials said they trusted the national news media (older generations were similarly skeptical). In the online information ecosystem, accuracy was sacrificed for scale.

The easy availability of information—and the new social networks that could quickly organize and disperse it—would transform the way political campaigns worked. Before, voters would rely on reporters to dig up candi­dates’ old statements or past positions; now almost everything any candidate had ever done was easily searchable online. This could hurt candidates who had waffled in the past, but it could also help: some say Barack Obama’s early rise could be partly attributed to the invention of YouTube in 2006, because it allowed young supporters to watch his electrifying 2004 Democratic Con­vention speech online. Once, candidates would have to rely on established political machines in order to reach voters; now they could easily spread their message on YouTube and Twitter, soliciting volunteers and donations along the way. Ad dollars once spent on interrupting local news programs would soon be spent targeting specific likely voters on Facebook. The campaigns of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump would all thrive on this new model of viral fame and digital campaigning.

But because millennials grew up navigating this jungle of online infor­mation, they are often much better than older people at deciphering what’s true and what’s false. Millennials are more likely than boomers to get their news from Facebook—but because they’re digital natives, they’re also better at understanding how to interpret it. One study found that people over sixty-five were seven times more likely than younger people to share fake news during the 2016 election. People under fifty are significantly better than older people at distinguishing facts from opinions, according to a Pew study, and boomers are most likely to find themselves in Facebook “bubbles,” surrounded by posts that reinforce their own views. Still, even if millennials are better at metabolizing online information than their parents, the spread and wea­ponization of misleading information will likely be a permanent feature of millennial political life.

The demise of the old gatekeepers led to the rise of a new kind of arche­type: the disrupter. The infinite new opportunities in the digital space and the thrilling freedom of a vast, unregulated digital ecosystem gave young upstarts the courage to, as Mark Zuckerberg put it, “move fast and break things.” Why should they respect the old ways when this was a whole new world? The future, they thought, belonged to the innovator, the coder, the breaker of rules, not the cog in some outdated machine. So it’s probably not a coincidence that individualistic millennials raised in this bold new world had little reverence for the institutions of the old one: they became more skeptical than older Americans of organized religion, political parties, cor­porations, and labor unions.

The rise of the disrupter mindset meant that millennials would always be looking for ways to use technology to make things work better—everything from managing their exercise routines to designing better bus routes. Tech­nology brought an instant gratification that often translated into political im­patience. If they could stream a sports game from a computer in their pocket at the push of a button, why couldn’t they get a transit system that worked? Slow progress was for the analog world: with digital technology, things happened with a click or a swipe, a magical swiftness that obscured mil­lions of smaller steps. This led to a general impatience, a sense that things should just work, and a frustration for all the ways they didn’t. And it meant that millennials had little reverence for outdated systems, and wouldn’t be afraid to challenge established leaders or torch flawed assumptions and begin to build new ones in their place. They were always looking for the latest upgrade.

And when millennials did build new systems, they tended to resemble networks more than hierarchies. Even though the companies were often run by near-dictators like Mark Zuckerberg, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter had created a new blueprint for digital social structures, in which everyone participates but nobody is in charge. In the early years of the inter­net, that mostly meant that cat photos could be easily shared among large groups of people. But as the networks grew more sophisticated, they became the perfect vehicles for nearly seamless collaboration between people who would never meet. They enabled the rise of leaderless political movements that allowed thousands of people to speak with a single voice, without the complications and vulnerabilities of a single leader: #Occupy, #BlackLives Matter, and #MeToo all took root on social networks before they existed in the physical world.

On a more practical level, the skills required to navigate social media were also skills that could help a political career. Millennials became used to having their words scrutinized, because they knew that old pictures could be dredged up at any time, and they didn’t have the illusion of privacy that now seemed like the luxury of a previous generation. Early socializing on Facebook—inviting friends to events, circulating form letters and petitions, promoting new hashtags—used all the same skills that would become useful in twenty-first-century politics. Young people quickly learned how to groom themselves for public consumption, present themselves in the best light possible, and play to the camera. After years of selfies and cell phone videos, millennials (and their younger siblings in Gen Z) are the most camera- ready generation in history. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez skyrocketed into political fame in 2018, no­body had to teach her how to talk to a camera—she already knew.

“I think everyone is sort of a public figure in their own minds,” says Jess Morales Rocketto. “There’s a piece of life as a millennial that is public, re­gardless of whether or not you want it to be.”

The networks were so elegant because they allowed people to maintain their individual identities as part of a larger whole, and to learn about them­selves by communicating with people they’d probably never meet. Social media became a platform for finding solidarity with other people with shared inter­ests, even if they lived thousands of miles away. It was the perfect mechanism for building both individual identities and collective ones. From race to sex­uality to fandom of a particular video game, these new digital natives built online communities around self- definition, often embracing many overlap­ping identities at once. It was perfect for a generation of kids raised to “ex­press yourself.”

No wonder, then, that as they reached political maturity, millennials seemed more concerned with issues of identity than previous generations. Many of the most effective political movements of the first decades of the twenty-first century were rooted in questions of race, gender, and sexuality. “Identity politics” is often scorned for its emphasis on difference over com­monality, but it made perfect sense for the most racially diverse and sexually empowered generation in history, raised in an online world built around a shared sense of self. It also comes as no surprise that millennials overwhelm­ingly believe that racial diversity is good for America, that women should be treated equally, that immigrants strengthen the country, and that gay people should be allowed to get married.

Of course, not all millennials subscribed to the gospel of social justice. The online alt-right—made up disproportionately of white millennial men—rose in backlash to the flourishing of identity politics and the successful so­cial justice movements that began online. The young trolls in the antifeminist men’s rights movement and the racist alt-right movement are also creatures of the digital ecosystem. They, too, owe their existence to social media plat­forms (including Reddit and 4chan as well as Facebook and Twitter), and their sexism and racism constitutes its own kind of online political identity rooted in white grievance.

From THE ONES WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR by Charlotte Alter, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2020 by Charlotte Alter.


President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the state's Democratic caucuses on Saturday.

The House and Senate are on recess.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will hold their final pre-caucus events in Nevada.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Gov. Bill Weld will campaign in Utah.

Sen. Bernie Sanders will stump in Colorado.

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