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Wake Up To Politics - July 7, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Boris steps aside
Wake Up To Politics - July 7, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Thursday, July 7, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 124 days away. Election Day 2024 is 852 days away.

Let’s start this morning with some breaking news from across the pond...

Breaking: Boris Johnson out as British PM

Boris Johnson has resigned as leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, paving the way for his exit as the British prime minister.

“In politics, no one is remotely indispensable,” Johnson said in a televised statement just now. “And our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader.”

In the British parliamentary system, the leader of the largest party in parliament — currently the Conservatives — serves as prime minister. Johnson will remain on as PM until the party chooses a new leader internally, a process which will begin now and could stretch until the fall.

The selection will be made by the party’s powerful “1922 committee,” not by voters in a new general election.

The prime minister’s resignation finishes off a chaotic week in British politics, as 59 of his ministers and top aides resigned in quick succession over the past few days, leaving the government in crisis.

Johnson was ultimately felled by a series of scandals, including revelations that he broke Britain’s lockdown laws during the early days of Covid-19 — a controversy known as “Partygate” — and that he was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against a Conservative lawmaker who still appointed to a senior post.

The string of high-level resignations offered a sign of how quickly Johnson lost support within his party despite surviving a no-confidence vote held just last month.

Boris Johnson (right) with President Biden at an international summit last year. (Andrew Parsons / No. 10 Downing Street)

His predecessor, Teresa May, similarly resigned under pressure even after surviving a no-confidence vote. Johnson, who formerly served as foreign minister and before that as mayor of London, took over for May in 2019.

May resigned amid controversy surrounding “Brexit,” the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which Johnson had championed during the 2016 referendum vote, a controversial figure even then. As prime minister, Johnson oversaw the finalization of the withdrawal, which took effect in January 2020.

Johnson also developed close ties with both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the U.S. presidents while he was in office, extending the “special relationship” between the two countries.

Johnson’s bombastic political style and populist rhetoric often drew comparisons to Trump; the two spoke so often that Trump even gave Johnson his private cell phone number.

Despite Biden once calling Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump, the sitting president and prime minister also worked closely together, especially in the months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I genuinely don’t think there has been a time I can remember when I felt such a complete community of ideas and interests,” Johnson said after his first meeting with Biden last year.

More news you should know

— Trump-era White House counsel Pat Cipollone has reached a deal with the House January 6th committee and agreed to be interviewed behind closed doors on Friday. Cipollone’s testimony will be videotaped, so expect to see clips at upcoming hearings.

Other witnesses have testified that Cipollone spoke out internally against former President Trump’s efforts to stay in office after the 2020 election and warned of the potential criminality of his actions.

— Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) is sparring with the White House over President Biden’s reported plan to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship in Kennedy, as part of a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The White House won’t confirm the deal, but emails released by Beshear’s office show that Biden had planned to announce the nomination the day Roe v. Wade was struck down.

Gov. Andy Beshear is criticizing the White House over plans to nominate an anti-abortion judge. (Kentucky National Guard)

Beshear has called the possible nomination “indefensible.” According to Slate, McConnell’s end of the bargain would be confirming two U.S. Attorneys (which are not lifetime posts). No other outlets have confirmed that report.

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is facing questions over a possible violation of federal campaign finance law: his use of campaign money to pay for legal expenses in a lawsuit stemming from his time as a minister, before he was in public office.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said on Tuesday that she will step down later this month. A longtime member of Biden’s inner circle, she joins other recent prominent departures like White House counsel Dana Remus, senior adviser Cedric Richmond, press secretary Jen Psaki, and most of the press shop.

What you’re saying: Is it too early to talk 2024?

In yesterday’s newsletter, I took a look at some of the politicians in both parties eyeing possible White House bids.

I also asked you to throw out some names that are interesting to you — and I’ll feature a collection of those tomorrow (so if you have other Democrats or Republicans you’re eying, there’s still time to send them in).

But first, I always like opportunities to carry on the conversations that get started in the newsletter and to highlight some of the thoughtful feedback (and criticism!) I get from all of you.  So before we talk more about possible 2024 bids, here’s a note from a reader who questioned focusing at all on such a far-off presidential race:

Editors and reporters waste readers’ time when they speculate about an election season whose first contests start in about 17 months or so.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush raised a helluvalot more money than Donald Trump but crashed and burned in 2016. The 2022 elections haven’t even finished and America’s top newsrooms are acting like the controversial Ron DeSantis will win re-election and run for president, for example.

No one knows how things will look by early 2024, least of all political reporters who spend most of their time in NYC and DC.

Here’s my view on the matter: I think these are all fair points — and I certainly agree that media outlets (WUTP included) should not go too overboard in covering the 2024 race this far out.

But I do think there can be some value in looking at the candidates who are eying presidential bids down the line, because of what it tells us about the internal dynamics of the two parties right now. Predictions definitely are folly this early (see: President Jeb Bush), but analysis of what the field might look like can still be useful.

On the Democratic side, it’s fairly unprecedented in recent decades for a president’s party to be so ambivalent about them running for re-election. The whispers about whether President Biden will top the ticket in 2024 are relevant not only to Democrats’ 2022 prospects, but also to his influence over the party in the coming months and whether he can push lawmakers to approve more of his agenda.

The fact that so many of the Democrats I mentioned yesterday are traveling to early presidential states and working to raise their national profiles are some of the most obvious signs of how deep Democratic anxieties around Biden run.

Just ask Jeb Bush whether there’s value in making predictions for far-off presidential primaries. (Gage Skidmore)

Many Republicans, meanwhile, decidedly do not want former President Trump to be the face of their party in 2022 — as the recent boomlet for Gov. DeSantis among conservative donors and media shows. Whether or not Trump is seen as the presumptive 2024 nominee will impact a lot of GOP primaries in 2022, and possibly the general election as well.

So that’s why I think 2024 is relevant to the politics of 2022 — and deserves at least some mention now, although obviously there’s a such thing as talking about it too much. More broadly, I think there’s an interesting political story to be told about the two parties being led by a pair of septuagenarians — despite the many voters who tell pollsters they want new blood.

With yesterday’s newsletter, I was trying to discuss that dynamic a bit and highlight some of the younger generation of pols who are nipping at the heels of their party leaders and will be helping drive the political conversation in the months ahead.

What’s going on in Washington today

All times Eastern.

— President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (10:15 am) and award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor (2 pm).

The 17 recipients will include gymnast Simone Biles and soccer player Megan Rapinoe; actor Denzel Washington; former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived a 2011 assassination attempt; former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY); civil rights activists Fred Gray and Diane Nash; Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who clashed with Donald Trump in 2016; and Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive a Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials.

Former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and former AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka will receive the honor posthumously.

Simone Biles can add a Presidential Medal of Freedom to her shelf of Olympics medals. (Fernando Frazão)

— Vice President Harris will join the president for his intel briefing and the award ceremony.

— The White House briefing will be held by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (3:10 pm).

— Congress is on recess this week, but the Senate (10 am) and House (12 pm) will both convene for brief pro forma sessions. The short meetings are held only to satisfy their constitutional obligations of meeting once every three days; no legislative business will be conducted.

— The Supreme Court is on recess until October.

Watch for yourself: Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony •  WH briefingSenate pro formaHouse pro forma


In Tuesday’s newsletter, in reference to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), I wrote that every other Democratic U.S. senator in history has run for president.

But what I meant to say that every other Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in history has run for president. My apologies to former Sens. Roland Burris (D-IL) and Mo Cowan (D-MA), both of whom were appointed to briefly fill vacancies in the Senate and did not run for president (or at least they haven’t yet!)

Thanks to Chuck F. for catching my error.

Before I go...

Here’s a non-political story that caught my eye: The average TikTok user in the U.S. spends the equivalent of more than a whole day each month — 29 hours — on the app.

That’s more time than the average U.S. user spends on Facebook (16 hours a month) and Instagram (8 hours) combined.

Wow. Here’s more from Bloomberg News.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe