The Atlantic Politics Daily: Democrats Have an Image Problem

With Kamala Harris out of the race, zero nonwhite candidates have qualified thus far for the last Democratic debate of 2019. Plus, the bread crumbs of the “Ukraine did it” conspiracy.

It’s Thursday, December 5. In today’s newsletter: Where have all the non-white 2020 candidates gone? Plus, following the bread crumbs of the “Ukraine did it” conspiracy.



From the most diverse in history—to all white

Before any votes had been cast, Kamala Harris dropped out of the presidential race, leaving the Democratic field with more than just an image problem.

With Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang yet to qualify, and Cory Booker and Julían Castro unlikely to, the debate stage will be notably lacking in ethnic diversity.

For a political party—and a country—whose minority population is growing, this is a problem. How did we go from a debate stage early last summer that was the most diverse in history to a race where all the leading candidates are white?

Our campaign reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere talked to Booker and Castro, a week away from the deadline to qualify for December’s debate (the debate itself will take place on December 19).

+ Louder, for those in back: Does anyone get anything out of so many debates? Isaac asked candidates, campaign aides, reporters, and political operatives back in September, now three debates ago. “Debates suck,” one told him.


(Nick Hague / NASA via AP)

Looking Back on a Year of Unrest

For the final month of 2019, our photo editor Alan Taylor reviews some of the major news events and moments of the year.

This photo provided by NASA shows the eye of Hurricane Dorian, as seen from the International Space Station on September 2.

See more.


(Getty / The Atlantic)

1. Is Russia the primary purveyor of the “Ukraine did it” conspiracy theory?

One researcher examines the evidence in plain sight, and argues the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election was propagated by … Americans.

The Ukraine-hacked conspiracy theory is usually combined with a version of the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, in which the cybersecurity firm somehow engineered the DNC leak while framing Russian intelligence….

Of all the Ukraine conspiracy theories, the Ukraine-owned narrative received the most attention early on. It appears to have originated in the first days of January 2017, both on the far right and the far left, almost at the same time—in response to a Ukraine-related Department of Homeland Security intelligence release and a Ukraine-related CrowdStrike report from late December.

Read the rest.


2. Forget about the legal argument over impeachment—that’s been effectively settled.

The legal scholar Joshua A. Geltzer writes:

Indeed, this is the legal question underpinning it all: Do the facts, as alleged, constitute an impeachable offense?

On this, there was unanimity among yesterday’s four witnesses. On this, there was a clear, single answer to emerge. And that answer was yes.

Read the rest.

(Tom Brenner / Reuters)

3. What on Earth was all that yesterday, David Frum writes:

A televised hearing in a high-stakes political contest is not a classroom seminar. It is not convened for the benefit of the already well informed. It is a show: a show that succeeds or fails according to whether it catalyzes the second-most-attentive and third-most-attentive tiers of citizens.

The Republican minority on the Judiciary Committee understood this basic rule. For all their intellectual and ethical limitations—and those were excruciating—Republicans on the committee arrived with a clear message. These hearings are a farce.

What was the majority’s message?

Read the rest.


(Illustration by Ricardo Santos*)

GOP lawmakers used to oppose the president’s embrace of Putin and the Kremlin.

What happened? Ron Brownstein writes:

The big question now is how much of the GOP’s shifting tone on Russia reflects a lasting change, versus a temporary alignment with Trump or a tactical maneuver in the impeachment struggle.

Read the rest.


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