Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Diversity Triumphs as Women Candidates Gain Ground in 2018

Not only are record numbers of women running for office across the country, the 2018 list of candidates is markedly more diverse than in previous elections.

According a new report released by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, an offshoot project of the nonprofit Women Donors Network, it’s the closest that the party has gotten to genuinely reflecting the country’s demographics. For first time since 2012, less than half of Democratic candidates are white men.

Since 2012, the number of women of color have shown a remarkable 75 percent increase in both state and federal races. The group analyzed the demographics for state and federal elections from 2012 through 2018.

Reflective Democracy Campaign

This development is nothing to brush off: The Democratic Party made serious strides in getting women and minorities on the ticket. The numbers of women candidates increased across party lines, but Democratic women candidates had the largest increase, 46 percent.

White women candidates saw the second largest gains, with a 36 percent increase in their numbers for federal contests and 14 percent in state legislative races. Minority men candidates also increased their ranks by 13 percent in state legislative races and 8 percent in races for Congress. White male candidates, on the other hand, declined by 12 percent in state legislative and 13 percent in congressional races.

Reflective Democracy Campaign

While these trends are exciting, they also underline the enduring legacy of white male domination of American political institutions. A 75 percent increase in women candidates of color sounds like a game-changer, but the lack of women of color to begin with makes this shift much less impressive than it would otherwise be. Compared to other groups in the study, women of color are still underrepresented, making up only 7 percent of candidates in both federal and state races. 

Meanwhile, white men are still overrepresented. Despite being the only group to experience a decrease, white men make up well over half of all candidates in the midterm elections. 

This data point is underscored in gubernatorial races. White male Republican candidates predominate those contests and there has been little change in candidate diversity. 

It’s also important to remember that getting on the ballot isn’t the same thing as winning a seat. From 2012 to 2016, white men won about two-thirds of all elected offices year after year, despite comprising only one-third of the population. 

In the wake of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and the chaos unleashed by President Trump, the report sounds an encouraging note for women and progressives. Getting more diverse candidates on the ballot is the first step toward opening up the decision-making ranks in our democracy. 

Post Office Workers to Trump: ‘U.S. Mail: Not for Sale’

All four postal service worker unions (the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union) plan to keep up their fight against the Trump administration’s push to privatize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). 

On Columbus Day, October 8, postal workers across the county will converge on congressional offices in their districts with a critical message: “U.S. Mail: Not for Sale.” These rallies are only the latest in a series of ongoing actions taken by unions and members of Congress to halt the administration's privatization plans. 

One goal of the campaign is to alert the public. “We all get the same rights and the same service,” Mark Dimondstein, president of American Postal Workers Union (APWU), told The American Prospect. “That would all disappear if the U.S. postal office was sold.”

The administration first confirmed plans for USPS privatization in a reorganization report released in June. The report argued that the institution is unable to stay afloat financially and confirmed that a task force was investigating pathways for privatization. But critics argue that the postal service could be profitable if it hadn’t been subjected to a “manufactured” financial crisis via the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, a 2006 congressional measure that requires USPS to pre-fund workers’ retirement benefits 75 years into the future over the span of ten years. 

The unpopular privatization plan is already creating difficulties for the administration. In July, the House of Representatives introduced a resolution condemning privatization. Postal workers held a massive August rally against privatization in Pittsburgh during APWU’s biennial national convention. Then in September, two days before the unions announced their upcoming day of action, the Senate introduced its own resolution rejecting privatization. 

Both the Senate and the House resolutions boast bipartisan support. But Dimondstein doesn’t find it surprising that the resolution appeals to both sides of the aisle. “There's a very real understanding [by] many elected representatives from rural states of how important the post office is to their communities,” Dimondstein said, “and people want to protect it.” 

It’s true that Americans love their post offices—more than any other government agency, in fact—and they rely on services that will likely disappear if USPS is privatized. Monday-to-Saturday mail delivery, affordable postage costs, and the ability to access postal services no matter where you live in the country are just a few examples of services that the USPS ensures. 

Most of these services fall under the USPS’s “United Service Obligation.” The USO requires the postal service to make its services accessible to all residents and is linked to the Constitution’s grant of authority to Congress to establish post offices. Historically, the USO has shaped official USPS policy, which prioritizes access for all and quality services over profits. 

But USO is likely to be scrapped under a for-profit business model. Case in point: Trump’s task force committed itself to redefining the USO, suggesting a drastic change in the level of service Americans should expect from their universal service operator,” which would mean a complete restructuring of one of the oldest institutions in the United States. Privatization could establish surcharges for hard-to-reach addresses or the elimination of unprofitable routes. Dimondstein summed up the everyday consequences for Americans: “Service will be down, costs will go up.” 

The task force’s pathway-to-privatization report was reportedly submitted to Trump in August. But, not surprisingly, it will not be made public until after the midterm elections. While it’s unclear if the congressional backlash has convinced the Trump administration to reconsider USPS privatization, these recent actions by politicians and workers alike reaffirm the post office’s enduring popularity. 

Millennial Lawmakers: Now Is the Time to Run for Office

Remember I’m the one 

that went from being 

pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed, 

to being sworn in, 

I remember needing capital for an office, 

now my office is in the capital—

Best thing about how we did it— 

Grassroots is all natural!

That’s Missouri State Representative Bruce Franks Jr.’s rap about his journey from protester to lawmaker. A new report by Generation Progress found that young people like Franks are severely underrepresented among legislators, even though young people are the largest voting bloc in America: 34 percent of the country’s eligible voters are 35 or younger but only 6 percent of legislators are 35 years old or younger.

He shared his experiences at a late-September Generation Progress/Center for American Progress forum. Explaining that he knows what it feels like to be underrepresented, Franks said he had only voted once before the 2016 election, for Barack Obama, simply because Obama was a candidate that looked like him. He participated in the Ferguson protests after Michael Brown’s death, and noted how that moment led him to become an activist in his community and run for office.

The panelists—State Representative Mark Cardenas of Arizona’s 19th Congressional District; Wendi Wallace, Planned Parenthood’s political outreach director; and Mayor Marita Garrett of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania—want to see young women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and LGBTQ people step up and run for office. They also stressed the importance of grassroots campaigning: knocking on people’s doors and having face-to-face conversations with voters. 

Carrie Wade, a member of the audience who is young and disabled, pointed out that the survey did not offer any statistics about disabled candidates and office-holders. She wanted to know how she and people like her could run for office. Wade got a warm response from panel members who suggested utilizing social media, holding town halls, and asking volunteers to canvass neighborhoods. 

Millennial office-holders have to fight misconceptions. According to the panelists, millennials are an “in-between generation,” with the baby boomers at one end of the spectrum and Generation Z coming of age at the other, and there’s typically an assumption that they don’t care. But the oldest millennials are nearly 40 years old: They’re buying houses, having kids, battling with student loan debt, and need representation at all levels of government. But it’s not enough to get a young and diverse group elected in 2018; the real challenge is getting them to run and stay in office years to come.  

Wallace noted that while people are riled up about the Trump administration, something else needs to happen: Young people need to vote, to run for their state legislatures, and not be intimidated or listen to anyone who says "wait your turn." 

The Back-Up Way of Defeating Kavanaugh

Assume the worst: Let’s posit that within a week, despite the evidence of his abuses when young, his temperament when middle-aged, and his unyieldingly troglodytic beliefs at all times, Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. That, of course, would create the first hard-right majority on the Court since 1937—a majority dead-set against modernity, equal rights for women and minorities, and any rights at all for workers. What to do then?

There would still remain one perfectly legal and valid exit ramp from this lowdown circle of hell. In the increasingly likely event that the Democrats take the House this November, the new Democratic majority on the House Judiciary Committee could revisit Kavanaugh’s testimony last week for evidence of deception. Indeed, the senior Democrat on that committee, New Yorker Jerry Nadler—as smart and progressive a congressman as the Democrats have—has already indicated the committee, which he’d be chairing, would do just that.

There is, of course, a kind of testimonial misleading by Court nominees that is standard, legal and all but expected. When asked if they’ll approach issues with an open mind, if their opinions will be empirically based and free from the ideology they’ve adhered to throughout their careers, all judicial nominees swear that that will indeed be how they guide themselves, though that is obviously hardly ever the case. As witnesses, they’re all umpires calling balls and strikes. Once on the bench, however, they put that strike zone on either the left or right side of the plate. They invariably omit that part—where they put the strike zone—from their testimony. That’s normal; that’s not an offense.

But denying the existence of events that actually happened in one’s testimony is another matter altogether. A Democratic House Judiciary Committee would surely delve into that early next year, and if they concluded that in fact Kavanaugh lied to their Senate counterparts during his testimony, they’d have grounds for voting out an impeachment resolution, which a Democratic House would almost surely pass. It’s almost impossible to envision the Senate convicting Kavanaugh—it requires a two-thirds vote, which is to say, Republican support, and given that party’s commitment to anti-empiricism, all evidence will become beside the point—but a House-enacted resolution to impeach would in itself throw the Court into crisis.

First, additional revelations from a House investigation might compel Kavanaugh to resign. Second, were he to stay on the court, the Senate would have to hold a trial (unless, if the Republicans still control the Senate, they refuse to, which would lead to a constitutional impasse that would doubtless have to be decided by, yep, the Supreme Court). Third, whether Kavanaugh could continue to hear and rule on cases while all this was proceeding would be hotly disputed and, again, a matter that the Court would have to decide since there would be no one else who could decide it. Fourth, if after all this Kavanaugh remains on the Court, the legitimacy of its rulings would be questioned as never before in our history, laying the groundwork for the addition of at least two justices to the current nine should the Democrats control the White House and Congress following the 2020 election.

At all events, worse comes to worst, there’s still a Plan B.

Some Good News: New York–Area Airport Workers Just Won Country’s Highest Minimum Wage

Good news has been a little thin this week, but here’s something decidedly positive: Today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved a raise for approximately 40,000 airport workers at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports. By 2023, airport workers, who include workers like cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, and wheelchair attendants, will receive a minimum wage of $19 per hour. That will be the highest targeted minimum wage in the country.

“I’m feeling good—real good,” says Yasmeen Holmes, who works in queue management at Newark. “We won, finally.” 

Just seven years ago, workers were making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, says Rob Hill, vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents 10,000 workers at the three airports. “We had to do the hard work of organizing a union,” says Hill. “Rallies and leaflets and marches. [Workers] got arrested for blocking bridges and roads. We had, I think, 25 strikes.”

The union has been pressuring the Port Authority to raise the wage for years. A system of subcontracting kept wages low as companies bid against one another, aiming to offer the lowest price for work. In recent years, the union pushed the Port Authority to raise wages from the federal level up to $10.45 an hour at Newark and at least $13 an hour at JFK and LaGuardia. Over the next five years, these wages will rise to a $19 minimum.

reported on Wednesday how airport workers around the world plan to protest during a global day of action on Tuesday, October 2. Airport workers are frequently forced to work for low wages and few or no benefits, even as airline profits skyrocket (this year, worldwide profits are expected to reach $38.4 billion). The high turnover of these jobs not only threatens workers’ economic security; it threatens airport safety and security. The New York and New Jersey Port Authority’s announcement is sure to be a rallying point for airport workers next week during the worldwide demonstrations.

“I feel like I can breathe,” says Donna Hampton, a security officer at JFK. Hampton, who described having to stagger her rent payments, says she is looking forward to being able to pay her rent in full. The fight for a living wage “was long and hard fought—but we never gave up.

“Honestly, I can sleep better,” she says. “It’s like a rebirth.”

A Close-Run Thing

The Duke of Wellington, speaking to a colleague about his victory at Waterloo in 1815, which ended the Napoleonic wars, described it as a "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life." Historians have simplified the remark as "a close-run thing."

Watching what may or may not be a turning point in the Trump presidency this week, it occurs to me how often history is a close-run thing. Brett Kavanaugh may or may not go down, because of the almost random decision of Christine Blasey Ford to come forward and risk invasion of her privacy and public humiliation. 

Trump may or may not fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That, in turn, may or may not prefigure the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which may or may not put some spine in a handful of Republicans and begin the march to an impeachment.

Watergate, similarly, was a close-run thing, beginning with the random discovery by a security guard of some tape over the lock on a door to the DNC Headquarters that Nixon’s plumbers were attempting to burglarize. The 2016 election, with its Watergate echoes of the theft of Democratic emails, was about as closely run an election as it gets.

History, we are reminded, is a blend of deep historical forces and random events, lucky or unlucky. In February 1933, when FDR was giving a speech in Miami, an anarchist got within several feet of the president-elect, fired several shots, and missed Roosevelt, hitting the mayor of Chicago instead. Had Giuseppe Zangara’s aim been true, and FDR’s vice president-elect "Cactus Jack" Garner assumed the presidency, the New Deal never would have happened. Conversely, if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a slightly worse marksman, JFK and the country would have been spared.

The deep historical force in the Kavanaugh affair is that women have finally had enough of a male privilege that goes back to King David. Powerful men get to have their way with women. Overturning that privilege is the most revolutionary force of our time. The random event is that Kavanaugh, who was apparently a drunk as well as a brute in high school, got picked for the high court rather than some other far-right court nominee, who might have sailed through. 

Another deep historical force is the decades-long corruption of the Republican Party, to the point where Republican leaders are willing to make common cause with an aspiring dictator if that serves their ends. The random event is the question of which way Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins will vote. That, in turn, will depend largely on Dr. Ford’s credibility as a live witness: deep forces and random events.

As for Trump’s presidency, it is a big dose of random bad luck for the American republic. But it is also the result of a decades-long pattern of leaders of both parties turning their back on America’s working people, who were sufficiently aggrieved that they resorted to a fake populist crackpot tyrant. 

Based on some random events, American democracy may yet be spared—or not. Either way, a close-run thing.

Median Income Rises—But That’s Far from the Full Story

On Wednesday, the Census Bureau announced that median income had reached its highest recorded level in 2017, while the poverty rate declined. The report inspired glowing coverage from mainstream news sources, while President Trump predictably took credit.

But rosy as those numbers sound, they’re far from the full picture. While the Census Bureau’s 2017 data on poverty, income, and health insurance coverage does highlight a modest uptick in median income, that uptick looks far less impressive when adjusted for inflation.

“It’s true that the median income level … is the highest on record—but that’s not as unique an achievement as it sounds. That claim could be made in 13 or 14 previous [annual] reports,” Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), said in a call with reporters. It’s also not as if median income is the highest it’s ever been in real terms. Adjusted for inflation (and for the redesign of the census survey), we are finally at pre-recession income levels—in other words, people are making about as much as they did in 2007 and 2000 (and actually, a bit less). Plus, median income rose much slower in 2017 than it had been growing in recent years. Median income grew 5.1 percent and 3.1 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

And even if we forget about inflation, last year’s income growth wasn’t exactly a pay raise for many workers. Importantly, real wages have stayed mostly flat, so the increase in median income is largely due to workers putting in more hours, which they were able to do because of a tight labor market.

But while workers are earning about what they made in 2000, corporate profits, productivity, and general growth are all way, way up. Bernstein noted that in the past 17 years, GDP is up almost 40 percent, productivity is up 35 percent, and real corporate profits have almost doubled. All of this suggests that income inequality is roaring right alongside the booming economy.

Indeed, said Bernstein, household income at the 95th percentile grew 3 percent, to $237,000—much faster than median income’s growth of 1.8 percent.

Bernstein pointed out that we can “recognize good economic things that happen for middle- and low-income families when the economy closes in on full employment.” But those positive numbers do little to bridge the widening gap between overall growth and the economic realities faced by millions of working families.

The poverty rate also fell for the third straight year, from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent, evidence of a recovering economy. The number of people living below the official poverty line remained the same—39.9 million people, including 12.8 million children.

But even those numbers need context. The census’s official poverty threshold is flawed in many ways, and doesn’t accurately portray the well-being of families in need. This is part of the reason the census introduced what’s known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM counts consumption of things like food and housing as well as income from assistance programs, and overall gives a more complete picture of poverty. (You might be thinking, why not just turn to something like the SPM, then, if the official poverty measure is flawed? Well, the 2017 SPM is 13.9 percent, and who wants to be the president who increases the number of people counted as impoverished?)

Data from the 2017 SPM show that public assistance programs helped millions of people earn enough to keep them out of poverty. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Social Security did the most to combat poverty, keeping 27 million people above the poverty line. Tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit kept another 8.3 million people out of poverty, food stamps kept out 3.4 million, and unemployment insurance another 542,000. Rent subsidies, CBPP notes, lifted 2.9 million people out of poverty. In all, data from CBPP show that 44 percent of those who would have been poor in 2017 weren’t—because of the social safety net.

These are, of course, some of the very programs that the Trump administration has been aiming to cut. And new tax cuts—Tax Reform 2.0, which House Republicans recently introduced—would only widen the gap between rich and poor.

Like the tax cuts of 2017, these new tax cuts would also raise the deficit. And this ballooning of the deficit has in the past, as now, been used as a reason for Republicans to further cut assistance programs that low-income people—without a higher minimum wage, without strong unions, and without work supports like child care—need to simply get by.

Taking a closer look at the census data reveals a disconnect between the experience of working families and how the economy is faring as a whole—and the GOP is poised to make this disconnect worse.

Stop Saying Minimum-Wage Hikes Kill Jobs

A new study on the effects of an increased minimum wage on employment shows that increased wages in six cities had no discernible effect on employment. But while this is great news, the prospect of employment losses should not be how we evaluate the worthiness of raising the minimum wage.

But first, the positive news: Researchers from the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed policies in six cities that had raised their minimum wages—Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. At the end of 2016 (the end of the study period), minimum wages in these cities ranged from $10 to $13 per hour.

The Berkeley researchers focused on the restaurant industry, and looked at earnings across the industry in these cities and compared them to similar metropolitan areas. They found that a 10 percent rise in the minimum wage increased earnings between 1.3 and 2.5 percent—about an extra $16 to $32 each week. And there was no significant effect on employment.

According to Carl Nadler, one of the study’s co-authors, these policies “are working just as intended.”

Indeed, recent research has generally indicated that effects on employment would be small.

However, one study last year gained significant news coverage because it claimed higher minimum wages were decreasing job opportunities in Seattle. Conservatives took this evidence and used it to claim that living wages are unsustainable and would actually harm low-wage workers.

But let’s say that Seattle study, which suffered from methodological issues according to the Economic Policy Institute, was correct. Even if some people did lose their jobs, which would be terrible, isn’t it also terrible for millions of workers to be forced to live—and in many cases, raise a family—on $7.25 an hour?

“Focusing only on job loss ignores one of the main effects of minimum-wage increases: rising hourly and annual earnings for potentially tens of millions of low-wage workers—many more of whom will gain than lose,” economists David Cooper, Lawrence Mishel, and Ben Zipperer of EPI wrote in an April report.

Here’s an idea: Raise the wage, and if major job losses come (and they likely won’t), ensure there are strong unemployment insurance and job creation programs to help those few workers who would be affected.

Kavanaugh Nomination Is Dangerous for Disability Rights Community

As an attorney and judge, Brett Kavanaugh has done everything in his power to limit the rights of people with disabilities. As a Supreme Court justice, he would have the ability to do even more damage, rolling back decades of progress in the field of disability rights—and civil rights more broadly. 

As a disabled Latina, I’ve watched these hearings with my life and personal autonomy at stake. The disability community shudders at the possible elevation of Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court. In these times, disability advocates are fighting to fully obtain and keep the most basic of our rights—such as health care and personal autonomy. People with disabilities continue to experience cuts to Medicaid, a program that means the difference between living in the community and being institutionalized (and for some, life or death) and threats to the Affordable Care Act, including the provision protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions. 

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, which passed the House this earlier year, would significantly weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although the vast majority of Kavanaugh’s records have not been made public, his jurisprudence offers a glimpse into his philosophy.  

In Doe Tarlow v. District of Columbiaa 2007 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case, three people with intellectual disabilities living in an institutional setting in Washington, D.C., believed their due process rights were abridged when doctors would not consider their wishes in elective surgeries. This case highlights the attacks against disabled individuals’ dignity in medical decision-making and gives doctors and others sole authority over people’s lives. Kavanaugh’s opinion undermined the self-determination of people with intellectual disabilities to consent to elective surgeries.

Disability groups also point to Kavanaugh’s record of giving deference to employers in disability discrimination cases Disability groups worry in particular about his dissent in Miller v. Clinton, a 2012 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) case that ruled against a mandatory retirement age for State Department workers.  

Kavanaugh disagreed with the majority that “extremely important” federal statutory proscriptions against age, disability, race, religion, and sex discrimination prevented the termination of a 65-year-old employee. Additionally, Kavanaugh dissented in a ruling upholding the ACA, which is crucial to the well-being of disabled people, and has demonstrated his aversion to administrative regulations and enforcement of civil rights laws. Administrative agencies—such as Health and Human Services, the Departments of Justice and Education, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—play large roles in the interpretation, implementation, and regulation of disability rights laws. 

Itis no surprise that Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court comes from a scandal-plagued president who went along with the Federalist Society’s choice of a white male judge—one who is on record as stating that a sitting president should not be subject to investigation. This is a judge who will assuredly undermine Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, weaken federal civil rights regulations, defer to corporations, and set American democracy back. 

Advocates for people with disabilities do not know much more about Kavanaugh’s views on disability. I am not persuaded by his statements that he is the type of judge who puts himself in others’ shoes and is deeply impacted by his work giving food to the homeless, many of whom have mental disabilities.  

People with disabilities do not need charity from those who would go on to dismiss our opinions. What the disability community needs more than leaders who purport to empathize are leaders who are disabled themselves—and we need them at every level of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.  

Progressives fighting the Kavanaugh nomination should be appalled by the fact that the professional track to the Supreme Court weighs heavily against disabled individuals. The National Association for Law Placement reported last year that there are on average 0.6 percent or fewer attorneys with disabilities in American law firms. Individuals with disabilities are underrepresented as attorneys, judges, politicians, and countless other professions that ultimately decide the fate of people with disabilities.

There are a number of good initiatives and programs designed to support law students and attorneys with disabilities, including the ABA Commission on Disability Rights Internship. There are scholarships for law students with disabilities and the ABA Pledge for Change: Disability Diversity in the Legal Profession, which calls on law firms to affirm their commitment to disability diversity in the profession. 

In November, the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, part of Loyola Marymount University, also will launch  a Center for Disability Law, Policy, & Innovation that I will head. The center seeks to increase the numbers of attorneys with disabilities. This is progress. Still, more needs to be done. 

Whether or not Kavanaugh moves to the high court, his confirmation hearings give Americans the opportunity to take stock of how far we have come and how far we have to go: What kind of investment is being made in our next leaders in disability rights—disabled law students, attorneys, and judges? A decade from now, when we are litigating disability rights at the highest court, will Kavanaugh—and all the other attorneys and judges being groomed for the Supreme Court—understand our experiences?  

I don’t know about you, but I want at least one disabled judge on the high court who believes that disabled people deserve equal rights. This is the time that matters. The disability rights movement continues to pursue fairness and equality, especially in the court system where the laws that affect our lives are made.  

My (Zero) Time on the Manafort Jury

A couple of months ago, I was summoned for jury duty for the federal district court in D.C. for a “special” four-week trial, the “pre-selection” process for which was set to begin today, the Tuesday after Labor Day. 

A quick search on the district court’s website said that “special” trials were “mainly high-profile.” “Maybe it’s Manafort!” I joked to my friends. 

I was 99 percent certain I would not be chosen to serve on any jury, much less a high-profile one, but I blocked off the month just in case. I took my coffee creamer out of the office refrigerator, finished up stories I was working on, and even set up an out-of-office reply. I mean, I could be gone for four weeks!

On Monday night, I followed the instructions on my jury summons form and called the juror phone line to see what time I needed to report to court.

“Your jury service is over,” the automated voice said. “We appreciate your serving as a juror in the United States District Court.” 

Was there a mistake? Did I really not have to go? I called back. Same message. 

I considered that members of the press will be barred from being in the courtroom during jury selection in the Manafort trial. I considered this piece, where I referred to the Trump administration’s white nationalism. And this one, in which I called Trump himself racist.

It was probably the Manafort trial.

And then this morning, about 120 potential jurors with purple jury summonses identical to mine made their way to the court and were told the trial was Manafort’s. They’ll fill out a written questionnaire that’s meant to weed out those too familiar with the case, and official jury selection, when jurors are questioned individually, begins on September 17.

Manafort was recently convicted of eight charges of tax and bank fraud in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that the jury selection process will probably take longer and be more difficult than that of the trial in Virginia because people in D.C. are more likely to follow politics.

Unfortunately, all you will get from this potential juror is this blog post—and I won’t get the book deal I was hoping for.

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