Apr 28, 2022 - Podcasts

GOP candidates go scorched-earth

More Republicans are channeling former President Trump’s aggressive tactics to get ahead in the polls. Some previously moderate candidates facing competitive primaries are now releasing angry ads based on taglines like “fighting the woke mob,” and “standing up to the radical left.”

  • Plus, Minneapolis Police accused of violating civil rights.
  • And, restricting water use to combat drought in Southern California.

Guests: Axios' Alayna Treene and Torey Van Oot.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, April 28th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: Minneapolis Police accused of violating civil rights. Plus, restricting water use to combat drought in Southern California.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: GOP candidates go scorched-earth.

NIALA: More Republicans are channeling former President Trump's aggressive tactics to get ahead in the polls in the midterm elections. Some previously moderate candidates facing competitive primaries are now releasing angry ads based on taglines like, “fighting the woke mob,” or “standing up to the radical left.” Alayna Treene congressional reporter at Axios has the story and why it matters. Hi Alayna.


NIALA: Can you explain why this shift in tone stood out to you?

ALAYNA: I mean, it's just breathtaking and obviously it's not a huge surprise. We're seeing a lot of these more moderate people who have spoken so much to bipartisanship and maybe were more soft-spoken in the past, really becoming very aggressive and it's really coming more into focus now with the midterm season ramping up and with these people in competitive primaries. And just a couple examples. I mean, in Ohio with JD Vance who kind of kicked off his campaign with an apology tour for his criticism of Trump in the past. It's worked. He has Trump's endorsement. He also has the endorsement of Margorie Taylor-Greene. We're also seeing it with, with incumbents, which I think is, is a big thing as well. I mean, Senator John Bozeman, is someone who has. Really in the past, been more soft-spoken and not wanting to gain a lot of media attention, but he is up for reelection this year and he's going far more, you know, scorched earth, almost in his ad campaigns than we've seen in the past.

NIALA: What does this rhetoric tell us about where Republican voters stand right now?

ALAYNA: They're definitely angry about inflation and gas prices and the economy, and that's going to be really the big driver that's energizing a lot of these voters ahead of the midterms. But they're also angry about, the “cultural wars,” The school mask mandates and school closures and things of those sorts that they think are really driving a lot of anger and passion among voters who have only really become even more aggressive in the year or so since Trump has not been in office.

NIALA: As the party gets pushed further to the right, how much does that then silence or push out more moderate voices in the Republican party?

ALAYNA: Well we’ve seen it happen already throughout the years with a lot of different people. I mean, a great example is Jeff Flake. He was a Senator from Arizona who, you know, now famously in his resignation speech called Trump out himself and he left, because he felt that he couldn't stay within politics, stay as working as a Senator, um, with having Trump as the leader. Another example is Anthony Gonzalez in Ohio. And he said, he just doesn't like the way that politics is any more in the environment that a lot of these lawmakers have to operate in now. And it's something that I know is also preventing people from running. I think there's a lot of people who, in the past have wanted to run for office and they see the very, you know, toxic nature of the partisanship that's preventing them from wanting to run. And so, beyond the ads and these campaigns it's, it goes into every level and facet of politics today.

NIALA: Alayna Treene covers politics for Axios. Thanks Elena.

ALAYNA: Thank you Niala.

In a moment: what investigators found in a two-year probe of the Minneapolis Police Department.

NIALA: The Minneapolis Police Department has violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act with a pattern of racial discrimination. That's according to a two-year state investigation into the department that was launched days after George Floyd was murdered in the city.

The results could lead to court-ordered changes to the Minneapolis police. Axios Twin Cities reporter Torey Van Oot has been reporting on this and joins us now. Torey, first what's different or new about the findings of this report that came out yesterday?

TOREY VAN OOT: What's new here is that this is an incredibly searing and incredibly comprehensive look at the patterns of policing and the practices at the Minneapolis Police Department. Investigators at the State Human Rights Department looked at 10 years of policing in Minneapolis. They looked at body camera footage. They looked at disciplinary documents, thousands and thousands of pages and they really came up with this independent look at some of the problems that many of the community knew that the Minneapolis Police Department already had.

NIALA: And what did they say about these problems? What are some of the underlying causes and what did investigators conclude about how culture affects police behavior out in the field?

TOREY: Yeah, so the big picture about the report here is that they found probable cause that the police department's treatment of people of color violate state civil rights laws, and it does it repeatedly. And it's everything from disproportionately targeting Black residents with use of force, with arrests to terrible language and slurs used by officers when interacting with the community. And some of the underlying causes they found were problematic culture, a lack of accountability, especially when it comes to misconduct. They actually found that trainings themselves contained racist tropes and stereotypes when they're actually teaching folks how to be an officer. And they also identified a failure from city leaders to respond and to respond urgently, to some of the cultural issues in the department.

NIALA: Speaking of responses, what has the police department said about this?

TOREY: Right now we have an interim chief Amelia Huffman, and she said that the department remains, that they’re still reviewing the report, but that it remains committed to providing what she called “effective, constitutional police service.”

NIALA: Torey there's also a federal investigation. Are any changes likely to happen from either of these?

TOREY: Yes, I mean, one of the big takeaways from both, this probe, this investigation and the federal probe that's happening is that they may result in a consent decree, which is essentially court-enforced, a court-ordered agreement between the city and between, you know, the state or federal government to enact changes. There's hope today from some activists, from some of the community that this is something that will actually force change at, at MPD.

NIALA: We've seen other cities conduct investigations like this into police department conduct, particularly around protests over the summer of 2020. Are any of these investigations resulting in concrete change like consent decrees?

TOREY: You know, we've seen, and especially in terms of some of the protests responses, um, we've seen some settlements, we've seen some agreements for change, a really big jury verdict about police conduct around protesters in Denver. Zooming out, since George Floyd was murdered two years ago, I think some would say it's kind of been a mixed bag, right? There've been city-level policies that have been enacted, state-level policies on everything from no-knock warrants, choke holds. Similarly, other cities, other states across the nation have sought to implement some of these similar measures, you know, use of force, duty for officers to intervene. But it's a little soon, I think, to tell what effects these are having yet.

NIALA: Axios Twin Cities reporter Torey Van Oot. Thanks Torey.

TOREY: Thanks.

We’ve told you about the staggering drought in the Western US, and that California has faced the driest start to the year on record. Well officials in southern California yesterday declared the first ever water shortage emergency, and are imposing unprecedented outdoor water usage restrictions. Residents in parts of LA, Ventura and San Bernardino counties will only be allowed to do outdoor watering once a week — which officials hope will reduce or eliminate non-essential uses of water like landscaping, filling swimming pools and washing cars. If you’re in Southern California, we’d love to hear how you’re dealing with this drought – text me at (202) 918-4893.

And one reminder before we go today: if you haven’t already, please follow or subscribe to Axios Today wherever you get your podcasts…and share it with your friends and ask them to do the same. Thanks for your support of the podcast.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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