Wednesday, January 27, 2021


At first glance, this seems promising:
Some Democrats are looking to a political outsider described as the "Dr. Fauci of Ohio" to replace Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate.

... Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, gained a grassroots following last year when she briefed Ohioans about the state of the coronavirus. Her celebrity could help in a Republican state, and against potential GOP rivals such as Rep. Jim Jordan.

... Acton quickly became an unlikely icon to Ohioans, praised for her poise and compassion during one of the most distressing times for the country.

Something she said at one of her daily public health updates — "I am not afraid; I am determined." — was emblazoned on T-shirts.

Fans launched a "Dr. Amy Acton Fan Club" on Facebook, and it's since attracted over 124,000 people — twice the size of Acton's hometown of Youngstown.
Acton won praise during the early months of the pandemic, as a November New Yorker profile notes:
A singer performed an Amy Acton tribute song on YouTube (“I trust you completely”; “You look so fine in your long white coat.”) The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled an Amy Acton figure. Little girls dressed up like Acton and staged living-room press conferences.... In a poll, in March, [Acton] had a much higher favorability rating than Trump—sixty-four per cent.
But despite support from Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, Acton resigned after only a few months of the pandemic -- with good reason.
An “Anti Amy Acton” page appeared on Facebook, containing such posts as “We will always hate you Abortion Amy!!” (The Ohio health department oversees clinics that perform abortions.) She was called a “witch,” a “disgrace.” In one photo, the marquee at Phil’s Lounge & Beer Garden, in Sharonville, said, “Fuck you DeSwine and Hackton.” Protesters disrupted Acton’s press conferences by chanting outside the statehouse and pressing their faces against the windows. After Acton, who is Jewish, mentioned hosting a virtual seder, for Passover, protesters showed up at her home, with guns, wearing MAGA caps and carrying “TRUMP” flags. Their signs read “Dr. Amy Over-re-ACTON” and “Let Freedom Work.” They brought their children. DeWine told demonstrators, “I’m the elected official” and “Come after me.” Acton was assigned executive protection—a rare measure, for a public-health official—along with a retinue of state troopers.
In April, the wife of a Republican state senator played the Hitler card in response to a public statement by Acton:

A couple of weeks later, a Republican state legislator called her a "globalist":

In addition, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue didn't like the fact that Acton had permitted an abortion clinic near Dayton to remain open after it had been ordered closed by a previous state health director, describing Acton's decision as a “duplicitous paperwork shuffle.” (In fact, the clinic had come into compliance with a law requiring backup physicians for emergencies.) So OR went low -- it challenged Acton's accounts of her own childhood, then claimed credit for driving her out of office.
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton resigned suddenly today, citing inability to cope with the overload of work the job required....

This came a week after Operation Rescue called for her resignation after publishing an exposé that included information on her Ohio medical license application that indicated she had been treated for mental illness and/or addiction issues at some point in the past.

That exposé also included audio clips from Operation Rescue’s interview with Donna Arthur, Acton’s estranged mother.

Arthur claimed that her daughter falsely accused her second husband of raping her when she was 12 years old. Acton had publicly claimed that both Arthur and her husband were criminally charged with abusing her, but “skipped town” before they could be prosecuted.

However, Operation Rescue verified that Arthur had never been charged and that her step father had charges dismissed. Acton then went to live with her father after she had made the allegations and never saw her mother again.

Arthur also refuted the allegation as untrue that Acton was homeless, neglected, and hungry as a child – something that Acton has repeatedly claimed.
The race will be nasty if Acton is the Democratic candidate -- especially if her Republican opponent is Jim Jordan. But I worry less about Jordan than I do about the militants who opposed Acton and her state's public health response when she was in office.

Even if the pandemic is effectively over by 2022, this will resurface.

If Acton runs, she's brave. But it will be a vicious campaign.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Oh, what's the use?
All but five Republican senators backed former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in a key test vote ahead of his impeachment trial, signaling that the proceedings are likely to end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic cloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result.

...senators ... voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.
It's clear that nearly everyone in the GOP is afraid of Trump, which is why this is pointless:
Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

... In some ways, a censure vote could be more difficult for Republicans, because they can't rely on the argument that a resolution is unconstitutional — like they are for an impeachment conviction.

It would also be a history-making vote. No other president has been censured after leaving office.
Right, and the same way Republicans have all rallied around the argument that it's wrong to impeach someone who's no longer president, they'll rally around the argument that it's wrong to censure someone who's no longer president. Soon we'll learn that Trump is threatening consequences for any Republican who votes for even this toothless chastisement. So this won't pass, either.

But it's not just that Trump is a crime family boss whom no one dares to cross. Watch nothing happen to this backbencher who's been in office less than a month:
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress, a CNN KFile review of hundreds of posts and comments from Greene's Facebook page shows....

In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said "a bullet to the head would be quicker" to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the "deep state" working against Trump.

In one Facebook post from April 2018, Greene wrote conspiratorially about the Iran Deal, one of former President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievements. A commenter asked Greene, "Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O ???," referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Greene replied, "Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off."

...In one speech, promoting the petition, Greene suggested Pelosi could be executed for treason.

"She's a traitor to our country, she's guilty of treason," Greene says in the video, which she posted on Facebook at the time. "She took an oath to protect American citizens and uphold our laws. And she gives aid and comfort to our enemies who illegally invade our land. That's what treason is. And by our law representatives and senators can be kicked out and no longer serve in our government. And it's, uh, it's a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason."
In a different America, members of both parties would be demanding Greene's resignation. But we now live in a country where Donald Trump won 74 million votes in his second presidential run, and where he could urge on a mob that rioted in the Capitol and still leave office with poll numbers 10 or more points higher than the worst ratings recorded by Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, or George W. Bush. (If they poll Trump again in a month, I guarantee he'll be back in the 40s.)

No one is afraid of Greene, but Republicans are afraid of the voting bloc that regards her as a hero. So they'll protect her. They'll describe any attempts to drive her from Congress as "cancel culture."

And why not? Democrats will never make a habit of arguing that the entire Republican Party is as bad as Greene. Only Republicans do that. They equate the entire Democratic Party with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar -- who are decidedly to the left of center but have never threatened any president or member of Congress with death. Democrats, inexplicably, will never say that the GOP is the Marjorie Taylor Greene party.

When voters abandon the Republican Party because it's lousy with extremists and conspiratorialists, when prominent officeholders are regulalry asked whether they'll disavow the party because of its clear support for extremism, then someone like Greene will be treated as the liability she is. But we're not even close to that.


AND: This repulsive libel won't matter either.
In another newly uncovered 2018 Facebook post, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) endorsed a conspiracy theory that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was videotaped murdering a child during a satanic ritual and then ordered a hit on a police officer to cover it up....

Greene is ... a backer of the violent and absurd “Frazzledrip” conspiracy theory, which is linked to QAnon and Pizzagate and essentially claims that Hillary Clinton and former aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulted a child, filleted her face, wore her face like a mask, and then drank her blood as part of a satanic ritual to ingest something called adrenochrome....

Greene endorsed the conspiracy theory on Facebook in May 2018. She posted a picture of the mother of slain New York Police Department Detective Miosotis Familia with former President Donald Trump. A commenter wrote: “This is the mother of a NYPD officer who watched a horrific video seized on anthony weiners laptop of huma and hillary filleting a childs face. This was another hillary hit.” Greene liked that comment and replied: “Yes Familia.”
Axios says that with all this going on, Kevin McCarthy intends to give Greene a good talking-to.
Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, told Axios he is aware of the comments and will discuss them with Greene.

"These comments are deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them," Bednar said in an emailed statement.
Yeah, that'll show her!

It's said that Donald Trump was such a scandal machine that we went numb during his presidency and weren't able to respond to outrages the way we used to. Well, he's gone now, but we're still numb, aren't we?


I'm seeing this a lot, but I don't agree with it:

Yesterday I wrote about the launch video for the gubernatorial campaign of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As I noted, Sanders described the January 6 Capitol riot as one of the signs that America needs "law and order." (The other signs: the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and this summer's anti-racism unrest.)

Much of the right thinks the Capitol riot was a bad thing. I assume the non-QAnon wing of the GOP sees it as an embarrassment for the party, and recognizes what a danger it was to many party members. Some of the rank-and-file crazies think it was a set-up, as do some Republican officials.
In Oregon, the state Republican Party ... falsely claims the entire episode was a “false flag” staged to discredit the GOP and silence Trump’s supporters.

Last week, the state party released a resolution passed by its executive committee that says the supposedly fake operation was meant to undermine Trump and give more power to President Biden, citing websites by John Solomon and the Trump-friendly Epoch Times.

“The violence at the Capitol was a ‘false flag’ operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democratic goal of seizing total power,” the resolution says.
Most on the right don't want a repeat of January 6.

That doesn't mean they don't want to steal elections. But if they try to steal another one, most of them want to do without chaos and violence. They'll want to do it through vote suppression, and failing that, through the manipulation of laws so their theft will appear legal.

Donald Trump loves upheaval. He likes to be seen as a guy who walks into a room and starts breaking stuff if he doesn't get his way. That's his brand.

Most elite Republicans would be happy to see the system finagled the way they thought Trump might finagle it when they first embraced him in 2016. They thought it would be "the art of the deal" -- hardball boardroom maneuvering without the appearance of disorder. That's what they'll aim for in the future.

Monday, January 25, 2021


This is good news:
The Biden administration says it is "exploring ways to speed up" release of $20 bills featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman after the Trump administration delayed the move first initiated by President Barack Obama....

There are production factors that will need to be considered in order for the bill to be released before 2028 -- when the Trump administration estimated the new note would be unveiled. For example, the Tubman bill will need to [be] produced in a new, high-speed printing facility, which is currently scheduled to begin printing in 2025....

Tubman, the once-enslaved African-American woman who guided dozens enslaved people to their freedom through the Underground Railroad in the 1800s, would replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

I hope we get the Tubman twenties relatively soon -- although the reaction to them among many right-wingers is likely to be infantile and racist, if this Gateway Pundit comment thread is any indication:
Represents Demoncrat: Ugly, constipated-looking perpetually mad expression. They could have at least used Aunt Jemima. The was a sweet and friendly face


That face could scare a dog off a meat wagon!


It could be worse, they could want Abrams. 😬


I'll use all $10s if this bs ever passes!


Oh I've been waiting on this, don't let this opportunity to highjack the lefts SJW crap pass you by. Get creative, draw a red MAGA hat on her, give her a couple of buck teeth and give her green eyes or orange lizard eyes. I'm actually looking forward to seeing some very creative artwork.


Put an X with a Sharpie on all of them ?


Tank abrams will be the face of the EBT card!


We'll put Trump on the $20 once we take control. Promote Jackson to the $100.


She fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.




Look at TV now. If you were an alien and just visited America today, you would think 90% of the population of America is black. Every single commercial is focused on blacks and mixed race couples. The white guy is being minimized.

Nevermind the fact that Democrats chop up blacks like hamburger meat and Africa, which is run by blacks, still has 380 million people without basic sanitation and whites built the greatest nation on the planet in under 250 years.

It is all an agenda. It is called CULTURAL SUBVERSION... and it is very real military tactic.


Most blacks in America are horrible people and just want to riot and burn stuff down. All the decent blacks want to move into white neighborhoods where people get treated with dignity and respect.


YUP...Affirmative Action only served to pack government jobs with low life minorities and communist thugs and we are now reaping the fruit. When all the whites are out of work, where is the country going to get the tax revenue to pay reparations for slavery?


Low IQ was the deciding hiring factor.


I’ll definitely ask for 2 tens. Creepy.


Harriet Tubman had brain damage, like all of today's liberals.


Nothing says America Last like the proposed Tubman image.


That's one fugly image. Would make me burn $20 bills...


Turn them in at the bank for $10s. Don't just burn your money, no matter how much real value it has lost!


Good point! But if anybody tried to pay me with a Fugman $20, I'd burn THEIR money!


I don’t want a picture of a gorilla on the $20 bill.


Zoo bucks.


I know right! Looks like a mad or scared baboon.


If they do it will be the most defaced bill in history


Yep. WHITE OUT the image -- that'll really trigger libturds.


Write "Trump won" on every one you see.


Is ~everything~ about Ghetto-Americans these days?
And they can't understand why we think they're racist.


Sarah Huckabee Sanders has announced her run for governor of Arkansas. She'll win easily -- she's in the right party, she has the name recognition, and her first campaign video is a solid piece of work.

It's also a solid piece of demagoguery.

The video runs nearly eight minutes. Barely a minute and a half in, Sanders says this:
We've seen violence in our streets, at a congressional baseball practice, and at our Capitol. This is not who we are as Americans. To remain free, we must have law and order and resolve our differences peacefully. The radical left's solution is to impose government control and censorship from the top down. But their socialism and cancel culture will not heal America. It will only further divide and destroy us. Everything we love about America is at stake. And with the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defense.
She goes on to say,
As governor, I will defend your right to be free of socialism and tyranny.
As she says this, we see the alleged tyrants: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. Later she says:
I took on the media, the radical left, and their cancel culture.
When she says this we see the radical leftist Jim Acosta of CNN.

Nancy Pelosi, shockingly, doesn't make an appearance in the video, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does, of course, about five and a half minutes in.

Remember, Sanders isn't running for Congress or president -- she's running for governor. Of Arkansas. Against Bernie Sanders and AOC. And while she eventually talks about issues a gubernatorial candidate should talk about -- jobs, taxes, the pandemic -- her focus is relentlessly on "socialism," "the radical left," and "cancel culture."

We talk a lot about Donald Trump's lies -- there were more than 30,000 of them -- but we don't talk about the Big Lie that every Republican politician and right-wing media figure tells: that all Democrats (and all non-conservative media figures) are members of "the radical left." Since "the radical left" can be blamed for political violence, that means every Democrat and every TV news person who isn't on Fox, Newsmax, or One America News is essentially responsible for burning buildings in Portland and the shooting of Steve Scalise.

Yes, Sanders does mention the Capitol riot -- apparently that's regarded on the right as a bad thing. But I'm sure she and her team know that quite a few of her potential voters blame the Capitol violence on Antifa, and most of the rest probably believe that left-wingers are ultimately to blame:

We don't even notice the routine McCarthyism of GOP rhetoric. It's in nearly every utterance of every Republican who stands before a microphone or otherwise has access to the media. Democrats don't do this -- they denounce Trump in strong terms, but they don't denounce every Republican every time they speak. Only a few even suggest that Republicans are similar to Nazis or fascists. But for Republicans, this is everyday talk -- so routine we don't even hear it anymore.

This video won't be seen as shockingly inflammatory or offputting. Maybe we need to develop more of a capacity for outrage.

Sunday, January 24, 2021


If you thought it was possible that the Republican Party might come to its senses after this election and its aftermath, you can diabuse yourself of that notion:
[Arizona Republican] party members ... passed three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. It was another sign of the party's move to the right.

The party censured Ducey over his decision to impose emergency rules during the pandemic that the GOP said "restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts."

McCain, who endorsed President Joe Biden, "has supported globalist policies and candidates" and "condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results."

Flake has "condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests." The party suggested Flake join the Democrats.
Ducey, apparently unfazed, was asked by The New York Times about running for Senate in 2022 against Mark Kelly, whose 2020 victory was in a special election, and who'll therefore have to run again. Ducey issued a classic non-denial denial.
You met with Senator Mitch McConnell while you were in Washington. Are you open to running for the Senate in 2022, when you will be termed out of the governor’s office?

I’m not running for the United States Senate. I got to know Leader McConnell through the open seat with the passing of John McCain. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the Covid-19 relief package.

Are you ruling out running for Senate?

I’m not running for the United States Senate. It’s a no. I’m 100 percent focused on being the governor of the state of Arizona. I’ve accepted the role as the chairman of the {Republican Governors Association]. So I’ve got a full-time job and then I’ve got a full-time job beyond that. And that’s what my focus is.
Use of the present tense in response to a question like this is a time-honored way of saying you're not running now, but you're leaving open the possibility of announcing a run later.

And why not? Consider what Cindy McCain said about her censure:
McCain in a tweet alluded to her late husband Sen. John McCain's own battles with the party.

"It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well ... and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I'll wear this as a badge of honor," she said.
That's right -- the same state party censured John McCain in 2014:
Arizona Sen. John McCain has gone soft when it comes to conservative principles. That's according to his state's Republican Party, who sent the former presidential candidate a message on Saturday by voting to censure him for his 'liberal' voting record.

... the resolution was approved on a voice vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe. It said McCain "has campaigned as a conservative but has lent his support to issues 'associated with liberal Democrats,' such as immigration reform and to funding the law sometimes known as Obamacare."

The five-term senator's bleeding-heart tendencies are "disastrous and harmful" to the state and the nation, the resolution said.
So what happened to John McCain after that? Two years laters, he ran for reelection -- as a Republican. He won the Republican primary 51%-40%, then won the general election by beating Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick 54%-41%. So these censures might not mean much.

McCain's main primary opponent in 2016 was Kelli Ward, who's now the Trump-loving and Trump-endorsed chair of the Arizona GOP. (She was narrowly reelected to that post last night.)

I'm guessing that Ward or someone like her will be the party's candidate against Kelly two years from now -- and I imagine many people who eagerly voted for McCain and Ducey will vote for Ward, or whichever Trumpist/QAnoner gets the nomination. But who knows? In the next two years, Ducey might tack rightward on a few issues and position himself as the guy who can take on the Evil Socialist Biden-Soros-AOC Administration, and he could be the nominee. And either way, it could be a GOP wave election, just like the wave elections Bill Clinton and Barack Obama experienced after they'd been in office two years.

Because that's how it tends to go in the GOP: The party is pulled further and further rightward, with most Establishment figures adapting so as not to be destroyed -- McCain did that, particularly in his previous race in 2010, when he also faced a far-right primary challenger -- but the percentage of the electorate that supports the party never really changes.

Maybe this time it will be different. I'm not counting on that.

And no, I don't expect a Trumpist "Patriot Party" to create a serious GOP crack-up. Trump is issuing threats now in order to minimize the number of Republicans who'll vote to convict him in his upcoming Senate trial. He'll get his way -- no more that two or three Republicans will vote to convict, and it could just be Mitt Romney, or not even Romney.

Trump will probably back primary challengers to the Republicans on his hit list, but if he were serious about starting a third party, he wouldn't be talking about primary challenges. He'd be threatening to sink his enemies in general elections -- third-party candidates don't run in primaries.

It's likely that Trumpists will defeat a few of his enemies -- but then they'll be the new Republicans, just like the Tea Party candidates in 2010 and beyond. Eventually, you won't even remember who was regarded as an insurgent and who was an establishmentarian.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


Jonathan Chait has written an astute column about the Republican crack-up that was supposed to be happening but now clearly isn't.
The heady predictions that the party would break free of the Trumpist grip already seem fanciful. If anybody is suffering repercussions for their response to Trump’s autogolpe, it is the Republicans who criticized it. Conservative Republicans are threatening to strip Liz Cheney of her leadership post after she voted to impeach Trump.... Adam Kinzinger, another pro-impeachment Republican, is facing censure. The Michigan Republican member of the state board of canvassers, who broke with his party to certify the state’s election results, is losing his job as a result of his refusal to go along with Trump’s lie. Fox News is firing journalists associated with its election call that Biden won Arizona.
Chait divides the party into three wings. The first is the Never Trump wing, which he describes as small. (I'd say it's nonexistent -- call yourself a Never Trumper and you're instantly blackballed by the party.) The second -- "a violent authoritarian wing" made up of pro-insurrectionists such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, as well as "the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, and in the media by various commentators on the Fox News evening lineup, OAN, and Newsmax" -- is, Chait says, "of roughly equal size." (I'd say it's much larger.)

And then there's the third group:
In the middle is what you might call “soft authoritarians.” This faction’s political representation is figures like [Mitch] McConnell and [Mike] Pence, and its views are expressed by organs like The Wall Street Journal editorial page and National Review. They have supported most of Trump’s abuses of power, firmly opposing impeachment, Congressional oversight, efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns, or any other accountability mechanism. The soft authoritarians strongly believe in the principle of minority rule, as long as it is enforced through peaceful and legal channels like gerrymandering and vote suppression.
These people, Chait says, "were appalled at Trump’s use of a barbarous mob to beat up police officers and smash down the Capitol’s doors and windows," but they also know how popular Trump is with their voters. So in the upcoming impeachment trial, they'll vote to acquit Trump, arguing that it's pointless to punish him now that he's out of office.
The path of least resistance for the soft authoritarianism will be to oppose Trump’s conviction on technical grounds, and then hope he fades away quietly.
But I question the notion that everyone in the middle group genuinely blames Trump for the riot. The headline-grabbing part of House minority leader Kevin McCarthy's recent interview with Greta Van Susteren is that he blames "everybody across this country" for the riot. But look at the (somewhat garbled) transcript below and you'll see that he's not blaming the entire country -- he's blaming Democrats and left-leaners specifically, as if their occasional moments of aggression somehow exceeded the torrent of vitriol from President Trump and the rest of the right. And then at the end he suggests that Nancy Pelosi was uniquely responsible for the security breakdown at the Capitol on January 6, joining Lindsey Graham and others in glossing over the fact that Capitol Police oversight is the joint responsibility of the House and Senate, which means that if Pelosi was at fault for January 6, so was Mitch McConnell.

A couple of weeks from now, when we finally have an impeachment trial, I assume that Trump's defenders won't simply argue that the proceeding is moot -- I assume "It was all Pelosi's fault" will be one of their main arguments.

In the FiveThirtyEight polling average, Trump's job approval rating never got lower than 38.0% near the end, and it ticked up slightly, to 38.6%, by his last day in office. I assume that Republicans were happy to slow-walk the impeachment trial because they believe that memories of the riot are fading fast and Trump's popularity among Republicans will soon be close to what it was before the riot. If they can muddy the waters on blame, it won't matter what Trump does afterward -- they'll have saved him in a second impeachment trial, their base will like them again, and America will have moved on. (Republicans will, of course, have moved on to blaming Joe Biden for every problem in America.)

They won't need Trump to "fade away." They'll just need to make America ungovernable -- their usual move when a Democrat is in the White House, and one that has always given them huge midterm wins.

By sometime later this year, they won't even need to memory-hole the riot. Much of America will recall it as just one more wacky thing Trump did -- nothing to get worked up over now. The base's Trump worship will continue unabated, and the GOP will move on with or without him.

Friday, January 22, 2021


The first thing you need to know about this gotcha ...

... is that on Election Day -- a mere 80 days ago -- the Times ran this:

That November story read in part:
HELSINKI, Finland — Keijo Paajanen was bewitched by a watch.

So much so that his life became deeply intertwined with the Vulcain Cricket, a Swiss timepiece known as the first mass-produced mechanical watch to successfully incorporate an alarm.

But there was another part of the watch’s past that attracted Mr. Paajanen even more: Released in 1947, it has been presented to many American leaders, earning it the nickname “The President’s Watch.”

... Starting in 1988 with President Ronald Reagan, who stopped in Finland en route to Moscow, Mr. Paajanen sent or personally presented the watch to seven of the 11 American heads-of-state known to have owned the model — almost every one from Truman to Trump.
The Times at that moment seemed delighted by the notion of a stylish presidential watch. (I see the Vulcain President Cricket priced from $3500 to $4500.)

But in today's story, we're told that President Biden wears a fancy watch, while recent presidents (Donald Trump excepted) have worn more seemly timepieces:
President Biden may cast his arrival in the White House as a return to business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but there’s at least one way he’s breaking from prevailing presidential tradition: he wears a Rolex.

At his inauguration, Mr. Biden laid his hand on the family Bible wearing a stainless steel Rolex Datejust watch with a blue dial, a model that retails for more than $7,000 and is a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades.
Presidents used to wear "power watches," we're told, but they've
gone out of style in the internet age, when most recent presidents, and politicians in general, seemed to consider the luxury watch as a signifier of out-of-touch elitism.

Bill Clinton seemed to thumb his nose at aristocratic gold timepieces by wearing a Timex Ironman, a “plastic digital watch, thick as a brick and handsome as a hernia,” as The Washington Post wrote in 1993.
Or maybe he couldn't afford aristocratic gold timepieces. Clinton wasn't very wealthy when he was elected president.
His successor, George W. Bush, went even more down market, wearing a Timex Indiglo, the kind once sold at drugstores.

The choice of a watch that cost $50 or less was either a man-of-the-people statement — even though Mr. Bush was an oil scion who went to Yale — or a masterstroke of old-money preppyism, where any hint of gilded glimmer is considered vulgar.
I'm going with the latter.
Barack Obama, too, avoided heirloom-level timepieces. During his presidency, he opted for mid-priced all-American watches by Shinola, the Detroit-based brand, or a sporty watch by Jorg Gray, based in Southern California, that cost less than $500.
"Mid-priced" for that Shinola watch is a matter of interpretation. It was a Runwell Sport Chrono, version of which are priced from $875 to $1500 on Shinola's website -- not super high-end, but a lot more expensive than a Timex.
This may come as a shock, but Mr. Trump shattered those norms. He remained on-brand during his term, flashing mogul-worthy gold (what else?) watches by Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Vacheron Constantin.
But the Times gave us dozens of stories over the past four years about how appealing the working class found Trump. Trump's advocates called him a "blue-collar billionaire," even though he was a rich man's son and grew up in a mansion.

We're told that Biden's expensive watches "embody a classic version of the American Dream: that anyone, even a kid from Scranton, can make it to the pinnacle of power." But still, they're expensive watches. "Haute Swiss watches," as they're called in the story.

But it's not as if all recent presidents apart from Trump disdained expensive watches. Bill Clinton has quite a collection of them now:
Since Bill Clinton left the White House he’s become an absolute watch hound. He’s been known to wear a Panerai PAM89 GMT, a Franck Muller, a Roger Dubuis MuchMore, a Kobold Seal, and a gold Cartier Ballon Bleu. The Swiss watch company Quinting has a photo of Clinton on its website wearing the brand’s Dove of Geneva watch.
Those are not cheap watches. Nor is the Rolex Cellini we're told Barack Obama now wears sometimes.

Here's one thing Clinton, Obama, and Biden have in common besides being Democratic presidents: They all made quite a bit of money from writing memoirs. Clinton's presidential memoir My Life was a huge success -- he really wasn't well off until he signed the deal for that book (and maybe that explains his changing taste in watches). Obama wrote two successful memoirs before being elected, plus another one published last fall. Biden's 2017 memoir Promise Me, Dad was a #1 bestseller.

So they've spent some of their royalties on watches. I can live with that. I think a lot of blue-collar people might do the same thing if they came into money.

But the Times has generated fodder for a hundred jabs at Biden from the right-wing media. Was that necessary?


From a January 20 Politico story about the end of Donald Trump's presidency:
His last days were quiet. He insisted he was working. “President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening ... ” his public schedule said each day. But he wasn’t really working. He was disappearing.

He was a man, a leader, a president almost unrecognizable to those who had watched him over the past four years. Diminished. Adrift, Sullen.
I wasn't surprised that sulkiness was the flipside of Trump's arrogance and braggadocio. When things go seriously wrong for him, he considers it a profound injustice. So now he's thinking: How dare the world treat me badly! I'll show the world! I'll go mope in my room!

But I'm surprised that it's gone on for days. Maybe he could have rallied himself after failing to finagle the overturn of the election, and maybe he could have regrouped after being banned from Twitter, but it appears that the combination has his delicate ego flatlining.

(Why doesn't he just blog? He doesn't have to write long posts. Folks like Atrios and Instapundit have been writing mostly tweet-sized blog posts since before there was Twitter. Why couldn't someone set Trump up with a blog, maybe at, and he could just write the same tweets he always wrote and post them there? In the waning days of his presidency, the world would have paid attention; now, his fan base would, at least.)

Which brings me to this Washington Post story about QAnon.
Tiffany, an Oklahoma mother of two who runs an online children’s boutique, had expected more arrests.

A believer in QAnon, ... she said she was “shocked” when Inauguration Day came and went without any of the mass military roundups of Trump’s enemies that Q, the movement’s prophet, had promised all along.

But after a night of processing the day’s events by reading QAnon promoters’ posts, she said she believes that everything is still humming along according to plan — and that Trump’s election loss was all part of Q’s master strategy to expose the evildoers who corrupted the vote.

“Things have just started,” said Tiffany, who spoke on the condition she’d be identified only by her first name for fear of harassment. “They had to ‘commit’ the crime to fully lock the deal.”

... QAnon promoters have in the past day held up an incoherent set of new theories to explain away Trump’s anticlimactic exit from Washington: that the military is in control of the country, not Biden; that Biden and Trump have switched faces; that Biden’s inauguration was illegitimate, and that the real one (for Trump) would take place in March; or that Biden has been in on the QAnon plan all along.

In QAnon-devoted Telegram channels and message boards, some QAnon believers have announced their worries that they now feel conned by a four-year-old hoax: “Power has changed hands and that is the end,” one user on Telegram said. “In the time we needed Trump and Q the most … [they] both shut up and left,” said another on a QAnon-related forum....

Ron Watkins, 8kun’s longtime administrator and a mass promoter of election-fraud conspiracy theories, said in a Telegram message on Wednesday that the White House transition meant it was time for his followers to “go back to our lives as best we are able.” His father and 8kun’s owner, Jim Watkins, later worked to defend Q’s “historical value,” saying on his Gab account that “the culture of our country has changed because of it.”
But we know "the Plan" won't come to fruition. If these people continue to wait for the mass arrests that will never happen and Trump never fully reemerges as a messiah figure, won't more of them drift away?

I'm skeptical of the theory advanced by the Post story that white nationalist groups might pick up QAnoners -- some might go that way, but I don't think stay-at-home moms will want to join a movement that's performatively macho. If Tiffany quits QAnon, she might throw herself full-time into vaccine skepticism or something similar, but I don't think she'll start celebrating Hitler's birthday or get a Fourteen Words tattoo.

And I don't see anyone stepping up to take Trump's place. I see politicians -- Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn -- attempting to be political heroes to the alienated, but no one trying to be the kind of pop-culture superstar Trump always tried to be (a goal at which he succeeded from 2016 to the end of his term). The Republican Party will probably be led in the future by a Hawley or a Boebert, but I wonder whether QAnon can survive if its mythology isn't organized around a celebrity.

Meanwhile, here's what's going on at

It's frozen at a moment when Trump was still president, and when there was still a Trump-Pence ticket. Below it, there are still videos urging supporters to get out and vote. It's the website equivalent of Miss Havisham, the Dickens character who was left at the altar and wore her wedding dress for the rest of her life.

Trump will probably rally himself eventually, but maybe he won't -- maybe he'll never move past this moment. And maybe QAnon will die along with his dreams.

Thursday, January 21, 2021


In his latest New York Times column, Ezra Klein makes some important points: If Democrats want to avoid losing their slim House and Senate majorities in the next midterm cycle, they need to do big, noticeable things that make people's lives better -- and that will probably require them to nuke the filibuster in the Senate.

But this gives me pause:
Among the many tributaries flowing into Trumpism, one in particular has gone dangerously overlooked. In their book “Presidents, Populism and the Crisis of Democracy,” the political scientists William Howell and Terry Moe write that “populists don’t just feed on socioeconomic discontent. They feed on ineffective government — and their great appeal is that they claim to replace it with a government that is effective through their own autocratic power.”

Donald Trump was this kind of populist. Democrats mocked his “I alone can fix it” message for its braggadocio and feared its authoritarianism, but they did not take seriously the deep soil in which it was rooted: The American system of governance is leaving too many Americans to despair and misery, too many problems unsolved, too many people disillusioned. It is captured by corporations and paralyzed by archaic rules. It is failing, and too many Democrats treat its failures as regrettable inevitabilities rather than a true crisis.
Except that Trump didn't replaced ineffective government with effective government. That's become obvious to most of us during the pandemic -- though not to the 74 million people who voted for Trump. They think he did a good job managing the virus. They think he built the wall. (He built a small part of it.) They think he brought coal back and manufacturing jobs back. (He didn't.) They think he was personally responsible for a rip-roaring economy. (It was a continuation of the Obama economy.)

Klein makes a point about President Obama's policies being slow to deliver benefits (Obamacare) or delivering them so subtly that voters didn't notice:
The Obama administration believed that if you got the policy right, the politics would follow. That led, occasionally, to policies that almost entirely abandoned politics, so deep ran the faith in clever design. The Making Work Pay tax credit, which was a centerpiece of the Recovery Act, was constructed to be invisible — the Obama administration, working off new research in behavioral economics, believed Americans would be more likely to spend a windfall that they didn’t know they got. “When all was said and done, only around 10 percent of people who received benefits knew they had received something from the government,” says Suzanne Mettler, a political scientist at Cornell. You don’t get re-elected for things voters don’t know you did.
Klein is right -- you don’t get re-elected for things voters don’t know you did. But Trump almost got re-elected for things he didn't do but his voters thought he did.

And that isn't just because Trump is an unusually shameless braggart. George W. Bush got reelected in 2004 for "keeping America safe" after being asleep at the switch in the months leading up to the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. He also got reelected for his consduct of the war -- which was clearly a diaster by 2004.

Biden isn't likely to do anything of the sort by 2022 or 2024. Even highly charismatic Democratic presidents -- Obama, Clinton -- don't pound their chests and tell you they solved all your problems when they didn't. Republicans are much better at this, and have a much more effective propaganda machine to reinforce their messaging.

That puts Democrats at a disadvantage. They need to deliver results because they won't simply insist that they already delivered them.


And so it begins. This is from a Florida state legislator:

That would be this Anthony Sabatini:

Sabatini is known in Florida for filing a lot of lawsuits against pandemic public health measures, as the Florida Phoenix noted in September:
Sabatini has sustained at least seven losses in court and a judicial warning from 2nd Circuit Judge David Frank that he risks being sanctioned for filing “frivolous lawsuits” against local mask mandates. Amid the string of losses, Sabatini announced with a flourish Friday that Gov. Ron DeSantis by executive order had just suspended fines and penalties issued to enforce mask orders.


Actually, DeSantis’ suspension of fines and penalties applies to “individuals” and does not mention businesses, as stated in Executive Order 20-244, but Sabatini didn’t cite the order in his post. Several local governments interpreted the order to mean they may continue to require businesses to make employees and customers wear masks.
Sabatini is now fighting mandatory vaccination (even though no one's actually proposing it). As the right-wing site Major League Liberty USA ever-so-subtly puts it:
... he is now focusing on the next potential violation of the citizenry during this pandemic; the state forced vaccination. With many “experts” and globalist anti-freedom forces pushing the idea of mandatory vaccinations and tracking, including the Chinese President who so horribly failed his nation and entire world with his bungled handling of the initial outbreak, Sabatini seeks to make it the law of the land in Florida that the government cannot legally force Coronavirus vaccinations....
“The government should never have the ability to restrain a person and force them to take a vaccine—it should always remain an individual choice. This is is the most dangerous from of Big Government. The more we can remove government from our personal healthcare decisions, the better.”
And, naturally, Sabatini gave a shout-out to QAnon a few months ago, although the tweet is now deleted.

The Washington Post's Antonia Noori Farzan notes that efforts to rename things after Trump haven't gotten very far:
In 2019, one Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma tried to rename a stretch of old U.S. Route 66 after Trump but was shut down by members of his own party. Some worried that doing so would discourage tourists, while others objected to changing the name of one of the country’s most iconic roads. An attempt to place Trump’s name on a more obscure highway in the Oklahoma Panhandle last year was also unsuccessful.

South Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature, too, rejected a bill to name a highway interchange after Trump in 2020. Some conservative lawmakers expressed reluctance about naming roads after living people, while another noted that there was a competing proposal to name the interchange after former president Barack Obama and dismissed both bills as “a big political game.”
But as soon as the Biden administration has the slightest stumble, you'll hear calls for honoring Trump this way. You'll also start seeing a Trump version of this:

It seems unimaginable now, but it'll happen.