Saturday, September 26, 2020


Many people don't seem to understand what's about to happen after Election Day. Ken Olin, the actor, gets it wrong: But the president isn't planning to say, "Sure, I lost, but I'm not leaving." What he's planning to say is: "I won. It's obvious that I won." One of the president's sons said as much:
Eric Trump told a crowd of his father's supporters at an event in Las Vegas that President Donald Trump would concede the election “if he got blown out of the water” by Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the president had cast doubts on a peaceful transfer of power once the race is decided.

“I think my father’s just saying listen, if he got blown out of the water, of course, he’d concede,” Eric Trump said at the Thursday event, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If he thought there was massive fraud, then he’d go and try and address that.”
Those are the only two possible outcomes, according to Eric Trump. Anything short of a blowout will be evidence of voter fraud. His father doesn't even acknowledge the possibility of being blown out: He said last month, "the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” And even if Eric is right and Trump will accept a decisive loss, what constitutes being "blown out of the water"? No one's won the popular vote in a presidential election by double digits since 1984. Barack Obama's two victories came with Electoral College margins of more than 100, but the other three elections since 2000 were won by much smaller margins.

The president has defined mail votes as illegitimate. Do you think Joe Biden can win 270 electoral votes based solely on ballots cast in person, or votes counted by sunrise the morning after Election Day? If Biden can't manage that -- and it's unlikely that he can -- Trump can challenge the election results even if the final tally shows that he's lost decisively.

Which will be fine if his party breaks from him and acknowledges Biden's win. That's what one unnamed Republican insider predicts in this aricle from The Hill:
“No doubt the Trump base will stick with him, and will forever believe that Pelosi, Schumer, Shifty Schiff and Hunter Biden conspired with China and Russia to flood the American electoral system with phony ballots that swung the election to Biden,” said one Republican elections lawyer who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “But everyone in official Washington will abandon him. Pence, the entire cabinet, the RNC, every GOP senator, all but maybe a handful of GOP representatives, all of his political appointees. ... Most lawyers will refuse to represent him — including government lawyers who will resign before advancing his positions in court. The other two branches of government will put an end to this. ... The judicial system in particular will have zero patience for this and its destabilizing effect on public order. And Trump himself does not want to be frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs — like a dog — so he'll eventually go, too. With a huge stink, but not an ounce of fight.”
Sounds like an Aaron Sorkin fantasy -- and in fact, Sorkin told a film festival audience this week that that's more or less how he'd write the ending of the Trump presidency, though in a more melodramatic form:
Sorkin, whose films often deal with the ethics of power, ended the conversation by revealing how he would write election night, 2020. “Trump does what we all assume he will do, which is not concede defeat, claiming the election’s rigged and the Democrats cheated. For the first time, his Republican enablers march up to the White House and say Donald it’s time to go. I would write the ending where everyone does the right thing...."
That certainly won't happen. But will the Republican election lawyer's prediction come true?

We're assuming that the likely outcome is a Biden win that's obvious to all objective observers. But in a Trump/Fox/QAnon world, objective reality has no meaning to roughly 40% of the population. It's also likely that Biden will win (if he does win) by less than the current 7-point margin the polls are showing for him, because of Republican vote suppression, incorrectly submitted mail ballots, and the usual problem Democrats have persuading many people who don't like Republicans that they need to vote Democratic to keep Republicans out of office.

So I'm expecting a Biden win by about 4 points nationwide, with the states that put him over the top being very close. And that's where Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of the GOP "establishment" come in. They've accepted -- or openly endorsed -- nearly everything Trump has done to degrade our country. "Establishment" Republicans were yelling "Voter fraud!" long before Trump was, back in the Bush years. Why should we assume that they'll abandon Trump when he's making the same claim after the election?

After the election, Trump won't be saying he lost but won't leave -- he'll be saying he won, and in all likelihood McConnell, Graham, and others will be saying the same thing. Fox News and the New York Post and The Federalist and The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen and Hugh Hewitt will be saying the same thing. Trump will find lawyers who will file court briefs saying the same thing. And some judges will agree -- maybe even Supreme Court justices.

In other words, Trump won't try to reject the election outcome. He'll attempt to change it. And we'll have to fight more than just Trump if we don't want this effort to succeed.

Friday, September 25, 2020


This is insane:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis not only allowed bars and restaurants to open at full capacity on Friday, he said he’d override local efforts to keep them closed despite the raging coronavirus pandemic.

On the same day Florida surpassed 14,000 coronavirus deaths, DeSantis announced that the state was immediately moving to the third phase of its three-phase reopening plan. Bars, restaurant, gyms, shops, stadiums, and theme parks can operate at 100 percent capacity, with only some room for local limitations, according to the state’s plan.

DeSantis, a Trump acolyte whose lax response to the pandemic has enraged many in his state and across the country, said he’d sign an order Friday to guarantee restaurants operate at a minimum 50 percent capacity “regardless of local rule.” Any city or county that wants to restrict capacity to between 50 and 100 percent will have to provide justification and outline the cost of it, he said.

He even said he’d forgive all fees and penalties handed to people for violating social distancing orders, and prevent local governments from collecting any outstanding fines.
I know that Ron DeSantis is a loyal Trump bootlicker. I know Trump believes that an economy running at full capacity, or as close to full capacity as possible, is his ticket to reelection, even though polls show that voters don't blame Trump for the current economic downtown and still give him strong marks on the economy -- which hasn't helped him close the gap in his race with Joe Biden.

If DeSantis really wants Trump to win Florida's 29 electoral votes, he shouldn't do with Florida's economy what Trump wants him to do. That's because the inevitable sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Florida will not only kill people, it will also turn increasing numbers of Florida voters, especially elderly voters, against Trump once again. Notice when the peak in Florida cases took place:
Now notice when Biden had his biggest lead over Trump in the state:
July was when cases peaked -- and when Biden jumped out to a significant lead. So not only is DeSantis about to engage in mass murder, he's doing it in a way that will do political harm to the president he's trying to help.

DeSantis might be too stupid to understand the science. He might be too in thrall to right-wing pseudo-science and Fox News talking points. He might be trying to appease right-wing business leaders, who are as sociopathic as the president, and therefore as indifferent as the president is to the suffering and death the virus is likely to cause ordinary Florida citizens in the near future.

But this is political incompetence as well as moral monstrousness. It will kill people -- and it might kill Trump's presidential hopes.


President Trump has expressed an interest in picking Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American from the swing state of Florida, for the Supreme Court. But some of his supporters are ordering not to do that:
Trump has heard from evangelical leaders who argue that his religious supporters might be less enthusiastic about a nominee like Lagoa — who they say doesn't have enough of a paper trail to demonstrate conservative credentials — but who say they'll turn out to vote for the president's choice anyway. Others have told Trump that they'll accept only a nominee like [Amy Coney] Barrett, who they say has a clear conservative and anti-abortion record, and that without such a pick he'll lose critical support.

"Not all on the list are acceptable, and that's being communicated," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has told the White House that nominating Lagoa wouldn't go over well with him and other evangelicals.
Trump really wants to win Florida. But I predict he'll reject Lagoa and pick Barrett because of this pressure.

Trump likes to say that Joe Biden may not be a radical leftist, but in office he'd just be a puppet, with extremists pulling the strings. But this is pure projection. Look at Trump on judges: First he hands the entire job of judge-picking over to Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society. Then, in all likelihood, he'll defer to evangelicals on this pick. Some aren't even pretending that they want a Supreme Court justice who's broadly acceptable to the American public. Just the opposite, in fact:
While some of the president's allies have pointed to the Senate's bipartisan 80-15 vote last year to confirm Lagoa to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as an advantage, Perkins said that's actually a significant drawback, because it shows she's not hard-line enough.

"In this Senate, in this environment, that itself raises questions," he said. By contrast, Barrett was confirmed to the 4th Circuit Court on a party-line vote of 55-43 in 2017.
Will Trump respond to this pressure? I think so. But remember, Biden is the one who's supposed to be manipulated by radicals.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


It doesn't look as if Joe Biden can quite overcome Donald Trump's lead in Texas -- Trump is up by 1.9 according to FiveThirtyEight, and up by 3.6 according to Real Clear Politics. On the other hand, there's this:
A little less than three weeks before early voting is due to begin, Texans are already making election year history, setting new records for voter registration....

Jeremy Wallace covers politics for the Houston Chronicle. He told Texas Standard the state has a bit over 16.6 million registered voters, with 1.5 million added since the 2016 presidential election.

“Even since the pandemic hit, we’ve added 400,000,” Wallace said.
Just for the record, Beto O'Rourke lost to Ted Cruz in 2018 by 214,921 votes (out of 8,371,655 cast).
Of the new voters registered, one-third come from Harris County, Bexar County and Travis County, all home to large cities that tend to vote for Democratic candidates. There have also been higher-than-usual increases in the number of voters registered in suburban counties like Hays and Williamson near Austin, and Montgomery County in southeast Texas. Republicans hope those voters will be more likely to support their candidates.
Harris County (which includes Houston), Bexar County (San Antonio), and Travis County (Austin) all voted for O'Rourke by comfortable margins -- but O'Rourke won Hays and Williamson counties, too, after Trump won both in 2016.

Will Texas surprise us? Maybe it'll just be close, but who knows? Meanwhile, here are a couple of possible surprises: Biden leads Trump in Iowa by 3 in the New York Times/Siena poll that was released this week, and he's ahead of Trump by 5 in Ohio in a just-released Fox poll. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 9 in Iowa and by 8 in Ohio.

Midwestern appeal? Maybe Biden really was the right candidate for this election.


This confirms what we already knew:
President Trump, during a news conference at the White House Wednesday evening, refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election.

Asked by a reporter whether he would “commit here today for a peaceful transfer of all power after the election,” noting the violence that has arisen in some cities, Mr. Trump demurred. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” he said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

“We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he added. “The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anyone else.”
We don't know everything he's planning to do, but we know it's quite likely that he'll be leading in the popular vote on Election Night and we know he'll declare himself the winner, arguing that votes shouldn't be counted after a certain arbitrary time limit.

Earlier this month, I said that news organizations, particularly TV news outlets, just need to do what they routinely do when votes are being counted: analyze where the uncounted votes are and say that it's too early to make certain calls, just the way they do when key precincts or counties haven't reported their vote totals in an ordinary close race. A recent column by David Ignatius of The Washington Post suggested that the press is planning to take this approach:
Journalists at all the major networks use similar language to describe the challenge of reporting the Nov. 3 outcome. They recognize that because many votes will be cast by mail, the counting will be slow in some states and the final result may be delayed for days. Commendably, all the networks are preparing for a “decision night” that may not yield an immediate decision....

I spoke this week with senior political journalists at Fox News, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.
Some of the responses:
“There’s a lot of responsibility for us. We take it very seriously,” Bret Baier of Fox News, who will be co-anchoring that network’s coverage, stressed in an interview. “If the difference in the number of absentee ballots yet to be counted is too large, you can’t make the call.” ...

David Chalian, the political director at CNN, explained: “If someone out there is claiming victory, and we haven’t counted the vote yet and made a call, we have to be clear that the facts don’t back up that claim.... One thing that’s critical is that we be as transparent as possible about what is and isn’t in the vote count, and what we know about the still-outstanding vote.”
And this seems important:
The networks plan to use “exit polls,” which this year will include telephone sampling that captures absentee voters.
At election time, we regularly complain about the media ignoring issues and concentrating on horserace journalism. But this could be a rare time when that tendency works to the Democrats' advantage. Treating the vote count as the multi-day (possibly multi-week) process that it's likely to be extends the horserace. Why would the media want to agree with President Trump that the race is over on Election Night and there's no more horserace news?

So democracy might prevail because the media loves a clffhanger.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


Politico's John Harris writes:
There are two possible reasons why it would be rational for [Mitch McConnell] to act on the Supreme Court vacancy in a way that is so damaging to the reputation of the Senate, and so contemptuous of half of his Senate colleagues and of American voters.

One is that he expects his party to hold power a very long time. Who cares what the opposition thinks when they don’t matter now and won’t in the future?

The other is that he expects to hold power a very short time, or at least is keenly attuned to this possibility, and believes that once power is lost it is gone indefinitely. Under this scenario, it would make sense to lock in as many gains, as quickly as possible, for as long as possible. The enduring scorn of the opposition is an acceptable price to pay because the long-term contest is essentially over.

Which possibility more likely reflects the ruthless rationality of the McConnell mind?
Harris goes on to write about the demographic changes in America that are said to doom the Republican Party (how many years have we been hearing this?). Harris's conclusion:
The Republican Party’s sprint to install a justice for a life-time appointment this year, either days before a presidential election or in the lame-duck session afterward, looks a lot like the dying spasms of a political movement that began five decades ago.
But Harris is wrong. McConnell doesn't believe the GOP will be in power forever and he doesn't believe it will lose power soon, never to regain it.

What McConnell believes is that Republicans may well lose power in this election (though he and his allies will use every tool available to them in order to prevent that, including some that are more suited to an authoritarian dictatorship than a democracy). But even if they do lose power, they'll simply make America as ungovernable as they can for the Democrats starting in 2021, just the way they did starting in 1993 and 2009, with the expectation that they'll come roaring back in the next midterms, and (given the advanced age of the Democratic presidential nominee) possibly in the next presidential election.

In the meantime, they want to secure control (or I should say further control) over the federal judiciary, in part because GOP judges will be instrumental in their effort to ensure that the Biden presidency fails. GOP judges will also help ensure that Democratic-leaning voters will find it harder and harder to vote and harder and harder to overcome the hurdles preventing their votes from resulting in effective legislative majorities at the federal and state levels.

Harris's theory rests on the assumption that increasingly unpopular Republican policy will soon begin to fail badly at the ballt box because America will continue to be a genuine democracy. McConnell's strategy assumes that American democracy is expendable.

McConnell does expect his party to hold power a very long time, just as it's held power for the past forty years. He knows, however, that Democrats will nominally hold power at some moments in the future. His goal is to ensure that America remains essentially a one-party (i.e., Republican) state, even if Democrats manage to win the occasional election.

Our long-term goal should be to expose and ultimately thwart McConnell's plans.


Barton Gellman's Atlantic article about the inevitability of a Trump effort to steal the election in the event of Joe Biden victory is frightening, in part because of details like this:
We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.” How and when a state might do so has not been tested for well over a century.

Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.
We know that Trump intends to challenge mail ballots, which are expected to be disproportionately Democratic. So when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on the president's Supreme Court nominee -- a nominee Mitch McConnell hopes to seat before the election, so she can vote in the GOP's favor on election-related issues -- Democratic senators, in addition to asking her about healthcare and abortion and the usual issues that come up in such hearings, should ask her a few questions about democracy in America. Question such as:
Do you believe that a mail ballot cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law is a legitimate ballot?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that an election in which there are a large number of mail ballots is inevitably fraudulent?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that sending mail ballots to all voters in a manner consistent with state and federal law and with proper safeguards in place inevitably leads to fraud?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that there is a time limit after which ballots cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law should not be counted?

Do you believe that the president of the United States has the right to impound ballots cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law, and if so, under what circumstances?
And so on. This is not an exhaustive list.

It won't really matter -- when election issues come before the Court, Trump's appointee, if she has been seated by then, will vote however she likes, which in all likelihood will mean however the Republican Party wants her to vote. But it would be useful to put her on the record, on national television, acknowledging the legitimacy of the election we're about to conduct. And if she hesitates, Democrats should make that a national scandal.

Because remember who intends to vote by mail this year: older Americans in particular, many of them white suburbanites, who fear the health consequences of showing up at the polls. Democrats need to start saying now that the president's position is that Grandma's vote is illegitimate by definition. His Supreme Court nominee, who might not be expecting such questions, needs to be asked if she agrees.


Here's a CNN report on Democratic strategy for the upcoming Supremne Court fight and the future of the Court:
increasingly, Democrats are trying to steer clear of talk that they would change the makeup of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it if they take the Senate majority this fall, with some arguing that gives the GOP ammunition in the battle for control of the chamber.

"I'm not for retaliatory moves," said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the Democrats' most vulnerable senator this cycle, pushing back on calls to add seats to the court. He wouldn't say if he would oppose a Trump pick no matter what.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who also faces voters in November, said: "No" when asked if she backs adding more seats to the court if Democrats take the majority.

"I think the important thing right now is that people need to make our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration aware ... if they believe, as I do, that they should let the election go forward and the next president, whoever that is, nominate the nominee to the Supreme Court," Shaheen said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive firebrand, sidestepped questions when asked if she favored adding seats to the Supreme Court.

"We need to talk about what's at stake now: What's at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families," Warren said Tuesday.
It doesn't matter. Republicans already have their talking points now that the subject has been raised. Here's Marc Thiessen of The Washington Post:
Even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the left was never going to be content with simply replacing liberal justices, because that would not change the ideological makeup of the court. They intend to follow through on their threats to “restructure” the court by adding justices to install a liberal majority. But they won’t stop there. They will also pack the federal circuit courts of appeal, neutralizing all of Trump’s judicial appointments and restoring liberal majorities.
So what do we have? We have Republicans describing any effort to add seats to the Supreme Court or lower courts as tyranny. And we have Democratic senators describing it as ... either a bad idea or one they really, really don't want to talk about.

If Republicans say this as a bad idea and Democrats say this is a bad idea, what are voters who haven't really thought about the issue supposed to think?

Republicans don't act this way. They don't acknowledge objections to their hardball tactics, except in a very limited way. Only a handful of Republicans have questioned Mitch McConnell's plan to ram through a Court nominee this year -- everyone else in the party is talking about it as if it's the only reasonable course of action. The same was true four years ago: Republicans didn't tell reporters that stonewalling Merrick Garland was a bad idea. They just did it, and said that was the only reasonable course of action.

Maybe Democrats don't really want to pack the Court. But if they're considering it, they'll appear more reasonable if they describe Court-packing as constitutional (the number of justices on the Court isn't fixed in the Constitution) and as having historical precedent:
The number of Justices on the Supreme Court changed six times before settling at the present total of nine in 1869.
They could also remind voters that four of the nine justices on the Court were named by presidents who reached the White House after losing the popular vote, and Trump's upcoming pick would be number five.

Democrats would be better at playing hardball if they weren't so guilt-ridden about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


This didn't surprise me:
Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday he would support a floor vote to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, essentially clinching consideration of President Donald Trump’s nominee this year despite the impending election.

Just two Republican senators have asked for the party to put the brakes on the confirmation. And with a 53-seat majority, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) now has the votes he needs to move forward with a nominee.
Remember, Romney wasn't a senator in 2016, so he can say truthfully that he didn't refuse to consider Merrick Garland, and thus he can dodge accusations of hypocrisy. Also, let's not forget that the judges Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo are getting approved with brutal efficiency are exactly the judges who would have been appointed by any other serious 2016 Republican contender for the presidency in -- or by a second-term Republican president who won the 2012 election. These judges would all have been on Romney's list, too. Romney doesn't like Trump, but in this case Romney isn't endorsing an act of Trumpian ruthlessness -- he's endorsing an act of mainstream Republican ruthlessness.

But I see that he's justified the decision by echoing a particulalry absurd assertion he made in a speech many years ago. Here's why he says he supports a vote:
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that's not written in the stars,” the Utah Republican told reporters after this decision. He called it “appropriate for a nation that is ... center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”
That's right -- Romney says a Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and John Roberts as five of its (until recently) nine members is liberal.

This reminds me of a preposterous section of Romney's 2008 Republican convention speech on behalf of John McCain:
... let me ask you — what do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative? Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with Constitution rights? It's liberal! Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? — It's liberal!

Is a Congress liberal or conservative that stops nuclear power plants and offshore drilling, making us more and more dependent on Middle East tyrants? — It's liberal!

Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? — It's liberal!

We need change all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain!
Remember: This was in 2008 -- the eighth year of the administration of those notorious liberals George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The Supreme Court at the time included not just Thomas, Roberts, and Alito but also Antonin Scalia -- four of the five most conservative justices since 1937, according to one ranking.

It was ridiculous in 2008, Mitt, and it's ridiculous now.


A couple of stories from recent days show us why the Democratic Party is so often on the defensive while the Republican Party stays on offense. First, here's our presidential nominee, the leader of the left-centrist wing of the party:
Joe Biden personally appealed to the handful of Republican senators who control the fate of Donald Trump’s upcoming Supreme Court nominee....

In his first extended remarks following the death Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Biden accused Republicans who would "jam this nomination through" of hypocrisy, while seeking to reason with other GOP senators to heed her final wishes — "not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country at a crossroads."

“Please follow your conscience,” Biden said from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “Don't vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don't go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can't ignore the cherished system of checks and balances.”
And now here's a recent story about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the leaders of the party's progressive wing:
“After we work to command victory in November, I need folks to realize that there’s no going back to brunch,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram video marking the death of liberal US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday....

“We have a whole new world to build. We cannot accept going back to the way things were, and that includes the Dem Party," AOC said.

“Voting for Joe Biden, it’s not about whether you like him or not, it’s a vote to let democracy live another day” ...
So you have one wing of the party begging Republicans to be decent -- an exercise in futility, as always -- and you have the other wing of the party asserting that the presidential nominee doesn't have much appeal, while arguing that the party as it exists today isn't doing a good job of preserving democracy. (Ocasio-Cortez also said, "Yes, our democracy is at a faint heartbeat - it was broken even before this administration began," meaning when Barack Obama was president.)

These are the two wings of the Democratic Party. One doesn't attack the GOP as a whole because it believes that some decent Republicans will see reason -- some Republican voters will cross over to vote Democratic in elections and some Republican elected officials will cross over in legislative fights. The other wing of the Democratic Party criticizes Democrats almost as much as it criticizes Republicans (when it's not criticizing Democrats more).

There are no prominent Democrats whose message is: Republicans are bad. The principles of the Republican Party are bad. Republicans vote the wrong way on every issue. What Republicans have done to this country is bad. What Republicans want to do to this country is even worse.

That's the Republican message about Democrats -- every Republican says this every day. But Democrats don't talk this way - which is why they'll have to persuade voters that Amy Coney Barrett or Barbara Lagoa is dangerous. Committed, engaged Democratic voters won't need to be persuaded, but much of the electorate has never considered the possibility that the Republican Party is simply bad by definition, and therefore any Supreme Court nominee from the Republicans will be bad. It could be an uphill struggle to make the case that the nice lady will vote to eviscerate voting rights, labor rights, reproductive rights, healthcare protection, and environmental safeguards, because Democrats don't routinely say that Republicans are much worse than Democrats on all these issues all the time.

That has to be the Democrats' message from now on if we want to defeat Republicans in multiple elections, which is what it will take to reduce the GOP's power on a permanent basis. But no Democrat says this.

Monday, September 21, 2020


This is outrageous:
The Justice Department on Monday singled out Portland, New York City and Seattle as "anarchist jurisdictions" – cities that the Trump administration said have allowed violence to persist during months of civil demonstrations over racial injustice and police brutality and could then lose federal funding.

The designation of the three cities – all led by Democrats – was in response to President Donald Trump's Sept. 2 executive order, which threatened to withhold federal funding from cities where the administration said state and local officials have cut police department funding, refused offers for help from the federal government and failed to rein in violence.

The Office of Management and Budget will send guidance on restricting the cities' eligibility for federal dollars.

"We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Can the administration withhold funds from cities it has decided -- based on temporary unrest in small sections of each city -- are completely lawless? We're told it can't.
The Trump administration was unsuccessful in a similar funding-cut move against New York and other cities over their immigration policies. A federal appeals court ruled that the move violated the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution.
But that was how many Mitch McConnell judges ago? I no longer trust the federal judiciary to acknowledge basic constitutional realities, such as the fact that a president can't unilaterally overrule Congress on government spending.

This is war. Maybe it's a war that will end on January 20. Maybe it won't end for another four years, or until President-for-Life Trump (you know he'll try to become president-for-life) finally kicks the bucket.

If I were the mayors of these cities, I'd order the police to padlock all the federal buildings -- if the cops won't do it, I'm certain that a call for volunteers in New York City, at least, would find many people willing to help out.

And what about that trailer that serves as a command center for the Secret Service guarding Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan? If I were the mayor, I'd begin dismantling it and order the agents to leave. If it's war, the cities should fight back.

I said this on Twitter today and I mean it -- if Trump wins again, we're going to be using the phrase "breakaway region" in reference to parts of America. You scoffed when I talked about secession, but it will be discussed seriously.

And it should be. Bill Barr is more than willing to make Trump's crudest, most simple-minded revenge fantasies real. In a second term, there'll be no limits. They will effectively make some of us non-citizens, or at least they'll try. I wouldn't assume that they won't succeed.


We're all assuming that President Trump will pick Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court, but another possible appointee has emerged. Politico reports:
Leading Florida Republican politicians are launching an all-out effort to convince President Donald Trump to nominate federal Judge Barbara Lagoa to the U.S. Supreme Court — a move they say would boost his reelection chances in the must-win swing state.

The biggest names in the Florida GOP are working behind the scenes to advocate for Lagoa: U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have sprung into action, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida campaign director Susie Wiles and the president’s former impeachment defense lawyer, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, according to interviews with a dozen Republicans familiar with the effort.

... it’s Lagoa’s background as a Florida Cuban-American that could have the most salience for Trump.

Lagoa is young enough (52) to serve for at least thirty years. She's Catholic, which means that she'll pass muster with Leonard Leo, the little-known, unelected, long-time Federalist Society operative who oversees the selection of all Republican-appointed federal judges -- in fact, The Washington Post reports,
Lagoa’s husband, Paul C. Huck Jr., is the “godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami,” said José Félix Díaz, a former state legislator and consultant with Ballard Partners, a powerful lobbying firm closely associated with Trump.
(I guess this former state legislator doesn't think the word "godfather" has unsavory connotations in this context. In Miami, maybe it doesn't.)

Lagoa is conservative in all the ways that make Mitch McConnell's heart skip a beat, according to the Post.

Particularly contentious could be her record on voting rights and executive power. Lagoa concurred this month in a federal appeals court ruling that is expected to keep many of the 85,000 felons who have registered to vote in Florida from casting ballots....

On Florida’s high court, and before that, on a state appeals court, she repeatedly sided with businesses, helping to turn back a higher minimum wage in Miami, limiting recourse for homeowners facing foreclosure, and reversing or rejecting cases of employees who sued Caterpillar and Uber.

And Florida Cubans will love this, as will longtime Fox viewers everywhere:
Especially central for her ... was her experience as a member of the pro bono legal team representing the Miami relatives of Elián González, the Cuban boy whose mother drowned while trying to escape with him to the United States and whose subsequent custody case became an international cause celebre.
But in the Post and Politico stories, I'm not seeing any mention of this case:
... she authored the opinion that reversed the conviction of Adonis Losada, a former Univision comic actor who was sentenced to 153 years in prison for collecting child porn. Lagoa ruled that a Miami-Dade judge erred in not allowing Losada to defend himself at trial.
Losada, who appeared regularly on the long-running Spanish-language variety show Sábado Gigante, sent child porn images to an undercover cop he met in an online chat room. The 153-year sentence was reduced to 10 years before Lagoa's ruling, but her ruling overturned the conviction altogether.

I'm not a lawyer. The ruling appears to be purely on due process grounds.

But can you imagine the uproar if a Democratic president nominated someone to the Supreme Court who had overturned a kiddie porn conviction? Even before the QAnon era, there would have been wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News, and there would have been pious, more-in-sorrow-than-anger denunciations of the ruling by one prominent Republican after another. Newt Gingrich would have been on every TV channel telling us this is what you get from the decadent, sex-crazed, morality-destroying Democrats.

It would have worked. It would have forced the nominee to withdraw, even if the Senate had a comfortable Democratic majority.

But if Lagoa is the nominee, it probably won't matter at all. The case won't even be mentioned in most news stories. It's quite possible that no Democrat will mention it.

Democrats don't have a media infrastructure that automatically amplifies every new partisan attack, however specious. Republicans do. That's why this case would be fatal to a Democrat, and won't be if Lagoa is Trump's pick.

Sunday, September 20, 2020


This happened yesterday:
President Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in Minnesota on Saturday that they’re genetically blessed. “You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.” The “racehorse theory” of genetics holds that some human beings are born genetically superior to others....

I'm not sure Trump understands how racist this is. As I've noted in the past, he firmly believes in his own genetic superiority.

Trump invited The New York Times to the White House for an exclusive interview.... His 5-year-old granddaughter Arabella Kushner provided a singular moment of levity throughout the lengthy conversation, showing off her knowledge of the Chinese language while telling the president she loved him in Mandarin.

"She's unbelievable, huh?" Trump said. "Good, smart genes." ...

"I consider my health, stamina and strength one of my greatest assets," Trump tweeted in December 2015. "The world has watched me for many years and can so testify—great genes!"

The president has also fielded several questions via Twitter from users asking about his energy and family, repeatedly pointing to his genes as the basis for his success. "You're up at 5am and you're awake at 1am. How do you have so much energy? Seriously!?"

"Good genes!" Trump replied.

He also seemed to apparently miss a thinly veiled dig in June 2013, when @YoungBasedGod_g wrote to him, "@realDonaldTrump your dad gives good brain?? Damn."

"It's called genes!" Trump tweeted back.

"Dr. John Trump, uncle, for many years at M.I.T.," he also wrote in May 2013. "Good genes, I get it!"

Most people have never seen Trump talk this way. But Joe Biden could expose this racist crackpottery to the world.

During the debates, when -- inevitably -- the subject of race relations in America comes up, Biden can quote this Minnesota rally statement and say it's a very dangerous belief. He can add that Trump has bragged about his own genes in the past.

The reason this is worth doing is that Trump will walk right into the trap. He thinks boasts about his supposedly superior genes are delightful items to drop into conversation. He feels the same way about his insults. So -- thinking Biden has just walked into a trap -- he'll get a big, stupid grin on his face and say,

"My supporters do have good genes. I have good genes. I have the best genes. I'm sorry you have inferior genes, Joe."
Biden's response:
"See, folks, there it is. I was raised to believe that we're all equal in God's eyes, and that if we're given an opportunity, we can all do something special with our lives. But he believes some people, some groups, are genetically superior to others. He think he's genetically superior to others. As you know, that kind of talk has been very, very dangerous in world history. We fought a war against that belief system not that long ago. It scares me that the president of the United States believes that some people are just lesser people than others. I believe that all men -- and all women -- are created equal."
If this happens, it will be the most memorable moment in the debates. Trump and eugenics will be linked in the public's mind permanently.

Obviously, Trump's base will be fine with this, but I think most people will believe that Trump is a racist, a believer in pseudo-science -- or, at the very least, delusional about his own greatness. It's worth doing.