Sunday, October 21, 2018


Someone on the right must be afraid of Cory Booker, because he's now the subject of a transparently fake accusation of sexual assault in a men's room.

The conspiracy-minded right-wing site The Last Refuge (aka The Conservative Treehouse) links to the accusation, by a man who's not giving his real name. The accusation has also shown up at Twitchy and American Thinker, among other right-wing sites, as well as at Reddit's r/The_Donald and r/MensRights.

The accuser writes:
Cory Booker Sexually Assaulted Me
and why it won’t matter to the #metoo movement

Yes, you read that right. The man who would be the modern incarnation of the Thracian Gladiator turned rebellion leader, once tried to aggressively force me to give him a blowie in my (then) workplace restroom. That may be a hard pill to swallow, given Mr. Booker’s distinguished political pedigree as a champion of liberal populist issues and marginalized communities. But despite his whimsical penchant for theatrical displays of impassioned defiance, he’s just another asshole.
The author goes on to claim a progressive political orientation:
If we were to travel just 4 years back in time, you and I would find solidarity on the subject of Cory Booker. As a matter of fact, he was a hero of mine. I was and still am, a liberal in principal with a record of voting exclusively for Democrats since I was 18 with the exception of the 2016 election cycle.
Already we should be suspicious. He claims to have been assaulted by Booker, but his first words about Booker are a mockery of Booker's "Spartacus" remark during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. (Among right-wingers, Booker is now sneeringly called "Spartacus" as readily as Elizabeth Warren is called "Pocahontas.") The accuser calls Booker "a champion of liberal populist issues" -- how many liberals call themselves "populists"? And he voted for Democrats every year except 2016? Is he saying he voted for Jill Stein? Stein voters tend not think of Booker as a progressive hero. Or is he implying that he voted for Trump, presumably to make himself more sympathetic to the real intended audience for this tall tale?

Our complainant says he met Booker "in an informal group setting," then went to use a single-occupancy restroom and found Booker using it. The dialogue gets a tad unrealistic at this point:
When I opened the door, Mr. Booker was there. He smiled and very gregariously said "Hey!" We engaged in some brief idle chitchat in the entryway and then he asked me to speak in private.... He pulled me into the restroom, albeit not too forcefully and slowly pushed me against the restroom wall. He said that "Being a hero was a serious turn-on". He continued, "The Senate appreciates fine citizens like you. Especially this Senator." He then put his left hand on my groin, over my jeans and began to rub.
With those lines of dialogue, I think we've settled the question of whether this is a plausible account.

Booker, according to this account, tried to force the accuser down onto his knees so he could perform oral sex. The accuser managed to pull away and escape.

The lifelong liberal now has a lawyer -- and what do you know, she's a Republican operative:
... I reached out to two lawyers anonymously. One of them got back to me; Harmeet Dhillon of the Dhillon Law Group, a 1st amendment trial lawyer and RNC committee member.... Ms. Dhillon responded to me with respectful immediacy, offering candid advice and compassion tempered with pragmatism.
Dhillon is a former vice chair of the California Republican Party. She was retained by right-wing hero James Damore when he decided to file a complaint against Google with the National Labor Relations Board. Dhillon spoke at the 2016 Republican convention and was under consideration to be the head of the civil rights division in the Trump Justice Department. Yeah, just the person you'd reach out to if you were a dyed-in-the-wool progressive.

The accuser goes on to say that he's contacted Ronan Farrow, at Dhillon's recommendation, but without success. He says he expects no one to believe him because he's not a woman and because the "modern American media apparatus ... caters to reductive, easy to follow narratives with a clear view of who is the good guy and who is the bad guy." Basically, he's a self-styled liberal charging the media with liberal bias, which is not what a liberal would say, but is what a fake liberal scripted by a conservative would say.

Oh, and did I mention that his Twitter screen name is Deep Throat? Oh yeah, I'm sure that's what you'd call yourself if you were nearly forced to commit oral sex and were still traumatized by the assault.

I don't know how much this will matter. A grifter named Larry Sinclair spent years accusing Barack Obama of having a secret gay life; he tried to link Obama to the murder of Donald Young, a gay choirmaster who was killed in 2007 (the allegation was that Young was shot so he wouldn't reveal his affair with Obama). Sinclair's charges were never taken seriously, even though various right-wing sites still trot him out on occasion. Nevertheless, this Booker story is fake news that will be cited as gospel by right-wingers if the senator does well in the 2020 race. You right-wing uncle will send you an email about it the day Booker announces his 2020 candidacy, trust me.


UPDATE: I'm reminded by FlipYrWhig in comments that Harmeet Dhillon was a nasty movement conservative back in her undergraduate days:
Dhillon attended Dartmouth College, where she wrote for the college's conservative paper, the Dartmouth Review, and ultimately was named editor.

In October 1988, the weekly made headlines when it published a satirical column likening the college president to Adolf Hitler, and the effects of his campus policies to the Holocaust.
As The New York Times noted at the time, the title of the article was
"Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Freedmann," a play on a Nazi slogan, "One Empire, One People, One Leader," but substituting and misspelling the name of James O. Freedman, the president of the school in Hanover, N.H., for "Fuhrer."

Using the analogy of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, the column by James Garrett describes how "Der Freedmann" and his associates rid the campus of conservatives. A drawing on the cover of the next issue, on Oct. 26, also depicted Mr. Freedman, who has been critical of The Review, as Hitler....

Harmeet Dhillon, editor in chief of The Review, denied that the column was anti-Semitic, saying its point had been misinterpreted by people "trying to twist the issue to their own ends."

Miss Dhillon, speaking for the paper and the columnist, said the column sought to compare "liberal fascism" with other forms of fascism and was not meant to be taken as a trivialization of the Holocaust or to show "callous disregard" of its horrors. She said the idea was to show how Mr. Freedman and the administration had mistreated conservative students.

"I'm very disturbed about the response to it," she said. "I'm very surprised, very very surprised."
Dinesh D'Souza and Laura Ingraham are also Dartmouth Review alums, although they didn't overlap with Dhillon.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


I wonder if Michael J. Knowles -- managing editor of alleged #NeverTrumper Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire -- hesitated for a moment before the "publish" button was pushed and his latest piece went live. If I were a right-winger and I'd written it, I'd ask myself, "Are the rubes really going to fall for this? With an audience like mine, I can get away with a lot, but this?"

Whether or not he hesitated, the piece is up, and it's jaw-dropping:
The Surprising Humility of Donald Trump
Really, he's serious:
No one is better at deprecating President Trump than President Trump—just ask him.
Knowles links to a story in which Trump literally says, “Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. It’s not even close.” Trump is an egomaniac about his lack of ego, and to Knowles, that's a sign of his humility.
And yet for all the boasting and braggadocio, the man who never saw a building he didn’t want to slap his name on has lately exposed a surprising humble streak. Earlier this month during the Kavanaugh confirmation circus, Trump answered a reporter’s question about alcohol by explaining, “I can honestly say I’ve never had a beer in my life. It’s one of my only good traits.” As the reporters laughed, he asked, “Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I’d be? I’d be the world’s worst.” The exchange revealed a frank self-assessment from the greatest self-promoter of his age.

Last week, in an Oval Office meeting following the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison, Brunson told Trump, “We would like to pray for you. We pray for you often as a family. My wife and I pray for you.” Trump responded, “Well, I need it probably more than anybody in this room. So I would—that would be very nice. Thank you.”
We know that Trump had an alcohol phobia drummed into him in his youth -- but it's also obvious (to anyone other than Knowles and his credulous readers) what Trump is doing here. Trump is saying he's bad, which is a baby step away from badass. Being bad is Trump's brand -- he's the guy who can get in a knife fight in an alley with other bad dudes (in business, and now in international relations) and come out a winner. You and I don't believe this, but Trump's fan base always has.

But no -- according to Knowles, it's Trump being genuinely humble. And the real braggart, of course, is Barack Obama:
These candid remarks and others speak to the surprising humility of President Trump, who may brag about his achievements but at least has never claimed the power to calm the seas and heal the planet.
Knowles's link is to a YouTube clip of the speech Obama gave when he'd clinched the nomination in 2008 -- and in fact, the actual words in the clip make exactly the opposite point about Obama.

I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.
Yeah, what a boastful guy Obama is!
But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal....
Wingers have been misquoting this for so long that they have no idea what Obama actually said.

Knowles continues:
While Barack Obama described his campaign in messianic terms—“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”, “Yes we can!” ...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think "I" is the standard messiah word.
While Barack Obama described his campaign in messianic terms—“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”, “Yes we can!”—President Trump puts it plainly as a value proposition. “Let’s say we have a really bad time in three weeks from now [in the midterm elections]. Your 401Ks are going to go down tremendously. People are going to lose wealth. If they don’t go out and vote then they have themselves to blame.”
Yeah, Trump never likes to oversell himself -- except for that time he told the UN, "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country." Or the multiple times he gave his presidency an A-plus. Or the time he said he had better poll numbers than Abraham Lincoln. Or...

This is ridiculous. But they'll buy it.

Friday, October 19, 2018


The Wall Street Journal reports:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks....

Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Investigators also have evidence that the late GOP activist Peter W. Smith may have had advance knowledge of details about the release of emails from a top Hillary Clinton campaign official by WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter said. They have questioned Mr. Smith’s associates, the person said.

Right-wing pundit Jerome Corsi was also questioned by investigators about his interactions with Mr. Stone and WikiLeaks before a grand jury in September, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Now watch how these three are described:
Throughout 2016, Messrs. Stone, Smith and Corsi, who long worked on the margins of Republican politics, tried to dig up incriminating information about Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, according to emails and some public comments.
(Emphasis added.)

Smith and Corsi may have "worked on the margins of Republican politics" -- but Roger Stone?
[Stone] played a bit part in the Watergate scandals. He adopted the pseudonym Jason Rainier and made contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Stone then sent a receipt to the Manchester Union Leader, to “prove” that Nixon’s adversary was a left-wing stooge. Stone hired another Republican operative, who was given the pseudonym Sedan Chair II, to infiltrate the McGovern campaign. Stone’s Watergate high jinks were revealed during congressional hearings in 1973, and the news cost Stone his job on the staff of Senator Robert Dole. Stone then moved into the world of political consulting.... He co-founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which spent money in support of candidates, including Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, and Dan Quayle, in Indiana, who were instrumental in the G.O.P. takeover of the Senate....

In 1976, Stone was named national youth director for Reagan’s first, failed run for the Republican nomination. Four years later, after serving on various young-Republican task forces, Stone asked the leaders of Reagan’s next campaign for the toughest assignment they had. They made Stone, who was in his late twenties, political director of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut....

Stone did not enter the government after Reagan won the election. Instead, he started a political-consulting and lobbying firm with several co-workers from the campaign. The name of the operation went through several iterations, but it was perhaps best known as Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater, the latter being Lee Atwater, who had worked briefly in the Reagan White House’s political office. The partners made their money by charging blue-chip corporate clients ... large fees to lobby their former campaign colleagues, many of whom had moved into senior posts in the new Administration....

In 1981, Stone ran his first major campaign on his own, Tom Kean’s race for governor of New Jersey against the Democrat Jim Florio. Kean won in a recount....

In 1988, Stone worked as a senior consultant to George H. W. Bush’s successful campaign against Michael Dukakis....

After Bush, Sr.,’s victory, Stone returned to his firm, mixing corporate clients and occasional political consulting. He worked on three campaigns for Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican....

Stone served as a senior consultant to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for President....
Those are not the margins of Republican politics. Why is it necessary to pretend that the execrable Roger Stone has always been a fringe figure far from the center of Republican power?


Right near the top of its hompepage, The New York Times website features this:

And among the featured opinion columns near the top of the Washington Post homepage, there's this:

Terrific -- except for one thing: Neither of these pieces mentions why this is extraordinarily hypocritical of Trump.

The Times story says:
President Trump praised a Republican candidate’s assault last year on a reporter and fumed over his Democratic opponents here on Thursday night in a freewheeling rally meant to mobilize his base’s support in the coming midterm elections.

In urging the crowd to vote for Representative Greg Gianforte, who is running for re-election and who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for assaulting a reporter last spring, Mr. Trump jokingly warned the crowd to “never wrestle him.”

“I had heard he body-slammed a reporter,” Mr. Trump said, noting that he was initially concerned that Mr. Gianforte would lose in a special election last May. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well; I think it might help him.’ And it did.”

“Anybody that can do a body-slam,” the president added, “that’s my kind of guy.”

Mr. Trump made no mention....
... of Trump's prior criticism of "Democrat mobs"?

Mr. Trump made no mention at the rally of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, who disappeared this month after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul....
And that's it. The Gianforte attack is portrayed as an assault on the press, but the reader is never remind of this, from a week ago:
President Trump hit Democrats as an "angry mob" while heaping praise on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while at a rally Saturday night in McConnell's home state of Kentucky....

Mr. Trump categorized voting in the midterm elections as "you can vote for Democrat mob rule or you an vote for a Republican party that stands proudly for law and order, fairness, freedom and justice."

In the last few weeks of the 2018 midterm campaign, Mr. Trump and Republicans have seized on describing Democrats as the party of an "angry mob." Mr. Trump used similar language in rallies earlier this week.

Mr. Trump described McConnell as "staring down an angry left-wing mob" during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. McConnell, Mr. Trump said, "never blinked, never looked back and got us a man who will be one of our great, great Supreme Court justices."
The Erik Wemple op-ed in the Post is appropriately indignant, but it also sidesteps the hypocrisy issue:
A congressman who’s a sufficiently “tough cookie” to assault an unsuspecting reporter, and then go on to win an election: That’s just too irresistible a sequence for a demagogue with an arena full of people to fire up. Just think of all the people out there learning, perhaps for the first time, how to impress the president of the United States. Go out there and show him what a “tough cookie” you are.
As does an accompanying op-ed by Jennifer Rubin, which links the praise for Gianforte to Trump's seeming indifference to Jamal Khashoggi's fate, and to the right's attempts to smear Khashoggi as a terrorist sympathizer:
... if you are falsely smearing a missing man, trying to diminish the horror of a thuggish regime’s alleged gruesome murder or yukking it up with a president celebrating violence against a reporter, it’s time to rethink your politics.
All worthy points to make -- but there's an election on, in which the man praising an assault that sent a reporter to the hospital is also sanctimoniously denouncing the other side as lawless thugs, as are other members of the president's party. Can we please remind readers of this? Is that too much to ask?


Republicans in disarray?
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley insisted Thursday night that "in America, our political opponents are not evil," a shar[p] rhetorical break from her boss, President Donald Trump, who has labeled Democrats as "evil," crime-loving and unwilling to defend the nation.

Addressing the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York, Haley said that the "toxic political environment" has prompted both sides of the aisle to "describe their opponents as enemies or evil."

... Haley's statement was an apparent rebuke of language used by Trump on the campaign trail in recent weeks, especially in the wake of the contentious confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Disarray? No. Pay attention to what doesn't happen next: There won't be half a dozen Republican politicians and strategists racing to tell reporters or their Twitter followers that this is outrageous!, that it's less than three weeks before the midterms and why can't Republicans stay focused? There won't be a cascade of conservative media op-eds denouncing Haley and asking why she won't go away.

There won't be this:

Or this:

Or this:

I know Haley's words were fairly mild. I also know that she’s not as prominent as Clinton or Warren. But she is considered a rising star in her party, and when she announced her resignation from her UN job she had to declare that she won’t run against the president in 2020.

Republicans used to eat their own. In the Tea Party years there was great contempt for “RINOs.” Quite a few were hounded out of office, and in the past two years Trump skeptics in the Senate have been subjected to the same treatment.

But right now Republicans are united, and we’re not.

The anger at Clinton and Warren, because they allegedly did so much damage to Democrats’ chances in 2018, just isn’t borne out by the facts. Notice how the president describes the GOP message for the next couple of weeks:
President Trump Thursday framed November’s midterm elections as a referendum a range hot-button issues that have been central to his administration’s pitch to voters.
“This will be an election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order and common sense,” he said at a campaign rally in Montana.
Warren has been mocked by Republicans, but she’s not a principal target – it’s all about Kavanaugh, immigration, and left-leaning “mobs.” Yes, Hillary Clinton spoke in an allegedly uncivil way once recently, but the GOP message isn’t stressing her statement. Notice that neither she nor Warren appears in this ad running in Minnesota’s First Congressional District:

Republicans have come together at just the right time. It would be nice if Democrats could learn from their example.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


People who are smarter than I am have assured me that Joe Biden absolutely will not be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. I understand the arguments: He's too old; he's insufficiently progressive; he was too much of a sellout to bankers as a senator; he mismanaged the Clarence Thomas hearings; he was a terrible candidate in his previous presidential runs; and oh God, not another white man.

I know enough not to take too seriously the fact that he has a huge lead over all other contenders in the latest CNN poll of Democrats -- Joe Lieberman led the Democratic field in early 2003 polling, and Rudy Giuliani led the Republicans in 2006 and early 2007.

I get it -- Biden is polling well largely as a result of name recognition; he's likely to drop to the back of the pack once the race really gets under way.

And yet there's this:

It's not just that Biden inspires this kind of reaction in some voters -- it's that I can't think of a Democrat, at least among the younger favorites, who inspires voters the same way, even in home-state crowds. Harris, Gillibrand, Booker -- they're admired. Biden is loved.

(Bernie Sanders is also loved, but a lot of Democrats loathe him. Elizabeth Warren inspires some voters, but is she loved? And they're both quite old. And Sanders is another old white guy.)

I worry about what will happens if Democrats run someone who isn't charismatic. Running Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton didn't work out well.

I worry that a lot of Democrats regard the 2020 campaign as essentially a request for proposals. Who has the best agenda? The best platform? But a lot of voters want a person they can look up to as a larger-than-life figure. Biden wasn't one before he became Barack Obama's vice president. He is now.

I do find him lacking on policy -- but I find the younger aspirants lacking in personal magnetism. I wish we had someone who could manage both -- and no, I don't mean Beto O'Rourke, unless he wins his election this year.

I think Biden has a serious chance of pulling it off -- maybe it'll be for the wrong reasons, but there's more to politics than position papers.


Yesterday I wrote a post in which I argued that Democrats need to tell voters that it's dangerous to vote for any Republican. One of the responses in comments was this:
Makes perfect sense if your sole electoral strategy is to poach moderate Republican voters.
But that wouldn't be the main reason to do this. The main reason would be to remind occasional Democratic voters why they always need to turn out.

It's widely known that older, whiter, more conservative voters turn out to vote at higher rates than people in other voter groups. Maybe it's just because they're more civic-minded -- but it also may be because the politicians they vote for, and the political media sources to which they pay attention, incessantly warn them that the Democratic barbarians are at the gate, and that it's up to them to ensure that the gate stays barred. This has been the message on the right for years: Vote Republican at every level of government because the alternative is big government! higher taxes! Nancy Pelosi! New demons get added to the list -- Maxine Waters! George Soros! MS-13! mobs! -- but the message is the same: Don't ever let your guard down because the evil Democrats are coming.

I'd like Democrats to vote in every election. Maybe more of them would if they always believed that Republican victories place our society in extreme peril. They should believe that, because it's true.


To explain why the death of Jamal Khashoggi has inspired much greater outrage than, say, the cruelties of the war in Yemen, Max Fisher of The New York Times turns to a familiar quote attributed to Stalin:
Any reporter who has covered a humanitarian disaster should understand what Stalin is once reported to have said to a fellow Soviet official: The death of one person is a tragedy, but the death of one million is a statistic.

... It is not easy to wrap one’s mind around thousands of deaths. It becomes an abstraction of geopolitics, economics, conflict dynamics — of statistics.

But a single death can be understood in the more relatable terms of, say, a grieving father or a desperate spouse. Or a murdered journalist, like Mr. Khashoggi.
Yes, but if one death is a tragedy, why did the media single this one out? I think the answer is obvious: The elite media focused on Khashoggi because he's one of their own, not just a columnist but a columnist for one of America's prestige newspapers. I'm not sure the broad general public was clamoring for saturation coverage of this story -- it was a choice made by editors in American journalism's upper reaches because it involved a colleague. The general public might be interested now because the specifics of the assassination are so gruesome and lurid. But even now I don't think the story matters as much to the average American as it does to the press.

I also suspect that, for the press, Mohammed bin Salman is serving as a proxy for President Trump -- not just because the Trump family has significant ties to Saudi Arabia, but because Trump is waging a war on the press in America. I think many journalists have been expecting Trump's anti-media campaign to turn violent, whether at the hands of one of his supporters or -- although this still seems like a line Trump won't cross yet -- in the form of a campaign of physical intimidation launched from the White House. In America we're not there yet, but here's a head of state who's a Trump crony killing a journalist who was a U.S. resident. That's close.

It's good that we're paying attention to this story. It's causing America to question the usual U.S. deference to the Saudis. Also, it might be drawing more attention to the corruption of the Trump family. (However, I think most ordinary Americans believe that every plutocrat does dodgy things, and, really, how can you not when the laws are so complicated and everyone else you're dealing with has dubious morals? That's why I think the big New York Times story about Trump's money was a dud -- that and the fact that the dodges and ruses described in the story were complex and difficult to understand.)

I'd like this story to matter. To most Americans, I don't think it will. I think in the end we'll be pretty much where we were in relation to the Saudis, and the public still won't care much about that or about Trump family corruption. But I could be wrong, and it's worth pursuing the story, even if journalists care mostly because one of their own was the target.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Much of political punditry is theater criticism, and Elizabeth Warren is getting bad reviews for the revelation of her DNA test yesterday. Here's Vanity Fair's Peter Hamby:
All this hard political work—the DNA test, the fancy video, the big Boston Globe piece, the Google search ads, the splash page, the finely tuned messaging—and how did Trump respond to this ruthless counter-offensive? Exactly as you’d expect. He laughed at her and moved along.
Of course he laughed. No one expected him not to. He wasn't going to back down, any more than he backed down on birtherism after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate.

If there'd just been scorn from Trump and the rest of the right, Warren could have been in reasonably good shape. But she was also rebuked by, well, people like Peter Hamby:
It’s next to impossible to argue that Warren’s political standing is better today than it was before she released the video. Warren’s first big foray into the nascent presidential campaign was on Trump’s terms, not her own, having been trolled into producing and distributing a mini-doc that broadcast her biggest political liability directly into the maw of the Internet. Warren gifted her opponents a new and embarrassing line of attack—I’m between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American! Take that, Donald!—that will go down alongside John Edwards’s $400 haircut and Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe in the annals of numeric political blunders.
Hamby concludes that the burning question isn't Is it true? but, rather How did it play? And, specifically: How did it play with the awe-inspiring Master of Smashmouth Politics, Donald Trump?
Warren’s maneuver stands as a warning sign for other Democrats on the path to challenging Trump in 2020. Getting into the mud pit with Trump—who doesn’t care about political decorum, rules, sexism, racism, name-calling, facts, or reason—has revealed itself as a sucker’s game for politicians and peacocking White House correspondents who try to joust with him. Talk to anyone in politics, and they’ll tell you the same thing: tangling with Trump is just really hard, and there’s no clear alternative playbook.
Read that again: tangling with Trump is just really hard, and there’s no clear alternative playbook. So you can't fight him and you can't take an approach other than fighting him. Might as well just give up and declare him the winner of the 2020 election by acclamation, I guess.

No other 2020 Democrat has a potential vulnerability quite like this one, but they're all going to have missteps, and when they do, Trump will pounce -- and the "liberal media" theater critics will be right behind, putting the boot in. Just about every Democratic hopeful is destined to get terrible media coverage, primary because there's no bro-ish New Kennedy in the field (i.e., no 2008 Obama or 1992 Bill Clinton). That's the only kind of candidate who's likely to get good press, except perhaps an anti-progressive corporatist like Mike Bloomberg or Howard Schultz.

That's why I think Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the 2020 election. He's not right when he says that many mainstream outlets will endorse him because he's good for the ratings, but it's simply the case that he's the daddy much of the media wants, even if most journalists won't admit it. They admire his media skills and his cocky certitude. We might beat him, but we'll have to beat them too, because they'll effectively be on his side.


This will be an unpopular opinion, but I didn't think the New York Times profile of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was as bad as many people thought it was. I say that partly because it I approach any Times profile of a rabble-rousing hatemonger with abysmally low expectations. There are reasons to criticize the McInnes profile, but it has a long way to go before it reaches the standards set by the November 2017 Times profile of Ohio neo-Nazi Tony Horvater, who was portrayed as just an ordinary guy trying to get through the day in this vale of tears:
HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Tony and Maria Hovater were married this fall. They registered at Target. On their list was a muffin pan, a four-drawer dresser and a pineapple slicer.

Ms. Hovater, 25, was worried about Antifa bashing up the ceremony. Weddings are hard enough to plan for when your fiancé is not an avowed white nationalist.

But Mr. Hovater, in the days leading up to the wedding, was somewhat less anxious. There are times when it can feel toxic to openly identify as a far-right extremist in the Ohio of 2017. But not always. He said the election of President Trump helped open a space for people like him, demonstrating that it is not the end of the world to be attacked as the bigot he surely is: “You can just say, ‘Yeah, so?’ And move on.”

It was a weeknight at Applebee’s in Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton, a few weeks before the wedding. The couple, who live in nearby New Carlisle, were shoulder to shoulder at a table, young and in love.
McInnes, of course, is a hatemonger of a certain level of celebrity rather than an everyman, so he was unlikely to get this treatment. But he might have gotten this treatment:

Measured against that standard, the McInnes profile is downright hard-hitting.

By which I mean it's moderately negative. Consider the opening paragraph:
For an hour or so, he railed about socialism and political correctness to an audience of New York establishment Republicans. As he often does, he took ugly swipes at Ivy Leaguers, left-wing snobs and lesbians with “geriatric crew cuts.”
The first sentence suggests that we're meant to take McInnes seriously as a cultural critic, but then there's that word "ugly" in the second sentence -- that's a signal that we ought to regard McInnes as not really a nice guy. And consider his targets -- not just "Ivy Leaguers" and "left-wing snobs," but "lesbians with 'geriatric crew cuts.'" Thirty-five years ago, the Times was regressive in matters of sexual orientation, but now it knows that its audience is overwhelmingly LGBT or LGBT-friendly. Including that in the opening paragraph is a sign that McInnes is not being treated as a lovable rogue. This vastly understates how offensive McInnes's talk was, but it's the Times, so, y'know, baby steps.

A subsequent passage understates McInnes's bigotry, but it's far from a total whitewash:
Mr. McInnes admits that he may be Islamaphobic (“It’s seen as xenophobic to be worried about Islam, but they appear to disproportionately allow intolerance to blossom in their communities,” he said.) He also acknowledged being something of a sexist. (“I’m an Archie Bunker sexist,” he said. “I don’t like Gloria Steinem, but I’d take a bullet for Edith.”)

Though he has repudiated racism and anti-Semitism in some of his writings and speeches, he has also made statements that have openly denigrated nonwhite cultures. Last year, he wrote of white men: “We brought roads and infrastructure to India and they are still using them as toilets. Our criminals built nice roads in Australia but Aboriginals keep using them as a bed.”
And anti-racists are quoted without offsetting quotes from apologists:
“Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks extremist groups, wrote in an online memo labeling the Proud Boys as a hate group. “Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder of One People Project, an anti-racist organization, said Mr. McInnes has been allowed to tread a fine line, appearing as a political commentator on mainstream outlets like Fox News while being the founder of a group involved in violent clashes.

“They’ve utilized subterfuge and lies to keep that hate group tag from being applied to them,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Every time their members are seen doing things they’re not supposed to be doing, like showing up at Unite the Right, they claim that person left the Proud Boys.”
And while a Proud Boy tries to pretend that the group is just a harmless little fraternal organization, that argument is shot down:
The monthly meet-ups are largely “social events where people have fun and laugh and drink and share stories about their kids and businesses and stuff like that,” said Pawl Bazile, the editor of Proud Boy magazine. “It’s a celebration of the West, of America and of freedom and liberty.”

But in the last two years, members of the group have also had a second preoccupation, taking part in a string of violent street fights with their anti-fascist rivals in cities like Berkeley, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.

Sometimes accompanied by skinheads, neo-Nazis, modern-day Confederates and outfits like the Oath Keepers, an association of law-enforcement officers and military veterans, the Proud Boys have scuffled with the left at May Day rallies, so-called free-speech protests and at marches in support of President Trump.

While the Proud Boys accept minority members, they have at times joined forces with overtly racist organizations. Jason Kessler, who once attended Proud Boy meetings in Virginia, organized the violent rallies in Charlottesville, Va., last year that attracted neo-Nazi groups.

One former Proud Boy, Rich Black, was among the planners of two violent rallies in Berkeley in 2017 that were attended by white supremacist groups.
But the real evidence that the Times finds McInnes distasteful comes at the very end of the profile, when a former officer of the Republican club that hosted McInnes's speech is quoted:
Mr. McInnes’s confusion did little to win over Republicans like William F. B. O’Reilly, who was president of the club from 1998 to 2002.

“The Republican brand doesn’t need this,” Mr. O’Reilly said of Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys. “It’s already got enough problems.”

He added, “There was no reason to invite that ilk to the Silk Stocking district in New York.”
That's the tell -- the typical Times reader is not expected to admire McInnes, or even feel he's misunderstood. He did this in the Silk Stocking District! He's not our kind, Muffy! That may not be a sufficient level of contempt, but it's more than the Times had for Horvater and Stone.


I saw this ad on network television last night. It was produced by Future45, a pro-GOP super PAC founded in 2015 and bankrolled by the likes of Paul Singer and Sheldon Adelson.

It's the Republicans' standard line of attack this year -- mob rule, socialism, Nancy Pelosi -- but pay attention to the last line of the ad:

The screaming. The violence. The smears and death threats. The far left moving to socialism. Undefended open borders. Immediate tax increases. One hundred percent government-run health care. The booming economy stopped. Nancy Pelosi back in power. Gridlock, and then impeachment.

Is that really what you want? Voting for any Democrat gets you all of that.
The last line is what Democrats and Democratic PACs never say, in campaign ads or in any other forum: Don't vote for any member of the other party.

It's easier for Republicans to say this because Fox News and talk radio proclaim 24 hours a day, in campaign years and off years, that all opponents of the GOP, from moderate Democrats to window-smashing anarchists, are part of one grotesque hydra-headed beast that wants to empty your bank account, burn down your neighborhood, and put MS-13 members under your bed. Republicans don't just nationalize every election -- they've nationalized every political conversation in America. As a result, every unpopular Democrat or left-leaning professor/entertainer/athlete/demonstrator is a millstone around every Democrat's neck.

By contrast, our side is often reluctant to say that every Republican member of Congress, even the ones with a reputation for moderation (deserved or undeserved), will still vote for the party leadership that does all the smashmouth partisan things voters hate, and that most of those allegedly moderate Republicans will vote in lockstep with the party on the majority of issues. Outside of deeply progressive media, our pols and PACs never simply say simply that the Republican Party is the problem. And we don't link right-wing extremism to the GOP -- Republicans now are pounding the message that Antifa equals the Democrats, even though Antifa despises both major parties, whereas Democrats aren't even running ads linking the pro-violence Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys to the GOP, despite the fact that this unabashed advocate of violence was invited to deliver a talk at a Republican club, where he valorized a right-wing political assassin from Japan, after which his followers rioted in the streets.

It's the Republican Party, stupid. Democrats will struggle to gain power until they make this their explicit message.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Tweets from a voting rights advocate:

And then there's this news:
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Some voters in Fulton County who hoped to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting Monday left disappointed.

Jerry Hudspeth and his wife went to vote at the Robert E. Fulton Regional Library in Johns Creek. The couple said they stood in line for about 20 minutes with dozens of other voters and noticed the line wasn’t moving. An elections worker then came out to tell voters their computers were down, and they didn’t know when they would be back up. The couple decided to come back to vote another time.

"The frustrating part is we've had months to get the system right and we just don't understand why you can't make it work," said Hudspeth.
Let's take a look at the photo gallery accompanying the story. Who's having trouble voting? Well, wouldn't you know:

Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, is sitting on 53,000 voter registration applications -- nearly 70% of them from black voters. More than a million registrations have been canceled since 2012. And now all this.

Do we have to wait until this Third World dictator nonsense bears fruit for the GOP? What would happen if we started an economic boycott of the state of Georgia right now?

Arguably, it would just enrage the MAGA/Fox/talk radio crowd and goose GOP turnout. There'd be talk of "outside agitators."

On the other hand, maybe it would scare the crap out of the business community in Georgia. Maybe a few captains of industry would tell Kemp that there's a limit to what racist shenanigans he can get away with.

What do you think? Maybe it's be worth a try.


Nothing at all shocking about this, really:

Liberal Shock: Ralph Nader Touts Mike Bloomberg 2020

Political activist and Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, who is known for being tough on Democrats tells Ari Melber it would be good for Mike Bloomberg to run against Trump as a Democrat in 2020, saying “Wall Street is his weakness” but that “he could shake up the Democratic Party”.

Actually Nader doesn't say Bloomberg "could shake up the Democratic Party” -- he says the former mayor "could shake up the Democrat Party.” That comes at the end of the clip above, and I'd be uncertain that I heard it right, but Nader also says "Democrat Party" at 2:14 of the clip. (He slips and says "Democratic Party" earlier, at 1:52.)

Here's what Nader says about Bloomberg (at 4:28):
ARI MELBER: When you look -- you're looking at the next election. Then you see Mike Bloomberg now re-registering as a Democrat. I imagine you view him as a classic corporate politician. He's moving parties based on where he may have a political opportunity. Do you think it would be bad for the Democrats that Mike Bloomberg run or become the nominee?


MELBER: What about Wall Street?

NADER: Wall Street is his weakness. He's for corporate welfare. On the other hand, he's not your routine Wall Street guy. He's an entrepreneur and he thinks for himself. I think he could shake up the Democrat Party. And I think -- 'cause I've known him and talked with him -- I think he rues the day that he didn't run four years ago.
A reminder: Bloomberg's plan that year was to run as an independent. Because he's pro-gun, anti-coal, and fairly socially progressive, he would have taken exactly zero votes from the Republicans, while taking enough votes from Democrats to put New York State (and possibly Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as his birth state, Massachusetts) in play. I guess Ralph Nader thinks that would have been just fine.

Nader says in the clip that the current GOP is "the worst Republican Party in history" (true) and thus easily beatable by a competent opposition (which does not inevitably follow from the first proposition). He doesn't like Trump now. Let's see what he was saying in 2016:
Ralph Nader, the former Green Party presidential candidate and lifelong consumer activist, says Donald Trump's dizzying presidential candidacy hasn't been all bad, while Hillary Clinton is winning the Democratic nomination by "dictatorship."

... in an interview with U.S. News, Nader expressed more positive thoughts about Trump's candidacy than Clinton's.

The liberal activist says Trump has brought some important issues to the fore.

"He's questioned the trade agreements. He's done some challenging of Wall Street – I don't know how authentic that is. He said he's against the carried interest racket, for hedge funds. He's funded himself and therefore attacked special interest money, which is very important," Nader says.
Does Nader fall for Nigerian prince emails, too?

Nader's praise of Bloomberg shouldn't surprise us too much -- remember that the great foe of plutocracy once published a 700-page novel with the title Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! -- a sentiment which he appeared to express with utter sincerity.

Here's the plot, according to the book's website:
What if a cadre of superrich individuals tried to become a driving force in America to organize and institutionalize the interests of the citizens of this troubled nation? What if some of America's most powerful individuals decided it was time to fix our government and return the power to the people? What if they focused their power on unionizing Wal-Mart? What if a national political party were formed with the sole purpose of advancing clean elections? What if these seventeen superrich individuals decided to galvanize a movement for alternative forms of energy that will effectively clean up the environment? What if together they took on corporate goliaths and Congress to provide the necessities of life and advance the solutions so long left on the shelf by an avaricious oligarchy? What could happen?
What if unicorns ate right-to-work laws and pooped clean energy?

The details of this fantasy are, as one reviewer described them, about as plausible as you'd imagine:
In Mr. Nader's tale, billionaire investor Warren Buffett is so dismayed by the ineffectual and chaotic government reaction to Hurricane Katrina that he hatches a plan to "redirect" American society. He summons a brace of moguls -- Ted Turner, Barry Diller, Ross Perot and George Soros, among others -- to a secret Maui location, along with such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Yoko Ono and Warren Beatty. As they confer together, they find that they all -- surprise! -- agree that Something Must Be Done.

The news media soon dub this cabal, in one of Mr. Nader's typically tin-eared phrases, "the Meliorists." ...

Here ... is an actual passage from "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!": "As promised, Ted Turner and Phil Donahue had put their heads together to brainstorm about a mascot for the group's efforts. Ted's thoughts naturally ran along avian lines, and it wasn't long before they hit on the idea of a parrot.... Patriotic Polly hit the airwaves in fifteen-second spots shown on thousands of stations, and it was an immediate smash."
Yeah, that would be a game-changer, right?

I'm with Charlie:

(Portions of this post previously appeared on the blog in May 2016).


Donald Trump loves the military, but a Military Times poll says that the military doesn't love him back:
President Donald Trump’s approval rating among active-duty military personnel has slipped over the last two years, leaving today’s troops evenly split over whether they’re happy with the commander in chief’s job performance, according to the results of a new Military Times poll of active-duty service members.

About 44 percent of troops had a favorable view of Trump’s presidency, the poll showed, compared to 43 percent who disapproved.

It's not clear from the story what the troops dislike about Trump. They think he's treating the military well:
More than 60 percent said they believe the military is in better shape now than it was under President Barack Obama, and nearly the same number have a favorable view of his handling of the military.
And they like the secretary of defense:
... former Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis ... has a favorable rating among troops of nearly 84 percent.
But women in the military are particularly dissatisfied with Trump -- 69% have an unfavorable opinion of him. Non-white servicemembers disapprove, 47%-29%. Officers like Trump less than enlisted troops. One naval officer says:
"... it seems like his presidency is a popularity contest for his ego. I think he rushes through decisions a lot based on emotion or helping his friends out. I’m just thankful I’m getting out of the military because him [Trump] rushing decisions could lead us into an unnecessary war."
The troops still like Trump more than the general public does, if barely. And they like him more than they liked Barack Obama. But the performative macho and flag-hugging haven't made Trump a hero to the troops.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Today Elizabeth Warren released DNA test results demonstrating that she has a Native American ancestor, as she's long claimed. Over at BuzzFeed, editor in chief Ben Smith, formerly of Politico, pretends that Warren is the real problem, because, as he sees it, she's just artificially propped up harmless old Donald Trump, who'll probably be ignored in 2020 in any case:
As Democrats look toward a presidential primary that will begin in earnest approximately 11 seconds after the midterms, candidates should be ready for a new reality, and the media for a new challenge.

The reality is that the most important pundit, commentator, and great mentioner of the 2020 primary will be President Donald Trump.

And the challenge for the media will be whether or not to let him dominate the Democratic primary.

... [Warren's] video answers a question Trump raised, takes a piece of bait he’d laid out and Warren furiously, seeing no other option, took as a symbol of her willingness to “fight.” The video is, most of all, the strongest Democratic candidate, thinking first of how to win the Democratic nomination, engaging entirely in absurd, racist terms laid out by the president of the United States.
The implication here is that if Warren had just said or done nothing, the media might have just let the "absurd" matter drop -- foolhardy Elizabeth Warren had to prove she's really tough, so she took Trump on, when the whole thing would have just blown over.

I don't know where to start with this. First of all, as I mentioned in the last post, attacks like this on Warren date back to Scott Brown's 2012 campaign; they've been a Fox staple ever since. Warren is not just dealing with one bully, as Smith suggests -- she's dealing with a gang.

Moreover, there's no question that this would have been a millstone around her neck if she hadn't addressed it head-on. After Hillary Clinton and her emails, or John Kerry and the Swift boats, Mike Dukakis and Willie Horton, can any seriously claim that Warren could have simply ignored this and expected it to go away?

Smith continues:
What’s more, Trump and the reporters covering him will be bound by an eternal truth of presidential campaign coverage: Re-election campaigns are grindingly boring. The presidency, not the campaign, is the story; the kind of narrative, conflict, and struggle for the direction of a party and country that make primaries so riveting. Trump, if he isn’t careful, could find that he’s not the most interesting political story in the country, and he will surely want to get in on that one.
This is preposterous. Trump is Trump -- the media will never find him "boring." Smith is arguing that Warren could have avoided shining a spotlight on Trump, and thus she's setting a bad example for other potential 2020 Democrats, who have the option of becoming serious presidential contenders without having the wrath of Trump focused on them. Can Smith actually believe that? Of course Trump will try to dominate the coverage of the 2020 Democratic primaries -- and of course the media will aid and abet him.

Near the end of Smith's piece, it seems for a moment as if he almost gets it:
That may leave the question to the media, to us, about whether there are lessons from 2016 to apply here. How much do I and — far more important in the 1980s media time warp we now inhabit — how much do television producers care about Trump’s jibes? Does a mean tweet about Kamala Harris interrupt Harris’s speech, or appear as a chyron, or dominate the conversation? Or are programmers — and their viewers — more interested in Harris’s latest dispute with Beto O’Rourke?

Those aren’t easy editorial questions with simple answers, and Trump retains quite a bit of real estate in all of our minds. But that doesn’t mean he should be the editor-in-chief of every publication, the president of every network.
Yes, maybe the problem is us, Smith says.

And then -- as in those old Saturday Night Live sketches that ended with Steve Martin nearly grasping a truth and then saying, "NAAAAH!" -- Smith writes:
Or it may leave the question to candidates like Warren: How much advantage is to be had in the Democratic primary by fighting with Trump, and talking to Trump, and how much do Democratic voters want in on that conversation?
Warren has been pummeled on this for six years -- but it's her fault when she stands up to the bullying. Not stated is that it also would have been her fault if she'd never taken action to counter this message and it went on to dominate the coverage of her in the primaries -- which it absolutely would have, as the Clinton, Kerry, and Dukakis examples make clear. Trump and his allies would have turned this into the one thing every voter knew about Warren, and the media would have eagerly played along. But go ahead, Ben -- blame Warren.


This is big news for 2020:
Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence" she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations....

The analysis of Warren’s DNA was done by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor and expert in the field who won a 2010 MacArthur fellowship, also known as a genius grant, for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis....

Bustamante calculated that Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That timing fits Warren’s family lore, passed down during her Oklahoma upbringing, that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American.
This follows a September Boston Globe report that found no evidence of "affirmative action" hiring based on assertions of Native American ancestry in Warren's academic career.

I understand this response:

Yes, it is humiliating -- but Obama went on to win reelection in 2012 after releasing his long-form birth certificate. It was worth doing.

Trump wasn't the first to attack Warren on this question -- Scott Brown did it when Warren ran against him in 2012, and Brown campaign operatives did "Indian war whoops" and "tomahawk chops" at a Brown rally that year.

Right-wing commentators called Warren “Fauxcahontas,” “Lieawatha,” and “Sacaja-whiner” during that race. A Mumbai-born right-wing troll named Shiva Ayyardurai is running against Warren in this year's Senate race using the slogan "Only a real Indian can beat a fake Indian." You might believe that Donald Trump will be forced to leave office before 2020, or will choose not to run for reelection; if that's the case, I guarantee that Mike Pence, or whoever takes Trump's place on the ballot, will used the "fake Indian" line of attack if Warren is the Democratic nominee. Now it will be harder.

I assume Trump will be the candidate. So I hope Warren pivots now. Here's what she can say:
"There were questions about my background and my career, and I addressed them head on. I was questioned about my ancestry, so I took a DNA test and I made the results public. I was questioned about how my ancestry affected my career, and I cooperated with investigations that cleared my name -- I never received any preferential treatment because I had a Native ancestor.

"I went public with the truth about myself -- and now I call on President Trump to do the same. There are a lot of unanswered questions about his background -- about how he made his money, about who helped him along the way, and about who's still helping him.

I released the results of my DNA test. Now I call on President Trump to release his tax returns. I have no secrets. President Trump has far too many."

UPDATE: There it is...


I'm also impressed by the video Warren has just released.

I like Elizabeth Warren a lot. When she works herself up to a righteous anger, I want to pump my fist in response. But I worry about the sexists in America. I know there are dudebros who liked Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders but rejected Hillary Clinton; they claimed it was about issues, but I'm not sure I believe that. (Obama in 2008 and 2012 was not more liberal than Clinton in 2016.) I worry about women like my late mother, who had problems with strong women. I'd like the Democrats to put a woman in the White House, but I fear that what I find inspiring about Warren seems like hectoring to a some potential Democratic voters. (There's no question that a man who talks like Warren would have no problems along these lines.)

I like the video above because it softens Warren without in any way turning her into a cookie-baking housewife. It makes her seem like a down-to-earth Oklahoman who also just happens to be an "elitist" Ivy League professor. If, in the 2020 campaign, she intends to show that side as well as the side of her we're familiar with, she'll be a very strong candidate.

In 1992, Bill Clinton needed to tell voters that he wasn't just a slick-talking technocrat, he was "the Man from Hope." Warren goes in the same direction here. It's very smart.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


We've been assured that talk of liberal "mobs" will be the secret weapon to goose Republican enthusiasm in the midterms, but a new Washington Post/ABC poll suggests that Democrats still have the advantage:
Three weeks before critical midterm elections, voters are expressing significantly more interest in turning out than they were four years ago, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Enthusiasm is up across almost all demographic groups, but the increases are greater among younger adults, nonwhite voters and those who say they favor Democrats for the House.

... Registered voters say they prefer the Democratic candidate for the House over the Republican candidate by 11 percentage points—53 percent to 42 percent. That is slightly lower than in August, when the Democratic advantage was 14 points. Among likely voters in the new survey, the margin is 13 points. Historically, that kind of gap foreshadows gains, possibly substantial, for the Democrats.
It's not the only recent poll with Democrats in good shape. Harris Interactive has Democrats up by 9 in a poll conducted last week (up from a 6-point margin in Harris's previous poll). YouGov has Democrats up by 6 (the margin was 5 in YouGov's previous poll). Ipsos has overlapping polls showing Democrats up by 12 and 13 (up from +12 in a poll conducted September 25 to October 1).

Could these polls be inaccurate? It's possible. But if Democrats hang on to win, here's a theory of what could be happening:

Sure, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings infuriated Republicans. The anger showed up in some polls, as Nate Cohn of The New York Times noted a few days ago.

However, the Kavanaugh story has receded. Republicans and their media allies have tried to replace it with a "Democratic mobs" narrative. But what if that isn't working because, while it sounds inflammatory to us, it's not very different from what the right-wing media says about Democrats 365 days a year, in non-election years as well as election years?

The new message might produce a GOP voter surge. But Fox News tells Republicans that Democrats are evil, murderous thugs every day of every year. So maybe the "mob" message just seems like old news.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I'm not in the mood to do a point-by-point rebuttal of the latest Bret Stephens column, in which the putatively #NeverTrump conservative exactly echoes all the current arguments made by the Party of Trump about the so-called Democratic/liberal "mob." I just want to address this Eeyorish tweet from former Obama adviser David Axelrod, written in response to the Stephens column:

Is that true in the abstract? Is it universally true that "meeting anger and nastiness with anger and nastiness is a losing proposition"?

In the early days of Donald Trump's political career, pundits occasionally speculated on how well Trump would have done if he'd run as a Democrat. It struck me as a ridiculous question -- Democrats in the recent past have rejected their most demagogic politicians (Alan Grayson, Cynthia McKinney), and even those politicians weren't as extreme, ignorant, venal, amoral, bigoted, and narcissistically indifferent to the fate of the United States as Trump. It seemed impossible to imagine anyone like that winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

However, now we have Michael Avenatti, whose ideology we know nothing about but who seems ready to run for president as a Trumpesque smashmouth candidate.

So let's imagine that Avenatti runs, wins, and governs like a Democratic Trump. If Republican respond in a way that could be described as "meeting anger and nastiness with anger and nastiness," do you have any doubt at all that it would be greeted as an unfortunate but understandable reaction -- the agonized outcry of angry but "authentic" Real Americans and their elected champions? We saw how the Tea Party emerged in 2009 and 2010 and went on to neuter the Obama presidency. It was widely argued that the Democrats had this coming because of their "overreach" and failure to do exactly what the heartland supposedly wanted. The Trump counterrevolution essentially started in those years, and there isn't a Republican in America who looks back on the town-hall-mobbing, Obama-effigy-hanging birthers and thinks, "Gosh, I wish we hadn't done that."

It was a winning proposition for the GOP because it's okay to do pretty much anything if you're a Republican.

BAIT, TAKEN (updated)

I'm leaving this post up, but I think my analysis of these events was wrongheaded.

In the state of New York, the Republican Party hasn't really been a culture-war party. Its sacrificial-lamb candidate for governor this year, Marc Molinaro, "doesn't consider himself a hard-right Republican," according to Newsday, and says he didn't vote for Donald Trump in 2016. (He wrote in the name of Chris Gibson, a former GOP congressman from New York.) Molinaro voted against same-sex marriage but now says he supports it, and he's received "A" ratings from the NRA but now won't take campaign contributions from the group. In New York, that's how Republicans run in statewide races -- they try to straddle the line and please everyone. They act the way Democrats do in red states, with about the same level of success.

So it's odd that that a Republican club in New York City scheduled this event:
[The] Metropolitan Republican Club of New York City ... invite[d] Gavin McInnes, who founded a far-right group which regularly engages in street brawls and violence, to join them at a lecture Friday evening....

McInnes, who was also one of the co-founders of VICE, founded the Proud Boys in 2016, a group which bills itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the Western world.”

... McInnes’ group regularly engages in political brawls with counter-protesters, with some members seeming to delight in the violence. The group has been a regular staple at far-right rallies in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, where they clash, often violently, with counter-protesters. McInnes himself has also said that “fighting solves everything.”
... [McInnes's] past comments include suggesting Muslims are “more violent” due to inbreeding, referring to Asians as “slopes,” and defending the use of the N-word. He’s written for, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a "White Nationalist" hate group, and was recently banned by Twitter for violating the platform's policy on "violent extremist groups." Members of the Proud Boys were present at the white supremacist #UniteTheRight rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer was killed.
Oh, what am I saying? It's not odd at all. The Metropolitan Republican Club was trying to bait the left, and certain elements of the left eagerly took the bait, as the Daily Caller breathlessly reports:
The Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was vandalized Thursday night with broken windows, spray-painted anarchy signs, and a threatening message that the “attack is merely a beginning.”

... “Last night the Metropolitan Republican Club was vandalized by the leftist hate group Antifa, who also left a note promising ‘this is just the beginning’ and threatening more violence,” the Met Club said in a statement on Twitter. “Republicans are a minority party in NYC by a wide margin, and while most city residents are respectful of our activities, our grassroots actions are often met with hostility. Last night’s shameful attack by Antifa cowards represents a tragic new low.”
And then, after the event:
Clashes broke out on the streets of Manhattan allegedly involving the Proud Boys after the Metropolitan Republican Club of New York invited its founder Gavin McInnes to speak. Videos spread quickly on Twitter showing fights in the streets. Who instigated the violence was a matter of heated dispute on social media; Proud Boys opponents said the Proud Boys acted violently, and Proud Boys supporters on Twitter blamed Antifa....

Some people on Twitter labeled what they saw on the streets a “mob assault” or the Proud Boys instigating violence. One observer wrote, “This is one of those nights where things seem even more f*cked up when editing/reviewing my photos. It wasn’t until I wanna editing that I realized how many fights were happening at once.”

... However, others painted it very differently. Christopher Wright shared a Facebook Live video and wrote, “Leaving the Gavin McInnes event at the Metropolitan Republican club in Manhattan. Which was a very peaceful gathering by the way. Than approximately about 50 ANTIFA were waiting outside when we left!? They followed us for a block than jumped us. Let’s just say it didn’t turn out to good for the Beta Liberals 🤷🏾‍♂️ #ProudBoys #BeerForKavanaugh🍺”
I don't know when this invitation was issued. It was probably long before the start of the GOP's new campaign to smear Democrats with the word "mob" in advance of the midterms (though perhaps the smear campaign was in the works long before it was unveiled). In any case, the invitation was clearly issued in the hope that there'd be an overreaction from Antifa or some other part of the left. The club was looking for a moment like the ones that occur on campuses where Milo Yiannopoulos or Ben Shapiro events are scheduled.

And good old Antifa gave Republicans exactly what they wanted.

In a better world, Democrats and non-violent liberals would have challenged the GOP on the issuance of the invitation: How can Republicans demand civility of Democrats when they're palling around with the proudly racist leader of a goon squad? The mere fact of the invitation should have been a scandal, a multi-day story that would have ended with the invitation withdrawn, or with the understanding that the hypocritical GOP tone-polices Democrats while consorting with demagogic racist thugs.

A large non-violent protest against McInnes's appearance might have been effective, along with TV or online ads defining the Republican Party as the party of people like McInnes.

But peaceful Democrats and progressives didn't respond -- and Antifa did. Great work, guys.

I don't want to hear the usual "Hey, we killed Nazis in World War II, so what's wrong with beating them up now?" The Proud Boys are not building a Fourth Reich. They're not even a paramilitary unit acting on the orders of the government (yet). Effective policing ought to be enough to contain them. Anarchist lefties who engage them in violence are doing it for one reason: because it feels good. It's personally satisfying and it makes the anarchists feel like historically significant warriors.

The reality is that fighting this way has zero deterrence effect on President Trump, the Republican Party, or the fascists themselves. Footage of Antifa violence is useful for them. It's a recruiting tool, the way drone strikes that inflict civilian casualties in the Middle East are a recruiting tool for jihadist groups.

This event was a huge success for the right, because liberals and anti-fascists handled it exactly the wrong way.


UPDATE: Well, the coverage of this has changed.

But Democrats are unlikely to ask why the GOP welcomed the man who inspired this because Republicans will bring up the vandalism.

Friday, October 12, 2018


Greg Sargent writes:
President Trump and Republicans have adopted a closing electoral strategy that depicts the Democratic Party and “angry” leftist protests against Trumpian rule as the only real reigning threat to our country’s civic fabric and the rule of law. A new Republican National Committee video juxtaposes footage of leading mainstream Democratic figures with that of angry protesters, while decrying “the left” as an “unhinged mob.”
Here's that RNC video:

Even though Eric Holder said, "When I say we kick them, I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate, we don’t do anything illegal, but we have to be tough and we have to fight," and even though Hillary Clinton's remarks called for nothing more violent than a return to "regular order" in Congress, Democrats are being accused of incitement to riot.

Why? Because in American politics, it's always 1968.

Republicans are always seen as the law-and-order party. Democrats are always seen as the party affiliated with the demonstrators in the streets of Chicago that year, even though those demonstrators were radical rather than liberal and were furious at what was then a Democratic war.

That's why angry Tea Party crowds at Democratic town halls in 2010 didn't inspire widespread hand-wringing about "civility." Nor did the Bundy standoff or the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Violence at Donald Trump campaign rallies in 2016 got some negative attention -- but that violence and the Bundy and Malheur incidents were seen through the prism of the mainstream media's romanticization of Carhartt-wearing working men -- anyone who looks tough and grizzled is simply seen as too elemental, too authentically American, to be a threat to society.

(The Charlottesville neo-Nazis might have made a mistake when they decided to wear polo shirts and chinos -- if they'd grown beards and worn flannel and work boots, maybe they could have gotten away with killing someone without getting bad press.)

Incivility? Here's the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania threatening to "stomp all over" the face of his opponent "with golf spikes":

(By the way, Jeanine Pirro of Fox News hosted a fund-raiser for this guy on Wednesday.)

And here's a story from Connecticut that broke in the past twenty-four hours:
The Republican [state] legislative candidate whose harsh online comments about Parkland High shooting victims drew criticism resigned Thursday after losing town committee backing.

Steven Baleshiski, 22, a college student from Southington, was challenging six-term state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, the speaker of the house....

In a post dated March 26, 2018, Baleshiski targeted David Hogg, a student survivor of the February Florida high school shooting who is now involved in gun-control advocacy.

The post on Baleshiski’s page read: “I’m not supposed to speak ill of David Hogg because he is a ‘survivor.’ Apparently if you survive horrific events, that makes the stupidity spewing out of your mouth above reproach. I disagree. Hogg can burn in hell, I don’t care what he survived. Survivors who wage war on my country are my enemies.”
... a post on Baleshiski's Facebook page advocat[ed] shooting looters after a natural disaster.

”Steven, you seem full of hate.’ You’re [expletive] right I’m full of hate,” a post from Sept. 16, 2017 reads. “What emotion do you expect me to feel for people who are trying to destroy my country and impose their sick, dystopian will on me and my family? Do you expect me to sit here ‘sure we disagree, but we’re all fellow Americans?’ Well that’s not how I feel. The people trying to destroy the country I love and impose 1984 meets Brave New World meets the will of Satan on my family are my enemies. I could pretend to be a white knight and say that I don’t hate them but that would be a lie. I hate them.”
Oh, and we don't know much about Craig Shaver, the California man charged with sending an email threatening the life of Senator Dianne Feinstein, but a sent threat at this moment is likely to have come from a conservative.

But none of this suggests to our political pundits that conservatism is the party of anarchy or brute force, or even lack of civility, because the brand of conservatism and the GOP, even in the Trump era, is still moral uprightness and "law and order." Democrats' brand is, for no good reason, force and anarchy, even though violent leftists today hate the Democrats, just the way their 1968 counterparts did. Old stereotypes die hard.