Friday, November 30, 2018


Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast has been reading the Trump news and now warns his fellow conservatives that they'll soon have to decide what principles matter to them:
We should be ready to accept the very real possibility that serious misdemeanors were committed and lies told.

... what will conservatives do or say ... if their leader does something so egregious as to render himself no longer worthy of even the most fawning conservative’s loyalty? The people who defend the indefensible—who put “loyalty” to a man (not principle or America) above all else—will not be judged well by history.
But the important thing, to Lewis, is not to be "extreme." Stop for a moment and savor how Lewis defines "extreme."
We’ve been through two years now of Trump. We know how the extremes on both sides are going to react. We know how many liberal Democrats are going to call for impeachment or resignation, regardless of Mueller’s findings. We know how Trump apologists are going to deflect and try to make excuses, regardless of how inexcusable the evidence turns out to be. The real unknown is how honorable conservatives are going to react.
Lewis says that it's quite possible to imagine Trump doing something "inexcusable," something that's "so egregious as to render himself no longer worthy of even the most fawning conservative’s loyalty." But he also says that "extreme" liberal Democrats "are going to call for impeachment or resignation, regardless of Mueller’s findings." When I put those two ideas together, I conclude that Lewis believes it's "extreme" to say that Trump should resign or be impeached, even if he does "something so egregious as to render himself no longer worthy of even the most fawning conservative’s loyalty" -- even if what he does is "inexcusable."

Am I reading too much into this? I don't think so. Lewis is trying to find a way to be anti-"inexcusable" while remaining anti-anti-Trump. His message is that coming out in opposition to Trump is an option honorable conservatives really need to consider in the somewhat distant but foreseeable future, primarily because not abandoning Trump at some point could mean not being "judged well by history." (The problem then, presumably, will be that if history judges conservatives poorly, they might lose many opportunities to cut taxes on the rich and regulations on corporations.)

I could argue that honorable people of all political stripes decided that Trump's conduct was "inexcusable" and "egregious" years ago. But that's just me being "extreme," isn't it?


Here's a Twitter exchange I saw this morning:

The media's email coverage in 2016 was obviously excessive, but attention was paid to Donald Trump's business dealings, to his implausible denials of an interest in Russia, and, certainly, to his refusal to release his tax returns. However, we've been told at least since the Reagan era that "career politicians" are terrible and if you really want to clean up government you should elect a businessman. It isn't just voters in conservative parts of the country who fall for this -- liberal Massachusetts elected Mitt Romney governor, and liberal New York City gave Mike Bloomberg three terms as mayor.

As a rule, business executives who go into politics sever ties with their old lines of work, but Trump has tested whether voters really care about appearances of propriety, and in 2016, as it turned out, 46% of voters didn't. Polls in 2016 showed that even the majority of Republicans wanted Trump to release his tax returns, but he didn't, and they voted for him anyway.

According to the myth of the CEO as ideal politcal leader, it's business instincts that make a corporate chieftain a good government executive. Much of America also believes that CEOs, along with generals and college football coaches, are our alpha males. So if we'd known more in 2016 about what Trump was up to in Russia, I'm not sure it would have made a difference in the vote. I'm not sure the new revelations will hurt his polling now.

One problem is that Russia isn't an enemy of the United States in the same way that, say, Al Qaeda and ISIS are. Any U.S. president at this moment would be engaging with Putin in civil terms in at least some areas of mutual interest. The public has mixed feelings about Russia -- in an August Gallup poll, 76% of respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of Vladimir Putin, but 58% said it's "more important that the U.S. continue efforts to improve relations with Russia."

So Trump trying to make money in Moscow by currying favor with Putin, and adjusting U.S. foreign policy with that goal in mind, really might not move public opinion very much. However wary they are of Trump right now, Americans still believe in the myth of the CEO as politcal savior. And Americans don't see Russia as our mortal enemy.

I don't expect the president to be indicted while in office. I'd like to see him impeached and convicted -- but that won't happen until his soft support evaporates and Republican senators stop fearing that they'll pay a political price for opposing Trump. I'd like to belive this will move his less fervent supporters to the unfavorable side, but I don't see it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Lindsey Graham:

Rush Limbaugh:
Every one of Mueller’s indictments is a process crime. Mueller doesn’t have any substantive criminal activity here, any collusion. He’s got people that have lied to him.
Michael Anton:
Michael Anton, former spokesman for Trump’s National Security Council, also lashed out at Mueller’s team for pursuing a “process” crime, telling Fox that the special counsel has strayed from his initial mandate of investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Your right-wing uncle, who'd never encountered the phrase "process crime" until today, will be tossing it around by the weekend as if he's been talking about process crimes all his adult life. New catchphrases will probably be approved several times by Wingnut Central between now and Christmas.


I'm pleased to see that this is controversial:
A New York organization that promotes mystery and detective fiction is under fire for honoring a best-selling crime novelist who, before she turned to writing, oversaw the prosecution of the Central Park Five — teenage boys wrongly convicted of a 1989 rape that shocked and divided New Yorkers.

The furor began on Tuesday when Mystery Writers of America, creator of the annual Edgar Awards, announced that Linda Fairstein would be one of two writers honored as Grand Masters for literary achievement at the organization’s awards banquet next spring in New York. Ms. Fairstein is the author of 20 novels about a fictional Manhattan prosecutor, Alexandra Cooper, modeled on her own real-life past work as the chief of the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

... Twelve years after the convictions, DNA evidence pointed to a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, who confessed to the attack while serving a life sentence for other crimes. The Manhattan district attorney agreed to vacate the Central Park Five convictions in 2002.
Fairstein was criticized by Attica Locke, who is also an Edgar winner and who is working with Ava DuVernay on a documentary about the Central Park Five case. Fairstein defended her handling of the case, as she has ever since the original convictions were overturned. She's argued that the Five participated in the rape, despite the lack of any DNA evidence linking them to the victim, and despite the strong evidence pointing to Reyes, who is known to be responsible for similar rapes. She insists that the Five (all minors at the time) were never questioned coercively, despite clear evidence that they were denied access to parents and other adults while being questioned. She's unrepentant.

I'm sure she'll get to keep the award -- her books still sell and there's rarely a penalty in our culture for being wrong in a conservative way. This is the domestic equivalent of advocating a war that turns out to be disastrous. If you do that, you'll never pay a price. You'll never lose pundit gigs. So you helped jail a bunch of teenagers for terms that eventually ranged from seven to thirteen years for a crime they didn't commit. So you helped make them the most hated people in New York. So your work helped encourage a future president to call for their execution. Take a mulligan -- everybody makes mistakes, right? And, of course, a significant slice of white New York undoubtedly still believes the Five were guilty, just like Fairstein.


UPDATE: I was wrong -- the award was withdrawn.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Hey America, how can you tell you're failing to deal effectively with your violent-sociopath problem? It's obvious when you're resorting to responses like this one from Michigan:
To prepare for an active shooter, faculty and students at Oakland University are arming themselves — with hockey pucks.

The idea of using the quirky self-defense tool grew out of a training session Police Chief Mark Gordon led in March for faculty members on what they should do if a gunman enters their classroom.

A participant asked what people could bring to campus to be better prepared in case they need to fight back. The university has a no-weapons policy.

Gordon's advice? Be ready to throw something — anything — that could distract a shooter, even a hockey puck, as a last resort if fleeing or hiding aren't an option....

Following up on the suggestion, Tom Discenna, a professor of communication and president of the faculty union, spearheaded an effort by the union to purchase 2,500, 94-cent hockey pucks — 800 for union members and another 1,700 for students. Distribution of the pucks on campus began earlier this month.

"It’s just the idea of having something, a reminder that you’re not powerless and you’re not helpless in the classroom," Discenna said.
I thought this story might go viral on the left, but I see that it's being eagerly spread on the right.

Breitbart, the Daily Wire, the Blaze, the Daily Caller -- and also the College Fix, where the headline
Michigan University Gives Professors Hockey Pucks to Fight Off Shooters
is followed by this subhead:
Instead of, you know, guns
How can we argue? The message of the pucks is that we have no answer for gun violence in America except to assume that it's inevitable and find a way to defend ourselves. If that's the case, of course the conservatives are going to say, Well, obviously, the best way to defend yourself against a gun is a gun.

There is one proposal that doesn't involve defensive weaponry:
The little black discs have a dual purpose: They are also part of a campaign to raise funds to install interior locks on classroom doors. Some doors are only lockable from the hallway.

The pucks are imprinted with a number that people can enter on the university's website to donate money toward the new locks....

The American Association of University Professors union has donated $5,000 toward new inside locks for the 37 classrooms in South Foundation Hall. The student government, Oakland University Student Congress, has made a donation in the same amount for new locks in an as-yet-to-be-determined building.
Why not just make it a priority to fund the locks and get them installed on every door? Oh, right -- Oakland is a public university, in a state with a Republican-majority House, Senate, and (until January) governor. So I'm sure money is kept as tight as possible. Hey, it's only life and death!

I don't care how much money the NRA lost in 2017 -- it's still the gun lobby's country, and we just shelter in place in it.


Here's the lead story at The Washington Post:
President Trump placed responsibility for recent stock market declines and this week’s announcement of General Motors plant closures and layoffs on the Federal Reserve during an interview Tuesday, shirking any personal blame for cracks in the economy and declaring that he is “not even a little bit happy” with his hand-selected central bank chairman....

Sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, Trump also threatened to cancel his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a global summit this week in Argentina because of Russia’s maritime clash with Ukraine....

Trump also dismissed the federal government’s landmark report released last week finding that damage from global warming is intensifying around the country.
This is a write-up of "a wide-ranging and sometimes discordant 20-minute interview" with Trump. The front page of the Post's website calls this an "exclusive" -- but I see that Trump also gave an interview to Politico yesterday, in which he "said he would 'totally be willing' to shut down the government over border wall funding if Democrats don't budge."

Trump is going through withdrawal.

Democrats gained 40 House seats in the midterms. The Russia investigation is yielding new revelations and could be nearing its conclusion. There's a lot of talk in the political media about possible 2020 presidential candidates, not all of them Democrats.

It was obviously much more fun to be Donald Trump in September and October, when there were several ego-boosting campaign rallies every week and he could persuade himself that the "red wave" he'd heard so much about on Fox News was really coming. Now Robert Mueller is breathing down Trump's neck and, perhaps more important, he's not getting his mass-adulation fix every couple of days. He doesn't have the opportunity to regularly hold forth at great length before a rapt audience -- so he calls up reporters, who can give him the closest available approximation.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018


There's a lot of 2016 news out there right now -- "Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says"; "Manafort Held Secret Talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say"; "Corsi Provided Early Alert to Stone About WikiLeaks Release, According to Draft Special Counsel Document" -- but your right-wing relatives still think President Trump and his associates are completely innocent, because that's what they continue to be told by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Here's part of what Limbaugh had to say on the radio today:
Well, well, well, if anybody doubts the political nature of the Mueller investigation, all you have to do is take a look at the news today. For crying out loud, they really want us to believe that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange three times before WikiLeaks published the Podesta emails?

Where’s this story been? If this were true, they would have known this all the way back when Obama and his buddies were spying on the Trump campaign. And we would have heard about this long before today.

... Manafort is said to have lied after reaching a plea deal with Mueller and his Trump-hating prosecutors.... I don’t think Manafort’s been lying about anything. What Manafort’s refusing to do is to compose evidence, make it up!

... they don’t have any evidence that Trump colluded. They’re ignoring the evidence of real collusion that took place here, as you know, between Hillary Clinton and the rest of the people on that side, Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele. All of that is being ignored.

... The idea that they wouldn’t force using all the power they’ve got, Manafort, to make things up or to compose evidence. And if Manafort’s refusing to do it, then this is exactly what I would think would happen. “He’s lying to us. We’re gonna revoke the plea deal. To hell with Manafort.” They’re trying to break him.

... And note something. In none of these stories do you see the name “Trump,” not a single time, not a single place is the word “Trump” mentioned, the president, the candidate. Trump is not implicated in any of this.

... Manafort probably doesn’t know jack. Nobody knows jack because what they are trying to lay the foundation for happening didn’t, unless you go investigate Hillary Clinton.
That's their story and they're sticking with it. No matter what comes out from now on, no matter how much evidence there is, no matter how high up the convictions go, they'll never believe. It's all made up and we'll never persuade them otherwise.

Imagine if, after Richard Nixon left office, a significant percentage of Americans wouldn't even acknowledge that the Watergate break-in had taken place, and wouldn't acknowledge that there was a White House effort to cover it up. I'm not talking about people who insisted that the whole thing was blown out of proportion -- I'm imagining an America in which there was a dispute about the basic facts of Watergate. That's what we're facing. Whatever the truth is, millions of Americans will never accept it. Confessions, convictions, unimpeachable evidence -- none of it will matter. Years from now, there'll probably be political battles over how to portray this era in textbooks, because conservatives will insist none of what we know to be true ever took place.


At the Daily Beast, Maxwell Tani reports that parts of an interview segment with former EPA administrator Ryan Zinke were carefully scripted to Zinke's specifications:
In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team ... approved part of the show’s script....

In May 2017, Pruitt’s staff wanted to set up an interview to discuss how the then-administrator was interested in helping communities his team claimed were “poorly served by the last administration.”

And so then-EPA press secretary Amy Graham proposed an interview to Fox & Friends producer Andrew Murray, who quickly agreed to bring Pruitt on the next day to discuss the topic.

Murray then copied producer Diana Aloi, saying she said she would follow up with “pre-interview questions on the agreed-upon topic, the new direction of the EPA, and helping communities that were poorly served by the last administration.”

In subsequent emails, Aloi repeatedly sought “talking points” and the “top three priorities are for the EPA that Mr. Pruitt would like to discuss specifically.”

Once Graham sent over the talking points, Aloi sought the government official’s approval for the script introducing Pruitt’s segment.

“Would this be okay as the setup to his segment?” producer Diana Aloi asked.

She wrote:

“There’s a new direction at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump—and it includes a back-to-basics approach. This after the Obama administration left behind a huge mess more than 1,300 super-fund sites which are heavily contaminated—still require clean-ups. So why was President Obama touted as an environmental savior if all these problems still exist?”

The EPA comms shop was pleased.

“Yes — perfect,” Graham replied.

And when the segment aired the next day, the network stuck to that exact government-approved script.
I'm not surprised. I've long assumed that Fox and many of its interviewees agree beforehand not just on discussion topics or bits of interviewer flackery, but also on the wording of specific exchanges in the interviews themselves.

Here's an example from my archives: In 2015, the ISIS magazine Dabiq identified some U.S. political figures as enemies of the caliphate. One was former senator Rick Santorum. Santorum subsequently appeared on Fox & Friends, where he had this exchange with host Steve Doocy. (Apologies for the wingnutty tweet below, but it's the only working source I could find for the video.)

DOOCY: You know, it's one thing if The New York Times quotes you, or we quote you on Fox, but when ISIS quotes you, what did you think?

SANTORUM: Well, the difference is ISIS actually quoted me accurately, composed -- compared to The New York Times, which is sort of a remarkable comment on the state of the media today.
Notice how Santorum slips and says "composed" before correcting himself and saying "compared." That's not a mistake you'd make if you had a brain freeze and couldn't remember the word you meant to use. It's not a mistake you'd make if you stumbled over the pronunciation of the word "compared."

It is, however, a mistake you might make if you were momentarily misreading a scripted line from a Teleprompter.

An an interview by a real journalist, the interviewee isn't supposed to know the questions in advance, and is expected to answer spontaneously. But this was clearly a prepared exchange. And it's a classic Fox exchange -- the story is about ISIS, but Doocy and Santorum make it about the right's real enemy, the non-conservative part of America, specifically the hated American "liberal media."

I suspect this happens a lot at Fox.


David Brooks writes today about the menace of the kids:
When I meet someone who runs an organization in a blue state, I often ask: Do you have a generation gap where you work? The answer — whether the person leads a college, a nonprofit, a tech company, an entertainment company or a publication — is generally the same: Yes, and it’s massive.

The managers at these places, who are generally 35 and above, are liberals. They vote Democratic and cheer on all the proper causes of the left. But some of the people under 35 are not liberals, but rather are militant progressives. The older people in the organization often have nicknames for the younger set: the Resistance, Al Jazeera, the revolutionaries. The young militants are the ones who stage the protests if someone does something deemed wrong.

If a company fires an employee for writing an inappropriate memo or uttering an inappropriate phrase, it’s usually because there’s been a youth revolt. If a speaker is disinvited from a festival or from campus, it’s often because of a youth revolt. If a writer is fired for a tweet, or an editor has to resign from a literary review because of an unacceptable article, it’s often because of a youth revolt.

... When the generations clash, the older generation generally retreats. Nobody wants to be hated and declared a moral pariah by his or her employees. Nobody wants to seem outdated.
Brooks's sympathies are clearly with the elders -- which is odd, because here's how he describes them:
The older liberals tend to be individualistic and meritocratic.... Boomers generally think they earned their success through effort and talent.
The civilization-preserving elders are "meritocratic"? But I thought David Brooks hated our meritocracy. He's certainly devoted quite a few column inches over the years to telling us why it's fatally flawed. Here was Brooks last May:
The real problem with the modern meritocracy can be found in the ideology of meritocracy itself. Meritocracy is a system built on the maximization of individual talent, and that system unwittingly encourages several ruinous beliefs:

Exaggerated faith in intelligence. ...Many of the great failures of the last 50 years, from Vietnam to Watergate to the financial crisis, were caused by extremely intelligent people who didn’t care about the civic consequences of their actions.

Misplaced faith in autonomy. The meritocracy is based on the metaphor that life is a journey. On graduation days, members for the educated class give their young Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which shows a main character, “you,” who goes on a solitary, unencumbered journey through life toward success. If you build a society upon this metaphor you will wind up with a society high in narcissism and low in social connection....

Misplaced notion of the self. ...If you base a society on a conception of self that is about achievement, not character, you will wind up with a society that is demoralized; that puts little emphasis on the sorts of moral systems that create harmony within people, harmony between people and harmony between people and their ultimate purpose.
And so on. Brooks favors meritocracy in the abstract -- after World War II, it gave Jews, non-whites, and members of the poor and working class the opportunity to run with the big boys -- but he hates it in practice because, in his view, it encourages meritocrats to concern themselves primarily with what's good for themselves and their families, not society as a whole.

But now, in Brooks's telling, along comes a new generation of young people who do care about society as a whole -- and he's appalled.
The younger militants tend to have been influenced by the cultural Marxism that is now the lingua franca in the elite academy. Group identity is what matters. Society is a clash of oppressed and oppressor groups. People who are successful usually got that way through some form of group privilege and a legacy of oppression.
The children of the meritocrats have broken out of the prison of meritocratic narcissism -- and Brooks hates it.

In May, Brooks expressed despair because, as he put it,
the new meritocratic aristocracy has come to look like every other aristocracy. The members of the educated class use their intellectual, financial and social advantages to pass down privilege to their children, creating a hereditary elite that is ever more insulated from the rest of society. We need to build a meritocracy that is true to its values, truly open to all.
Now, as Brooks writes today, a new generation believes that "People who are successful usually got that way through some form of group privilege" -- but the people who believe that, according to Brooks, are an existential menace.

Brooks didn't like the liberal elders, but he's making his peace with him, now that he has a new, leftier enemy to blame.

Monday, November 26, 2018


Charles Blow of The New York Times went to Louisiana to talk to Mitch Landrieu, who doesn't sound like a presidential candidate.
“I am not already running for president.” He continues, “I haven’t done anything that a person who was running for president would do.”

... The 58-year-old Landrieu has spent 30 years in politics, but he really began to be talked about as a possible presidential contender when he moved to take down Confederate statues in the city and gave a powerful, poetic speech explaining why.

Mitch is now asked about running for president so often that his answers sound like ones that have been honed by repetition, shaved down sharp and smooth.

He recalls a recent exchange he had about the subject:

“Someone said to me the other day, ‘Are you running?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘That’s what everybody says.’ I said, ‘What do the people who aren’t running say?’ ” We laugh.
Blow thinks Landrieu is out of step with times because if he were to run, he'd be doing it as a centrist in a Democratic Party that doesn't seem interested in centrism. On the other hand, he's a strong opponent of racism -- but he'd be a white man delivering that message when there are non-whites prepared to deliver it.
As he put it:

“You don’t know how African-Americans in the South are going to perform if a white Democrat from the South is running against three really good African-American candidates. We’ve never had that before. You could have it this time. You could have Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick. So, that theory has never been tested before.”

It would be a hard debate stage to manage without looking like a white savior, coming to fix America’s race problem and saying that he was a better choice to do so than the women and minorities in the race.
That last paragraph is Blow talking, not Landrieu. I think he's right. But there certainly seems to be interest in having a white guy deliver that message for the Democrats.


And then there's Beto O'Rourke. Over at Crooked Media, Dan Pfeiffer portrays Beto as Barack Obama, only better:
I have never seen a Senate candidate—including Obama in 2004—inspire the sort of enthusiasm that Beto did in his race. This is about more than Lebron wearing a Beto hat, or Beyonce sporting one on Instagram. It’s about the people all over the country with no connection to Texas with signs in their yards and stickers on their cars. It’s about the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who gave small dollar donations because they were inspired by his candidacy and moved by his pledge not to take PAC money. It’s about the crowds of thousands in small towns that would turn out to hear him speak on rainy weeknights. It’s about the passionate army of volunteers who knocked doors, made calls, and sent text messages. He built a national grassroots movement for change and many of those people are waiting to be called into duty and head to Iowa and New Hampshire. The enthusiasm is real and matters. If Beto were to go to Iowa City next week, I am confident he would draw a crowd three times larger than any candidate has since Obama first stumped there.
Pfeiffer isn't writing about O'Rourke from the perspective of race -- he just sees him as a superstar, and therefore as someone we should take very seriously for 2020. But I feel as if we're talking about rock and roll in 1956 or so -- Chuck Berry is out there, Little Richard is out there, but the true superstar is the white guy, Elvis.

I like O'Rourke, but he lost his big race. Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum actually came closer to winning theirs, but no one is talking about them as 2020 contenders. I respect Landrieu, but he's obviously being talked about as someone who can give a multi-racial, anti-racist party a white face.

I don't know how this contest will sort itself out, but I don't assume that a white guy is clearly the way to go -- that could be right, but we shouldn't leap to that assumption just because it keeps a lot of people in their comfort zone.


You may think this will shock America's conscience:
U.S. border agents fired tear gas on hundreds of migrants protesting near the border with Mexico on Sunday after some of them attempted to get through the fencing and wire separating the two countries....
But I lived through 1970:
A Gallup Poll taken shortly after the shootings at Kent State revealed that 58% of the respondents believed the responsibility for the deaths lay with the demonstrators; only 11% blamed the National Guard. As the author of a book about the shootings would later write, “These were the most popular murders ever committed in the United States.”
And I don't assume that America would be horrified if border agents were using live ammunition. This just happened:
A Border Patrol agent was acquitted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly shooting of a Mexican teen, court records show.

Lonnie Swartz was accused of shooting through a border fence in Nogales, Arizona, in 2012 and killing 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was on the Mexican side of the border. The agent fired 14 to 30 shots and 10 of those bullets hit the teen, officials said.

Swartz said he shot through the fence because he was getting attacked by rock throwers and feared for his life, the Arizona Republic reported.

In April, he was acquitted of second-degree murder, but the jury was deadlocked on voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges.

On Wednesday, a federal jury in Tucson, Arizona, found Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter but they were unable to reach a verdict on a voluntary manslaughter charge.
There isn't widespread outrage about this case.

The tear gas is presented as a prudent measure falling short of lethal force -- and hey, it's harmless!

The polling on immigration generally leans liberal -- poll respondents favor the Dreamers, oppose the wall and family separation, and think immigration is generally good for America. But tear gas won't be seen as an outrage on the level of separation of parents and children. We'll see what happens if border conflicts turn lethal.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Jonathan Martin of The New York Times has a word of warning for Democrats:
Across South, Democrats Who Speak Boldly Risk Alienating Rural White Voters

JACKSON, Miss. — When Mike Espy, the Democrat challenging Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, faced his opponent at a debate ahead of this Tuesday’s runoff election, he had to make a choice: confront Ms. Hyde-Smith over her comments about attending “a public hanging,” which evoked the state’s racist history, or take a milder approach to avoid alienating the conservative-leaning white voters who will most likely decide the election.

He chose the latter....

In a state where politics has long been cleaved by race, Mr. Espy was reckoning with a conundrum that Democrats face across the South.... Even as they made gains in the 2018 elections in the suburbs that were once Republican pillars, Democrats are seeing their already weak standing in rural America erode even further.

Now, as Democrats mount a last-minute and decidedly against-the-odds campaign to snatch a Senate seat in this most unlikely of states, they are facing the same problem that undermined some of their most-heralded candidates earlier this month.
Whose campaign was "undermined" by this "problem"?
The campaigns of Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Beto O’Rourke in Texas may have electrified black and progressive white voters — just as Ms. Hyde-Smith’s comments may energize Mississippians to support Mr. Espy — but they had an equal and opposite effect as well: in rural county after rural county, this trio of next-generation Democrats performed worse than President Barack Obama did in 2012.
But they didn't have "an equal and opposite effect" in comparison with at least two of the candidates' immediate predecessors. The last Democrat to run against Ted Cruz lost by 16 points. Beto O'Rourke lost by 1.6 and helped carry several downballot Democrats to victory. The last Democrat to run for governor in Georgia lost by 8 points. Stacey Abrams lost by less than half a point. Only Andrew Gillum failed to improve significantly on his predecessor's results (That predecessor and the Democrat before him both lost, however.)

O'Rourke, Abrams, and Gillum were all unabashedly progressive on the subject of race. Martin says Democrats talk that way at their peril -- but the he writes:
More ominous for Democrats was that the deep losses this year among rural and some exurban whites were not just confined to Southern states where they nominated unabashed progressives with hopes of transforming the midterm electorate. They lost four Senate seats, as well as governor’s races in states like Iowa and Ohio, with more conventional candidates whose strength in cities and upper-income suburbs was not enough to overcome their deficits in less densely populated areas.
(Emphasis added.)

So candidates who didn't raise these issues lost, which proves that ... Democrats shouldn't raise these issues?

Espy's moderation notwithstanding, race is now an issue in the Mississippi Senate runoff. Let's see: The runoff happened because neither Hyde-Smith nor Espy got 50% of the vote in the first round. Hyde-Smith beat Espy by just under a percentage point, 41.5% to 40.6%, but another Republican, Chris McDaniel, was in the race. He got 16.5% of the vote. It was assumed that Hyde-Smith would get nearly all of his vote in the runoff, which would mean she'd win handily -- add her votes to McDaniel's and you get 58%.

So this should have been a blowout for the GOP. But now news reports have made Hyde-Smith's racial attitudes an issue in the contest. That should push her over 60%, right, according to Martin?

Um, no:
... Ms. Hyde-Smith and her advisers have been torn over how to explain her comments about attending a public hanging.

They were divided on how to respond, according to Republicans familiar with the deliberations, but after internal G.O.P. polling indicated that her lead had eroded, it became clear she had to offer some measure of regret.
(Emphasis added again.)

The hanging remark isn't Hyde-Smith's only racial problem though you'd never know that from reading Martin's story. In addition, there's the pro-Confederate resolution she sponsored and the segregation academy she attended (and the other segregation academy to which she sent her daughter). I could go on.

Republicans clearly think she could lose:

The president will hold a campaign rally for her tomorrow night.

Why is this even necessary, Jonathan, if race talk is so damaging to Democrats?

Saturday, November 24, 2018


This is your semi-regular reminder that the op-ed page of The New York Times employs two insufferable columnists named Brooks who write incessantly about our national anomie and why it's never, ever the result of conservative policies. Arthur C. Brooks, like his namesake David, believes we're just lonely, and it's killing us, as well as making us kill one another:
America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness.

According to a recent large-scale survey from the health care provider Cigna, most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships. Nearly half say they sometimes or always feel alone or “left out.” Thirteen percent of Americans say that zero people know them well. The survey, which charts social isolation using a common measure known as the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation.
This is the point at which David Brooks would begin summarizing, perhaps not accurately, the recently published work of a sociologist you've never heard of. Arthur Brooks turns instead to the self-appointed philosopher-king of the U.S. Senate.
This problem is at the heart of the new book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” by Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. Mr. Sasse argues that “loneliness is killing us,” citing, among other things, the skyrocketing rates of suicide and overdose deaths in America. This year, 45,000 Americans will take their lives, and more than 70,000 will die from drug overdoses.

Mr. Sasse’s assertion that loneliness is killing us takes on even darker significance in the wake of the mail-bomb campaign against critics of President Trump and the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, both of which were perpetrated by isolated — and apparently very lonely — men. Mr. Sasse’s book was published before these events, but he presciently described what he believes lonely people increasingly do to fill the hole of belonging in their lives: They turn to angry politics.
What's the problem?
Why are we becoming so lonely? One reason is the changing nature of work.... the reality of the workplace is rapidly attenuating, as people hop from job to job, and from city to city, as steady work becomes harder to find and the “gig” economy grows.

Mr. Sasse worries even more, however, about a pervasive feeling of homelessness: Too many Americans don’t have a place they think of as home — a “thick” community in which people know and look out for one another and invest in relationships that are not transient. To adopt a phrase coined in Sports Illustrated, one might say we increasingly lack that “hometown gym on a Friday night feeling.”

Mr. Sasse finds this phrase irresistible and warmly relates it to his own life growing up in Fremont, Neb., a town of 26,000 residents. He describes the high school sports events on Friday nights that drew the townspeople together in a common love for their neighbors and community that made most differences — especially political differences — seem trivial.
There's a problem, though: Small towns with that small-town, Friday-night-lights feeling may not be nice to people who aren't exactly like them. Fremont is a food-processing town. There's a Hormel plant that's America's largest producer of Spam, and Costco is building a facility that will process the rotisserie chickens it serves nationwide. As a Slate story published a year ago makes clear, this industry used to provide good jobs for the locals -- but then wages declined:
... in the 1980s, the meat industry transformed from family-owned companies with profits checked by strong unions to shareholder-driven conglomerates with a logistical approach to animal farming. At Hormel, new owners in search of greater profits squeezed workers.... In Fremont, the local accepted a two-tiered contract that mollified the existing line staff while allowing the company to cut costs on new hires.
The result?
In the ensuing two decades, the plant’s staff turned over as immigrants arrived to take those jobs. “When that series of union contracts came down, that changed the Hormel job from being a middle-class job,” [Richard] Register[, the local Democrat Party chairman,] remembered. “After the contract changed, Hormel recruited from everywhere. That started the tension. Well, I shouldn’t say that started the tension—this country has always had problems in race relations. But it certainly did not help.”
Did those immigrants get to have a sense of "'thick' community" in Fremont? No.
Fremont is the only city in the country that has successfully made it illegal to rent a house to an unauthorized immigrant. The ordinance failed in the City Council in 2008, passed in a referendum in 2010, was overturned by a district court judge in 2012, and was upheld by a circuit court in 2013. Fremont reaffirmed the ordinance in a second referendum in 2014, with 60 percent of voters in favor. Years of raucous debate split families and neighbors, inspired acts of vandalism, brought media attention from far afield, and drove hundreds of Latino residents to leave. Since the second referendum, the city has held an uneasy peace over the ordinance, which goes largely unenforced. Many Latinos who left have returned. But the City Council still sets aside budget money for the possibility they will wind up back in court.
What about those lost middle-class wages? Think they might be contributing to a sense of loss in places like Fremont? I'll remind you that Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, on the website of which can be found cheery holiday-themed items such as this one:

There's also this, the leading item on the site right now:
Giving thanks for the magic of the marketplace, the invisible hand of strangers, and no turkey czars

... Like in previous years, most of you probably didn’t call your local supermarket ahead of time and order a Thanksgiving turkey this year. Why not? Because you automatically assumed that a turkey would be there when you showed up, and it probably was there when you appeared “unannounced” at your local grocery store and selected your Thanksgiving bird. Or it will be there today or tomorrow when you do your holiday grocery shopping, or when you “skip the trip” to the grocery store and get 2-hour delivery from Amazon Prime Now (fresh and frozen turkeys now available in some markets e.g., New York City, DC, Chicago, Seattle, and LA).

The reason your Thanksgiving turkey was waiting for you without an advance order? Because of the economic concepts of “spontaneous order,” “self-interest,” and the “invisible hand” of the free market. Turkeys appeared in your local grocery stores primarily because of the “self-interest” (greed?) of thousands of turkey farmers, truck drivers, and supermarket owners and employees who are complete strangers to you and your family. But all of those strangers throughout the turkey supply chain co-operated on your behalf and were led by the “invisible hand” to make sure your family had a turkey (or two) on the table to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. The “invisible hand” that was responsible for your holiday turkey is just one of millions of everyday examples of the “miracle of the marketplace” where “individually selfish decisions must lead to a collectively efficient outcome,” as economist Steven E. Landsburg observed.
(Emphasis in the original.)

Is it possible that some of the "individually selfish decisons" that led to all these cost-cutting efficiencies might have something to do with the sense of displacement in much of America? We make the jobs harder and pay people less for them; eventually native-born Americans don't want the jobs, and then we resent the immigrants who take them instead.

That's a part of the "miracle of the marketplace" that's never mentioned in the Arthur Brooks column.

Friday, November 23, 2018


One adverb in the lede of this Politico story tells you everything you need to know about whst the media thinks of Sherrod Brown:
Democrat Sherrod Brown just won reelection resoundingly in a Trump state running on Trump’s issues — taking a hard line on trade and helping blue-collar workers.

Now the Ohio senator is talking increasingly like he’s prepared to take on the president himself.
(Emphasis added.)

"Resoundingly"? Um, not really. He won by 6.4 points, a much smaller margin of victory than those of other possible 2020 presidential candidates -- Bernie Sanders (who won by 40 points), Kirsten Gillibrand (33 points), Amy Klobuchar (24.1 points, in a state Donald Trump nearly won in 2016), and Elizabeth Warren (24 points). Scandal-plagued Bob Menendez (who's obviously not running for president) even ran better than Brown -- he won by 10.6 points.

I don't mean to denigrate Brown, whom I like. Also, I realize he ran and won in a state that's becoming increasingly red. But it's clear that the press loves the idea that Democrats need to top their ticket with a white male who's a white-working-class whisperer and who occasionally agrees with Trump in order to win. If any of the candidates named above, including Klobuchar, had won by single digits, there's no way the win would have been called "resounding." Brown will do extremely in the media primary if he decides to run.


You remember the statistics:
In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, news of a migrant caravan moving through Mexico toward the United States dominated the airwaves....

After the elections, however, interest in the caravan fell sharply at all three networks....

From Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, the seven days immediately preceding election day, Grabien data found the word “caravan” was spoken 1,202 times on Fox News, 834 times on CNN and 586 times on MSNBC.

From Nov. 7 to to Nov. 13, the seven days immediately after the election, Fox News mentioned the word “caravan” just 203 times – an 83 percent drop in references – CNN 75 times and MSNBC 110 times.
According to the conventional wisdom, the caravan, like Ebola in 2014, was a phony issue meant to scare Republican voters. Republicans and Fox News talked about it incessantly before Election Day, and the non-conservative press played along, but no one on the right really cared, and the subject was unceremoniously dropped as soon as the polls closed.

But as I said a week after Election Day, "I never believed that -- right-wingers are always talking about how evil immigration is."

We can see what's happening now:
President Trump issued a Thanksgiving Day threat to close the “whole” southern border if Mexico can’t control the migrant caravan, which the president claimed is filled with at least “500 serious criminals.”

“If we find that it’s uncontrollable,” then “we will close entry into the country for period of time until we can get it under control. The whole border,” Trump told reporters at Mar-a-lago Thursday.

Citing unrest from the migrant caravan in Tijuana, Mexico, Trump threatened to halt commerce with Mexico if the southern ally doesn’t clamp down on the caravan.

“We will close the border and that means that Mexico’s not going to be able to sell their cars into the United States until it’s open,” Trump said.
This was a couple of days after the White House authorized the use of force by military troops at the border, in likely violation of the Posse CDComitatus Act (although Defense Secretary Jim Mattis now says the troops won't be armed).

Also, here's the lead story at right now:

I wonder what the number of mentions will be for the word "caravan" on cable news in the next couple of weeks. The story was clearly ginned up for the election, but not just for the election. Immigration is now the main battle in the right's culture war, so much so that it's the day after Thanksgiving and we're barely hearing conservatives talk about "the war on Christmas." The caravan as a scare story isn't going away.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Maurren Dowd has wriiten a Thanksgiving column that will be praised, and even wept over, by many readers. It's about her relationship with conservative members of her family, particularly the brothers who've appeared in many of her earlier columns.

One is no longer with us. He taught Maureen a lot about the world, and while some of it sounds to me like mansplaining, she misses him.
My older brother Michael taught me many things.

He taught me to hold vinyl records gingerly at the edges, so I wouldn’t smudge them, and how to wipe them down with a soft cloth before returning them to their sleeves....

Michael, 17 years older, taught me how to tie my shoes, scrub under my fingernails, parallel park, brew loose tea, play bridge and Scrabble, and how to differentiate between “nauseous” and “nauseated.” He taught me that Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco and Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans were the epitome of cool.

He could not teach me not to be terrified of roller coasters. But in everything else, I was an eager student.
But in the end they weren't as close.
... when George W. Bush was president, a chill entered the relationship. At family holiday dinners, Michael, a conservative like most of my family, would mock me about my critical columns on the Iraq invasion.

“If there was a hurricane, you’d blame it on W.,” he’d say.

And then there was, and I did.

When Michael died after a bout with pneumonia in 2007, I sat on my couch for days and grappled with how my job had hurt our relationship. I never wanted to go through that again.
Now she's at odds with her brother Kevin, a Trump voter who coached Brett Kavanaugh at Georgetown Prep and became his friend. She and Kevin disagree on Kavanaugh (and Trump), but decide to go ahead with a planned trip together to Monument Valley. They discuss the way politics can strain relationships, and this leads to a pronouncement from Kevin.
I told him that I worried about the estrangement I went through with Michael, but that I had to be honest in the column. I thanked him for not going on TV to burn me, like Laura Ingraham’s brother, or those six siblings of Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona who did ads during the midterms supporting his Democratic opponent.

“If you did an unfair hatchet job on him, I’d be very upset,” Kevin said of Kavanaugh. “But politics should not be the determining factor in your life, high up on your emotional scale. You should realize that family always is more important. I always used to teach my kids growing up, when they’d have fights, I said, ‘Just remember, when you really need somebody, the only one that’s going to be compelled to run toward you is your family, not your friends.’”
But that's not true for everyone. Think of the men who died in the AIDS epidemic, many of whom were abandoned by family, but not by friends. Think of Emily Scheck, a college runner we learned about this month whose family cut her off without a cent when they found out that she's gay, and who was nearly forced to give up the money she'd received through a GoFundMe campaign, until public pressure led to an NCAA ruling saying that she could keep the donated cash.

For that matter, think of Christine Blasey Ford, who, after she accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault, received only muted support from her family.

Kevin may believe that politics should not be "high up on your emotional scale," and may believe that "your friends" aren't as important as family, but he gets weepy when Kavanaugh is sworn in.
When we got back to the inn, with the desert monuments blazing red in the sunset, the Kavanaugh ceremonial swearing-in at the White House was starting. We sat down in front of the TV, next to each other and yet so far apart.

When Kavanaugh thanked his “amazing and fearless” friends, including those from the “coaching” world and his “tightknit Catholic community here in the D.C. area,” I looked over. A tear was running down Kevin’s cheek.
I don't know what happened between Maureen and Michael. She seems to blame herself -- "When Michael died after a bout with pneumonia in 2007, I sat on my couch for days and grappled with how my job had hurt our relationship." But she also says he mocked her for her columns. Who really caused the rift?

Family members will always be there for you -- except when they aren't. Some people will reject a child for being gay, or a sister for insufficient loyalty to Bushism. If you've done either of these things, I think you should rethink your value system.

And who has relied more on friends and tribal loyalties than Brett Kavanaugh? He's a product of the Georgetown Prep tribe and the Federalist Society tribe and the Republican tribe, as well as the “tightknit Catholic community here in the D.C. area,” which overlaps all three tribes. These tribes seem to be his true family.

I'm sorry that there was a chill in Maureen Dowd's relationship with her late brother. I'm sorrier that Emily Scheck has been disowned by her family. I'm sorry that many people will go to dinner today looking to pick fights with their relatives, and if you're on the receiving end of that kind of trolling, I don't blame you if you turn to friends instead for comfort.

Family is important. But it isn't everything.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Rush Limbaugh said this on his show today:
The media is outraged again by President Trump — who may be the greatest president of our lifetimes, with one or two exceptions.
Interesting that Limbaugh calls Trump "the greatest president of our lifetimes," then hedges and adds, "with one or two exceptions." He doesn't want to slight Saint Reagan or Dubya -- but I wonder at what point Republicans will start saying that they no longer believe Reagan is the greatest president of their lifetimes. They all still pay lip service to Reagan, but I think their favorite is now Trump, and sooner or later they'll admit it.

Limbaugh continues:
Trump’s out there saying he can’t imagine anybody, anybody but himself being TIME magazine’s Man of the Year. He just can’t see it. There’s not anybody even close. Of course, the media says, “How dare he speak this way? This is just so unseemly! This is not how polite society refers to themselves. It’s not done this way.”

Trump’s out there telling the media that an “Obama judge” struck down his new asylum executive order, and this must have really ticked off the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts....

Also, the media cannot handle the fact that Trump is not gonna somehow punish the Saudis for supposedly killing the so-called Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi....

This stuff just never ends. You know the great thing? It never seems to get Trump down. He doubles down on this stuff still.

He revs up and he rams it back down their throat every time.
And now we've come to the hero-worship part of Limbaugh's monologue -- but it's odd, because Limbaugh describes Trump as both an ultra-high-status male and a weary guy who needs a hug:
There’s a tape supposedly of the last moments of the [Khashoggi] murder. “I don’t need to listen to it. Why should I want to listen to that?” He just... Do you realize how many people would have caved by now? Folks, do you realize how many people, years ago, would have totally caved to this never-ending assault? I mean, it is an oppressive assault that never stops on Trump personally! Now, he’s an alpha male, and if you’ve ever wondered what one is — because they’re exceedingly rare in America today.

Would you agree with me on this? Alpha males... If you want to know, alpha males are the problem as far as modern-day feminazis and their wuss male supporters happen to be. The alpha male is exactly the kind of male that the left thinks we need to exterminate, and you’re seeing one in action....
I'd have thought a beta male would be the kind of guy who'd refuse to listen to the Khashoggi murder tape, but that's just me.
Trump survives it and he seemed to feed off of this stuff. He seems to love provoking these people.... I’ll tell you, it is a joy to watch, and it is why I said when I introduced him at the final rally in Cape Girardeau on the night before the election, “Thank God that Donald Trump puts up with all of this.”

He doesn’t just put up with it. He returns fire. He just points it right back at them....
But even though Trump is a superior being, a happy warrior, a guy who gives as good as he gets -- he gets sad sometimes, you know? It's hard out here for an alpha male!
The fact that Trump continually hits ’em back and continually provokes them? Do not take it for granted and appreciate it each and every day, folks, because there isn’t another one of him. There isn’t anybody....

Trump needs encouragement, he needs support, he needs applause, and he needs to be exceedingly, consistently defended by his supporters. Do not... In other words, do not adopt the attitude, “Hey, you know, Trump can handle it. He’s a big boy. He knows how to deal with it.” Cannot do this alone. He’s willing to. And he’s putting up... Donald Trump has already put up with more grief than the average human being can withstand in the average human being’s day-to-day life.
Yes, there are parents who have children in U.S. government concentration camps, there's a woman whose husband-to-be was brutally murdered and hacked to pieces because he criticized a regime Trump won't condemn, but it's Trump who has "already put up with more grief than the average human being can withstand." It's Trump, the alpha male, we should feel sorry for.

The racist uncle you'll try to ignore at dinner tomorrow listened to this monologue today and every word made him want to pump his fist. God bless America.


The New York Times reported yesterday that President Trump tried to do something everyone on the planet knows he wanted (and still wants) to do:
President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.
Obviously this would have been a flagrant abuse of power -- but I wonder if much of America truly understands that. I don't mean MAGA voters, who obviously believe that Trump can do whatever he pleases -- I mean Americans across the political spectrum who are only moderately well informed. Do they understand that a president really, really isn't supposed to use federal law enforcement in the service of his own grudges? If he'd done what this story says he wanted to do, would most Americans have been seriously upset? Would they have accepted that this was a major politcal crisis?

I have strong doubts. I seriously believe Trump could have brazened this out. Maybe he would have been impeached, though that was never going to happen with a Republican House even in response to something this flagrant, and if impeachment happened, a conviction requires 67 votes in the Senate, which has 49 Democrats now and will soon have 47. I think nearly all Republicans would have fallen in lockstep and voted to acquit.

I don't believe the public has a firm conviction that the Justice Department should remain above politics. I think Americans might have found the score-settling distasteful or beneath a president's dignity, but remember, they're not wild about either Hillary Clinton or James Comey. Clinton has a 41%/57% favorable/unfavorable rating in the latest Gallup poll, and in 2016, 56% of respondents to a CNN poll disapproved of the decision not to recommend criminal charges against her, while only 35% approved. In an April 2018 Axios/Survey Monkey poll, 35% of respondents said they believe Comey over Trump, 32% believed Trump over Comey, and 25% didn't believe either man. Republican propaganda has successfully besmirched the Russia investigation -- in a new CBS poll, 51% of respondents see the investigation as politcally motivated, while only 46% see it as justified (although clear majorities want the investigation to continue and to be protected by Congress).

Trump won't be indicted while he's in office. He may well be impeached, but if it's on obstruction charges, I don't think there'll be enough of a shift in public opinion to persuade Republican senators that they should vote to convict. I think the public split on Trump will be basically unchanged after an obstruction case is laid out. I believe Trump could have gotten away with even more, because most Americans don't care enough about abuses of this kind.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Earlier today I read Dov Fischer's American Spectator piece about the midterms, and I debated whether to write a post about it because, hey, it's The American Spectator -- who's paid attention to The American Spectator since the Bill Clinton years? But now I see that the cockamamie theory advanced in the piece is spreading.

According to Fischer, Democrats focused all of America's attention on elections in Florida and Georgia (and did so, of course, by cheating) -- and then, when nobody was looking, stole several House seats in California.

No, really:
Do you remember three-card monte, that wonderful street card game with two black cards and a red card, where a huckster has your eyes focused on “the red card,” and you find that you are so good at following the red card that you never are wrong in knowing where it is. So you give the guy ten bucks in front of eight other people crowded around, all of whom keep guessing wrong and losing money. And — sonovogun — that bet is the first time you ever get it wrong! You pick the wrong card, lose the ten bucks, and can’t figure out what you missed....

While your eyes were riveted on the electoral red card — the cheating in Florida and Georgia — the street hucksters pulled a fast one on all of youze and swiped a bunch of House seats, from right under your noses, on the other coast. Honest, admit it: you never saw it, did you? ...

So here is what happened. All these Republicans Congressional candidates in Orange County and in other parts of the People’s Democratic Republic of California (PDRC) came out of election night as winners.... And then, each day, as more and more provisional and other ballots kept emerging in the California count, the Republican leads dwindled. But you had your eyes on the red card — the red states of Florida and Georgia....

Every day the Republican leads dwindled in the PDRC — and no one was watching. Whence did all these ballots keep coming?
Whence did all these ballots keep coming? They came via the normal voting process in California. California allows mail-in votes, and ballots are accepted if they're postmarked as late as Election Day. And as George Skelton of the L.A. Times explained last week:
Republicans have a higher propensity for voting. They often vote early by mail, and those ballots are counted right away. The numbers are released soon after the polls close on election night, giving GOP candidates an immediate boost. Democratic voters, however, generally need more prodding and often don’t decide to cast a ballot until late.
So Democratic votes are tabulated late.

Dov Fischer doesn't believe that. He believes Democrats cheated in order to create two tight races in Florida and one in Georgia (all of which they lost, so the cheating didn't seem to be very effective) -- and that created the opportunity for Democrats to cheat in California and win a few House seats (which they actually didn't need, since they already had a House majority). I don't know if Fischer believes that this was all one big plot -- that the cheating in the Southeast was never intended to change the outcome of elections there, but was just an elaborate ruse to flip a few House seats in the West. Alternately, he may believe that the California cheaters just seized an opportunity to cheat when the first cheaters did their cheating.

In any event, it now appears that Rush Limbaugh believes Fischer's scenario. Here's what he said on his show today:
... I noted yesterday that in Orange County every Republican congressman lost. Orange County is one of the last counties in California where Republicans have a chance, and they lost every congressional seat. But I only told you half the story.

Over half of those Republicans won on election night. Some of those Republicans won by eight points — and then counting the undervotes and counting the overvotes and counting the late votes. I mean, we didn’t see what was going on out there because everybody was focused on Florida, the recounts in Florida. But they played games out in Orange County....

... nobody knows this because everybody’s attention was directed toward the Florida recount. That’s the one that was sexy. Most people are no idea what was going on in Orange County until the news was magically reported a couple of days after the election or maybe a week after that....
I bring this up because the average American really has no idea why election results change significantly after Election Day. Americans expect election results to be obvious within hours after the polls close. The mainstream media generally doesn't explain this -- doesn't explain that counting mail-in ballots and provisional ballots can take time, doesn't explain that there are party differences in voting habits, doesn't explain, in other words, that what happened in California is perfectly normal and understandable.

Into this void step people like Rush Limbaugh. He'll explain what happened, and the explanation, of course, is that Democrats are evil people who routinely subvert democracy. He says of Democrats, "Folks, they just never sleep, and they never stop and they do not accept losing. They do not acknowledge it" -- which doesn't explain the 2016 presidential election, or the results of the top races this year in Florida and Georgia (and Texas), or the results of every congressional election between 2010 and 2016.

The theories of Republican conspiratorialists are in wide circulation -- Limbaugh has millions of listeners. The truth isn't nearly as well known.


Democratic congressman Tim Ryan, one of the leaders of the campaign to deny Nancy Pelosi the speakership, says that his party is too regional:
“We raise all of our money from the coasts, and our leadership is from the coasts—[Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer’s from New York and Pelosi’s from California,” he says, adding that of the Democrats currently running for the top six leadership slots in the House, only New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan hails from a land-locked state.... “I think it’s a real blind spot because it ends up making us look like coastal elites. We walk right into the narrative, you know?”
At the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard concurs:
Nearly 7 in 10 Democrats in the new House majority are from the East and West coasts, the latest sign of the party’s lack of connection with the heartland and South.

And even more dramatic, there will be more Democratic members from liberal California than from 36 other states combined, according to an analysis from the bipartisan Washington firm Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen, and Thomas.

“Democrats now dominate the coasts,” said the election analysis.
There'll be more House Democrats from California than from a large number of other states combined primarily because there are so many House members overall from California -- California has 53 House members, more than the 21 smallest states combined. And in the map below I see blue all across the country, except in sparsely populated Idaho Wyoming, Montana (which retains its Democratic senator), and the Dakotas -- whereas Republicans have no House members at all from New England.

Does anyone remember the Republican Party of the 1990s? Here was the congressional leadership that emerged from the 1996 election:
Senate Majority Leader: Trent Lott of Mississippi

Senate Majority Whip: Don Nickles of Oklahoma

Speaker of the House: Newt Gingrich of Georgia

House Majority Leader: Dick Armey of Texas

House Majority Whip: Tom DeLay of Texas
I never heard a pundit say that Republicans were out of touch with a significant portion of America because they were so concentrated in the South. At most I heard that eventually the GOP would pay for this regionalism, as America underwent demographic change. And while this party led us to an impeachment most of America didn't want and Gingrich eventually fell, the next presidential election put Republican George W. Bush -- from Texas -- in the White House.

It's possible that Democrats will need to expand their appeal now. It's also possible that Democratic "regional values" aren't really regional. Democrats this year flipped House seats in Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and possibly Utah. Democrats nearly won a governor's race in Georgia and a Senate seat in Texas. And why not? The Southern-based GOP expanded its influence in the 21st century to the Midwest. Democratic "coastal" values might be spreading to parts of America far from any ocean.

(Tim Ryan quote via Charlie Pierce.)

Monday, November 19, 2018


Writing for The New York Times, David Leonhardt makes a critical distinction between the two parties' complaints about electoral problems in the 2018 midterm elections:
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, has refused to call her opponent’s victory legitimate. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey have gone further, using a version of “stolen” to describe the Georgia governor’s race.

Many conservatives are arguing that these statements are no different from the recent accusations of vote-counting fraud made by President Trump, Marco Rubio and others. I disagree. Trump, Rubio and others did something much worse: They alleged fraud where none existed and tried to discredit legitimate processes for counting votes.

Abrams, Brown and Booker, by contrast, criticized blatantly undemocratic behavior: the attempts by Republicans in Georgia (and elsewhere) to win elections by making it hard for many people, especially African-Americans, to vote. I’m glad that Abrams used her concession message this weekend to call out the undemocratic behavior of her opponent, Brian Kemp. It may well have been the difference between defeat and victory.
Good for Leonhardt -- but wait, there's an "on the other hand" coming:
And yet I also have a problem with the specific words that Brown, Booker and, to a lesser extent, Abrams used. I recognize many readers may disagree with me here, but I think that reaching for the most aggressive plausible rhetoric isn’t the ideal move after a close election. As Josh Douglas of the University of Kentucky tweeted, “We must fight back against voter suppression, but our democracy depends on loser recognizing legitimacy of winner.”

Ronald Klain, a former top aide to Al Gore, notes that he pointedly did not use such words to describe his 2000 loss.

In Slate, the legal scholar Richard Hasen lays out three objections: One, the approach of Abrams and others “feeds a growing cycle of mistrust and delegitimization of the election process;” two, it remains unproven whether voter suppression was the difference in the election; and three, it focuses attention on “the wrong question” — the magnitude of the effect of suppression, rather than the basic injustice of it.
So if I understand Leonhardt correctly, he's arguing that the electoral problems Democrats have complained about are much worse than what Republicans have cited (Republicans, in fact, are citing nonexistent acts of cheating) -- but he's also arguing that we should use less-charged language. Democracy was literally at stake in Georgia, and yet Leonhardt says that we should be quieter than the Republicans when they complain about nothing.

You know the old saying attributed to Robert Frost -- "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel"? Leonhardt is arguing that we should take our own side (and democracy's side) in this quarrel -- but we shouldn't do it in a way that gets anyone upset.

He goes on to write:
Regardless of your views on this issue, I encourage you to read Ari Berman’s documentation in Mother Jones of the many ways that Kemp tried to prevent his fellow Georgians from voting. It’s truly shameful behavior.
I agree that you should read what Berman wrote. While Berman isn't willing to use the word (he writes, "We don’t know yet—and might never know—how many people were disenfranchised or dissuaded from voting in the state"), the evidence he amasses makes it xseem obvious that, yes, Kemp stole the election. But don't say so, because you might upset people.

Also see Charlie Pierce on this subject.

LOOK! WE HAVE A LAWYER WHO'S A LADY! has the inside scoop!
Republicans had a secret weapon in the Florida recount fight

How a GOP lawyer managed politics, the law and big egos to defend Rick Scott.
But the story provides far less than it promises:
Jessica Furst Johnson was supposed to fly from Washington to Orlando this week for a post-election Walt Disney World vacation with her husband and their two small children.

Instead, Johnson, the 37-year-old general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, found herself in Tallahassee, quarterbacking the GOP's legal response to the two-recount Senate contest between the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson, and Gov. Rick Scott, his Republican challenger.

Her opposite number in this fight, Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias, had more than 50,000 Twitter followers, a resume that includes serving as the general counsel on two presidential campaigns and a ream of profiles in national publications. Meanwhile, Johnson operated in relative obscurity.

... But for Johnson — a Sarasota native, a University of Florida law school graduate and an admirer of Scott's — there was another dimension to the fight.

"This is personal for me," she said in a telephone interview with NBC News on Friday.
You see where this is going, right? It's not really an analysis of how Johnson beat the Democratic superlawyer. (I think it helped a lot that her candidate got more votes.) Instead, what we have here is a soft story about a young Republican lawyer who's also a wife and mom, pitched to NBC News because the next Congress will have more women than ever (at least 123, according to FiveThirtyEight), but the GOP will have fewer women in the next Congress than in the current one (only 19). The GOP wants a story out there about a Republican woman suburban moms can relate to, and NBC's Jonathan Allen (formerly of Politico) is happy to oblige.

So what was the secret to success for our Republican lawyer?
... as she downed almond-milk lattes, Johnson managed the battle plan, which Republicans say included more than 100 paid and volunteer lawyers working in courtrooms and at recount centers across the state. Except for a 28-hour roundtrip scramble back to Washington to see her children, Johnson choreographed the response from Scott's campaign headquarters.

Friends say Johnson was the right person in the right place at the right time for Scott and the GOP because she's able to keep her cool in the midst of chaos, manage people and tasks, and analyze both legal and political questions with knowledge and judgment.

"She's very even-keeled and always easy to work with," said veteran political lawyer Elliot Berke, who is president of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
"The most important thing about Jessica is she is someone who can manage a lot of different projects with very different personalities and have none of them upset at her. Politics is full of people who create conflict as a tool, and Jessica does not create conflict," [Brad] Todd[, a senior adviser to the Scott campaign,] said.
NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin, who also worked with Johnson at the NRCC, said her mix of political and legal talents is truly rare.

"I’ve been watching her be a badass for a while now," Martin said. "She's someone who has a political mind, who sees the optics of every situation."
Wow, that's deep insider knowledge.

I'm sure Jessica Furst Johnson is excellent at her work. But there's no story here -- except a story about a party that's white and male and intends to stay that way, but doesn't want voters outside the base to think about that.