Friday, March 22, 2019


Matt K. Lewis, right-leaning commentator for the Daily Beast and CNN, is being deservedly dragged for this tweet:

Here's the obvious rebuttal to this, from the Census Bureau:
Urban areas make up only 3 percent of the entire land area of the country but are home to more than 80 percent of the population. Conversely, 97 percent of the country’s land mass is rural but only 19.3 percent of the population lives there.
Brooklyn (71 square miles of land) contains more people than Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota combined (245,792 square miles total). We could make similar comparisons all across the country.

But let's take Lewis's idea seriously. Look at the map at the top of the post. Now look at this map:

I see a lot of red on this map, too. But it's not a map of the 2016 election -- it's the county-by-county map of the 2008 election. In that election, Barack Obama won the Electoral College 365-173. He won the popular vote by 7 points. His popular vote margin was nearly 10 million. He won unambiguously.

But look at all the red. A clear majority of the landmass on the map is red.

Does Matt Lewis think we should have handed the 2008 election to John McCain, because of much land McCain Country included? And if not, why not?

Tell us, Matt.


Many Americans have expressed approval of the swift action by the New Zealand government to ban assault weapons in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. To the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, this is "chilling":
Democrats celebrating New Zealand gun ban expose the Left's authoritarian impulses

New Zealand's decision to swiftly ban guns in the wake of Christchurch shooting has been drawing praise among Democrats — in the process revealing the Left's chilling authoritarian impulses.

... it has been absolutely chilling to witness how many American liberals and prominent Democrats cheered the actions of the government of New Zealand. Even as liberals often insist that nobody is talking about taking away guns, many applauded the decision of a government to quickly confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens without any debate or legal arguments.
All gun control is "chilling" to right-wingers, but why is this being called "authoritarian"? The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines "auithoritarianism" as "any political system that concentrates power in the hands of a leader or a small elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people."

But the government of New Zealand is "constitutionally responsible to the body of the people." New Zealand is a democracy. And the moves being made by the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are taking place well within legal bounds.

As CNN notes,
Ardern can essentially announce there will be new gun laws because she and her coalition -- among her Labour Party and the nationalist New Zealand First party and the Green Party -- control the Parliament. They still have to write and debate new laws, but since the one governing coalition controls the one house of government, there's a good chance they'll succeed.

Also, unlike in the US, there is bipartisan support for the new assault weapons ban. The opposition party in New Zealand has endorsed quick action to ban assault weapons. The brake on the actions of the New Zealand Parliament is that if voters don't like what they do, they'll pick a new party in the next election.
The legislation is not in place yet, but as The New Zealand Herald explains,
Legislation giving effect to the ban will be rushed through Parliament under urgency – Ardern expected the new law to be in place by April 11.
"Urgency" is an established part of the New Zealand legislative process:
The House of Representatives sometimes goes into “urgency” to make progress on business additional to what would be possible under the normal rules for sitting hours and progress of business.

A Minister may move an urgency motion for specified business, particularly bills. The motion can be moved without advance notice, and is not debated by the House, although the Minister must inform the House why the Government wishes to take urgency.
The website of the New Zealand parliament is inviting comment on the proposed changes (a brave move, in my opinion -- I'm sure there have been some extremely vile comments from the American gun community and the international white separatist community). This isn't being done in a ham-fisted way.

So "authoritarianism," in Klein's piece, means "stuff we conservatives don't like." We already that conservatives use the term "fake news" to mean "news stories we don't like." We know they use "socialism" to refer to "government policies we don't like, whether or not they decrease private ownership of the means of production." (To the right, everything a liberal wants is socialism. Hell, I'm old enough to remember the 1990s, when everything Bill Clinton wanted, even the very centrist stuff, was described as "socialism.")

So "authoritarianism" is another right-wing euphemism. Klein is just stomping his feet and demanding that the right have its way on everything -- if not, he'll fascist-bait his political opponents, and eveyone on his side will nod in agreement.


We know the Republicans cwant to dominate our political system much more than they want to preserve democracy -- gerrymandering, vote suppression, and eleventh-hour efforts meant to thwart the will of any Democrats who manage to get elected in purple states all make that clear. But now we see that Republicans are prepared to keep winning presidential elections in perpetuity without ever winning the popular vote

The Washington Examiner David Drucker reports:
Senior Republicans are resigned to President Trump losing the popular vote in 2020, conceding the limits of the flamboyant incumbent’s political appeal and revealing just how central the Electoral College has become to the party’s White House prospects.

Some Republicans say the problem is Trump's populist brand of partisan grievance. It's an attitude tailor-made for the Electoral College in the current era of regionally Balkanized politics, but anathema to attracting a broad, national coalition that can win the most votes, as past presidents did when seeking re-election amid a booming economy. Others argue that neither Trump, nor possibly any Republican, could win the popular vote when most big states are overwhelmingly liberal.

“California, Illinois, and New York, make it very, very difficult for anybody on our side to ever again to win the popular vote,” said David Carney, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire. Asked if he expects Trump to defy the odds next year, Carney said flatly, “No,” but added, “the president shouldn’t worry about it. Two hundred seventy — that’s what people remember.”
I've read a lot of high-minded defenses of the Electoral College; many liberal writers, most recently New York magazine's Eric Levitz and Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times, have thoroughly rebutted those defenses.

But I want to direct your attention to the wording of right-wing rhetoric on the Electoral College. Above, a GOP strategist warns that “California, Illinois, and New York, make it very, very difficult for anybody on our side to ever again to win the popular vote.” (Never mind the fact that the second most populous state is Texas. Purple Florida is third, followed by New York, purple Pennsylvania, and then Illinois.)

Recently, President Trump tweeted this:

Levitz, Bouie, and others make clear that you can't win the popular vote in a presidential election just by winning big states or big cities. I think most of the Electoral College's defenders know that, though I'm sure Trump doesn't.

But these aren't just arguments meant to seem logical. At the risk of stating the obvious, they're meant to suggest that the invasion of the "real America" -- "Smaller States & the entire Midwest," in Trump's words -- could come to our presidential elections as well, if Democrats get their way. The right already rejects the notion that city dwellers and residents of big states are Americans, because we vote liberal and many of us are non-white. The Electoral College argument is the standard argument made by right-wing fearmongers -- drug-addled urban criminals will lay siege to suburbs and rural communities, an immigrant "invasion" is coming over the border -- extended to the processes of democracy. "They" will have too much power unless the Electoral College remains in force. "They" will take over.

We won't win this argument with logic. It's going straight to the fear centers of the conservative brain.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Politico reports:
President Donald Trump has a low approval rating. He is engaging in bitter Twitter wars and facing metastasizing investigations.

But if the election were held today, he’d likely ride to a second term in a huge landslide, according to multiple economic models with strong track records of picking presidential winners and losses.

Credit a strong U.S. economy featuring low unemployment, rising wages and low gas prices — along with the historic advantage held by incumbent presidents.
We can't dismiss the possibility -- maybe even the likelihood -- of a Trump win. Nine of the last twelve elected presidents who ran for reelection won.

But some of the numbers these prognosticators are slinging around strain credulity.
Yale economist Ray Fair, who pioneered this kind of modeling, ... shows Trump winning by a fair margin in 2020 based on the economy and the advantage of incumbency.

“Even if you have a mediocre but not great economy — and that’s more or less consensus for between now and the election — that has a Trump victory and by a not-trivial margin,” winning 54 percent of the popular vote to 46 for the Democrat, he said.
No one has won the popular vote in a presidential election by 8 points since 1988, and Fair is predicting this for a president who lost the popular vote last time and who can't get his approval numbers above the low 40s.

We're told:
Fair’s model also predicted a Trump win in 2016 though it missed on Trump’s share of the popular vote.
That's putting it mildly -- as Fair wrote in December 2016,
The final ex ante prediction below was for the Democrats to receive 44.0 percent of the two-party vote. It looks like Clinton will receive 51.1 percent of the two-party vote, so the error is 7.1 percentage points.
That's quite a miss.

Here's an even wilder prediction:
“The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it,” said Donald Luskin, chief investment officer of TrendMacrolytics, a research firm whose model correctly predicted Trump’s 2016 win when most opinion polls did not. “I just don’t see how the blue wall could resist all that.”

... Luskin’s current model — which looks at GDP growth, gas prices, inflation, disposable income, tax burden and payrolls — has Trump winning by a blowout margin of 294 electoral votes.
In case you're confused, Luskin makes clear in this video that he means Trump will get 294 more electoral votes than the Democrat -- a 416-122 electoral vote margin, in other words.

Again, no candidate has been blown out that decisively in the Electoral College since 1988.

Let me explain what would have to happen for this prediction to come true. I'm looking at a list of the most and least Republican states in the 2016 presidential election. Reading off the list starting with the least Republican states, you get D.C. (not a state, of course, but it has three electoral votes), then Hawaii, Vermont, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, and Washington State.

If the Democrat wins only those states, he or she will exceed 122 electoral votes -- and even if that's close enough for Luskin to claim his model was right, the model assumes the Democrat won't win three states in which Trump got less than 40% of the vote in 2016: Rhode Island, Illinois, and Oregon. Luskin's model also assumes that the Democrat will lose New Mexico, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Colorado, Virginia, and Minnesota, all of which gave Trump less than 45% of the vote.

Sorry, that won't happen.

These guys put a lot of faith in the notion that the standard measures of the economy reflect how ordinary people feel about economic trends. The numbers were great going into 2018, but Republicans lost many seats in the House, as well as in governors' mansions and state legislatures. That's because ordinary Americans aren't really sharing in the boom times.

The economy still might be good enough to carry Trump to victory, along with the power of incumbency, gas prices, and other factors these analysts measure. But unless Democrats pick a godawful candidate, or Howard Schultz takes even more votes from the Democrats than polls now suggest (while taking next to none from Trump), the president won't win in a blowout.

Nevertheless, he really might win.

By the way, Luskin in 2016 was all over the map: His model predicted a Trump win, but at the last minute he predicted that his own model was wrong and there was a 51% likelihood that Clinton would win, albeit with a plurality of the popular vote.

He added:
If Trump wins, it will be with a majority of the popular vote (75% certainty).
So he made three predictions and one was right. I'm not going to put too much stock in what he's saying now.


Axios's Mike Allen thinks this is a scoop:
Scoop: Biden advisers debate Stacey Abrams as out-of-the-gate VP choice

Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.
I don't get it. I told you this might happen two days ago, based on a CNN story posted on Monday:
As he prepares for a possible run, Biden has hunkered down for strategy sessions with a tight knit group of advisers and held meetings with top Democrats and elected officials. One subject of discussion has been the early selection of a running mate, which one aide said would help keep the focus of the primary fight on the ultimate goal of unseating Trump.

Last week, Biden stirred speculation as he met privately with Stacey Abrams....
So: not really a scoop.

Jonathan Chait thinks this is "a brilliant idea for both" Biden and Abrams. I think it might work, though I can't tell.

In the process of explaining why he thinks it's a genius move, Chait repeats some conventional wisdom:
The pairing would make Biden’s race feel more serious. Political reporters have approached a Biden race with the unstated assumption that his polling lead is an artifact of high name recognition. His best day will be his first, and he will slowly gaffe his way to irrelevance, as he has with every previous race. Paradoxically, he is a polling front-runner who needs to get the press corps to take him seriously.
What I've never understood is why smart people believe a Biden run in the aftermath of his tenure as vice president will work out exactly the way his previous runs did. He may be the same Biden, but his stature within the party is very different. To state the obvious, in 1988 and 2008, he hadn't spent eight years as the second in command to a president who's still extremely popular among Democrats. Now he has. How can that not make a difference in how voters perceive him?

Imagine if, instead of selecting George H.W. Bush as his running mate in 1980, Ronald Reagan chose one of the other people on the short list, which included such names as Howard Baker, Jack Kemp, Richard Lugar, and Paul Laxalt. Imagine if one of those men, or someone else on the list (remarkably, former president Gerald Ford was under serious consideration) went on to serve eight years as Reagan's VP. Do you think Bush would have secure the 1988 Republican presidential nomination with relative ease, winning 42 contests and 68% of the popular vote? Do you think Bush could have won at all?

In 1988, Bush had a stature he didn't have in 1980 -- he'd spent eight years as the loyal subordinate of a president Republicans greatly admired. You couldn't judge his chances in a presidential nominating contest simply by referring back to his failed 1980 run. But that's how many people assess Biden as a potential candidate.

Yes, but what about the gaffes? I acknowledge that there will be gaffes in a Biden presidential run. But isn't Donald Trump the best possible candidate to run against if you're gaffe-prone? Since 2015, Trump has, on a near-daily basis, set out to establish the proposition that there are no gaffes anymore in politics, at least if you're a white man with an ego -- you just ignore the horrified reactions and plow through as if nothing is wrong, and everyone eventually accepts the notion that you didn't do yourself any damage. Biden has a fairly outsize ego too, and if he's going to commit gaffes, or what used to be called gaffes, he might as well commit them running against someone who'll commit even more of what used to be called gaffes. In that way, if perhaps not in other ways, he really might be the right candidate for the moment.


Grab the world's tiniest violin and play a sad song for President Trump's aides:
Aides struggle to see strategy in Trump’s Conway, McCain fights

The president has repeatedly forced people around him to make painful choices between their loyalties.

... With a single insult-filled morning tweet, tapped out from the White House residence before 8 a.m., the president extended his dispute with [Kellyane] Conway’s anti-Trump spouse, George, into a bewildering second day. By the afternoon, Trump had complemented it with new attacks on a dead man: the late Republican senator and war hero John McCain. Speaking in Ohio, Trump declared that he “never liked [McCain] much ... [and] probably never will.”

... the saga has left even White House aides accustomed to a president who bucks convention feeling uncomfortable.
Oh, boo hoo. So what's the theory as to why Trump is doing this?
Some people close to Trump speculated that he might be consciously trying to remake the news environment — creating a bizarre spectacle to displace criticism of his tepid response to the massacre of dozens of Muslims in New Zealand, the timing of the administration’s decision to ground Boeing’s 737 Max jets, and frenzied anticipation around the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
But Trump lives in the Fox News bubble, where there are no complaints about his response to the New Zealand massacre (his fans have no sympathy for the victims, or for any Muslims). The bubble dwellers don't associate him with the Boeing situation, and they think the Mueller investigation is a wi... do I even have to say it?

I agree with George Conway that Trump has narcissistic personality disorder. I don't agree with those who believe that Trump's attacks on Conway, renewed attacks on McCain, and incessant tweeting last weekend are a sign of mental deterioration or dementia.

Trump is just bored.

Maybe "bored" isn't the right word exactly. He has no battles to fight -- the Mueller report hasn't landed, the shutdown is over, the midterms and the Brett Kavanaugh fight were months ago, the North Korea initiative crashed and burned, the 2020 presidential campaign is just beginning (with too many names for Trump to remember, much less spell or pronounce correctly -- how the hell do you say or spell "Buttigieg"?), and there won't be any significant legislation from this divided Congress anytime soon (surely you didn't think Trump was seriously putting together an infrastructure plan).

Under those circumstances, what do you expect Trump to do all day? Read briefing books? Familiarize himself with issues? He's Donald Trump! He doesn't do that!

And since we're between the sorts of news cycles in which Trump is automatically important -- the way he was during the shutdown, and the way he will be when the Mueller report drops -- Trump has to be asking himself: How do I sustain my brand? The obvious answer: Twitter beefs! Fight with someone! Then fight with someone else! The base loves it! The base thinks it's presidential!

And as long as the base loves Trump, Republicans in Congress have to remain loyal to him or risk primary challenges the next time they run. (Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who recently attacked Trump, is 74 years old, has Parkinson's disease, and won't be up for reelection until 2022, assuming his health holds up. No Republican looking at an election sooner than that wants to be Trump's enemy.)

So to sum up: Why the feuding and tweeting? It builds the brand, it keeps the GOP loyal, and it's something Trump can do when he's bored.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Right-wingers are attacking Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats for seeking to abolish or circumvent the Electoral College. Charlie Pierce offers a history lesson:

That's true. A November 1, 2000, story in the New York Daily News was headlined "Bush Set to Fight Electoral College Loss." Premised on the notion that Al Gore, not George W. Bush, might win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote, the story quoted a Bush aide about the campaign's response if that happened:
"The one thing we don't do is roll over," says a Bush aide. "We fight."

How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign - which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness - a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.

"Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. "You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asks a Bush adviser.
Maybe they wouldn't have been able to persuade Electoral College electors -- who are usually party stalwarts -- to switch their votes. But we know they would have tried, because they told us.

Which is why Dave Weigel is right about a hypothetical future election in which a Republican wins the popular vote and loses the Electoral College:

In 2000, if Gore had won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, and if the GOP perceived that Democrats had a structural advantage that made a similar outcome likely in future presidential cycles, not only would Republicans have been agitating to get rid of the Electoral College, they would have browbeaten Democrats and the mainstream media into supporting the move. They've always been good at that, while Democrats and the media have always been fearful of being attacked by the GOP. If they were unable to prevent the electors from choosing Gore, they might have refused to certify the results of the electoral vote. Even if they didn't go that far, they would have made abolishing the Electoral College the #1 topic of conversation in D.C. throughout the transition and the first few months of the Gore presidency, painting opponents of change as haters of democracy. They also would have treated Gore as an illegitimate president, hamstringing him from Day One, using the circumstances of his victory as an excuse. It wouldn't be long before angry consumers of conservative media were bombarding Democrats in Congress with furious messages demanding the end of the Electoral College. Support for the status quo would be portrayed as left-wing extremism. The Electoral College would have been gone or neutralized by '04.


Fast-forward to today. Here's Matt Schlapp -- head of the American Conservative Union and husband of Mercedes Schlapp, the Trump administration's director of strategic communications --, using the Electoral College debate to make fact-free claims of voter fraud enabled by "open borders" Democrats:

You know why the popular vote's been diminished, Sandra? It's because you literally have Democrats who want to have an open Southern border. They don't want to have borders in our country. When people get released into the interior of our country and they're here illegally, they then want to give them a credential like a driver's license, and then in Kamala Harris's home state of California they have changed all the voting rules so that it is very easy for people who are not on the voting rolls to vote. Or people remain on the voting rolls after they are dead, or after they're no longer eligible to vote.
People talk about that crazy senile Donald Trump insisting that he lost the popular vote only because millions of ineligible people voted for Hillary Clinton. It's widely assumed that he believes this because he's experiencing mental deterioration to go along with his lifelong ego fragility. Smart people laugh this off -- but here's a GOP operative saying the same thing, with, as Lis Power notes in the tweet, no pushback from the "straight news" interviewer on Fox. This will be a mainstream argument going forward not just against a compassionate immigration policy, but against abolishing the Electoral College. And a majority of white America will probably think it makes perfect sense.


We've heard this before -- most notably when Roger Ailes was let go -- but Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman is telling us once again that Fox News really might change soon:
... the network’s opinion hosts and the news division ... have been fighting a cold civil war since Roger Ailes was ousted in July 2016. Fox journalists, bristling at being branded an arm of the Trump White House, are lobbying Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace to rein in Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and [Jeanine] Pirro. “Reporters are telling management that we’re being defined by the worst people on our air,” a frustrated senior Fox staffer told me....

The outcome of that civil war will be decided by Fox Corporation chairman and C.E.O. Lachlan Murdoch. Rupert’s oldest son took over the smaller media company that emerged out of the Murdochs’ $71 billion deal to sell their entertainment assets to Disney.... staffers believe he is likely to nudge the network away from its close marriage to Trump. Sources close to Lachlan pointed out that Lachlan is a libertarian conservative, not a MAGA diehard, who in private has expressed annoyance at Trump. “He doesn’t like Trump,” one person who has spoken with Lachlan told me. “There’s a lot of talk of the direction of the network changing under Lachlan,” the senior Fox staffer told me....

Ultimately, creating some distance from the president may be the first step in a larger strategy. Some believe it’s only a matter of time before the Murdochs sell Fox News. “Everyone thinks they’re going to sell it. It’s too small to be independent,” [an] anchor [close to Hannity] told me.
I'll believe this when I see it -- but if the plan is to sell off Fox News, that might explain why Fox recently suspended Jeanine Pirro. The anti-Muslim remarks that led to her suspension were hardly new -- Media Matters has compiled a list of similar remarks going back years -- but if you're hoping to sell a division to another media giant with a significant presence in the Middle East, or with Middle Eastern investors, you might want to make a show of reining in a Muslim-bashing commentator.

(It's widely believed that Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal owns a substantial stake in the Murdoch empire, but his investment was never as great as many people believe, and he's sold off his shares.)

Or it could be that Pirro was suspended to send a message that Fox really is independent of Trump. (Of Trump's favorites, Pirro is undoubtedly the least profitable for Fox, much less so than Hannity or the Fox & Friends crew.)

I don't know who would believe that Fox is truly putting distance between itself and Trump after this suspension, but Fox is trying to sell itself as something other than what it is lately. The goal might not be a sale of the division so much as greater advertising revenue. In the weeks leading up to a recent confab with ad buyers, Fox bought many bus ads in New York City promoting itself as the #1 cable news channel in every region of the country, not just in Red America.

(Bigwigs don't ride buses in New York, of course, but they see these ads, which function here the way highway billboards do in the rest of America.)

Now that Fox has sold most of its entertainment properties to Disney, Fox News is part of a new, smaller, standalone company called Fox Corporation, which is being publicly traded. Maybe the Murdochs think Trump is a millstone likely to drag down the share price.

I don't believe there'll really be major changes at Fox. I think the hope is that small, insignificent steps will bamboozle investors and advertisers. But we'll see.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Matt Yglesias is right:
The demobilization of the resistance is a dangerous mistake

The Women’s Marches over-awed Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Protesters at airports checked the initial version of Trump’s travel bans. Ordinary Americans’ phone calls and door knocks defeated multiple attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. It all sent a clear message during Trump’s first two years in office: Resistance works.

Engaged protesters were not able to block the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but they did render both toxically unpopular. The resistance spurred an unprecedented level of interest in special elections, swinging seats across the country, and powered Democrats to sweeping wins in the 2018 midterms.

And then it stopped. There was no mass mobilization to call senators in advance of the resolution blocking Trump’s border emergency declaration. There were no crowds on Capitol Hill. There are no reports of Republican senators canceling town halls because they’re afraid to face angry crowds demanding a floor vote on the anti-corruption bill HR 1. There are no protesters demanding that Trump accede to Congress’s request for his tax returns in part because no request has been made.

The resistance has demobilized. And for Democrats, it’s probably a huge mistake.
Yglesias sees Democrats on Capitol Hill no longer bothering "to activate grassroots participation to shape the course of events," possibly out of fear that the grassroots will demand impeachment. He also thinks resistance energy has been dissipated by controversy surrounded organizers of the Women's Marches.

But I think the loss of momentum is our own damn fault. Our side regularly concludes that if you win just one election, everything will get a whole lot better right away, and ordinary citizens can just stand down. That was the widespread belief after Barack Obama won in '08. Obama had fired up the grassroots during his campaign, but then there was no citizen pushback when Republicans in Congress used every means at their disposal to block his agenda. There was no effort to push him to the left when he chose to compromise. And there was no countervailing force when the Tea Party rose up and helped lead the Republican Party to huge congressional victories in 2010. (Democrats could barely bring themselves to vote in 2010. Why bother? We had Obama, right?)

Rank-and-file Democrats aren't engaging in resistance now because the party did well in 2018, and now there's a whole new election cycle starting up, with some of our favorite cast members from the previous election cycle. (Beto! Maybe Stacey!)

I see this even among lefties who regard themselves as too progressive for the Democratic Party. The Bernie Sanders movement in 2016 was premised on the notion that Sanders would be elected and his very left-wing agenda would just ... happen. To be fair, that wasn't as unreasonable as the Ralph Nader lunacy of 2000 -- if you really believed he could win, what Congress do you think he'd be working with, and how much of his agenda could possibly be enacted?

But that's how our side thinks. Republicans are the opposite -- they always believe they're besieged, even when they control most of the government. The conservative media encourages this siege mentality. Even when Republicans are effectively unopposed, the right-wing rank-and-file is told that enemies are everywhere -- in Hollywood, in academia, in godless, gender-fluid cities.... So ordinary Republicans never let their guard down, even when their party is winning every battle it fights. We let our guard down when we haven't even started winning yet.


Joe Biden is clearly on the verge of announcing his presidential candidacy, and I think this really might work for him:
As he prepares for a possible run, Biden has hunkered down for strategy sessions with a tight knit group of advisers and held meetings with top Democrats and elected officials. One subject of discussion has been the early selection of a running mate....
Any names?
Last week, Biden stirred speculation as he met privately with Stacey Abrams, a Democratic rising star who ran for governor in Georgia last fall and is weighing another run for office -- potentially even the presidency. Biden requested the meeting, according to a person familiar with the sit-down....

A person familiar with the meeting said Biden and Abrams discussed a variety of topics on policy and politics, including whether she intends to run for Senate next year. The vice presidency was not formally discussed during their meeting, two people familiar with the meeting tell CNN.
Well, if they've already been discussing this, then maybe they didn't need to have another formal discussion.

This might be a way to take the age issue off the table (Abrams is 45) -- but it's also a way for a white guy to preempt the non-white and female candidates in the race -- hey, vote for me and you get diversity, too. That's dispiriting -- a couple of months ago, this seemed as if it would be a race with many top-tier female and non-white candidates, but now, with Biden and Bernie Sanders dominating the polls, and Sanders and Beto O'Rourke leading in fund-raising, it's turning into another pale-male sausagefest.

Democrats familiar with [Biden's] plans say he intends to unveil a roster of prominent supporters, including black leaders whose endorsements are seen as critical to his candidacy, as the race moves beyond Iowa and New Hampshire.
Do endorsements work anymore? For the Republicans in 2016, they didn't -- going into primary season, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio had far more key endorsements than the rest of the field, and it didn't matter. Hillary Clinton seemed to have more black support than Obama early on in the 2008 race. So this may not matter.

But I keep thinking back to the Twitter thread I posted a couple of weeks ago. A political operative was observing a focus group of black female Democratic voters in South Carolina, and he saw that Biden was quite well liked.

Negative information about Biden didn't really change any minds:

Picking Abrams early would help him too. But if it works, so much for real change at the top of the ticket.

In recent decades, a couple of candidates who were struggling to stay in the race chose running mates late in the primaries. In July 1976, Ronald Reagan chose Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, a fairly liberal Republican. He was supposed to help Reagan win Pennsylvania delegates at the convention, but that didn't work out -- one Pennsylvania delegate flipped to Reagan, but Mississippi's delegation flipped from Reagan to Ford.

In late April 2016, Ted Cruz announced that Carly Fiorina would be his running mate. A week later, Cruz dropped out of the race.

Those seemed like desperation moves. Picking a running mate early doesn't seem desperate. I'm surprised more candidates haven't tried it -- but I think you have to seem like a formidable candidate in order to attract an impressive running mate. Why would anyone want to commit early to a possible also-ran?

So this seems like a power move on Biden's part -- but I'll be sorry if it's the reason white malehood wins another nomination.

Monday, March 18, 2019


I saw the headline of the opinion piece in which Donna Brazile announces that she's now a Fox News contributor...

... and my first thought was:

I hope she's making a lot of money. I hope she demanded a lot more money at the last minute during contract negotiations. Since the recent Jane Mayer piece on Fox News in The New Yorker, many of the mainstream journalists and pundits who've been in denial about the poison Fox injects into our politics have had the sudden realization that Fox isn't really a responsible news outlet with a conservative skew. They know it's a sewer now, although too many of their colleagues still don't get it (and too many of the ones who now appear to see the light still believe everything will be fine again once Donald Trump is out of office). We have a long way to go, but even the increased attention to Fox's destructiveness leaves the channel vulnerable. Fox clearly had a sudden, urgent need for a new commentator to liberal-wash the channel on selected "responsible" Potemkin-village programming, so the rest of the channel's frothers can continue profitably rousing the rabble as usual. In other words, Fox needed Brazile more than Brazile needed Fox. I hope she had the self-respect to demand fistfuls of money.

But in the opinion piece, I see that Fox is already imposing house style on Brazile:

It's theoretically possible that Brazile voluntarily used the right's preferred name for the Democratic Party -- just to be civil, you know -- but I think that's highly unlikely. No Democrat ever says "Democrat Party," so I assume the "ic" was trimmed off by a loyal ideologue on the copy desk, just to show Brazile who's boss.

Brazile was hired to be a useful idiot -- a punching bag some of the time, a moderate brought on to bash progressives at other times. Maybe she realizes that, But I wonder if she knows she was subtly humiliated on her first day. She should be furious. I'm sure she's not.


I have serious doubts about Beto O'Rourke, but it looks as if whatever he's doing is working:
Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential campaign last week, according to his campaign, outpacing his rivals for the Democratic nomination....

Mr. O’Rourke brought in $6,136,736 ... raising the sum entirely online and from all 50 states, the campaign said.

He narrowly beat the first-day haul of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $5.9 million after announcing his bid last month....
A BuzzFeed story by Molly Hensley-Clancy argues that while O'Rourke may have committed a number of gaffes in his campaign rollout, he's impressing a lot of voters who want something to believe in.
O’Rourke’s entrance into the presidential race unleashed a wave of cynicism and hard-boiled skepticism on insider Twitter and cable news.... There were groans on Twitter for everything from O’Rourke’s habit of jumping up on counters to his campaign website’s merchandise to a Vanity Fair cover story published the day before O’Rourke announced his run — summed up by a CJR reporter with, “why is he running this is so dumb.”

Across a breathtaking succession of stops throughout Iowa, from three different countertops, one podcast studio, and one truck bed, the first three days of O’Rourke’s campaign unfolded a world away. It wasn’t that Iowans hadn’t seen the skepticism about O’Rourke. It was that many of them didn’t much care....

They were entranced, they said, by his charisma, his oratory, and his particular style of campaigning — down-to-earth, personal, and relentlessly positive. Though few were willing to commit to voting for him, as is common this early in Iowa, many said they were convinced that he could deliver on the promise of unity that he offered at every campaign stop.

“I tend to agree with some of the stories ... but I look at him and he’s the only one that gives me that hope,” said Anne Phillips, a graphic designer who saw O’Rourke interviewed for a podcast in Cedar Rapids. “I want reconciliation, and he brings that to my heart. I sense in him that he can bring us back together.”
Hensley-Clancy's headline is "Twitter’s Insiders Are Skeptical About Beto O’Rourke. Iowans Don’t Seem To Care." Politico's David Siders cares, however -- as far as he's concerned, this was a "rocky rollout." But notice how Siders keeps having to downplay the excitement with which O'Rourke is being greeted. (Emphasis added below.)
A more disciplined candidate might not have been so sloppy, with months to prepare and adoring crowds waiting.

Yet there was Beto O’Rourke, wobbling on policy, offending women with a joke about child care, frustrating local Democrats with his high-handedness and picking bewildering fights with the press.

Four days into his presidential campaign, O’Rourke’s supporters are still stuffing themselves into coffee shops and living rooms across the Midwest to see the Democratic sensation as he motors east from Iowa to New Hampshire in a Dodge Grand Caravan. And O’Rourke by the weekend was moving deliberately to speak more specifically about policy, to hold more organized events and to mend his relationship with the media....

“For all the fanfare, the band was playing a pretty flat tune,” Dave Nagle, a former congressman and Iowa state Democratic Party chairman, said after watching O’Rourke address a large rally from the bed of a red Ford Ranger in Waterloo, Iowa. “There’s just no substance to it.”

... It was not a clean start to O’Rourke’s 2020 run. Though he benefited from nonstop media coverage and his own political acuity — thrilling crowds by addressing them from café countertops and delivering a passionate, widely viewed response to the mass shooting in New Zealand last week — O’Rourke’s opening act also laid bare disorder in his campaign.

... Hosts of multiple events in Iowa said they were informed unusually late about logistics, especially given the large crowd sizes O’Rourke could command.
The criticisms of O'Rourke are valid. He's extremely vague on policy. He's getting away with a Kerouac act that a female candidate, especially one with small children, couldn't. Some of his votes in Congress weren't progressive. What he said about the division of parenting labor in his marriage was sexist.

But whatever he's doing is working. Donald Trump had a sloppy, unstructured campaign in 2016, and while he had a lot of help -- from Russia, from James Comey, from the Hillary-loathing media -- he won the nomination and the election.

The lesson the media should have learned from that is that rigorous attention to campaign detail might not be the secret to electoral success. Inspiring large masses of voters might matter a lot more.

It's quite possible that O'Rourke will stumble, and the campaign problems raised in the Politico story might be the cause of his downfall. But the press predicted Trump's downfall every day for a year and half, and it never came. The media should at least acknowledge that the importance of proper form might be overrated, and that a candidate with celebrity dazzle might win even if his campaign breaks most of the rules.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


The Washington Post reports from New Zealand:
There were ... calls for the Canterbury Crusaders, a hugely successful rugby team, to change its name after the massacre because of undertones of religious hatred....

The weapons and clothing used by [Brenton] Tarrant in the [Christchurch mosque] attack carried numerous references to the Crusades, when Christian armies from Europe tried to seize the Holy Land from Muslims during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
According to local press reports, the change, which has been proposed before, might really happen now:
The Crusaders will consider changing their name following the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.

A statement issued by the Crusaders on Sunday night noted that the Super Rugby club "understood the concerns that have been raised" about the club's name.

"For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community," the statement read. "What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch on Friday; our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.

"In our view, this is a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all of the feedback that we are receiving. However, we also believe that the time is not right now."
This isn't a long-established name like the Cleveland Indians or the Washington Redskins -- Reuters notes that "The Crusaders adopted their name 23 years ago when rugby went professional" in New Zealand -- but the fact that team management sometimes sends costumed Crusaders onto the pitch suggests a level of investment in the name.

Here's the logo:

If efforts to change the team name persist, I predict there'll be rabble-rousing against the change in the right-wing media, including Fox News. It will be described as part of a global epidemic of anti-Christian bias.

And if the name is changed, it's quite possible that the next white nationalist terrorist will wear Crusaders logowear during his attack. Even if that doesn't happen, the gear will catch on. The logo will start showing up among racists as the social media avatar of choice.

Changing the name will make the name and logo "politically incorrect" in an enticing way, but it would still be a good idea. I hope it happens.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


I've been assuming that the right-wing habit of offering "thoughts and prayers" after every mass slaughter has been thoroughly discredited, as a clear attempt to shut down debate. But at the Daily Wire, Andrew Klavan responds to the New Zealand mosque massacre by defending the practice:
When tragedy or atrocity strikes — as it just did with the mosque shootings in New Zealand — thoughts and prayers are not just an expression of compassion. They are, more importantly and more wisely, an expression of humility and helplessness. They are a way of saying: “There is nothing we can do in the face of this wickedness but we stand in solidarity with the victims and ask God to comfort their families in their sorrow.”

Almost every other reaction is absurd. To suggest you have the solution to the eternal problem of evil in the form of addressing your pet peeve or of blaming and attacking your political opponents is disgraceful. It is to use the bodies of the slain for a soap box. It degrades you and insults the victims.
So according to Klavan, unless you have a plan for eliminating all the evil in the universe, there's nothing you can do about any societal problem. You can't, for instance, change the gun laws (which succeeded in reducing violence when Australia did it in 1996; New Zealand's prime minister now vows that her country's gun laws will change). You can't call out a global culture of white supremacists, or online communities where no one would dream of alerting the authorities after a credible announcement by a community member that he's about to commit an act of terrorist violence. You just have to shrug and whimper, in a state of "humility and helplessness."

And please note that Klavan himself is "us[ing] the bodies of the slain for a soap box" while criticizing others for the same offense.
It is likewise absurd to extrapolate from the murderer’s philosophy in order to condemn philosophies that may have something in common with it.
Klavan is obviously upset that his own strain of Islamophobic conservatism, which he shares with the president of the United States, is being blamed for the killings in New Zealand. I think it's an oversimplification to say flatly that Donald Trump was the inspiration for the massacre. The Southern Poverty Law Center has an excellent rundown on the shooter's likely influences, a number of which are unfamiliar to the general public.

On the other hand, when nearly every conservative in America is arguing that there's no daylight between the ideologies of Democratic progressives and Nicolas Maduro, I don't want to hear a conservative complain that right-wing belief systems are being unfairly conflated.
The clown who opened fire on the New Zealand mosques released a social media statement praising white supremacy, Chinese Communism, fascism, climate change alarmism and who knows what else. I find all these philosophies ridiculous and even dangerous. It’s therefore tempting to me to blame them for the actions of this unholy jackass. But that’s nonsense.
Calling Brenton Tarrant a "clown" is an insult to the dead and wounded, for whom Tarrant's actions were no joke; Klavan would never use that word in reference to a violent Islamiscist. In his manifesto, Tarrant praised the Chinese government (not Communism per se) for unstated but obvious reasons: China is not a diverse nation, and China brutalizes its Muslim minority. Tarrant's "climate change alarmism" is one of few aspects of his manifesto that's not morally repugnant. But as anyone who's read the manifesto knows, all of this is tangential -- the core of Tarrant's belief system is ethnic separatism. When Klavan and others on the right raise these incidental points in Tarrant's manifesto, they're trying to distract you from the central message.
We all have ideas and opinions but murderers should not be allowed to become part of our conversation.
But murder was one of Tarrant's key ideas. It's an idea that has to be part of the conversation, because there are people in our society who believe that the presence of Muslims in majority-white nations is an existential threat to which the only proper response is violence. I think the presence of these people in our society is a massive problem. Demanding that we not talk about them is an effort to distract attention from those who don't share their goals but do share their rage, including Klavan himself and the president.
We do not have to talk about any of these things today.
This is a variation on "Now is not the time..." -- the standard conservative response to any talk of gun control after a mass murder.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously wrote: “Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.” In the face of evil and unimaginable suffering, there is nothing wrong with having nothing to say. All we can do is feel for the victims and appeal to that great Heart of Righteousness we trust will triumph at the end of time.

My thoughts and prayers.
That's Klavan is sanctimonious mode. Here's Klavan last fall:

The Daily Wire published a video today called “Leftese Dictionary: J is for Jihad.” The video is part of a series that Klavan has dedicated to deriding the way liberals idealize concepts like diversity, intersectionality, and equality.... [T]o Klavan, the only thing Jihad means is “killing and raping people.”

“A proper reading of the Quran reveals that Jihad is a spiritual struggle during which a Muslim attempts to rise to a higher plane of consciousness by slaughtering unbelievers, raping their women, taking over their civilizations, and persecuting and oppressing them until they’re all dead. Thus, to oppose Jihad is to thwart the spiritual development of a religious believer,” Klavan says in the video....

Klavan concluded, “So really, when you think about it, it’s Jews and Christians who are the evil ones, and Muslims who are nice except for the whole Jihad slaughtering and raping people thing, which is very spiritual for the Muslim. For everyone else, it’s just being killed and raped, also known as Jihad.”
"In the face of evil and unimaginable suffering, there is nothing wrong with having nothing to say," Klavan writes now. But apparently this applies only when those responsible for the mass suffering are white.

Friday, March 15, 2019


In the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre, there seems to be one thing on which nearly everyone agrees, across the political spectrum:

Whatever we do, we should draw as little attention as possible to the culprit and the content he's posted to announce his crime. Attention is what he wants, we're told. Don't give it to him.

But what if we're living in a new world in which it doesn't matter how much attention we give the shooter? What if the specific form of attention he and other mass murderers want is not ours to withhold?

It's widely believed that saturation media coverage of a mass murderer makes it likely that he'll become a model for the next wannabe. There's obviously some truth in that. But look at the people this shooter names as inspirations in his manifesto:

Anders Breivik, a white separatist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 and published a lengthy manifesto, is globally famous. Dylann Roof, the 2015 Charlotte Charleston church shooter, is notorious in America. The other names are little known outside their own countries: Traini shot and wounded six African migrants in Italy last year. Pettersson killed a student and a teaching assistant in Sweden in 2015, in a racially motivated attack. Osborne drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in London in 2017, killing one and injuring at least nine; his motive was anti-Muslim bigotry.

The New Zealand shooter also dug deep into history for inspiration:

... the shooter repeatedly references Oswald Mosley [in his manifesto]. Mosley was the founder of the British Union of Fascists, a political party in the 1930s that sought to return England to a state of “autarchy”, or complete financial and cultural independence from the rest of the world.... Mosley is not an entirely obscure figure, but he is also not a particularly prominent thinker in the 21st century right wing.
Multiple murderers don't need inspiration from mass media anymore. They can live in an online subculture where even obscure monsters are considered superstars.

And, of course, there's a similar subculture for angry incels/"men's rights" advocates/"men going their own way," with a pantheon of heroes some of whom were only briefly in the mainstream news.

If we don't name the shooters and we try to suppress the manifestos and the videos, they'll still get out, and they'll circulate among the aficionados. For the aficionados, a mass-murder video that lived on mainstream social media sites for only a few hours will remain world-famous.

Young mass killers know that their fame will live on in their subculture. They don't need to have their names in our headlines.


This morning, President Trump finally responded to the mosque massacre in New Zealand, with a toothless tweet.

Last night, there was no response from the president, but he did tweet a now-deleted plug for Breitbart:

Why that, at this time?

Hard to say. The mosque massacre is the lead story at Breitbart right now. The reporting is reasonably straightforward. Was someone with the keys to Trump's Twitter account just trying to do a favor for Breitbart -- don't follow this story at CNN or the BBC, go to Breitbart instead?

Or were we being directed to the comments section of that lead story? Because at a time when authorities were reporting a horrifying casualty count, Trump's Twitter account was directing readers to a site where the community agrees with the shooter.

I'll post a few sample comments from that Breitbart comment thread, followed by excerpts from the shooter's manifesto.

Breitbart commenter:

Shooter's manifesto:







A racist massacre took place last night, and the Twitter feed of the president of the United States directed readers to a site full of racism.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


You may think the college admissions scandal proves that the rich have unfair advantages over the rest of us. Liz Peek of Fox News wants you to know that you're absolutely wrong:
Accusations that dozens of parents in some cases paid hundreds of thousands of dollars or over $1 million to get their kids into prestigious colleges by falsifying their SAT or ACT scores, or by misrepresenting their sports abilities, have been seized upon by leftists as further evidence that the U.S. skews in favor of the rich and famous.

But in some ways the story says just the opposite. If the children of well-known Hollywood actresses or rich business executives were automatically admitted to the school of their choice, they would not have had to resort to perpetrating these offensive frauds. The Key, the firm behind the alleged swindles, would not have been in business.
See? Elite schools don't admit rich people's children automatically, therefore there's a level playing field!
As she took the SATs, Isabelle Henriquez, daughter of parents charged by federal prosecutors, is alleged to have sat with a proctor who provided her with answers and helped boost her scores by 320 points, to 1,900 out of a possible 2,400

But despite the considerable jump, Isabelle’s test results would still have been too low to get her into Georgetown University. So authorities say that William Rick Singer, founder of The Key, also helped her create a phony claim that she was a top-notch tennis player.

To cap the deal, Singer allegedly paid one of Georgetown’s tennis coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars to award Isabelle one of the squad’s cherished spots, assuring her admission.
See? Perfectly fair. The poor as well as the rich had every opportunity to shell out six or seven figures to get a kid admitted to a top school.

And you know where all this misplaced anger at the rich will inevitably lead -- Venezuela!
Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are among those banking on an increasingly aggrieved electorate – voters who envy success, think they have been mistreated, and want the government to provide for them.

From there it is but a short hop to condemning capitalism, our economic system that rewards personal ambition and individual industry. And that leads to, possibly, the scariest message of all: that successful people and businesses have somehow gamed the system to their advantage. It is a claim that undermines the very essence of this country.

After all, calling someone a “millionaire” or “billionaire” is now a slur. How did that happen?
Gosh, I have no idea.
The real message to be gleaned from the college scandal is how far some parents will go to give their kids every advantage, and how little attention is paid by some to gifts that are ultimately much more important than tutors or flute lessons – like the good values of honesty, decency and integrity. A diploma without those things is worthless.
Yeah, you can have all the money in the world, but you'll never get anywhere without honesty, decency and integrity.


At a time when even low unemployment can't quell widespread economic anxiety, it's curious how many presidential aspirants are identified with (small or large) upmarket indulgences. Howard Schultz -- I assume he's running -- is the candidate of $4 coffee. John Hickenlooper helped gentrify Denver's LoDo neighborhood by co-founding a craft brewery. Donald Trump sells a pricier brand of luxury -- but it's still pitched to the aspiring middle class, who may not be able to afford Mar-a-Lago dues, or the cost of an investment-grade penthouse apartment, but are able to shop at Trump Tower and stay at the hotels. Also, we'd be awash in Trump-branded products -- steaks, ties, bottled water -- if Trump weren't such a terrible businessman.

And then there's Beto O'Rourke, for whom affordable luxury has meant the option of spending years finding himself:
He and his El Paso friends Arlo Klahr and Mike Stevens formed Foss, the Icelandic word for waterfall, and after recording their first album, The El Paso Pussycats, organized a month-long tour, ... driving across the U.S. and Canada in a station wagon. It was a grand adventure, but also a lesson in scrappy survival....

After he graduated in 1995, O’Rourke and his friends moved to Albuquerque and rented a house formerly occupied by a Swedish ski team. They all shaved their heads and declared this their “Revolution Summer,” an homage to the D.C. punk scene of 1984. The idea was to live on part-time jobs and make art. They formed a band called the Swedes, donning motorcycle helmets and waving the Swedish flag onstage. “I didn’t want to make money, didn’t want to be in business,” O’Rourke says. “My dad was so disappointed. He took out [college] loans, he knew that I took out loans. I was like, ‘You know, I wanna make art. I wanna write. I wanna make music. I wanna create things.’”

The collective fizzled out, however... After briefly returning to El Paso ... O’Rourke went back to New York and started nannying for a wealthy family on the Upper West Side. In 1996, he and a group of friends from both Columbia and El Paso moved into a decrepit loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, across from a housing project. O’Rourke worked as an art mover for Hedley’s Humpers and for his uncle on a startup Internet-service provider, called El.Net, building the first Web sites for PEN American Center and the Committee to Protect Journalists. In Brooklyn, he and his friends threw parties, bashed out punk songs, and drank endless cases of Budweiser; on the roof was a trampoline and a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline.

O’Rourke ... describes the time as one of joyous indirection in which he surrounded himself with “some amazing artists and thinkers.” He read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, discovered Bob Dylan, deepened his devotion to The Odyssey, and went through bursts of enthusiasm for bands like Big Star and Guided by Voices....
O'Rourke is still a Kerouacian wanderer. He went on a solo road trip after he lost his Senate race in November. He's going on another road trip now that he's officially running for president.

In different ways, all of this -- higher-priced beer and coffee, Trumpian piss-elegance, the opportunity to be a slacker -- represents a level of prosperity that seemed attainable for much of America in the decades after World War II, and seems to be slipping away now for the people who took it for granted, and for their descendants.

We elected a really rich guy three years after the '29 stock market crash, but we didn't elect a guy who got rich selling small (Schultz, Hickenlooper) or large (Trump) indulgences to the mass public. We've elected young idealists, but they weren't as focused as O'Rourke is on the self. Maybe Trump and O'Rourke, in particular, represent what different groups of voters want within reach, as it seems to be less and less attainable.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


David French has been bathed in praise for a National Review piece written after the release of offensive and embarrassing Tucker Carlson radio clips. In the piece, French denounces
the creation and sustainment of an outrage industry that spends millions of dollars (and countless man-hours) in the quest to destroy the lives and careers of the people it dislikes.
French rails against ideologues who spend their days
looking for that “gotcha” moment, the word or phrase that proves “the bad man really is bad.”
French sees fakery in the response to Carlson's old clips:
... no one is really hurt.... Instead, the atmosphere is one of vengeful glee. We got him now.
French regards this as a brutal form of eliminationist politics:
Once you pass the ideological threshold that renders you an enemy, you’re fair game.
I'd like to point out that everything I've quoted from French's piece is true about the right's response to a New York City advisory on ... toilets. The city is urging residents to limit what they flush down toilets to bodily excretions and toilet paper -- no wet wipes, no feminine hygiene products, no cooking grease. What the city hopes to do is prevent massive sewer system clogs called fatbergs, which damage wastewater treatment facilities, cause sewer backups, and damage the environment.

Here's a perfectly reasonable social media post on the subject:

Here's a longer video, with some appalling shots of actual fatbergs, narrated by the deputy commissioner who has the thankless task of coping with these problems:

Asking residents to give some thought to this matter doesn't seem like an imposition on the city's part. But the right hates New York City's mayor. So here's the New York Post in outrage mode:
Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken the concept of a Nanny State to a whole new level — instructing New Yorkers about what they can and cannot flush down their toilets.
Here's a post at Sean Hannity's website:
LIBERAL PRIORITIES: Forget Amazon, De Blasio Issues Instructions on Proper Use of NYC’s TOILETS

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio left millions of New Yorkers scratching their heads Tuesday evening; posting bizarre instructions for the proper use of toilets in apartments and houses throughout the nation’s largest city.
Here's the right-wing site The American Mirror:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is apparently concerned folks in the Big Apple don’t know how to properly use their toilets, so he’s offering a little advice.
What the city is telling residents is not very different from what Bob Vila says; also Popular Science and, as well as this Texas plumbing contractor and this plumbing and heating company in Georgia. Good Housekeeping agrees that feminine hygiene products shouldn't be flushed, as do the makers of Kotex and Tampax products.

In other words, this isn't a liberal conspiracy to control every aspect of Americans' lives.

The right-wingers admit that the plumbing problem is real -- the New York Post and American Mirror pieces quoted above go on to describe fatbergs in gory detail.

But the key point is in the headlines and ledes: Liberalism is evil. Liberals are insane totalitarians. They must be demonized. Their careers must be destroyed.


UPDATE: A Twitter follower posts this:

Time-tested advice!


The opening monologue from Tucker Carlson's show last night appears on the Fox News website under this headline:
Tucker Carlson: We're becoming an authoritarian society - and the group in charge is coming after Fox News
Savor that for a moment. Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the federal court system including the Supreme Court, and, even after the 2018 midterms, most state houses and state legislative chambers -- yet "the group in charge" of our society is an enemy of conservatism and is "coming after" Carlson and Fox News.

Who's "in charge" of American society, if it's not the mostly Republican government? According to Carlson, it's the people who make dissenters disappear:
Ever notice how certain people have started to disappear? Not vagrants or runaways, the usual missing persons. But fairly prominent, well-educated people with dissenting political opinions. One day you’re watching or reading them online. The next time you check, they’re gone. You can’t find their videos. They’re not showing up in your Facebook feed. Suddenly you can’t buy their books on Amazon.

You Google them to find out what happened and discover they’ve been banned. They’re being called dangerous extremists, bigots and Nazis. For the public good, they’ve been shut down. Disappeared.

You’re a little surprised to hear this. They didn’t seem evil or radical to you. They were just free thinkers, saying something a little different from the party line on CNN. You don’t complain about it, though. You don’t want anyone to know you were watching forbidden videos. There’s a penalty for that.
Who's he talking about? Milo Yiannopoulos? He was dumped by right-wing groups. A mainstream publisher also 86'd his book, but Yiannopoulos was free to publish it himself, which he did. It made the New York Times bestseller list. Want to buy it on Amazon? Here's the link.

Who else? Roseanne Barr? She was on TV, then she published something controversial, and now she's not on TV. No, wait -- that was Kathy Griffin. Actually it was both, wasn't it?

Go on, Tucker.
... It was only a matter of time before they came for Fox News. Of the top dozen news networks in the United States, only Fox has an alternative view. The other channels speak with one voice. They are united on every issue, every time. They’re in almost perfect sync with the priorities of the Democratic Party.
Which is why they loathe half the Democratic presidential candidates and most fresh ideas articulated by Democrats.
Fox News stands apart. The opinion shows on this channel have another perspective. You might consider that valuable diversity, something different in a sea of sameness. The left does not think that. They would like Fox News shut down tomorrow. The other news channels agree. They would like that too. They are trying to do it now.
I wish.
It’s worth explaining how the process of banning ideas works, the means by which so many voices have already been silenced. The first step is defining political disagreement as a mortal threat to the country. Something that’s dangerous. That’s the job of a group called the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization whose name intentionally masks its role as an enforcer for the Democratic establishment.
There's the big reveal. The group that's "in charge of" America isn't the GOP or the Federalist Society or the Koch network -- it's the SPLC! The SPLC is America's secret government.
Groups or individuals who challenge the official story on virtually any subject find themselves designated as a “hate group” by the SPLC. This is a handy way to crush your political enemies. By definition, hate groups don’t have legitimate ideas or positions. They spew only hate. You don’t have to listen to them or debate their claims. You can ignore everything they say. Your only duty is to suppress them. That’s the beauty of the SPLC: Once they call the people you disagree with a “hate group,” you can immediately move to shut them up by force. That’s what they do.
The SPLC hasn't designated Fox a hate group, but whatever.

That’s where Media Matters comes in. Media Matters is a George Soros-funded lobbying organization...
George Soros! Drink!
... whose sole mission is to punish critics of the Democratic Party. Media Matters often uses propaganda from the Southern Poverty Law Center to bully corporations, news executives and tech companies into punishing people it doesn’t like. Not surprisingly, the media love Media Matters.
So the SPLC and (((Soros)))-controlled Media Matters tell all the news organizations what to write and they all just write exactly what they're told, and...
This is the face of state media.
Yes, there it is. Fox News is a 24/7 propaganda channel for the president of the United States, but what power does that guy have? Surely not as much as the Southern Poverty Law Center and (((Soros))-funded Media Matters!

This is the worldview of the right. We could someday have a full-on fascist dictator in America, one who was suspending all civil liberties and putting people in camps, and the dictator's supporters would still be claiming to be weak and embattled, insisting that the terrorized, shackled, literally disappeared opponents of the regime were the ones with real power.

Carlson will survive -- hell, he's not even a top news story anymore, what with the college scandal and the questions about that Boeing plane. The careers of Dan Rather and Brian Williams suffered far more than Carlson's will. Fox as a corporate entity has never been attacked the government the way CNN has. But Fox and Carlson claim to be the real victims -- and every rank-and-file conservative in America believes that's true.