Wednesday, July 17, 2019

THE COMPLETELY IMAGINARY DEMOCRATIC PERSONALITY CULT

If you're like me, you've encountered at least half a dozen variants of one particular bit of conventional wisdom, expressed here by Edward Luce of the Financial Times:
... there is method behind Mr Trump’s nastiness. His goal is to force Democrats to unite behind the so-called “Squad” of four non-white congresswomen, whose radicalism is not popular in the US heartlands. Most Americans are not socialist. Nor do they support paying reparations for slavery, or open borders. Most would probably be suspicious of a Green New Deal that aimed to abolish fossil fuels by 2030. These are the kinds of radical ideas Mr Trump wants to force Democrats to support.
See also Newt Gingrich, as quoted in the Washington Examiner:
... Gingrich said Trump wanted to raise the profile of his targets and to more closely link their socialist and anti-Israel policies with the Democratic Party.

"He wants the Democratic Party to identify with them," Gingrich said.

... Gingrich said uniting Democrats was the point.

"Pelosi in a sense was trying to draw a line and say, 'We are not them'. After Trump's tweet, she said, 'Oh, we really are them.' ..."
How do the people who say this believe Democrats think? Do they think an expression of solidarity for a fellow Democrat at a particular moment constitutes a pledge of undying loyalty?

That may be how the Republican Party operates right now in reference to Donald Trump. It's not how the Democratic Party operates. The Democratic Party isn't a personality cult.

In January, all the members of the Squad voted for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. It was moderates who voted against her. But now Pelosi is praising moderates and squabbling with progressives -- which didn't prevent her from conducting a vote to condemn Trump for his attacks on the Squad members, even though she'd previously pushed through a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry that was clearly a response to remarks from Squad member Ilhan Omar that had been condemned as insulting to Jews.

Allegiances shift, and that's reflected in the views of Democratic voters as well. How many of us cheered Pelosi when she outmaneuvered the president during the government shutdown, then began grumbling about her for bad-mouthing progressives and blocking impeachment efforts?

That's how Democrats are. We might act a tad culty in response to a president or presidential candidate, but that's not what's happening with the Squad. It's certainly not what's happening among Democratic officeholders. Republicans -- and observers who think the party head in the Oval Office is a genius -- clearly have the Democratic Party confused with the GOP and its Cult of Trump.

SOMEDAY WE MAY THANK THE SQUAD FOR DEFEATING TRUMP

President Trump thought he was being a clever boy when he went to Twitter to tell the four members of "the Squad" to go back where they came from. On the New York Times op-ed page, there's widespread agreement that Trump was, in fact, pursuing a smart strategy.

Frank Bruni:
With his attack on the congresswomen ... he had specific goals. They’re all about the 2020 presidential campaign, which has now begun in full....

He wants to reframe it, so that he’s running not against whomever the Democrats wind up nominating but against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Against who they are individually. Against what they represent ideologically. Against what they telegraph about the demographic direction of the country and about a new distribution — a new sharing — of power.
Michelle Cottle:
Calling on these four women of color ... to “go back” to their home countries (though all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States), the president simultaneously denigrated them and elevated their political standing. In the process, he may well have hit upon the shiny new political foil that he has been searching for.

... If he wants a culture war, they will give him one, bringing the bellicose rhetoric and rallying their voters — and, yes, calling for his impeachment. Who better to fire up Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters?
Trump, using his sample set of one, thinks he knows everything there is to know about winning elections. We could write this off as Trumpian hubris, but much of the media suspects he's right. They think a base-only strategy could get him reelected.

Even I think that a base-only strategy might work. But it's one thing for Trump to fire up his base with the usual complaints about the media not giving him enough credit for the economy and Twitter using sinister algorithms to reduce the number of his followers. It's another thing for Trump to be this blatant in his racism. It doesn't work. Here's Bruni and Cottle's colleague Jamelle Bouie, in dialogue with Dave Weigel of The Washington Post:



The polls right now tell us that there's no benefit for Trump in this strategy. Reuters:
Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows.

The national survey ... showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm.

Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval - the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove - dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll.

Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.
And USA Today:
A clear majority of Americans say President Trump's tweets targeting four minority congresswomen were "un-American," according to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. But most Republicans say they agreed with his comments....

More than two-thirds of those aware of the controversy, 68%, called Trump's tweets offensive. Among Republicans alone, however, 57% said they agreed with tweets that told the congresswomen to go back to their "original" countries, and a third "strongly" agreed with them....

Independents by more than 2-1 said his tweets were "un-American." Three-fourths of the women polled called them offensive.
I'll repeat what I said yesterday: Trump can't possibly fire up his base more than he already has. They'll crawl through ground glass to vote for him. They're locked in. He's wasting energy selling them on a product they're already 100% certain to buy. It's not as if he can motivate them to vote for him more than once. But when he plays the race card this way, he motivates independents and women, including some who chose him in 2016, not to vote for him.

Trump's usual mode is barely concealed racism, but the Squad inspired him to dispense with even the tiny bit of deniability in his standard rhetoric. If he keeps up his vendetta against them in this way -- or if, perhaps, he's inspired to go full-on racist against, say, Kamala Harris if she's on the Democratic ticket -- I think he'll lose. The Squad may be the foil Trump wants, but what he wants might be the opposite of what he needs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

TEAM TRUMP 2020 STRATEGY: IF WE ALL DO THE THINGS TRUMP DOES THAT SWING VOTERS HATE, HE'LL WIN

I didn't see this coming, though I probably should have:
Kellyanne Conway Snaps Back at Reporter: ‘What’s Your Ethnicity?’

When White House reporter Andrew Feinberg posed a question to Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday about the president’s racist tweets against the four congresswomen known as the “Squad,” he found himself taken aback by her response.

Feinberg, a reporter for the website BeltwayBreakfast.com, asked the White House counselor which countries President Donald Trump was referring to when he suggested Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—all U.S. citizens—should “go back” to where they came from.

Instead of answering that question, Conway asked him, “What’s your ethnicity?”

“Uh... why is that relevant?” Feinberg asked before Conway interrupted him to say, “Because I’m asking you a question.”

After Conway shares that her ancestors are from Ireland and Italy, the reporter said, “My ethnicity is not relevant to the question I’m asking you.”

Conway still would not answer Feinberg’s question, instead insisting that [the] question was relevant because Trump said “originally” from—he didn’t—and going on a rant about how “a lot of us are sick and tired in this country of America coming last” ...
It's not news that Conway would rather kneecap reporters than inform them of the truth. But she hasn't been in the habit of tossing ethnicity into the mix. That's been the president's specialty.

That, however, seems to be the Trump team's strategy for 2020: Everyone should become even more like Trump than they've been up to now. Everyone should scorch earth the way Trump does. Everyone should embrace Trump's obsessions, including his obsession with race.

A fair number of Americans voted for Trump in 2016 in the belief that he was putting on an act during the campaign and wouldn't be that bad as president. Unlike the diehards, these voters don't cheer every time Trump does something thuggish. They wish he wouldn't tweet. They wish he wouldn't set out to divide the country.

If everybody on Team Trump turns into Trump, those folks aren't going to be happy. I'm not saying they'll inevitably give the Democrats a landslide win. Maybe they just won't vote. I think Trump took the Electoral College last time because quite a few people who don't usually vote decided to vote for him. Can he win if they blow him off this time?

If you engender the kind of brand loyalty in certain customers that Trump has engendered in his most fervent supporters, maybe those customers will spend increasing amounts of money on your goods and services. But voting doesn't work like that. Every voter in the crazy base can vote only once. Whether he understands it or not, Trump has them. He can stop trying so hard to please them.

Because doing that is probably alienating his soft supporters. In 2020, he may well regret that.

WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE GIVES NAZI-ADJACENT DEMAGOGUE AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO LIE

The Washington Post Magazine has decided that Sebastian Gorka -- the Nazi-linked ex-Trump staffer who's now a talk-radio and cable demagogue -- was worthy of a soft, friendly feature interview. It starts out only mildly objectionable -- Gorka's first answer, to a question about his parents' emigration to Britain, starts as a story of oppression and then degenerates into a sort of wingnut Mad Lib.
If you’re the child of parents who suffered as children under a Nazi regime and fascist occupation, and as grown-ups your parents were then persecuted and imprisoned, my father tortured and imprisoned by the [Hungarian] communist dictatorship, it gives you an understanding that perhaps some Americans who are born here don’t have as deeply, and it’s the words of the great Ronald Reagan, that the loss of liberty, the extinction of liberty is always but one generation away. I realized that Reagan was right, that America is the shining city on the hill, and it’s the only nation in the history of mankind that was founded not as an accident of ethnicity or royal dynasty but was founded on the principle of individual liberty and freedom based upon the unalienable rights that we are granted by our creator. For me it was a love affair with what America stands for.
But soon we arrive at this:
Statistics show that more domestic attacks in the last decade have been committed by suspects inspired by ideologies associated with the right than by suspects inspired by radical Islamism, or by hatred coming from the left. Do you think we strike the right balance in our national vigilance?

I think if you read the article we posted about the falsification of data on white supremacist attacks in the United States at our website, there’s a sevenfold greater likelihood of you being attacked by a jihadi terrorist than by somebody from the right. I find the fact that all of these studies seem to measure the statistics the day after 9/11 — just happen to leave out the 3,000 people killed on that day — is so telling.
The link goes to Gorka's homepage, but the article he's citing compares apples and oranges. The article chides "the left-wing Anti-Defamation League" (ha!) for issuing
a report claiming that white supremacists “and other far-right extremists” were responsible for 59% of deaths in terror attacks in the United States in the year 2017. They noticeably keep their definition of “far-right” deliberately vague, later admitting that deaths caused exclusively by white supremacists made up just 52% (18 out of 34) of 2017’s terrorist fatalities.

The report added that this made 2017 the fifth-deadliest year of terrorist violence in the United States since 1970 – yet it isn’t difficult to guess the ideology responsible for the other four years that outrank 2017, which is probably why the ADL deliberately ignores the vast preponderance of jihadi attacks.
The ADL doesn't ignore jihadi attacks -- in fact, it acknowledges that the most deadly attack in 2017 was a jihadist vehicular attack on a bike path in Manhattan that killed eight people. Nevertheless, right-wing violence (which can include anti-government violence that isn't overtly white nationalist) is the leading cause of death by domestic terrorists year in and year out. (The 9/11 terrorists weren't domestic terrorists.) In fact, the percentage of domestic terror deaths caused by right-wingers was higher over the 2008-2017 period -- 71% -- than it was in 2017 alone.

And then there's this:
Who’s going to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and which of the Dems do you think would have the best chance against President Trump?

I think Joe Biden is probably going to be attacked even more viciously by the radical base, so Biden is going to be in trouble very soon as another old, rich white guy. I think if you look at the expression in her eyes, the glint in her eyes, the person who wants it the most, the person who’s probably going to fight the hardest, is Kamala Harris. So I think it’s maybe a toss-up between those two. When it comes to who’s going to be most effective against the president: none of them. I mean, when you’re running on a campaign of post-birth abortion, higher taxes, open borders, sanctuary and benefits for illegal aliens, voting rights for murderers and terrorists, I think none of the standing politicians on the left have a snowball’s chance.
Democrats don't support "post-birth abortion," as is made abundantly clear by this fact-check in ... The Washington Post. Nor do they support "open borders." Supporting what is in effect ordinary end-of-life care for terminally ill newborns, with the option of substituting palliative care for medical interventions that won't meaningfully extend life or contribute to its quality, is not the same as supporting "post-birth abortion." Supporting DACA and reasonable accommodations of migrants fleeing oppression is not the same as supporting "open borders."

But the Post Magazine just let Gorka lie like this -- no corrections, no footnotes. (Similar interviews in The New York Times Magazine have footnotes.) This is journalistic malpractice.

A SIMPLE POLITICAL CLICHÉ THAT DEMOCRATS SHOULD BE USING NOW

For the third straight day, President Trump is being bashed for racist tweets and remarks, while Trump's fellow Republicans are facing criticism for defending him or staying silent on the subject of his racism. It's a good moment for Democrats, but when it ends, they'll have to deal once again with the tensions between progressives and moderates that inspired Trump's Twitter rant on Sunday. Future Democratic disagreements are likely, and they'll inevitably be followed by "Democrats in disarray" stories in the mainstream media.

When the next cycle occurs, Democrats should use an old political cliché in their party's defense: We're arguing with one another because we're a big-tent party.

Before Trump ended the feuding between Nancy Pelosi and the progressives known as the Squad, that's what Pelosi should have said. It might even make sense for her to say it now. She could say,
Of course we have disagreements among ourselves -- we're a big-tent party, unlike the Republican Party, where if you disagree with the president you're subject to a Stalinist purge. We welcome a range of opinion. We argue, and sometimes it gets heated. But if you attack us, we're like family -- we'll defend one another. We won't throw our Democratic colleagues completely under the bus the way the president does whenever a fellow Republican criticizes him.
I'm so old I remember when progressive Democrats were accused of engaging in a Stalinist purge for running a primary challenger against Senator Joe Lieberman. A few years later, when the Tea Party started doing the same thing to Republican incumbents, it was treated as just good old American grassroots activism -- disconcerting for the incumbents, who were Beltway reporters' friends, and perhaps dangerous for the GOP, but certainly not totalitarian.

Now Trump makes any Republican who turns against him an unperson, yet no one calls that totalitarian. Democrats should. At the same time, they should portray their intramural arguing as a strength, not a weakness. The cliché is available to them. They should use it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

I WISH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WERE AS POWERFUL AS RUSH LIMBAUGH THINKS IT IS

If you're like me, you think of the Democratic Party as well-meaning but ineffectual and hapless. To Rush Limbaugh, however, it's all-powerful, or nearly so. Were Democrats committing slow-motion suicide last week when a full-scale civil war broke out within the party? Was the party in the process of ruining its chances in 2020? Limbaugh doesn't think so, as he explained on the radio today:
One theory holds that the Democrats have this internecine war going, and that they’re self-destructing and you’ve got these young Squad members taking shots at Pelosi and that the Democrat Party is disunified and unraveling and then Trump comes along and unifies them....

There’s all kinds of people out there on our side saying, “Oh, my God. Trump did the worst thing he could do! He has unified the Democrats!” Folks, the Democrats are already unified against Trump. I don’t care about this circular firing squad they’ve got going on. They’re unified against Trump. When it comes to the 2020 election, there isn’t gonna be any circular fire squad. Now, there will be up until then, and who knows how much damage they’re gonna do to each other on the Democrat side in the interim.

But they’re always gonna be unified against Trump.

There’s nothing that’s gonna bust up that unity.
Many of us believe that our voters are extraordinarily fickle -- we have to beg and plead with them in order to keep them from migrating to the other side. Limbaugh assures us that that's nonsense:
People are living in fantasyland if you think that something can be done, that Trump could adopt a demeanor or behavior that might have some Democrats actually turn up to support him in 2020. Come on, folks. That’s simply not gonna happen.
And many of us also believe that Trump is skillfully manipulating the media with his racist tweets, which the media will retransmit in exactly the way Trump intended. Again, Limbaugh tells us that the deck is, in fact, stacked against his own party:
... I’m sorry, but if we haven’t learned by now that trying to tailor what we think and what we do and what we don’t do and what we don’t say we think and what policies and issues we do or do not put forward because of the media’s reaction to it, then we may as well surrender, we may as well just cave, because the media’s never gonna be on our side.
With his sense of hopeless and doom, Limbaugh almost sounds like a Democrat.

Well, not exactly, because he believes in the power of right-wing media to disseminate an alternate point of view. ("Trump did not mention race. Trump did not even mention color! Trump did not mention people of color! Trump did not tell anybody to go home!" he says.) And he believes, of course, that Trump is playing eleventy-billion-dimensional chess:
... I think Trump sees this rift developing between Pelosi and the Democrat leadership and these new communists on the left led by Cortez, and I think he wants them back together again. I don’t think Trump likes the rift. I think Trump wants the Democrat Party to become known as the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal socialism party. I think he wants to hang that label around all of them, and for that to happen they have to be unified.

In other words, Trump wants Pelosi and the Democrat leadership to adopt the socialism and communism of Cortez and her Squad and whoever else in her little movement is pushing it. That’s what Trump wants, ’cause that can’t lose. Trump cannot lose running against the Democrat Party, which is openly socialist, openly communist, led by young, aspiring anti-Americans. I don’t think he likes the rift. I think he wanted to [mend] the rift, he wanted ’em put back together again because he’s salivating running against the Democrat Party as a modern-day Communist Party or socialism party in America.

So he tweets what he tweets, and the results were totally predictable. And now the Democrats claim that their rift has been healed, and they’re out there claiming Trump has unified the Democrats. Trump really screwed up, they say. He really unified the Democrats. Well, what if that’s exactly what Trump wanted with the unification being that Cortez and her Squad will now define what the Democrat Party is?
Many of us think this moment of unity is just temporary, and we'll be feuding again, because we're Democrats and we're self-sabotaging -- but to Limbaugh, this is likely to be a permanent cessation of hostilities, because, after all, we're 100% united against Trump. (Me, I'm just holding my breath and waiting for Salon or Jacobin to publish the first piece titled "The Progressive Case for a Second Trump Term.") He thinks it's brilliant that Trump persuaded us to unite as commies, whereas I'm not even certain that the party will fully unite if Elizabeth Warren, who doesn't even call herself a socialist, is our nominee.

Limbaugh thinks Trump has pushed us permanently to the left. I don't think so. He believes we're a united anti-Trump force. I hope so, but I'm not betting the rent on it. And he thinks Trump can't get a break from the mainstream media. That's hilarious.

CONSERVATIVES: TRUMP IS BLOWING IT! LIBERALS: TRUMP IS WINNING!

Great work from Yastreblyansky and Tom this weekend. I'll try to maintain the high standards, but it won't be easy.

While I was away, President Trump attacked four non-white progressive congresswomen on Twitter and told them to go back where they came from. (Three were born in America and the fourth is a naturalized citizen.) Some media reports said that the identity of his intended targets was unclear, but it really wasn't:



I'm fascinated by the number of conservatives who cringed when this happened, convinced that Trump had badly damaged himself and his party, while liberals cowered in fear, certain that Trump was playing a brilliant game of eleven-dimensional chess. Here's a post at RedState:
Democrats are collapsing in on themselves. All he has to do was sit back and not distract them. Instead he rips his shirt off and runs out on the battlefield screaming to be shot at. I know, 3-D chess and all that, but this just makes no sense....

All Trump has to do is play to his strengths, i.e. the economy and immigration, and he wins. But he just can’t stop stepping on his own feet. When your enemies are blasting each other, you don’t step in between them and beg to be shot in head. Yet, that’s exactly what Trump did here.

Instead of another week of AOC and Pelosi bad mouthing each other, we get a return to a unified Democrat front and multiple news cycles calling Republicans racists.

If Trump loses in 2020, it won’t be Paul Ryan’s fault, the Republican party’s fault, or the media’s fault. It’ll be a defeat that was wholly self-inflicted because he refused to practice any semblance of self-control when it comes to his personality.
And here's Mike Allen at Axios:
Conservatives who reluctantly support President Trump often try to pretend the daily outrage didn't happen, but yesterday's "go back" tweets were like his "both sides" comment on Charlottesville — a transgression that won't instantly fade, and can't be laughed off.

The bottom line: Trump is all-in on us-versus-them politics and does not care if he occasionally crosses the line into racism. Trump allies expect this to get worse, not better....

* "Republicans with a conscience are cringing," a Trump ally said. "He believes the more he puts 'The Squad' front and center, the better his re-election chances get."

* A former White House official tried to explain Trump for a couple of texts and then just said: "It's insane."
But in the same Mike Allen post, there's this:
* One influential Democrat told me Trump had achieved a tactical win — stoking both his own base and Dems' internal tensions: "His view is that he simply cannot go too far. The line doesn’t exist. ... I'm very worried."
And a liberal Bloomberg columnist tweets:





I think we'll come out of this week with most voters pretty much where they were a week ago. I don't think this will have the same impact as his Charlottesville remarks, which caused a drop in his poll numbers.

But I'm also thinking: If Trump is doing this now, 16 months before the election, how inflammatory will his rhetoric be by the fall of 2020? He thinks he's bulletproof. He thinks he's an expert on winning elections, based on a sample set of one, and is certain that this (rather than Russian interference of James Comey's incompetence) is what worked for him.

But it alienates suburban swing voters, especially women. There's been a very slight but perceptible uptick in his poll numbers lately, and it may coincide with Democrats dominating more of the news cycle of late. On Fox recently, Howard Kurtz discussed this thesis, which was advanced in a Megan McArdle op-ed in The Washington Post. Trump might have watched Kurtz and, instead of saying to himself, "Yes, if I just maintain a Rose Garden strategy I'll cruise to reelection," thought instead, "WAAAHHHH! THEY'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO ME!"

Keep it up, Mr. President.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Then there's the trope of maddening indirection

Drawing via Corner Poetry.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday weighed in on the friction between a group of four freshman Democratic congresswomen and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: He suggested that the congresswomen — none of whom are white — should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from. His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope.
Trope? Reader, Democrats did not call it a trope of any kind. Speaker Pelosi said it was "xenophobic"
and Ben Ray Luján said it was "racist":
“That is a racist tweet,” Mr. Luján said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Telling people to go back where they came from — these are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”
And Ted Lieu has called him "a racist ass". What I say is

Had a hard time shaking a bad feeling today about the dustup between Nancy Pelosi and the Four Freshwomen, all of whom I'm anxious to stay in love with. Or multiple dustups, since this machine has way too many moving parts and I don't even know which ones count.


On the one hand is Saikat Chakrabarti, the Silicon Valley rich guy who turned founder of the Justice Democrats and is now Alexandria Ocasio-Córtez's chief of staff, who found himself morally obliged a couple of weeks ago to call out the so-called "moderate" Democrats who helped the Republicans sink Pelosi's first try at an emergency border aid bill and passed an alternative bill that put fewer strictures on the Trump administration as "new Southern Democrats" who were "enabling a racist system", including one of the first two Native American members of the House, Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, whom he referred to by her first name as if he thought they were former bandmates or something, "I don't believe Sharice is a racist person..."

On the other hand is Speaker Pelosi (for whom the loss on the original border aid bill was a personal defeat), who decided to allow the Times serpent-in-chief Maureen Dowd to interview her and persuade her to complain about the Freshwomen (AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayana Pressley), who had stood alone to vote against the alternative bill, which I thought was forgivable,  given that they hadn't stood a chance of killing the thing. It was only a small thing in the course of a long conversation mostly about Trump—
Pelosi feels that the four made themselves irrelevant to the process by voting against “our bill,” as she put it, which she felt was the strongest one she could get. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” she said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
—but the Freshwomen were somewhat offended, and said so in various venues:

Shocking Decline of a Glorious Intellectual Tradition

Mona Charen takes time out from her anti-feminism to haz a sad about the sad state of modern conservatism:
The Claremont Institute was part of the flowering of intellectual conservatism that graced America in the 1970s and '80s....After the announcement of the 2019 Claremont Lincoln fellowships, it is safe to say that the flowering has gone to seed.

Among those Claremont is honoring in its new incarnation as a Trump-justifying toady is Jack Posobiec, the internet phenom most famous for promoting the "Pizzagate" conspiracy. That was the rumor that Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and others were running a child sex ring out of a northwest D.C. pizzeria.
To be fair, she's not wrong. There is no group of people, no matter how loathsome, whose aggregate moral stature would not be reduced by the addition of Jack Posobiec.

And let's face it, Posobiec certainly doesn't belong in the august company of such distinguished former recipients as Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell. Or Mark "the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our government - it's called Barack Obama" Levin. Or Andrew Breitbart, who founded a news organization any respectable conservative should be proud of.

Ah, fuck it--I can't keep a straight face anymore. Yes, Gentle Reader, this has been another episode in the ongoing saga of The Rot Was There All Along.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Be Excellent to Each Other

Over at Lawyers, Guns[,] & Money, Paul Campos is about where I am on impeachment:
My critical contribution to this debate is to note that it’s a tough call, and that basically all the options look very fraught at best and potentially disastrous at worst, because our political system is in the midst of a long not-so-slow decline.
Lately I find myself increasingly pushing back at anyone who thinks it's an easy call, and argues with vehemence appropriate to that judgment.

I feel like people on Twitter have been snapping at each other all the time lately. Everyone is on edge. We're in a situation that is completely untenable, that cannot be allowed to continue, but that absolutely will continue until (at least) January 20, 2021. Trump has to be removed; Trump will not be removed.

And so we're all in a shitty mood and getting inordinately pissed off at people with whom we agree on 80-90% of everything, over an issue where we mostly just disagree on the timing.

Trump is just so fucking exhausting.

Sorry, I know I sound almost as cheerful as Steve here. But the point isn't that the situation is shitty (it is) and isn't going to change for a while (it won't). The point is the toll this shitty situation is taking.

And maybe it would be a good idea to recognize that toll when we interact with each other. To understand that we're all stressed and anxious right now; to understand especially that the people most vulnerable under Trump (i.e., everyone except white guys) are stressed and anxious to a degree the rest of us can only imagine. To treat each other with kindness and patience, and to refuse to let small differences escalate into acrimony.

Because we're all in this together unless we aren't. And if we aren't, the enemy will go on winning long after January 2021.

Is This Phase One of Lumpy Identity Politics?



In a really annoying exchange with some Rose Twitter folks:



Erased! That's a funny idea of what polls are supposed to do. "Waiter, send this poll back! It's ignoring me, merely because I belong to a minority!"

Friday, July 12, 2019

AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND

I'm out of here until Monday. There will be guest posts, however, so drop by frequently between now and then.

ON WEDNESDAY, ACOSTA HUNG TOUGH. THAT'S NOT WHAT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.

Alex Acosta is out:
President Trump’s embattled labor secretary, R. Alexander Acosta, on Friday announced his plans to resign as controversy lingered over his handling of a sex crimes case involving a financier, Jeffrey E. Epstein, when Mr. Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida....

“He felt the constant drumbeat of press about a prosecution which took place under his watch more than 12 years ago was bad for the Administration, which he so strongly believes in, and he graciously tendered his resignation,” the president wrote in a Twitter post after he stood with Mr. Acosta on the South Lawn of the White House and spoke to reporters before leaving for Milwaukee and Cleveland.
("He felt the constant drumbeat of press" and "graciously tendered his resignation" don't strike me as Trump's prose style. I think someone else wrote this. Trump approved it, and possibly contributed "which he so strongly believes in.")

In Acosta's news conference on Wednesday, he did what he thought might save him: He defended his actions and avoided remorse. But clearly that wasn't what his boss demanded.

Here are a couple of tweets from a Politico reporter, sent a few hours before the news conference:




Obviously he was supposed to throw a fit, like Brett Kavanaugh (and Lindsey Graham) in the afternoon session of Christine Blasey Ford hearing, or at least scorch some earth, like Trump in the presidential debate that took place just after the Access Hollywood tape was released (and in the pre-debate news conference where Trump introduced a panel of Bill Clinton accusers). Acosta tried to make a reasonable-sounding case for himself, but reasonable wasn't going to save his job. Attacking Democrats, attacking the media, raising the specter of Clinton's flights on Jeffrey Epstein's plane -- that's what would have saved his job. Nasty would have saved his job. Unhinged would have saved his job.

Not everyone can do that, or would want to. But it was Acosta's only chance, and he blew it.

TRUMP: IT'S NOT FREE SPEECH UNLESS YOU ACKNOWLEDGE MY (NEAR-)INFALLIBILITY

President Trump expressed some thoughts about speech rights yesterday:
President Donald Trump had a lot to say at the White House Social Media Summit on Thursday, including offering his take on what does and does not constitute free speech....

He talked about how Silicon Valley is admired for their technology and how smart they are, but that they aren’t “using that brilliance” fairly. “They have to do that.”

“And we don’t want to stifle anything, we certainly don’t want to stifle free speech. But that’s no longer free speech,” said Trump. “See I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either, because it’s so crooked, it’s so dishonest.”

“So to me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad, to me that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it,” said Trump. “But that’s not free speech.”
Many observers, understandably, find this tyrannical -- a Jonathan Chait post on the summit is titled "President Trump Says Only Trump Supporters Deserve Free Speech."

But why does Trump believe that only Trump supporters deserve free speech? The answer is that his supporters see the truth: that every aspect of the Trump presidency is "something good." Trump's critics, you see, aren't offering honest critiques of the president and his administration. They know Trump is a great president, possibly the best ever. Whenever they examine what the Trump White House is doing, they "see something good," but then they "purposely write bad." Simply put, there is nothing bad in the Trump White House. Trump, like the Catholic pope, is inerrant. His critics know that, but they "purposely" tell their readers and viewers otherwise.

In his remarks at the summit, Trump did acknowledge that he's susceptible to one category of error:
I call Twitter a typewriter. That’s what I really call Twitter, because it goes onto Facebook automatically. And it goes onto Instagram, and it goes on to television—more so Fox than it does CNN. If it’s something bad, they’ll put it on.

If I have a spelling deal, they will put it on. “Donald Trump spelled the word ‘the’ wrong.” You know? “He doesn’t know how to spell ‘the.’ He spelled it t-h-i.” You know? I couldn’t care... Any kind of a punctuation mistake, they put it on. So I’m very very careful. I, really... I’m actually a good speller, but every once and... The fingers aren’t as good as the brain.
The otherwise infallible Trump, who believes the all media sources should acknowledge the ongoing goodness of his presidency, admits here, shockingly, that he sometimes misspells a word on Twitter.

But he really does know how to spell all the words he misspells, so it's still unfair. Therefore, it ought to be banned.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

IF TRUMP WINS IN 2020, HE'LL CAMPAIGN FOR A THIRD TERM, EVEN IF HE DOESN'T INTEND TO RUN FOR ONE

I feel we've been through half a dozen news cycles since this morning, when The Washington Post published a story about Tim Alberta's new book American Carnage, but I want to make note of this:
Trump is regularly depicted as far more interested in campaigning than governing. During one dinner in 2017, Trump asked others a startling question, Alberta writes.

“Has any president besides Franklin Roosevelt done anything big after their first term?” he said.

Trump also makes clear how much he enjoys the campaign trail.

Worried he may miss a rally in South Carolina, he yells at the Air Force One pilots to land a plane in a monsoon-like rain after they circled for an hour, swearing that he could land the plane.

After a 2018 rally in Missouri where Trump soaked in the adulation of the crowd, he screams into the night: “I f---ing love this job!”
Win or lose, Trump will go into a tailspin after Election Day 2020. If anything, he'll go into less of a tailspin if he loses, because he'll first protest the outcome -- we don't know how seriously, or how successfully -- and then, assuming he ultimately accepts defeat, or at least does nothing to prevent the swearing-in of his successor, he'll undoubtedly go right back to his regular gig on Fox & Friends, plus even more tendentious tweeting than he does now. Plus, he'll tell himself that he can run again in four years, in order to get vengeance on whoever beat him. He'll probably file papers with the Federal Election Commission right after he concedes.

(Many people think Trump just won't leave office, but today's climbdown on the citizenship question tells me that he will reluctantly accept the results of the election if he loses.)

If he wins? Then he's going to face an existential crisis. What will there be to live for? He can't run again! Trump likes to troll us with suggestions that he intends to remain in office for more than two terms, but again, I don't think he'll try to do it. Sure, he'll ask his staff what it would take to change the law, and when told it would require repealing a constitutional amendment, he'll become sad and grumpy.

I don't know how he'll cope, but I'm certain he'll immediately do a round of "thank you" rallies (as he did in 2016), only this time the tour might go on for a year or more -- until the midterms, in fact, when he'll leap into campaigning for Republicans in Congress (in rallies that will really be about his ego). After that, I don't know what he'll do. Try to hand-pick a successor? (I question whether the GOP electorate will really go for Ivanka.) Declare martial law so he doesn't have to leave office?

Apart from the promise of more campaign rallies, I can imagine only one thing that could inspire him to get out of bed in the morning if he wins a second term.

But he'll be pursuing a goal he'll never attain. They'll never give Donald Trump a Nobel Peace Prize.

DO CONSERVATIVE ACTIVISTS HAVE A SIGNIFICANT MONEY ADVANTAGE, OR DO THEY JUST SPEND IT BETTER?

I'm seeing praise for a new piece in the Washington Monthly:



The piece, by Richard John, examines recent work by a sociologist named Jen Schradie, who studied a fight over public-sector unions in North Carolina. Schradie concluded that online activism was a significant factor in the Republican victoryShe says that the right wins because it has more resources devoted to this aspect of the fight.

John writes:
The online activism of the left-leaning groups that supported public unions was qualitatively different from that of the right-leaning groups that opposed them. Liberal groups such as the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP were less critical of mainstream media, more skeptical of social media, and more committed to building and sustaining real-time personal relationships. As a consequence, they invested less in online activism and more in face-to-face interactions. Committed to inclusivity, they cultivated an ethic of fairness. While in-person canvassing has long been the gold standard for political strategists, it failed to win the day. Right-leaning groups such as the Caldwell County branch of the Tea Party, in contrast, demonized the mainstream media, invested heavily in digital tools, and mobilized online to bombard their members with carefully curated anti-union information. Freedom from big government trumped fairness for teachers and social workers, and the enemy was at the gates....

In the contest between left and right, the deck was stacked. Left-leaning groups were typically poorer and less digitally savvy than their opponents, and, as a consequence, less likely to possess the knowledge, equipment, and resources to thrive online....

The left-leaning groups that favored the public unions were poorer, less well educated, and, though she does not emphasize this as much as she might, more likely to be African American.
The Koch brothers are invoked, but Schradie believes that big money works when there are energized local activists -- in this case, the local Tea Party, as well as survivalists -- who know what to do online with the resources they have.

It may simply be that there's more ony on the right, but it seems to me that the left has plenty of money -- folks like Tom Steyer seem rather well off -- but it isn't going to groups like the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. The simple explanation might be that the givers see potential beneficiaries like the NAACP and conclude that they don't look like themselves -- which is unfortunate because, let's face it, the fat cats on the right don't exactly hang out with survivalists and retirees who cosplay in tricorn hats. I'd say the right is better at getting the money down to the local level, regardless of cultural differences.

But I'd also add that right-wing online (and real-world) activism plays to a base that's already primed for it, thanks to Fox News, talk radio, and previous waves of activism. The average right-winger in America always thinks the enemy is at the gates. This is self-sustaining, and while I'm not sure I want something similar on the left, it sure seems as if our lunch gets eaten on a regular basis because we don't have it.

Which brings me to a post from Axios about the site's tracker of the most popular online stories about the Democratic presidential candidates:
This tracker looks at all the attention 2020 Democrats are generating from stories on social media....

Over the past two weeks, most of the stories about the candidates leading our tracker that generated the most interactions on Twitter (retweets and likes) and Facebook (reactions, comments and shares) came from conservative sites:

* Joe Biden — 2 of the top 5 articles (Breitbart x2)
* Kamala Harris — 4 of 5 (Fox News x2, Breitbart, The Federalist Papers)
* Cory Booker — 4 of 5 (Fox News, The Federalist Papers, The Blaze, Daily Caller)
* Julián Castro — 4 of 5 (Fox News, Washington Times x2, Breitbart)
* Bernie Sanders — 3 of 5 (Fox Business, Breitbart, Fox News)
* Elizabeth Warren — 1 of 5 (Daily Wire)

For Biden, Harris, Booker and Castro, the top story came from a conservative site. The articles run the gamut of conservative attack lines against Democrats.

* Biden: "20 Times Breitbart Reported on Migrant Deaths During Obama-Biden Years and No One Cared" (Breitbart)
* Harris: "Kamala Harris announces $100B plan for black homeownership, tackling racial wealth gap" (Fox News)
* Booker: "Cory Booker crosses into Mexico to escort asylum seekers to US" (Fox News)
* Castro: "Julián Castro, Beto O'Rourke back Nike, saying Betsy Ross flag is 'hurtful'" (Fox News)

The bottom line: While these stories might not be reaching many Democratic voters, they’re shaping the way a big chunk of the electorate looks at these candidates and exposing potential lines of attack for Trump to exploit.
Schradie is probably right that the battle she studied was won by Republicans largely because there was more conservative moneyand energy devoted to online activism -- but it's also the case that conservative voters are primed for that sort of activism all the time, in ways that moderates and even many progressives aren't. They're always ready for battle. We aren't -- and I have no idea how to change that.

IMAGINE THE WHOLE WORLD WIRED TO DONALD TRUMP'S NARCISSISM

Jeffrey Epstein is said to have raped dozens of teenage girls, but the president of the United States made the case all about himself, as usual. At The New York Times, James Poniewozik writes:
In many workplaces, there are procedures for employees in danger of getting the ax. There are meetings; there are hearings; you step into an office and plead your case....

But in a workplace run by a video junkie, you defend yourself not in front of a disciplinary committee, but on TV.

For an hour on Wednesday afternoon, cable news became the White House human resources office. [Labor Secretary Alex] Acosta parried and deflected questions from journalists, in the process making the meta-argument that the Viewer-in-Chief should not cancel him.
Acosta tried to soothe hurt feelings, but they weren't those of the victims:
The case involved numerous victims of sexual abuse, but Mr. Acosta had little to say to them. Asked repeatedly by journalists whether he had an apology or any other message for them, he instead repeated that Mr. Epstein should be punished, that victims should continue to come forward and that the late aughts were “a different time.”

... the real communication was directed offscreen, to the fabled audience of one, Donald J. Trump. Mr. Acosta was in the cable crucible in part because, reportedly, the binge-watching president had been keeping a close eye on coverage of Mr. Acosta and the Epstein case and did not like how things were looking. According to journalists covering the White House, Mr. Trump directed him to go on the air.
I wrote on Sunday that drawing attention to Acosta's betrayal of the victims in the Epstein case could put him in Trump's doghouse, but I should have realized that Trump would require Acosta to pass a test of manliness -- one that, according to Axios's Jonathan Swan, Acosta hasn't passed:
Trump insiders tell Axios that Labor Secretary Alex Acosta did little to help himself at his high-stakes news conference defending his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case when he was a federal prosecutor in Florida.

... Trump hates being goaded into action by media outcries, and a source close to the president said there was "zero" chance he fires Acosta right away. "Zero," the source repeated — but allowing for Trump's impetuousness, another close source said: "I wouldn't say zero."

... The bottom line: Acosta remains in a tough, shaky position.

* The secretary has no ideological support with conservatives close to Trump.

* And his TV performance wasn't particularly strong.
We've forgotten how a normal president acts in times like this. A normal president acts, at least in part, out of a sense of right and wrong. Even if another president would demand Acosta's resignation because he's becoming "a distraction," that would presumably be because the president believes in pursuing certain policy goals and concludes that ongoing attention to a Cabinet member's past threatens the achievement of those goals. Even firing a Cabinet member so scandal won't plague a reelection bid usually has something to do with right and wrong -- a normal president wants four more years to shape policy.

Sure, there's a lot of ego involved when other presidents make such decisions, but for Trump it's all ego. He wants to be president in order to be president, and in order to continue kicking the asses of people who don't like the fact that he's president. He's been radicalized by Fox News and now regards liberals, moderates, Democrats, non-whites, anyone not born in America (except Saudis and Israelis), and the non-conservative media to be his enemies. But while he's ideologically rigid now, he doesn't care about the ideology except as a weapon of mass destruction to be deployed against those foes. It's purely an ego trip.

And a normal president would act in this situation at least in part out of an assessment of whether Acosta's handling of the Epstein case was morally indefensible, or seemed indefensible to the public. All Trump cares about is whether Acosta can hit back. We don't even find this unusual or troubling anymore.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

ONLY ONE PARTY SUFFERS WHEN ITS POSITIONS ARE PERCEIVED AS EXTREME

The Washington Post reports:
Support for legal abortion stands at its highest level in more than two decades according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, even as numerous states adopt restrictions that challenge the breadth of rights established by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The Post-ABC poll finds a 60 percent majority who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 55 percent in a 2013 Post-ABC poll, and tying the record high level of support from 1995. The latest survey finds 36 percent say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, also tying a record low.
Paul Waldman writes:
Opinions on abortion tend to move slowly, if at all ... that is, until we enter a period of potential change, when it gets thrust to the forefront of the national debate.

That has been happening lately with the passage of laws in Republican-run states attempting to restrict or virtually ban it outright.

... 73 percent of the public either want to keep abortion access as it is now or make abortions easier to obtain. Only 24 percent say they should be harder to get, which is the position the Republican Party has not only held for a long time but is also ready to put into law.

... And while this broader movement in public opinion isn’t huge, it does suggest that people are becoming aware of what’s actually in the offing in this age of minority Republican rule. And it makes clear that Republican efforts to turn public opinion have failed.
But it doesn't seem to be endangering Republican elected officials, particularly the president -- a man who, as Waldman notes, has been demagoguing this issue:
That might surprise you if you’ve watched President Trump and other Republicans gleefully spread preposterous lies about abortion, such as the idea that women routinely decide on their way to the hospital to give birth that they’d rather have an abortion instead, and then some doctor delivers their baby and kills it. “The baby is born," Trump says, “They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby."

That despicable blood libel is so shocking that it’s natural to assume it has affected people deeply. But in truth, the only ones he convinces are probably those who already want to eliminate abortion rights.
But it doesn't seem to be alienating the vast majority of Americans who believe in some form of abortion rights. As Waldman notes, 41% of Americans want abortion access left as is, and 32% want abortions to be easier to obtain -- and yet a not inconsiderable portion of this group supports Trump and seems prepared to vote for him in 2020, as the Post/ABC poll notes:
... President Trump’s approval rating has risen to the highest point of his presidency....

... he runs even against four possible Democratic nominees in hypothetical ­general-election matchups. He trails decisively only to former vice president Joe Biden.

Trump’s approval rating among voting-age Americans stands at 44 percent, edging up from 39 percent in April, with 53 percent saying they disapprove of him. Among registered voters, 47 percent say they approve of Trump while 50 percent disapprove.

... Among registered voters, only Biden emerges with a clear advantage, leading Trump by 53 percent to 43 percent. Trump runs very close against Harris (46 percent Trump, 48 percent Harris) and Sanders (48 percent Trump, 49 percent Sanders), and he runs even against Warren (both at 48 percent) and Buttigieg (both at 47 percent).
And in the latest Emerson poll, Trump is leading Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg for the first time.

After last month's Democratic debates, there was much hand-wringing over the candidates' support for positions deemed extreme -- decriminalizing border crossings, offering health insurance to undocumented immigrants. The candidates are probably to the left of even the median Democratic voter on these and some other issues.

But Republicans are to the right of even their own voters on abortion, and on quite a few other issues: taxing the rich (it has across-the-board support among the electorate), universal gun background checks (ditto), Obamacare's protections on coverage of pre-existing conditions (ditto). But there's never a perception that tacking too far to the right dooms the GOP to electoral failure. And while we're on the subject of healthcare...




Why is this? Is it because Republicans are better at messaging? Is it because the GOP is the party of white men, who are presumed to be normative even when they aren't? Is it the media's unwillingness to call GOP extremism what it is? All of the above?




THE NEW YORK TIMES GIVES A GIFT TO RUSSIA'S 2020 ELECTION INTERFERENCE CAMPAIGN

In 2016, the Russian election interference campaign tried to dissuade progressives from voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election. There'll be similar efforts in 2020 -- and if Joe Biden is the Democrats' 2020 nominee, The New York Times has just provided a headline that will appear in many dissuasion ads and posts:



In the column, Frank Bruni isn't actually arguing that Biden is ideologically a Republican. His point is this:
Bernie Sanders, with his call for Democratic socialism; Kamala Harris, with her intensifying emphasis on racial disparities; Elizabeth Warren, with her encyclopedia of plans; Pete Buttigieg, with his husband and his mere 37 years on earth — the election of any one of them would be a bold statement, a milestone. Each is a figure exponentially more romantic than Biden, counting to some degree on the adage that while Republican voters fall in line, Democratic voters fall in love.

Biden, in contrast, is trying to get Democrats to do something that Republicans have more practice at: choose a nominee who’s due over one who’s new. He’s the liberal iteration of Bob Dole, the looser version of Mitt Romney, John McCain without Lindsey Graham glued to his side.
(In fact, Democrats "choose a nominee who's due" frequently: Walter Mondale, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton. Such nominees generally lose, as did Dole, Romney, and McCain. But George H.W. Bush won for the Republicans in 1988, and Richard Nixon nearly won in 1960. And safe Hillary Clinton would have beaten "fall in love" candidate Donald Trump if multiple forces -- Russia, James Comey, an email-obsessed press -- hadn't been arrayed against her.)

Bruni's column is innocuous. But if Biden survives the primaries, this headline will be immortal. And it's not even accurate: In addition to suggesting that Biden is not ideologically a Democrat (he is, if a moderate one), it implies that Biden is doing something furtive, when in fact he's making no secret about arguing that he represents the old values of a pre-Trump status quo.

The Times has done this before, of course:



But in that case, Maureen Dowd was actually arguing that Trump might be less bellicose than Clinton. Bruni isn't calling Biden a Republican. But the headline of his column will have a life of its own.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

NEVER GUILTY BUT NEVER CLEARED

In the "investigate the investigators" probe, the evil dossier guy was grilled at length, and what do you know -- he came out smelling like a rose. Natasha Bertrand reports:
Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, was interviewed for 16 hours in June by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The interview is part of an ongoing investigation that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been conducting for the past year. Specifically, Horowitz has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser [Carter Page] based in part on information from Steele, an ex-British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010....
Every wingnut in America has been waiting for Horowitz to unmask the true evil of the Deep State. However:
The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising.
Poor Sean Hannity!
The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016.
This is how it always goes with the real witch hunts in American politics -- the ones conducted by Republicans and egged on by Fox News. The base is strung along for months, certain that this time the truth will be uncovered and all of liberalism will come crashing down, and then, when it turns out that there's no massive evil to be exposed -- just as in Benghazi, or the FBI's email probe of Hillary Clinton -- they scream "Cover-up!" and insist that there needs to be another investigation. They never accept the truth, just as they never accept that there's no voter impersonation crisis in America, and no massive wave of Middle Eastern terrorists sneaking across the Mexican border alongside Central American migrants.

We're always guilty. It's just that the truth hasn't been uncovered -- yet.

JOE BIDEN IS NOT IN FREEFALL

For better or worse, reports of the death of Joe Biden's campaign seem to have been exaggerated. In a new Emerson poll, because of a shakeup just below the top spot, Biden actually has a larger lead than he had before the first round of Democratic debates:
Despite Biden losing 4 points of his support from 34% to 30%, he extended his lead in the Democratic primary from 7 points in June to 15 points, as his main rival, Sanders dropped 12 points to 15% from his June number of 27%. Harris saw her numbers improve 8 points to 15%, and Warren ticked up one point from June to 15% of the vote, creating a three way tie for second. The data was collected July 6-8 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.
Biden is still at 30%, with no else above 15%. And his support is more locked in than that of his rivals, Bernie Sanders excepted:
Sanders and Biden continue to have the most loyal supporters as 55% of Sanders supporters will definitely vote for him and 51% of Biden supporters will definitely for him. Comparatively, 37% of Harris and 26% of Warren supporters have made a definitive choice of which candidate to support.
He's even leading among the young now, if by a slight margin:
Biden leads among all age groups. This is a departure from previous Emerson polls, where Sanders has consistently lead among the youngest group of voters. Among 18-29 year olds, 26% support Biden, 24% support Sanders, and 10% support Warren. Among 30-49 year olds Biden leads with 23%, followed by Sanders with 19%, and Harris and Warren with 16%. With voters 50-64 year olds, Biden leads with 36%, followed by Harris with 22%, Warren with 15%, and Sanders with 8%. With those over the age of 65, Biden received 38%, followed by Warren with 19%, Harris with 14%, and Sanders with 8%.
Meanwhile, Morning Consult has Biden leading Sanders 31%-19%, with Harris at 14% and Warren at 13%. Among early primary state voters, Biden leads Sanders 31%-20%, with Harris at 14% and Warren at 10%.

I don't know if this will change as more people watch Biden in action. (In the Emerson poll, Biden is favored by 39% of Democrats who didn't watch the debates, as opposed to 25% of those who did.) It might not. I think we're seeing a less toxic version of Trumpism at work: Every criticism of Biden plays into the perception that he's being held to a "politically correct" standard, something even moderates seem to resent. Unlike Trump voters, Democratic moderates are generally good-hearted and decent, but I think they regard troubling habits such as Biden's handsiness as contained and benign, and they want to believe that he's tried to be on the side of good on issues such as race. I think many of them feel that they themselves struggle to say and do the decent thing, and they don't hold Biden's stumbles against him.

We need these voters to win, and I don't think it's at all certain that they'll give up on Biden. Don't assume that he's doomed.

THE SUPREME COURT WON'T DUMP OBAMACARE BEFORE 2020 BUT WILL ALLOW THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION, BECAUSE REASONS

I'm not worried about this, at least over the next sixteen months:
Obamacare’s future will once again be at stake Tuesday when a federal appeals court considers a Trump-backed lawsuit aimed at scrapping the health care law in the heat of the 2020 election cycle.

The court will hear oral arguments on whether the Affordable Care Act is no longer valid after Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not purchasing health insurance....

Should the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rule against the law, that would all but guarantee the Supreme Court would again take a case directly challenging the ACA’s survival. The high court, which has twice upheld the health care law since it passed in 2010, would likely deliver a final verdict on the ACA as the 2020 campaign season ramps up.
The Roberts court won't overturn Obamacare before the 2020 elections. This is not to say that Federal Society Five like Obamacare or want it to remain the law of the land. But Roberts, at least, is playing chess. Just as in 2012, when he provided the fifth vote to uphold Obamacare, Roberts won't want to enrage supporters of the health care bill just prior to an election. He'll vote with the four liberals to keep Obamacare alive again, enraging Republican voters instead, in the hope that they'll be more likely to turn out to vote for President Trump and Senate Republicans, whom they trust to put more real right-wing ideologues on the Court. Roberts will take the heat. He's playing the long game.

It's possible that the court will choose not to hear the case (if the appellate court upholds the law), or will schedule the case so the ruling comes after the elections. Whatever happens, the Affordable Care Act won't be overturned before November 2020. Roberts is too savvy for that.

(Think about how the risk looks from the right: Overturn Obamacare and you might get a Democratic president and two Democratic houses of Congress. What happens next? Medicare for All! Can't have that!)

On the other hand, I don't trust Roberts on the census question. Two Politico analysts write:
President Donald Trump’s fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is one he seems likely to lose.

Eleven days after an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling, a new team of Justice Department attorneys must persuade three district court judges that a June 30 printing deadline a previous DOJ legal team insisted had to be met no longer applies — even though, the Commerce Department said last week, the questionnaires are being printed already.

To pass muster with the Supreme Court, the new DOJ team must find a rationale that the high court will rule consistent with regulatory law and also believable — a tough assignment given that the court said in its ruling that the previous rationale was not.
Can anyone seriously argue that this precedent-smashing court will care whether the new rationale for the citizenship question is "consistent with regulatory law and also believable"? Four justices will rule in the administration's favor even if the rationale is "Because I said so, that's why." And Roberts will be the fifth vote for two reasons: He already got his "one ruling for the left, one for the right" headlines when he (temporarily) blocked the citizenship question the same day he allowed a free-for-all on partisan gerrymandering, and he knows that a ruling in favor of the question won't drive Democratic turnout in 2020, because, unlike Obamacare, this is a relatively abstruse matter that's not being followed by most voters.

The citizenship question's benefit to the GOP is much greater than the risk, so of course Roberts will give Trump's new rationale a pass. But on health care, the Affordable Care Act will survive until the election, trust me.

Monday, July 08, 2019

EASIEST PREDICTION I EVER MADE

Me on July 2, two days before President Trump's Fourth of July TV special:
Unless this event is utterly catastrophic, Trump will believe what Fox News will inevitably say: that it was a remarkable display of patriotism, that America loved it, and that the citizenry wishes he'd create an even bigger and better show next year.

Believe me, he'll try. A year from now, an election will be four months away. There's a good chance Trump will be trailing in the polls. Of course he'll try.
And there it is, as reported by The Washington Post an hour ago:
Days after presiding over a Fourth of July military celebration on the Mall in Washington, President Trump said Monday that he plans to hold a similar extravaganza next year.

“It was a wonderful day for all Americans, and based on its tremendous success, we’re just making the decision — and I think I can say, we’ve made the decision — to do it again next year, and maybe, we can say, for the foreseeable future,” Trump said at an event on environmental protection.
Trump immediately turned this year's event into a campaign ad, of course, even if he didn't call it that.



A reminder from a member of Trump's party:



Next year, will Trump stick with last week's formula -- an ostensibly apolitical speech and lots of flyovers? He might, even in the thick of a presidential race. He won't need to do a MAGA rally -- he's the president, which means he can order up those flyovers. Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders, Buttigieg? They can't order up flyovers.

But now he has a whole year to plan. So I'll repeat my prediction from July 2:
And this time he'll insist that the damn tanks have to roll down Pennsylvania Avenue, no matter how much damage they do to the roads.
Trump gets everything he wants or he throws a tantrum. If he doesn't get it right away -- like this event, which was rejected by his aides in 2017 and 2018 -- he just keeps whining until he wears everyone down. He didn't want the tanks to be stationary. Next year they won't be. I guarantee it.

And if he wins reelection? We'll probably have one of these every month.

GIPPER WHO?

This morning, President Trump retweeted words of praise for himself from Ronald Reagan.



Here's the image in the original tweet, which is from 2017:



The tweet is gone now, and the account from which it was taken has been suspended.)

As quite a few observers have already noted, the quote is fake. (The photo, from 1987, is real.) There's nothing surprising about the president tweeting false information, obviously -- what surprises me is that the quote is popular among Republicans at all.

For as long as I can remember, Ronald Reagan has been the god among mortals for the Republican electorate. They've long believed he was the greatest president of all time. All aspirants to wingnut greatness have been compared to Reagan, and all have fallen short.

Until Trump. Whether or not they're willing to utter the heresy in so many words, right-wing voters clearly now believe that Trump is a greater hero than Reagan. Reagan has faded in memory -- Trump is the greatest lib-owner of all time (which is how these things are measured, of course, no matter what right-wingers tell you). All that remains is for some respected eminence to declare publicly what Republican voters feel in their hearts: Trump is #1. King Ronnie has been dethroned.

If you believe that Reagan still reigns supreme in these voters' hearts, ask yourself: Why would they appreciate a depiction of their greatest hero declaring himself subordinate to a lesser demigod? It makes sense only if they now believe Trump is the king.

The cult of Reagan is moribund. Trump is now their favorite president ever.

IN MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE EPSTEIN CASE, THE CHIPS WON'T JUST FALL -- THEY'LL BE PUSHED

Fox News spots a tweet from Nancy Pelosi's daughter, who has a prominent position in the Democratic Party:
Christine Pelosi, a Democratic National Committee official and daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warned conspicuously on Saturday evening that it is "quite likely that some of our faves are implicated" in the "horrific" sex-trafficking case against politically connected financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Here's the tweet:



Epstein has been linked to both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. I'm content to be rid of whoever might be implicated on our side, and I think most rank-and-file Democrats who are following the story agree -- Anthony Weiner and Al Franken are gone, as well as former attorney general Eric Schneiderman here in New York State, and the response, for the most part, is that they deserved their fate. If Bill Clinton is implicated, fine. Let him get what he deserves.

But if both Democrats and Republicans are implicated, the coverage won't be equitable. The mainstream media might show balance, but Fox and other right-wing sources will focus exclusively on the Democrats. In much of America, Fox sets the tone of debates. Where Fox dominates, this will be seen as a Democratic scandal even if Republicans are identified as participants.

On the other hand, it's unclear whom Pelosi is addressing. She's a Democratic insider. When she talks about "our faves," she might be talking to fellow party insiders about donors most civilians don't care about. I won't be upset if fat cats who give to Democrats are exposed as pedophiles any more than I was upset when Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial rapist. Good riddance to all of them.

A Forbes story notes that soon-to-be-released documents could be misread:
The court advised the documents be read carefully. “We therefore urge the media to exercise restraint in covering potentially defamatory allegations, and we caution the public to read such accounts with discernment,” wrote the court in its decision.
If the documents muddy the distinction between Democrats who merely socialized with Epstein (as bad as that is) and Democrats who engaged in sexual activity with underage girls, Fox and the rest of the right-wing media will take full advantage of the ambiguity.

One branch of the media will try to play fair in reporting this story. Another will act as a wing of a political party. The guilt may be widely distributed across the politcal spectrum, but much of the coverage won't be.