Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Charlie Pierce writes:
As El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago's time in office runs out, the habits of sycophancy, while lacking a focus, are still very active among some prominent Republicans. Take, for example, Senator Marco Rubio, somebody who certainly has plans for the future. As was the case with everyone who ran against the president* in 2016, Rubio fell into slavish harness almost immediately. On Tuesday, Rubio showed that his taste for the yoke remains undiminished.
Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline. I support American greatness. And I have no interest in returning to the ‘normal’ that left us dependent on China.
... That is a very Trumpist pronouncement on an administration that is still two months away from taking over. The sneering at "Ivy League schools" and "the right conferences" is the polite cousin to all those anti-science, anti-expert punchlines that the superspreader crowds sucked up like virus-laden air.
I'm disappointed in Pierce. He's told us for years that Trumpism is not really new -- it evolved from Reaganism. So why doesn't he recognize that while Rubio may be appealing to Trump voters, he's doing so in the same way Republicans have been talking to their base for decades? How is this any different from the way George H.W. Bush characterized immigrants' son Michael Dukakis in a 1988 speech to the Texas Republican Convention?
Vice President Bush today mocked the foreign policy views of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis as "born in Harvard Yard's boutique" ...
This is what they always say about Democrats. It didn't matter then that Bush was an alumnus of Greenwich Country Day School, Phillips Academy, and Yale any more than it matters now that much of the Trump administration is similarly credentialed.

Republicans were calling Barack Obama an "elitist" back when Donald Trump was just another old white guy who watched a lot of Fox News. Here's Jacob Weisberg in 2010:
If there’s one epithet the right never tires of, it’s “elitism.” Republicans are constantly accusing Democrats of it this campaign season, as when Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul attacked President Obama as “a liberal elitist ... [who] believes that he knows what is best for people.” ... Other days, they simply lament that the entire country is falling prey to it, as California Senate nominee Carly Fiorina recently did in asserting that “the American Dream is in danger” because of the “elitists” in charge of the government....

Brian Williams ... interviewed John McCain and Sarah Palin together on NBC in 2008 and posed a brilliantly simple question. “Who,” he asked the Republican running mates, “is a member of the elite?”

Palin responded first. “I guess just people who think that they’re better than everyone else,” she said.

McCain then elaborated. “I know where a lot of them live—in our nation’s capital and New York City—the ones [Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown—who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

Thus did the son and grandson of admirals, a millionaire who couldn’t remember how many houses he owned, accuse his mixed-race opponent, raised by a single-mother and only a few years past paying off his student loans, of being the real elite candidate in the campaign.
In the tweet Pierce quotes, Rubio did tack on a Trumpian reference to "American greatness," to give it a Trump spin, but the rest of his message is what he would have been saying about Biden's team right now even if Trump had never entered politics. Accusing Democrats of elitism is one of the Republican Party's greatest hits. Trump really hasn't changed the GOP all that much -- as Charlie Pierce knows.


I still haven't read Tim Alberta's long Politico article about President Trump's failed effort to change the electoral outcome in Michigan, but I was glancing at it and I spotted this passage about Lee Chatfield, the Republican speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, and Mike Shirkey, the Republican majority leader of the Michigan Senate, who accepted an invitation to a White House meeting last week:
Ultimately, the GOP lawmakers felt they were obligated to go. This was the president calling on them—and besides, they joked, it might be a long time before a Republican occupied the Oval Office again.
Really? Is that what these two Republicans believe?

As it turns out, these guys weren't particularly hardcore -- they didn't seem inclined to finagle a win for Trump, and their state has now certified Joe Biden as the winner. But they've apparently fallen for the party line, which is that Democrats are evil supervillains who, if granted even a tiny bit of power, will change Washington and America so utterly that the Republican Party will be left bleeding on the floor, never to recover. This is in spite of the fact that Democrats need to run the table in the Georgia Senate runoffs in order to fully control Congress -- and even then, moderate senators like Joe Manchin will put limits on change. And this is also in spite of the Republicans' 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.

But I guess these guys were told that Democrats will immediately get into office and give statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, even though there's no guarantee that Puerto Rico would send two Democrats to the Senate, and even though a hypothetical addition of four new Democratic senators wouldn't flip the current Senate, which is 53-47 Republican and would become 53-51 Republican. It would flip the incoming Senate, or at least create a 52-52 tie if Republicans win two seats in Georgia, but a look at the current Senate makes clear that adding four new Democrats wouldn't create a permanent Democratic Senate majority.

It might make the Electoral College a bit friendlier to Democrats -- although D.C. already has three electoral votes -- but the close margins for Joe Biden in multiple states, in an election he won by (in all likelihood) 7 million popular votes, make clear that the Electoral College still favors Republicans.

And many of us have a sense of foreboding about the election results this year. Democrats failed to win back the Senate on Election Day. They lost seats in the House. They didn't flip any state legislatures.

And in 2024, Joe Biden will be an octogenarian -- or he won't run and his vice president will be his heir apparent in a country that's still riddled with racism and, especially in presidential elections, sexism. Or there'll be a primary battle between establishment figures and progressives. (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be old enough to run for president in 2024.) Everything could be just fine for Democrats in 2024. Victory is hardly inevitable, however.

But I say this only because I'm a Democrat. If I were a Republican, I guess I'd assume that the Democratic juggernaut is now all but unstoppable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


We're being told that the right is beginning to accept the reality of Joe Biden's victory. CNN's Brian Stelter writes:
There was a perceptible shift in the right-wing winds on Monday...

The best example of this shift came at 10 p.m. Eastern on Fox, when Laura Ingraham told viewers that "unless the legal situation changes in a dramatic and unlikely manner, Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20." ...

Ingraham went on to say that Trump has every right to pursue "all legitimate legal challenges to this outcome." But, she said in not so many words, Biden is taking charge.

"To say this constitutes living in reality," Ingraham said.
So she accepts Biden's win as legitimate? Well, no, not exactly. She also said:
Now, legal challenges continue in a number of states. Serious questions about vote counting, poll-watcher access, are outstanding....

Now, to say this does not mean I don't think that this election was rife with problems and potential fraud.

So Ingraham's message isn't "Biden is the legitimate victor and you need to come to grips with that fact." It's "Biden cheated, but you need to come to grips with the fact that he's going to get away with it."

Tucker Carlson impressed a lot of liberals and moderates a couple of days ago when he noted the lack of hard evidence offered by Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Stelter suggests that he's now pivoting away from election irregularities as an explanation for Trump's loss. Carlson did say this:
"The 2020 presidential election was not fair. No honest person would claim that it was fair. On many levels, the system was rigged against one candidate and in favor of another. And it was rigged in ways that were not hidden from view. We all saw it happen."

Carlson didn't deny that Biden won. But he blamed the media and Big Tech for enabling it. "If you are a Trump voter and you suspect this election was stolen, was rigged, you are onto something," he said. "And it's the tech companies, above all, that did it. Keep that in mind."
As Hot Air's Allahpundit put it, Carlson said the election
was rigged in “soft” ways, like the media refusing to ask Biden a hard question and Democrats making it easier to vote by mail and Twitter temporarily suppressing the Hunter Biden story.
But before Carlson said all that, he said this:
You've heard a lot over the past few days about the security of our electronic voting machines. This is a real and serious issue, no matter who raises it or who tries to dismiss it out of hand as a conspiracy theory.

Electronic voting is not as secure as traditional hand counting. It never will be as secure. Voters can see this, because it's obvious, and it makes them nervous. And why wouldn't it make them nervous? Our leaders have given us every reason not to trust technology. The people now telling us to stop asking questions about voting machines are the same ones who claimed that our phones weren't listening to us. They lie. We all know that.

Other countries don't use electronic voting because they know it undermines confidence in democracy. A system cannot function if no one trusts the vote. That's true here, too, as we're finding out. Going forward, we need to find out exactly what happened in this month's presidential election, no matter how long it takes the investigation to unfold or how much it costs.
Because Carlson said this and then pivoted to the influence of the media and the tech industry, Stelter believes he's trying to steer the discussion away from how the vote was conducted. But that's not how his audience is likely to interpret what he said. The Trumpers believe that electoral fraud has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- and if some people, including election officials and judges in contested states, don't believe it, maybe it's for the same reason that the public doesn't believe Joe Biden is the Antichrist: because the truth has been suppressed by the media and the tech giants.

Allahpundit, who's one of the smarter right-wing pundits, writes:
I’ve always thought Trump would eventually settle on that sort of argument to explain why he lost, that liberal influence over major opinion-shaping institutions meant he was always at a deep disadvantage. And I do think he’ll come around to that position eventually, although he’ll never quite relinquish the claims of outright fraud and cheating the way Carlson and Ingraham might.
It's not either/or -- it's additive. Trump will give both explanations for why the evil Democrats won and why they got away with it, and so will the vast majority of Republican voters.

And so a position Trump seems to be slowly embracing is that yes, Democrats cheated, but they hid their tracks so well the theft will never be discovered, and the evil media Establishment helped them do it.

And this is now the moderate position on the right, the position that represents acceptance of the results.


As the president's efforts to subvert the election fail everywhere, his ongoing loyalty to Rudy Giuliani seems ... puzzling.
Trump is worried that his campaign’s legal team, which is being led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is composed of “fools that are making him look bad,” NBC News reported Monday....

But when asked why Trump doesn’t fire Giuliani and other attorneys who remain on the team, a person familiar with the president’s thinking gave a profane shoulder shrug of an answer.

“Who the f--- knows?” that person said to NBC News.
Appearing on Morning Joe, AP's Jonathan Lemire offered some theories:
... the president isn’t likely to cut Giuliani loose for one important reason, [Lemire] said.

“The thing that Trump cherishes and prizes most of all among his aides is the willingness to go on TV to defend him,” Lemire said. “That’s what many people close to him have said that, and Giuliani does do that. He did so in 2016, he did so most notably during the Russia probe, during the Mueller case. People close to the president say that, yes, that Trump has awareness that Giuliani led him astray during Ukraine, but that’s overshadowed by the sense from the president that Giuliani did some some good in the Russia probe, with his fog machine to confuse the issues and deliver attacks on Mueller that seemed to undermine the special council’s credibility. The president was willing to keep him in the orbit and we saw the role that Giuliani played in peddling baseless theories about Joe Biden and his son Hunter. He is not willing to cut him free, but certainly frustrated with recent days.”
Trump has built an apparatus that doesn't always work very well, but it does accomplish two goals fairly efficiently: It allows Trump to fight people incessantly and it coddles Trump's delicate ego. And when the fights don't work out, it gives Trump scapegoats to blame.

Giuliani never stops battling on Trump's behalf, even if he's terrible at it. Trump gets tremendous emotional satisfaction from watching people fight on his behalf, even if they're fighting ineptly. It's primitive and it's male -- it's no surprise that Trump has distanced himself from Sidney Powell but not from Giuliani, who's just as incompetent and prone to making wild, unsupportable statements, but who doesn't have a vagina.

Trump gets off on having men fight on his behalf, and it sometimes works, though it didn't work in this case. But hiring a crude brawler like Giuliani then protects Trump's ego because he can blame his failures on the ineptitude of the fight, rather than on himself for picking the fight in the first place (or hiring incompetent fighters).

So in a weird way, it's win-win for Trump, at least in his own mind -- even though he's a loser.

Monday, November 23, 2020


At The Atlantic, Anne Appelbaum attempts to explain why General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy is blocking the presidential transition. Appelbaum does so by trying to imagine how other Trump flunkies have felt during the past four years:
Over time, everyone who worked for Trump learned to tolerate his lying. Some concluded that they had to lie too in order to keep their jobs. Some began to believe the lies, because that made things easier. Some began to think defending the president’s lies was patriotic, because he was the president.
No, that's not exactly right. No Trump subordinate accepted lies from Trump because it's patriotic to tolerate and enable lying by a president. Think about who's been president! Barack Obama! Bill Clinton! Jimmy Carter! Trump's aides wouldn't have enabled lying by those traitors! If they believed the president was lying, they went along because his enemies are Democrats, the worst people in the world. Trump uses false statements to own the Democrats -- which is the most patriotic act imaginable.

Appelbaum continues:
[Murphy] is behaving badly, dishonestly, unfairly. She is violating the Constitution of the United States of America by refusing to recognize that the election is over, that Trump’s lawsuits and legal games are frivolous, and that the transition has begun. But she, like so many others in the White House, seems to believe the exact opposite: that it is part of her job to support radical, norm-breaking, democracy-destroying lies.
Or perhaps she believes Trump's lawsuits and legal games are legitimate attempts to discover the truth, because there's no conceivable limit to the criminality of Democrats. Democrats might have flipped 150,000 votes in Michigan -- if they'd needed to, they could have flipped half a million, or a billion, because that's how evil they are. It's utterly conceivable that Democrats might have worked with the Republican governor and secretary of state in Georgia to use Venezuelan software to steal an election for the Democrats as a means of advancing the cause of communism -- we shouldn't put anything past the Democrats!

In the 1980s, millions of Americans believed satanic ritual abuse was widespread in daycare centers and similar settings. In one case, involving the McMartin Pre-School in Los Angeles, the allegations were credulity-straining:
A secret cave for sexual games (investigators couldn’t find it). Rabbits butchered on a church altar (no traces of blood turned up). Airplane rides for in-flight molestations (no records were found). Strangers molesting children (almost absurdly, children picked photos of actor Chuck Norris and city Controller James K. Hahn).
Yet people believed. They'd concluded that evil at that scale was conceivable even if the allegations were contradicted by all the forensic evidence.

We have QAnon now. Once again, millions of people believe in evil at that fantastic scale.

Republicans have long believed that Democrats are capable of unspeakable evil. They've just never had a party leader who affirmed their beliefs to the degree that Trump does. We should absolutely not assume that they know Trump is lying. Many probably don't know that -- or if they do, they think it's fine, because if Democrats aren't evil enough to pull off this electoral theft, they're evil enough to use the presidency as a way of bringing America to its knees. That's the goal of all Democrats, in Republicans' eyes.

So even if Trump's flunkies know he's lying, they believe it's for a good cause: saving America from the unimaginable horrors of Democratic rule.


Commentators continue to argue that what's happening in the 2020 election is a startling new development that was inconceivable in the time before Donald Trump entered politics. Here are Henry Farrell and Bruce Schneier, writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times:
The Republican National Committee swung in to support [Trump lawyer Sidney Powell's] false claim that Mr. Trump won in a landslide, while Michigan election officials have tried to stop the certification of the vote.

It is wildly unlikely that [the Trump campaign's] efforts can block Joe Biden from becoming president. But they may still do lasting damage to American democracy for a shocking reason: The moves have come from trusted insiders....

When you really need to worry is when insiders go bad. And that is precisely what is happening in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.... For four years, Donald Trump has been trying to dismantle our shared beliefs about democracy. And now, his fellow Republicans are helping him.
I agree that it took a Trump to goad the GOP to this level of brazenness. But Republican rhetoric has been building up to this for years. This morning, my Twitter pal joan_mediator directed my attention to a tweet in which Greg Sargent of The Washington Post quotes from his 2018 book, An Uncivil War. Here's the excerpt; "Ayres" is the Republican pollster Whit Ayres:

Mitt Romney, now seen as a man of principle because he acknowledges Joe Biden's victory, told donors during his 2012 campaign that "47 percent" of voters are unreachable by the GOP because they are "dependent upon government, ... believe that they are victims, [and] believe the government has a responsibility to care for them." He also said they want "free stuff," a complaint echoed by another member of the GOP Establishment, Jeb Bush, when he was running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

A post at the website of the Mises Institute, which supports "Austrian school" economics, sums up this attitude succinctly:
Politicians are dividing Americans into two classes — those who work for a living and those who vote for a living.
Never mind the large numbers of Republicans who collect government benefits themselves. GOP voters have been telling themselves for years that Democratic votes aren't legitimate -- none of them. Perhaps you've seen this bumper sticker on the highway:

Mainstream Republicans and the right-wing media have long encouraged this belief. So why are we surprised when Trump's push to nullify an election is receiving so much support from the Republican mainstream?

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Frank Bruni, the shallowest columnist on the New York Times op-ed page, embraces the modish notion that we're all addicted to Donald Trump:
Who Will We Be Without Donald Trump?

He lost. We’ll have to stop obsessing about him.

A friend was all worked up about the possibility of Trump 2024.

“I can’t go through this again!” she cried. But what I heard was that she couldn’t stop going through this. Her contempt for Donald Trump is too finely honed at this point, too essential a part of her psyche. Who would she be — conversationally, politically — without it?

Another friend sent me an email in which he’d worked out the economics of a web-only Trump news channel of the kind that Trump may — or may not — start. With minimal investment, Trump could rake in millions and millions!

We were supposed to be breathing a huge sigh of relief about Joe Biden’s victory. But instead he was finding a fresh source of outrage about Trump.

And here I am writing about Trump — again. It’s a tic, not one I’m proud of. But I’m surrendering to it now....
Get a grip, Frank. It's fine to keep writing about Trump, at least for now. Trump is still with us. He destroys democracy a little more every day. People who study fascism express serious concern about his ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the election.

But if we can ever be rid of him, we'll be fine. Trust me, I know. Years ago I obtained a copy of The Book on Bush: How George W. Bush (Mis)leads America by Eric Alterman and Mark Green, as well as The Man Who Would Not Shut Up, a biography of Bill O'Reilly by Marvin Kitman. There was a time I thought I'd read these books. But Bush and O'Reilly passed from the scene and I just ... didn't. I gave the books away. If I think about Bush or O'Reilly now, I remember how much I despised them and how angry I was at the damage they'd done to America. But I rarely think about them. I'm much more concerned with the people who are actively doing harm today.

That's how I'll be once Donald Trump is no longer a figure of influence in America. I'll be fine. The rest of his critics will all be fine.

You know who actually is addicted to Trump? Republicans. Here's a story in Bruni's paper:
Ronna McDaniel, Mr. Trump’s handpicked [Republican National Committee] chairwoman, has secured the president’s support for her re-election to another term in January, when the party is expected to gather for its winter meeting....

So far nobody has emerged to challenge Ms. McDaniel....

A number of state chairs said in interviews that they had already committed to her and her co-chair, Tommy Hicks Jr., who is close to the president’s elder son....

Notably, Mr. Trump has gained even more influence over the committee in the past two years because two of the president’s top campaign aides, Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, worked to install Trump supporters in state-level party posts....

Most strikingly, [McDaniel] told one party leader that if the committee does not rally to her, she will be succeeded by somebody even closer to the president, such as Donald Trump Jr. or his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle....

This “alternative-would-be-worse” theory, along with a deeper apathy about the national party, has prompted a number of Republican lawmakers and strategists to make peace with Ms. McDaniel’s serving another term. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Representative Leader Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, have both endorsed her re-election in recent days.
Trump's functionaries have injected so much Trump into the GOP's veins that withdrawing from him would be the most painful detox of all time.

The other group that can't quit Trump -- as Bruni acknowledges -- is the media.
The test for the mainstream media is our ability to turn away from Trump even if he remains a potent audience draw.

... there’s no doubt that chronicling and commenting on how bad Trump is for democracy has been good for business. It also made virtuous sense: His station and power justified coverage of every tweet and bleat. His attempt to steal the election demands exactly the scrutiny it’s getting, as does the assent of his base and most of his fellow Republicans....

But [in the future] he ... won’t be nearly as relevant as he is now, and that compels news organizations to ratchet down his presence in a huge way, potentially turning our backs on easy stories that would have been raptly consumed by readers and viewers still consumed by their disgust with him. I worry about our resolve.

“With Biden you’re not going to have these wild rallies,” Jim VandeHei, a co-founder of Axios, told Bloomberg recently. “You’re going to have speeches on budget reconciliation. I don’t think that’s going to light people’s hearts afire.” He added that “there’s no way you’re not going to see lower cable ratings and some reduction in traffic to websites.”
I suspect that the press is gearing up to just keep covering Trump -- in fact, the Times published a story titled "Win or Lose, Trump Will Remain a Powerful and Disruptive Force" the day after the polls closed. In the comments to that story, one reader wrote:
Mr. Trump's disruptive voice, if he loses, will remain prominent if the members of the various media choose to give him the high platform given him for four years. They can give him a platform to be as prominent or more so than Mr. Biden. Certainly, Trump will be more attractive to readers and viewers than Biden. He's the showman. Biden is not. He can bolster newspaper circulation and TV ratings in a way that Biden cannot. The more Trump prominence, the more interference in the healing needed by the country. Media leaders will determine that ratio. Millions of Americans hope that they will choose healing over popularity of their products.
I certainly hope the media will dump Trump. I don't expect it to happen, but if it does, I'll be delighted.

Saturday, November 21, 2020


The president met with a delegaion of Republicans from the Michigan state legislature yesterday. It was clearly an effort to persuade them to overturn the results of the presidential election in their state, but relax, we're being told -- he didn't succeed.
... Michigan Republicans declar[ed] after a White House meeting that they had learned nothing to warrant reversing the outcome in their state.

“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R) said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

... even after a personal invitation to the White House by the president, the state’s top two GOP lawmakers notably did not endorse his baseless claims of widespread fraud in the state and instead said they used the meeting to press Trump for more coronavirus relief funds.
That's the mainstream narrative now: Not only did the Republicans not agree to what Trump wants, they used the meeting to press their agenda, which is more pandemic aid to the state.

Josh Marshall is not so sure about that narrative:
For what it’s worth, people I’ve spoken to in Michigan appear to see this as a bit more equivocal than it is being received in the national press. And they know these folks best. So perhaps it’s a bit more fuzzy than it seems.

The state Attorney General has made pretty clear that she saw and sees this meeting as the potential setting of a criminal conspiracy, if the President suggests a corrupt bargain to violate Michigan law by throwing out the results of an election. In this case, putting COVID relief at the center of the discussion seems less like a rebuke of Trump than setting up a non-corrupt set of facts to ward off potential prosecution.

... We’ve seen quite enough about how President Trump acts and talks in these situations. It’s more or less a replay of the “perfect call” Trump had with President Zelensky that got him impeached.
In other words, "I want you to do me a favor, though...."

The AG is warning that officials who respond to Trump's pressure tactics could be brought up on charges:
Michigan’s attorney general is exploring whether officials risk committing crimes if they bend to President Trump’s wishes in seeking to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in their state, according to two people familiar with the review.

The move by Dana Nessel, a Democrat, reflected a growing sense of unease among many in her party and some Republicans that the president was continuing his unprecedented efforts to reach personally into the state’s electoral process....

In the past week, Trump and his allies have shifted their efforts to attempting to block the certification of results in several states, including Michigan.

That included Trump speaking by phone Tuesday with Monica Palmer, a member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, after she and her Republican colleague William Hartmann reluctantly agreed to certify the county’s election tally. After the call, the next day, she and Hartmann reversed course, seeking to rescind their vote to certify. The Michigan secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, said Thursday that there is no legal mechanism for Palmer and Hartmann to do so.
But Michigan officials from both parties are seeking pandemic aid from the federal government, even though they're not quite in sync:
In stating they focused on requests for additional COVID-19 assistance, the [Republican] leaders echoed a call made earlier this week from [Democratic] Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. On Thursday, Whitmer said she sent a letter to Trump and federal legislative leaders asking for additional federal aid for unemployment benefits and small business relief.

She said she asked the Republican legislative leaders to sign onto the letter but they declined. In their own letter, Republican leaders said "we feel it is important to represent our position distinctly from the governor's."

The letter Chatfield and Shirkey sent to the president and federal legislative leaders on Friday is largely the same as the one Whitmer and Michigan Democratic legislative leaders sent to the same federal lawmakers the day before.
So because of tensions between the parties, the Republican delegation to the White House meeting didn't work with the Democratic governor on this request for aid -- but the two requests were essentially identical.

But it could still be a quid pro quo if the Republicans can say they succeeded in obtaining the aid where Whitmer failed, as they help Trump flip the state.

Also, this seems a tad problematic:

I don't believe Trump will succeed in overturning the results of this election, but he's going to work every angle until there are no angles left to work. I think Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, but I also think it's quite likely that he won't receive the electoral votes from at least one state he won.

And even after that happens, we'll conclude that democracy got off easy, and that it's just too difficult to fight a Republican Party that's unyielding and that will stop at nothing to try to win. And we'll just move on.

Friday, November 20, 2020


I'm pleased that Tucker Carlson said this on his show last night about one of President Trump's election lawyers, who claimed in a news conference yesterday that there was widespread Democratic electoral fraud in this year's election:
... we took Sidney Powell seriously, with no intention of fighting with her. We've always respected her work and we simply wanted to see the details. How could you not want to see them? So we invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week, actually, and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention.

But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they also told us Powell had never given them any evidence to prove anything she claimed at the press conference.

... she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.
However, please note that Carlson also said this about Trump's other high-profile attorney:
But back to Thursday's press conference, which [Rudy] Giuliani kicked off by saying the Democrats stole the election by means of coordinated fraud in a number of states. Giuliani did not conclusively prove that, but he did raise legitimate questions and in some cases, he pointed to what appeared to be real wrongdoing. At one point, Giuliani held up an affidavit from a worker in Detroit called Jessy Jacob alleging fraud in that city's polling places.

... This is the sworn statement of an American citizen made under oath and under penalty of perjury, so you cannot dismiss it out of hand. Jacob goes on to say that her supervisor told her not to check the photo IDs of voters when they arrived. She says she saw city employees coaching voters on who to vote for, as well as voters voting more than once.
And this:
The other day on television, Powell said of Trump that when the fraud is finally uncovered, "I think we'll find he had at least 80 million votes." In other words, rigged software stole about seven million votes in this election....

Now, to be perfectly clear, we did not dismiss any of it. We don't dismiss anything anymore, particularly when it's related to technology. We've talked to too many Silicon Valley whistleblowers and we've seen too much after four years on the air....

There's evidence that a lot of things that responsible people dismiss out of hand as ridiculous are, in fact, real. The louder the Yale political science department and the staff of The Atlantic magazine scream "conspiracy theory," the more interested we tend to be. That's usually a sign you're over the target. A lot of people with impressive-sounding credentials in this country are frauds who have no idea what they're doing. They're children posing as authorities. And when they're caught, they lie and then they blame you for it. We see that every day. It's the central theme of our show and will continue to be.
And this:
Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened and precisely who did it. We are certainly hopeful that she will.
In other words, Carlson wants it known that he hasn't been presented with evidence of Democratic electoral fraud -- but he considers it quite possible that Powell and Giuliani are right, even now.

Similarly, I'm pleased that John Hinderaker at the Power Line blog pointed this out:
... I got an email today from a Minnesota resident, a conservative and a smart guy who is the CEO of a company, and later talked with him on the phone. He has taken the trouble to read the filings that have been made so far by Trump’s lawyers. He directed my attention to an affidavit signed by Russell Ramsland, a Texas resident who is an expert on cyber security. The affidavit was filed by Lin Wood in the Georgia lawsuit, but it relates entirely to Michigan, and it is a safe bet that it has been filed in one or more cases in that state as well....

Paragraph 11 explains:
... There were at least 19 precincts where the Presidential Votes Cast compared to the Estimated Voters based on Reported Statistics exceeded 100%.
... Here’s the problem: the townships and precincts listed in paragraphs 11 and 17 of the affidavit are not in Michigan. They are in Minnesota....

Evidently a researcher, either Mr. Ramsland or someone working for him, was working with a database and confused “MI” for Minnesota with “MI” for Michigan. (The postal code for Minnesota is MN, while Michigan is MI, so one can see how this might happen.)
This is hilarious ineptitude, and it's good that Hinderaker is pointing it out. But Hinderaker also writes this:
There is circumstantial evidence of more than a normal amount of voter fraud in this year’s election.... how strong [Trump's lawyers'] evidence will ultimately be, we don’t yet know. I hope their claims turn out to be well-founded and provable.
And this:
A postscript: has Mr. Ramsland inadvertently stumbled across evidence of voter fraud in Minnesota? I seriously doubt it. The venues in question are all in red Greater Minnesota, not in the blue urban areas where voter fraud is common.
So even when these folks are pointing out the weakness of the Trump case, they remain on message: Nothing's been proven so far, but we all know the Democrats cheat every chance they get. So even if no evidence turns up, we all know there was fraud, because Democrats are scum.

And this is the more responsible wing of the right-wing media.


Peggy Noonan, to her credit, has had enough of the president's efforts to steal the election.
More than two weeks after the election, it’s clear where this is going. The winner will be certified and acknowledged; Joe Biden will be inaugurated. But it’s right to worry about the damage being done on the journey.

... the sheer nuttiness surrounding the current mess is becoming deeply destructive.
But this is preposterous:
The Trump campaign sent an email under the name of formerly respectable Republican Newt Gingrich, once speaker of the House, saying “The Corruption is Unprecedented”: “It’s time for us to get MAD.” We can’t “roll over.” “Please contribute $45 RIGHT NOW to the Official Election Defense Fund.”

This isn’t a game. America isn’t your plaything. Doesn’t Mr. Gingrich realize how dangerous it is to stoke people like this, to rev them up on the idea that holding even the slightest faith in the system is for suckers?
Newt Gingrich? Who spread the Seth Rich conspiracy? And the Vince Foster conspiracy a couple of decades before that? Gingrich, who defended Donald Trump's birtherism in 2012 and said Barack Obama engaged in "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior"? That guy is "formerly respectable"?

Back in 1995, when Gingrich was spreading the Foster conspiracy, columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover wrote:
Newt Gingrich seems to have trouble understanding one of the laws of political leadership -- that words have consequences.

The House speaker's declaration that he cannot "accept" the verdict of suicide in the death of White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. is the kind of thing conspiracy theoreticians need for their wild ideas about Foster's death two years ago....

If these comments had been made by some wild-eyed back-bencher in the House, they might be dismissed as just more evidence that there are a few nutcakes elected every two years. But Newt Gingrich is the speaker of the House and, for all practical purposes, the titular leader of the Republican Party today.
But Germond and Witcover were wrong. Gingrich suffered no negative consequences for his conspiratorialism. He's still around. He's still influential. The mainstream media still seeks him out for his opinions. And now it's clear that he was one of the inventors of the modern Republican Party.

Gingrich has been severely criticized throughout his career -- but his critics have mostly been Democrats. Much of America dismisses what Democrats say -- after all, the Democratic Party is full of dangerous radicals, isn't it? That's what we always hear from Republicans, the same Republicans who either parrot Gingrich-style conspiratorialism or refuse to condemn it. The GOP's reputation, by contrast, seems undiminished.

Noonan addresses this warning to Republicans:
[Voters] are accepting a new postelection precedent, that national results won’t be accepted until all states are certified and all legal options, even the most bizarre and absurd, exhausted. Wait until this is used against you, in 2024 or ’28. You won’t like it.
But Democrats won't use this tactic against Republicans in the future. They'll continue to respect democracy -- Al Gore may have challenged a tiny GOP margin of victory in 2000, and Democrats may have complained about Russian interference in 2016, but Hillary Clinton conceded within hours after the polls closed, and Gore conceded when his appeals were exhausted, which Trump will never do. Democrats won't challenge five- and six-figure margins of victory. They won't claim massive conspiracies to flip votes that somehow leave no evidence trail but are incontrovertible nonetheless. They won't declare the whole system corrupt just because the other party sometimes wins.

But maybe they should. Maybe they need to. No one fought dirty against Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, and now the GOP is a party of Gingriches. This year, no one thought to contest Republican wins in, say, North Carolina, just to give the party a taste of its own medicine.

Maybe stooping to their level is the only thing that will stop them. Our failure to stop them for the past quarter century is how we got where are today.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


One of the main reasons we're in this mess is that Republicans have spent years preparing their voters for a moment like this -- and Democrats haven't.

As I often say, the right-wing media and Republican officials tell GOP base voters every day, whether or not we're in election season, that Democrats are evil, deceitful people who are responsible for all the ills of the world, occasionally in partnership with alleged allies such as antifa or the jihadist movement. Republicans voters have heard this for so many years that they don't need to be persuaded that Joe Biden -- who seems like a decent, human person to us -- is either the mastermind or the unwitting dupe of a fiendish plot cooked up by all-powerful supervillains to steal an election. Of course Biden and his henchmen could fake a couple hundred thousand votes in six states! Of course they could conceal the evidence so deftly that President Trump's lawyers and investigators can't uncover it! The absence of evidence isn't proof that the election was honest and fair -- it couldn't possibly be! Democrats are too evil! No dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter needs evidence to be persuaded that something terribe happened. Our malign nature is an article of faith! Proof isn't necessary.

Republicans and the right-wing media have been preparing this ground since the George W. Bush administration sought to fire U.S. attorneys who wouldn't hunt for Democratic voter fraud. The crusade to root out nonexistent electoral fraud was accompanied by Republican state efforts to purge Democratic voters from the rolls while piling on ever more onerous voter ID laws. Democrats still managed an impressive turnout in this election, but the message is still out there: Whenever Democrats vote, there's cheating taking place. Who needs evidence when this has been repeated for more than a decade on Fox News and talk radio, and in every legislative chamber run by Republicans?

Meanwhile, Democrats never say that Republican are evil. Some of us have grasped this on our own, maybe with the help of MSNBC prime-time hosts or online commentators -- but the vast majority of Democratic voters, many of whom are self-styled moderates and live in red or purple communities, never hear this message. In fact, they hear the opposite message from politicians like Barack Obama and Joe Biden: There isn't a red or blue America. There's one America. We're not enemies. From Biden this year, they heard repeatedly that it was safe to vote for him because so many Republicans vouched for him. That helped Biden win, but it reinforced the GOP's message that Democrats are suspect and Republicans are the good guys.

That's one wing of the Democratic Party. The other wing is the progressive wing, and while its members often denounce Republican policies, they're also highly critical of mainstream Democrats. Listen to them long enough and you lose sight of the fact that while mainstream Democrats often fail to deliver for ordinary people, Republicans are much, much worse.

And the mainstream media seems incapable of imagining the possibility that the Republican Party might be dangerous and malignant. Surely it's just Donald Trump! Or Trump plus Republicans temporarily in thrall to him! Surely the party's four years of coddling Trump aren't a sign that there's something inherently wrong with the party, any more than the GOP's extreme positions on climate change and gun ownership and abortion and the regulation and taxation of rich people and corporations are signs that the party can't be trusted! Despite all that, the GOP is seen not only as a respectable center-right party but as the party of normal Americans, while the Democratic Party is the party of non-whites and effete white freaks and weirdos.

And so much of the population -- including a significant majority of white Americans -- simply can't imagine that the Republican Party could be a threat to America, while the same people find it easy to believe that the Democratic Party is precisely that, because they never hear anyone (Democratic politicians, media figures) arguing that the former is true, and they frequently hear that the latter is true. Therefore, they can't see the Republicans' attempt to steal this presidential election for the assault on democracy that it is. People they've heard are bad have been accused of bad things; people they've heard are good are the accusers. So of course they can't grasp what's clearly going on.


I detect a subtle shift in the way we're talking about the current Republican assault on democracy. This is from an editorial in The Washington Post:
Indeed, Mr. Trump may be setting a new precedent for how one wins elections in the United States: First, hold a vote; next, see whether you can bully enough state and local officials into manipulating the vote-counting and certification process on your behalf. The strategy could prove more viable in a closer election. Whether it works then will depend on whether public officials from the lowliest county clerk to the most senior U.S. senator allow previously pro forma matters of election administration to become partisan weapons.
And this is from Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:
People have been warning for a while that someday there’ll be a more capable and ruthless version of Donald Trump, but Republicans’ current rear guard actions against the election results demonstrate that, for his party, the necessary ruthlessness is already in place. They just need a closer margin of votes to apply it to.
It's time to start saying outright what's implied here: This kind of election theft doesn't require a Trump. If a few states are close in the 2024 election, we should be ready for Republicans to do this even on behalf of a "mainstream" candidate like Nikki Haley or Marco Rubio. We should be ready for them to do it the next time a Democrat wins a governor's race in a Republican-dominated state, or the next time a state legislative chamber switches from Republican to Democratic.

And we should expect them to do it if Democrats manage to win both Georgia Senate runoffs. We're asking whether Democrats can prevail in those races, but an equally important question is: How much would they have to win by before Republicans would accept the election results?

In the main Georgia race, David Perdue beat Jon Ossoff by 86,636 votes. In the special election, six Republican and eight Democrats ran (as well as a Green, a Libertarian, and several independents); the Republicans received 46,443 more votes than the Democrats.

So if Democrats win, they're unlikely to win by large margins. Which means, in all likelihood, we'll be spending much of January the way we're spending November if Democrats prevail.

Mathis-Lilley writes:
A movement that’s willing to engage in the straightforward racial disenfranchisement of an entire city and risk the failure of government in order to overturn an election will probably not be beaten back by making its supporters feel guilty. Perhaps the only solution is to promise the kind of mutually assured frustration that the residents of [Michigan's] Wayne County delivered—a level of pushback, outrage, vigilance, and friction that makes the process exhausting on both sides. Maybe Monica Palmer and William Hartmann [the two Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers] just got scared of how they’d be perceived nationally and tired of getting yelled at and threatened with lawsuits themselves; if so, good. That’s how they should feel. They should feel like they are outnumbered, and that everyone else is tired of their shit, because it’s true.
I've had the thought that maybe Democrats should have pushed back in the presidential election by suing over the election results in North Carolina, which Trump (and Senator Thom Tillis) won narrowly, or maybe suing over Ossoff's narrow loss in Georgia. Is that the only way we can make this painful enough for Republicans? By stooping to their level?

Because they're not going to stop. Their voters now believe -- and, by the way, have believed for years -- that Democratic electoral victories are routinely fraudulent. Expect those voters to demand a challenge in every close election Democrats win -- and maybe every important election that isn't a blowout -- from now on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


There's going to be a big, annoying distraction within days, if not hours, of Joe Biden's inauguration. The New York Times reports:
Many world leaders generally have wider latitude on Twitter and Facebook because their comments and posts are regarded as political speech that is in the realm of public interest. But what will happen to President Trump’s accounts on the social media platforms when he leaves office?

At Tuesday’s [Senate Judiciary Committee] hearing, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said the company would no longer make policy exceptions for Mr. Trump after he leaves office in January. During Mr. Trump’s time as a world leader, Twitter allowed him to post content that violated its rules, though it began adding labels to some of the tweets starting in May to indicate that the posts were disputed or glorified violence.

“If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,” Mr. Dorsey said.
How soon after Trump leaves office do you think he'll manage to violate Twitter's rules? It'll be days at most. It could be minutes -- he'll probably be posting lies and conspiracy theories about President Biden and the election on the flight from D.C. to Florida. If Dorsey is serious, censorship and even suspension from Twitter could happen on January 20. It'll certainly happen that month. It will be hard to say whether Trump is deliberately testing Twitter's limits or just ranting the way he always rants on the platform. But he'll cross the line very quickly.

If he's suspended -- or even banned -- congressional Republicans, especially if they still control the Senate (which I think is likely), will want to make social media censorship America's #1 news story and Congress's top priority. Biden will be trying to deal with the pandemic, economic difficulties, and whatever mess Trump has left him in the foreign policy realm, while also hoping to change U.S. policy on immigration, climate, health care, and other issues -- but Republicans (and the right-wing media) will be acting as if this is America's greatest crisis. (They'll probably be aided in this by commentators with mainstream and even liberal credibility -- Bill Maher, Bari Weiss, Glenn Greenwald -- who'll agree that Twitter's actions against Trump constitute a chilling, fascist "cancellation" of the ex-president.)

Maybe it'll be a minor blip. Maybe someone will show Trump how to download the Parler app onto his phone and he'll just move there. But it'll be a distraction we don't need.


If it weren't horrifying, it would almost be sad:
As prospects for an effective vaccination for the coronavirus have improved for the coming year, Donald Trump has grown outwardly resentful that he won’t be in the Oval Office to take the credit for it.
Vaccines are imminent, but they won't be in wide circulation until the spring, when Trump will no longer be in the White House. Some of the self-promotion Trump imagined for himself in a second term seems almost like what you'd expect from a normal president:
According to two individuals with direct knowledge of his private comments, the president had said he envisioned large, public, mask-free events—particularly when the weather grew warmer in, what he anticipated to be, a second term—and rallies to celebrate the successes of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership to develop a vaccine. When distribution began, Trump had wanted to be directly involved in the vaccine’s promotion, gaming out a video campaign about the safety and success of his operation.
But then there's this:
Trump also mused about holding a public, televised event or news conference in which he'd proudly brandish and read from a list of headlines, articles, and TV coverage that had either underestimated him or raised doubts about Operation Warp Speed's timeline.

"The president has been looking forward to showing that he was right and the media was wrong," one of the sources described.
Just imagine that: millions of Americans getting the vaccine, slowly returning to normal life, hugging friends and family members they've been afraid to hug for a year -- but what Trump imagined, at that moment of love and joy, was vengeance. And remember, this is would have been after Trump won the election. He wouldn't have been able to let go of grievances even then.

And, of course, he'd be wrongly seeking vengeance. Critics "raised doubts about Operation Warp Speed's timeline" because Trump regularly insisted that a vaccine would be available before the election. Critics knew it wouldn't happen, and it didn't.

This is who Trump is -- but 73 million people are fine with that. They're fine with a president who looks at the heartbreak of this pandemic and sees only opportunities for ego gratification and retribution against his enemies. They either tell themselves that he really has normal human emotions or they don't care that he doesn't.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


Michael Conway, a Nixon-era counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, believes that Joe Biden should issue a presidential pardon to Donald Trump (something that Biden has pledged he won't do).
Trump would, of course, be one of the least deserving recipients of a federal pardon in history. His pardon could not be justified based on his innocence or his contrition because Trump is not contrite; to the contrary, he is currently endangering our democratic processes by relentlessly undermining the legitimacy of Biden’s election and thwarting a peaceful transition....

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few good reasons to consider it anyway.
Such as?
First and foremost, Trump’s acceptance of a pardon — under the 1915 Supreme Court opinion in Burdick v United States — is an admission that he was guilty of the crimes for which he has been pardoned. Pardoning him may be the only way that Trump even implicitly concedes he did anything wrong.
But Trump won't admit that. He'll pocket the pardon and insist he acknowledged nothing. Who are his followers going to believe? Every respectable reporter and constitutional scholar in America? Or Trump and a succession of hacks insisting on Fox, OANN, and Newsmax that Trump admitted nothing?

Or there might be the opposite reaction:

Or both! Trumpers don't have much use for consistency.

What else?
... a federal pardon wouldn’t eliminate all of Trump’s potential criminal exposure. The Supreme Court last year declined to overrule long-standing precedent which allows parallel state and federal prosecutions based upon the same facts.

So, a presidential pardon would not bar Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from investigating and potentially prosecuting Trump and his company for crimes under state law....

Accepting a federal pardon — especially a pardon for crimes violating both federal and state laws — would be a double-edged sword for the president. And whatever the result of any state investigation or prosecution, it could not be laid at Biden’s doorstep. It would not be his appointees investigating the former president, his recent political adversary; it would not be his employees prosecuting him.
Do you think that will mollify Trump or his supporters? They already believe that all Democrats are part of a vast Deep State conspiracy. They'll say Biden should demand that Vance stand down. They'll argue that the pardon was just a ruse to keep Biden's fingerprints off the "phony witch hunt" (which you know is how they'll describe any state prosecution of Trump).
A Biden pardon of Trump, like [Gerald Ford's] pardoning of former President Richard Nixon 46 years ago, would be intended to heal the nation and foreclose the possibility of an ongoing cycle of retribution after political parties change control of the government.
But that possibility won't be foreclosed. It won't prevent any house of Congress run by Republicans from devoting itself to non-stop investigations of Hunter Biden and alleged 2020 electoral irregularities. And it won't prevent Trump from saying, "Biden did this because he knows I did nothing wrong. But I know he and his family are guilty of tremendous crimes, and I'll prosecute those crimes very strongly after I beat him in 2024."

Trump and his supporters will say that's precisely why the pardon was issued: because Biden is afraid of being prosecuted himself, or afraid his son will be prosecuted.

In any case, a pardon won't lead to healing. And it will infuriate millions of anti-Trump voters. So what's the point?


The Washington Post reports:
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday ratcheted up pressure on the Trump administration to engage in a transition of power, mincing no words on the dire consequences if his incoming team faces further delays in working with federal agencies.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said during a news conference in Wilmington, Del., following remarks on the economic impact of the coronavirus in which he warned of a “very dark winter” where “things are going to get much tougher before they get easier.” ...

Biden officials see their most crucial disadvantage as being unable to plan for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, which would need to be closely coordinated with current Trump administration officials and civil servants who work in important government departments such as Health and Human Services and Defense....

Ideally, while some work may be underway within the Trump administration to plan for the distribution of a vaccine, Biden officials would be clued in so that their transition to running the program would be seamless.
While the Trump administration's response to the pandemic has largely been a miserable failure -- by design -- the Trumpers have agreed to purchase vaccines, and appear to have some plans in the works for vaccine distribution. It's the least you'd expect an American president to do under these circumstances, but it's something.

However, if planning for vaccine distribution is taking place, it's only because the president wanted the glory of being in charge when the doses are made available. He wanted that glory before the election, of course. But he still wants distribution to happen while he's president.

If distribution planners are still working, I imagine it's because Trump hopes the first doses will be distributed between now and January 20 -- or because he still believes he can win the election, and the major wave of distribution will take place during his second term.

So if he really does accept the results of the election between now and the inaugural, I wouldn't put it past our mad king to dismantle the vaccine distribution team, the same way he disbanded a National Security Council pandemic unit in 2018. After all, if he can't get the glory, Biden certainly shouldn't. Right?

I'm not being facetious. I don't think there are limits to Trump's narcissism and envy, and I don't think he's capable of caring about the human suffering COVID-19 has caused. It's all about him. And if he knows it will no longer be about him, I wouldn't rule out this kind of vengeance.

Monday, November 16, 2020


In The Atlantic, Never Trumper Peter Wehner urges opponents of Donald Trump to be measured in our response to Trump's downfall.
Choose Repair, Not Revenge

Stop obsessing over Trump, and begin the hard work of rebuilding.

... My concern ... is that instead of psychologically moving on from Donald Trump, many of his critics won’t let go of him.... The end of his presidency has inspired feelings of joy and relief, as you would expect, but it may also perpetuate a cycle of retaliation and bitterness toward the president and those who enabled him.
What does Wehner mean by this? He assures us that he doesn't mean we should let Trump and his circle get away with crimes.
“It doesn't mean that you don’t want to hold people accountable for their actions or that you don’t want to seek justice,” William Mikulas, a professor of psychology at the University of West Florida, told ABC News. “With revenge, you are coming from an orientation of anger and violence or self-righteousness: ‘I want to get him, I want to hurt them ... I want to make them pay.’ You're coming from a place of violence and anger and that’s never good.”
So no exacting revenge, but it's okay if we hold Trumpers accountable? In reality, we probably won't be able to do either. Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of most of the members of his circle we tried to punish for actual crimes; he'll probably pardon the rest on the way out the door, quite possibly including himself. Trump and most associates who still face possible legal accountability will probably weasel their way out of trouble, the way Trump has his entire life. Wehner thinks justice is okay? Too bad we probably won't be able to get it.

Wehner writes:
There are people who have suffered real, tangible harm from Trump over the past four years that far exceeds what I and most others have experienced—parents and children who have been separated, victims of his cruel conspiracies, individuals whose careers were destroyed by Trump, people of color who have been the targets of empowered white supremacists, people with disabilities who were mocked by him, women who have accused him of sexual assault only to be derided by him, and those whose loved ones have died, or died alone, because of the president’s epic mishandling of the pandemic. To ask them to move on from Trump is asking far more than it’s asking of me, and it may well be asking too much. I know enough about the science of trauma to know that moving on from it before processing it can be unwise.
There you go. How many of these people are likely to find justice in a post-Trump era? We'll be lucky if a handful do. How can we even think about revenge when it's going to be such hard work obtaining simple justice for a few Trump victims?

I'm struggling to understand what kind of revenge Wehner imagines. He alludes to violence, but surely he knows that people who read The Atlantic aren't likely to try to blow up Trump's golf cart or stone Rudy Giuliani. So what does Wehner fear?

Well, Wehner is a cultural elitist, someone who travels in the best circles and writes for the most high-minded periodicals. I think, as a man who spent much of his life working at the highest levels of the Republican Party, he's afraid his readers will take professional revenge on people of his caste who chose to work in the Trump administration. Heaven forbid we should hold them accountable for their life choices! That would be corrosive to our souls -- and to their careers!


Wehner also seems to believe that we'll remain fixated on Trump.
... obsessing over Trump, even as he burns out like a dying star, is emotionally unhealthy. It is the political equivalent of mice pressing a lever to receive a dopamine rush, which leads to addiction. If over the past four years your days began and ended focusing on the latest Trump outrage, you may find the habit hard to break. For many cable-news hosts and commentators, Joe Biden—the president-elect, a calming influence, restrained and dignified—is almost an afterthought.

“My entire personality is hating Donald Trump,” Melissa Villaseñor’s character puts it in a Saturday Night Live political ad parody, “Trump Addicts for America.” “If he’s gone, what am I supposed to do? Focus on my kids again? No thanks.” (“You know he’s bad for you,” the ad concludes. “But it’s hard to imagine life without him.”)
Wehner isn't the only person who thinks we'll continue to crave a Trump fix. So does Politico's Jack Shafer.

When Shafer posted this, I conducted a Twitter poll. I admit it was unscientific, but here are the results:

Ellis Weiner wrote:

I don't think we'll get the chance to miss Trump. We know he doesn't intend to go away. The media loves covering him, and the media also loves portraying Democratic presidents as weak and ineffectual, comparing them unfavorably to aggressive Republican loudmouths who are deemed the voice of the Real America (Newt Gingrich in the Clinton years, the Tea Party in the Obama years). It would be nice if Trump decided to leave politics behind and devote his life to golf and TV; assuming he continues to hold rallies and write politcal attack tweets, it would be nice if the press just ignored them. I'd ignore be delighted to them too. I think we all would. We want him to slip into irrelevance, like Sarah Palin.

But he won't, will he? The press won't let him. The GOP will recognize him as the party's best base motivator. We'll never be rid of him. Under those circumstances, I reserve the right to continue hating him.


Will Bunch, the progressive Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, is concerned.
Yes, Democrat Joe Biden is America’s president-elect, and for that we can thank his surging support in the suburbs.... But now that it’s nearly two weeks since Election Day, and a blurry, complicated mosaic is slowly coming into focus, it’s clear that the bigger, long-term picture ought to alarm Democrats.

... what if Republicans became the nation’s blue-collar party, period — and broadened its appeal to millions of middle-class Hispanics and Blacks? The 2020 results not only showed the conservative party making inroads toward exactly that, but raised a giant question mark: Would a Trump-y candidate who’d actually delivered tangible things to the working class, and who wasn’t so racially offensive, have won the White House?
The villains in Bunch's piece are history's greatest monsters, well-educated liberals, whom Bunch portrays pretty much the way they're portrayed on Fox News.
The current zeitgeist was nailed in a cover piece for Politico Magazine by Tim Alberta that looked at how the preelection polls failed to capture a deeper working-class resentment toward the Democratic Party, as experienced by a centrist Democrat who barely survived her race, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin. He wrote: “At the root of our polarization, Slotkin argued, is one half of the country believing it is enlightened and the other half resenting it.” Alberta asked if the Democrats could “embrace a ‘different era,’ one that demands rapid and unremitting evolution on all things cultural, without condescending to those who are slow to come around?”

... academics [are] the vanguard of the college-educated culture club that also includes Hollywood and “the knowledge economy” of media figures and Silicon Valley which is, of course, the focus of the resentment that has driven a populist revolution in this country.
That last sentence could have come straight out of a Tucker Carlson monologue.

What do those of us in "the college-educated culture club" do that's so awful? How do we torment the working class? We use ... neologisms! (No, please -- not the neologisms!)
Is the political conundrum of the moment summed up in one word — “Latinx,” which was popularized in academic circles and also the LGBTQ community in recent years as a solution to a seeming problem of how to describe the hundreds of millions of people with roots in Central or South America with a word that’s gender-neutral and not colonial-sounding? Today, “Latinx” is widely used by white progressives even though it’s an utter bafflement to culturally conservative brown folks in places like Texas or South Florida the term is supposed to describe. Writer Hector Luis Alamo dismissively told Mother Jones that “Latinx” is “an academic word, and that group always thinks it knows what’s best for the rest of us."
(This is a bizarre complaint, given the fact that Bunch uses a different alternate synonym for "Hispanic" -- "Latine," with an e -- throughout his essay.)

Bunch is right to say that despite a popular-vote lead that will probably approach six million when the slow counts in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey are completed, Joe Biden could have lost the Electoral College if a small percentage of the vote -- tens of thousands of votes -- had flipped in key states. (This is also true of Trump in 2016, of course.) Bunch writes:
... even with the pandemic, I believe [Trump] could have won those votes and the 2020 election if his narcissism and incompetence hadn’t blocked him from a) stirring up resentment of “egghead” elites in ways that were less openly racist and b) governed as a true populist instead of a garden-variety pro-billionaire Republican.

... What if the president had been smart enough to engineer a second stimulus, just ahead of the election, or embraced other populist items like a living wage or a massive infrastructure program? And how much better would Trump had done with the Hispanic voters who were receptive to the GOP’s social conservatism and free-market economics if he hadn’t, for example, dismissively tossed paper towels at Puerto Ricans instead of offering real relief from Hurricane Maria?
Where do I start? First, you can't just award Trump's vote gains among the non-white working class (and among the white working class) to the GOP in perpetuity and simply assume that the next Trump will have more political savvy. Trump's know-nothingism and unwillingness to compromise with his enemies were the whole point, even for non-white Trumpers. What they love is how he fights people. If he'd compromised with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and embraced economically liberal programs, he wouldn't have been the Trump they adored. They voted for the style, not the policies. (He'd also have lost the support of the GOP establishment.)

Bunch believes that President Biden needs to embrace economic populism, and quickly.
If Biden’s first actions as president were to raise the minimum wage and lower the cost of insulin, that could go a long way toward stopping defections among the Black and brown middle class and even win back some rural whites — not a majority of them, at first, but enough to matter in our current 51-49 election mode. That won’t be easy — and if Republicans win those two contested Senate runoffs in Georgia, it may be impossible — but it’s also arguably the lowest hanging fruit.
I'm not optimistic about the Georgia runoffs, so I assume Biden won't get to do these things. I hope I'm wrong about Georgia, and I agree that Biden should make these items top priorities. (I'm sure he agrees.)

But even if he can get them done, it won't blunt the appeal of a chest-thumping Republican populist. I'm reminded of this story from the spring of 2016:
Obama Gets Scant Credit in Indiana Region Where Recovery Was Robust

ELKHART, Ind. — Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

It took years — in 2012, Mr. Neufeldt lamented to a local reporter that he might wear his wristbands “to my casket” — but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

... Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? He may keep a photograph of himself and Mr. Obama on a desk at the medical office he cleans nightly, but he is considering Donald J. Trump.

“I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said....
See? It's all about style. Obama won a few white working-class voters, but they love a Republican who postures as a tough guy, and the more ignorant, boorish, and obnoxious Trump became, the more they liked him.

Assuming Trump doesn't win the 2024 nomination (though he really might), the next Republican presidential candidate will try to replicate what Trump did this year -- and will probably fail. No one stirs up resentment the way Trump does (because it's visceral for him, whereas most of the others are just faking it). Anyone tacking on policy ideas that Democrats could embrace will lose some of the support Trump consolidated, because being at war all the time is what they liked about him. And let's acknowledge reality: Trump is repellent to us, but he has an extraordinary charisma that half the country finds captivating. No one else in the Republican Party -- not Don Junior, not Tucker Carlson, and certainly not Cotton or Crenshaw or Haley or Hawley -- comes close. Trump can't be replicated.

And yet he lost.

Bunch writes:
... history may look back on 2016 not as a fluke but as a realignment election, in line with the long-term impact of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition in 1932 or the rise of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968.
But FDR won in a landslide. And while Nixon barely beat Hubert Humphrey in the popular vote, his voters plus George Wallace's voters combined for 57% of the vote. That combination went on to become the GOP coalition.

Trump won nothing like these margins. He lost the popular vote by 2% in 2016 and by 4% this time. His successor will take advantage of the structural advantage Republicans have in the Electoral College, while also taking advantage of the GOP's vastly superior national messaging.

But Trump's successor won't be Trump. Unless he runs again, Republicans will struggle to replicate his appeal.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


This is an easy one:

I find it remarkable that people think Trump would resign before his term is up. Resigning, even as part of a deal in his last hours as president, would be an act of weakness in Trump's eyes. For Trump weakness is the worst of all possible sins.

I've argued that Trump has had a tremendous run of luck throughout his life. I think it's possible that he'll choose to roll the dice and take his chances in upcoming court cases.

But if he doesn't, he'll pardon himself on the way out the door. He'd do that even if he weren't averse to the idea of resigning and being pardoned by Pence, for one simple reason:

A pardon from Pence would raise few legal questions. A self-pardon would raise many more. Scholars generally believe a president can't pardon himself.

Which is why he'll do it -- because it will enrage people who believe in the rule of law. Trump loves doing things that infuriate people who respect rules and norms.

And he might not do it with hours to go. He might do it a week or two in advance, so he can savor the outrage. (And also so he can give William Barr's Justice Department time to declare him perfectly within his rights to do it.)

Oh yeah, he'll enjoy this. Of the two possibilities mentioned above, it's definitely the one he'll choose.


Some people are treating this as an acknowledgment by the president that he lost the election:

A campaign spokesman even issued a clarification to an NPR reporter:

As did Trump himself:

But he did ackowledge that Biden won -- right?

Yes, but only in the same way that he acknowledged John McCain's status as a war hero back in 2015:

"He's not a war hero. He's a war hero -- he's a war hero 'cause he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, okay?"

In both cases it's the same syntax, and in both cases Trump is merely describing what other people say -- and arguing that what they say is wrong, because anything that makes Trump look bad is objectively wrong, according to Trump.

Trump did not concede. Trump will never concede. Even after all the legal cases are resolved, the recounts are finished in Georgia and Wisconsin, the results are certified by the states, the electoral votes are cast, and Biden is inaugurated, Trump won't concede. On his deathbed, he'll still say he won this election. His delicate ego can't handle the truth.