Friday, February 21, 2020

THERE'S ACTUALLY A LIBERAL ELITIST IN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE, EXCEPT HE'S NOT MUCH OF A LIBERAL

Over the past few decades, right-wing propagandists have done an excellent job of bamboozling the public by portraying cultural "elitists" as the real overlords in American society, thus permitting actual elitists -- you know, people with money and power -- to escape accountability. If you drive a Prius, shop at Whole Foods, or listen to NPR, if you're supportive of your LGBTQ child, if you'd heard of Parasite before the Oscars (or, Lord help us, had actually seen it), you're an elitist as far as the right is concerned. Billionaires? They're just rugged risk-takers. The real elitists are those snooty liberals with their noses in the air, the ones who look down on real working people -- or did, at least, until those rugged folks got their revenge on Election Day 2016.

But in fact, our side's politicians actually want to improve the lot of working people. Many of our voters are blue-collar workers or far-from-elite white-collar workers. Our inclination to judge people by cultural markers has been greatly exaggerated.

Except now we have Mike Bloomberg in the presidential race -- a guy who really might be called an elitist liberal if he were actually a liberal, and who's now mocking Donald Trump (allegedly a "blue-collar billionaire") for the dΓ©classΓ© way he likes his meat:



Mike Bloomberg is looking beyond the war being waged against him by the Democratic primary field toward general election opponent President Trump, trolling him with billboards where the president himself is campaigning in the West this week.

... the billboards are going up in Phoenix and Las Vegas, where Mr. Trump will be campaigning Friday. The billboards are appearing in high visibility areas near a Trump hotel property on the Vegas Strip, and also along potential motorcade routes where the president may see them as he drives by.

Should Mr. Trump look out the window of the presidential limousine, he could see billboards blaring, "Donald Trump cheats at golf," and "Donald Trump eats burnt steak."
Why bring up the burnt steak? It's just a reminder that some people think there's a "right" way to eat and you, ordinary voter, might not know what it is.

And cheating at golf? Who cares?



Other ads in the series are better. I like the first two below, at least:




Mock the wall because it's his signature policy, and it's a failure. Mock the popular-vote loss because Trump clearly hasn't gotten over it.

It should be easy to mock Trump's failures in business, although no one managed it in 2016. (It's hard to make Trump look like a failure when network television made him look like the ultimate rich guy for fourteen years, an image that's clearly indelible for many Americans.)

It comes off as Bloomberg flaunting his own wealth in a haughty way (as opposed to Trump's phony-populist way). Trump has conned his voters into believing that he's their rich guy, someone who uses his wealth and (alleged) business acumen on their behalf, while Bloomberg is coming off as someone who's more interested in competing with Trump for alpha status than helping ordinary citizens.

So Bloomberg should lose the billboards, or at least stick to the ones that sidestep issues of wealth and taste.

HERE'S MORE EVIDENCE THAT TRUMP WILL DEBATE IN THE FALL

I wrote a post in December titled "No, Trump Won't Skip the Debates," and I stand by every word of it. Trump will debate his Democratic opponent this fall -- I'm certain of it. This New York Times story about Trump's rally last night in Colorado includes several indications of his intent to debate.
“I don’t know if anybody watched last night’s debate,” Mr. Trump said shortly after he took the stage. “It got very big ratings, and you know what? Mini Mike didn’t do very well last night. I was going to send him a note saying, ‘It’s not easy doing what I do, is it?’”
It’s not easy doing what I do -- Bloomberg debated poorly, and that was Trump's comment. This tells me that Trump will debate for the most obvious reason: He thinks he's really good at it.
Mr. Trump spent a substantial amount of time regaling the crowd with stories of his 2016 campaign, calling Dan Scavino — his social media manager and “the most powerful man in politics,” the president said — up to the stage to hand him a stack of news clippings. The president read aloud from them individually, insulting journalists who had declared he had done poorly on the debate stage against Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent that year....

“I did great in the debates,” Mr. Trump said. “I became president because of the debates.”
That's not the reason Trump became president, but why would a guy who believes he won as a result of his debate performances refuse to debate this year?
Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s eldest son and a campaign surrogate who watched the debate aboard Air Force One with his father, said that Mr. Bloomberg’s performance amounted to a “great night” for his father.

“Bloomberg was the victim of a political homicide and was clearly not prepared for the onslaught coming his way at the debate,” Donald Trump Jr. said in remarks relayed through a spokesman. “If he can’t handle Grandpa Joe or Pocahontas on the debate stage, what makes anyone think he can handle Trump?”
If the president doesn't intend to debate, why is a spokesman for his namesake son -- who's the most politically attuned of the Trump children -- asserting that Bloomberg would lose to Trump in a debate?

And there's this:


REINCE PRIEBUS: I went back and looked at that second debate, the second general debate against Hillary Clinton, the one that turned around the entire 2016 candidacy for Donald Trump. Almost every one of the best lines from that debate President Trump came up with on his own. They weren't actually prepped, even though he was ready for the debate. So debates matter. You have to have natural talent, and Bloomberg doesn't. He doesn't have the talent to stand up against President Trump on a debate stage.
Why would a former Trump staffer, speaking to the most important pro-Trump propaganda organization, say this if Trump is planning to evade debates in the fall?

I know what you'll say. Adderall. Dementia. Scared to debate against [pick your favorite Democratic candidate].

Meanwhile, Trump is now doing lengthy impromptu rallies back-to-back -- last night's rally in Colorado will be followed by another one in Las Vegas tonight. If Trump is afraid to appear in a public forum where he has to speak off the cuff, he's doing a hell of a job of concealing that fear.

Yes, he'll debate. Take that to the bank.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

LIMBAUGH: TRUMP SHOWED HIS GREATNESS BY USING ME AS A PROP

I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I read the occasional transcript on his website. The headline of this transcribed segment from today's radio show caught my eye.
The Rare Heart and Character of the Donald Trump I Know
"Rare heart and character"? Do tell, Rush.

Limbaugh teased his listeners for a while:
... what is ironic about it is that people who only have formed an opinion of Trump based on criticism he gets in the media, when you tell them he has depth of character and heart, you lose ’em. They think the last thing Trump has is character. They think he’s totally devoid. They think he’s brusque and he’s an ogre.
Gosh, I can't imagine how anyone would come to that conclusion.
But when you get to know him personally, and I mean really get to know him, and you encounter the can-do, will-do, there’s no way we can be stopped personality, then you realize how rare it is. If there’s any self-doubt in Donald Trump, he will never portray it, unless he’s joking about something. And even when he’s joking, he’s serious. He is somebody that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, but never manipulates you and never commands and never demands.

You end up doing what he wants even when you think you can’t. But not because you have been intimidated or made afraid. It’s hard to describe....

But I’m still not — I haven’t zeroed in on it, and it would be easy if I could give you some details that I don’t have permission to share yet about that day. But if I were able, you would not have any questions about what I’m talking about. So do your best to believe what I’m telling you here.
"That day" is the day Limbaugh got the Presidential Medal of Freedom on live TV during the State of the Union address. He tells his listeners that he can't reveal the real inside skinny -- but he does go on to recount some of what happened that day:
... Trump is just can-do. He’s positive. He exudes confidence and leadership, has no self-doubt, does not let you have any self-doubt, will not tolerate you thinking you can’t do something if he wants you to do it. I’ll just give you one example, and this is sort of out of context, and it’s not gonna be fully explanatory. But on that day, we had no business being able to make it to Washington on the day of the State of the Union. We didn’t have any clothes.

My transportation was not available. Doctors... I had a crucial surgical procedure at 5 p.m. that day. There was no way. There no way under the sun I had any business being in Washington that night. I tried to tell the president this, and he agreed with me. “Oh, yeah, your health comes first. There’s no question. Look, I’ve cleared you into Reagan National. My guys are gonna meet you. They’re gonna bring you right here to the White House.

“If you need a tailor to fix the jacket, we got somebody here. Don’t worry about it! I understand your health has to come first.” What do you say to that? “I’ve cleared you into Reagan National. My guys are gonna bring you here to the White House. If you need somebody to fix the jacket, no problem. I understand your health comes first. Can’t you just tell the doctors to do part of it, like, right now, and then let you go later this afternoon?”

“Well, it’s not quite that easy.”

“Well, what’s his name?”

“Um...” (chuckling) And I knew nothing about the medal at this time. I knew nothing about it, and it’s one of the reasons he was so insistent. But the point is, in his world, there was no way it wasn’t happening. No matter what was standing in the way, it was going to happen. No matter what the objection was. No matter how sensible the objection was. No matter how sincere it was. No matter what.
So that's Trump's character -- he wants an acquaintance and important political ally to be given a medal on live TV because he believes in feeding his base endless quantities of red meat, as if they won't vote for him again unless they're allowed to consume triple and quadruple portions every day between now and November. This ally has stage-four cancer, for which he's undergoing treatments I'm sure are extremely debilitating. But Trump wants the acquaintance to be a human prop, and he has both government power and personal wealth to make sure that his sick, weakened man complies.

And the acquaintance thinks that's a good thing. He thinks being used as a prop during what is likely to be his final illness is just swell, because he believes in The Cause and he knows this advances it, and also because, being a right-winger, he believes that some people are Masters of the Universe and others are expected to serve them.

So he tells himself that Trump made him choose to do this in the midst of his cancer treatment.
But it ends up happening because you want to do it. (laughing) It’s not because you’ve been demanded. It’s not because you have been ordered.

It’s not because you’ve been intimidated or manipulated to show up. It’s hard to describe. All I can tell you is, there are so few people. I understand he’s got the power of the presidency, but even without that he’s this kind of guy, and it’s rare.
Trump pushes Limbaugh around when he's weak, and Limbaugh likes it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is character, according to Limbaugh.

SILLY DEMOCRATS WITH THEIR SILLY PRINCIPLES (updated)




Late in the debate, after Alberta posted this, Warren did take Bernie Sanders on briefly, but in a debate that will be best remembered for her strong performance, she and others mostly left Sanders alone.

I don't know why the rest of the field (with the occasional exception of Mike Bloomberg) gave Sanders a pass. Do they think all of his supporters are unbudgeable cultists? Exit polls in New Hampshire do show that most Sanders voters chose him well before Primary Day, but 17% of voters who decided on a candidate in the last week voted for him. That was 4% of the primary electorate (25% of voters were late deciders). Not every Sanders voter is a diehard.

It would have been tactically wiser for Warren to attack Sanders, but I think she was operating last night on principle -- she'd decided beforehand that she was going to try to dominate the debate, but her specific line of attack, a critique of Bloomberg's sexism and use of wealth to avoid consequences, seemed heartfelt. (Where's the word "authentic" when you need it?) Bloomberg's sexism and use of financial power to insulate himself from accountability seems to infuriate Warren -- and Joe Biden's follow-up about Bloomberg's option of releasing complainants against his company from non-disclosure agreements suggests that, for all Biden's touchy-feely behavior, he also genuinely cares about mistreatment of women.



I don't agree with this. To save his campaign, Biden needed to dominate last night. He was better than usual, but Warren was the strongest debater by far. If Biden could cut into Sanders's front-runner status in Nevada, it would create an opening for Warren as well. Maybe moderate voters came away from the debate believing that Biden is a better bet than those two squabbling kids, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, but Biden still operated in Warren's shadow last night. (Maybe we can hope that the moderates will give Warren a second look.)

Did Warren destroy Bloomberg's candidacy?



Nahhh. He's not dead. Sad to say, but Matt Flegenheimer of The New York Times is probably right:
But it is not clear how, or even if, his performance might affect his prospects. Mr. Bloomberg is offering audiences an unsentimental bargain, in some ways, pitched less at the heart than the gut. These are extraordinary times, the argument goes, requiring extraordinary interventions — up to and including an ultrarich, party-switching Manhattanite hard-wired to replace another.

Voters do not need to fall in love, Mr. Bloomberg’s allies say. They need only to fall on the right side of the question underpinning his campaign: Can anyone else really be trusted to take down the president? And if not, then why not default to the man with the biggest budget for political weaponry?

“Mike Will Get It Done,” read the signs at his events. The means are generally left unsaid.
How long do memories of debate performances last? Amy Klobuchar seemed to benefit from a strong performance just before the New Hampshire primary -- but is she sustaining the momentum? Bloomberg had a terrible debate last night, but he's not on the ballot in Nevada or South Carolina, and he'll spend tens of millions of dollars on ads between now and Super Tuesday (March 3), when he'll actually be on ballots for the first time. There won't be another debate until March 15.* So I expect him to survive (and do a lot more debate prep).

And yes, I wish Democrats had directed more attacks at Trump last night. If the parties were reversed, that's what Republicans would have done. But it's easier if you're a Republican -- there isn't a wide range of opinions on the right, so GOP debaters are free to attack Democrats. The Democratic Party represents an electorate with a broader range of opinions. It tries to speak to moderates, liberals, and Sandersite progressives. There was intraparty fighting last night because Democrats genuinely disagree on stuff, and they care about those disagreements.

Warren didn't fight with Sanders because she agrees with him on many issues. She fought with Bloomberg because his sexism and cavalier use of wealth galls her. Maybe Democrats' biggest problem right now is sincerity.


*UPDATE: sorry, I was wrong -- there'll be a debate in South Carolina on Tuesday. I wonder if Bloomberg will show up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

MIKE BLOOMBERG AND THE BOX

The president likes to make fun of Mike Bloomberg's height.



It appears he's gotten into Bloomberg's head.



I'm a short guy, and this isn't how I would have handled Trump's insults. I would have sent out a spokesperson to say, "In fact, Mayor Bloomberg will be standing on a box -- a box containing every document Donald Trump has personally read since becoming president. We all know what a great reader the president is."

At which point, my spokesperson would produce a box approximately this size.



The spokesperson would add, "We printed the documents in large type so we could fill the box."

That's how I'd handle this.

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRATS

This is the best news I've read in a while:
... Americans’ interest in voting is growing faster in large cities dominated by Democrats than in conservative rural areas, according to an analysis of Reuters/Ipsos national opinion polls.

... The advantage in urban political engagement extends deep into the most competitive battleground states that Trump won by razor-thin margins four years ago, the data shows.

In large urban areas of the upper Midwest, a region that includes swing states Michigan and Wisconsin, for example, the number of people who said they were “certain” to vote in the upcoming presidential election rose by 10 percentage points to 67% compared with survey responses from 2015.

In smaller upper Midwest communities, the number of people similarly dedicated to voting rose by only about 1 point to 60% in that same four-year period.

Overall, the number of “certain” voters rose by 7 percentage points nationally from 2015 to 2019. It increased by more than that in the largest metropolitan areas, rising by 9 points in communities with between 1 million and 5 million people and 8 points in metros with at least 5 million people.

Smaller and rural communities lagged behind. The number of “certain” voters rose by 5 points in sparsely populated, Republican-dominated “non-metro” areas.

...“Democrats are very angry,” said Nicholas Valentino, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, who reviewed some of the poll findings for Reuters.
If this holds until November, Democrats rather than Republicans could overperform relative to poll results in 2020.

But will it hold? The Reuters story notes that there was strong Republican turnout in New Hampshire earlier this month, even though Trump's win by a landslide was inevitable, while Democratic turnout didn't exactly break records. But, of course, New Hampshire doesn't have any metropolitan areas with more than a million people, unless you count the ones that extend into Massachusetts.

I think non-white turnout will be extremely high. I'm hoping Republican voters spend the next several months in an information bubble in which Trump and Fox News are blasting out only the polls that show Trump leading. I hope complacency takes over and Trump-backing infrequent voters never show up. I hope the Trump campaign wastes so much effort on trying to win over unlikely states such as New Mexico (where an Emerson poll last month showed Bernie Sanders with an 18-point lead over Trump) that Wisconsin and other close ones slip away.

We might not get all these breaks. But it's just possible that our voters will be the ones undercounted by the pollsters this time.

DO AMERICANS THINK A DEMOCRAT IS WORSE THAN A SOCIALIST?

According to a recent Gallup poll, more than half of Americans won't vote for a socialist for president.
Less than half of Americans, 45%, say they would vote for a socialist for president, while 53% say they would not.
And yet Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump by 4.6 head to head in the Real Clear Politics average. Do voters simply not know that Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist? Will they instantly abandon him when they find out?

One progressive organization attempted to measure this.
Data for Progress used the Lucid survey sampling platform to test three different versions of a Sanders and Trump polling matchup question. The survey was in the field from January 9 to January 19 of 2020 and ran these three polls:

* No information: “If the 2020 U.S. Presidential election was held today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?”

* Partisan cues: “If the 2020 U.S. Presidential election was held today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump?”

* Socialists and billionaires: “If the 2020 U.S. Presidential election was held today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Democrat Bernie Sanders, who wants to tax the billionaire class to help the working class and Republican Donald Trump, who says Sanders is a socialist who supports a government takeover of healthcare and open borders?”

In all three versions, Bernie beats Trump, albeit by slightly different margins. Sanders does best in the version of the question that provides no information at all. Giving the candidates their partisan labels [de]creases Sanders’s lead somewhat, and giving the hypothetical messages leaves Sanders with a lead that’s somewhere in between the two other scenarios.

The three poll questions aren't exactly analogous -- the version that introduces Sanders's socialism also introduces his campaign arguments (though it also introduces what we assume would be Trump's arguments against Sanders). But with that caveat, note that Sanders does just fine even when respondents are told he's a socialist.

In fact, he does better than when he's identified as a Democrat. The difference is slight and possibly insignificant -- but in a moment when the widely disliked Trump is the embodiment of the Republican Party (along with the widely disliked Mitch McConnell), the Democratic brand should be on the ascent. Yet Trump does best when the race is defined as a Democrat versus a Republican.

I believe that far too many Americans, including Trump-averse moderates in the heartland, have internalized the negative view of the Democratic Party relentlessly promoted by the right-wing media and Republican politicians. Democrats themselves have never offered the slightest pushback to this campaign of demonization, so it's a wonder the party ever wins elections outside blue strongholds.

So it's not surprising that the primary race seems to be coming down to a progressive who's never been a registered Democrat and a former Republican who registered as a Democrat only in the past couple of years. Republicans hate our party, and many of our voters think they have a point.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

TRUMP, STILL SOMEWHAT LEASHED

Here are responses to today's pardon spree from President Trump:



But when has Trump ever bothered to "lay the groundwork" for more outrageous conduct in the future? Trump just does things, and dares us to object, or to stop him.

I think Ioffe is right about owning the libs -- everything Republicans do is, at least in part, intended to own the libs. But I think the Daily Beast's Justin Baragona and Asawin Suebsaeng have the simplest explanation:
Trump Grants Clemency to Another Round of Crooks He Saw on Fox News

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 people, including several convicted felons who are either Fox News regulars or have been championed by the president’s favorite cable-news network.

Among those granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat; former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in 2010 for tax fraud and lying to the feds; and Michael Milken, the “junk-bonds king” whose early-'90s insider-trading conviction made him a poster boy of white-collar crime.

Unsurprisingly, a key influence that led to Trump’s decision, particularly as it related to Blagojevich, was Fox News. The same could partly be said of the decision on Kerik, a frequent Fox News guest whose pardon was backed by several of the network’s stars; Milken, whose pardon was supported by Fox Business Network host and Trump loyalist Maria Bartiromo; and Angela Stanton, an occasional pro-Trump TV pundit whose pardon was pushed by frequent Fox News guest and evangelical leader Alveda King.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump made the Fox News connection abundantly clear, telling reporters that he decided to commute the rest of Blagojevich’s sentence because he’d seen the ex-governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich pleading her husband’s case on Fox.

“I watched his wife on television,” Trump declared....
After Trump's acquittal in the impeachment trial, he should be unleashed -- seriously, what is preventing him from pardoning all the people cited by Steve Benen, and doing it right now? Would there be angry editorials? Open letters of protest signed by retired Justice Department officials? Expressions of deep concern from Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski?

His poll numbers wouldn't go down -- he's never been popular, but nothing makes his approval rating drop significantly, and it never declines for very long. He'd still be competitive in head-to-head polling with the top Democrats running against him, though he'd probably a few points behind -- but he probably doesn't need to win the popular vote to win the election. So why the hesitancy?

For that matter, why doesn't he do even more shocking things? Why hasn't he ordered critics poisoned? There's nothing he could do that would diminish his standing in the eyes of his worshipful fans, and nothing that would lead to even a mild rebuke that could survive both houses of Congress. What's restraining him?

Partly it's his narrow focus -- he doesn't know history, so he lacks the imagination to see himself as a true dictator with unlimited power. The world of his imaginings is circumscribed by what he sees on his favorite news channel, where he's treated like the rest of the audience, helpless exurb-dwellers made to fear and hate enemies who are said to have cheated their way to power (Democrats, Hollywood stars, George Soros).

Beyond that, I think he prefers to think of the world as a place with rules that he -- to his own great delight -- gets away with breaking. It's as if he can't imagine creating a new world with no rules other than his own decrees; it's as if he'd rather cheat the system than destroy it.

Somewhere there are young right-wing megalomaniacs who know precisely what they'd do with the power Trump has now. One of them will probably have his job in the near future. We have it bad now, but it could be even worse.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT THE RIGHT WILL ATTACK BLOOMBERG FROM THE LEFT

I told you Sunday that if Mike Bloomberg is the Democratic presidential nominee, he'll be attacked from the left by the Trump campaign. You can get a hint of what's coming from the current front page of the Trump-aligned Breitbart:



Yes, Breitbart -- the site that used to have a "black crime" story tag...



... is going woke on Bloomberg, favorably quoting a black critic of the Young Men's Initiative, a program Bloomberg championed as mayor of New York.
Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg once claimed during a television appearance that an “enormous cohort” of young black and Latino males “don’t know how to behave in the workplace.”

Bloomberg, who at the time was in his final term as mayor of New York City, made the remarks at the launch of his multimillion dollar Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) in August 2011....

Bloomberg’s remarks ... struck many, especially within New York City’s African American community, as insensitive and bled over into YMI’s public perception. The Village Voice, a prominent New York City tabloid, mocked the initiative as “the white mayor’s burden,” while questioning its feasibility.

Michael Meyers, the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, was even more direct, claiming the program was paternalistic and perpetrated problematic stereotypes of young black men.

Meyers wrote for the Huffington Post shortly after the initiative launched:
I am opposed to this Young Men’s scheme because the black and Latino community is dis-served by good-intentioned paternalism — such strategies … are doomed to fail because they are trying to sell hope through charity and group blame.
If this really is a two-candidate nominating contest -- Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders -- I'll remind you that while Sanders might struggle to fight off attacks on his championing of democratic socialism, Bloomberg is just as likely to be pummeled on his well-documented racist and sexist words and deeds.

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe he just has too much money for this to hurt him. But he's vulnerable, and the right is shameless.

Monday, February 17, 2020

WHO NEEDS ALEX JONES WHEN WE HAVE TOM COTTON?

There are tens of thousands of coronavirus cases now, and Senator Tom Cotton has some thoughts about that.
Speaking on Fox News, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, raised the possibility that the virus had originated in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.

“We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,” the senator said, “but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.”



He's not the only right-winger talking like this:
The idea of the coronavirus as an escaped weapon has been carried through international news outlets like the British tabloid The Daily Mail and The Washington Times, which suggested that the virus was being developed as part of China’s biowarfare program.

Last month, [Steve] Bannon invited Bill Gertz, a Washington Times reporter, to be a guest on the inaugural episode of his radio show “War Room: Pandemic,” a spinoff of his “War Room: Impeachment,” which defended Mr. Trump during the Senate impeachment trial.

“Bill Gertz had an amazing piece in The Washington Times about the biological labs that happen to be in Wuhan,” Mr. Bannon said on his Jan. 25 show. Mr. Gertz appeared on another show several days later to continue putting forward the bioweapons theory.

Fox News has also dabbled in the theory, in one article drawing a connection between a 1980s thriller by Dean Koontz that “predicted coronavirus.” The book is about a Chinese military lab that creates a biological weapon.
We're told that Cotton walked back his speculation:
After receiving criticism for lending credence to what has been largely considered a fringe theory, the senator took to Twitter to say that he did not necessarily think the virus was an “engineered bioweapon.”

But of Cotton's "four hypotheses," three presuppose that the virus came from a lab.






Meanwhile, NPR interviewed Dr. Ian Lipkin. He's a Columbia University epidemiologist who's been investigating the virus and recently returned from Wuhan. He is unequivocal about this theory:



DR. LIPKIN: We think the outbreak originated in wildlife. All the sequencing assays that we've built, the genetic studies, indicate that it probably came from a bat, and likely through some sort of intermediate host, probably a small mammal. This is what's happened with SARS, and we think something similar happened here. But we don't know precisely how it moved from bats into humans.

... we've been trying to convince people to shut down these wild animal markets for a very long time. There are so many diseases, not just this one, but Ebola, MERS, a number of other viral infections, which originate in wildlife. What happens in these markets is you get an exchange of viruses between wildlife and domestic animals, and sometimes directly from wildlife to people, and that's where many of these emerging infections arise.

The one thing I want to say very clearly is that we've examined the possibility that some have suggested, that this virus might have originated in a biocontainment lab or might be some sort of biologically defined weapon, and there's no evidence for that whatsoever. This is a classic example of a zoonosis -- something that starts in wildlife and unfortunately makes its way into people.
Here's a 2010 New York Times profile of Dr. Lipkin, published under the headline "A Man From Whom Viruses Can’t Hide." I think I trust his assessment more than that of Senator Cotton or Steve Bannon.

TRUMP'S BUSH-LIKE DAYTONA APPEARANCE ANNOYS SOME FANS, BUT RIGHT-WING MEDIA COVERAGE IS NORTH KOREAN

President Trump's campaign persuaded him to make an appearance at the Daytona 500 yesterday. Trump was the race's grand marshal -- an honor bestowed in recent years on such luminaries as ... um, Owen Wilson, James Franco, and Nicolas Cage.

Trump's presence annoyed some fans.
Many complained of the long lines, delays, and other aspects exacerbated by Trump's attendance.

"We would like a refund," one first time attendee said according to ABC News. "My feet are sore. I've been standing in that line for three hours. I paid $100 to stand in line for three hours, and that's not a good thing. We got water, but there's no place to go to the bathroom. It's definitely very unorganized."

"This is really ridiculous," another added. "All the people pay for this thing and it's holding them up. We paid extra to get in here and we're not getting to enjoy it."
But coverage in the right-wing press would put North Korean propaganda to shame. Here's a post at PJ Media:
NASCAR fans got the show of the century on Sunday at the Daytona 500 when the grand marshal of the event, President Donald J. Trump, made his entrance by buzzing the Daytona International Speedway in Air Force One—only 800 feet off the racetrack. Announcers called it "one of the most incredible things" ever seen....

"I've been to a lot of Daytona 500s, but never have I felt [this] excitement and energy...we've got the president landing right now!" said one of the announcers. No president has ever been the grand marshal of the Daytona 500. Look at this photo!

This photo, we now know, wasn't of Trump's plane -- it's President George W. Bush's plane when he appeared at Daytona in 2004.
President Donald Trump's campaign manager ... Brad Parscale tweeted the 2004 photo, which shows Air Force One rising above packed stands at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, and wrote, ".@realDonaldTrump won the #Daytona500 before the race even started."

The tweet stayed online for about three hours, drawing at least 6,700 retweets and 23,000 likes before it was deleted. Users identifying themselves as Trump supporters replied with messages like "Amazing shot wow" and "WOW WHAT A SHOT!!!!!!!!!"

But the photo was taken by photographer Jonathan Ferrey on February 15, 2004, after Bush's visit to the racetrack, as Air Force One took off from the adjacent Daytona Beach International Airport.
Trump hates the Bush family. Does he know that his campaign manger tweeted a photo of W's plane and said it was Trump's? Does he realize that this flyover bears a strong resemblance to W's "Mission Accomplished" photo op in 2013? Is he aware that the Daytona Speedway has a strong connection to the Bush family? Three Bushes have appeared there, at either the Daytona 500 or the Pepsi 400, as the Orlando Sentinel reported in 2000.
The third political figure in the famed Bush family will take his seat in the pace car at this year's Pepsi 400 NASCAR race July 1.

Presidential candidate and two-term Texas Gov. George W. Bush will give the "start your engines" command and then lead the pack of drivers in a lap around the Daytona International Speedway's tri-oval track, speedway spokeswoman Kathy Catron said.

"He's the last on our list of Bushes," Catron said Friday. "We'd already had President George Bush here as grand marshal in 1992 and Gov. Jeb Bush here in 1998."

The senior Bush also served as honorary starter for the Daytona 500 in February 1983 when he was vice president.
Poopy Bush was also the grand marshal at the Daytona 500 in 1978, when he was CIA director (and planning a presidential run in 1980).

More gush from PJ Media:
There were rumors all week that the president would also take a lap in The Beast [Trump's presidential limousine] before the race. Shortly after the AF1 flyover, he did just that....

But he didn't just want to drive around the track—the president paced the field ahead of the competitors too.

(Is that really awesome? They're driving at what appears to be normal speed. What am I missing?)

Trump made a speech. He said, "Gentlemen, start your engines." He claimed he wanted to "get in the race if possible." (He didn't.)
America's most popular sport just had an epic day!
Is NASCAR really "America's most popular sport"? Attendance at NASCAR races has been declining for years, as Sports Illustrated noted in 2019.
Last Sunday’s Food Series 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) drew just 38,000 fans (track seats 162,000) and Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway didn’t fare any better; no more than 40% of the venue’s 51,000 seats were occupied.... Gate attendance has been a problem for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all season. The Daytona 500 was the only race among the first 9 to sell-out.
And even for the Daytona 500, TV attendance has been dropping.



And after all that Trump strutting, the race was rained out and will have to be concluded today.

Epic!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

IF BLOOMBERG IS THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE, TRUMP WILL ATTACK HIM FROM THE LEFT (updated)

Mike Bloomberg seems like a savvy guy, but apparently no one ever told him that if you want to run for president, you should first do opposition research on yourself. Find all the things in your life your opponents will use against you, and be ready for the attacks -- or perhaps stay out of the race if there's too much dirt in your past.

Or it's possible that Bloomberg has done the research and believes he can win despite bad publicity. Yesterday The Washington Post published a thorough report on Bloomberg's long history of sexist remarks, many of which came from a booklet published as part of a celebration of his birthday in 1990. Bloomberg might believe this is old news -- after all, he survived stories about the booklet in his first mayoral race. But when I Googled this, I noticed the dateline on the first story that popped up: September 7, 2001. By the time of the general election two months later, no one in New York cared that Bloomberg had said such things as “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s” and “I know for a fact that any woman who walks past a construction site and doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one.” We New Yorkers had other issues on our minds. In Bloomberg's subsequent mayoral races, the story really did seem like old news.

But they won't be old news to American voters if Bloomberg is the Democrats' presidential nominee this year, nor will his remarks on such subjects as stop-and-frisk and redlining. We need to keep in mind that if Bloomberg is the nominee, Trump will run against him by posing as the champion of black and female voters.

Remember Trump's Super Bowl ad?



It focused on Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old black great-grandmother who was serving a life sentence on drug and money laundering charges, and who was granted clemency by Trump. Trump invited her to the State of the Union address and praised her while discussing the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill he signed in 2018.

We know that Trump believes he can increase his share of the black vote, which was 6% in 2016, according to Pew polling. Even a tiny increase could help him in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Do you think he won't use Alice Johnson and the First Step Act to portray himself as less of a racist than the man who praise stop-and-frisk as recently as 2018?

Do you think Trump won't trot out Ivanka, Kellyanne Conway, Stephanie Grisham, and alumnae Nikki Haley and Sarah Huckabee Sanders to claim that, as a boss, he treats women better than Bloomberg? Do you think he won't drag female Trump Organization employees back into the limelight?



Trump countered the Access Hollywood tape by seating a group of women who'd accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the audience at a debate with Hillary Clinton. Trump is shameless enough to attack Bloomberg from the left on race and gender. I wish I could be certain it wouldn't work.

****

UPDATE: Remember 2016...



(Via joan_mediator.)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

THE PARTIES ARE DEAD -- LONG LIVE THE PARTIES

I saw a tweet the other day -- I can't find it now -- that said, in effect: The Democratic race is likely to come down to two men who've spent less time as registered Democrats than Donald Trump. And while that's not strictly true (Mike Bloomberg changed his registration to Democratic in 2018, but he'd been a Democrat for years before running for mayor of New York as a Republican in 2001), it is true that Bernie Sanders appears never to have actually registered as a Democrat, while Trump was a registered Democrat from 2001 to 2009.

So why is this happening? Many Sanders supporters, especially his young backers, don't appear to like the Democratic Party much at all. Other Sanders supporters are frustrated with what they regard as the party's timidity. But many of Bloomberg's backers seem to believe that Middle American voters won't back a traditional Democrat.

You can't discuss this without talking about the relentless anti-Democratic propaganda of the Republican Party and right-wing media. Even when we're not in campaign season, the right finds ways every day to say that Democrats, liberals, leftists, and people who shop at Whole Foods (who are all said to be the same people) are evil, delusional, and an existential threat to American civilization. To some extent, the apparent success of Bloomberg in this race suggests that many Democratic voters have internalized this negative image of the party, or at least assume that other Americans have.

But what about Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP? He came to the party disagreeing with its members on a number issues (though far fewer than most pundits will acknowledge). In addition, he openly attacked some Republicans, particularly John McCain and the Bush family. How did he win over his party?

Again, I blame the right-wing noise machine. In response to the GOP's popularity decline during the second Bush term, the conservative media increased its attacks on "RINOs," echoing the rank-and-file's long-standing suspicion of those in the GOP who might occasionally take a moderate position, especially on immigration. (An example: For years, many Free Republic commenters and others have referred to Senator Lindsay Graham as "Grahamnesty.") After Republicans lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, the right-wing media floated the fiction -- which was picked up by the mainstream press -- that the Tea Party movement was non-partisan and skeptical of both parties. After a while, it became cool on the right to say you were an independent (even if you never voted for a Democrat) and that you were a "constitutional conservative," not a Republican.

So eventually there was a (lesser) degree of self-hate in the GOP. Trump capitalized on that.

But notice that instead of dying or changing, the two-party system endures, even though many Americans find it highly unsatisfactory.

It appears that we can't get rid of it. We can only watch as interlopers remake it in their own images.

Friday, February 14, 2020

PROFITEERING OFF THE PRESIDENCY WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER REASON TO IMPEACH THAN UKRAINE

Last week, Jonathan Chait wrote about presidential buckraking:
The Washington Post has obtained Secret Service receipts from Trump’s properties. It reveals a massive profiteering scandal.

... the Trump Organization appears to be overcharging the Secret Service for the use of its cottage properties. At Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, the Secret Service paid $17,000 a month for a three-bedroom cottage. “Since fall 2017, there have been 100 rental listings for homes with three or more bedrooms in Bedminster, according to the website Zillow.com,” the Post finds. “None were anywhere near Trump’s rate; the average rental rate was $3,400, and the highest rent listed on Zillow was $8,500.”

... The Post notes NBC News asked the Department of Homeland Security for records of Trump’s spending at his Washington, D.C., Hotel. DHS said it spent $159,000 there in Trump’s first year. But the record did not include the rate the Secret Service paid on those stays, or explain why it is spending money to stay there at all, when Trump’s Washington residence — you know, the largeish white house on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks from Trump’s hotel — is already financed by taxpayers?
I agree with Mike the Mad Biologist that this should have been a major focus of Democratic investigations -- much bigger than Ukraine:
Unlike the Ukraine charges, which involved a bunch of people with Russian names nobody can keep straight, everybody gets being charged too much–way too much. It really wouldn’t have been a hard case to make–and multiple attorneys general have filed suits which could have provided more evidence (and they would have been willing to testify). Plus, it would have been nearly impossible for Republicans to defend because it is so clearly greed and nothing more than that. Sure, they might have acquitted anyway, but this is really easy to hang around Republicans’ necks.
When I've made similar arguments, I've been told, Yes, but the Ukraine story is easy to understand. There's a one-sentence version: Trump wouldn't release aid to Ukraine unless Ukraine promised to announce n investigation into one of Trump's political enemies.

But ordinary Americans don't care about the fate of Ukraine. They cared about the Cold War, and about the hot wars we've fought over the years. They care about fighting terrorists. They may know Russia is a bad actor, but it's not a bogeyman the way Hitler, the Soviet Union, and Osama bin Laden were. If your car is in the shop and you just found out your kid needs braces, concerns about Ukraine's security seem very, very remote. And behind that simple summary is an ungainly, convoluted narrative. (A September post by Chait was titled "The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.")

Presidential buckraking is extremely easy to understand: Trump takes advantage of his office to channel money to his own businesses. Presidents aren't supposed to personally profit from the presidency. Some of this money comes from foreign governments. The Constitution specifically forbids that. To comprehend this, you don't need to have a grasp on geopolitics. Also, when Trump pockets this money he can't claim to be engaging in a noble act, the way he can when he says he's very concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

The crimes for which Trump was impeached were serious -- but they were remote from most Americans' experience. Trump's profiteering is much simpler to understand. If House Democrats wanted to grab the attention of the public, that's where they should have turned.

THE DEPLORABLES THINK WILLIAM BARR ISN'T PARTISAN ENOUGH

When Attorney General William Barr told ABC News that President Trump's tweets are distracting him from doing his job, some observers naively saw it as a sign of a genuine rift with the president (until Trump signaled that he wasn't upset), while others saw it as a transparently phony effort to conceal the fact that Trump and Barr are working in sync.

And then there are the people who post in right-wing comment sections, who suspect Barr isn't enough of a hatchet man for the president. Here's how commenters at Gateway Pundit responded to news of the Barr interview:
So Bill Barr actually has a "Job" to do? Prove it Barr....you have been using the "Delay" tactic with Durham ,Horowicz, Huber and now a new Prosecutor telling us to "wait" until its investigated. Barr has not done one damn thing since appointed and he's crying like a child because the President has caused him to have to "Explain" his no existent approach to holding these people accountable for a Coup de'tat ! Either get with it or resign....but its looks bad when the AG complains to the media about his damn boss..like a spoiled child !

****

The moment Barr threw away rock solid criminal referrals on Comey & McCabe was the moment he revealed what he is.

****

Unfortunately all hope is on Durham and that hope too, is fading fast.
Looks like the crooks, traitors and rats will get away with sedition.

****

I used to believe it but now not so much. He is former bush admin so not good

****

As Dr. Corsi says, Tear down the FBI building and get rid of every single one of them. Rebuild from the bottom up. It has been corrupted beyond all hope.

****

Let me spell this out -- Barr ain't doin' crap. He's just another establishment piece of garbage. President Trump fights alone against the Swamp....

When will Bill Barr GET OFF HIS ASS and start the the criminal prosecutions against the crimes of the deep state? Lots of talk coming out of Barr but no action.

****

Barr can resign if he thinks Trump makes it "Impossible to Do His Job".
How about Barr tells Democrats to "BACK OFF", and Lock a Few of them Up for leaking, lying, and attempting a Coup against the President.

Then perhaps he could "Do His Job" in peace.
And at Free Republic:
Next he’ll be recusing himself.

I wish I were joking.

****

Unrecused he doesn’t seem to be doing much about the crimes we all know about.

****

Barr knows Trump is going to explode when they let Humper [Hunter Biden] off - and decline to Prosecute.

****

Barr's "Justice" Dept (and yes, the President is correct to put it in quotes) is infested with Obama and Clinton rogues who are traitors, criminals, schemers, and villains.

The President, his family, and his associates have been put through Hell by this "Justice" Dept.

The President calls them out, and Bagpipes goes crying to some liberal reporter at ABC News?



****

Actually, everybody is waiting for you to do your job Bagpipes. And nobody is going to be surprised when you don’t.

****

This is Barr siding with Lindsey Graham and Senator Ron Johnson (WI)

They’re not going to put the Country through a Prosecution of anyone named Biden.

Barr has left the fold and embraced the Establishment.

****

I see people still at justice dept. like Bruce Ohr that should be gone.

We hear Flynn was set up and 302 were tainted, they actually didn’t think he lied. they threatened his son
they held back evidence in the Generals favor.

Carter Paige phony charges, he actually worked for CIA while they called him a Russian asset? WTF

Now from Ukraine we hear much of what put Manafort in jail was fake evidence. And Manafort is in poor health because he was put is solitary and didn’t get early medical treatment.

And now we get lots of new Roger Stone info, prosecutorial missconduct, tainted juror, and of course made up crimes that were linked to the fake Mueller SC when Mueller knew on day 2 that Trump was innocent, yet they went after Roger Stone anyway. Making Stone broke and his deaf wife suffer.

Barr should get the job done and its over half a year and no results in even prosecuting one of these people we know are lawbreakers for over 3 years. I am not patient for justice to reach the DOJ.
You'd think these people would be happy with the way things are going in America -- Trump is unleashed and he has a good shot at reelection. Impeachment was defeated. Democrats seem frantic.

Yet they're unhappy. They're always unhappy -- aggrieved has been the right's default mode for years -- but they're especially unhappy now, because they've been sold a narrative of unpunished liberal/"deep state" criminality and they won't believe they live in a just country until every subject of a Fox prime time Two Minutes' Hate has been sent to prison. They almost seem angrier about fake crimes than we are about real ones.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

BLOOMBERG SHOULDN'T BE NOMINATED, BUT IF HE IS, HE CAN EXPLOIT THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN'S BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Recently unearthed pronouncements from Michael Bloomberg's past -- on stop and frisk, redlining, and trans rights -- might not end his bid for the presidency, but they sure seem disqualifying. Until now, he's impressed a lot of Democratic voters with his aggressive attacks on President Trump, but I don't believe his campaign can survive all this.

That's appropriate, but it's regrettable in one way: He seemed as if he could give Trump the fight of his life. I say this not just because of his eagerness to express contempt for the president, but also because he would have been the ideal candidate to take advantage of a serious weakness in the Trump campaign -- the inclination to do things like this:
Trump held preemptive rallies in both Iowa and New Hampshire and blanketed both states with dozens of top surrogates, including members of the first family, ... while volunteers on the ground carried out a massive get-out-the-vote effort....

And thanks to the sweeping effort, the president walked away from Iowa having smashed incumbent turnout records. He did the same in New Hampshire, turning out more than 120,000 votes in the Granite State....

“We wanted to make sure we put on a show of force and deliver results for this president and we did,” Trump campaign principal deputy communications director Erin Perrine told ABC News when asked about their primary push. “When we step up and we turn on we deliver.”
Why? Why even bother to fight for a primary win when a massive victory is certain? The campaign says it's to project a sense of party unity:
But the broad attempt to boost Trump’s numbers in first two uncompetitive GOP primary contests was not only a show of force, it’s in line with the campaign’s larger effort to project a Republican Party that’s fully unified behind the president ahead of the summer convention in Charlotte which advisers plan to turn into a week-long reelection ad for the president.

While Trump enjoys wide-spread support among Republicans, his political team is sharply aware of the impact party “disunity” can have on a president running for re-election.

“We studied why past incumbent presidents usually win reelection,” a senior Trump advisor said. “History tells us that incumbent presidents usually win reelection. But when they don’t, there’s a commonality in their losses … Bush 41, Carter, Ford and Taft all lost reelection because they were fighting primary battles up until the very end.”
Does anyone think Trump has problems in this area? Can anyone not read the polls that show Trump with stratospherically high levels of approval within his party?

Barack Obama won reelection without doing this. So did George W. Bush. So did Bill Clinton. Why was this done?

I assume it was done for two reasons: the campaign felt the need to salve Trump's remarkably fragile ego, and it also wanted to impress him with a massive show of force. But that massive show of force must have massively expensive -- and every dime spent on it was wasted.

Now, maybe it doesn't matter that the Trump campaign is wasting money. The Trumpers have massive amounts of cash on hand and cash coming in. Against an ordinary candidate, even one with the fund-raising prowess of Bernie Sanders, they might be able to waste money and still outspend the challenger on things that count.

But against Bloomberg, that wouldn't be the case. The Trump campaign would be frittering money away on wasteful efforts like this and Bloomberg would be outspending the Trumpers in critical areas. The Trump campaign couldn't just burn money on the assumption that Democrats have less.

Maybe the Democrats will get to take advantage of Bloomberg's money even if he's not the nominee. If so, I hope they use it wisely, because Team Trump isn't doing the same with its money.

ANNOY THE MEDIA -- VOTE SANDERS?

This clip is going viral in certain circles:



A New Hampshire voter who says she liked several candidates across the spectrum (Michael Bennet, Elizabeth Warren) tells MSNBC's Ari Melber that his channel, which she watches "constantly," motivated her to vote for Bernie Sanders because, in her opinion, it's too critical of Sanders.

This echoes an argument made by The New Republic's Alex Shepard:
... the supposedly liberal network, MSNBC, has become a serious obstacle [to the Sanders campaign], pumping out Republican anti-Sanders talking points with increasing frequency.

After last Friday’s Democratic debate, Chris Matthews waxed apoplectic about what electing a socialist could mean for America. “I have an attitude towards [Fidel] Castro,” he said. “I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park, and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. And certain other people would be there cheering, OK?” ...

Two days later, James Carville, Bill Clinton’s former campaign guru, went on Morning Joe to rant about how a Sanders nomination would bring about the apocalypse. Literally. “The only thing between the United States and the abyss is the Democratic Party,” he said. “That’s it. If we go the way of the British Labour Party, if we nominate Jeremy Corbyn, it’s going to be the end of days.” The same day, Chuck Todd, who also hosts NBC’s Meet the Press, read from an article from the right-wing website The Bulwark comparing supporters of Sanders, who is Jewish, to “brownshirts.”

And in the lead-up to Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, Lawrence O’Donnell argued that the real story was that Bernie was losing momentum because his poll numbers were down from the last Democratic primary—even though he is now facing more than a half-dozen opponents, compared to 2016, when he faced one.
And today we have Politico's John Harris writing about Sanders's lack of transparency on his health. Harris sees this as a general rebuke to the media.
Where are those medical records you promised to show us, asked NBC News’ Chuck Todd last weekend on “Meet the Press.“ Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded polite enough, as he exhaled a puffy cloud of obfuscation.

It was not hard to translate Sanders’ word cloud: Go to hell, Chuck.

... the Sanders’ evasion highlights the dilution of mainstream media’s institutional power....

Obscured in the heat and noise of conflict is how much institutional power to set the agenda and enforce minimum standards of public conduct has shifted away from the news media.
I don't know whether Sanders will win the nomination and I don't know whether he can win the general election, but if he's the nominee, he may be the first Democrat who can do what Republicans do routinely: run again the press.





That slogan didn't work for George H.W. Bush, but the attitude worked for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bush's son. The attitude helps Trump build voter loyalty.

No Democratic presidential candidate has tried seriously to use resentment of the media in a campaign. I don't like it when Republicans do it, and I don't think I'll like it if Sanders does it (even though I complain regularly about the media myself), because in a campaign it comes off as right-wing framing, and as an assault on an institution that, when it functions properly, can serve as a check on politicians who abuse power.

I may not like it, but I know it works. It will be fascinating if Sanders consciously tries to leverage popular suspicion of the media, or if his voter base remains passionate in part because of distrust of the press. It's a weapon Democrats haven't used -- and it can be a powerful one.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

WOULD EVERYTHING BE BETTER IF BIDEN HAD NEVER RUN?

Jonathan Chait says the Biden campaign has been "a disaster for liberalism and the Democratic Party."
Biden’s candidacy almost single-handedly stunted the growth of every other center-left alternative. Cory Booker ran the Freaks and Geeks of campaigns — praised by critics, but never registering with the broader public. Booker might well have attracted Biden’s constituency, before low polling forced him off the debate stage and out of the race.

Michael Bloomberg held off running for president because he initially believed Biden would secure the same ideological niche. Only after it was apparent to Bloomberg that 2020 Biden was not the 2012 version of Joe Biden did he join the race — too late to compete in the first four states and make the debates that would have played a crucial role in vetting him.

Amy Klobuchar only surged in February, at the New Hampshire debate, when Biden had disappointed in Iowa and it dawned on many voters that he might not make it.

And only now are Bloomberg and Klobuchar — along with Pete Buttigieg, who has won a sizable niche with well-educated white voters that he seems to have difficulty expanding — beginning to try to consolidate the party’s center-left vote. If not for Biden, a mainstream liberal Democrat might well have begun to consolidate support of a party Establishment that is not looking for a candidate who will embrace wildly unpopular policies and a wildly unpopular socialist label while emphasizing transformative economic change in the midst of the best economy in a generation.
I don't want to get distracted addressing Chait's characterization of Bernie Sanders and his supporters -- but I'd like to point out that Sanders might have been the beneficiary of a decision by Biden not to run.

Recall the results of a Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted last summer:



At that time, Sanders was the second choice of Biden supporters, a result replicated in Nationscape polling conducted in the fall:
... in surveys from Oct. 17 to Nov. 13, 35 percent of Biden supporters list Sanders as their No. 2 choice, and 29 percent list Warren. Only 9 percent list Buttigieg.
Elizabeth Warren was the second choice of Biden supporters in other polling conducted in the fall:





But Morning Consult's current polling says that Sanders is the top alternative for Biden supporters, at 28%, five points ahead of Mike Bloomberg.

It's my impression that Biden voters have just been looking for someone a lot of other people will vote for in a race against Trump. Early in the contest, when Biden and Sanders were the best-known candidates, Sanders was the top alternative; when Warren was at or near the lead, she was the favorite alternative; and now it's Sanders again, along with Bloomberg, who's all over TV and who portrays himself as a can-do guy and potential winner in very effective ads.

Maybe if Biden hadn't run, Bloomberg would have swooped with a gazillion dollars' worth of ads before Iowa and New Hampshire. Then he could have come off as the tough guy who can take on Trump. But he might not have run, or he might have shot to the top, then suffered the backlash that he seems on the verge of experiencing right now.

I'm skeptical that the field as it existed apart from Biden would have automatically yielded an alternative to Sanders. Other than (briefly) Warren and Kamala Harris, no candidate seemed like a sure winner, which is what voters wanted. Voters seemed to have doubts about all the women after 2016. Many of the men -- Buttigieg, Booker, O'Rourke, Castro -- appeared green and callow. The older centrists seemed dull, dull, dull. Sanders might have appeared to be the best alternative just because he acts like a potential winner, and is sold that way by his fan base.

We can't run an accurate simulation of the race without Biden. It's quite possible that it would have been just as dissatisfying to moderates as what we have now.

SANDERS CAN BE BEATEN IN THE PRIMARIES, BUT HE PROBABLY WON'T BE

How lucky is Bernie Sanders? This lucky: If Amy Klobuchar hadn't had a widely praised debate performance last week, she wouldn't have experienced a surge in support among New Hampshire moderates and Pete Buttigieg would probably have beaten Sanders on his home turf.

Sanders got just under 26% of the vote. He leads Buttigieg by less than 2. The Washington Post tells us, "Youth turnout in the state declined from 2016 to 2020 from 19 to 14 percent."

How much did Sanders underperform? This much:



Where was his voter surge? Where did his 2016 voters go?

I was going to write about what happens next, but Rachel Bitecofer said most of what I wanted to say:







Right -- Sanders could be beaten by one moderate, but Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, and eventually Bloomberg all have motivation to stay in, and all will probably be splitting the non-progressive vote through Super Tuesday. Klobuchar might have dropped out soon if she'd finished well behind the leaders in New Hampshire. Now she's probably postponing the inevitable -- and Buttigieg missed his chance to score a victory that might have given him momentum. Oh, and Tom Steyer is starting to poll in double digits in South Carolina and Nevada, so he'll dilute the anti-Sanders vote even more, all while Elizabeth Warren (probably) continues to underperform. (She seemed poised to draw more voters from Sanders, but he seems to be the progressive category killer -- if you're progressive, you probably see him as the clear preference. He's Amazon -- why shop anywhere else?)

FiveThirtyEight now says that Sanders has a 38% chance of winning a delegate majority before the convention -- but thinks there's a 33% chance no candidate will win a delegate majority. However:
[Sanders] also has a 52 percent chance of a pledged delegate plurality.
If no one has a delegate majority, I think most Democrats will want the candidate with a plurality to be the nominee, assuming the candidate has a decisive lead. That will seem like simple fairness. But the party and most pundits will look for a way out. You'll hear about a Draft Hillary movement. You'll hear about a Draft Kerry movement. You'll hear about a Draft Michelle movement. Michelle won't want to do it, and even if Hillary and Kerry say they'd consider a draft, both options will poll poorly. This could be another opportunity for collective action, but Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Biden, and possibly Steyer and Klobuchar will all insist on being the consensus brokered-convention nominee, and no one will yield. Meanwhile, the Sanders voters will declare the process rigged, which will be an accurate description of what's being attempted but not an accurate description of what's being accomplished, because Democrats simply won't be able to rig the convention successfully.

So, as I foresaw last week, Sanders is the clear favorite, even though he's more beatable than he seemed to be a week ago, and even though he could easily fail to amass a clear majority of the delegates by convention time.