Monday, November 30, 2020


If Republicans don't want us to believe that they're all perfectly comfortable with the damage Donald Trump is doing to democracy right now, then one or two of them could try publicly opposing what Trump is doing. Maryland's Larry Hogan -- the GOP governor of a state Trump just lost by a margin of more than two to one -- would seem ideally positioned to take a stand. Yet here he is in the Washington Examiner endorsing two of Trump's highest-profile enablers.
This election will determine what the first two years of President-elect Biden’s administration will look like. And once you tune out the loudest voices, I believe the choice facing Georgians becomes clear.

Do we want a one-party monopoly in Washington, or do we want to send a message to our federal leaders that no one party has all the answers or all the power?

Do we want two years of divisive, toxic battles over packing the Supreme Court, abolishing the Senate filibuster, and pushing the Green New Deal, or do we want to take these destructive proposals off the table?

Do we want to unleash the extremes of both political parties, or do we want to empower leaders in Washington to find bipartisan, common-sense solutions to the challenges we face?

For the sake of our nation, I urge Georgians to uphold America’s mandate for moderation and compromise by voting to keep David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the U.S. Senate.
Did Hogan demand anything in return for this wet kiss? Did he ask Mitch McConnell to acknowledge that Joe Biden won? Did he ask Perdue and Loeffler to withdraw their calls for the resignation of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state, who's getting death threats just for acknowledging that the election was fair?

It's not as if Hogan is ruinning short of political capital. He has a 73% approval rating in his state; he's backed by 82% of Democrats and 87% of Black voters. He could tell his party to stuff its voter fraud talk and he'd still be overwhelmingly popular in Maryland. He'd have a thriving political career even quit the party and declare himself an independent -- which is what every remaining Republican who believes in the rule of law should be doing right now, or at least privately threatening to do.

But Hogan is gutless. He withheld his vote from Trump this year but wrote in the name of a dead guy, Ronald Reagan, instead of voting for the one person who could beat Trump.

He's doing this because he's delusional. He thinks his party will stop being crazy by 2024 and he can be the GOP presidential nominee.

He could be part of an intervention that would encourage his party to abandon delusional thinking. But instead, he's just another enabler.


Bloomberg opinion writer Noah Smith has a theory about way Republicans are behaving the way they are these days:
Why have so many Republicans and right-wing media figures embraced Donald Trump’s obviously made-up claims of voter fraud? ...

The obvious reason would be to curry favor with right-wing voters and audiences....

But if this were all that was happening, one might expect people to find some less expensive fiction. Pushing an obviously false claim of a stolen election is probably a doomed cause....

Instead, I offer another possibility — that lies of this sort are uttered precisely because they come with costs. I propose that political lies are a costly signal of tribal loyalty.

Remember, in economics, “signaling” means much more than just “trying to prove something”. Signaling in econ is basically when people jump through hoops in order to prove themselves.... you might get a tattoo to prove your loyalty to a yakuza gang, even though the tattoo would make it harder to get into a Japanese public bath or get a normal job. The fact that the signal comes with a cost is essential to separating the dedicated people from the posers.
The problem with this theory is that Smith struggles when he tries to explain what costs the right is paying.
Pushing an obviously false claim of a stolen election is probably a doomed cause — and even if Trump succeeded in holding onto power, that would require these same right-wing figures to tie themselves to an autocratic regime that would have a reasonable likelihood of being violently overthrown, and its apparatchiks punished.
Really? We had a hard enough time defeating Trump in an election. His party-mates still control the Supreme Court, the Senate (at least for now), and most state governments. Many liberals and leftists would rather attack one another than fight the right. Is it really plausible that we could overthrow an illegally installed Trump regime, much less punish not only those responsible for the coup but those who were its cheerleaders?

Did we punish the congressional supporters of Richard Nixon? Or Ollie North? Was a price ever paid by those who advocated torture in the Bush years?

It might just be that Smith has a peculiar idea of what constitutes punishment -- after all, he writes:
Political lies could function similarly to the gang tattoos. By going on record as saying that we should seriously consider the possibility that climate change might not be real, you exposure yourself to a lifetime of ridicule. But that very exposure might prove that you’re the real thing, hardcore, really on the team, to a partisan audience who might otherwise be inclined to question your conservative bona fides. After all, if you were really a cuckservative or RINO, would you really have been willing to risk your reputation in the media world or in East Coast intellectual circles just to spread some FUD [fear, uncertainty, and doubt] about climate change?
Do you really think climate change deniers regard this as a risk? They boast about being mocked by the media and by East Coast intellectuals. And they risk nothing -- they're still invited back on Sunday morning talk shows despite their denialism.

If we want to see how defending Trump's fraud narrative works in the real world, let's turn to Ben Smith's media column in The New York Times.
[Christopher] Ruddy, a Long Island-born 55-year-old, has emerged as the most audacious media entrepreneur of the Trump election fantasy. The chief executive of Newsmax and part of President Trump’s South Florida social circle, Mr. Ruddy has capitalized on the anger of Mr. Trump’s supporters at Fox News for delivering the unwelcome news ... that Mr. Trump had lost his re-election campaign. On Newsmax, however, the fight is still on....

Newsmax’s prime-time ratings, which averaged 58,000 before Election Day, soared to 1.1 million afterward for its top shows....
Ruddy has been a Trump cheerleader for years. Does that mean he's been disdained and mocked by the East Coast media elite? Hardly:
... 62 quotes in The New York Times in the last four years, 61 in The Washington Post and 51 appearances on CNN — deliver what journalists crave: up-close insights about the president.
And he's regularly sought out by the mainstream media even though he's been peddling conspiracy theories for a quarter of a century:
He was ... best known as “the Inspector Clouseau” of the Vince Foster case — a New York Post reporter who had popularized the baseless theory that Mrs. Clinton’s friend, who committed suicide in 1993, had been murdered.
But he gives good quote, so he's in demand as a Trump whisperer. And he's kept Newsmax going since the Clinton days, to the point where it's now starting to thrive. If that's paying a price for tribal loyalty, I'm struggling to discern the "price" part.

Noah Smith is wrong: Defenders of Trump's efforts to steal the election will pay no price. They'll still be as welcome in mainstream political circles as they want to be. We'll never punish them. We'll never ban them. We'll never do any harm to their careers, even though we should.

Sunday, November 29, 2020


So this just ended:
President Donald Trump continued to push baseless claims about the election on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox News program Sunday, as he complained about the court system that has rejected legal challenge after legal challenge from his lawyers.

Trump continued to insist to Bartiromo that he won the election except for all the fraud that went on, repeatedly complaining that there’s no way Joe Biden could have gotten as many votes as he did.
Like Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and other hosts of Murdoch TV, Bartiromo was a cheerleader throughout the interview.
Bartiromo asked how he would prove this in the courts, telling him, “Elections are the reason that our young men and women go on battlefields across the world and in some cases lose their lives, because they believe that their vote, my vote, matters just as much as your vote, and if that is not true, this is a very serious turning point for America.”

“So this is no longer about you, President Trump. This is about America and many people agree with you,” Bartiromo actually said.
We made a mistake years ago by doing nothing to protest the malignant spread of Fox News. I know that Fox makes its money from fees charged to cable and satellite services, but it still takes advertising for a reason, and we should have pushed back at some point in the past decades when Fox's bile was particularly toxic. Back when the Murdoch empire included entertainment, I believed that a boycott of the entire corporation -- Fox movies, The Simpsons on TV, Fox Sports, HarperCollins books -- would have been appropriate pushback at key moments, such as when Glenn Beck accused then-President Obama of having a "deep-seated hatred for white people."

That's not an option now, but we should still use our consumer dollars to stand up for democratic elections. We should target advertisers who sponsor programming that endorses the president's argument that the election was stolen from him. Who's advertising on Newsmax and OANN? More important, who's advertising on Murdoch shows like Maria Bartiromo's Fox Business show?

Backing the destruction of American democracy should not be cost-free. Even the threat of a consumer boycott would attract notice and put at least a little fear into advertisers.

Media Matters has tried to put pressure on Fox News advertisers, though it's not a prominent campaign. I can't find a list of Bartiromo's advertisers on Fox Business.

Can't our side go on offense for once?

Saturday, November 28, 2020


I tweeted this in September:

I wrote this on October 28:
I've been saying that Trump will continue to be the leader of the GOP even if he loses this election -- he'll insist he won and was cheated out of victory, his supporters will believe it, and he'll probably announce a 2024 run shortly after the polls close, or possibly on Biden's inauguration day.
And now the Daily Beast confirms it:
According to three people familiar with the conversations, the president ... has not just talked to close advisers and confidants about a potential 2024 run to reclaim the White House but about the specifics of a campaign launch.... Two of these knowledgeable sources said the president has, in the past two weeks, even floated the idea of doing a 2024-related event during Biden’s inauguration week, possibly on Inauguration Day, if his legal effort to steal the 2020 election ultimately fails.
Back in July, David Brooks imagined the beginning of a Joe Biden presidency, and predicted this:
Donald Trump himself may fume, but hated and alone. The opportunists who make up his administration will abandon him. Republicans will pretend they never heard his name. Republican politicians are not going to hang around a guy they privately hate and who publicly destroyed their majority.
In fact, as the Beast story notes, the opportunists who make up Trump's administration are pledging their loyalty:
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that during an Oval Office meeting earlier this month between Trump, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the president said he planned on running in 2024, if the 2020 election results were not nullified by Trump’s attorneys.

“If you do that—and I think I speak for everybody in the room—we’re with you 100 percent,” O’Brien told the president, according to the Bloomberg report.
GOP voters are with Trump, too. A Trump 2024 bid is supported by 53% of Republicans in a Politico/Morning Consult poll and by the same percentage in a Newsmax/McLaughlin poll.

But the media doesn't have to enable this. The TV networks don't have to do a split screen during Biden's inaugural, or a picture-in-picture inset of the Trump rally. We'll have one president at that time. The focus should be on him. Trump can pretend to be the shadow president, but he'll have no power as of noon on that date, and four years is a long way away.

But I fear we'll get the split screen and the compare-and-contrast, especially if the inaugural is sparsely attended. Attendance might be sparse, at least by Obama-in-2009 standards, in part because Biden is no Obama, and in part because the spread of COVID will be at unimaginably high levels four weeks after Christmas. Trump's fans, by contrast, will still be ignoring all COVID precautions.

But there'll still be throngs for Biden -- and the media should recognize that one of the men speaking is the president and one is a pretender. Trump is the GOP's early favorite for 2024, but Joe Lieberman was in a similar position well before the 2004 Democratic primaries and Rudy Giuliani seemed well positioned in the Republican Party heading into 2008. No one would have elevated a speech by either of those guys to the same level as a presidential inaugural. The press should treat Trump's troll party as the sidebar it is.

Friday, November 27, 2020


A headline at HuffPost reads:
Donor In Trump’s Election ‘Fraud’ Fight Sues To Snatch Back His $2.5 Million Contribution
But the contribution in dispute didn't go directly to Trump, or to an organization created by Trump affiliates. Here's the story:
A major contributor to a group backing President Donald Trump’s fight to overturn the presidential election sued to recover $2.5 million in donations after the campaign failed in several court cases and was unable to prove any fraud.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas by North Carolina venture capitalist Fred Eshelman argued that the nonprofit group True the Vote promised to keep him informed of how his millions were being used in what was pitched as a strong case against alleged election fraud. Instead, the suit alleged, he was fed “vague responses, platitudes and empty promises of follow-up” that never occurred.

He was kept in the dark when weak cases filed in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania were voluntarily withdrawn in a decision the investor claimed was made in “concert with counsel for the Trump campaign,” the suit said.
If the name "True the Vote" sounds familiar, it's because the group was one of several right-wing organizations that whined incessantly during Barack Obama's presidency about the IRS's reluctance to grant them tax-exempt status as non-political profits. These complaints led to sob stories even in the non-conservative media. This is from a 2013 McClatchy article:
Concerned about government regulation of her family’s manufacturing business, [Catherine Engelbrecht] became dissatisfied with the political process and particularly the 2008 presidential choices....

After witnessing what she called voter irregularities in the Houston area, Engelbrecht formed a group called True the Vote. With a paid staff of five, it aims to educate 1 million poll workers nationwide on spotting election fraud. Liberal groups view it as a conservative effort aimed at restricting minority participation, a claim that True the Vote officials deny.
Gosh, it's hard to imagine where liberal groups got the idea that True the Vote is "a conservative effort aimed at restricting minority participation"....
In 2010, before most reporters had heard of True the Vote, the group put out a video introducing itself. As epic battle music plays, far-right activist David Horowitz comes on screen. "The voting system is under attack now," he says. "Movements that are focused on voter fraud, on the integrity of elections are crucial. This is a war." ...

"The left has been focused on this now for decades," says Horowitz, as photographs of black voters lining up to cast ballots flash by. "Obama's very connected to ACORN, which is a voter-fraud machine. ACORN is the radical army." ...
A group trying to register voters in Houston received threats and emails containing racist slurs after being targeted by a local tea party group accusing it of “voter fraud.”

In emails obtained by TPM, the group Houston Votes was accused of being “a bunch of white guilt ridden assholes, NIGGERS and greasy mexican spics,” “fraudulent Marxist pigs,” and “American hating A-holes.”...

Houston Votes was targeted by the Texas Tea Party group King Street Patriots in their so-called anti-voter fraud effort “True The Vote.”
Engelbrecht referred to the Houston Votes office as the “New Black Panthers’ office.” A video put out by the group featured a doctored photo showing a Black woman holding a protest sign that read, "I ONLY GOT TO VOTE ONCE!"

The group's claims of non-partisanship are also laughable:
[The] 2010 video announcing True the Vote's launch begins with right-wing activist David Horowitz telling the camera that "Republicans have to win by at least three percent in order to win an election," since Democrats are likely to case fraudulent votes.

... in 2012, True the Vote contributed $5000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.... This overtly political statement would legally, according to tax lawyers specializing in election law, disqualify a nonprofit from 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.

... True the Vote's website portrays voter fraud as largely a Democratic party problem. It routinely runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals" or "Democrats" but has, to date, never run a story on Republican or Conservative instances of voter fraud.
And yet we were told that True the Vote was being persecuted by the IRS, and that Engelbrecht was a fine, upstanding American. Peggy Noonan -- who now regards Trump as extreme and dangerous -- lamented that Engelbrecht was "a nice woman, a citizen, an American" who was being pilloried for running a civic-minded organization that "tries to get dead people off the rolls."

The only difference between what Trump is doing now and what True the Vote has done for years is scale. Right-thinking citizens regard Trump's efforts as beyond the pale, but they were fine with the activities of True the Vote and similar organizations when most Americans weren't paying attention.

If right-wingers as well as left-wingers had denounced electoral-fraud witch hunts over the past decade, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. But they backed those efforts then. So here we are now.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Roy Edroso directs our attention to a National Review column in which Michael Brendan Dougherty denounces efforts to curb large Thanksgiving gatherings. Dougherty tells us:
Back on April 1, I wrote that this COVID-19 purgatory was no way to live. That we should try never to get used to it.
Here's the problem with so many right-wing attacks on pandemic public health measures, from high-minded writers like Dougherty as much as from conspiracy-minded MAGA cheerleaders: These folks believe that you and I want to hang on to COVID restrictions forever. The crazies think this is a George Soros/Bill Gates plot to weaken our national will so Americans can be microchipped and accept a socialist takeover -- but even Dougherty believes that adhering to public health protocols for a limited period of time could weaken our precious bodily fluids and make us want to accept the socialist yoke. Or something like that.

Dougherty continues:
Politicians and average people were becoming nastier and weirder, and accepting infringements on human life that were unthinkable. A British human-rights lawyer suggested Prime Minister Boris Johnson move Christmas to February.

She’s wrong, Christmas is not an arbitrary date. And although she has the debility of coming from a culture used to dictatorial interference in religion, the liturgical calendar is not subject to even the British parliament.
Of course, Christmas is an arbritrary date, in the sense that even theologians doubt that Jesus was born on December 25. But Simor isn't talking about the liturgical calendar in any case -- she's talking about Christmas gatherings and Christmas dinner and Christmas crackers and so on, none of which are in the Bible. Nothing prevents a Christian from acknowledging the birth of Jesus on December 25 while planning a family gathering for a post-vaccine world.

Thanksgiving falls where it does for its reasons too. Holidays and feasts are supposed to interrupt the then-current events. Even horrible ones, such as our pandemic and its restrictions. We celebrate by resting from work and feasting, because heaven is a banquet and a feast, a place where our labors have ceased.
In fact, we don't know when the 1621 Thanksgiving took place -- it was, we're told, "sometime between late September and mid-November." It wasn't called Thanksgiving at the time, and the first day commemorated by the Pilgrims as Thanksgiving was a day of prayer and fasting in 1623 -- July 1623. And the 1621 feast actually followed an epidemic of smallpox or another disease, from 1616 to 1619, that wiped out the majority of coastal Indians. Wampanoag Indians sought an alliance with the settlers because, after that period of mass death, they wanted to fend off the Narragansetts, with whom they were at war.

I imagine that Dougherty doesn't want to hear any of this and believes that whatever the historical facts, God in His infinite wisdom gave us Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November so we'd eat a lot of turkey and think about the heavenly kingdom, perhaps between quarters of various football games. (If Thanksgiving is so important to Dougherty's faith, I wonder why he thinks the Lord hasn't given it to people from other countries.)

I'm not saying all this because I'm against celebrating Thanksgiving. I like celebrating Thanksgiving. I trust we'll be able to do so without restrictions next year, and I'm all for that.

Which is why I take offense at the title of Dougherty's column:
Thanksgiving, If You Can Keep It
The story is told that Ben Franklin, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, was asked whether America's government would be a monarch or a republic, and he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." The implication was that a republican form of government can be mismanaged, and ultimately lost.

The implication wasn't that a republican form of government might be temporarily suspended in response to an emergency, with a universal agreement that everyone would return to the status quo ante after the emergency passed. That's where we are on coronavirus restrictions. Even those of us who strongly support them want them to be over and done with as soon as it's safe to get rid of them.

But Dougherty doesn't believe that. He worries that we'll "get used to" them. Are you getting used to them? I'm not.

The right doesn't believe that. Even at the brainier right-wing sites, the belief is that we like bending to the yoke, and we want to make everyone else bend as well. Me, I eagerly look forward to the day when none of this is necessary.


Ruth Bader Ginsberg died and we're screwed:
The Supreme Court signaled a major shift in its approach to coronavirus-related restrictions late Wednesday, voting 5-4 to bar New York state from reimposing limits on religious gatherings.

The emergency rulings, issued just before midnight, were the first significant indication of a rightward shift in the court since President Donald Trump’s newest appointee — Justice Amy Coney Barrett — last month filled the seat occupied by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Please note: The "emergency" here isn't the pandemic. The "emergency" is that these churches can't have as many people as they please at in-person services, even though there are alternatives to in-person services.

And, in fact, that "emergency" no longer exists:
Under New York’s system, religious services held by congregations in “red” zones are limited to 10 people, while those in “orange” zones can host up to 25 people at a time. On Monday, Cuomo moved the areas occupied by the religious congregations involved in the litigation into the “yellow” zone, lifting the most onerous restrictions....
Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent is correct:
Sotomayor vigorously disputed the contention that the religious groups were being unfairly discriminated against, arguing that comparisons between religious services and liquor or big-box stores were overly facile because the virus-related health risks posed by what people do in those places are starkly different.

“Unlike religious services … bike repair shops and liquor stores generally do not feature customers gathering inside to sing and speak together for an hour or more at a time,” she wrote. “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”
But it doesn't matter. Barrett cast the deciding vote in favor of spreading COVID, even though she's the first COVID survivor on the Court.

So what are the limits now? This ruling happened after two similar cases that went the opposite way (while Ginsburg was still on the Court). I keep being told that the case before the Court that's intended to overturn Obamacare is deeply flawed. Earlier this month, Court-watchers told us that even John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh seemed inclined to save the law.

I'm also told that all of President Trump's challenges to the election results are laughable (and the most recent error-filled filings by Signey Powell in Georgia and Michigan are possibly the most embarrassing yet).

This Court, which probably just killed thousands of people, has its limits, right?

I keep thinking of the line we used to hear regularly just after 9/11: People trying to prevent terrorism have to succeed every time, but terrorists have to succeed only once.

That's what I think when I see the running totals of how many court cases Trump's election team has lost and how few it's won: It doesn't matter how many losses the Trumpers have if they get a case to the Supreme Court and win.

But that won't happen. Right? And Obamacase is safe for now. Right? I'm being melodramatic, right?

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.