Thursday, September 30, 2021


They're not even pretending to be fair:
Houston, epicenter of Harvey damage, still would get $0 under Texas' latest disaster aid plan

Harris County and the city of Houston this week blasted the Texas General Land Office’s revised plan for distributing billions in federal Hurricane Harvey aid, saying that while it is an improvement over the $0 the state originally awarded the local governments, it still is woefully inadequate.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Steve Costello, Houston’s chief recovery officer, said in a letter Wednesday that GLO’s proposal to send $750 million to Harris County and still nothing to Houston ignores what Congress wanted when lawmakers approved the aid package for Texas in 2019 — to help communities devastated by [Hurricane] Harvey.
We're told that Harris County, which includes Houston, "has about half of all the residents in the 49 counties eligible for the funds" -- but the county is receiving 17% of the federal money (none going directly to the city of Houston).
A Houston Chronicle investigation found that the scoring criteria GLO used discriminated against populous areas and that the state disproportionately steered aid to inland counties with a lower risk of disasters than coastal ones most vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding. Land Commissioner George P. Bush claimed falsely that federal rules were to blame for the result.
The right has ideologically dominated America for more than forty years. It appears that it will dominate America forever. That's not so bad if, like me, you live in a part of the country that resists conservative hegemony. New York? New England? We'll be okay.

But what can non-coastal cities do? They tend to be liberal, yet they're stuck in right-wing states all across the Midwest, South, and non-coastal West.

I work for a company that's still allowing its employees to do their jobs from home. We're scattered, but we're one company. If that's possible, why couldn't there be states made up of several far-flung liberal metropolitan areas? Why should Houston and Dallas have to be part of Texas? Why should Oklahoma City have to be part of the state of Oklahoma? These cities could be like West Berlin, which was physically situated in the midst of Cold War East Germany but wasn't under communist rule.

I know this will never happen. But the fact that it will never happen means millions of urban heartlanders will never have a state government that truly represents them.


I don't blame progressives for the mess we're in. I know they're the reason Nancy Pelosi seems ready to postpone a vote on the infrastructure bill -- they're threatening to vote against the infrastructure bill because they want Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to commit to the reconciliation bill in some form. I blame Manchin and Sinema, who clearly -- especially Sinema -- want to kill the reconciliation bill, on behalf of their donors, but aren't honest enough to say that's their plan. Some blame goes to the president and the Democratic leadership for not grasping that it might never be possible to get this done with a tiny Democratic margin in the House and none in the Senate, so maybe they shouldn't have overpromised when there was a high risk that they'd underdeliver.

Mostly I blame the donors -- the petrochemical and pharmaceutical tycoons and other fat cats who don't want to give up anything they've ever been given, and devote substantial resources to ensuring that they get everything they want forever. The president thinks he can tax them more because he was born during FDR's presidency and he was a young man during LBJ's, and he thinks we can return to a time when capital tolerated tax increases intended to pay for greater social spending. He and his fellow septuagenarians Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer believe capital will just ... yield, even though capital has the means to beat this. They should know that the bastards won't go down without a fight, but they remember when it wouldn't have been this hard, so they think they can still win.

Progressives, however, should be the ones who understand what Democrats are up against. If you're a progressive, you don't trust capitalism at all. You believe it needs to be abolished or at least highly regulated, because it's too powerful and too rapacious. And yet when progressives run for office, they too hold out the hope that the fight against capitalist greed can be won effortlessly in an election or two. Vote for Bernie and we'll have nice things!

We can't have nice things because in order to have nice things we have to fight capital. And this is how capital fights -- not by sending out a rich man who looks like Gordon Gekko to say, "Give me all the nice things!," but by deploying someone more sympathetic as the alleged voice of reason. Thirty years ago, I used to read William Greider writing about how fat cats would send small business men to lament the harm that a liberal bill would do to them, when the bill's real targets were actually the fat cats themselves. Want to raise the estate tax on the Kardashians? Think of the poor family farmers!

In this fight, they sent out Manchin, who's meant to stand in for dirt-poor West Virginians in coal country, people presumed to have the elemental values of hard work and thrift. (Don't laugh -- much of America believes that narrative.) Sinema stands in for ... um, I don't know what she stands in for. Maybe she's the kooky upstairs neighbor in a beloved sitcom. But she says that all those liberals in Washington, D.C., like that big spending, but she's a moderate, dammit, and she doesn't trust it! And more people than we'd like to believe fall for that. (At least one Arizona poll shows Sinema with higher statewide approval ratings than Arizona's other Democratic senator Mark Kelly.)

Capital knows how to run this play, which works nearly every time. Capitalism knows how to buy politicians like Manchin and Sinema so they stay bought. For capital, this is a fight to the death. And capital is on the verge of victory -- not just the death of the reconciliation bill but full Republican control of D.C. by 2025.

Old liberals with New Deal dreams should have known capital would find a doomsday weapon, but they didn't. Progressives absolutely should have known the same thing, but they didn't.

The liberals don't want to openly blame capitalists for this impasse -- they believe you can establish detente with capitalism, taking their money while curbing their greed. Progressives -- people who have no illusions about capitalism -- really should have anticipated how hard this fight would be.

Democrats of all stripes need to tap into the anti-elitist anger of Americans, which polls say is actually quite high. But that hasn't happened. Capital has tapped into Americans' anti-spending skepticism instead, while buying off just enough politicians to be on the verge of victory. And that's why we are where we are.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


I'm too disheartened to write about what's going on Washington, so I'll write about something nearly as infuriating: the monstrousness of the anti-vaccine right. Here's the headline to Gateway Pundit's lead story right now:
Former Notre Dame Professor Who Said, “Damn the Unvaccinated” Dies Two Weeks After Receiving 3rd Covid Shot
GP's Cristina Laila writes:
Orlando, Florida – A former Notre Dame professor who routinely attacked unvaccinated people as “selfish” passed away after she received her 3rd Covid vaccine.

67-year-old Karen Croake Heisler received her first Pfizer Covid jab on January 13, 2021....

On April 9, Heisler tweeted that she had zero side effects after receiving her second Pfizer jab....

Earlier this month, Heisler tweeted she got her third jab....

A week later, Heisler started to have complications and cursed the unvaccinated.

Heisler said her cardiologist tried to admit her to the hospital but there are no rooms because of Covid....
Laila wants readers to believe Heisler had complications from the vaccine. She didn't.
About two weeks after her third Covid jab, Karen Croake Heisler passed away.

According to Heisler’s obituary, she died of “cancer-related complications” on September 19.
Yes, because Heisler had cancer. In fact, she'd survived it twice before her most recent diagnosis, which came months before she got her first vaccine shot.

Why mention the vaccine? Oh, right, of course: because the scumbags at Gateway Pundit believe -- or want their readers to believe -- that the vaccines kill people.

Laila didn't say outright that the vaccine killed Heisler, but she didn't have to. The commenters, of course, don't need this spelled out for them:
They're skipping it and going straight to the embalming fluid booster shot!


This is an example of a human lemming...


Doctors have pointed out that two jabs are worse than one, and three jabs are worse than two. Fauci's booster jabs are unmasking the great marxist hoax of 2020 and it's election symptoms.


Talk about Why Karens might want to consider the reasons people don't want the clot shot


Stupid was just fixed by the covid death jab. It's better than Jim Jones koolaid.
Such nice people. These are the people whose feelings we're not supposed to hurt.


The conventional wisdom about the Republican presidential aspirants who aren't Donald Trump is that they may profess allegiance to many of his bizarre, extreme, and delusional beliefs, and they may act in extreme ways in the offices they currently hold, but in the White House they wouldn't do anything really crazy. Unlike Trump, you see, they're normal politicians who'd do normal things in the Oval Office. They wouldn't impulsively drop a nuclear bomb somewhere, as some insiders thought Trump might, or suddenly break off relations with important allies of long standing.

I've been assuming that there's some truth to this with regard to the highest-polling non-Trump, Ron DeSantis. But then I read this at Fox News:
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., questioned Tuesday if the United States should rethink its diplomatic relationship with Australia given its strict, military-enforced COVID-19 lockdowns....

"You know, you guys, look what’s going on in Australia right now. You know, they’re enforcing, after a year and a half, they’re still enforcing lockdowns by the military."

"That’s not a free country. It’s not a free country at all. In fact, I mean, I wonder why we would still have the same diplomatic relations when they’re doing that. Is Australia freer than China, communist China, right now? I don’t know. The fact that that’s even a question tells you something has gone dramatically off the rails with some of this stuff."
Do you feel confident that a President DeSantis would maintain diplomatic relations with all of our allies if he thought breaking off relations with some of them would get him a few nice news hits on Fox? Most of the mainstream media probably thinks he'd be above all that, but I don't.

There's a level of bomb-throwing in the GOP that's been normalized -- we see this now in the Senate, where Republicans are willing to throw America off an economic cliff because debt terrorism has built brand loyalty for them in the past, without causing that much damage to the country. Trump is more deranged than Mitch McConnell, but he didn't blow up the planet when he was president, and no ;living politician has built greater voter loyalty. So he's the model his would-be successors want to emulate. Therefore, I wouldn't assume that America under President DeSantis (or President Abbott or President Noem) would be any more stable than it was under President Trump.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


I confess I didn't read past the headline last week when Joe Pompeo of Vanity Fair reported on a new project at The New York Times to increase subscriptions. My understanding was that the project was a Timesian same-old-same-old, as Will Bunch describes it:
Yo, Trump voters in rural Ohio diners! Wake up! It’s time to put your MAGA hats back on, grind some bitter coffee and wipe the layers of grease off that Formica countertop. The New York Times still desperately wants you, and they’re coming back your way! Like, for the umpteenth time.

That may sound over the top, but I don’t know what else to say after learning that America’s most influential newsroom — after more than four years of dozens of stories informing its largely left-leaning readers that Donald Trump voters still love Donald Trump — is doubling down on efforts to persuade media-bashing right-wingers to like them, and maybe even subscribe.
But because I didn't read the Vanity Fair piece, I missed specifics of the Times's sales pitch:
“The media in general and The New York Times in particular have taken a lot of shots in recent years, and every poll will tell you that the media is not trusted,” one [Times] source said. “How do we, in this era of so much distrust in the media, show the rigor we use in preparing our report to sort of win people over? The fact that we have a Supreme Court reporter who’s a lawyer, or that we have a medical doctor writing about COVID—we know that stuff, but how do we get that across?”
That's how the Times intends to win over heartland conservatives? Really? In 2021?

Has anyone at the Times been paying attention to ... oh, everything conservatives say nowadays? Election official after election official says that the 2020 election had few if any irregularities and was conducted fairly. The conservative response: How the hell would people whose job it is to run elections know anything about running elections? We trust only self-appointed lunatics!

Conservatives don't trust epidemiologists or the medical community when assessing the safety and efficacy of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Whom do they trust? Podcast hosts! Megachurch preachers! Randos in Facebook groups who peddle hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin! Surely they know the truth!

Conservatives' two favorite presidents are (1) an ex-movie actor with little political experience and (2) an ex-real estate mogul and reality-TV host with no political experience whatsoever. They don't trust career military officers, career foreign service officers, or career anything. Ignorance is wisdom.

If the Times wants to impress heartlanders, it should hire reporters and writers with no credentials at all. It should hire former UFC color commentators and people who sell pillows for a living. That might win them over.


Jamelle Bouie recalls that many Very Smart People assumed Donald Trump wouldn't try to subvert democracy in 2020.
“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” an anonymous senior Republican official told The Washington Post a few days after Joe Biden claimed victory:
He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.
Bouie thinks Trump's willingness to do damage to democracy is being underestimated again.
Despite the danger at hand, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency among congressional Democrats — or the remaining pro-democracy Republicans — to do anything. The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has passed a new voting rights act aimed at the wave of restrictive new election laws from Republican state legislatures, and Democrats in the Senate have introduced a bill that would establish “protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.” But as long as the Senate filibuster is in place — and as long as key Democrats want to keep it in place — there is almost no chance that the Senate will end debate on the bill and bring it to the floor for a simple majority vote.

It’s almost as if, to the people with the power to act, the prospect of a Trumpified Republican Party with the will to subvert the next presidential election and the power to do it is one of those events that just seems a little too out there.
Bouie compares this to the period just before the start of the Civil War.
... as the historian Russell McClintock writes in “Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession,” “Republicans showed no anxiety about disunion before the election and remarkably little after it.” ...

... “South Carolina may fume and fulminate, and call conventions and pass resolutions till the crack of doom,” wrote one correspondent in The Chicago Tribune, but “up to this writing nobody is scared that we know of.”

Similarly, wrote a like-minded Boston editor, “Almost the only topic of political interest just now, is the rumored insane attempt of a few hotheaded fanatics, to induce the people of a few slave states to secede from the American Union. There is in this nothing new, unexpected, or alarming.”
Bouie is right that there's a similar lack of alarm -- but in this case, I don't think it's based on a belief that the hotheads will necessarily behave nicely. I think Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and other filibuster-defending Democrats believe that, while preserving democracy would be nice, it's not as important as preserving the almost limitless wealth of billionaires. And as for Senate Republicans, preserving their own party's power (and with it the wealth of the rich) is a goal to be attained by any means they can get away with.

The Democratic filibuster defenders in the Senate have lived through a Trump presidency -- it wasn't that bad, was it? January 6 was no fun, but if there's another January 6, the work of flipping votes will be done by state legislatures whose work will be ratified by Republican-appointed judges; it won't need to be done by rioters. It'll all be based on law. So why get worked up?

Democracy is fine, but coddling the rich is important. The defenders of the status quo don't want too much democracy because they're afraid real Democrats will win too many elections -- not just progressives, but moderate-seeming Democrats who support a real expansion of the social safety net. That's seen as much more of a danger than the end of fair elections in America. So the end of democracy in America seems like a risk well worth taking.

Monday, September 27, 2021


In response to the much-discussed Robert Kagan essay on the threat Donald Trump poses to democracy, Jack Shafer wrote this at Politico a few days ago:
Is this nighmare scenario really a function of Trump’s power and his dominance over his party? Or do the extra-Constitutional methods Trump might adopt as we enter the 2024 election penumbra reflect his essential weakness, and the continued decay of Republican power? Are we looking at a player holding a set of superior cards or as a weak-hand bluff artist threatening to blow up the casino unless he wins the pot?

It's hard to know, and the political establishment—media included—has done an embarrassingly bad job of gaming it out in the past. As Kagan notes, we deserved Trump because we underestimated him the first time around. But going into 2024, does it make sense to compensate by overestimating him?
This is meant to reassure us. But what's reassuring about it?

Arguing that Trump might attempt a coup in 2024 only because he's too weak to win legitimately is like arguing that Al Qaeda hijacked planes and flew them into buildings only because it didn't have nuclear warheads and ICBMs -- it may be true, but it's not comforting.

And it's not really accurate to say that Trump cries "Fraud!" only out of weakness. Even before the 2016 election -- which he managed to win -- he said he'd accept the results "if I win." He claimed voter fraud before Election Day 2016 and a couple of weeks after he'd been declared the victor. It's quite possible he would have alleged fraud even if he'd won the popular vote.

Trump's argument -- which inspires near-universal agreement within his party -- is that pro-Democratic fraud is inevitable in every election. If he wins legitimately in 2024, he'll say the Democrats tried to steal the election, but the MAGA army was too powerful, the implication being that the victory would have been bigger in a non-"rigged" election.

And we're not just facing a potential crisis three years from now -- we have a crisis now. Nearly all the voters in one of our two major parties believe that only elections their party wins are legitimate. They believe the Democratic Party is a bunch of crooks. This is about more than one election -- we could have violence if Raphael Warnock or even Liz Cheney's challenger wins a squeaker in 2022. So what difference does it make whether Trump is politcally strong or weak?


There was a GOP gathering in Michigan over the weekend, and journalists came away from it telling a story they like -- that Republicans really might be losing interest in Donald Trump. Here's The Detroit News:
The influence of President Donald Trump among Michigan Republicans appears to have waned, according to a straw poll of attendees at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island.

The unscientific survey of a little more than 740 Republicans, sponsored by The Detroit News, showed more people voted for other potential Republican candidates than they did for the former president when asked whom they would support. Trump still got the majority of votes with 47.5%, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis coming in second with about 25% of the vote.
I'm not sure I would consider the Mackinac gathering a bellwether. In September 2015 -- when Trump had a large lead over every potential rival in national Republican polls, a lead he'd had for two months -- the Mackinac straw poll was won by a candidate who'd be an also-ran in the primaries:
Rand Paul won the straw poll at the Mackinac Island Republican Leadership Conference, a show of organizational strength for a candidate who has seen his presidential hopes fade.

Paul led with 22 percent, followed by Carly Fiorina with 15 percent, John Kasich with 13 percent, and Ted Cruz with 12 percent. Trailing them were Jeb Bush with 9 percent, Marco Rubio with 8 percent, and Donald Trump with 6 percent.
Trump was seventh. Needless to say, he'd go on to win the Michigan primary the following March.

Also from this weekend's gathering, the Detroit Free Press reported:
Michigan businesswoman, political megadonor and former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos implicitly criticized the GOP's ongoing capture by former President Donald Trump in a Saturday address to the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.

DeVos told attendees at the biennial conference on Mackinac Island she worries that "principles have been overtaken by personalities" in today's political environment.

Though personalities can be important to point the party toward its policies, "ours is not a movement dependent on any one person," DeVos said.

"Politics now are so often about people, not the policies that impact lives directly."
DeVos has more money than God. She doesn't need Trump for anything. Yet, like George W. Bush, she still doesn't have the backbone to attack him by name.

And the big reveal of the straw poll is that Trump is under 50% -- yet he still won by 22.5.

It might not matter how popular Trump is. Remember, his lead in the 2020 Republican primaries was more than 80 points, yet forces loyal to him canceled primaries or caucuses in Kansas, Alaska, South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii. And that was then. Trumpists have taken over many state and local parties since 2020. Steve Bannon has been urging the Trump base to take over the party at the precinct level, ProPublica has reported:
In Wisconsin, for instance, new GOP recruits are becoming poll workers. County clerks who run elections in the state are required to hire parties’ nominees. The parties once passed on suggesting names, but now hardline Republican county chairs are moving to use those powers.

“We’re signing up election inspectors like crazy right now,” said Outagamie County party chair Matt Albert, using the state’s formal term for poll workers. Albert, who held a “Stop the Steal” rally during Wisconsin’s November recount, said Bannon’s podcast had played a role in the burst of enthusiasm.

ProPublica contacted GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual increase in signups since Bannon’s campaign began. At least 8,500 new Republican precinct officers (or equivalent lowest-level officials) joined those county parties.
It would be hilarious if Republicans had a competitive presidential primary race in 2024 and the election theft mechanisms now being put in place by GOP state legislatures and governors were used against fellow Republicans, in order to steal the nomination for Trump. But I think he'll just win the nomination by (coerced) acclamation.

Sunday, September 26, 2021


This seems bad:
I&I/TIPP Poll: Biden Voters Abandon Him In Droves
Droves? Tell me more:
If an election were held today, a substantial number of those who voted President Joe Biden in November wouldn’t do so now, a new I&I/TIPP Poll shows. This comes after a spate of recent polls from TIPP and others suggesting Biden’s political support is in a freefall as Americans question his leadership on issues ranging from COVID-19 to the chaos on the U.S.’ southern border to the recent botched withdrawal from Afghanistan....

Just 46% of those who voted in the November 2020 election said they’d vote for Biden today, more than five full percentage points below his official total 51.3% share in the 2020 presidential election.
Five points? That doesn't seem so bad. And, in fact:
That doesn’t mean voters are wishing they’d instead picked Trump, who in recent weeks has hinted at a possible re-run in 2024. The poll found 42% said they’d pick Trump now, down from his actual 2020 election total of 46.9%.
So it looks as if Biden, who Beat Trump by four points in the 2020 popular vote, would beat Trump by ... four points.

But there are quite a few poll respondents who wouldn't commit to either candidate. That seems like what you'd expect: It's now conventional wisdom that Biden is struggling as president, and Trump was always disliked by a majority of Americans.

"I&I" is Issues & Insights, a right-wing spinoff of the extremely right-wing Investor's Business Daily editorial page. So you'd expect the spin to be "Biden doomed!" when it probably should be "Some voters want two new candidates."

Trump is the GOP's near-inevitable nominee, and the Democrats are likely to run either Biden or Kamala Harris (who according to conventional wisdom is unpopular, although 49% approval and 49% disapproval in a recent Gallup poll doesn't seem terrible). So I wonder how soon the press will start running pieces about possible alternatives -- centrist or faux-centrist, naturally -- to the two major-party nominees.

The notion that what Americans really want is something neither major party can give them comes up every four years, and yet no third-party candidate has won even a single state in a presidential election since 1968. Nevertheless, I keep thinking that 2024 might see a serious third-party challenger because (a) Trump will seem worse the more public he becomes; (b) the press seems to be enjoying the notion of a failed Biden/Harris presidency and probably won't want to let it go; (c) Americans can often be lulled by the notion that someone outside the system might magically make everything better.

I mention John Kasich in the headline, but I can imagine serious interest in someone like Mark Cuban or The Rock. My thinking on this is influenced by a recent Dallas Morning News poll showing Texas governor Greg Abbott with a five-point lead over likely Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, but trailing by nine in a matchup against actor Matthew McConaughey, whose political views are largely unknown and who thinks America should "get aggressively centric." (In an earlier DMN poll, O'Rourke trailed Abbott by 12 but McConaughey trailed by only 1.)

Voters -- or at least voters who aren't GOP zealots -- want someone to do good things for ordinary citizens. Republicans are unalterably opposed to that, as are a small but significant number of corporatist sellout Democrats. So I understand the frustration with the two parties. Nevertheless, you'd think that the party responsible for Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare might be able to sell itself as the more promising alternative. However, the GOP and the right-wing media devote all of their energy to making Democrats seem demonic, while Democrats rarely return fire or stick up for their own party.

So I'm expecting third-party chatter sooner or later. I'm surprised it's not happening already.

Saturday, September 25, 2021


Robert Kagan expects chaos in 2024:
The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves....

First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024....

Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary....

Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office.... As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote....

The stage is thus being set for chaos.
Or it might not happen, which doesn't mean we should feel relieved.

I'm gloomy about 2022 and 2024. I know that many of you believe Democrats will find a way to pass their big bills this year, and that the pandemic will loosen its grip by 2022, which will give the party a decent chance of holding the House and the Senate and give Joe Biden solid approval numbers again going into 2024. All that could happen. But I worry that Democrats won't get anything passed, and even if they do, there won't be instant gratitude for what they've accomplished, just as there wasn't gratitude for Obamacare at first. I think Democratic majorities are at serious risk in the House and Senate in 2022. And meanwhile, the press has now created a stereotype of Biden as an Oval Office Dukakis, while Kamala Harris is deemed an "unlikable" woman, the new Hillary Clinton.

So I worry that any Republican coud win the presidency legitimately in 2024, even Donald Trump.

This isn't inevitable, obviously. Even if Democrats have a tough 2022, Biden could win in 2024 as Bill Clinton did in 1996 and Barack Obama did in 2012.

And maybe none of these contests will be close enough to trigger the election theft mechanisms the GOP is putting in place. But they'll be available to the Republicans in the future.

Imagine that Trump doesn't run and Ron DeSantis wins Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin on his way to an easy victory. Or imagine that Trump is the nominee, but Biden is so weakened that Trump wins without subterfuge. Conventional wisdom will say the anticipated crisis never happened, so we we were worried for no reason.

But the tools will still be in place to keep Republicans in power. The real risk would be in 2026, 2028, and beyond. We shouldn't believe that we were worried for nothing if theres no crisis in 2024. But we'll be that the worriers were silly people who shouldn't be taken seriously.

I think the next two election cycles will go very badly for Democrats. But after that, in reaction to Republican rule, the public will be ready for a change. And that's when these mechanisms will really be dangerous.

Friday, September 24, 2021


Really? That's where all this was leading?
After months of delays and blistering criticism, a review of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, ordered up and financed by Republicans, has failed to show that former President Donald J. Trump was cheated of victory, according to draft versions of the report.

In fact, the draft report from the company Cyber Ninjas found just the opposite: It tallied 99 additional votes for President Biden and 261 fewer votes for Mr. Trump in Maricopa County, the fast-growing region that includes Phoenix.
All along, I've assumed that the auditors intended to say there was enough fraud to overturn the election results and weren't going to let empirical evidence get in the way of announcing that conclusion. But I've come to believe that, in their own sick way, they were sincere -- they thought they'd find massive fraud and were shocked to discover that it wasn't there.

On the other hand, the auditors insist that there might have been fraud:
Among other alleged discrepancies, the reports claimed that some ballots were cast by people who had moved before the election, that election-related computer files were missing and that some computer images of ballots were missing.
Also, as Greg Sargent notes:
... the report declares that its own confirmation of Biden’s win was “inconclusive.” Why? Because, it says, the county’s election’s officials didn’t “cooperate,” thus “actively interfering” with the audit and preventing it from being “complete.”

It gets worse. The report also recommends reforms, some of which would make easier to purge voters from the rolls and less likely that people are sent mail ballots.... Arizona Republicans may seize on those recommendations to call for more voting restrictions.

So we can see what’s really happening here. Yes, the audit isn’t declaring outright that the election’s outcome was indeed fraudulent. But it is declaring there are still many reasons to doubt that outcome, that elections officials who actually operated in good faith are covering this up, and that the right response is more voting restrictions.
But Republicans are usually slicker than this. They know that most people won't read the report -- they'll just absorb the headline, which is that the audit affirms Biden's victory (and increases his winning margin). Outside the fever swamps of the right, this audit looks like a joke. And within Wingnut World, it's unnecessary -- rank-and-file right-wingers already "know" the election was stolen by the Democrats. It's a core element of their worldview. They don't need audits to confirm something they regard as self-evident. Nor do GOP legislators seem to need any excuse to pass new voting restrictions aimed at Democrats. They certainly didn't need an audit for that purpose earlier this year in Georgia, Florida, or Texas (although Texas is now planning to audit the 2020 vote in four large counties, three of which went Democratic in 2020 and the other of which, Collin County, was 13% more Democratic in 2020 than in 2016 and nearly went for Joe Biden).

Why conduct audits when the faithful are already certain that Democratic fraud is rampant, no one else is persuaded by the audits (especially when they don't find any fraud), and GOP-run legislatures need no pretext to manipulate elections in their favor? I'm stumped. Apart from the need to feed the instatiable ego of Donald Trump, I don't get it -- and even Trump won't be satisfied unless the audits make him president again, which they won't. So what's the point?


Paul Krugman asks:
Are Centrists in the Thrall of Right-Wing Propaganda?

... a Republican attempt to make President Biden fail, no matter how much it hurt the rest of the country, was predictable.

More surprising, at least to me, has been the self-destructive behavior of Democratic centrists....

So what’s motivating the sabotage squad? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that they have internalized decades of right-wing economic propaganda, that their gut reaction to any proposal to improve Americans’ lives is that it must be unworkable and unaffordable.
There's an obvious response to this:

Krugman acknowledges that money is part of the problem:
We certainly shouldn’t underrate the influence of money: Both wealthy donors and Big Pharma have been nakedly throwing their weight around.
But he mostly blames a belief in right-wing ideas.

I blame the money, period. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and their allies are working with wealthy right-wing donors -- the people who have built and financed the right's propaganda infrastruture for the past fifty years. Back in the 1970s, these people concluded that they were at risk of losing wealth and privilege unless they persuaded ordinary Americans to want what they want. So they financed institutions that would concoct pro-corporatist messaging that was persuasive to people who aren't fat cats and never will be fat cats. It worked. That messaging persuaded much of America that deficit spending is horrible (think of your grandchildren!). It lulled the country and help create a second Gilded Age.

Manchin, Sinema, and the others are repeating lines their donors' propaganda experts wrote to sell the message. Why not? Those experts have a pretty successful track record.

Thursday, September 23, 2021


I'm not ready to believe this yet, but maybe it will happen:
Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic.

The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge, according to a new analysis shared with NPR by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For its latest update, which it released Wednesday, the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub combined nine different mathematical models from different research groups to get an outlook for the pandemic for the next six months....

The most likely scenario ... is that children do get vaccinated and no super-spreading variant emerges. In that case, the combo model forecasts that new infections would slowly, but fairly continuously, drop from about 140,000 today now to about 9,000 a day by March.

Deaths from COVID-19 would fall from about 1,500 a day now to fewer than 100 a day by March 2022.
A hundred deaths a day! That's an annual rate of 36,500 a year, similar to the annual death toll from the flu. That would be a remarkable improvement, all because, the modelers tell us, so many of us will have a degree of immunity from vaccination, previous infection, or both.

This scenario assumes a degree of childhood vaccination that approximates the level of teen vaccination in America. (Half of 12- to 17-year olds had at least one vaccine dose as of late August.) That's possible. We might avoid bad new variants, and maybe we'll avoid new surges, even if case numbers decline and people respond by relaxing their vigilance.

If all this happens, the president and Democrats ought to take a victory lap. Stressing vaccines and other public safety measures worked. We won. COVID lost.

But the right has a head start. The right is already taking credit for the fact that the Southern surge seems to have passed its peak. Here's an editorial from the right-wing site Issues & Insights:
Biden’s Vaccine Browbeating Backfires ... But COVID Rates Fall Anyway

... The Delta surge appears to have already peaked and is on the decline in many states, including those with the lowest vaccination rates....

In Florida, which Biden repeatedly bashes for not kowtowing to his wishes, the number of daily new COVID cases has been in decline for the past 30 days. In Texas, another state that raises Biden’s ire, the number of new cases appears to have peaked.

Rates of new cases have been in decline in Mississippi, a state where less than 42% are fully vaccinated, and Georgia, where less than 44% are vaccinated.

But the number of new cases is on the rise in Vermont and Maine, which have the highest and second-highest vaccination rates in the nation (69% and 67% are fully vaccinated, respectively, in those two states).
The fourteen-day average of cases per 100,000 in Vermont and Maine is 34; it's 42 in Florida, 44 in Texas, 46 in Georgia, and 52 in Mississippi. There might be increases in the New England states and decreases in the Southern states, but they're relative to extraordinarily high numbers down South and much lower numbers in the Northeast. And the hospitalization and death rates in the New England states are much lower, which suggests that the cases in New England are milder on average.

But the right is ready to pounce on any good news and memory-hole all the bad things that happened before. If you're asking yourself, What the hell are Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott thinking?, this is what they're thinking: By election season 2022, COVID will probably be in a sharp decline and they can say they did the right things all along -- regardless of how many people suffered and died in their states.

They'll claim they did the right things and President Biden did the wrong things. They'll say masks didn't work and lockdowns didn't work and freedom worked. They'll shout this from the rafters.

What will the president and other Democrats do? They'd better do some shouting themselves. They'd better be ready to start taking credit as soon as there's good news to take credit for. They should take credit even for lucky breaks they couldn't control -- because Republicans certainly will.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


The Washington Post's Aaron Blake writes:
Republicans are threatening to withhold the votes needed to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded ahead of a crucial deadline in two weeks, putting the country on course for yet another fiscal crisis and government shutdown.

And they do so despite seemingly having full knowledge that these kinds of things have rarely panned out for them before.
So why do congressional Republicans do this? Because it does them very little damage and has significant long-term benefits for them, as I'll explain.
The first big showdown came in 1995 and 1996, when newly ascendant congressional Republicans led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich demanded that President Bill Clinton agree to their proposal for a balanced budget. The government shut down briefly twice....

[Republicans] paid a price in public opinion. A Post-ABC News poll conducted at the end showed 50 percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans for the shutdowns, while just 27 percent blamed Clinton. A December Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll showed 62 percent said the fight was making them view Republicans more negatively, while 49 percent said the same of Clinton.
But who controlled Congress after the midterm cycle that followed the 1995-96 showdown? Republicans. Yes, Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996. But Democrats gained only two seats in the House and lost two seats in the Senate.
A similar scenario played out in 2011, with Republicans again emboldened by a big win at the ballot box in the preceding election. The new tea party wing demanded big cuts to the federal budget in exchange for keeping the government funded, with the two sides eventually agreeing to smaller cuts and Republicans dropping a demand for defunding Planned Parenthood.

Arguably the bigger battle came a few months later, though, when Republicans opposed raising the debt ceiling for similar reasons, with the two sides ultimately agreeing on a package of future spending cuts, known as the sequester.

As the deadline approached, 77 percent of Americans said the GOP was not willing to compromise enough, while 58 percent said the same of President Barack Obama. Other polls also showed Americans more skeptical of the GOP approach.
Barack Obama won reelection a year later, and Democrats had gains in the House and Senate -- but the House gains were small, and Republicans emerged retaining a 33-seat majority in the House.
There was yet another fight in 2013 — this time with the GOP refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless the Affordable Care Act was defunded.

The standoff ended in October, with Republicans again not getting what they desired.

... According to a Post-ABC poll, the party hit record lows in public opinion....
And then a year later, in the 2014 midterms, Republicans had double-digit gains in the House and won the Senate back.
The 2019 government shutdown — which became the longest in history — was a little different, in that it didn’t pit congressional Republicans against a Democratic president. President Donald Trump demanded funds for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with Democrats declining to provide the votes for it.

But the result was altogether familiar: Trump didn’t get what he demanded, and a majority of Americans (53 percent) blamed him and congressional Republicans, while just 29 percent blamed Democrats....
And then in the 2020 election Republicans had a net gain of 12 seats in the House, nearly seizing control from the Democrats, and while they lost the Senate, they won seats Democrats were expected to have a chance of winning in Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Montana, and Kentucky.

So if there's a downside for congressional Republicans, it's not a significant one. Now here's the upside:
* They get to make a big show of being the party of fiscal responsibility, reinforcing the conventional wisdom about the GOP, even though Republicans raise the debt ceiling routinely after passing budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy.

* They get to make it seem as if Democrats are the party that spends like drunken sailors -- a message to which the mainstream media and many swing voters respond very well. (This also reinforces conventional wisdom.)

* They get to impress their voters as take-no-prisoners fighters.
So, yeah, it works out just fine for them.


The new Bret Stephens column begins:
Ritchie Torres, a congressman from America’s poorest district — New York’s 15th, in the Bronx — quietly bristles at the A.O.C. comparison.

“There’s a sense in which the media narrative diminishes me,” he tells me over plates of pasta at a restaurant in the Bronx’s Little Italy when I raise the subject of his notorious fellow Democrat from an adjoining district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I resist the temptation to fit into a preconceived narrative. My career in politics long predates the Squad.”
Torres is too polite to say, And you're the embodiment of the problem, Bret. But that's reason for this column: Stephens is saying, Hey, lefties, don't stan those progressives. Stan this one.

He writes:
The bigger mystery is why Torres ... hasn’t yet become a household name in the United States. On the identity-and-background scorecard, he checks every progressive box. Afro-Latino, the son of a single mom who raised three children working as a mechanic’s assistant on a minimum-wage salary of $4.25 an hour, a product of public housing and public schools, a half brother of two former prison inmates, an N.Y.U. dropout, the Bronx’s first openly gay elected official when he won a seat on the City Council in 2013 at the age of 25 and the victor over a gay-bashing Christian minister when he won his House seat last year.
Stephens, you will not be surpried to learn, has a theory.
... Torres is everything a modern-day progressive is supposed to look and be like, except in one respect: Unlike so much of the modern left (including A.O.C., who grew up as an architect’s daughter in the middle-class Westchester town of Yorktown Heights), he really is a child of the working class. He understands what working-class people want, as opposed to what so many of its self-appointed champions claim they want.
I think Stephens genuinely believes that there are people who talk about Torres this way in hipster coffee shops from Brooklyn to Portland: That guy? He's all right, I guess, but I wish he weren't so ... working class.

Why isn't Ritchie Torres a star? In large part, it's because he simply hasn't pursued virality as an activist strategy. That makes him less likely to become part of the progressive conversation -- and also makes him less likely to be a target of Republican politicians and the right-wing media, who demonize the Squad at every opportunity.

Also, he's male. That's not part of the reason the left pays him less attention, but it means he's a less tempting target for the right. Right-wingers hate liberal and lefty women, particularly if they're not white. They seem to hate gay men far less than they used to -- they've never tried to demonize Pete Buttigieg the way they demonize other Democrats, as if his maleness overrides his sexual orientation.

So why is Bret Stephens impressed by Torres? Reason #1: Torres supports
giving children the option to attend “carefully regulated, not-for-profit” charter schools, which his district has in abundance, over fierce opposition from teachers’ unions.
Gosh, I can't imagine why a right-winger would like that. (Note to Torres: Nationwide, we'll never be able to limit public support to “carefully regulated, not-for-profit” charter schools. The money will inevitably flow to Reverend Billy Bob's Prosperity Gospel MAGA Academy.)

What else?
[Torres] is also consumed by the crisis of affordable housing.... One of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s early drafts for solving the crisis, Torres recalls, involved building 75,000 units over 10 years. Yet the demand was closer to six times that number....

His answer is a classic triangulation between big-government interventionism and small-government common sense. He wants to greatly increase the Section 8 federal voucher program, turning it into a new federal entitlement — “housing vouchers for all,” he calls it — that would ensure that no American family would need to pay more than 30 percent of its income in rent. Doing so “would instantaneously make millions of units affordable for the lowest-income households.”

But he also understands the need to streamline the public-review process to increase the supply of housing stock. “One of the great ironies of our time is that some of the most progressive cities are among the most systemically racist in their housing policies,” he says, mentioning San Francisco’s policies of single-family zoning and other land-use practices that are the way in which liberals discriminate today.
Torres is a lefty who's upset at liberal NIMBYs, so Stephens thinks: Great -- let's you and them fight. (Although he and Torres have a point.)

More of the same:
Torres is also particularly alarmed by the phenomenon that the Russian American evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin calls “elite overproduction.”

“We produce far more college graduates than there are elite positions for those graduates to occupy,” Torres observes. When those graduates find themselves deep in debt, shut out of the kinds of jobs they were promised and crushed by the cost of housing, “it is bound to have a radicalizing effect.”

It’s a strong argument for more vocational schools. It’s also an F.D.R.-esque call to save capitalism from itself, lest the people Torres calls “the New Jacobins” gain further grip.
Again, I'm in favor of the policy idea, but I don't like Stephens's evident glee at the possibility of a war among socialists over this.

But keeping the left and liberals fighting is an excellent recipe for keeping the corporatist right in power forever, so it's no surprise that Stephens is rooting for Torres to start some wars.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


This would be worrisome in isolation...
Fewer than one third of Iowans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president, a steep drop from earlier this year.

Thirty-one percent of Iowans approve of how Biden is handling his job, while 62% disapprove and 7% are not sure, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

That’s a 12 percentage point drop in approval from June, the last time the question was asked. Biden's disapproval numbers jumped by 10 points during the same period. In June, 43% approved and 52% disapproved.

Biden’s job approval has not been in net positive territory in Iowa since March, when 47% of Iowans approved of his performance and 44% disapproved.
Biden lost Iowa in 2020 by a 53%-45% margin, and Hillary Clinton lost the state 51%-42%, so no, it's not a blue or even purple state. But there's a similar poll in Michigan, a state Biden did win:
About 39% of voters approved of [Biden's] performance and 53% disapproved, according to the [Detroit Regional Chamber] poll.

Among those contributing to the decline in approval are "leaning Democratic" voters whose approval decreased by 32% and independent voters whose approval dipped by 11%....
Biden is the third Democratic president in a row who thought he could outmaneuver Republicans and turncoat Democratic centrists so they couldn't sabotage his presidency in its first two years. Barack Obama got a healthcare plan out of that period at least, but he and Bill Clinton both spent the next six years playing defense while Republicans (and some Democrats) acted as if they were illegitimate usurpers.

And the next time Republicans have control of the White House as well as Congress, I assume they'll pass election laws that make it impossible for another Democrat to ever win the presidency again. Biden is fighting a two-front war -- as he should have known he would -- but he has to win it, or we lose. He's not winning now.


A large portion of the media can't grasp (or won't acknowledge) the extremism of the Republican Party, including its ongoing efforts to establish a one-party country -- and now even some observers who understand what the GOP is up to can't seem to comprehend what the worst corporatists in the Democratic Party appear to have in mind.

In his latest column, Jamelle Bouie chastises Joe Manchin, Kysten Sinema, and other corporatist Democrats in the House and Senate for blocking major parts of the Biden administration's agenda. But I think his imagination fails him when he tries to understand what they're thinking.
Moderate and centrist Democrats seem to value a bipartisan process more than they do any particular policy outcome or ideological goal.

The most charitable explanation is that they believe that their constituents value displays of bipartisanship more than any new law or benefit. A less charitable explanation is that they see bipartisanship as a way to clip the wings of Democratic Party ambition and save themselves from taking votes that might put them in conflict with either voters or donors.
There's an even less charitable explanation: that they want the Democrats to fail and be replaced be congressional Republicans and a Republican president. If you can't beleve that this is what they want, you should at least acknowledge that their biggest donors would be quite pleased with that outcome.

But wouldn't that mean many of the cororatist Democrats would lose office themselves? As I noted a couple of days ago, centrists in swing districts actually seem to support the president's proposals, while many of Biden's Democratic antagonists, at least in the House, seem to be in safe seats. But what about the ones who are electorally at risk? That has Josh Marshall scratching his head:
Like many people I spent a lot of time trying to figure out Kyrsten Sinema’s motivations this year.... as near as I can see, unless she shifts her stance pretty dramatically the odds of Sinema being elected to a second Senate term in 2024 are pretty poor. And that’s made me consider another question: does she just misread the politics of her situation that badly or is she not planning on running?

... Does she figure she cleans up the mess in the last two years of her term? Is she not planning on running again? ... [Reelection] means her fending off a primary challenge and then getting the backing of a pumped up and united state Democratic party. How does that happen? I don’t see it. And maybe she doesn’t either.
I don't think she cares. She's being sweet-talked by corporate interests who've undoubtedly made it clear that whatever happens to her in the future, she'll never go hungry. She'll be taken care of if she carries out a hit on Biden and the rest of the Democrats. So she knows she has nothing to fear. She'll be fine.

This country is in deep trouble because even people who should know better can't grasp how dangerous the Republican Party is -- and it's also in deep trouble because of a failure to understand the stranglehold corporate America has on our politics. We need to see Republicans and the rich as the enemies of ordinary Americans. And we need to recognize that the damage the rich do isn't always done by means of the GOP.

Monday, September 20, 2021


Politico disappears the GOP's long history of crying "Voter fraud!"
It started as one big, false claim — that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

But nearly a year later, the Big Lie is metastasizing, with Republicans throughout the country raising the specter of rigged elections in their own campaigns ahead of the midterms....

Trump may have started the election-truther movement. But what was once the province of an aggrieved former president has spread far beyond him, infecting elections at every level with vague, unspecified claims that future races are already rigged.
The Politico story cites Larry Elder in California, Nevada Senate challenger Adam Laxalt, and others. They never would have done talked about voter fraud if Trump hadn't "started the election-truther movement"!
“That is a simply terrible development for our democracy,” said Trevor Potter, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission who served as general counsel to Republican John McCain’s two presidential campaigns.
John McCain? You mean this John McCain?
According to the Republican nominee for president, his opponents were “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history.” In an ad, his campaign warned of “nationwide voter fraud” that could swing the election. His running mate worried, in a fundraising letter, that “leftist groups” were trying to “steal the election.”

The candidate was not Donald Trump. It was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who in the final weeks of the 2008 presidential election embraced the theory that ACORN, a community organizing group previously embraced by Democrats and Republicans, was helping to rig the election for Barack Obama by filing fake voter registration forms.
I'm quoting from a Washington Post article by Dave Weigel that ran in mid-October 2016. Here's the ad Weigel cites (the allegations of voter fraud are at the end):

In this October 2016 piece, Weigel wrote:
According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, conducted among 1,999 registered voters in the week after the second presidential debate, 73 percent of Republican voters now worry that their votes will not be counted.
And where did that belief come from? In part from Trump, who was predicting fraud even before the 2016 votes were counted, but also from years of Republican scaremongering.
The idea that Democrats and their allies are rigging elections, either through control of machines in Democratic cities or through mass voter impersonation, is a mainstay of conservative politics — one that has powered legislation that is making it harder for some voters in Republican-controlled states such as Wisconsin to register this year.

... some of the most wild charges thrown at Democrats by Trump surrogates have been made for years. “Dead people generally vote for Democrats rather than Republicans,” former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said on CNN's “State of the Union” Sunday. “You want me to [say] that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that.”

That was not much different from what Giuliani claimed in the days before the 2004 election, telling Newsmax that his experience in the 1989 mayoral election, which he narrowly lost to Democrat David Dinkins, showed that voter fraud could swing elections.

“There were machines that already had hundreds of votes on them,” Giuliani said. “When they open that machine — if you don't have your poll watcher there to look at the back of it, you could start off the election in that district down 100 votes, down 200 votes, down 300 votes.”

Giuliani was not telling the truth, then or now.
I write about this repeatedly. I write about the George W. Bush administration's decision to fire seven U.S. attorneys who wouldn't pursue fake allegations of election fraud; that was in 2006. But the press still tells us that Republicans didn't talk this way until Donald Trump taught them how. I've stopped believing that Beltway reporters are gaslighting us -- I think they've gaslighted themselves.

Sunday, September 19, 2021


A few days ago, Chris Hayes tweeted this:

In a column-length response, Ross Douthat writes:
Here’s a quick case that [Hayes is] right. At the pandemic’s outset, skeptics of a sweeping response argued that public health authorities were overestimating the disease’s dangers, and many conservatives were eager to believe them. The Hoover Institution’s Richard Epstein famously predicted Covid would claim only 5,000 lives in the United States.
(Actually, Epstein's initial prediction was a mere 500 deaths.)
... on the fundamental question of how bad the disease would be, the authorities were more right than their more optimistic critics. Even with rapidly developed vaccines, we’ve had 670,000 reported coronavirus deaths and counting....

In that sense we’ve already run a version of Hayes’s counterfactual. Covid has been deadlier than many people on the right hoped or predicted, and yet the partisan divide that took shape last spring hasn’t really budged, with Republicans still taking the libertarian side in debate after debate — closures, masks, now vaccine mandates.
However, Douthat thinks something might have changed if the death toll were even worse.
But I’m still not sure Hayes is right about the Covid 10-times-worse scenario being basically identical to this one in its divisions. As bad as the coronavirus has been, most people who get it still come out OK, children are especially unlikely to be hospitalized or die, and deaths are concentrated in a population, the elderly in nursing homes, that (to our shame) we already keep somewhat out of mind.

... if the fatality figures ... were 10 times higher I think there might have been more red-state support for public-health restrictions of all kinds.
Well, maybe. Douthat continues to wonder
whether there’s a world where Donald Trump went all-in for strict disease-fighting measures and liberals turned anti-lockdown in response....
Douthat can't let go of that idea. Last October, he wrote that Trump
had a worldview that the cosmopolitan community considered archaic and dangerous — a worldview that emphasized national borders, played up foreign threats and treated travel bans and immigration restrictions as essential tools of state. He also had certain personal tendencies, like his famous germaphobia, that would presumably have made him favorable to masking and social distancing at a time when the expert of experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was still dismissing mask wearing and telling healthy Americans that it was safe to take a cruise.

In other words, Trump, much more than a typical president, was ideologically and personally well-positioned to get out ahead of the experts, to break early with their church-of-cosmopolitanism assumptions and to set an example of extreme caution long before that became the official wisdom — even to “own the libs,” if you will, by taking steps that would have been denounced as authoritarianism in late February and then recognized as wisdom by late March.
But Trump didn't do this because he's also a person who regularly engages in magical thinking -- how many times did he tell us that the virus would simply "go away"? Would he have said that in the face of a virus that was on track to kill nearly 7 million Americans, rather than the current figure of nearly 700,000? I wouldn't put it past him.

Also, the right's propaganda infrastructure is financed by billionaires who wanted the economy to reopen as quickly as possible. It's not a coincidence that the estimate of 500 U.S. COVID deaths came from the Hoover Institution, an important and well-funded source of right-wing influence. Right-wing billionaires funded the "reopen" movement that took Trump's pandemic denialism and turned it into right-wing dogma.

If the death tolls had been ten times worse, would the billionaires still have wanted to reopen everything right away? They'd have wanted a sense of normality as rapidly as they could get one. Maybe they'd have demanded quick fixes: Seal off hot spots and don't let anyone leave. Round up infected people who stray outside the hot zones. I can imagine that the culture war would have involved right-wingers arguing for containment in the "bad" places (conveniently, the Northeast and a few other liberal enclaves) while doing little or nothing elsewhere. It would fail, but New York would have replaced China as the scapegoat.

Douthat agrees that we wouldn't have pulled together as a nation:
... there would be more regional fractures, more governors trying to close borders and restrict travel, more vicious interstate fighting over medical resources, more frenzied culture wars over which drugs to try experimentally, more total panic and meltdown around schools.
And in the middle would be Trump touting sparsely populated, low-infection rural areas as the real America, even as the rest of the country succumbed to infection and death.

However it played out, I think Chris Hayes is right in the broadest sense -- the politics of all this wouldn't be appreciably different. It would still be us vs. them. And Ross Douthat seems to agree.

Saturday, September 18, 2021


You probably know about this, which happened at a restaurant in my neighborhood that caters to a lot of tourists:
A hostess at a well-known New York City restaurant was attacked just for asking to see a group's proof of COVID vaccination, a requirement to dine inside in the city.

Exclusive cellphone video obtained by NBC New York shows the Thursday evening attack outside Carmine's Restaurant on the Upper West Side. Around 5 p.m., tempers flared and the hostess stand is nearly tipped over in the mayhem, with a waiter at one point helping carry someone away from the scene.

The 22-year-old hostess asked the group of Texans to show proof of getting the COVID vaccine in order to dine in the restaurant, part of NYC's executive order that went into effect this week. Law enforcement sources said that the hostess was then repeatedly punched in the face and body, and sent to the hospital.

Gateway Pundit's coverage of this story is on message:
The real shocking and tragic situation is forcing these hourly employees to segregate on behalf of the tyrannical health regime.

... Another viral incident from a NYC restaurant shows a black family being refused service and being forced to leave over the draconian vaccination policy.

The most disappointing part is the reaction by his fellow citizens around him; When he asks them if they are okay with the un-American segregation – a man flips him the middle finger and says yes.
The unmasked would-be patron in that incident used the word "segregation" is his rant.

It didn't impress the other diners -- but it impresses right-wingers all over America.

As soon as New York City announced its restrictions on indoor dining by the unvaccinated, in early August, the right began referring to the policy as "segregation." This is how the right operates. Right-wingers have no policy ideas that might be effective for dealing with the COVID pandemic, or with any of America's other problems. What the right puts its energy into is devising memes and catchphrases that allow the base to feel clever and self-righteous while rejecting liberal and moderate ideas. If the catchphrases turn a liberal weapon on liberals, so much the better. (See: critical race theory is racism; attacks on Sarah Palin are sexism; etc., etc.) But any catchphrase will do. (Asking my vaccine status is a HIPAA violation!)

Easily remembered pseudo-ideas build brand loyalty. They're why less extreme right-wingers will never abandon the GOP -- when the message that Democrats/liberals/leftists are evil is pounded into your head in vivid and memorable ways around the clock every day, even the Republican policies you object to aren't going to make you rethink a straight party-line vote in every election. This approach isn't good for America, but for Republicans, it works.

Friday, September 17, 2021


Charles C.W. Cooke's National Review post "Ron DeSantis Was Right About Monoclonal-Antibody Therapy" is as bad as you'd imagine:
Two months ago, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was being roundly castigated for promoting the use of Regeneron’s monoclonal-antibody treatment as part of his state’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Desperate to find something sinister in the push, DeSantis’s critics threw out every charge they could dream up. At first, the line was that Regeneron’s treatment didn’t work. Then, it was that Regeneron’s treatment worked fine, but represented a dangerous distraction from the vaccine. And, finally, it was that Regeneron’s treatment was part of a corrupt plot to enrich DeSantis’s donors.

Today, we learn from the Washington Post that, actually, none of that was the problem. Instead, DeSantis’s sin is that he has been relying upon monoclonal-antibody treatment too much, and that this is unfair to other states that now need it.

What a difference eight weeks make.
"What a difference eight weeks make," Cooke writes. Did the evil libs say in the past eight weeks that monoclonal antibodies aren't effective on COVID? Not according to Cooke's own link, which goes to a New Republic article from last October that doesn't mention DeSantis at all. (It's about Donald Trump's recovery from COVID.) Cooke has a point about the story that linked DeSantis's support of this treatment to a major donor who was said to be deeply invested in Regeneron -- as PolitiFact and others have since pointed out, the donor's firm isn't a major investor in the company. But while that story regrettably still circulates, it's irrelevant to the main point: Yes, Regeneron’s treatment works, but describing it as "the best thing we can do to reduce the number of people who require hospitalization" and "the best shot we’ve got right now to keep people out of the hospital and keep them safe" -- as DeSantis has done, despite the existence of a vaccine that actually is "the best shot we’ve got right now to keep people out of the hospital and keep them safe" -- absolutely is "a dangerous distraction from the vaccine."

DeSantis set out to turn Florida into the Regeneron State, proudly promoting new sites where monoclonal antibody treatments are available. That's nuts, as doctors who are sneeringly quoted by Cooke make clear:
... Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious-disease specialist at Family Health Centers of San Diego ... proposed that promoting Regeneron’s treatment was “a backwards strategy.” “It’s so much better to prevent a disease than to use an expensive, cumbersome and difficult-to-use therapy,” Ramers submitted. “It does not make any medical sense to lean into monoclonals to the detriment of vaccines. It’s like playing defense with no offense.”

But, Cooke says, DeSantis has no choice! He's trapped in a world he never made!
Yes, in an ideal world, all Americans who are able would go and get vaccinated. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a free country, and for whatever reason, a considerable number of people in this free country of ours are just not going to do what [pro-vaccine doctors] want them to do. As a result, our various governments have been faced with a choice. They can either (a) throw their hands up and say, “Well, if you won’t get vaccinated, I guess we’ll just watch you die,” or (b) accept reality and say, “Okay, bad decision, but I guess we’ll try to help you some other way.” From the moment that monoclonal-antibody treatment became a viable option, Governor DeSantis and others chose this second course of action.
Yes, Cooke actually wrote that Floridians aren't getting vaccinated "for whatever reason." It's an unsolvable mystery! It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that DeSantis signed a law preventing private businesses from requiring that customers be vaccinated, threatens to fine cities and counties that insist on vaccinated employees, and sells beer koozies and T-shirts attacking the most prominent advocate of vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci, could it? You don't suppose maybe he's reinforcing the notion that vaccines are bad, do you?

Yes, we need vaccines and treatments. No, the treatments shouldn't go overwhelmingly to states where the government expresses contempt for vaccines, while saying that treatments in limited supply should be mass-distributed because they're an awesome way to own the libs.

Thursday, September 16, 2021


Yesterday, a HuffPost story dispelled a myth about many of the corporatist Democrats who are blocking the Biden agenda:
From prescription drug prices to higher taxes on the rich, many of the Democrats in the House standing in the way of more progressive legislation hail from safe Democratic seats.
An example:
Reps. Scott Peters (Calif.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined Republicans to block the prescription drug price negotiation bill from advancing out of committee.

... In addition to Rice, Peters and Schrader, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D- Fla.) voted against the prescription-drug provisions on the Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Lou Correa (Calif.) also has deep reservations about the measures, according to a Politico report on Tuesday.

... none of those five Democrats was reelected by a narrow margin in 2020 or is included on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of vulnerable “frontline” members.
The Democrats who are actually at risk of losing their seats in 2020 generally want to pass this bill.
In fact, “frontline” Democrats are among those who have urged party leadership to pass a strong drug price negotiation bill, precisely because they see it as key to their reelection prospects....

Drug price negotiation is a popular Democratic priority aimed at correcting a giveaway to Big Pharma in 2003 that barred the federal government from negotiating prices as it does for the Veterans Affairs health care system.
The obstructionists aren't trying to save their own seats -- and it sure looks as if they're trying to defeat their fellow Democrats. Their corporate paymasters not only want to defeat popular provisions that would make them slightly less rich, they want Democrats to lose their majorities in the House and Senate, which would ensure that passage of these pesky bills that would do good things for ordinary people won't even be a remote possibility.

It's no surprise that plutocrats want Republicans in power -- but let's remember that their Democratic puppets appear to want Republicans in power, too.


I'll acknowledge that Republican critics of "voter fraud" trutherism are somewhat more reality-based than their Trumpian party-mates...
Recall candidate Larry Elder – with an assist from former President Donald Trump – depressed GOP turnout in California’s recall race by raising the prospect of voter fraud before the election, a Republican consultant said Wednesday....

Ron Nehring, a former chair of the California GOP ... pointed to a page on Elder’s website that, prior to the election, presumed that Newsom won the recall because of an influx of voter fraud.... Nehring said such a suggestion was “astonishing” and discouraged Republicans from voting....

“We can’t have an evidence-based party if we are bull-----ing people in advance that this election was stolen when it was not,” Nehring said Wednesday. “One way not to have Republicans win is by telling Republican voters that their votes don’t matter.... Lying to Republicans claiming an election was stolen, before a single vote or result had been published, is grossly irresponsible.”
It's nice that Nehring doesn't believe elections are routinely stolen by Democrats, but both he and the people crying "Fraud!" are arriving at the same conclusion: Newsom didn't really win. The Trump/Elder contingent thinks millions of ballots were cast illegally. People like Nehring think the recall vote would have been significantly tighter -- and might even have been a defeat for the governor, rather than a lansdlide victory -- if the Trumpers hadn't suggests that GOP votes are worthless. Both sides are downplaying Newsom's big win.

I'm a skeptic about the suppression theory. In California's 2018 gubernatorial race, 12,464,235 votes were cast. NBC News says that in the recall election, 9,193,157 votes have been counted -- 71% of the expected total, which NBC estimates will be 13,000,000, slightly more than were cast in 2018. The New York Times has a vote total of 9,223,250 and says it's 74% of the expected total -- which means the Times expects 12,463,851 votes to be cast, about the same number as in 2018.

If the recall turnout is nearly as high as the turnout in the last regularly scheduled California gubernatorial election, where are all the GOP voters who would have voted but concluded that the election was rigged, so they stayed home?

The myth of massive, widespread Democratic voter fraud now gives Republicans two ways of downplaying Democratic victories. One way is saner than the other. But I don't believe either one.