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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021


In a California recall post-mortem, Charlie Sykes quotes an Election Eve column by Clay Risen of The New York Times:
The election ... represented the ascendancy (and vulnerability) of the entertainment wing of the GOP. As Risen noted:
[Larry] Elder isn’t a serious politician; he’s running not to win, but to raise his media profile. But that very fact says something about today’s Republican Party. Many of its highest-profile figures blur the line between politician and celebrity, and act accordingly, even if their success as the latter undermines what we expect out of the former. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn — and, yes, Larry Elder — are only nominally politicians. In substance, they’re entertainers.
I don't agree with that characterization.

It's true that Greene and Cawthorn (and their evil triplet, Lauren Boebert) aren't exactly legislators; they don't try very hard to write, negotiate, and pass bills. But calling them "entertainers" suggests that they're nothing more than harmless fillers of their fans' leisure time. That's not what they are.

They're actually grievance encouragers. Their job is to validate their supporters' anger, and to give them new reasons to feel angry. That's also the job of talk radio hosts like Elder.

This isn't like watching Netflix. It serves a political purpose: keeping supporters and listeners angry, primarily at Democrats. The Republican Party benefits because these people will never, ever vote for a Democrat no matter how little they get from the GOP, because the grievance encouragers have made clear to them that Democrats embody all the evil in America. It seems like entertainment to Risen because the Republican base clearly enjoys having its grievances encouraged. But the base responds to grievance like a drug, craving a greater and greater dose. The more that's consumed, the angrier the base gets at Democrats.

Risen says that Elder ran "not to win, but to raise his media profile" -- something that's also been said about Trump in 2016. Trump primarily earned his living as an entertainer for many years before he became a grievance encourager on Fox & Friends, his stepping stone to the presidency. He made his half of America angrier and did other very dangerous and destructive things as president. He's still doing them as a grievance encourager today.

When you encourage Republican voters' grievances the way these people do, you make it seem reasonable to suppress the votes of Democrats, or even overturn elections Democrats win. The Republican Party -- and the billionaires who back it -- benefit greatly from that. It's not fun and games.


California governor Gavin Newsom easily survived a recall effort yesterday, and The Federalist knows what that means: There is no democracy in California.
Frustrated California voters may have lost the battle to recall Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 14, but the war to unseat him in 2022 is just beginning.
Actually, California voters -- the vast majority of them, at least -- didn't want Newsom recalled, so they won the battle. That's how democracy works, or at least how it's supposed to work. But The Federalist doesn't consider pro-Newsom voters to be voters.
Multiple outlets officially called the referendum on removing the governor a failure on Tuesday night, less than one hour after polls closed.
Yes. That's how election analysts work -- they look at returns, they study exit polls, they see what's going on in key precincts, and they call elections. Hours later, is there any reason to doubt that call?
Los Angeles GOP executive board member Julie Haff told The Federalist that even though results indicate the governor will keep his seat, Newsom’s trust in his track record clearly faltered in a way passionate voters can still use.

“If he was so confident in the job that he’s doing, why did he need to have millions and millions of dollars spent on this? Why does he have to have [President Joe] Biden, [Vice President Kamala] Harris, and others come in and help rally for him? He should be able to stand the job he’s doing and feel confident with the job he’s doing,” Haff said.
Translation: Yeah, Newsom won, but only because he campaigned. That's cheating!
On election day, Newsom, “who outraised his gubernatorial opponents by millions, lamented how the GOP is “literally trying to dismantle democracy.”
And he raised money, too! That's double cheating!
Chairman of the Conservative Party of California Jon Matthews ... who moved to California in 1959, said the state has changed and it’s up to voters to change it back.

“It was the most Republican state in the union when I moved out here, and it has turned into the exact opposite,” he said. “And it’s only because of the apathy that has settled in so many voters...."
Actually, California wasn't the most Republican state in the union in 1959. Its delegation in the House of Representatives was 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats -- a GOP lean, but hardly a massive one. (By contrast, Connecticut, Delaware, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming all had House delegations that were entirely Republican.) And in the 1960 presidential election, Richard Nixon beat John F. Kennedy by just half a percentage point in California -- even though it was Nixon's home state.
[Larry] Elder is clearly a fan favorite among Californians hoping to unseat Newsom. The state’s passion for the Republican broadcaster, Matthews said, should be harnessed for the 2022 gubernatorial election.

“If we can get the governor and get the secretary of state out, those are the only two people we need to change in California to turn things around,” Matthews said.
That's ... um, a tall order. But why does Matthews believe that electing a GOP governor and secretary of state would begin a new golden age of Republicanism in California? Doesn't the state also have an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature?

Oh, right, I forgot: Matthews is assuming that control of the secretary of state's office (in addition to the governor's office) means controlling all future elections. Because it can't really be democracy if Democrats win at the polls, can it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021


I'm sure you think this was a perfectly reasonable judgment call:
Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump's top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took top-secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to "Peril," a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, 'was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.'

... Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon's war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.

"No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I'm part of that procedure," Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.
Milley was worried about an attack on China -- so much so that he reassured the Chinese twice that no attack was imminent:
In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa.

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Donald Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China....

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel.
The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces, although the Constitution is not a suicide pact -- Milley was right to want to prevent a war with a nuclear power.

But I think he misjudged Trump. Trump didn't seem crazier after the election than he was before the polls closed -- he's always seemed like a rage-driven narcissist with no human feelings for anyone except his daughter and a small group of people (mostly fellow evildoers) who exist at the alpha level where he imagines himself to reside. I don't believe he would have bombed China because, for all his nasty talk, he wants to be liked by dictators such as Xi Jinping. Also, he seemed oddly averse to war throughout his presidency. Did he just not want to share the spotlight with the troops? Did he fear that it would be too hard for him to fake an understanding of whatever war he started?

Whatever his motives, I think he was unlikely to drop a bomb on a foreign enemy under the circumstances -- one important reason being that the people he truly hates are his domestic enemies. (This is something he has in common with most American rank-and-file right-wingers: They hate everyone in America who's not a white conservative, and they also hate black and brown people globally. American non-conservatives -- white liberals as well as most of the country's black and brown people -- are their top enemies.)

General Milley's efforts to prevent the president from doing something rash and irreversible seem understandable (and reminiscent of the last days of Nixon) -- but to your right-wing relatives, what Woodward and Costa are reporting just confirms everything they've suspected throughout Trump's time in politics: that a globalist Deep State exists, that it spent the years of Trump's presidency seeking to thwart everything he tried to do, and that this cabal cares more about China than it does about America.

Marco Rubio has already called on President Biden to fire General Milley, but that's mild compare to what's coming: Within the next 48 hours, I guarantee that at least one or two high-profile Republican will suggest that the general should be tried on treason charges, and possibly executed. (In Ohio, the question is which Republican Senate candidate will say something like this first, Josh Mandel or J.D. Vance.)

The right already blames what it calls the "woke military" for the triumph of the Taliban -- and now we learn this. I don't know where this is going to lead, but I fear the critics of the generals, not the generals. Thry won't take this lightly.


Today is Election Day in California, and polls show that Governor Gavin Newsom is unlikely to be recalled. But the candidate who's expected to be the top vote-getter among the replacement candidates, Republican talk-show host Larry Elder, has preemptively declared that his near-inevitable loss will be the result of fraud. He's put up a website,, that offers the kind of pseudoscientific bushwa the right is inordinately fond of these days. Ed Kilgore writes:
The site ... avers that with respect to the fraud claims, its “primary analytical tool used was Benford’s Law.” This, as aficionados of the Big Lie probably know, is a statistical theorem involving the likelihood of certain numerals in random displays of numbers. Experts on Benford’s Law have repeatedly and heatedly and redundantly objected to its use to “prove” fraud in election returns.
But you have to scroll down a bit before you get to the part about Benford's Law. First, there's this:
They say that in America, there are four boxes of liberty. The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box. When we vote we exercise our rights as Californians and as Americans to make our voices heard via the ballot box, having listened to others make theirs heard through the soapbox. We trust in our elected officials to safeguard that ballot box, such that its results will truly reflect our will as Californian’s. However, when those officials, either through laziness or incompetence, allow thieves to steal amidst the dead of night and cheat our ballot box, we can no longer rely on its contents. Will we now have to fight the California jury box, in the hope that the final box — the one most akin to Pandora’s – remains closed?
In other words: I'd better be declared the winner, either immediately after the votes are counted or after I sue to overturn Newsom's victory, because you really don't want my supporters to have to shoot anyone to give me my rightful win, do you? It would be very unfortunate if they felt compelled to do that.

But the pro-Elder forces might do something besides sue in order to prevent the violent insurrection they say they're so worried about.
If the recall election advances to an audit, we must not permit county officials who may or may not have contributed to these discrepancies to conduct the recount themselves instead of allowing independent groups under state control to conduct the recount. Allowing this is tantamount to allowing an alleged criminal to examine the crime scene, or negligent workers at the site of an industrial accident. It is nonsensical.
They want an independent audit, like the endless one that's taking place in neighboring Arizona, and like the ones they're demanding in every state Joe Biden won by less than a landslide. They want their crackpots to come in and re-count the votes, while searching for evidence of bamboo paper in the ballots and remote vote-switching by defense contractors in Italy.

But California's legislature is Democratic, so they won't get an audit approved. I guess that means that after the lawsuits fail, we go straight to the shooting -- or at least to a widespread belief among Republicans in California and elsewhere that shooting would certainly be justified.

Monday, September 13, 2021


Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times notices that Republicans aren't even waiting for the votes to be counted (or even for all the votes to be cast) to start shouting "Fraud!" in California.
The results of the California recall election won’t be known until Tuesday night. But some Republicans are already predicting victory for the Democrat, Gov. Gavin Newsom, for a reason that should sound familiar.

Voter fraud.

Soon after the recall race was announced in early July, the embers of 2020 election denialism ignited into new false claims on right-wing news sites and social media channels. This vote, too, would supposedly be “stolen,” with malfeasance ranging from deceptively designed ballots to nefariousness by corrupt postal workers.

As a wave of recent polling indicated that Mr. Newsom was likely to brush off his Republican challengers, the baseless allegations accelerated. Larry Elder, a leading Republican candidate, said he was “concerned” about election fraud. The Fox News commentators Tomi Lahren and Tucker Carlson suggested that wrongdoing was the only way Mr. Newsom could win. And former President Donald J. Trump predicted that it would be “a rigged election.”

This swift embrace of false allegations of cheating in the California recall reflects a growing instinct on the right to argue that any lost election, or any ongoing race that might result in defeat, must be marred by fraud.
Yes, but as I've pointed out many times, Republicans always think there's voter fraud in California. Trump said so in late November 2016.

Paul Ryan implied that there was voter fraud in California in the 2018 midterms, as Ed Kilgore noted at the time:
Some Republicans were so busy on the evening of November 6 spinning a poor midterm showing into a vindication of their party and president that they apparently missed the fact that the election wasn’t quite over. And later on, they professed mystification at the final results. I say “professed” because it’s hard to believe Speaker Paul Ryan is as stupid as he sounds here:
The California election system “just defies logic to me,” Ryan said during a Washington Post event.

“We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race....

“In Wisconsin, we knew the next day. Scott Walker, my friend, I was sad to see him lose, but we accepted the results on Wednesday,” Ryan said. In California, “their system is bizarre; I still don’t completely understand it. There are a lot of races there we should have won.”
The slow count from California should not have come as a surprise: It happened in the June 5 primary as well, and in the 2016 primary and general election. And it was mainly the product of a 2015 change in state election laws allowing ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within three days to count. Since the share of Californians voting by mail has been going up regularly in recent elections, we’re talking about a lot of votes.
But even before that, Republicans were warning of the potential for voter fraud committed by ... well, you can guess. Here's an Investor's Business Daily editorial from 2015:
Just months after handing out California driver's licenses to illegals, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law to automatically register every driver to vote. Supposedly, it's to raise turnout. More likely, it's inviting fraud....

Foreigners have complained for years about wanting to vote in U.S. elections and in California. And now they may get their wish....
California doesn't automatically provide voter registration for the undocumented when it issues them driver's licenses, but the myth persists. And so we get commentary like this 2019 opinion piece:
In reality, California officials know full well how many non-citizens voted in June and November of 2018, and the ballpark figure of one million is probably low. California officials also know how many ineligible non-citizens voted in November 2016.
Gavin Newsom is likely to survive the recall by double digits, for the simple reason that Democrats routinely win the state by double digits. And yet there will probably be more cries of "Fraud!" in California than in Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe will win (if he does win) by a much smaller margin.

Is that because Republicans don't want to play the fraud card in Virginia, fearing that talk of rigged elections might discourage their own voters in what could be a winnable race, while they believe they have nothing to lose in California? Or are they more inclined to allege fraud in California simply because they see it as the epicenter of undocumented immigration in America (as well as the state that embodies everything else they hate about liberalism)? Whatever the reason, they think Democratic dominance in California is fake, and the next time they control at least one house of Congress, they'll probably make a serious effort to prove that Trump won the state twice, and that millions of fake votes are cast there in every election.

Sunday, September 12, 2021


Like so many other mainstream media journalists and pundits, Matt Bai is desperate for a mythical Republican to save America from the actual Republican Party (and, implicitly, from the Democrats). He thinks he's found a possible deliverer:
No leading Republican did more to legitimize Donald Trump, as he was battling to secure the party’s nomination in 2016, than Chris Christie. And yet this week, the former New Jersey governor took dead aim at both Trump and his more ardent followers.

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Christie compared Trump’s conspiracy-minded supporters to the John Birch Society in the 1960s, likened the former president himself to an authoritarian and flatly rejected the myth of a stolen election....

Christie can never be fully exonerated for his role in bringing the hateful margins of our politics into the mainstream. But if all those Never-Trumpers can’t do a thing to loosen Trump’s hold on the party, then maybe only a pro-Trumper can.

... if someone is going to finally shake Republicans from this Trumpian nightmare, it’s probably not going to be anyone who stood on principle from the start and is mostly popular with Democrats — Mitt Romney or John Kasich or Liz Cheney.

No, it’s more likely to be a former Trump supporter who earned enough credibility as a loyal Republican during the Trump years to say: “Enough of this. You and I have been misled, and it’s time to reclaim our party.” It would help if that former acolyte were also an immensely gifted politician.

And so maybe we don’t have to forgive Christie to think that he may yet have a valuable role to play in Republican politics and in the life of a fractured nation.

Chris Christie helped us get to this tragic place. It’s not crazy to think he could help us get out.
Sorry, Matt, but it is crazy to think Chris Christie can help save us. It isn't just that rank-and-file GOP voters show no signs of disillusionment with Trump, as a new CNN poll reminds us yet again:
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say, 63% to 37%, that Trump should be the leader of the Republican Party....

Most Republicans also consider support for Trump -- and his false claim to have won the 2020 election -- to be an important part of their own partisan identity alongside support for conservative principles. About six in 10 say that supporting Trump, and that believing that he won in 2020, are at least a somewhat important part of what being a Republican means to them.

It's also that resisting compromise and moderation is central to their self-image. Right-wing media figures and politicians have encouraged this kind of acting out for years, having persuaded GOP voters that they're in a life-and-death struggle with one of the worst political forces in human history -- us. For this reason, it's preposterous to expect the Republican base to say, "Yeah, Democrats are the Antichrist, but you gotta hand it to them, they won in 2020."

The CNN poll says that half of them aren't sure Trump would be their best candidate in 2024, but the absolutely don't reject Trumpism, and they think it's unreasonable not to believe the 2020 election was stolen from them -- to them, it's just obvious. They'll never stop believing this and other lies Trump tells them, and they'll never stop believing Democrats are as evil as Hitler and Stalin.

The only Republican who could wean them from Trump is one who somehow persuaded them that Trump isn't extremist enough and that they need to go further than Trump wants them to go in order to fight the hated enemy.

There are only two possibilities: We need to beat Republicans repeatedly at the ballot box or watch them become more and more extreme. They can't be reasoned with, not by us and not by a fellow Republican, even one who's a former Trumper.


Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene posted this on Facebook yesterday:

Rudy Giuliani drunkenly imitated Queen Elizabeth and denied partying with Prince Andrew at his annual 9/11 dinner:

He also called the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff an "asshole" while mispronouncing his name:

(Apart from what Giuliani said, do you think it's bizarre that he has an annual 9/11 dinner at a fancy restauarant with a dais for speeches? Does the former mayor of Newton, Connecticut, have a fancy dinner on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre? Did the man who was mayor of Dallas in 1963 commemorate the Kennedy assassination this way in subsequent years?)

And then there's the 45th president. He gave a speech praising the widow of cult leader Sun Myung Moon.

And he finished the day providing commentary for a boxing match between Evander Holyfield, who's nearly 60, and mixed martial arts star Vitor Belfort. (Trump was paid an "obscene" amount of money for this, according to TMZ.)

Well, at least none of these people wore a tan suit.

Saturday, September 11, 2021


Spencer Ackerman, author of the recent book Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, continues to find a receptive audience for his revelation of the One Weird Trick that allows everyone to understand the politics of the past twenty years: It's all 9/11's fault! In The New York Times this week, he told us that we can blame January 6 on 9/11.
Ever since insurrectionists invaded the Capitol, we’ve heard that Jan. 6 closed a chapter in American history. No longer should America’s most threatening enemies be understood as foreign — a euphemism for Muslim — but instead as domestic, a euphemism for primarily white Americans on the far right. “The ‘post-9/11’ era, where our greatest threats to national security were external, is over,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official.
Actually, we didn't all decide on January 6 that Islamist terrorism had ceased to be our #1 problem. Liberals have been worried about domestc right-wing terrorism for quite a while, and began to be particluarly worried during the Trump years. And the right has been obsessed with Latin-American border crossers, while Black Lives Matter and Antifa became the feared evildoers of choice during the Trump years.

But go on, Spencer.
... Jan. 6 is less a bookend to the Sept. 11 era than a manifestation of it.

The war on terror accustomed white Americans to seeing themselves as counterterrorists. Armed white Americans on the far right could assemble in militias, whether in Northern states like Michigan or on the southern border, and face little in the way of law enforcement reprisal.
Really? I know that Ackerman was a teenager in the 1990s, but has he done any reasearch on the history of right-wing militias in America? Does he understand that groups such as the Michigan Militia formed in the mid-1990s, in the aftermath of law enforcement clashes with armed groups in Waco and Ruby Ridge? Does he know that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols attended Michigan Militia meetings before bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995? Does he understand that, despite occasional conflicts with law enforcement, many militias have been on reasonably good terms with the authorities? This is from a 1994 news story:
The Northern Michigan Regional Militia is ready to whip government tyrants, defend the Constitution or help the local sheriff in emergencies, if he'll let them.

This mix of civic mindedness, ultrapatriotism and a strong distaste for the federal government characterizes a 1994 phenomenon: armed militia movements in at least five states from Florida to Montana.

"These militias are popping up all over the place as manifestations of grass-roots outrage at what politicians are doing," said John Snyder, chief Washington lobbyist for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms....

Although he is not inclined to accept their offers of assistance in disaster relief or criminal matters, Emmet County Sheriff Jeffrey Bodzick says, "They're not violating any Michigan or federal law at this point, and I don't expect them to."
As for border vigilantes, here's an excerpt from a 1997 New York Times Magazine story by Ted Conover. Conover is writing about the rural parts of San Diego County, California:
[Bob] Maupin and several friends have started a campaign of citizen’s arrests. Dressed in camouflage fatigues, they carry semiautomatic rifles, their own Vietnam-era seismic sensors and zip ties for handcuffing. “We get together at night and make a game out of it, who can catch the most,” he says. “If you dress properly, they don’t know who you are, so we get really, really good cooperation.” Always? “We live in an earthquake zone, and the last guy who got in my face, the ground shook so hard it knocked him on his back, if you see what I mean.”

The arrests are legal, according to Deputy Sheriff Robert Novak. Once Maupin and his friends–Maupin says the Border Patrol agents call them “Bob’s boys”–have detained a group for trespassing, they call the Border Patrol.
This was years before 9/11.

Ackerman tells us that we can see a throughline from 9/11 to January 6 because most of the 1/6 were either ex-military or military wannabes:
Skirmishes with the Washington police ahead of the insurrection revealed how the insurrectionists saw themselves. “We’re the veterans!” one yelled. There were 22 people with military experience among the first 176 people charged with insurrection-related crimes. Ashli Babbitt, the MAGA martyr and a devotee of QAnon — a conspiracy theory that fantasizes about locking up liberals at Guantánamo Bay — had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. But many others were just cosplay warriors, wearing body armor, helmets and hard-knuckle gloves, in emulation of those whom the war on terror had valorized for 20 years as the truest American heroes. “This is war,” a California yoga instructor participating in the insurrection allegedly declared.
But Timothy McVeigh was a veteran. So was Randy Weaver, who fought with federal agents at his armed encampment in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, an incident that inspired many subsequent militia members and other right-wing extremists.

These people didn't need 9/11 to put the thought of militarized violence into their heads. Many of them just needed to read right-wing propaganda like The Turner Diaries (a book that inspired McVeigh, among many other extremists).

The mainstreaming of insurrectionism had nothing to do with 9/11. It happened during the Obama presidency, when right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers bankrolled the Tea Party, while Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media valorized the movement. Tea Party cosplay featured Minuteman costumes, not War on Terror gear. (There was also a border vigilante group called the Minuteman Project, whoase founder, Jim Gilchrist, was a veteran, but of the Vietnam War, not the wars in the Middle East.)

I understand the appeal of "9/11 got us here" as the One Big Idea that explains all of America's present-days troubles. But it's wrong.

Friday, September 10, 2021


I haven't listened to the entire Nina Totenberg interview of Justice Stephen Breyer, but the bit I heard last night on NPR was exasperating. Breyer is doing the interview circuit to promote a new book.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: ... You did pretty well in the 2020 term. You wrote some very important opinions on the ACA, on student speech. You have advanced some important compromises on the court this past term. So, at least as I look at things now, I would guess that at some time relatively early in the upcoming term, you will announce plans to retire. Am I wrong?

STEPHEN BREYER: I do not believe I should stay on the Supreme Court or want to stay on the Supreme Court until I die. And when exactly I should retire or will retire has many complex parts to it, and I'm not going beyond what I said for the simple reason that I would like this interview to be about my book.
Totenberg tells us:
That's classic Breyer - self-deprecating and brutally honest about his motives.
What's "self-deprecating" about saying "I want people to buy my book and I don't appreciate you asking me about anything else"? And it's not "brutally honest" either, because his decision-making process doesn't seem particularly complex. Totenberg says:
Breyer made clear in our interview his 27 years on the High Court have taught him an important lesson. It takes years, somewhere between two and five years, for a new justice to really settle in.

BREYER: People have to become acclimatized to that institution and work out who they're going to be as judges. It takes a while.

TOTENBERG: The implication, not said, is that with a docket this inflammatory this term, no new Biden-appointed justice could do as well as he could to prevent or soften what liberals would call a wholesale slaughter of Supreme Court precedents.
So that's his rationale: No young whippersnapper can handle these SOBs as well as moi can, with moi's vast experience. So of course I'm staying on. Not for my sake -- heaven forbid! -- but for the good of the country!

And that's why President Biden might not get to place any justices on the Supreme Court before Republicans retake the Senate and block all his picks for two or more years. It's all Breyer's ego.

Thursday, September 09, 2021


On the pandemic, President Biden goes big:
The President will direct the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week....

Biden plans to sign an executive order requiring all government employees be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out. The President will also sign an order directing the same standard be applied to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government.

He will require that 300,000 educators in federal Head Start programs be vaccinated and will call on governors to require vaccinations for schoolteachers and staff.

And he will require the 17 million health care workers at facilities receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated, expanding the mandate to hospitals, home care facilities and dialysis centers around the country....

The new "emergency temporary standard" from the Labor Department will require large employers to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated. If businesses don't comply, the government will "take enforcement actions," which could include "substantial fines up to nearly $14,000 per violation, according to officials.
If we could require every employer to provide paid time off for vaccination, and paid sick time for any temporary vaccine side effects, we could probably add several percentage points to the vaccination rate within weeks -- vaccine refusers are nearly impossible to persuade, but many of the vaccine-hesitant are low-paid workers with multiple jobs, unpredictable schedules, and a justified fear of losing their jobs if they're under the weather after being vaccinated. But if a president tried to impose a mandate on all employers, the American right would react as if Mao and Stalin rose from the dead and were occupying the White House with their bare feet on the Resolute desk.

And t more or less the reaction to this plan from congressional Republicans:

The offices of right-wing doctors will stop taking Medicare and Medicaid patients. At least one company with barely over 100 workers will fire a couple just to avoid the mandate (the CEO will be interviewed repeatedly on Fox). Oh, and some federal judges will reject the precedent of the 1904 Jacobson v. Massachusetts case and insist that Biden can't do any of this.

Will the public give Biden credit for the increase in vaccination that results from the nation's partial compliance with all this? Or will it blame him for the likely chaos, demonstrations, and riots, all of it cheered on by the GOP and right-wing media? We'll see.


So it's now unremarkable that an ex-president is trawling for invitations to military funerals from deceased servicemembers' relatives who don't like the current president.
When Darin Hoover traveled to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket of his 31-year-old Marine son, who was killed in Afghanistan, he, like several other families, declined an offer to meet with President Biden.

But out of the blue last week his cellphone rang, and he instantly recognized the voice on the other line: Donald Trump.

“It was just very cordial, very understanding. He was awesome,” Hoover said, recalling the conversation. “He was just talking about the finest of the finest. He said he heard and saw everything that we had said, and he offered his condolences several times, and how sorry he was.”

... Trump has placed several calls over the past week to some family members of the 13 service members killed in an Islamic State-Khorasan terrorist attack during the withdrawal. Several have invited him to attend the funerals, and he has suggested he may try to do so.
And it's also unremarkable that he's using their deaths to raise money for his 2024 race.
The former president and his team have issued more than 50 statements about Afghanistan, and his PAC has raised millions with repeated fundraising pitches on the topic. In one pitch, titled “Let’s Raise Another $1,500,000,” he says, “Just look at what’s happening in Afghanistan.”
At the height of the Iraq War, there were critics of the Bush administration among families of deceased servicemembers. But can you imagine the outrage if, at the time, Howard Dean or Wesley Clark -- or the rising star, Barack Obama -- sought invitations to military funerals from members of these families? Or send out fundraising pitches tied to key moments when troops lost their lives?

But this is the new normal. We don't just have harsh critics of the sitting president. We have a sitting president and an anti-president.
Kathy McCollum, whose son, Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, died in the attack, called into a radio show and said of Biden, “That feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die.” Rylee McCollum’s sister Roice, who declined to meet with Biden, said that she was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the date of the insurrection by Trump supporters, but declined to elaborate.

Trump has issued several statements thanking Shana Chappell, the mother of Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, who was killed in the attack.

“If I were President, your wonderful and beautiful son Kareem would be with you now, and so would the sons and daughters of others,” he said last week.

Chappell recounted meeting with Biden at Dover, with him attempting to console her and her telling him he had no idea how she felt. At one point, by her account, Biden grew visibly annoyed and began walking away.

“You are not the president of the United States of America Biden!!!! Cheating isn’t winning!!!” she wrote on Facebook. “You are no leader of any kind! You are a weak human being and a traitor!!!!”

She later wrote that the day after burying her son, she plans to drive her blue Toyota Tundra from Norco, Calif., to the White House to demand Biden’s resignation. She encouraged others to join.

“It’s a long drive but worth it!” she wrote. “It’s time the Lions awaken and show their numbers, it’s time we take back our country! If we don’t fight to save our country then nobody will and she will fall!”

She also said that she hopes Trump will come to her son’s funeral later this month.
And in the Washington Post story I'm quoting, there's no acknowledgment of the disappearance of norms. All this is just evidence that Trump is ready to rumble and will be a strong contender in 2024.
Trump has been briefed recently by former officials, including former CIA director and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, about what he did in Afghanistan as president and what they viewed as missteps by the Biden administration, advisers said.... three advisers described him as more interested in granular details of the withdrawal than he usually is....

“It is really the only topic I’ve seen him animated about other than the election,” said one adviser, describing Trump’s nonstop commentary in private about the pullout.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an ally of Trump’s who disagreed with his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, said: “I told him, I think this and the border are going to be one-two punches for Biden. He agreed and is just surprised that Biden let it get this much out of hand.”

Trump is also showing signs of recalibrating his decisions after the withdrawal, some allies said.

“It’s almost certain he runs. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t,” Graham said. “I thought he would wait until after the midterms, but now I’m not so sure. I think Afghanistan has a lot to do with it. Before Afghanistan, I would have said the chance of him announcing before the midterm was almost zero. Now I’m not so sure.”

“He wants to get back into the game now quicker,” he added. “He sees things deteriorating and it is changing his thinking.”
Trump can destroy any norm he pleases because all the other gatekeepers let him.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021


I approached this piece with -- as you can imagine -- quite a bit of skepticism.

Atkins writes:
Trump’s greatest gift to Republicans is also his greatest curse: He gave them permission to be their worst selves. By liberating the GOP to embrace its most noxious impulses, he has breathed new life into the staid culture that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney while destroying basic norms of public decency and weakening the guardrails of democracy.
I fail to see how there's a downside for Republicans in this, but Atkins assures us:
Despite short-term appearances, unmasking the GOP base’s most vicious instincts might also be disastrous for the party in the long term.
If you think the GOP was already quite toxic prior to Trump, Atkins agrees.
It’s not that the animating ethos of the GOP was terribly different before Trump. It was the party of Watergate, Iran-Contra, the southern strategy, Willie Horton ads, Newt Gingrich, Brooks Brothers riots, Valerie Plame outings, Freedom Fries, Iraq invasion lies, Social Security slashing, Benghazi hearings, and Mitch McConnell–led Supreme Court seat theft. Simply put, the party was never fundamentally decent in any way.
Before Trump, however, it at least pretended to be. The party cloaked its inherent viciousness in Reagan’s sunny smile, baseball, Mom, apple pie, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Since the turn of the civil rights era, the GOP’s id always belonged to Roy Cohn and Roger Stone, but it was carefully kept hidden behind a veil of cordial respectability.
Can Atkins give an example of pre-Trump Republican "cordial respectability"?
The Fox News era slowly began the process of unmasking—but even Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity tried to hide behind avuncular charm and high school quarterback looks, portraying themselves as the steady voices of decent, normie America.
Steady and decent? Bill O'Reilly? You mean this guy?

Atkins continues:
All of that pretense is now gone. Today’s Republican politics is deliriously brazen and overtly cruel....
There's only one difference between the allegedly benign pre-Trump era and now: In order to be a Republican politician with national ambitions, you're now required to be an unapologetic attack dog. In the past, it was believed that presidents and presidential aspirants should leave the truly vicious attacks to subordinates -- George W. Bush didn't personally accuse John Kerry of being unworthy of his Purple Hearts -- but Trump proved that there was no need to do that.

So how might Trump destroy the party -- and when? Atkins sees some short-term hope.
The cracks are starting to show. Trump is deeply unpopular by historic margins for an ex-president, yet he appears poised to hoist his flag for another presidential run....

The Big Lie that Biden’s win is somehow illegitimate due to voter fraud is giving fuel to Republican attempts to steal Democratic victories in future elections.... But it also appears to hinder Republican turnout when their voters don’t believe their votes will count....

Republicans are also engaged in an anti-public-health campaign that can objectively be described as pro-COVID-19 and pro-death.... it could ... generate enormous public backlash as COVID-19 increasingly becomes the MAGA plague.
Really? Then why is Ron DeSantis still leading in most polls of his 2022 reelection race?

How will Trump destroy the party? He'll do it gradually -- maybe.
It doesn’t take big shifts in the population or the turnout model to breach the walls. You can take over government by winning five-point margins in congressional districts and states. But not if those five-point margins suddenly become competitive due to turnout or coalition shifts.

Trump gave Republicans permission to be themselves. It “worked” for a time at the expense of the country, and it could allow them to dominate politics for decades to come. But the party may face a high price for allowing the cruelest and most vicious elements of American society to run rampant. It might take some time, but the Trump effect could very well backfire on them in surprising ways.
"Decades to come." Republican control of this country for decades to come will leave America, and probably the planet, a smoldering ruin. At the very least, they'll nationalize the assault on democracy and "coalition shifts" won't matter. Sorry, but we can't wait decades.


Yesterday, Texas governor Greg Abbott was asked why the state's new six-week abortion ban has no exception for pregnancies that result from rape.
“Let’s be clear: rape is a crime,” Abbott said. “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
That's the answer to this problem: eliminate rape! Why didn't anyone think of that before? Specifically, why didn't Abbott, who's been governor since January 2015 and was the state's attorney general for the previous twelve years, think of that?

Public officials can make a difference, but they can't eliminate violent crime. Yet the voters who support conservative politicians regularly thrill to the notion that their heroes are macho men who can use force to simply do away with crime, terrorism ... or their political opponents.

This is from a Guardian story about yesterday's demonstrations in Brazil on behalf of President Jair Bolsonaro:
“It’s going to be glorious for our nation. Glorious!” said Evilasio Inácio da Silva, a Bolsonaro-supporting carpenter who had driven for two-and-a-half days by motorbike to reach the demo from his home 1,200 miles away in the north-east.

“My arm’s a bit dead ... But it’s worth it. Because we’re fighting for our freedom,” said Silva, who was wearing a T-shirt depicting Bolsonaro as the Bruce Willis character John McClane from the film Die Hard.
(Emphasis added.)

In America, posters of Donald Trump as Rocky Balboa remain popular on the right, while MAGA cartoonist Ben Garrison depicts Trump as a shirtless athlete whose chest literally repels cannonballs. (The cannonballs represent enemies such as the mainstream media and social justice warriors.)

When a conservative talks the way Abbott talked yesterday, it's plausible to right-wing voters. Conservatives are tough! If they weren't constrained by the law and those damn liberals, they really could clean up Dodge!

They're action movie heroes.

They shoot stuff in campaign ads.

(Joe Manchin also ran an ad like that once.)

It's absurd, but right-wing voters fall for it nearly every time.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021


I agree with the point Greg Sargent makes in this post, but I don't agree with the way he frames it:
If there is one thing that might get Democratic voters to take state-level races more seriously, it’s the Zombie Trumpism that continues to afflict GOP governors. In states where covid-19 cases are surging, they steadfastly refuse to take the virus seriously enough, and some are actively thwarting local efforts to combat it, a state of derangement that refuses to die.

This is why we should pay close attention to the Virginia gubernatorial contest....

The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is placing public health questions involving masks and vaccines squarely before the electorate in a way that’s all too rare among Democrats. He is excoriating Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin for opposing vaccine and mask mandates, and casting this as a holdover of Donald Trump’s deranged approach to covid-19....

You’d think ... Democratic voters might get engaged by this lingering Trumpist derangement.
Sargent is right when he says that Democrats should run as proud supporters of public health measures, and should blast Republican refuseniks the way McAuliffe does in this ad:

And yes, they should link all this to Trump, who's widely disliked, and whose response to the pandemic was an utter failure, as even some Republicans .
are willing to concede.
But don't call it "Zombie Trumpism" or "lingering Trumpist derangement," as if we might see the end of the craziness in the foreseeable future, when Trump fades from the scene.

Besides the fact that he's not fading -- he seems quite likely to run again in 2024 -- he's not really the source of this derangement anymore. Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and other Republican governors own it now, as do hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file Americans who cough on fellow shoppers and threaten those who try to enforce anti-COVID protocols with citizens' arrests. Linking anti-health madness to Trump is smart politics, but it's taken on a life of its own, and it really doesn't rely on Trump in 2021.

It was never his cause alone, even in 2020. More than a year ago, right-wing billionaires who weren't named Trump began bankrolling the "reopen" movement. Opportunistic podcasters and megachurch preachers expanded their followings by rejecting COVID science. Fox News regained some of the market share it lost after admitting that Joe Biden won the 2020 election by leaning into COVID conspiratorialism. And now conspiratorializing about COVID the go-to move for Republicans who want to collect large donations from across the country.

Right-wingers regard Trump as their supreme being, but the right-wing extremism we're experiencing today is rooted in the pre-Trump era; Trump simply put his spin on it and, to some extent, passed the torch. It won't get better when he finally leaves the scene, because, as a rule, it only gets worse. And it absolutely isn't merely "lingering" or zombified.


I don't think this will be true six months from now, but it's unsettling:
A new poll has placed former President Donald Trump as the favorite to win the 2024 U.S. election, slightly edging Democratic incumbent Joe Biden.

A national Emerson College Poll found that if the two men were to go head-to-head in 2024, Trump would be slightly favored with 47 percent against Biden's 46 percent.
Afghanistan has caused Biden's approval rating to drop to the mid-40s. It may not fully recover, but I think it will improve soon.

As for Trump, he may complain about his forced withdrawal from the spotlight, but he's benefiting from it. Polling shows that some people who'd had enough of George W. Bush in late 2008 now like him, regarding him as a genial old painter rather than as the man responsible for two quagmire wars and a global economic collapse. Trump's absence from Twitter is undoubtedly having a similar effect -- some Americans may not remember how noxious and dangerous he was now that his public presence is limited to odd, tweet-like press releases and the occasional rally. He's ignorable now. To some people, I'm sure that's making him seem benign.

So maybe we'd be better off if Trump's social media bans were dropped and we were reminded on a daily or even hourly basis of just what we hated about him for four years. I know that well over 40% of the country would be thrilled by every tweet, while it would be exhausting for those of us who loathed Trump all along. But I think it would remind people in the fence-sitters that he was a terrible human being and we're better off without him.

A year from now, he'll be back. He'll be making campaign appearances in the midterms and it will almost seem as if he never went away. And then, undoubtedly, he'll announce that he's running for president again.

If I'm right about this, his poll numbers will go down once he's impossible to ignore again. That will be a good thing.

Monday, September 06, 2021


Why is America in a permanent culture war? Why are we always fighting over issues such as abortion and guns? This is why:
Progressive Democrats, who had hoped unified party control of the government could spur transformative tax increases on multinational companies and wealthy individuals, look like they will have to settle for a more modest outcome....

Democrats ... had planned to use higher taxes, tax enforcement and other policy changes to pay for their $3.5 trillion, 10-year package....

But it is far from certain what can pass, and lawmakers have acknowledged they may need to pare their ambitions....
For years the culture war has driven Republican turnout in the South, the Mountain West, and (in recent years) the Midwest. Democrats need to defer to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema now because they lost 2020 Senate races that appeared winnable in states such as Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Montana. Strong turnout for Donald Trump helped the GOP Senate candidates in those states -- but the extra votes came on top of a strong, enduring base of support for the GOP that's rooted in decades-old culture wars.

Democrats want to take your guns. Democrats kill babies. Rich people back the party that runs on these messages, and then that party forms a solid bloc of opposition to increased taxation on the rich. Add to the mix a few corporatist Democrats (who fear they can be replaced by Republicans the next time they run, so they do whatever their rich donors ask), and the tax increases can apparently be forestalled forever.

I'm not sure how much longer abortion and guns will continue to serve the bait-and-switch function they serve now -- the Supreme Court has now all but officially overturned Roe v. Wade, and a case that could take away states' rights to limit firearm carry outside the home will be decided next year. But there are many other culture war battles to fight. Critical race theory! Mask mandates! Vaccines! Mexican immigrants! Afghan refugees! It's all intended to keep the rabble voting to block progressive tax and reguzltory policies. And it always seems to work.

Sunday, September 05, 2021


I told you last month that I disagree with Spencer Ackerman's assertion (in a recently published book) that 9/11 led directly to the Donald Trump presidency and the political conflicts of 2021. Today we have a similar argument from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch. Bunch is wrong, too.

He writes:
America was never the same again after 9/11 because the new “homeland-security state” inevitably criminalized immigration, so that a nation that once promised to welcome the world’s political and economic refugees yearning to breathe free instead spent billions on border walls and turned Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, into a secret police force of deportation.
But we were headed in that direction well before 9/11. We may now look back on Proposition 187, the 1994 anti-immigrant ballot measure in California, as the reason for the anti-GOP backlash that made the Democratic Party dominant in California, but it passed by a 59%-41% vote, and at the national level it was followed by the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, a Republican-sponsored piece of legislation that Bill Clinton signed in 1996, a few months before he faced voters in his reelection bid. As Vox's Dara Lind wrote in 2016:
... the '96 law essentially invented immigration enforcement as we know it today — where deportation is a constant and plausible threat to millions of immigrants.

It was a bundle of provisions with a single goal: to increase penalties on immigrants who had violated US law in some way....

After IIRIRA, deportation from the United States went from a rare phenomenon to a relatively common one. "Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement," sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen Pren have written. "Afterward, these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression."
I'd also point out that while some of Trump's rhetoric during the 2016 campaign echoed post-9/11 Islamophobia, and while he banned immigration from Muslim nations early in his presidency, he mostly forgot about Muslims as his term went on. The Wall remained his most popular applause line. I'd argue that this was pre-9/11 racism -- it's the anti-Hispanic racism I remember from 1970s New York, with Mexicans substituted for Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. (Are we seriously debating whether or not there was bigotry against immigrants and non-whites in America prior to 9/11?)

Bunch writes:
America was never the same again after 9/11 because the blatant lies that were told to U.S. citizens to invent the case for invading Iraq, easily swallowed by the mainstream media in a shameful moment of jingoistic cheerleading, created the petri dish of cynicism and distrust that allowed conspiracy theories to nuture and grow, first about 9/11 itself but eventually about matters as diverse as “the Big Lie” of the 2020 election or COVID-19 vaccines.
So the government didn't lie to us before 9/11? It didn't lie to us about Vietnam? Or Iraq at the time of the first Gulf War?

Bunch adds:
The cable-TV news regime that grew in the wake of 9/11 often fueled misinformation instead of quelling it.
The right-wing infosphere didn't lie before 9/11? So where did those lists of people allegedly murdered by Bill and Hillary Clinton come from in the 1990s? Or the belief that Clinton was involved in drug dealing at an Arkansas airport, or worked on behalf of the Russians when he was a college student? And why did George H.W. Bush imply in the 1988 presidential campaign that Kitty Dukakis had once burned an American flag?

America's reaction to the 9/11 attacks was a contributing factor to America's current political crisis -- but most of it can be blamed on a half-century in which the conservatism of Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, and Roger Ailes has been the dominant force in American politics. We'd be in the mess we're in now even if 9/11 had never happened.

And the current politcal moment -- in which domestic liberals are described as the greatest threat to the safety and stability of America -- resembles the immediate post-Cold War era much more than it does the years following 9/11. There are right-wingers today who praise the Taliban and despise the Democratic Party. That doesn't sound like a post-9/11 world to me.

UPDATE: Final link fixed.


I understand blaming President Biden for the flaws in the Afghanistan withdrawal. But Hurricane Ida? Ida is Joe Biden's fault?

And in case you think this is a tweet that misrepresents the article it cites, here's an except from the article:
While President Biden continued taking criticism from Republicans and other critics regarding the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan – and an Aug. 26 Kabul terror attack that left 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans dead -- a CNN analyst on Friday praised Biden for doing a "damn good job."

Bakari Sellers’ approval of Biden contradicted new polls that suggest increasing frustration among Americans with the president's job performance.

Selllers’ high marks for Biden also covered the president’s response to Hurricane Ida, the multi-state disaster that was linked to at least 12 deaths in Louisiana, 27 deaths in New Jersey, 16 deaths in New York and other deaths in Maryland and Pennsylvania, according to reports.
Biden is responsible for those deaths? He's responsible for climate change? Why -- because he likes to drive cars, like millions of other Americans? (Unlike many of them, of course, he's hoping the cars of the future don't run on gasoline, while Fox News defends fossil fuels to the death.) Ida caused a level of flooding in parts of the Northeast that the region's infrastructure couldn't handle -- did Biden personally sign off on flood mitigation plans in the outer boroughs of New York City and the Philadelphia suburbs? (And does that mean Biden gets credit for the levees that held in New Orleans?)

I'm reading this a couple of days after I read that many Americans apparently think it's Biden's fault that the pandemic is still going on. That's according to Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report:
For the last couple of weeks, I've been watching focus groups. Two of those groups included independent-leaning voters who don't align themselves strongly with either party. One other group was comprised of so-called Democratic "surge" voters; people who vote infrequently or only in presidential elections....

My main takeaway was the prominence of COVID as their dominant concern. When asked about how they felt about the state of the country, almost all of them replied with a pessimistic comment. And, that negativity was almost universally centered around issues of the virus and the vaccine....

While they don't specifically blame President Biden for these problems — many blamed the misinformation swirling around social media — some wish that Biden were providing stronger leadership.

One man in the Democratic "surge" group conceded that Biden has "done a lot better than Trump" on COVID, "but that was a low bar. When he took office, he met that bare minimum he hasn't gone further; there's a lot more room that he could pursue."

A woman in the independent-leaning group credited Biden with being a "nice man" and "Not Trump, thank God." Even so, she doesn't see him exhibiting "powerful leadership."
And while The Washington Post's COVID-focused write-up of a new ABC/Post poll (in which which Biden's job approval number dips to 44%) doesn't directly blame Biden for the fact that most vaccine refusers still think the shots are dangerous and many would quit their jobs if vaccination were compulsory, the headline strongly implies that America's current pandemic failings are the president's fault:
As coronavirus fears spike, Biden’s ratings sag and workers split on vaccine mandates, Post-ABC poll finds
Everything is Biden's fault. If you slip and fall doing the milk crate challenge, that's probably his fault, too.

Saturday, September 04, 2021


In The Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes:
The harsh truth of this moment: Republicans understand power. Democrats do not.

Democrats look like they’re the ones with the greater share of political power in America today, holding both the White House and Congress. So why do they so often seem weak and ineffectual, while Republicans ruthlessly employ every shred of power they have?

You could hardly have asked for a more vivid illustration than what’s happening right now. In Congress, a couple of key Democrats, especially Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), proclaimed their intention to sabotage the party’s agenda if it isn’t drastically pared back, lest anyone think it’s too “partisan.” They could unshackle themselves from the filibuster and actually do what they were elected to do, but they choose not to.

Meanwhile, Republican-run states are rushing to create a far-right dystopia where every customer at your local supermarket is packing heat, school boards and election boards are run by QAnon lunatics, mob rule is valorized and institutionalized, voting rights are dramatically restricted, and abortion is outlawed.

And they’re doing it with the help of a conservative Supreme Court majority that barely bothers to pretend that it cares about precedent, the Constitution, the law or anything other than remaking America to conform to its ideological agenda.

We’re seeing what a profound difference there is in how Democrats and Republicans view power. When Democrats have it, they’re often apologetic, uncertain and hesitant to use it any way that anyone might object to. Republicans, on the other hand, will squeeze it and stretch it as far as they can. They aren’t reluctant, and they aren’t afraid of a backlash. Whatever they can do, they will do.
This is an accurate description of the two parties' mindsets. But one reason it's easy for Republicans to be aggressive is that they've played a long game that's now gotten them to the point where they can be aggressive. They've spent decades cultivating young, ideologically homogeneous lawyers, many of whom now they've placed on the Supreme Court and lower courts. Well before the 2010 midterms, they made plans to seize control of as many state legislative houses as they possibly could, which helped them redistrict their way to congressional and state legislative power far in excess of their share of the electorate. During the George W. Bush years, they began passing laws in the states that restricted voting by Democrats, and they continue to pursue this course with great success. And if you want to go back half a century, all this was presaged by the 1971 memo written by future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell, which called for a multi-front campaign to combat public animosity toward big business.

Republicans started laying groundwork for this moment decades ago. Now they don't fear the loss of power, and why should they? They apparently control the federal courts in perpetuity. Gerrymandering gives them an iron grip on the majority of state legislatures. They've used conservative media (and frequently favorable coverage in the mainstream media, which they regularly browbeat) to build tremendous brand loyalty among voters, so they're never more than one or two election cycles from retaking control of at least one house of Congress even after they lose.

They also have another advantage Democrats don't: The plutocracy has no fear of their agenda. Even their current craziness doesn't scare billionaires, who assume that maybe a few states will lose abortion rights and maybe a few pro-public-health teachers out in the heartland will be threatened with citizen's arrests by angry right-wingers wielding zip ties, but nothing really bad will happen, meaning the billionaires won't have to pay higher taxes or face greater regulations of their businesses. The same billionaires fear full-on Democratic rule, which is why they work so hard to cultivate Democrats who'll subvert the party's stated agenda -- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema now, various Obamacare compromisers in 2009 and 2010.

I don't know how Democrats who want real change should fight this war. But it's a long war, and it's on multiple fronts.