Sunday, October 31, 2021


This is bad:
Echelon Insights is out with yet another poll showing Republican Glenn Youngkin ahead of Terry McAuliffe in the hotly contested race for the governor’s mansion.

In a sample of 611 likely voters, 49 percent supported Youngkin and 46 percent preferred McAuliffe....

The same survey showed Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares — the GOP’s candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively — ahead of their Democratic opponents. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans, Youngkin’s lead is entirely attributable to his 17 point advantage with independents.
And this is bad:
A majority of Americans now disapprove of President Joe Biden's job performance, while half give him low marks for competence and uniting the country, according to results from the latest national NBC News poll.

What's more, the survey finds that 7 in 10 adults, including almost half of Democrats, believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction....

In the poll, 42 percent of adults say they approve of Biden’s overall job as president — a decline of 7 points since August, with much of the attrition coming from key parts of the Democratic base.

That’s compared to 54 percent who say they disapprove of the president’s job, which is up 6 points since August.
And if you think all this will magically turn around if Democrats in Congress manage to pass the reconciliation and infrastructure bills, there's this, which is also bad:
... a new ABC News/Ipsos poll out Sunday finds Democrats are failing to sell the legislation to the public, who are broadly unaware of what is in the spending packages or skeptical they would help people like themselves, or the economy, if signed into law.

... Although a majority (55%) of the public is following news about the negotiations at least somewhat closely, about 7 in 10 (69%) Americans said they know just some or little to nothing about what's in both bills. Fewer than half (31%) said they know a great deal or good amount.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll ... found that a plurality (32%) of Americans think the bills would hurt people like them if they became law, while fewer (25%) think it would help them. Nearly 2 in 10 (18%) think the bills would make no difference, and 24% said they didn't know.

Even among Democrats alone, fewer than half (47%) think the two bills would help people like them. A quarter of Democrats think the bills would make no difference for people like them and about 2 in 10 (22%) don't know how they would impact their lives.
A CBS poll reported similar results three weeks ago -- and yet Democrats seem to have done nothing to educate the public about what's in the bills, or to pressure or persuade the media to do more reporting on the content of the legislation. Yes, this is a media failure first and foremost, but Republicans work the refs every day, often successfully. Democrats don't.

The last two Democratic presidents also found themselves in the weeds in their first two years in office. Both watched their parties suffer bloodbaths in their first midterms. But both presidents won reelection, right? So we're not doomed, are we?

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were immensely talented politicians at the top of their game. They were young, vigorous, and charismatic. They were great speakers.

Joe Biden is ... Joe Biden. He's not vigorous, charismatic, or a great speaker. If he's losing the confidence of Americans, does he have the ability to persuade them that he's a steady hand who can steer the country out of trouble?

And does he understand that he should start trying to do that soon?

This moment is reminding me of the fall of 1988, when Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee, blew a 17-point post-convention lead in the polls under relentless attacks from the GOP. Dukakis lost that race because he didn't punch back and he didn't find a way to change the subject when the GOP attacks dominated the news cycle. Joe Biden doesn't seem to know how to make news in a way that helps him. Vice President Harris doesn't seem to have that skill either, or she's not trying because it's believed that she shouldn't upstage the president, or it's been decided that she should keep a low profile because she's not sufficiently well liked, although maybe she'd be liked if some effort were made to change the way the public sees her. Or maybe everyone in the Democratic Party thinks things are going as well as they possibly could.

I don't believed we're doomed -- but we're doomed if Democrats keep doing what they're doing while expecting change to just happen. Democrats need to fight back. They need to fight as hard to win news cycles as Republicans do -- no, harder, because the right-wing media will always amplify Republican propaganda, and the mainstream media prefers right-wing messaging whenever Democrats are actually trying to govern. Democrats have to understand that they're in a more difficult struggle than they were during the Trump years, because the press likes Democrats when they're out of power and Republicans have clearly failed, but the press despises Democrats when they're in power. That sucks, but it's reality, and Democrats need to start acting as if they recognize reality.

Saturday, October 30, 2021


Well, this is embarrassing:
Five people dressed like the white supremacists who caused the violent “Unite the Right” riots in Charlottesville four years ago showed up outside of Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin’s event in the town on Friday.

But instead of actual “Unite the Right” supporters, it turns out that it was a half-baked stunt from the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who oppose President Trump—and Youngkin.

... The Lincoln Project acknowledged they were behind the stunt after VICE News identified one of the people dressed in the photo in front of Youngkin’s campaign bus as a low-level Democratic operative....
The optics of this are awful -- and while I understand that you might hate the word "optics," a stunt like this, by definition, is all optics. Either it conveys the impression it's meant to convey or it fails.

The real Charlottesville racists were menacing. They came in large numbers and threatened violence, then they killed a counterprotester. Five sad-looking guys in the rain aren't the least bit menacing. Maybe this could have worked if there were twenty-five or fifty of them and they seemed genuinely intimidating at a suburban campaign stop where Youngkin and his fleece vest were trying to reassure the crowd that he'll be harmless if he's elected.

Or, alternately, young men dressed like this could have shown up at Youngkin rallies and never pretended to be anything but actors. Maybe they'd show up every time and eventually get under the candidate's skin, like someone in a chicken suit who follows around a candidate trying to dodge a debate. I don't know how this would work or what these guys would say or do, but it would clearly be theater, and at least you wouldn't get the big, embarrassing reveal as soon as you deployed them --oops, those are Democratic operatives.

Or maybe you shouldn't even attempt this sort of thing unless you have the personality of a Roger Stone, with deep reservoirs of contempt and sadism. Ratfucking is a skill, and clearly it's a skill the Lincoln Project lacks.

Friday, October 29, 2021


The Fox News Channel wants you to know that it isn't airing Tucker Carlson's new "documentary," Patriot Purge.
In [Patriot Purge, Carlson] drops real truths like: Americans are being held in Guantanamo Bay for their participation in the riot (not true); that a new “war on terror” has been launched against right-wingers (not true); and that it was a false flag attack (ehhh…. probably not true)....

You must pay and subscribe to Fox Nation to watch the documentary, because Fox News will not be airing it.
Fox Nation is a streaming service that features Fox News on-air talent and is promoted on the Fox News site every day, but is totally not Fox News.

The Daily Beast's Will Sommer has the scoop on the director of the film:
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Scooter Downey will likely reach his biggest stage yet on Monday, when Fox Nation plans to air the first part of Carlson’s three-part Patriot Purge movie.

Downey and Carlson share writing credit for the documentary series, according to a screenshot the filmmaker posted on Twitter. It’s not clear whether Downey also directed Patriot Purge, but he has retweeted messages from other right-wing figures suggesting he played a lead role in the series’ creation....

Prior to Patriot Purge, Downey was perhaps best known on the right as co-director of Hoaxed, a 2019 documentary from far-right figure Mike Cernovich about alleged media bias against the MAGA movement. Cernovich rose to prominence on the far-right by promoting the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which held that Hillary Clinton operated a pedophile sex dungeon out of a D.C. pizzeria....

Downey also directed Rebel’s Run, an upcoming live-action based on a right-wing comic book from blogger Theodore Robert Beale, who goes by the name “Vox Day” online.
Rebel’s Run stars a superhero named “Rebel,” whose outfit is modeled on the Confederate flag....

Beale, who has called himself an “alt right nationalist,” is perhaps better known for his attacks on women and support for white nationalism. In a 2016 blog post, for example, Beale wrote that “Western civilization” rests on “white tribalism, white separatism, and especially white Christian masculine rule.”
In a 2016 blog post defending the alt-right, Day wrote:
The Alt Right believes Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its three foundational pillars: Christianity, the European nations, and the Graeco-Roman legacy....

The Alt Right believes we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children....

The Alt Right is a Western ideology that believes in science, history, reality, and the right of a genetic nation to exist and govern itself in its own interests.
And here's a fun fact about Downey, from a now-deleted tweet:

What's with these folks and the Orthodox Church? Viktor Orban bootlicker Rod Dreher converted to the Orthodox Church fifteen years ago; Carlson is a fellow Orban fan. (Downey retweeted a Dreher piece just yesterday.) Do Dreher and Downey think the Orthodox Church is purer? Whiter? And what's the link to Orban (and Putin, who's tried to rebrand himself as a great defender of traditional religion and has tried to use the Orthodox Church to help him amass power)?

So that's Carlson's collaborator. Maybe he'll work directly with Vox Day next.


UPDATE: Thanks to djchefron in comments for directing my attention to this 2017 Religion Dispatches piece by Katherine Kelaidis about white nationalists and neo-Nazis who've been drawn to the Orthodox Church, among them Matthew Heimbach, a prominent figure at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally that year. An earlier piece by Kelaidis notes that Heimbach had been photographed in 2014 wielding an Orthodox cross during a physical altercation with an anti-racist demonstrator.


This is bad news:
Republican Glenn Youngkin has moved ahead of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, less than a week before the election.

McAuliffe receives 45 percent to Youngkin’s 53 percent in a new Fox News survey of Virginia likely voters. Youngkin’s eight-point advantage is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error.

That’s a big shift from two weeks ago, when McAuliffe was ahead by five, 51-46 percent.
Yes, it's a Fox News poll, "under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R)." Fox is awful, but Fox polls aren't part of the channel's propaganda -- FiveThirtyEight gives Fox/Beacon/Shaw an A rating and says it actually has a Democratic lean of 1.8 points. (Its late-October poll of the 2020 presidential race had Joe Biden up by 8, overestimating Biden's eventual win of the popular vote by 4.5.)

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report doubts the race will be an 8-point Youngkin win, but reminds us that these things happen in Virginia governor's races, which always take place the year after the presidential race.

To me this feels like Scott Brown in 2010 all over again -- a state seen as solid blue despite its history of electing Republicans (Virginia was purple until very recently; Massachusetts is much bluer but elects Republican governors more often than it elects Democrats). In both races, Democrats were in denial about the effect of a long, highly public struggle over a major piece of legislation on the popularity of the president and his party. In both cases, the conventional wisdom for most of the race was the Republican is doing surprisingly well, but he can't possibly win, until he burst into the lead. In both cases, Republicans and Fox News treated the race like a zeitgeist-changing presidential contest. In both cases, Republicans said to one another, If we win this one, we crush the libs -- Brown's campaign website featured the slogan "Red Invades Blue" -- while the swing voters who gravitated to both Republicans appeared to ignore the voices of the most feral and ideological Republicans, while identifying the GOP candidate himself as a genial moderate.

If McAuliffe loses, analysts will identify specific mistakes he made, particularly the moement when he said, "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." (No one would question him if he said something like this about brain surgeons or airline pilots, but school curricula are seen as a job for amateurs, I guess.)

We'll also be told that McAuliffe tried too hard to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump. That might be a mistake. But McAuliffe has done this because he's stuck within our dominant political narrative.

According to this narrative -- which is sustained and regularly reinforced by the mainstream press and most Democratic politicians -- Trump is a civilization-threatening monster, but the Republican Party aside from Trump is a group of well-meaning public servants who can be trusted with power even though we might not agree with them on every issue. The press reinforces this message whenever it demands bipartisanship of Democrats (but not Republicans), and when it fixates on the objections of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to popular proposals in the Biden agenda without ever asking Republicans why they uniformly oppose those proposals.

Over the years, right-wing media and Republican politicians have carefully cultivated a grotesque caricature of every Democrat: supportive of reckless spending, believers in gender anarchy and unpatrolled borders, sustainers of an unaffordable welfare state, believers in showy displays of concern for minorities and the environment, irrationally fearful of guns, haters of America and lovers of socialism ... you know the drill. Republican candidates don't have to work hard to persuade their voters that they shouldn't even consider voting for a Democrat -- in their narrative, a generic Democrat is one of history's greatest monsters.

In the narrative of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, a generic Republican is ... a potential governing partner and a person who'd be reasonable if he weren't trying to please that awful Trump fellow. Glenn Youngkin resembles that stereotype, so how does Terry McAuliffe run against him as a person who might ban all abortions, champion draconian voter suppression laws, blockade attempts to address climate change, attack the LGBT community, increase the flow of guns, and make the rich richer and the poor poorer -- even though that's the agenda he's likely to pursue if he becomes governor?

Democrats need to start pushing back against the negative stereotype of their party while working hard to build a negative stereotype of the other guys. For the most part, they just have to base their work on facts -- Democratic policies really are popular, and Republicans really are awful. But they don't even try, and here we are.


ALSO: Democrats need to take the "Kick Me" sign off their own backs -- when they're not begging Republicans to cooperate with them, they're begging members of their own caucus, very publicly. Deal with intraparty disputes privately -- every moment of triumph by right-wing Democrats this year has made the party look weak. And Democrats need some swagger. Presidents Clinton and Obama could summon it even after a defeat. If President Biden can't, Democrats need to find someone who can. Republicans have swagger even in their worst moments.

Thursday, October 28, 2021


Yesterday I learned from Yastreblyansky that Peter Hochstein passed away in April. Until shortly before his death, he blogged wittily and grumpily as the New York Crank, and he brought his smarts and disgruntlement here as a regular guest blogger. (He also commented as Etaoin Shrdlu, an allusion to the lost age of Linotype typesetting.) Peter wrote for the pre-Murdoch New York Post and worked for many years in advertising; he published several books under his own name and was the ghostwriter or pseudonymous authors of many others. I'm sorry I've never read his memoir (Heiress Strangled in Molten Chocolate at Nazi Sex Orgy! -- and I'm sorry we won't have him around as everything deteriorates further.

More from Yastreblyansky, and a moving sendoff from Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast, who knew Peter in his later years. We'll miss you, Crank.


This is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom:

Trump's advisers might recommend that he run on these popular items, and he might mention them, as he mentioned preserving Medicare and Social Security in 2016. Or he might forget to mention them. Or they might not even be part of his stump speeches, because Trump knows what sells to his base, and he probably won't employ anyone on the campaign who'd be inclined to tell him that he needs a conventional package of positive promises in order to win.

We know what he'll run on.

He'll also run on this:
Tucker Carlson previewed a trailer on Wednesday for an upcoming three-part series....

Called “Patriot Purge,” Carlson explained, “The U.S. government has in fact launched a new war on terror, but it’s not against al Qaeda, it’s against American citizens. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of our country. This is an attack on core civil liberties and it’s essential that you know what’s happening and that you resist it.”

... On Wednesday, the Fox News host played the trailer.

“The domestic war on terror is here,” alleges a man’s voice. “It’s coming after half of the country.”

Carlson himself appears and says, “The helicopters have left Afghanistan, and now they’re here at home.”

“The left is hunting the right,” alleges another voice. “Sticking them in Guantanamo Bay, for American citizens, leaving them there to rot.”

Trump will run on a promise to turn the tables on the people prosecuting January 6 rioters -- he'll vow to put President Biden, Attorney General Garland, and a significant portion of the FBI in prison. (If he's elected, he might really do it.) He'll say this, and his crowds will go wild.

Maybe everyone will realize what we've allowed to happen on January 20, 2025, when Trump delivers an inaugural address that's indistinguishable from one of his rally speeches, and includes Trump-led chants of "Fuck you, Biden!" and "Lock him up!" By then, I hope we'll all understand that Trump and Republican voters simply aren't interested in conventional politcal promises. All they care about is vengeance.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


Here's an alleged gotcha from the New York Post:
Who’s running, Joe? Biden says ‘Trump’ 24 times during Va. stump for McAuliffe

President Biden on Tuesday seemed fixated on former President Donald Trump in a Virginia stump speech for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Biden mentioned Trump by name 24 times during a brisk, 17-minute speech in a park near the Pentagon in northern Virginia, attempting to use his predecessor’s legacy to bash Republican Glenn Youngkin, who is tied with McAuliffe in polls in a state Biden won by 10 points just a year ago.
Surely Donald Trump would never do something like that!

I'm joking. Of course he would. Remember the Trump rally earlier this month in Iowa, at which he endorsed Chuck Grassley for reelection to the Senate? Let's go to the transcript of Trump's speech:
And all of you who are hard working American Patriots that we know and we love you all, as we get there tonight, millions of Americans are realizing that Joe Biden and the radical left have brought our nation to the brink of ruin.... After just nine months under Biden, violent criminals and blood thirsty gangs are taking over our streets, illegal aliens and deadly drug cartels are taking over our borders.... But as disastrous as the Biden administration has been, no one can blame the great State of Iowa because, boy, we did really, we did really good here.... First you rejected Joe Biden by delivering him a humiliating fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses.... And just this week, the latest [Des Moines Register] poll showed that Biden is at a record low 31% approval in Iowa.... As we speak, Joe Biden and the radical left Democrats in Congress are trying to ramp through a $5 trillion world spending bills that cost more than the entire sum the United States has spent two on any war in the history of our country.... And it’s a naked power grab by the likes of Biden and Pelosi and Kamala Harris.... According to the nonpartisan joint committee on taxation, the Biden spending bill will raise taxes on working families like never ever before. The Biden plan would make the United States business tax rate dramatically higher and bring it back to one of the highest in the world and actually substantially higher than a place called communist China.... In fact, taking into account all taxes under Biden’s plan, the Democrat bill would give businesses an approximately 100% tax advantages to locate jobs in China rather than the United States.... The Biden plan will build up China and the Republican party we want to build up America. Very simple. Biden socialists bill also includes mass amnesty and free college....
That's only a few of the Biden mentions. Trump said "Biden" 38 times in this speech. Grassley, the guy he was endorsing? His name came up just 8 times.

The previous rally, in Georgia last month? The one at which Trump endorsed Herschel Walker for Senate? "Herschel" came up 13 times. "Walker" came up 3 times. "Biden"? 35 times, according to the transcript. (Also endorsed at this rally: Jody Hice for secretary of state. Trump said "Jody" just 9 times and "Hice" twice.)

Remember, Republicans are the people who, according to a study released in 2018, mentioned Nancy Pelosi in 34% of their ads in House races. (Pelosi was a candidate in only one of 435 races.)

So no, this is not a gotcha.


A headline from Politico:
A fear grows in Trumpworld: Have we gone too conspiratorial?
What? There are limits to how much paranoia the Trumpers want to induce? The barrel has a bottom?

Apparently it does:
For months, conspiracies about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump have fueled Republican efforts nationwide to rewrite election laws. But now, some GOP operatives and Trump World luminaries are worried that the truly wild conspiracists may be mucking it all up.

Hogan Gidley, one of Donald Trump’s top lieutenants, took a subtle dig at some Trump allies and put some distance between their efforts and his group’s work on election reform. Other Republicans have expressed fears that talk of “audits,” machine rigging and foreign plots will depress voter turnout and discourage some people from seeking office.

“People are going to do whatever they want, and I can’t answer for any of those other groups,” said Gidley when asked about misinformation and efforts by Mike Lindell and others to overturn the 2020 election.

“But as it relates to election integrity and voter protection, it is vital that we help states get these simple, popular security mechanisms in place to ensure honesty for the 2022 midterms,” added Gidley, who is heading the Center for Election Integrity at the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute....

"When my fellow Republicans are focused on the wrong things, when they’re focused on conspiracies about secret algorithms on voting machines, and they’re focused on ideas there is a group of ballots printed in China snuck in the back door of the board of elections — all those things are easily disproven," said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is running for re-election next May. “But a focus on those things distracts from what I consider the real concerns about election integrity.”
So some Republicans -- or at least these two -- believe that paranoia comes in two varieties: the bad kind (which says that pro-Biden saboteurs used fake Chinese bamboo ballots and military satellites based in Italy to steal the 2020 election) and the good kind (which says that we're always just one round of Republican voter suppression laws away from perfectly fair elections).

But that's the problem: If you've been imbibing Republican propaganda since the days when ACORN was hounded out of existence for allegedly engaging in mass voter fraud and the Bush administration was firing U.S. attorneys who wouldn't concoct cases of electoral cheating, you're never going to buy the argument that this time the GOP has those conniving Democrats totally under control. Especially when you believe that Democratic fraud was worse than ever in 2020.

If Gidley and LaRose want Republican voters to stop believing in the bad conspiracy theories, maybe they should try to persuade their fellow Republicans in state legislatures and governors' mansions to, y'know, stop passing voter suppression bills altogether. Maybe it would help if every Republican who wants to be seen as "responsible" would simply say, "You know what? The election in 2020 was honest. Joe Biden won, and so did a lot of Republicans." That's unthinkable, of course. But as long as all Republicans say that there are "election integrity" problems, and some Republicans say there are massive problems, GOP voters will continue to be paranoid.

Gidley and LaRose are presumably worried that fears of fraud will prevent the Republican base from turning out in 2022 and 2024. I wish they had reason to worry, but as Philip Bump pointed out recently, the numbers suggest that Republicans turn out whether or not they think elections are riddled with fraud. And they plan to do so in the future, as the Politico story makes clear:
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday ... offers some measure of relief for Republicans worried that voters won’t turn out amid talk of vast election conspiracies. A full 92 percent of self-identified Republican voters said that they planned to vote in the 2022 elections, with just 4 percent saying they did not plan to. By contrast, just 70 percent of self-identified Democrats said they planned to vote, and 29 percent said they did not plan to.
That should scare Democrats, not Republicans.

But maybe Gidley and LaRose know what they're doing. Maybe they're engaging in the standard GOP rope-a-dope, in which some Republicans dish out red meat in supersized portions to inspire the angry base while other Republicans pretend to be "reasonable" in an effort to reassure moderate swing voters.

Regrettably, this tends to work. If it works this time, it means they've succeeded in turning "Our elections were rife with fraud through 2020, but we've fixed all that now" into the moderate position. That seems to be where we're headed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


I generally admire Jonathan Chait's posts about the depravity of Donald Trump and the party that's in thrall to him, but this one seems a bit off:
If Terry McAuliffe holds on to defeat Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s race, a large number of Republicans will blame Donald Trump. McAuliffe has assiduously tied Youngkin to Trump. Youngkin has followed a careful strategy of appealing to both Trump cultists and moderates. Should he lose, it would be a proof point that blue-state Republicans can’t keep a foot in both camps. They would have to denounce the former president more forcefully to gain the credibility they need to win statewide office, a step that would erode Trump’s influence over the party.

So a McAuliffe win would be a devastating blow for Trump’s power base within the Republican Party.
But it won't "be a devastating blow for Trump’s power base within the Republican Party." Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points last year, so unless Youngkin loses by that much or more, Trump and his fan base will take the narrowed margin as a sign of victory (while also claiming -- it's a knee-jerk reaction by now -- that Youngkin would have won if the election wasn't rigged). The masinstream media will agree.

The Republicans who secretly despise Trump -- we're regularly told there's an abundance of them -- might quietly grumble about Trump's influence on the outcome to a few reporters from Politico or The New York Times. But what does it matter? Republicans don't need to win very many races in blue states to regain power. They certainly don't need to win in blue states at all to regain the Senate or the White House. So while a McAuliffe victory would have some impact on the way wary Republicans feel about Trump, the most that might result is more grumbling from Republicans about "looking to the future." That won't diminish Trump's standing with the party base at all.

Later in the post, Chait offers a history of the aftermath of January 6 that seems rather revisionist:
At first the insurrection so revolted them they briefly set out to make a permanent break that would prevent Trump from running again. Then they lost their nerve but told themselves they would isolate him from the party and eliminate his power without holding an impeachment vote. Then they simply gave up on that plan altogether.
Really? It seems to me that a number of them condemned him hoping the story would go away after that -- with very few exceptions, Republicans weren't trying to drive Trump from public life at all. And maybe they "told themselves they would isolate him from the party and eliminate his power without holding an impeachment vote," but if so, I don't see any evidence of it. I don't think they "lost their nerve." I think they never intended to "isolate him from the party and eliminate his power" at all -- a certain percentage of them simply believed that they needed to issue pro forma condemnations of him, after which they hoped they could just back to bashing and owning the libs again. Which is what they proceeded to do as soon as Democrats went ahead with the impeachment.

I know it's hard to be sufficiently cynical about Republicans, but Chait usually manages. This time, he wasn't cynical enough.


Matt Lewis, who's a Trump-averse right-winger, predicts what might happen if Terry McAuliffe loses the Virginia governor's race:
For Democrats ... a [Glenn] Youngkin victory would have a chilling effect, making moderate Democrats in Congress even less likely to support any part of Biden’s agenda that seems overly ambitious.
Really? Centrists in Congress will back away from expanding the social safety net if Democrats lose a governor's race primarily focused on culture-war issues?

Lewis goes on to assert that the culture war is precisely what this election is about. He says culture-war issues are
turning suburban voters against McAuliffe and the Democratic party. In Virginia, this battle has played out largely under the rubric of “education,” with the sub-issues being critical race theory (CRT) and trans-inclusive policies (allowing transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity at school).
Lewis spends many paragraphs outlining the GOP's narrative on these issues, ultimately concluding:
But in a world where being a white, cisgendered Christian middle-class suburbanite all but automatically renders you a colonizer and a predator, you can either accept your new status happily or join the side that is fighting back.

In this scenario, being liberal is an esoteric nicety that we can no longer afford. Once upon a time, it was said that a conservative was a liberal who has been mugged. Today, a conservative is a liberal who has been canceled (or fears the prospect of it). The left is coming for us all, now, including people who think of themselves as “allies.”
(Remember, this is coming from someone who is allegedly a moderate conservative.)

The question Lewis never answer is: Why would a race that the GOP has made all about trans inclusion and the teaching of America's racial history intimidate Democrats who want to provide paid family leave and an expansion of Medicare, assuming the race is won by the Republican candidate?

But that's the whole point of the culture wars: Republicans push cultural issues to the foreground of campaigns, and when it works, they declare that the public opposes ... Democratic efforts to expand the social safety net. Because blocking an expansion the social safety net is what the right-wing billionaires who fund the culture-war panics really want.

Thanks, Matt. It took a little deconstruction, but the Republican con is now very easy to spot.

Monday, October 25, 2021


We all know that right-wingers often won't acknowledge the same basic set of facts as the rest of us. But the right doesn't just look at major news stories and disagree on the facts -- it also has a separate set of top stories that are unknown to the rest of us but are, to the right, harbingers of the end of civilization as we know it. Right now, several such stories are arousing anger on the right. They are:
* Reports that a teenager sexually assaulted two students in separate schools in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the right tells it, in the first of these assaults, the assailant was a"skirt-wearing male student" who described himself as "genderfluid" and who committed the assault in a girls' bathroom, just as the county was considering a rule allowing students to use the bathroom of their choice.

* Claims that Dr. Anthony Fauci personally approved extremely cruel scientific and scientifically unnecessary experiments on beagles.

* Allegations that the crowd at the January 6 Stop the Steal rally occupied the Capitol because they were goaded to do so by a provocateur who's being protected by the FBI.
Right-wingers think the existence of a provocateur on January 6 exonerates all the arrested participants (even though the participants were adults with free will who, if the story is accurate, were encouraged but not forced to become a rioting mob). They think the experiments partly funded by money from the National Institutes of Health are among the many signs of Dr. Fauci's limitless depravity (even though when Snopes looked into an earlier version of the story in August, it could find no evidence that Fauci had any personal involvement in the approval of the experiments, and even though it could find no evidence of animal cruelty.) They think the Loudoun school bathroom policy is linked to the assault even though it's unclear whether the assailant was actually a "skirt-wearing male student." (No one claims the assailant was dressed in a "genderfluid" was for the second incident, which took place despite the fact that the alleged assailant was wearing an ankle monitor.)

These are huge stories on the right. If right-wing voters turn out in big numbers for Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor's race or donate large amounts of money to Trumpist, Fauci-averse candidates, these stories are among the reasons why. And yet if you get your news from the mainstream media, you probably aren't aware of them at all -- which means that virtually all the available information on the stories is slanted or distorted in a way that favors the right.

A long time ago ago, in the early years of the last Democratic president's time in office, there were voices in the mainstream media arguing that the MSM should pay more attention to what the right-wing press was talking about. Many people on the left were repulsed by that idea, saying that the mainstream press shouldn't make bad-faith right-leaning media voices their "assignment editors." Some of that criticism makes sense -- the mainstream press shouldn't cover stories from the right-wing fever swamp the way the right-wing media covers them -- but it's still good for the mainstream media to be an honest counterbalance on stories that are being successfully turned into propaganda reaching a large portion of the country. If right-wing media sources identify someone they believe was a January 6 provocateur working with the FBI to sabotage the MAGA movement and that's not the case, wouldn't it be best if the mainstream media acknowledged the story's existence and debunked the right's reporting? If right-wingers and animal lovers think Anthony Fauci is sadistically okaying cruel treatment of animals and he isn't, wouldn't it be beneficial for that to be disproved?

As I wrote in 2009:
A hell of a lot of people still get their news exclusively from the [New York] Times and other old-line news organizations, which have long felt that much of the crazy, conspiratorial chatter on the far right is beneath them. And then there's a segment of the population -- possibly a third of the country, and possibly the population subgroup most fixated on politics -- for which all that crazy, conspiratorial stuff is the news. Somebody needs to cover the crazies' top stories in a way that isn't crazy and conspiratorial, so the people in the former group can talk to, and (let's hope) rebut, the people in the latter group.

Is that making the crazies into "assignment editors" for the mainstream press? Yeah -- and so what? It's only a problem if the mainstream press lets the crazies dictate conclusions; if, instead, the non-crazies shed light where the crazies have heretofore shed only heat, what's the problem? (And yes, I know: that's a big if.)

... let's acknowledge the success of the right-wing Wurlitzer ... for its ability to make a third of the country think something is news whether or not it should be news. And let's stop pretending that playing hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil with regard to this sort of thing is somehow going to make the topics in question disappear from a large of percentage of the country's radar. It seems to me that if a seemingly marginal topic can go from one of Andrew Breitbart's Web sites to the floor of Congress as fast as a Maserati going from zero to 60, then the sane press ought to weigh in before Breitbart steps on the gas.
I wrote that when the right-wing noise machine had brought down ACORN. Before the 2010 midterms, there would also be the hysteria surrounding the so-called Ground Zero Mosque -- another story that was massive on the right for weeks, with little or no fact-based mainstream coverage until after the outrage had become uncontainable.

So, yes, the mainstream press should cover stories that are big on the right, because right-wing propagandists shouldn't have a monopoly on those stories.


UPDATE: The Washington Post is now reporting that a juvenile court judge "found sufficient evidence during a trial Monday to sustain charges that a teen sexually assaulted a classmate in the girls’ bathroom of a Loudoun County high school in May.... The judge’s finding is the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict in other courts." This is the "genderfluid" incident -- but "Authorities have not commented on the youth’s gender identity and it did not become an issue Monday in court." although it is reported that the boy was wearing a skirt at the time of the assault. However, the girl acknowledged previously having had sexual encounters with her assailant; she said the assault happened after they'd agreed to get together again but she didn't want to have sex. So some of the right's narrative is confirmed, but we're far away from the notion that a predatory boy put on a dress just so he could commit sex crimes in a girls' bathroom.

AND: Al;so in The Washington Post, Dana Milbank debunks the beagle story.
It turns out that this Tunisian study was erroneously attributed to NIAID [the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, parto of the National Insgtitutes of Healh]. NIAID did, however, fund different research in Tunisia — and the beagles weren’t puppies, they weren’t euthanized, they weren’t “de-barked,” and they weren’t “trapped” so “flies could eat them alive.” The dogs were given an experimental vaccine and allowed to roam. There was a very good reason for this: Dogs are the main reservoir host (and flies the main vector) of the disease that was being studied, which affects half a million people a year, particularly children, and has a 6 percent mortality rate in Tunisia.

But right-wing news outlets, through stupidity or malice, conflated separate studies funded by NIAID....


If you think Facebook is in deep trouble because of recent revelations of bad behavior, allow me to take you back ten years to a different media scandal:
Allegations that News International journalists were involved in hacking people's phones for information led to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in 2011 and a trial costing reportedly up to £100m....

It was some nine years ago that the News of the World published a story about Prince William's treatment for an injury, based on information that it could only have come by because one of its journalists had listened to the prince's voicemails.

The ensuing police investigation ... uncovered "a vast number" of other victims.... The News of the World was closed down in 2011 after its owners, Rupert Murdoch's News International, admitted the scale of hacking that had been going on, dating back many years.

The paper's original position - that rogue staff had acted alone - could not stand. Eventually Rupert Murdoch decided he had no choice but to close the newspaper down after it emerged Milly Dowler, a teenager who was abducted and murdered, had her voicemails hacked.
Here were some of the headlines in 2011:

People really believed it was possible that a massive, sociopathic media organization that routinely works hand in glove with national governments and major political parties could be brought down by uncomfortable headlines. It didn't happen. It was never going to happen. The Murdoch family had too much power in too many countries to suffer more than minor injuries from this scandal.

There's anger at Facebook among citizens in various countries who care about politics and media, but Facebook is too useful and entertaining to too many people to fall easily, and it has too many resources to allow itself to go down without a massive fight.

It's fun watching Mark Zuckerberg squirm, but he knows he'll wriggle out of this. Maybe things would be different if the right-wing and left-wing critics of Big Tech could identify common ground and work together to limit the tech giants' power, but that will never happen because even the angriest right-wing tech critic doesn't be seen working with Elizabeth Warren, for heaven's sake!

So indulge fantasies of Zuckerberg's downfall if it makes you feel better, but remember that they're just fantasies.

Sunday, October 24, 2021


Tweet from The Washington Examiner's Byron York this morning:

Here are York's examples of the massive reach of anti-Trump vulgarity:

Okay, De Niro and Eminem are pretty famous, but York's other examples are ... gallery artists in L.A. and a homeless rapper?

Meanwhile, merchandise with the slogan "Let's Go Brandon" -- a euphemism for "Fuck You, Biden" -- is being sold by the once and possibly future president of the United States.

When chants of "Fuck You, Biden" -- probably the real version, not the suitable-for-airplay version -- break out at every Trump campaign stop in 2023 and 2024, as well as during his nomination acceptance speech at the convention (and, if he wins, at his inaugural), I'm sure York will bothsides this by reaching deep into the past to find far-flung examples of liberal/lefty vulgarity. (What about the "Fish cheer" at Woodstock? What about when the Yippies ran a pig for president?) He'll still be saying Trump and his fan base "have to go a long way to match" the libs. Because bad things are always either everybody's fault or our fault alone.

Saturday, October 23, 2021


This is true. The Daily Beast's Will Sommer reported on it last month:
Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump will give the keynote speech next month at an anti-vaccine conference....

Trump is set to speak at the Truth About Cancer Live! convention between Oct. 22 and 24 in Nashville, joining a speakers’ lineup that includes some of the most prominent promoters of disinformation about vaccines, as well as leading figures in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

The conference is the brainchild of Ty and Charlene Bollinger, two major promoters of anti-vaccine disinformation who have made tens of millions of dollars promoting both alternative health cures for cancer and vaccine fears. The Bollingers have dubbed the coronavirus vaccine “that abominable vaccine,” according to a Center for Public Integrity report, and sell a $200 video series promoting vaccine fearmongering on their website.

... In posts on Telegram, a social media app popular on the right, the Bollingers have called the vaccine a “SHOT OF POISON!” and the “COVID kill shot.” The Bollingers have also attacked vaccines more broadly, claiming in social media posts that vaccines cause autism.
Trump told the Beast that he's vaccinated and plans to talk about his father, not about vaccines. But many of the speakers -- you can see the lineup here -- will clearly be there to tell attendees that vaccines are bad. Among them are Andrew Wakefield, whose now-withdrawn, fraudulent 1998 paper in The Lancet kickstarted the modern anti-vaxx movement; Dr. Judy Mikovits, the discredited virologist who's a central figure in the conpiracy documentary Plandemic; Mikki Willis, one of the producers of Plandemic; and Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, who famously announced at an Ohio legislative hearing that COVID vaccines make vaccinated people magnetic.

Wikipedia has more on co-host Ty Bollinger:
Bollinger is a former bodybuilder and has no medical training....

The couple's main website is The Truth About Cancer, established in 2014. It promotes misinformation about cancer, notably that chemotherapy doesn't cure the disease, and functions as a merchandising platform for their numerous instructional videos, as well as food supplements, alternative health books, and treatments....

Bollinger also branched out into anti-vaccination, selling a new video series, The Truth about Vaccines from their website, with a supporting Facebook group....

A study by NewsGuard ranks the Bollingers' Facebook page as one of the largest superspreaders of COVID-19 misinformation as of April 2020. The study found the page repeated many of the common COVID-19 false claims, including that the pandemic was planned, that the virus was built in a laboratory, and that COVID-19 is transmitted by 5G wireless technology.
And here's the Trump connection:
Bollinger spoke at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Nashville on November 14, 2020, repeating accusations of election fraud....

The couple played a significant role in organizing the pro-Trump demonstrations that culminated in a riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.... They coordinated with leaders of the Stop the Steal movement to bring their supporters to the demonstrations. They introduced speakers to their crowd of supporters and according to Darlene, Ty joined the demonstration outside the Capitol; both afterward condemned the violence that took place at the event.... The Bollingers have been using QAnon hashtags in 2020 and promoted some of the movement's common conspiracy theories.
I'd say it seems Oedipal that Donald Trump boasts of his role in getting the vaccines to market while Eric speaks at this conference, but the Bollingers clearly don't hold the elder Trump's support for vaccines against him, and the ex-president clearly doesn't seem to want to press the issue anymore, so what Eric is doing really isn't a symbolic murder of his father.

Please note that this crowd will have access to the First Family if Trump wins the 2024 election. We thought all the pathologies in the world converged in the Trump presidency that ended in January, but version 2.0 will be even worse.

Friday, October 22, 2021


Yesterday, in what appears to have been a horrible accident, Alec Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer with a prop gun on the set of a low-budget film in New Mexico; he also wounded the director. Workers on the set had multiple complaints about the film shoot, including objections to the handling of guns on the set.

But to one of the top candidates for U.S. Senate in Ohio, it was all a big joke, addressed to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter.

I posted a screenshot instead of embedding the original tweet because it seems conceivable that Vance might have enough common decency to eventually feel bad after making a sick joke about an incident in which an innocent person was killed. So far, however, the tweet is still up, and Vance's recent social media posts and public statements suggests that he might never feel ashamed of this tweet.

I'm reminded of what Adam Serwer wrote in 2018, in his Atlantic article "The Cruelty Is the Point":
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully....

Trump’s ... only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything....
I know that Republicans don't like Alec Baldwin -- he's a successful entertainer who mocks Trump and has left-leaning politics -- but they have no reason to hate or fear the victims of this shooting. So why did Vance post something that's so hurtful to their loved ones?

I think right-wingers' fondness for cruelty goes far beyond the inclination to be hurtful to their enemies, as described by Serwer. I think right-wingers like cruelty for its own sake. Cruelty is a sign to other right-wingers that the cruel person isn't "woke" or "politically correct." To right-wingers, cruelty is fun.

Right-wingers won't be cruel to one another, of course. But being cruel to anyone else is a sign that they're not emasculated or constrained. To right-wingers, freedom is freedom to be cruel. If you can't be cruel, you're in chains.

The free-floating cruelty is the point. Heartlessness is the core of what conservatism means to voters. It doesn't have to be directed toward an enemy. Anyone who's not an ally is a valid target.


UPDATE: Chris Hayes has similar thoughts.


On October 4, the Deparment of Justice issued this press release:
Justice Department Addresses Violent Threats Against School Officials and Teachers

Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend. These sessions will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement.
You and I know the meaning of "harassment, intimidation and threats of violence" in this context. It's a reference to incidents like this:

But after the program was announced, there was little effort to explain it, at least until Attorney General Merrick Garland was subjected to hostile questioning about it in yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing.
On Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the senior Republican on the committee, said the Justice Department was creating “a snitch line on parents” who complain about school policy — a charge the attorney general repeatedly denied.

“There’s nothing in this memorandum that has any effect on the kinds of curriculums that are taught or the ability of the parents to complain,” Garland said.

Republicans did not buy his explanation.

“We don’t need the vast power of the federal government throwing its weight around,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said. “We don’t need you, the Justice Department, or the FBI trampling on the rights of parents.”
Republicans have spent the weeks since October 4 making pronouncements like this in every available forum. "Biden's FBI wants to criminalize dissent by parents" is a major line of argument on the right, and it's likely that swing voters have also been made aware of the narrative. Except for yesterday's hearing, there's been very little effort among Democrats to construct a counternarrative -- that is, an accurate narrative.

Many liberals and mainstream media figures believe that the vast majority of Republican dishonesty comes from Donald Trump. But this isn't Trump's doing. In yesterday's hearing, committee chairman Jerrold Nadler refused to allow Jim Jordan to play a video that had been submitted without the customary 48 hours' notice. Here's the video, posted on Twitter with the apparent imprimatur of all the Republicans on the committee:

Here's a New York Post op-ed:
Disturbingly, the Dems and their social media cronies repeatedly and casually abuse their power to enforce their ideology, rather than realize that perhaps the upswell of parental anger at teaching in schools is not the result of QAnon conspiracists but in fact is born of genuine concern and a sense of disempowerment over the future of their most precious charges.

Don’t like teachers telling all white kids that they are oppressors just because of the color of their skin? You’re an insurrectionist. Think maybe we need to start lifting COVID restrictions because you’re vaccinated? You’re a white supremacist. Oppose Build Back Better? You’re an obstructionist, a fascist.

Don’t vote for Democrats? You’re an enemy of the state.
That's just the latest salvo from Murdochistan. Here's part of a Tucker Carlson monologue from October 6:
You’ll notice if you look closely that nowhere in Merrick Garland's recent order, or the DOJ's press release, is any explanation of these "threats of violence." What threats of violence? Has violence occurred at these school board meetings? No. Look closer, and you’ll find this line: "The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance [that] will help school board members ... understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats."

Oh. So it’s a propaganda operation, funded by you out of the Department of so-called Justice designed to tell teachers and school board members that when parents complain, it’s domestic terrorism. It’s not the first amendment in progress. It’s not your constituents voicing legitimate complaints. It’s essentially a foreign adversary trying to kill you.

The Biden administration is trying to tell school board members, using the Department of Justice, that they are in physical danger from parents, and those parents are national security threats. Once again, nothing like this has ever happened in this country. It is an utter perversion of the mission and the power of the United States Department of Justice. It is almost impossible to overstate how sinister and crazy this is.
Every rank-and-file Republican voter now believes this. Maybe some of your moderate neighbors do too. And why shouldn't they? Who's tried to clarify what's really going on? Why don't Democrats understand the need to communicate the truth when the right works this hard to communicate lies?

Thursday, October 21, 2021


In 2024, I don't believe there'll be a serious presidential primary contest in the Republican Party. Donald Trump will announce his candidacy sometime in 2023 and every A-list Republican will either drop out or decline to join the race. The sad, self-deluded losers who'll stay in the race -- the Bill Welds and Joe Walshes of 2024 -- will be people like this guy:
Is Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan [of Georgia] running for president? That’s what Manchester’s WMUR-TV wanted to know last night when Duncan visited New Hampshire’s famous Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

St. Anselm is a must-do stop for any presidential hopeful in the first-in-the-nation primary state, so a visit there inevitably leads to the question: Are you considering a run for the White House?

Duncan was in New Hampshire selling “GOP 2.0″-- the idea behind both his book and his vision for a possible post-Trump version of the Republican Party....

WMUR’s takeaway: “Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan could end up in the mix of contenders for president in 2024.”
Duncan voted and campaigned for Trump in 2020 but subsequently distanced himself during Trump's campaign to overturn the election results. Knowing that this made him a dead man walking in the Georgia GOP, Duncan decided not to run for reelection. He wrote GOP 2.0 instead, which is described by the publisher as follows:
GOP 2.0 is both a book and a movement that unites people around a common view of civility and freedom. GOP 2.0 puts policy over politics. It aspires to make Americans great. It’s about Geoff Duncan’s “P.E.T. Project,” reviving the party with conservative Policies, genuine Empathy, and a respectful Tone.

... GOP 2.0 is Geoff Duncan’s vision, forged by his unexpected struggle for the party’s future. In his words, “GOP 2.0 is not a new party – it’s a better direction for our Republican Party.” In this refreshing and reinvigorating new book, a leader who has been through the fire lays out a better way forward, one that lifts up reasoned ideas, expands the party, and positions the GOP to win back the White House in 2024.
The book hasn't come close to a bestseller list -- its current Amazon ranking is #58,557 -- but there he is in New Hampshire, hinting that he might run for president and persuading CNN's Chris Cillizza that he's serious:
All of this activity by Duncan -- with the New Hampshire trip the most telling clue -- suggests he wants to run for the Republican presidential nomination in his own right in 2024.

Asked about that question directly by WMUR, Duncan answered this way:

"I'm focused on healing and rebuilding the party right now. If you looked at my to-do list every day of what I have to do in all 50 states and the people I've got to talk to, I'm certainly consumed with trying to heal and rebuild the party, and we're going to be in a process of trying to figure out who's the best leader."

So, yes, he wants to run.
The public is indifferent, but a bit of media attention might persuade Duncan to run -- and he'll be shellacked, assuming Trump and his allies in state Republican parties allow primaries at all.

If there's a contest at all, I predict that Trump will be challenged only by fifth-raters like Duncan. Trump will glide to the nomination.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


It's possible that Joe Manchin wants President Biden's agenda enacted in a weak, shrunken, means-tested, fossil-fuel-friendly way. But Kyrsten Sinema not only appears to want to kill the Biden package -- or at least the part that isn't hard infrastructure -- she doesn't want to admit she wants to kill it. Instead, she claims to be open to negotiations while throwing newer and newer roadblocks in Biden's way. This, for instance:
The Wall Street Journal today reports that Sinema “has told lobbyists that she is opposed to any increase” in taxes on high-income individuals, businesses, or capital gains. Her opposition is reportedly “pushing Democrats to more seriously plan for a bill that doesn’t include those major revenue increases.”

If this report is true, it would likely be a death blow to Biden’s social agenda. Senate rules require that creating or expanding any social program — health care, child care, education, or anything else — can only be made permanent if it has some funding source. If Sinema refuses to support any tax increases on the wealthy, there’s no financing available to come anywhere close.
Her problem is that the rest of the party is willing to compromise, which means she needs to find new objections every time her Democratic colleagues make concessions so she can seem to be negotiatiing without actually trying to make a deal.

Of course, she could simply say she'll never get to yes under any circumstances, which would at least be an honest statement of her position. But she want to maintain the appearance of negotiating in good faith -- either that or her corporate owners want her to maintain that fiction.

This is how Republicans pretend to negotiate. Remember when John Katko, a close ally of House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, negotiated a deal to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot -- and then McCarthy and the rest of the party declared that the deal, though genuinely bipartisan, was unacceptable? Remember when Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, negotiated a police reform bill with Democrats, then rejected the bill he negotiated, saying that it amounted to "defunding the police"?

The enemies of the Democratic Party obviously believe that there could be a price to pay if they appear to say no right away on key issues -- even though they plan to say no eventually. They obviously believe that if they fake good faith, they can reject what the Democrats want, even if they've already agreed to it, and trust that all Republican voters and many swing voters will believe them when they denounce the proposals as Democratic extremism.

So now this style of attack is coming from within the Democratic Party. And Democrats never seem to see it coming.


The key numbers in the Quinnipiac poll that was released yesterday got some attention: 78% of Republicans want Donald Trump to run for president in 2024 but 58% of respondents overall don't; Joe Biden has a 37% job approval rating and a 52% disapproval rating (bad, but comparable to Trump's 38%/56% approval/disapproval in a Quinnipiac poll released October 11, 2017); and Trump is unpopular as well (39% favorable, 52% unfavorable), which means we should expect a great deal of punditry soon lamenting the two-party system and telling us that a third-party centrist can save us.

But I want to point out some of Quinnipiac's numbers about the January 6 Capitol riot. I often tell you about polls in which Democrats and independents largely agree, while Republicans are the outliers. But in the case of January 6, it's Democrats who are mostly out of step.

Quinnipiac asked:
As you may know, a special congressional committee is investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol that occurred on January 6th and it has issued several subpoenas to witnesses as part of its investigation. Do you want to hear more information about what led to the events of that day, or do you think enough is already known about what led to the events of that day?
Overall, only 40% of respondents want to hear more about January 6; 56% don't. Most subgroups don't want to hear more: Only 40% of under-35s want more information, and only 45% of women. Blacks and Hispanics are less interested in uncovering additional information about January 6 than the general population -- 34% and 33%, respectively -- even though they're less favorable toward Trump than whites. Only among Democrats (59%) and white college graduates (57%) is there majority support for further investigation of January 6.

This isn't because respondents have positive feelings about what happened on January 6 -- overall, 59% of respondents consider January 6 "an attack on the government"; 57% believe Trump bears a lot (42%) or at least some (15%) of the responsibility for what happened; and 51% believe that Trump has been undermining democracy since the 2020 election (as opposed to 39% who say he's been protecting democracy). Majorities of independents and both men and women believe what happened that day was an attack on the government, and that Trump bears at least some responsibility; non-whites agree, including an overwhelming percentage of Black voters.

In other words, Americans aren't interested in hearing more about January 6 because they already know it was bad, and they already blame Trump.

I know many of you believe that the January 6 investigation is vitally important. My concern is that it's going to end in a muddle, the way the Mueller investigation and the two impeachments ended in a muddle, with dueling narratives and no accountability for the perpetrators.

The public knows January 6 was bad, and there really isn't much likelihood that we'll learn anything new about it that will drastically change our understanding of what happened. Republicans and members of the Trump family are extremely good at avoiding punishment for their misdeeds, and Democrats aren't good at bringing Republicans to justice. Meanwhile, America has many problems and a lot of discontent. So, sure, Democrats should persist in investigating January 6, but they should realize that what the public primarily wants from them is solutions to problems. Passing the Biden agenda should be the priority. Investigating January 6 is of secondary importance.


TO CLARIFY: I'm not saying that January 6 would be useless as a spur to election reform (although it ought to be only one of several spurs, given what Republicans are doing, and have already done, to democracy in the states they control). But endless hearings bogging down on the question of what precisely was said in a particluar Trump phone call to a particular aide or ally at 1:32 P.M. on January 6 could really be a colossal waste of time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Two of the best-known voices in the mainstream political press seem shocked that Donald Trump's response to the death of Colin Powell was so ... Trump-like.

Trump wrote:

Cillizza responded:
What Trump's statement should remind us is that this is a man uniquely self-obsessed -- and without any ability to see beyond himself.

Powell was openly critical of Trump -- he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 -- and of the dark direction the billionaire businessman was leading the country. And so, Trump saw Powell's death as an opportunity to get back at him -- and took it.

This is, in a word, classless. In two words: Utterly classless....

No one should be surprised by this latest degradation of what it means to be a president by Trump. He spent four years in office defining the job downward. That some people will applaud Trump's trolling of a dead man is, perhaps, his most toxic legacy.
But much of the right was angry at Powell long before Trump entered politics, because he endorsed Democrats and criticized some of the right's heroes. Sometimes this was expressed somberly, as in this Human Events column published shortly after the 2008 election:
... last Sunday, [Powell] popped up on CNN to criticize Rush Limbaugh for misleading, if not destroying, the Republican Party.

Powell tried to make the rejection of Limbaugh the path Republicans need to take to win elections again....

Of Limbaugh’s supposed influence on the Republican Party, Powell said: “Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?" ...

And what are the “lesser instincts” to which Limbaugh appeals? I wonder if there’s any way Powell is referring to that instinct to defend life — both of the born and the unborn? Powell is pro-abortion; Limbaugh is pro-life....

Powell, like former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, wants to remake conservatism into something without form or substance, something that is liberalism in all but name....

Powell and Gerson — and too many other phony conservatives — are the problem, not the solution. It was by their philosophy and political strategy that the Republican Party ended up abandoning conservatism in favor of McCainism. And that was the path to failure, not victory.
And some people just used Trumpian name-calling, years before Trump. This is from a story about a North Carolina campaign appearance by Barack Obama in 2008:
When Sen. Barack Obama entered a barbecue joint here to greet dozens of people eating lunch after church services on Sunday, Diane Fanning, 54, who works at a Sam's Club, began yelling, "Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!"

Fanning said she'd heard Colin Powell had endorsed Obama but that "Colin Powell is a RINO, R-I-N-O, Republican In Name Only."
Trump's main political innovation was talking to Republican voters the way they talk to one another, in person and in online forums. Trump attacked John McCain in 2015 and suffered no negative consequences because much of the base had always been wary of McCain (for years he'd been called "Juan McCain" at Free Republic for his support of immigration reform). So why shouldn't Trump attack Powell, too? It won't lose him a single vote in 2024.

Republican voters believe Democrats are the worst people who ever lived, and anyone who enables them (as Powell did with his endorsements) or shares some of their political goals (McCain on immigration and campaign finance reform, Powell on abortion and affirmative action) is complicit in pure evil. The GOP base would have been as horrified by a gracious Trump statement about Powell as we would be if Joe Biden commended a recently deceased politician who'd praised Hitler. Why don't Cillizza and Haberman understand that?