Monday, January 31, 2022


This morning, The New York Times published what, by my estimate, is the forty thousandth mainstream media article purpoting to show that Republicans voters are ready to dump Donald Trump -- no, for real this time.

Poll results are presented:
In a recent Associated Press survey, 44 percent of Republicans said they did not want Mr. Trump to run for president again....

In a reversal from Mr. Trump’s White House days, an NBC News poll in late January found that 56 percent of Republicans now define themselves more as supporters of the Republican Party, compared to 36 percent who said they are supporters of Mr. Trump first.

The Trump-first faction had accounted for 54 percent of Republican voters in October 2020.
But then we get numbers from Patrick Ruffini, a GOP pollster.
Mr. Ruffini polled Mr. Trump vs. Mr. DeSantis last October and again this month. Then, Mr. Trump led by 40 percentage points; now, the margin is 25.
There's some slippage, but please note that Trump still gets 57% of the vote, compared to DeSantis's 32%. (All the numbers are here.) So if it's true that, according to that NBC poll, only 36% of Republicans consider themselves Trump supporters first, it's also true that voters who don't consider themselves Trumpers still intend to vote for Trump.

Ruffini tries to massage the numbers in order to get a bad result for Trump.
But among Republicans familiar with both men, the gap was just 16 points, and narrower still, only nine points, among those who liked them both.
So Trump is still beating DeSantis by 16 when name recognition is equalized -- except when you poll just Republicans who like both of them. There's just one problem: Elections don't work like that. Challengers don't get to choose an electorate made up exclusively of people who like them.

Ruffini insists that the numbers look bad for Trump for other reasons.
“His voters are looking at alternatives,” Mr. Ruffini said of Mr. Trump. While there is scant evidence of any desire for an anti-Trump Republican, Mr. Ruffini said, there is openness to what he called a “next-generation Trump candidate.”
In fact, Ruffini polled precisely that. He asked his poll respondents which they'd pick: Trump or
A conservative Republican candidate who was a strong supporter of Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, vocally opposed Covid lockdown and vaccine mandates, would have fired Anthony Fauci as president, and wants to represent the future of the MAGA movement.
Trump crushes this dream "next-gen" candidate by 17 points.

(And there's no interest in "A conservative Republican candidate with a measured and responsible tone who didn't agree with Donald Trump's actions following the 2020 election and on January 6, 2021." Trump crushes that candidate by 29. So put away your childish dreams of Liz Cheney wresting the nomination from Trump, or from anyone else.)

I know, I know: Trump's numbers have slipped. If this continues, Trump seems vulnerable.

But these poll numbers came at a time when Trump was mostly lying low. That won't be the case if he runs. And remember that anyone who dares to challenge Trump will be humiliated by Trump, the way Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio were in the 2016 campaign. It'll get ugly.

Republican voters won't dump Trump, because if they do, we win -- "we" being the hated Democrats and RINOs and mainstream media. Voting for DeSantis will never be the thumb in our eye that voting for Trump is.

This could change if Trump faces serious legal problems. But just being indicted won't necessarily hurt Trump. Remember, he survived two impeachments with undiminished GOP support. Trump is very good at gulling the rubes into believing he's doing fine when he really isn't. When his businesses were in trhe process of losing a billion dollars, he published a book called Trump: Surviving at the Top. He lost an election in 2020 and convinced tens of millions of voters that he actually won. He's good at this.

But if it's obvious even to his fan base that he's pinned down by DAs or the Justice Department, it's over. That's why Bridgegate killed Chris Christie's reputation on the right: not because Christie did something wrong (Republican voters don't care if their heroes do that), but because all the investigations and indictments and jokes made him look weak. A bully can't sustain his reputation if it looks as if he's being bullied.

On the other hand, when has Trump ever gotten his comeuppance? He's never been truly held accountable. There's a good chance he never will be. In which case, DeSantis should bow out and wait for 2028.


Will Bunch think Donald Trump was trying to stir up a race war in his Texas rally over the weekend.
In a sign that Trump is increasingly worried about the overlapping probes ... he explicitly called for mob action if charges are lodged.... Said Trump: “If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had ... in Washington D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

... let’s take a step back and drill down on arguably the most important and alarming word in Trump’s statement: “Racist.” At first blush, it seems to come out of left field, in the sense of what could be racist about looking into a white man’s role in an attempted coup or his cooked financial books? Except that it happens that three of the key prosecutors investigating Trump — the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney, Fani Willis, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and new Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg — as well as the chair of the House committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, are all Black.

... In tying skin color into his call for mobs in Atlanta or New York, Trump is seeking to start a race war — no different, really, from Dylann Roof. Roof used a .45-caliber Glock handgun, while Trump uses a podium and the services of fawning right-wing cable TV networks. Sadly, the latter method could prove more effective.
Is that what Trump is doing? Is this really cold calculation on his part?

I'm not sure, but I can tell you that calling Black people he doesn't like "racist" is a Trump tic -- he did it repeatedly in the days when he was still on Twitter. He probably picked the habit up from the right-wing media (which regularly refers to those who denounce racism as "the real racists"), and I'm sure it appeals to him because he's a grade-school bully, someone for whom "I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you" is still a sick burn.

Here are some examples I found when I searched for "racist" at the Trump Twitter Archive:
Sep 2nd 2019 - 8:09:56 AM EST: The Amazon Washington Post did a story that I brought racist attacks against the “Squad.” No, they brought racist attacks against our Nation. All I do is call them out for the horrible things they have said. The Democrats have become the Party of the Squad!

Jul 28th 2019 - 3:18:20 PM EST: If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership. His radical “oversight” is a joke!

Feb 25th 2019 - 6:50:18 AM EST: Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!

Feb 21st 2019 - 11:09:57 AM EST: .@JussieSmollett - what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA

Sep 9th 2013 - 9:44:37 PM EST: @Toure If you weren't such a dumb racist moron with bad ratings you would know I never filed for bankruptcy,now worth over $10 billion dummy

Aug 20th 2013 - 11:30:08 PM EST: "@LisaRiv76873320: @realDonaldTrump Who is Bryant Gumbel?" A racist dope with a long and deep record of failure!
Will Trump's use of the word "racist" over the weekend be perceived as a summons to a race war? I think it depends on whether the right-wing media follows up with reminders that hey, did you notice all those Trump persecutors are ... you-know-what? It also depends on whether Trump emphasizes this attack in future statements, interviews, and rally speeches. He might, especially if he thinks it will get a rise out of liberals and mainstream pundits.

I don't really think he's Dylann Roof. Roof sincerely wanted to fight for white people. Trump only wants to fight for himself. But he doesn't care how he does it, or about the damage caused by the methods he choses. He cares about getting away with it and winning. That's all.

Sunday, January 30, 2022


This is the least surprising news of the day, except, apparently, to the mainstream media:
Former President Donald Trump is dangling the prospect of pardons for supporters who participated in the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol if he returns to the White House.

“If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6th fairly,” Trump said Saturday night during a rally in Conroe, Texas. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Well, of course. What did we expect? They were rioting on his behalf, though he'd support them even if they hadn't massaged his ego, the same way he's expressing support for the convoy of anti-vaccine truckers in Canada -- he gets his news from the right-wing media, so he knows who strokes right-wingers' grievance pleasure centers. (After hours of Fox watching every day, he shares those grievances.)

Walter Shapiro, a mainstream-media graybeard who's written for USA Today, Time, Newsweek, and The Washington Post and is now writing for The New Republic, sees an opportunity for a gotcha:

Ben Jacobs, a much younger journalist with a deeper understanding of the American berserk, knows that, if asked, of course these presidential aspirants will back the insurrectionists, because they'll have to if they want votes from the angry base:

Yes, Ted Cruz is now all in on the debunked theory that Epps, a former Oath Keeper, was an FBI operative planted in the crowd on January 6 so he could goad the participants into becoming a violent mob (apparently the crowd didn't have free will).

Maybe Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, and other Republican presidential wannabes who have old-fashioned notions of mainstream credibility will refrain from backing the rioters, but Cruz and DeSantis will certainly portray them as pitiable freedom fighters locked in an American gulag. And there'll be no downside for them. There's no evidence in America of a bloc of voters who are Republican-curious for 2024 but who regard support for the January 6 crowd as a dealbreaker. There are left-leaning voters who find the insurrectionists appalling and Republicans who regard them as heroes, but much of America seems unable to be roused to outrage about January 6 now that it's over and the transfer of power to Joe Biden happened. It's one more issue that Republican extremists can milk for maximum base motivation because swing voters can't be bothered to focus on it.

Saturday, January 29, 2022


In a post earlier this week, I talked about Ketanji Brown Jackson, who seems to be at or near the top of President Biden's Supreme Court short list. Last night The Washington Post hinted that another candidate might be more likely:
The White House on Friday confirmed that President Biden is considering a South Carolina federal judge and favorite of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) as a potential candidate for the Supreme Court.

The statement is the first time the White House has publicly confirmed a name under consideration to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer....

Childs is a South Carolina judge who in December was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit....

But her confirmation hearing for the D.C. Circuit, scheduled in the Senate Judiciary Committee for Tuesday, was quietly postponed....

In response to inquiries from The Washington Post about the postponement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said that Childs is “among multiple individuals under consideration for the Supreme Court.”

“And we are not going to move her nomination on the Court of Appeals while the President is considering her for this vacancy,” Bates said.
Biden greatly respects Clyburn, of course, and Clyburn might be in the process of persuading Biden that what he said on television a few days ago is true:
Clyburn told CNN on Wednesday that “several Republicans” would support Childs if she gets the nod from Biden, specifically naming South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.

“I want us to make sure that it is a Black woman, I want to make sure that it's a woman that will get universal support. When I say universal I mean bipartisan support,” Clyburn said.

“And I know that Michelle Childs will have support of several Republicans, including the two Republican senators from South Carolina,” he added.

The majority whip sounded a similar note during an interview with ABC News Wednesday night when asked how concerned he is by the possibility of Vice President Harris having to break a tie for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee....

“I don’t think that will happen,” Clyburn said, pointing to GOP support for Childs.
Clyburn may believe that he'll get those Republican votes if Biden nominates Childs. I don't. Yes, it's true that when Childs was appointed to be a U.S. district judge she was confirmed on a voice vote -- but that was in 2010, when Republicans were somewhat less of a scorched-earth party than they are now.

Tim Scott might vote for a fellow South Carolinian, but please note that he's voted to confirm only 3 of the 42 district court and appeals court judges President Biden has seated, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Lindsey Graham has been more old-fashioned -- he's voted yes on 26 of the 42. But I bet he still thinks he owes Democrats payback for what he histrionically called the "unethical sham" of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

I don't believe this nominee, whoever it is, will get a single Republican vote. Republicans are playing the race card now -- there's Senator Roger Wicker saying that a Black female appointee will be an affirmative action beneficiary -- but it's also important to note that they think they have Biden on the ropes, and giving his pick even a single vote would be a sign of weakness going into the midterms. I'm sure they believe a solid wall of resistance will drive Republican turnout. I think they're right. (It would be nice if it also drove Democratic turnout.)

The president has shown signs recently that he knows he'll never get the bipartisan comity he was hoping for when he ran. But Clyburn continues to hope, and he might persuade Biden that hope is reasonable in this situation. If so, I think those hopes will be dashed.

Friday, January 28, 2022


In a Vox interview with Sean Illing, James Carville says that Democrats do political giving all wrong.
Just look at how Democrats organize and spend money. For Christ’s sake, [South Carolina Democrat] Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million only to lose his Senate race to Lindsey Graham by 10 points. Amy McGrath runs for Senate in Kentucky and raises over $90 million only to get crushed by Mitch McConnell.

They were always going to lose those races, but Democrats keep doing this stupid shit. They’re too damn emotional. Democrats obsess over high-profile races they can’t win because that’s where all the attention is. We’re addicted to hopeless causes.

What about the secretary of state in Wisconsin? Or the attorney general race in Michigan? How much money are Democrats and progressives around the country sending to those candidates? I’m telling you, if Democrats are worried about voting rights and election integrity, then these are the sorts of races they should support and volunteer for, because this is where the action is and this is where things will be decided.

You know who is paying attention to these races? The Republican Party. Last I checked, Republicans raised $33 million for secretary of state races around the country. The Democrats had until recently raised $1 million. I think it’s now up to $4 million. That’s the story, right there. That’s the difference, right there.
This suggests that Democratic donors are naive dreamers while Republican donors are ruthless pragmatists. But Republican donors throw away plenty of money on hopeless causes, as FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley noted last year.
... despite never having held elected office or run in a high-profile campaign, six Republican challengers raised at least $2 million in [2020] House races they then lost by anywhere from 20 to 45 points. Raising mostly from individual donors, Republican challenger Lacy Johnson brought in the most, $12.2 million, running against Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. Other Republican challengers raised large sums as well: John Cummings raised $11.2 million against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Joe Collins raised $10.6 million against California Rep. Maxine Waters, Kim Klacik raised $8.3 million against Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Eric Early raised $4.1 million against California Rep. Adam Schiff and Laura Loomer raised $2.3 million against Florida Rep. Lois Frankel.
All of these candidates lost in 20-point to 45-point blowouts -- the outcomes were never in doubt. Yet GOP donors gave them big money, emotionally. And while in retrospect it seems unwise for Democratic donors to have given so much money to Jamie Harrison, remember that he was tied with Lindsey Graham or trailing by 1 point in four consecutive polls released in August and September 2020. Amy McGrath was far more of a long shot, but she got within 5 points of Mitch McConnell in one August poll, and it was widely reported that McConnell was unpopular in his home state -- his job disapproval was 51% in an October 2020 poll, and it had been as high as 74% in a 2017 survey. Also, a "blue wave" was widely predicted for 2020 -- sometimes the word was "tsunami" -- so maybe it was the punditocracy that was to blame, not Democratic donors.

Carville is more or less correct about those donations to party groups backing secretary of state candidates, but he's comparing apples and oranges. Carville says,
Last I checked, Republicans raised $33 million for secretary of state races around the country. The Democrats had until recently raised $1 million. I think it’s now up to $4 million.
But here's the truth about that comparison (with emphasis added):
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which handles secretary of state races among other state-level contents, and its strategic policy partner, the State Government Leadership Foundation, raised a record $14.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing the groups’ annual total to $33.3 million in the off-election year....

On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (DASS) raked in $1 million during the first six months of 2021, a marked improvement from raising $202,000 in the first half of 2019, according to a report released on Wednesday from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.
So the Democratic group that's been outraised is just for secretaries of state, while the Republican group, as SourceWatch notes,
includes the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, the Future Majority Project, the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, the Judicial Fairness Initiative, and the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee.... Its website describes its mission as "electing Republicans to the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state legislator, the judiciary and other down ticket races."
And yes, the Democratic group for secretaries of state raised $4.5 million last year, and expects to have $15 million for this election.
So Democratic donors have gotten the message.
On the subject of that GOP group, SourceWatch writes:
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) is a 527 group which surged onto the political scene in 2010 in an effort to elect right-wing politicians to state offices under the direction of former George W. Bush advisor Ed Gillespie, who is closely tied to Karl Rove. RSLC was a leader in 2010 redistricting efforts favorable to Republicans and received a massive infusion of cash from Rove's American Crossroads group....
It appears that Republicans have been eating our lunch at this level of politics not because individual Democratic donors are silly people ruled by their emotions, but because Republican operatives have understood the importance of politics at this level for more than a decade and Democratic operatives haven't. If this is a Democratic failure, it's a failure by political pros, not individual donors. Republican pros were smart. Democratic pros -- people Carville knows personally -- weren't. Ordinary Democrats didn't mess this up.

Thursday, January 27, 2022


A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll has lots of good news for Republicans:
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen off a cliff in Georgia, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Thursday that showed just one-third of registered voters approve of the Democrat’s job performance.

That’s a sharp decline from the 51% of voters who gave Biden high marks in the AJC’s May poll....

The poll also found Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of Democrat Stacey Abrams in an early test of that potential rematch. In a hypothetical race that pits Abrams against Kemp’s primary rival, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the two finish in a statistical tie.

And it indicated that former football player Herschel Walker, the best-known Republican in the race for the U.S. Senate, is essentially tied in a potential race against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock....
The numbers are here. (Move your cursor over the bar graphs to see them.) The Biden number is truly awful -- 34% approval, 61% disapproval, including 50% strong disapproval. The other numbers aren't as bad, but it looks as if Republicans would win every statewide race if the election were held today -- Abrams trails Kemp 48%-41% and Perdue 47%-43%, while Warnock trails Walker 47%-44%.

Which doesn't mean that the poll respondents support Republican policies. Here's one survey question:
Do you agree or disagree that adults in Georgia should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public without a license?
The response: 28% agree, 70% disagree -- 60% strongly. And yet Brian Kemp has been championing concealed carry, as has Perdue. At a time when Democratic candidates and officeholders are warned never to speak about unpopular liberal or progressive ideas, the two top GOP contenders for the gubernatorial nomination are both proud supporters of this wildly unpopular idea -- and it's apparently costing them nothing at the polls.

Here's another question:
A 2019 Georgia law bans virtually all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. The law is currently blocked from taking effect by a federal court. If the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to impose abortion restrictions, do you support or oppose the Georgia law from going into effect?
Opposition is 54%, including 44% strong opposition. Support is 38%. Kemp is a strong backer of the six-week abortion ban; Perdue declared his support when the law was enacted. Again, supporting a very unpopular is apparently cost-free for them.

Why do only Democrats need to worry about taking unpopular stands? Why can Republican practice "unpopularism" and get away with it? I still don't understand.


When Thurgood Marshall retired, it was no surprise that President George H.W. Bush chose a (right-wing) Black nominee to replace him. But Bush never said he was going to do that. He just did it.

Joe Biden promised on the campaign trail that he'd seat a Black woman on the Supreme Court. It's a good idea, but it's hard to say that he gained many primary votes from making the pledge, and while I expect the confirmation process to be a success, it's already being accompanied by grumbling that his pick will come with an "asterisk" and is an example of "affirmative action." This is racist talk, obviously, but it filters into the discussion. It influences the thinking of middle-of-the-road voters, in a country where many voters aren't solidly in either the racist or anti-racist camp, which we know because many of them voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump.

What if Biden had kept this plan private and simply fulfilled it when the time came? He could have told historians for the record that he had a strong belief that the Court would benefit from the presence of a Black woman. He could have allowed his actions to speak, not his words. Now this is a subtext to the confirmation process. Is that a good thing?

(And yes, I know that Ronald Reagan promised to appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court. But that was playing against type -- I'm a Republican, but I'm not a sexist pig.)

The counterargument is: Biden makes this pledge and fulfills it, then the public is informed that there's a long list of extremely impressive Black women who are highly qualified for the job. America learns something.

But on a related subject: Chuck Schumer is informing the press that Senate Democrats intend to have a rapid confirmation process for Biden's appointee. That makes sense, but why say so? Why let the public know that you want to put this nomination on a glide path, so Mitch McConnell can very publicly score a victory when he throws up roadblocks, even if he can't prevent confirmation?

Why open yourself up to disingenuous nonsense like this?

(And although Joe Manchin and Kysten Sinema have been voting with the party on judges, we can't rule out the possibility that they'll soon start grandstanding like this, too.)

Just say nothing to the press about timing. Say you'll give this serious matter an appropriate degree of deliberation. Line up everyone in your caucus. Then go public with the timetable as late as possible -- unless you really know you've got this and no one can stop you. Mitch McConnell would know when he had a win in hand. Do we have a reason to trust that Chuck Schumer knows this?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022


This happened, and most of America doesn't care:
A Texas felon who allegedly sold a pistol used to take hostages at a synagogue outside Dallas this month has been hit with a federal firearms charge, officials said Wednesday.

According to a criminal complaint, Henry Williams, 32, sold the weapon used in the attack, a Taurus pistol, on Jan. 13 — two days before Malik Faisal Akram used the gun to take four hostages at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Tex., a suburb of Dallas....

The complaint against Williams, filed in federal court in Texas, says it is illegal for him to possess a gun because he has a prior felony conviction for aggravated assault.
I've been hearing a lot about rising crime from right-wingers who think the solution is to get rid of "soft on crime" DAs and unshackle the police. Quite a few Democrats are worried about rising crime, too.

But when a felon who's not allowed to possess a firearm sells one to a terrorist, nobody cares. Nobody demands that we do something about unlawful gun sales to criminals, dammit!

The right won't say that because any solution might subject Republican-voting gun owners to -- gasp! -- inconvenience. The rest of us won't say it because we're so beaten down by the right's absolute veto over gun policy everywhere in America except the bluest of states that we know it's utterly futile to raise the subject.

Undocumented immigrants who commit heinous crimes are notorious on the right. The same for DAs who are regarded as lenient. The right endless complains about "urban thugs." But there won't be hundreds of segments on Fox about Henry Williams. There won't be any outrage at a system that looks the other way while guns are sold to criminals with impunity. Somehow, that kind of crime never seems to bother the people who say they're furious about crime.


Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer has announced will soon announce his retirement, effective at the end of this term. President Biden will have a chance to appoint Breyer's successor while Democrats control the Senate.

High on Biden's list for the Court is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom he appointed to the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals last year; Jackson was confirmed in June on a 53-44 vote, with all the members of the Democratic caucus voting to confirm along with Republican senators Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Lisa Murkowski.

Some observers had predicted a much more difficult confirmation process for Jackson. In April 2021, Bloomberg Law's Madison Alder wrote:
Republicans are expected to make U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson the focus when President Joe Biden’s first five judicial nominees appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday....

“I almost feel bad for her because she’s going to be destroyed,” said Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. She’s well equipped to handle that criticism, he said. “But Republicans are going to try to destroy her, to tarnish her so she won’t get picked for the Supreme Court.”

Conservative activists are pointing to decisions Jackson has made as a federal trial court judge that were reversed on appeal as a potential blemish on her record.

“She’s someone who has a record of being regularly overturned by the D.C. Circuit, including the most liberal judges in that circuit,” Carrie Severino, president of the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network.

Ed Whelan, a senior fellow of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center who writes about judicial nominees, called Jackson’s record of reversals “striking.”
(You may recall Ed Whelan as the guy who developed a convoluted theory that Brett Kavanaugh could not have sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both teenagers, based in part on Zillow floor plans.)
Conservatives are seizing Jackson’s 2019 ruling that provisions in three Trump executive orders conflicted with federal employee rights to collective bargaining. That decision was reversed unanimously by the D.C. Circuit, which held Jackson didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case....

Severino also cited Jackson’s use of “shocking” political language in her 2019 decision regarding the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena request for former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify during its investigation of potential meddling in the 2016 presidential election. In her 120-page decision, Jackson wrote “presidents are not kings.”
(I think the Framers would be rather surprised to learn that "presidents are not kings" is "shocking" political language under the American system.)

Most of this seems of little interest to ordinary Americans, even right-wing Americans. But a 2019 Gateway Pundit post reminds us of one case Jackson heard as a district judge that the GOP could easily use to play to the cheap seats:
Another day, another corrupt activist Obama judge legislating from the bench.

US District Judge for the District of Columbia Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson on Tuesday temporarily blocked the deportation of two migrants who claimed the Trump Administration’s new “lesson plan” for asylum officers makes it harder to prove fear of returning to their home country.

In April the Trump Administration revised training guidelines for asylum officers in an effort to stop the unprecedented surge of migrants seeking asylum....

Now an activist Obama judge is using these new ‘lesson plans’ as a way to block the Trump Admin from getting the border crisis under control....

Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Director Ken Cuccinelli slammed the activist judge....

The phrase "lesson plan" suggests something innocuous -- liberals are so deranged that they're attacking lesson plans! -- but the Trump lesson plans were designed to significantly reduce the number of asylum-seekers who could demonstrate "credible fear." Jackson eventually blocked the use of the lesson plans outright, although it was subsequently reported that they were still in use near the end of Trump's term.

In any event, it's easy to imagine "lesson plan" becoming a dog whistle on the right, a phrase spat out with contempt by Republican senators, and also by Fox commentators (and eventually by your right-wing relatives). Or maybe Republicans will conclude that this is a one-for-one swap of liberals on the Court, and that even Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema haven't been blocking Biden's judicial picks, so there's no point in fighting. But if they do turn this into a brawl, I won't be surprised.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Responding to Marjorie Taylor Greene's endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate race, New York magazine's Ed Kilgore writes:
... it has to be sobering to the more thoughtful Republicans to watch this cartoon character become a national political force. She has now been in Congress just over a year. Her only accomplishments, best I can tell, have been losing her committee assignments thanks to revelations of the hateful and violent things she said on a host of social-media posts in the very recent past and ringing up record fines for defying House rules mandating mask use on the floor (she is, of course, proudly unvaccinated). She appears to spend much of the time she saves by having no real work running around the country with her buddy Matt Gaetz like a sort of evil Johnny Appleseed who starts fires instead of planting trees. Yet she’s raised over $6 million for her reelection campaign in a deep-red district and appears to have struck fear in the heart of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who can’t bring himself to rebuke her seriously.
The word "Yet" at the beginning of that last sentence reflects a profound misunderstanding of the situation: Obviously Greene has raised all this money precisely because she's the most proudly extreme wingnut in the House, despite very stiff competition.

And as for the notion that Greene has "struck fear in the heart of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy," what evidence is there of that? The link goes to a post Kilgore wrote last February, just before Greene was stripped of her committee assignments on a party-line vote. Kilgore wrote then:
For all the talk about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confronting his violence-loving freshman member Marjorie Taylor Greene and giving her a stern talking-to, it’s now obvious that he (and likely a majority of the House GOP Conference) lacks the guts to deal with her decisively. In a Wednesday statement characterized by evasions and whataboutism, McCarthy refused to discipline Greene and will clearly defend her against a Democratic move on Thursday to take away her tentative committee assignments.
At the time, McCarthy wasn't afraid of Greene -- he was afraid of the millions of angry wackaloons all over America who are Republican voters and who consider Greene a hero. Quite a few of those wackaloons are in McCarthy's own caucus. At the time, his job was probably at risk if he threw her under the bus.

But now it's clear that there's nothing for him to fear. Democrats could tarnish the Republican Party by portraying her as the face of the GOP, but they're unwilling to do that, or incapable, and McCarthy knows that. So she's not any kind of liability for him. If Republicans take the House back in the midterms, he'll probably announce the restoration of her committee assignments on Election Night, or maybe he'll announce that she's getting her dream assignments, whatever they are. Far from being afraid of her, he'll probably use his support for her as a shield to protect himself from a challenge to his speakership from the very far right. Oh, and his already announced plan to strip several Democrats of their committee assignments is a sign that he wants to be identified as the person who got vengeance for the punishment of Greene.

For McCarthy, Greene isn't a concern -- she's an asset. He doesn't fear her at all.


In case you weren't sure, here are a couple of reminders that they hate us.

Who are "the scumbags"? Who are the "psychopaths"? In the Blake Masters ad, which you can watch below, a few "psychopaths" are named: Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and the man Masters wants to beat in the Arizona Senate race, Mark Kelly. (Mark Kelly? Really?)

But presumably you're also a "psychopath" if you're a voter and you support, say, vaccine mandates, or compassion toward immigrants. Vance doesn't even try to be specific. The majority of voters chose Democrats for the presidency, House, and Senate in 2020, so presumably we're all scumbags too, along with the candidates we chose.

This isn't Biden calling a correspondent for a right-wing propaganda channel a "stupid son of a bitch." That's a vulgar insult, but it's mild. Vance and Masters are calling us reprehensible and dangerously mentally unstable.

And it's highly unlikely that any Democratic politician will push back.

Josh Marshall (understandably) no longer likes the name he used for this brand of politics back in 2004, but the analysis is still as solid as it was when Marshall applied it to GOP attacks on John Kerry's military career:
Let’s call it the Republicans’ Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics....

On one level, of course, the aim behind these attacks is to cast suspicion upon Kerry’s military service record and label him a liar. But that’s only part of what’s going on.

... both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they’re tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job.

... One way — perhaps the best way — to demonstrate someone’s lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves — thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can’t or won’t defend themselves certainly isn’t someone you can depend upon to defend you.
And now "you" -- we -- are among the people being slapped. We're the scumbags, too. Our ideas make us psychopaths.

Maybe Democratic voters will embrace these labels the way Trump voters have embraced the term "deplorables." Maybe supporters of Tim Ryan, the likely Democratic candidate for the Ohio Senate seat Vance is pursuing, will begin wearing shirts saying "Proud Scumbag for Ryan." (If this happens, I hope some harmless-looking grandmothers start the trend.) Maybe Arizona Democrats will begin wearing shirts that say "I'm a Psychopath for Kelly." Or maybe we should all embrace and own these insults, all over the country.

I assume we'll have to do this ourselves. Democratic politicians won't.

Monday, January 24, 2022


At The New Republic, Michael Tomasky argues for impeaching Clarence Thomas.
In a sane world, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Ginni Thomas in The New Yorker would set off a series of events that would lead to her husband Clarence Thomas’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court. Ginni is involved with numerous far-right organizations and schemes that take very public positions on court decisions across a range of social and political issues, such as last week’s 8–1 holding that Donald Trump could not block the release of documents related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in that case. His wife sat on the advisory board of a group that sent busloads of insurrectionists to Washington on January 6. In addition, she cheered the insurrection on Facebook. It’s just the most recent example where she has been involved in activities that directly or indirectly place her activism before the court, and her husband does not care how corrupt it looks.

They’ve been doing this for years. This first occasion was back in 2000, in a case Mayer doesn’t even go into, when it was revealed after that election that as a Heritage Foundation staffer, Ginni was screening résumés for the incoming Bush administration while the nation awaited a ruling from the court on the Florida recount. There was pressure then on Thomas to recuse himself.

A decade later, when the first major Obamacare case came before the court, it was widely noted that Ginni’s group, Liberty Central, called the law a “disaster” and urged repeal. Again, there were calls for Thomas to recuse.

He didn’t do so in either case. And in the first one, he was part of the 5–4 majority in Bush v. Gore, one of the most self-discrediting decisions in the court’s history.
Tomasky has more. He makes an excellent case for an intense focus on the Thomases, in Congress and in Democrats' day-to-day public statements. Democrats should always highlight Republican extremism. They should work hard to turn GOP extremists into suspicious characters.

But Tomasky loses me when he says Thomas should be impeached. He's certain Republicans would do it in a hypothetical situation in which the parties were reversed and a liberal justice were.
If there were a liberal justice on the court with a spouse who was involved in every major ideological battle of our time ... [t]hey probably would have impeached the justice, knowing that it would fail in the Senate but would tarnish said justice and any precedent of which he or she was a part.
But impeachment doesn't inevitably tarnish its target. Bill Clinton's poll numbers went up as a result of impeachment, and he left office a widely admired president. Surviving his first impeachment made Donald Trump seem like a conquering hero to Republican voters, and after his second impeachment he's the odds-on favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 (and he appears to be the favorite to win the general election).

Tomasky writes:
If the Republicans retake the House this November, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is going to be Jim Jordan. He’s probably going to lead an impeachment of Joe Biden. Think he’ll be cowed because it’s hugely controversial?
He won't be cowed because it's controversial, but I think he'll be dissuaded because (a) impeachment will inspire Democrats to rally around Biden and (b) the inevitable Senate acquittal -- there's no way Republicans will get 67 votes in the Senate -- would make Republicans look like losers.

This doesn't mean that Republicans won't investigate the bejeezus out of Biden. They will. That's what worked for them in the run-up to 2016. Notice that they didn't impeach Barack Obama, even though their voter base would have been over the moon if they'd done it. Instead, they had hearing after hearing on Benghazi and other issues, and did everything they could to tarnish both Obama and likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (whom they couldn't impeach). It was a successful strategy. Impeaching Obama would have been a failure.

An impeachment of Clarence Thomas will make Democrats look like failures. If they succeed in the House, they won't get more than 50 votes in the Senate. (The upper limit is probably 48, for reasons that should be obvious.) But drawing the public's attention to the Thomases' radicalism is a worthy endeavor. It should have been done years ago, or at least as soon as this Congress was sworn in.


A sign of what's to come in Wyoming:
The candidate endorsed by former President Trump in the Republican primary against Rep. Liz Cheney won a straw poll conducted by GOP activists in Wyoming on Saturday.

Harriet Hageman won 59 votes in the straw poll conducted by the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. Cheney won six votes, while state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R) won two and Denton Knapp won one.
I get that this is a tiny sample of the voting population. But if party activists can't bring themselves to vote for the person seen as the Establishment candidate, then it's hard to imagine who will, in a primary electorate that's radicalized every day by Fox News.

The Republican primary is a long way away -- it'll take place on August 16 -- but we're a year away from the Capitol riot and the big break with Donald Trump, which smart people keep telling us will come any minute now, still isn't here. And even if there is a big break with Trump, it will be in favor of someone like Ron DeSantis or Glenn Youngkin who's seen as a successor to Trump and as a more effective owner of the libs. It's not going to be in favor of Republicans who broke with Trump and consort with the enemy.

At some point, Cheney will admit to herself that not only will she lose if she's on the ballot in August, she'll lose by 40 points or more to Trump's candidate. I think that's more humiliation than she'll be willing to endure. It also won't look good for the movement to hold Trump accountable -- I'm not a fan of Cheney overall, but I think she's sincere about trying to do that. I also believe that it doesn't matter what investigators discover about Trump's plot to overturn the election -- voters' opinions are unchangeable and have been for a while. No one's going to come around and say, "I had a Trump flag on my house, but now I see he was a monster. Good for you, Liz."

It's over for her. She'll drop out of the race sometime in the next few months.

Sunday, January 23, 2022


Here are a couple of clips from today. First, Newt Gingrich on Fox News:

And at today's D.C. anti-vaxx rally, here's Del Bigtree, a vaccine denialist of such long standing that he was wearing a yellow Star of David to protest vaccine mandates even before there was COVID.

In both cases it's just bluster, I suppose -- but unlike the pursuers of criminal charges against Donald Trump and the January 6 rioters, who base what they're doing on actually existing laws, these people are saying that congressional investigations and pro-vaccine journalism should potentially expose you to prison without any reference to any law on the books.

Oh, look -- here's more:

When does it stop being bluster? When will the first journalist be killed execution-style? Who'll be the first elected Democrat to be brought up on sedition charges by a Republican government that has concluded that investigating an attempted seizure of the government is the real sedition?


Here's the latest hotness: Everyone is over the pandemic except for scaredy-cat liberals who have a totalitarian desire to impose their fears on everyone else.

NBC's write-up of that poll is here; the numbers are here. Here's the question (the numbers are actually slightly more one-sided-- 65% to 30%):

(Click to enlarge.)

But maybe this is unsurprising. Nobody wants kids to fall behind in school. And it's likely that much of America now believes that there's simply no way to prevent the spread of the virus.

This comes at a time when professional demagogue Bari Weiss is being applauded on the right for telling Bill Maher that, as far as she's concerned, COVID is over.
Speaking on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, the Substack journalist declared that she is 'done with covid!'

'We were told you get the vaccine, you get the vaccine and you get back to normal. And we haven't gotten back to normal. And it's ridiculous at this point,' Weiss began on the HBO show.

'I know that so many of my liberal and progressive friends are with me on this and they do not want to say it out loud because they are scared to be called anti-vaxxed or to be called science deniers or to be smeared as a Trumper,' Weiss explained.

'I'm sorry, but if you believe the science, you will look at the data that we did not have two years ago and you will find out that cloth masks do not do anything. You will realize that you can show your vaccine passport at a restaurant and still be asymptomatic in carrying Omicron. And you realize, most importantly, that this will be remembered by the younger generation as a catastrophic moral crime.'

That NBC poll suggests that Real Americans are on Weiss's side, right? No, not really. The percentage of Americans who believe that COVID isn't a major problem has barely budged in recent months -- or, actually, since 2020. And the percentage who believe that "the worst is yet to come" has increased significantly since October -- as you'd expect, given the emergence of Omicron.

And the fact that 44% of respondents believe the worst is over doesn't mean that the majority are acting as if there's nothing to worry about anymore. Consider this:

On a 0-to-10 scale, when asked to describe how focused on COVID they are when making day-to-day decisions, 55% rank their pandemic focus as 6 to 10, and only 33% rank it as 0-4 (and 13% are right in the middle). Most of these people know they can't simply declare themselves "done with COVID."

Alex Pareene lives in Brooklyn, works from home, has a wife who also works from home, and sends a child to a school with -- surprise, Fox viewers! -- in-person learning. In a post on his Substack, he notes that most everything in his world is open for business, as is most everything in America. People in his world are taking precautions, but they're getting on with their lives, though that's not the case for everyone in America.
“Normal” is still an impossible state of affairs for an untold number of people with immunodeficiency or hospital jobs or dead parents or lost homes. Our schools here are open (except when classes go remote, as they regularly do, because, again, so many people are catching Covid-19), but parents everywhere are understandably at the ends of their ropes in the current surge. We’re deeply relieved our kid just became vaccine-eligible; others might still wait a year or more.

But, with a couple exceptions, those sorts of people, with legitimate complaints about what the unchecked spread of the virus has done to their lives, aren’t really the ones you actually see complaining so goddamn much, because most of those sorts of people don’t have the sorts of platforms that would lead me to come across their complaints. It is very much mainly people in households very much like mine (or ones that have it even easier!) that are the primary sources of the most well-publicized opining on how This Has Gone On Long Enough and It’s Time For the Democrats to Say Enough Is Enough and Make It Stop.

... The people in the press and on social media complaining the loudest about Covid-19 restrictions are, at this point, people for whom Covid-19 is just a thing they are sick of hearing and thinking about.
We're generally told to disdain the opinions of upmarket urban elitists. They shop at Whole Foods! They drive Priuses! What do they know about the concerns of salt-of-the-earth American heartlanders sitting in rural diners with dirt under their fingernails? But now we're told that upmarket elitists who are trying to wish away the pandemic have a monopoly on truth and an acute sense of what salt-of-the-earth Americans really believe. I guess anyone who bashes liberals is an honorary Real American, and the rest of us, in all social classes, should just keep our mouths shut.

Saturday, January 22, 2022


On Thursday, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait published a post tilted "The Filibuster Is Living on Borrowed Time." A couple of hours ago, at The Atlantic, David Litt posted "The Filibuster Is Still Doomed." Chait and Litt both acknowledge that Democrats are likely to lose their Senate majority in the midterms, and might not regain it for quite a while, but they both believe a return to a Democratic Senate will come sooner or later, and now that 48 out of 50 Democrats have expressed a willingness to take on the filibuster, surely it's on its last legs.

I want to believe that Democrats will eventually regain the Senate if they lose control this year. Then I remember this:
Buried at the bottom of a ... column, the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib relayed a nugget of data he’d picked up.

“David Birdsell, dean of the school of public and international affairs at Baruch College, notes that by 2040, about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states,” Seib wrote. “They will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them.”
And one of those big states will be Texas, where Republicans have been extremely successful in maintaining one-party rule. Another will be Florida, which has a hapless Democratic Party and equally aggressive Republicans. We think American politics is "thermostatic," therefore party control of Congress changes frequently, but that hasn't always been true. Democrats controlled the House for all but four years between 1933 and 1995, and the Senate for all but four years between 1933 and 1981. Republicans might control the Senate for decades after this year's midterms.

Yes, but they might want to eliminate the filibuster themselves, right? And surely they won't be timid about getting rid of it.

Litt believes Republicans might eliminate the filibuster if they control the Senate and Donald Trump regains the White House in 2024.
The last time the GOP held the House, White House, and Senate, in 2017, Republicans ignored President Donald Trump’s repeated calls to end the legislative filibuster. But if they regain control of Washington in 2024, the situation will be very different. Any newly elected Republican senators will belong to a party in which fealty to Trump—a filibuster opponent—is the most important plank.
But they might fear that Democrats could regain the Senate, despite the demographic roadblocks, and despite the roadblocks their party has built in the states. That seems to be Mitch McConnell's perspective on the filibuster. He wants to keep it, while carving out exceptions that help Republicans. Chait writes:
The rules McConnell helped design are very much to his liking. The measures he wants to pass can pass with 50 votes: tax cuts, spending cuts, and confirming judges. Measures he generally opposes, like creating new laws and regulations, need 60 votes.... As it stands, Democrats needed 60 votes to pass Obamacare, while Republicans needed only 50 to destroy it. (They came up one vote short.) Conservatives could hardly design a more favorable arrangement.
Besides tax and spending cuts and seating Federalist Society judges, what else do Republicans want to do with their power? Not much. Maybe they want to restrict abortion and loosen gun laws -- but the Supreme Court might do all of that for them this year.

I can imagine Republicans eliminating the filibuster for their own election laws, which would nationalize what they're already doing in the states. But that might be the only legislation they'll care much about. Those new laws will make it even more difficult for Democrats to regain Senate control in the future. Eventually Republicans might have 60 senators and the question will be moot, or they'll just kick back and let the Supreme Court do their legislating for them fom the bench. And maybe we'll forget we ever talked about filibuster reform.

Friday, January 21, 2022


The Washington Post reports from the anti-abortion March for Life in D.C.:
Police formed a barrier around about 40 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front as they first marched along with the crowd at the start of the walk. Group leader Thomas Ryan Rousseau led chants of “Reclaim America.”

The group had joined a March for Life event in Chicago earlier this month.

Several protesters there in support of abortion rights on Constitution Avenue berated them.

“Go home, Nazis!” one said. “Patriot Front go home!” Police surrounded the group as it peeled away from the crowd.
Let's see: There were forty of these folks, at a march with an estimated crowd size of at least 10,000. But Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft says they took over the march, and were able to do that because they're government provocateurs.
Feds on Parade... Mysterious Khaki-Clad Patriot Front Group Hijacks March for Life Today in Washington DC

The Khaki-clad Federal Patriot Front group was out protesting again today — This time at the March for Life in Washington DC.

Two weeks ago this mysterious khaki-clad group showed up at the Chicago March for Life for some reason.

They were feds.

Today the group hijacked the 49th Annual March for Life.

Is anyone buying this?
A January 9 post by Hoft's brother Joe was equally paranoid:
There is evidence of ‘tradecraft’ in yesterday’s ‘rally’ in Chicago by the Patriot Front in Chicago.

The khaki-clad Patriot Front marchers attended the Chicago Right to Life rally and then marched off by themselves towards the Field Museum for some reason.

The mysterious khaki-clad marchers then jumped into cars with covered license plates and sped away from downtown Chicago.
And before that, in December, Jim Hoft wrote:
FEDS ON PARADE: Dozens of Uhaul Trucks Picked Up Mysterious Patriot Protesters after Creepy March in DC — Another Democrat Stunt?

... On Saturday, a group of masked men, who no one has ever heard of, headed to Washington DC. They marched to the Lincoln Memorial and then almost as quickly as they came, they marched back to the UHaul trucks that brought them to the event.

The Left immediately made up stories about the group and their ties to “right-wing” extremists and “white supremacy.”

The only problem one on the right has ever heard of these guys. Conservatives, however, seem to think they have a pretty good idea about where this new group came from....

AZ Senator Wendy Rogers tweeted:

I don't assume that every violent or off-putting knucklehead associated with the left is a right-wing plant, but apparently the right believes it's categorically impossible for anyone on the conservative side to be anything other than virtuous. Also, right-wingers love to feel put upon. So of course they think everyone who embarrasses them is an agent of the government -- which is left-wing, of course.


Yesterday the Daily Beast published a story linking Dick Uihlein, who've made a fortune from shipping and office supplies, to Donald Trump's efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election.
... between January and May 2020, Uihlein contributed $1.25 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) where Trump campaign attorney Cleta Mitchell was serving as senior legal fellow.

Mitchell ... drew national attention in early January 2021 after she featured heavily in a taped phone call between then-President Donald Trump, his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Georgia’s top election officials. Trump pressured the election officials in that now infamous call to “find” enough votes for him to win Georgia. (Meadows joined Mitchell at CPI after he left the White House in January.) ...

He also pushed $50,000 to the Texas Public Policy Forum, which in October 2020 collaborated with radical conservative think-tank the Claremont Institute on research into the constitutional viability of an election challenge road map that ran all the way through Inauguration Day.
The Beast noted that Uihlein and his wife, Liz, give to The Federalist, The American Conservative, and other right-wing media outlets, as well as to such groups as Judicial Watch and Frank Gaffney's Islamophobic organization the Center for Security Policy.

On Twitter, I pointed out that the Uihleins funded early efforts to block anti-COVID public health measures. The Guardian reported on this in April 2020:
Liz Uihlein, the billionaire behind Wisconsin’s Uline shipping and packaging company – who with her husband, Richard, has been dubbed the most “powerful conservative couple you’ve never heard of” – is using her clout to try to force Wisconsin’s Democratic governor to relax stay-at-home rules, claiming that the crisis has been “overhyped” by the media.

Her actions – from lobbying Republican legislators in the state to circulating a petition to employees to have the governor, Tony Evers, removed from office – come as two protests have been organized against the Democratic governor on Friday.

While organizers of both protests have claimed they are part of a “grassroots” movement, another prominent Trump supporter and friend of the Uihleins, Stephen Moore, ... has said a “large Wisconsin donor” was supporting the protests.

Asked by the Guardian whether the Uihleins were supporting the effort, Moore said he had not disclosed the donor and hung up.
The story that called the Uihleins "the most powerful conservative couple you’ve never heard of" ran in The New York Times in 2018, yet more than three years later they still seem to be unknown. People who've bought Uline products don't seem to know who they are or what they do -- they know about the Koch brothers, and maybe about Robert and Rebekah Mercer or the late Sheldon Adelson, but the Uihleins aren't on their radar.

I don't think it's generally acknowledged on our side that billionaires have driven the right-wing response to the pandemic, out of the same contempt for worker and customer safety that we see elsewhere in corporate America. They want their money and they don't care if we get sick or die as long as it costs them little or nothing, so of course they wanted to challenge public health initiatives. We blame Trump, and these days we also blame Fox News, for America's struggles with the virus, but politicized billionaires drove the right's messaging (including Trump's) and funded the Astroturf organizations that helped make America one of the worst COVID countries in the developed world.

The Uihleins are bad people. Don't buy Uline products and toss the company's catalogs if you receive them. And tell your friends who they are and what they do.

Thursday, January 20, 2022


The New York Times has just published the transcript of another focus group, this one consisting of fourteen independent voters who say they voted for Barack Obama in at least one election, then subsequently voted for Donald Trump. There's a lot that's disheartening about this group (six of the fourteen would vote for Joe Manchin as president!), but what I find most dispiriting is the fact that Democrats' take on the GOP barely penetrates these voters' consciousness, while the GOP/Fox News take on Democrats has clearly colonized their minds.

Case in point: Here's the one participant who describes a crisis of democracy in America. Guess which party is responsible, in his opinion.
Mark: Democracy is more concerning. You see how the Democrats in power, they seem to be wanting — changing the rules, you know. Voting rights, we can’t win free and fair elections, so let’s change some rules there.
Democrats, of course, haven't "changed the rules," though they're trying, for legitimate reasons. No one chimes in to say that Republicans actually are changing the rules, in state after state. It's as if they have no idea that voting laws are being changed in Republican-run states.

Then we come to the one-word characterizations of the parties:
Frank Luntz: We’re going to do a word and phrase for the Democrats and word or phrase for the Republicans. Scott, give me a word or phrase to describe the Democrats.

Scott: Cohesiveness. The anti-hate. Calmness, I would think.

Don: Revolution. Revolutionary.

Dickie: Fair.

Jim: Sometimes too liberal, but together.

Alice: They’re more, like, people-oriented.

Travis: Sneaky.

Janet: He stole mine.

Tenae: Crazy.

Azariah: Sweet talkers.

Kristine: Chaotic.

Mark: Radical.

Julia: Going toward socialism.

Nick: Smooth talkers.

Jules: Currently intolerant.
There are a couple of positive words, and "Chaotic" at least seems like an accurate negative assessment. But then there's the GOP/Fox narrative: "Revolutionary," "Radical," "Going toward socialism," "Currently intolerant." Also: "Sneaky"? "Sweet talkers"? "Smooth talkers"? I find this as baffling as I found "Slick Willie" during the Clinton years. People who are slick and smooth get away with things and dodge accountability for their deeds. Democrats today, like the Democratic president a quarter century ago, are forever being accused. They're the opposite of slick and smooth.

Quite a few of the characterizations of Republicans are negative, but no one seems to think they're radical.
Frank Luntz: OK, now give me a word or phrase to describe the Republicans.

Jules: Very loud.

Nick: They don’t represent everybody.

Julia: Have to regroup.

Kristine: Wrong direction. I can’t think of one word.

Mark: Weak.

Azariah: Ruthless.

Tenae: Inconsistent.

Janet: Uncivil.

Jim: Dishonest and cowardly.

Alice: More business-oriented.

Travis: Arrogant.

Dickie: Capitalistic.

Don: Unnecessarily divisive.

Scott: Chaotic.
Yes, the characterizations include "Weak" and "Inconsistent." That's a right-wing message, too. (If you pay attention to right-wing media, you'll see that one reaction to the defeat of the Democrats' voting rights legislation was that Republicans fought back -- for once.)

I'm glad some of these people see Republicans as "Ruthless," "Uncivil," "Arrogant," and "Unnecessarily divisive," but no one sees Republicans as ideologically extreme. Only dyed-in-the-wool liberals and progressives see that. That's a messaging failure.


So what's Kyrsten Sinema's plan? She's up for reelection in 2024, but there's already talk of a primary challenge, and it seems unlikely that Democratic voters in Arizona will forgive her for what she's done in the past year, especially after last night. A couple of months ago I speculated that Sinema might run for reelection as an independent, and that Republicans might take a dive and let her win, the way they did in 2006 when Joe Lieberman ran as an independent. But that seems unlikely -- Republicans know they can win in Arizona much more easily than they could in Connecticut in 2006. This morning I've checked Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Free Republic, National Review, Gettr -- Sinema and Joe Manchin aren't really being hailed as heroes for joining with Republicans to block voting rights legislation. Breitbart, for instance, wants to make it clear that Republicans killed the legislation.

Sinema and Manchin aren't getting star treatment on the right the way Lieberman did in the Bush years, and they aren't being hailed as heroes anywhere else, which suggests that if there's any truth in a Twitter thread that appeared last week, then Sinema is even more delusional than we thought.

Sinema's most likely career move after 2024 would seem to be lobbying, although some are skeptical:

I think we got our answer last night:

Why are Sinema and Manchin blocking Build Back Better? Because their corporate donors don't want an expansion of domestic spending programs paid for by taxes on wealthy people and corporations. Why are they blocking the voting bills? Because Republican election laws ensure that the pro-plutocrat GOP wins more elections. For the GOP, blocking election reform isn't primarily about racism -- it's about money, specifically rich people's money. Republican House and Senate members know what they want, which is whatever their donors want. They see Sinema as a partner in this. And if Joe Biden goes down to defeat in 2024, they'll see her as one of the main instruments of his defeat.

The senators who eagerly shook her hand know what she's doing, and for whom. They'll be delighted to take her calls when she's a lobbyist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022


Telling Democrats that their ideas are crap seems more popular than Wordle these days among liberals with major media platforms. Today we have Matt Yglesias, in a post for Grid, telling liberals that nobody really likes what they advocate and that they're too stupid to realize this because they're doing polling all wrong.
In recent years, progressives have invested heavily in crafting a narrative which holds that all or almost all of their main policy ideas are overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Planned Parenthood routinely claims that “79% of Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said that “paid leave is overwhelmingly popular — even with Republicans.” And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said “the American people want action, not never-ending ‘negotiations’ and obstructionism.” This is naturally an enticing line of thought for progressives — all their ideas are popular, and they are held back in life only by the timidity of the Democratic Party’s elected leaders.

But is it really true? After all, if Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of liberal policies, how are Republicans winning elections roughly half the time?

... it’s not that hard to generate favorable issue polls. In general, studies show that respondents have a bias toward answering yes to pretty much anything you ask them — a phenomenon known as acquiescence bias. Combine that with a favorable description of the proposal you have in mind, and it’s easy to create a poll showing your idea is popular.
Really? Any idea? Defunding the police? Reducing Social Security benefits?
... Americans don’t go into a voting booth and vote for or against issues. They vote for candidates. This makes a less-common approach to issue polling enlightening — rather than asking whether people favor this or that idea, pollsters sometimes ask respondents which party they prefer on a given issue. The results are more telling than a preference poll alone.

Grid ... asked several detailed issue questions. Then we asked about party preferences.... Some progressive ideas really do poll well. But so do some conservative ideas. And even in a polarized world, the public does have some clear preferences about which party they’d like to see put in charge of which issues — with both parties having clear areas of strength and weakness.
I don't know anyone who pays attention to polls who claims that all polls strictly on issues overwhelmingly favor Democrats, or that polls of party preference on issues do.

As it turns out, most of Grid's pure issue polls do favor Democratic positions, some by fairly big margins.

A few go the right's way:

Yglesias also adds that while support for legal abortion in the first trimester is strong, it drops dramatically when poll respondents are asked about the second and third trimesters. (He fails to note that, with a handful of exceptions, every national Republican supports a ban on abortion in all three trimesters.)

Yglesias's point appears to be that when you ask voters about party preferences on issues, the Democratic advantage essentially vanishes. Is that right? Let's take a look at the numbers:

Republicans aren't at 40% favorable on any issue; Democrats are above 40% on three of eight issues. The only issue on which Republicans have an advantage outside the +/-4% margin of error is government spending. Democrats have an advantage outside the margin of error on guns, abortion, climate change, and -- I hope you're sitting down for this one -- education. Yes, after every left-centrist pundit has spent the last three months telling us that America hates Democrats for (as the pundits see it) compulsively closing schools at the slightest sign of COVID and defending critical race theory to the death, it turns out the Dems have a ten-point advantage on the issue of education.

So the question remains: Why are our elections 50-50? The Democratic advantage on issues may not be massive, but it's clear, and it's clear whichever way you measure it. I'd argue that the explanation is that Republicans are much better at thumping their own chests and telling voters that they're the best (and Democrats are abhorrent); they're also much better at mobilizing their voters on issues even when those voters are in the minority (as they clearly are, for instance, on gun background checks). A Democratic president presided over a huge wave of job creation in 2021, but Democrats never seem to talk about that; Republicans saw potential Democratic weakness on education issues in 2021, and they talked about little else. Democrats may not have a massive issue advantage, but Republicans have a massive messaging advantage.