Thursday, June 30, 2022


I understood why Joe Biden talked this way before the 2020 election, but now? Really?
At fundraisers and on the sidelines of events in recent weeks, Joe Biden has been selling Democrats — on Joe Biden for 2024.

It’s an unusual sales pitch reflecting an unusual political moment: the nation’s oldest sitting president, with a weakened political standing, grappling with questions in his own party about whether he will, or even should, run for another term, shaped by the prospect of a rematch against Donald Trump.

People who have spoken with the president described to NBC News what’s become a familiar exercise. Biden will argue he’s the only one who can beat Trump, sometimes ticking through the names of potential Democratic candidates if he stepped aside — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, even Vice President Kamala Harris. Then rhetorically asks: Can any of them beat his 2020 rival?
In the 2020 race, Biden probably was the most acceptable consensus candidate: a long-time moderate who'd embraced an economically progressive agenda, an old white guy with strong support among Black voters, a soft-spoken would-be healer running against a bomb-throwing blowhard. But now Biden has a record. We know he struggles to find the right deeds and words in response to crises, whether high gas prices or the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He doesn't seem like a doer and he's not a reassuring speaker. We know that Republicans attack him daily and he choose to be conciliatory rather than pushing back, which comes off as implicit agreement with their criticisms. Democrats don't have a deep bench of broadly popular figures who could run in Biden's place, but that's partly because the party doesn't try very hard to make stars of successful leaders.

How bad is it for Biden? A lot worse than it is for the rest of the party. In the FiveThirtyEight polling average right now, Biden's job rating is 39% approval, 56.1% disapproval -- more than a 17-point gap. On the generic-ballot question for the congressional midterms, the Republican lead over Democrats is only 2.1 points.

Or consider the Quinnipiac poll of Georgia that was released yesterday. Senator Raphael Warnock, running for reelection, is leading his GOP challenger, Herschel Walker, by 10 points, 54% to 44%. In the governor's race, Stacey Abrams is tied with Brian Kemp, 48%-48%. Joe Biden? He has a 33% approval rating and a 60% disapproval rating -- in a state he won in 2020.

What other Democrat could win in 2024? A new YouGov poll for Yahoo News showed that Biden beats Trump by 2 and beats Ron DeSantis by 4 -- but Gavin Newsom beats DeSantis by 3 and Trump by 1, and Harris beats DeSantis by 4 and ties Trump. None of the polled Democrats are winning decisively, but Biden doesn't have a unique advantage. It's also significant 60% of poll respondents don't think Biden should run in 2024 and only 22% think he should. The yes-no numbers among Democrats are 38%-38%.

You're going to tell me that the war in Ukraine will end and gas prices will go down and infrastructure will start getting built and Biden will start looking better. But he'll still be an old, frail-looking, inarticulate man who believes it's fine to let every crisis sit and simmer, an approach that couldn't possibly be more out of touch with the pace of the world in the 2020s. He shouldn't act hastily, but he should seem prepared for critical moments. He had weeks of warning that Roe would be overturned and still he had nothing ready for the moment -- no deeds and no words.

Even if Biden is the candidate in 2024, it's not good for him to have a Trump-like arrogance about his appeal. Thinking he's clearly the best seems to have led Biden to the conclusion that he doesn't have to try to do his job better than he's doing it. I don't think he understands that he's struggling right now, which seems very Trump-like -- except that Biden doesn't have an army of superfans who agree with his self-assessment and will vote accordingly.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022


For the 6,987th time since 2015* (*a rough estimate), we've reached the moment when Donald Trump is really in trouble now, certain to be brought to justice/abandoned by his followers/both.

I don't know about justice -- the conventional wisdom about Cassidy Hutchinson's congressional testimony yesterday is that it laid out a nearly ideal road map for criminal charges against Trump, though I'll believe that when I see it. But abandonment? Bret Stephens thinks it might happen now, if only gradually:
Maybe this is where the cult of Trump will begin to crack.

Margaret Singer, a clinical psychologist who studied cults, noted that among the ways cults succeeded was by creating “a closed system of logic” and belief.

... But after Tuesday, the threat of a legal indictment has become very real. The president may indeed be liable for seditious conspiracy....

To Trump’s supporters, his name was all but synonymous with their sense of America. They saw in him a proudly raised middle finger to progressives who found more to fault than praise with the country. Now it doesn’t entirely compute.

I doubt there will be any sort of moment when the Sean Hannitys and Laura Ingrahams of the world will tell the faithful: We were wrong; we made an idol of the wrong man. But there may be a quiet drifting away. In a moment like this, that might be just enough.
But Trump is still "a proudly raised middle finger" to his base. Trumpism isn't a cult as much as it is a fandom, with Trump as the central figure in a pop-culture franchise. And one thing Hutchinson said yesterday unfortunately fits quite well into the mythology of this franchise:
An angry Donald Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the Secret Service limousine when the then-president was told he would not be joining supporters moving on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a former aide testified on Tuesday....

"I'm the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now," Hutchinson quoted Trump as saying to Secret Service agents.

When he got into the limo ... he was told they would not be going to the Capitol.

A Secret Service agent had to physically restrain Trump who, sitting in the back seat, used his free hand to lunge toward the neck of Secret Service agent Robert Engel, Hutchinson testified.
Trump and his followers are angrily insisting that this is a lie. But they're also enjoying this supposed lie quite a bit. They're making it into memes that star Trump as a manly action hero:

Did I say "manly"?

They know he's really an obese septuagenarian. They have to know that, right? But in video games, comics, and CGI movies -- the dominant art forms of our era -- metamorphoses like this are routine. So why shouldn't they believe at least within the confines of this cinematic universe?

But why Trump? I haven't seen memes of other right-wing heroes -- Ron DeSantis or Tucker Carlson -- with bulging biceps and pecs.

Maybe it's his self-presentation: the billionaire boss in a banker suit, the looming figure everyone calls "Mr. Trump." Maybe it's that plus the fact that -- let's face it -- he still lives rent-free in most liberals' heads. They see him as powerful. And Cassidy Hutchinson inadvertently played right into that. Her words might eventually send him to prison, but in the meantime she provided a canonical moment for the franchise.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Michelle Goldberg thinks the anti-abortion movement won because it practiced politcs better than abortion rights supporters did.
... I’ve been haunted by a moment from the new documentary “Battleground.” ...

The scene I keep revisiting features a Students for Life training session about “how you can change minds about abortion online,” in which members of the group learned how to draw young pro-choice people into debate in comment threads. Hawkins said they’d had 105,000 conversations.

Cynthia Lowen, the director of “Battleground,” told me she was struck by the activists’ “strategy to get into environments and places, online and offline, where young, typically pro-choice people are,” and to try to create “doubts about their position.”

This is quite different from what I’ve seen in the pro-choice movement, where activists frequently act as if those who don’t agree with them on everything aren’t worth engaging with. (Last week, NARAL tweeted, “If your feminism doesn’t understand how anti-trans policies disproportionately impact BIPOC folks, particularly Black trans women and girls, it’s not feminism.”) In the aftermath of the anti-abortion movement’s catastrophic victory, it’s worth asking what we can learn from their tactics.
I agree that the NARAL tweet could be off-putting to quite a few people. But this is just a rehash of the ridiculous assertion that Democrats didn't score big victories in downballot races in 2020 because some people on the left say "Latinx." That's not how politics works. Most people are blissfully unaware of the "Latinx" controversy, as they're unaware of that NARAL tweet.

More to the point, the anti-abortion movements efforts to change hearts and minds might have worked in some individual cases, but it was a failure overall, as Goldberg acknowledges:
Obviously, the anti-abortion movement hasn’t convinced anywhere near a majority of Americans. Roe’s death comes courtesy of three Supreme Court justices appointed by a president who lost the popular vote. According to a CBS/News YouGov poll taken after the ruling, 59 percent of Americans — and 67 percent of women — disapprove of it.
Goldberg is so close to understanding what really happened:
The Senate can’t codify minimal reproductive rights because of the filibuster, which gives a minority of conservatives veto power over much of national policymaking. In states like Wisconsin, legislatures are so gerrymandered that it will take more than a popular-vote majority to undo their abortion bans. The right pretends that ending Roe returns abortion to the democratic process, but Roe’s demise was made possible by democracy’s erosion.

That shouldn’t blind us, however, to the success of the anti-abortion movement, which has organized for almost 50 years to bring us to this moment. Those state-level gerrymanders didn’t just happen. As The New York Times reported, they were made possible by the 2010 Republican wave, which reduced the number of state legislatures controlled by Democrats from 27 to 16. Republicans then used redistricting to cement their hold on power even as they passed a barrage of state laws meant to chip away at Roe.
But the anti-abortion movement doesn't deserve credit for the GOP project to flip state legislative seats in 2010 and then mercilessly gerrymander as many state legislative maps and state congressional maps as possible -- that was the work of right-wing billionaires, Fortune 500 corporations, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who gave big money to the project not because they wanted Roe overturned but because they wanted to elect legislators who'd cut their taxes and deregulate their industries. These are the same folks who financed the Federalist Society takeove of the Supreme Court, which rubber-stamped political gerrymandering, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and vast amounts of dark money in politics.

Banning abortion wasn't the end these folks had in mind. It was a means -- a means of getting right-wing voters to the polls to vote for Republicans, nearly all of whom are both anti-abortion and pro-plutocrat.

This is also the answer to the question asked in Paul Krugman's most recent column:
Many political analysts have spent years warning that the G.O.P. was becoming an extremist, anti-democratic party....

The question that has been bothering me ... is why. Where is this extremism coming from?
It's coming from a Republican media operation that uses alarmism, conspiratorialism, and demonization to persuade members of certain mostly white demographic subgroups to keep angrily voting Republican, because telling those voters what Republican politicians really want -- to make rich people richer -- won't motivate them at all. The GOP is all in on a strategy to portray even the most moderate Democrats as communist transexual gun-grabbing baby-killers because doing so gets Republicans elected often enough to prevent any significant increase in rich people's taxes or in business regulations.

This victory was bought, and the purchasers bought it because it was a means of getting what they really wanted.

Monday, June 27, 2022


David Frum sees parallels between Prohibition and the end of Roe v. Wade:
Prohibition and Dobbs were and are projects that seek to impose the values of a cohesive and well-organized cultural minority upon a diverse and less-organized cultural majority. Those projects can work for a time, but only for a time. In a country with a representative voting system—even a system as distorted in favor of the rural and conservative as the American system was in the 1920s and is again today—the cultural majority is bound to prevail sooner or later.
It's an interesting idea, but as Frum describes it in more detail, the analogy breaks down:
The cities lacked the political clout to stop rural America from enacting Prohibition in 1919. But they did have the fiscal clout to refuse the money necessary to enforce it. From the beginning, the federal Prohibition police—domiciled first within the Treasury, later inside the Department of Justice—were hopelessly underfunded and understaffed. Big-city police departments often refused to cooperate with federal authorities, not only because they were bribed, but because they despised the law.
I don't think that's going to happen with abortion bans. The cops don't have a problem with them. And our government is extraordinarily skewed against the interests of the cities -- more so, I think, than it was in the Prohibition era.
In the 1920s, formerly diffuse anti-Prohibition factions coalesced around a single issue: repeal. They gathered into a single umbrella organization funded by big donors like the du Pont family and John J. Raskob, an early investor in General Motors. By the mid-’20s, the group had recruited nearly 1 million dues-paying members and began winning elections with the clear and simple slogan “Vote as you drink.”
Many people like to drink, and Prohibition made life difficult for them on a daily basis. Abortion is different: Nobody wants an abortion every evening, or even every weekend. I can't imagine the wealthy stepping in to fund a campaign to restore abortion rights out of the same kind of self-interest.

And recall that Prohibition ended after Franklin Roosevelt won the 1932 election in a landslide (57% to 40% in the popular vote, 472 to 59 in the Electoral College) after running as a supporter of Repeal. It's hard to imagine a pro-abortion-rights Democrat winning that kind of landslide -- a Democrat hasn't won that big since 1964.

And there were arguments in favor of Repeal that wouldn't apply to abortion:
A major failing of prohibition was to create a black market for liquor, providing lucrative business opportunities for gangsters like Al Capone, as well as thousands of “bootleggers” across the country whose products were no longer monitored for quality. It also sparked a proliferation of “speakeasies” – businesses that offered secret places for people to drink, out of the sight of official law enforcement, and largely unregulated for other illegal activities....

The federal government “collected more than $258 million in alcohol taxes in the first year after repeal. Those millions, which accounted for nearly nine percent of the government’s tax revenue, helped to finance Roosevelt’s New Deal programs in the ensuing years” ...
I've said that I think organized crime will get involved in providing abortions, or at least abortion pills, but I can't imagine that this will lead to the kind of high-profile crime we had during Prohibition. Besides, we've had a war on drugs for decades, and it's only now that we're trying to take the profits from drugs away from criminals -- and only for cannabis. As for tax revenue, there isn't much in abortion.

A fairly large segment of the population will readily admit to liking a drink now and then -- but it's harder to find people who'll boast of an abortion. For that and all the other reasons I've mentioned, I suspect that Frum's analogy doesn't quite hold up.


It would seem a bit un-American if Republicans tried to crush critical media voices the way Viktor Orban does it in Hungary:
Since Orbán and his Fidesz party came to power in Hungary in 2010, they have step by step brought the media landscape under their control....

The public broadcasters have been centralised in the state media holding MTVA, while the regional press has been wholly owned by Orban-friendly entrepreneurs since 2017 and important independent media had been switched off....

After the closing of the daily Népszabadsag and oligarchs’ assumption of control over news sites and, the government has targeted the RTL channel, the daily Népszava, and weeklies HPV, Magyar Hang, Magyar Narancs, and the site.

... Klubrádió, Hungary’s last independent public affairs radio station was forced to move online completely ... after losing its court appeal against the national media council’s refusal to extend its licence, prompting an outcry from domestic and international media watchdogs.
We're unlikely to have the majority of media companies actually owned by the government or by oligarchs openly committed to a pro-government line. Our major media outlets might suck up to the government some of the time -- maybe quite a bit of the time -- but they like to maintain an aura of independence. The press tends to sour on Democratic presidents very quickly, and on Republicans sooner (Donald Trump) or later (second-term George W. Bush). Americans expect that.

But what if the press can't be critical? In America, the biggest fear isn't jackbooted thugs shutting down your media operation -- it's being sued into bankruptcy. Which is, apparently, what Clarence and Ginni Thomas dream about in their idle moments....
Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday indicated that he believes the Supreme Court should reconsider a ruling that makes it more difficult to sue media organizations, saying he disagreed with the court's decision to turn away an appeal in a defamation case.

... The case in question, Coral Ridge v. SPLC, was designed to overturn the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan case, which established the precedent that a public figure must prove a defendant acted with "actual malice," or intentionality, in defaming a person.

... "I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the 'actual malice' standard," Thomas wrote in his dissent.

"This case is one of many showing how (NYT v. Sullivan) and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups 'to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity,'" he added.
Because Thomas is a Republican, when he says "false aspersions," he means assertions I don't like. The defendant in this suit is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has had ample reason for criticizing Coral Ridge. The SPLC told us this in 2010:
The late Rev. D. James Kennedy started turning fundamentalist Coral Ridge Presbyterian into a mega-church in the 1960s...

Over the years, Kennedy emphasized anti-gay rhetoric, particularly in his TV ministry. He recommended as “essential” the virulent work of R.J. Rushdoony ... who believed practicing gays should be executed. In an especially nasty 1989 edition of a CRM newsletter, Kennedy ran photographs of children along with the tagline, “Sex With Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!”

... In 2009, it hired anti-gay activist Robert Knight as a senior writer and Washington, D.C., correspondent. Knight has used the work of discredited researcher Paul Cameron.... In one recent essay on the CRM website, he argued against allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, saying that “Bible-believing Christians would quickly find themselves unwelcome in Barney Frank’s new pansexual, cross-dressing military.”
Kennedy was notorious for his anti-LGBTQ+ activity.... He wrote many books, including What’s Wrong With Same-Sex Marriage? in 2004, in which he claimed “a tiny fraction of our population is on the verge of redefining the institution of marriage for all of us.” He endorsed a comic book titled Homosexuality: Legitimate, Alternate Deathstyle ...
[In 2021,] the ministry’s CEO Frank Wright said during a livestream: “The destruction of marriage isn’t really about sexuality, it’s a left-wing idea, it’s a Marxist, socialist idea... destruction of the family [is] step one for overturning the government [...] or any form of democracy.”

He then went on to compared marriage equality to tying the knot with a car.

Wright said: “I hate to break it to them, but many of our gay and lesbian friends, they’ve just been used by the left to destroy the historic definition of marriage and changed the criteria to only be that of love.

“If two people love each other, or some guy and his Volkswagen, he loves his Volkswagen, he ought to be able to marry his Volkswagen.”

The organisation has backed conversion therapy, and ... Wright said that people only “feel” oppressed on the basis of their “sex, sexual preference, gender identity and skin colour” because they aren’t “thankful” enough. Wright has also said that trans people are “undoing the very fabric of God’s creation”.
Oh, and given that we're talking about a right-wing megachuch, I'm sure you won't be surprised that this is at least partly about money:
Due to the “hate group” moniker, Amazon denied the church’s application to become a charitable organization on its AmazonSmile program, which allows customers to select a charity to which they can donate 0.5% of their purchase. AmazonSmile charities must not “engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance,” according to its website.
A U.S. District Court judge rejected the ministry's case in 2019, stating that the SPLC didn't knowingly publish a false statement about the church. (I'd say it didn't publish a false statement at all.) But if you remove the "malice" standard for libel in the case of a public figure or well-known institution, then the threat of a lawsuit -- even against an individual, organization, or news outlet that's telling the truth -- will have a chilling effect.

Which is what the Thomases want. No need to shut down media organizations that criticize them and their allies -- just make sure that the fear of bankruptcy keeps them in check. I'm sure Viktor Orban would approve.

Sunday, June 26, 2022


Adam Serwer is essentially correct:
... the Supreme Court has become an institution whose primary role is to force a right-wing vision of American society on the rest of the country. The conservative majority ... takes whatever stances define right-wing cultural and political identity at a given moment and asserts them as essential aspects of American law since the Founding, and therefore obligatory.... the current majority’s approach is ... one in which the dictates of the Constitution retrospectively shift with whatever Fox News happens to be furious about. Legal outcomes preferred by today’s American right conveniently turn out to be what the Founding Fathers wanted all along.
It's not just Fox News -- it's the entire right-wing media apparatus, including talk radio and religious radio, which is why Roe was high on the list of targets.

Many people think contraception bans will be endorsed by the Court soon. I understand that -- Clarence Thomas, in a concurrence in the abortion case, said the court "should reconsider" its 1965 decision overturning a state ban on contraception, as well as decisions overturning bans on same-sex marriage and homosexual sex.

But contraception -- for the most part -- isn't high on the right-wing media's target list. The right will want to ban the morning-after pill, and probably IUDs, which can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. Gynecologists say that pregnancy begins with implantation, not fertilization, so these methods actually aren't abortifacients. But much of the religious right disagrees. So these will be targeted.

However, banning condoms and diaphragms and birth-control pills isn't high on the right's wish list. Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham aren't doing endless segments on these forms of birth control.

There's much more right-wing anger about race, so we'll see more Court rulings permitting restrictions on voting by non-white people and, probably soon, the elimination of restrictions on racial gerrymandering. There's anger about immigration, so birthright citizenship is probably in the Court's crosshairs. There's anger at the LGBT community, so same-sex marriage and gay sex will be targeted again. And there's anger about efforts to shift America away from fossil fuels -- so the Court, probably this week, is likely to severely restrict the ability of federal agencies to regulate carbon emissions. (The people most determined to see the Court do that, of course, are the right-wing fossil-fuel billionaires who have bankrolled Republican politcal campaigns for decades and have funded the interest groups that built this Court majority.)

You'll say that the right wants to ban contraception because it wants to keep women subordinate. Apart from the goal of making the rich richer, I'm not convinced anymore that the right has any long-term societal goals in mind -- right-wingers just want the raw satisfaction of causing us immediate and ongoing pain, as they seize power and hold it forever just to keep it out of our hands. I don't see any evidence that they regard birth control as particularly important for liberals specifically. That's why I don't think it's high on the target list. But we'll see.

Saturday, June 25, 2022


Ross Douthat believes that right-wingers might not be able to consolidate their gains after the Dobbs decision.
While the pro-life movement has won the right to legislate against abortion, it has not yet proven that it can do so in a way that can command durable majority support. Its weaknesses will not disappear in victory. Its foes and critics have been radicalized by its judicial success.
I guess whenever liberals are doing anything more than sending money to organizations we hope will sustain our civil rights, that's "radicalization" in Douthat's eyes. Yes, we're angry, and we're in the streets. But why does Douthat believe the anti-abortion movement will need "durable majority support"? Universal background checks and an assault weapons ban have "durable majority support." Higher minimum wages have "durable majority support." Roe itself had "durable majority support." The right doesn't care. The right knows how to hold on to power without having any popular positions, and the right also knows how to gum up the works when it temporarily loses power so it will regain power quickly. The right doesn't need a popular stance on abortion, any more than it needs a popular stance in guns or wages. It just needs to cling to power by any means necessary.

Douthat continues:
And the vicissitudes of politics and its own compromises have linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right — some libertine and hyperindividualist, others simply hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics.
The people on the right who are "hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics" aren't "forces," they're the entire right. Even the ones who drew the line at returning an unelected president to office believe that the right should do whatever it can get away with, national consensus be damned.

Perhaps you can guess where this is heading:
To win the long-term battle, to persuade the country’s vast disquieted middle, abortion opponents ... need to show how abortion restrictions are compatible with the goods that abortion advocates accuse them of compromising — the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty.
Yes, once again Douthat is digging in the dung pile of the contemporary right, convinced that there must be a compassionate-conservative pony in there somewhere.
You can imagine a future in which anti-abortion laws are permanently linked to a punitive and stingy politics, in which women in difficulties can face police scrutiny for a suspicious miscarriage but receive little in the way of prenatal guidance or postnatal support.
I can't imagine any other future as long as the right is in charge.
In that world, serious abortion restrictions would be sustainable in the most conservative parts of the country, but probably nowhere else, and the long-term prospects for national abortion rights legislation would be bright.
Serious abortion restrictions will be sustainable wherever the right wields power, and that will probably be coast to coast fairly soon.
But there are other possible futures. The pro-life impulse could control and improve conservative governance rather than being undermined by it, making the G.O.P. more serious about family policy and public health. Well-governed conservative states like Utah could model new approaches to family policy; states in the Deep South could be prodded into more generous policy by pro-life activists; big red states like Texas could remain magnets for internal migration even with restrictive abortion laws.
Stop snickering. He really believes this. He thinks it's actually possible that a movement almost monomaniacally devoted to punitive acts will do a 180 and empathetically expand aid to poor parents in the name of conservatism.

There is a part of the right that talks about morality, but it's not this kind of morality. The National Conservatives -- including Christopher Rufo and Douthat's buddy Rod Dreher -- have some ideas about morals, as embodied in their recent manifesto.
We recommend the federalist principle, which prescribes a delegation of power to the respective states or subdivisions of the nation so as to allow greater variation, experimentation, and freedom. However, in those states or subdivisions in which law and justice have been manifestly corrupted, or in which lawlessness, immorality, and dissolution reign, national government must intervene energetically to restore order.
Cathy Young, who's no liberal, has a pretty good idea of what that means.
We can safely bet that when the authors and signatories of this document refer to places where “law and justice have been manifestly corrupted,” they are thinking about what they see in blue states and Democrat-controlled municipalities. But what really raised my eyebrow is the call for the national government to intervene (“energetically,” no less!) to stop not only lawlessness—itself a vague word that could encompass anything from vagrancy to riots—but “immorality” and “dissolution.”

Let’s ... ask what it would mean in practice. Federal marshals shutting down Drag Queen Story Hour? A national ban on school lessons that deal with sexual orientation and gender identity, or on “immoral” books in school libraries? The National Guard swooping down on cities that permit too many homeless encampments or let too many criminal defendants out on bail? Would Satanic churches be considered dissolute or immoral enough to warrant federal intervention? How about public festivals that celebrate non-normative sexual behavior such as BDSM, or nontraditional sexual or gender identities? For that matter, in the NatCons’ ideal society— presumably one with no constitutional protections for same-sex marriage—would federal morality cops be empowered to take action when a state is too permissive about divorce, homosexuality, or single parenthood?
That's far more plausible than the right-wing expansion of the social safety net Douthat seriously imagines is possible.

Friday, June 24, 2022


I agree with those who see today's Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization as the culmination of a "long game" to nullify abortion rights. In the past I've seen it argued that Republicans were chumps -- they were voting to outlaw abortion, but they never got what they wanted. But they were persistent, and today they got their the payoff.

Meanwhile, Democrats made crucial misjudgments -- in particular, failing to turn out in sufficient numbers to elect a Democratic president and Senate in 2016, with many potential Democratic voters angrily insisting that control of the federal bench wasn't a good enough reason to vote for Hillary Clinton.

But I don't think Republicans won today because GOP rank-and-file voters are necessarily more strategic or more patient than Democrats. In general, Republicans simply get more small victories along the way, so they've been patient while waiting for Roe to be overturned.

Republicans are good at identifying and targeting enemies, especiallly enemies against whom they could score quick victories. Sometimes they're foreign enemies -- Grenada for Ronald Reagan, Panama and Iraq for George H.W. Bush, Mexico for Donald Trump. Republicans also target domestic foes -- Dan Rather, ACORN, and Shirley Sherrod, a decade or so ago, Critical Race Theory now. And every tax cut is defined as a victory against "tax-and-spend liberals." So they've played the long game on abortion, but along the way they've given their voters a lot of wins in other areas. (And on reproductive rights as well -- every piecemeal abortion restriction was a new win. So is every piecemeal expansion of gun rights.)

Democrats have failed to give their voters as many emotionally satisfying wins, small or large. Obamacare didn't seem like a win when it was passed after a great struggle; Democrats allowed Republicans to control the narrative around the law for years. The legalization of same-sex marriage was a win for liberalism, but a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to get most of the credit.

And, of course, Democrats never mustered the votes to codify Roe in federal law.

One problem is that many of the wins Democratic voters want are economic -- more affordable healthcare, a higher minimum wage, a fairer tax code. Those are hard to achieve in a political system in which the rich have inordinate power. Stripping Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments just isn't satisfying to most Democratic voters.

We have a country in which neither party gives ordinary Americans what they want -- Republicans because they don't want to, Democrats because they're prevented from doing so by Republicans, and by plutocrat enablers in their own ranks.

But Republicans can give their voters victories over trumped-up enemies, and they do so regularly. That's why their voters had the patience to play the long game on abortion.


When the framework for a bipartisan bill addressing gun violence was annnounced on June 12, I predicted that the effort would go nowhere. I was wrong. The bill is now on the verge of final passage.

I knew the bill was weak tea and was barely about guns at all. I knew that it could pass the House without Republican votes and that Republicans in the Senate who don't face reelection until 2024 or 2026 -- Mitch McConnell and Joni Ernst, for instance -- could vote for it secure in the knowledge that it will largely be forgotten by the time they're running again. I knew that the bill's efforts to incentivize states to pass red flag laws would be futile -- red states will proudly refuse the money the way they proudly refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. But even after Buffalo and Uvalde, I thought that Republicans would fear a collective judgment on their party from the angry base if even a few of them dared to vote for any bill that restricted gun ownership, even marginally.

Maybe, for once, leaders of the GOP felt the need to respond to the concerns of middle-of-the-road voters after the two recent massacres -- or maybe the massacres weren't the reason, or the only reason, they agreed to the bill. Perhaps the timing seemed right because they knew the decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was coming.

I'm not saying that the Republicans on the Supreme Court leaked the decision to Republicans in the Senate. They didn't need to. It was obvious when the Court took the case that the goal was to wipe blue-state gun laws off the books and prevent other states from following their example. The Republican senators who agreed to this compromise knew the Court's term was ending and could assume that the decision in Bruen would be radical and out of step with how Americans are feeling about guns. So this toothless bill could serve as a distraction, and a demotivator for Democratic and swing voters who are angry about gun violence.

All of the right's fussing and fretting over the leak of the Court's abortion decision is meant to distract from the extremism of the decision itself. The distraction from the gun decision might be the nothingburger gun bill.

Thursday, June 23, 2022


As expected:
In a major expansion of gun rights, the Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, a ruling likely to lead to more people legally armed in cities and elsewhere, The ruling came with recent mass shootings fresh in the nation’s mind and gun-control legislation being debated in Congress and beyond.

About a quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which struck down a New York gun law. The high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade came on a 6-3 split with the court’s conservatives in the majority and liberals in dissent.
Yes, Antonin Scalia, in the 2008 Heller vs. District of Columbia decision, told us that we'd still have some local control over firearms, and seemed to imply that that control would include control over who can carry and where:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
But Scalia was careful to say only that limits on concealed carry had long been considered constitutional, not that he believed they were. Following those weasel words with an enumeration of gun restrictions he thought were constitutional, Scalia bamboozled us into believing that there were limits to the right's pro-gun absolutism. Then again, this Court would have had no problem flatly contradicting Scalia to achieve its ends.

I'm so old I remember when the hottest idea on the right was "federalism," or "devolution" -- the notion that what the government does should be done, whenever practicable, at the level of government closest to the people. Right-wingers still trot this idea out sometimes -- here's a Heritage Foundation essay published last month entitled "The American People Must Relocate Power to the States." But apparently this doesn't apply to guns.

In fact, the idea was in vogue at a time when Democrats seemed capable of enacting new social programs, an era that ended, perhaps permanently, with the 2010 midterms. And, of course, it began to be difficult for right-wingers to argue that government is better the more it's localized when liberal cities began introducing higher minimum wages, protections for trans people, and so on.

"Devolution" was always a highfalutin way of saying "Let's return decision-making to state governments, where the Koch brothers and their ideological allies won't have to spend as much money on lobbying to get what they want, and where we can use gerrymandering and voting laws to establish permanent control."

In any case, it's clear that the right's principled view of government is that all decisions should be made by whichever part of the government is controlled most effectively by the GOP. That will probably mean the entire federal government starting in 2025, so they'll be able to pick and choose who gets to overturn every liberal law, and how.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022


There have been a couple of straw polls in which Ron DeSantis has beaten Donald Trump, but this is the first poll I'm aware of in which DeSantis has beaten Trump among the general (Republican) electorate:

Not only does DeSantis beat Trump in the primary, he does much better than Trump in the general election.

It's just one poll of one state. But it's a sign that maybe I've been wrong about Trump's ability to coast to the nomination in 2024.

Of course, Trump hasn't started running. We know what he'll do, assuming he enters the race: He'll attack and belittle DeSantis. He's good at that. Some infantile nickname he gives DeSantis will probably catch on. (As I've said before, I think he'll call DeSantis "Rotten Ron," which the fans will find witty and hilarious.) He'll make scurrilous accusations. (Remember when Roger Stone insinuated that DeSantis was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a Newsmax correspondent?) In states where Trump loyalists run the GOP, he can demand the cancellation of primaries so he can be declared the winner by acclamation.

But if Trump fails at all this, watch out -- not just because we'll be up against a Republican candidate who's more serious about authoritarianism than Trump, and more disciplined. If DeSantis wins the nomination, the media might tell us that he actually performed a service for democracy by defeating Trump. The press might sell DeSantis to moderate voters as a return to pre-Trump normality.

We know he's a fascist. I hope voters know that if he wins the nomination. I hope they aren't told that he's basically Adam Kinzinger with a tan.


Writing for The Atlantic, Tom Nichols expresses dismay at the menace of modern Republicanism:
... living in an alternate reality is unhealthy—and dangerous, as I realized yet again while watching the January 6 committee hearings and listening to the stories of Republicans, such as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and others, describing the threats and harassment they have received for doing their duty to the Constitution.

And the threats don’t stop with political figures; families are now in the crosshairs. Representative Adam Kinzinger, for example, tweeted Monday about a letter he received in which the writer threatened not only to kill him, but to kill his wife and infant son.
Nichols thinks he understands the problem:
I think the Trump superfans are terrified of being wrong. I suspect they know that for many years they’ve made a terrible mistake—that Trump and his coterie took them to the cleaners and the cognitive dissonance is now rising to ear-splitting, chest-constricting levels. And so they will literally threaten to kill people like Kinzinger (among others) if that’s what it takes to silence the last feeble voice of reason inside themselves....

The moment someone like Bowers or Kinzinger or Liz Cheney appears and attacks the lie, the anxiety and embarrassment rise like reflux in the throat, and it must be stopped, even if it means threatening to kill the messenger.
This reminds me of something my late mother used to say when I was being routinely harassed, and occasionally more than harassed, by tougher schoolmates: "They're just jealous." I honor my mother's memory, but she was wrong about that. Every bullied kid who's ever been told this knows it's wrong. I was brainy and weird. Of course nobody was jealous of me. And nobody in MAGA Land secretly believes that non-MAGAs know the truth.

Nichols continues:
No one who truly believes they are right threatens to hurt anyone for expressing a contrary view. The snarling threat of violence never comes from people who calmly believe they are in the right. It is always the instant resort of the bully who feels the hot flush of shame rising in the cheeks and the cold rock of fear dropping in the pit of the stomach.
Really? The Nazis secretly knew that Aryans aren't superior and that Jews are fine people? The 9/11 hijackers suspected their religious beliefs were a lie?

That's not how any of this works.

Here's an alternate theory: People who commit or threaten to commit political violence are deeply invested in the notion that their enemies should not exist. What enrages them is not the belief that their opponents might be right but the fact that their opponents continue to walk free, and in some cases are thriving. That also seems to be what infuriates school bullies.

Toughness is also a factor here. Violent political ideologues and school bullies alike pride themselves on being tough -- so if their enemies are doing fine, that means they've failed to crush them or terrify them into silence. They have to lash out.

If there's insecurity involved, it arises from a desire on the part of the angry ideologues to deny that they could possibly share attributes with the people they hate. Think of the 9/11 hijackers going to strip clubs in Las Vegas and then killing for a Puritanical form of Islam. The MAGAs (and Republicans in general) regard themselves as rugged and manly, while the rest of us are seen as effeminate and weak ("soy boys," "cucks"), and also accepting of people who are different from us (which to the MAGAs is another form of weakness and effeminacy, and in their perception of RINOs is seen in their mere acceptance of the notion that people other than Republican ideologues should be allowed to participate in government). Allowing us to live must seem to them like a cuckish form of tolerance. So of course they lash out.

No, they don't secretly sense that we're right. They're certain that we're evil. And if they hate themselves, it's because we're still here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Here's a news story from Fox:
Texas officials holding a special Senate hearing on the Uvalde elementary school mass shooting recognized how despite the 18-year-old gunman’s prior "abhorrent behavior" and animal abuse being common knowledge in the small town of just 17,000 people it was never reported to law enforcement.

During his testimony, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, ... said that through interviews, many residents observed seeing [Salvador] Ramos carrying a bag of dead cats. Despite what Bettencourt described as such "animal abuse" and "abhorrent behavior," there was no known record of it from either the school district or law enforcement before the shooting.

"That’s a major failure," Bettencourt said.
Most people don't realize that animal abuse is, as the Justice Department says, a "gateway crime."
Reprehensible in themselves, these acts are almost always precursors to violent crime directed at humans. Researchers have connected children’s abuse of animals to bullying, aggression, school shootings, and sexual abuse. Through these activities, children who feel powerless torment their own victims to gain a sense of control and power for themselves. Moreover, FBI research indicates that most serial killers, school shooters, and mass murderers tortured animals as children.
But a bill to ban anyone with even a misdemeanor animal cruelty conviction from obtaining a firearm --introduced by Massachusetts congresswoman Katherine Clark -- has languished for years and is highly unlikely to be enacted. And it's hard to believe that local law enforcement authorities would want to criminalize every act of animal abuse.

I don't love "the carceral state." But we're missing the opportunity to flag troubled individuals before they can commit acts of serious violence. In my ideal America, we wouldn't necessarily criminalize an act of animal cruelty -- a mental health intervention might be more appropriate -- but we would flag it as a reason to deny the perpetrator a gun. In the actual America, though, automatically depriving every animal abuser of access to weaponry is probably unthinkable.

(Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron was also guilty of animal cruelty.)

Ramos, in addition, was known to be extremely abusive online, as The Washington Post reported last month.
In a video from a live Yubo chatroom that listeners had recorded and was reviewed by The Post, Ramos could be heard saying, “Everyone in this world deserves to get raped.”

A 16-year-old boy in Austin who said he saw Ramos frequently in Yubo panels, told The Post that Ramos frequently made aggressive, sexual comments to young women on the app and sent him a death threat during one panel in January.

“I witnessed him harass girls and threaten them with sexual assault, like rape and kidnapping,” said the teen. “It was not like a single occurrence. It was frequent.”

He and his friends reported Ramos’s account to Yubo for bullying and other infractions dozens of times. He never heard back, he said, and the account remained active.
Now we're in the area of free speech. Would we really want abusive online language routinely reported to the government? And yet if this didn't seem excessive and Big Brother-y, it might be effective in preventing future bloodshed, at least in the case of those who repeatedly threaten violence. I throw up my hands trying to imagine how you'd tap into this kind of information about emotionally troubled people while protecting civil liberties. But since we're never going to do it, we should expect to learn about the obvious warning signs sent by future mass shooters only in retrospect.


Eric Greitens, who's running for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri, posted this ad yesterday:

"Today, we're going RINO hunting," Greitens, a Republican, said with a smile as he slid the action on his shotgun in the 38-second ad. RINO stands for "Republican in name only."

Greitens and a team of men outfitted in military gear are then shown bursting into a home, guns raised.

"The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked by the stripes of cowardice," said Greitens. "Get a RINO hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn't expire until we save our country."
Right-wingers have always reveled in fantasies of violently eliminating their enemies -- I've been complaining about those "Liberal Hunting Permit" stickers you see on pickup trucks for nearly twenty years -- but now the eliminationism is aimed at fellow Republicans as well.

You remember Eric Greitens:
Greitens was elected governor of Missouri in 2016, but he resigned less than two years later amid allegations of sexually assaulting and blackmailing a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair.

He acknowledged the affair but denied any wrongdoing. Greitens was also accused of misusing a charity donor list to raise campaign funds. Criminal charges against him were ultimately dropped.

He and his then-wife, Sheena, have since divorced. In a sworn affidavit earlier this year, she accused him of abusing her and their children.
Naturally, he's leading in Republican primary polls for the Senate seat, and given the fact that Donald Trump won the state by 15 points in 2020, the Republican nominee is almost certain to be Missouri's next senator.

A number of us quote-tweeted the Greitens ad yesterday, with our own commentary. We were subsequently informed that we're the real problem.

Wait -- we're "helping this person enter the news cycle"? Greitens is leading in the polls. He has Donald Trump's endorsement. He used to be the governor of his state. I'm pretty sure he's already in the news cycle.

The way democracy works -- or ought to work -- is that decent people should see this ad and be disgusted. They should vote against Greitens if they're in his state, and vote against his party if they aren't. (Those of us who've drawn attention to the ad are doing the job the Democratic Party won't do: saying "This is who Republicans are.") If widespread viewing of this ad makes more people likely to vote for Greitens and his party than against them, then American democracy's biggest problem is its electorate.

Meanwhile, a gray eminence in the Missouri Republican Party is trying to keep Greitens out of the Senate:
On Monday, a committee headed by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth launched a website to encourage St. Louis native John F. Wood to run as an alternative choice for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt....

“Respected leaders across the state of Missouri have made it clear that Missouri voters deserve an alternative option to the leading contenders for the Republican and Democratic nominations for U.S. Senate,” a news release notes about the committee’s formation. “We are encouraging John to answer that call, as he has done countless times over the course of his career in government.”

In February, Danforth, 85, predicted a center-right independent candidate would file to run for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
Danforth's preferred candidate has what used to be regarded as impeccable Republican credentials:
... Wood ... was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri from 2007 to 2009 under former President George W. Bush....

Wood previously served as chief of staff to George W. Bush-era Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, deputy associate general counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft and in the White House under Bush at the Office of Management and Budget.

... After graduating from Harvard Law School, Wood clerked for federal Judge J. Michael Luttig.

... Wood ... recently worked as general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But now he's the senior investigative counsel for the January 6 committee. It doesn't get more RINO than that.

Danforth thinks Wood could win. I think he'd take a tiny sliver of the Republican vote and a larger chunk of the Democratic vote. I think he might increase Greitens's margin of victory.

Danforth seems dismayed by the direction of his party. January 6 upset him, as one Missouri newspaperman has reported:
The violent attack against the U.S. Capitol, in an attempt to change the results of the election of Joe Biden as president, has become deeply personal for Danforth. In the days after the attack, he condemned his former protégé, Sen. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who infamously raised his fist in support of the insurrectionists, before challenging the presidential vote on the Senate floor.

“Supporting Josh and trying so hard to get him elected to the Senate was the worst mistake I ever made in my life,” Danforth told me the day after the attack.
Was that really Danforth's worst mistake? Remember, he shepherded Clarence Thomas through the Supreme Court confirmation process.

If it upsets Danforth so much that Eric Greitens might become a senator, there's a simple solution: He could endorse the Democratic nominee, whoever that might be. But we all know that's a bridge too far for most self-styled Republican moderates. Much better to split the vote, I guess.

And yes, as a number of people have pointed out, if we had properly functioning red flag laws, Greitens wouldn't even be able to own a gun.

Monday, June 20, 2022


I'm sure the appearance of these two pieces a day apart is totally coincidental and not part of a coordinating messaging campaign at all:

National Review's Jim Geraghty writes:
Did you notice that discussing Joe Biden’s age, memory, and mental state ... became an acceptable subject for quiet and subdued expressions of public concern in the past week or so?
Yes, this was a completely taboo subject until just this month -- if you don't count one or two exceedingly rare outlier articles by brave samizdat journalists:
* New York Times, March 21, 2019: "Joe Biden Weighing Unique Steps to Reassure Voters Concerned About His Age"

* The Atlantic, July 5, 2019: "Is Joe Biden ‘Too Old’?"

* New York Times,, July 29, 2019: "Why Joe Biden’s Age Worries Some Democratic Allies and Voters"

* CNN (Chris Cillizza, in fact), July 31, 2019: "Is Joe Biden Too Old to Be President?"

* Politico, August 2, 2019: "Is Joe Biden Too Old?"

* New York Times, September 19, 2019: "Are Biden and Sanders Too Old to Be President?"

* New York Times, December 12, 2019: "President Joe Biden, 86, ... Should He Make a One-Term Pledge?"

* Washington Post, March 12, 2020: "It’s Fair to Speculate Whether Biden Is Mentally Fit to Be President"

* Politico, August 20, 2020: "Joe Biden: An Old Man Trying to Lead a Young Country"

* New York Times, September 2, 2020: "Age and Health on the Ballot"

* Washington Post, January 12, 2021: "Joe Biden, 78, Will Lead an American Gerontocracy"

* Des Moines Register, August 15, 2021: "Joe Biden Isn’t the Person I Knew in Congress. He Should Get Cognitive Testing, with the Result Made Public."

* Politico, November 17, 2021: "Poll: Voters' Doubts Rising About Biden’s Health, Mental Fitness"

* U.S. News, December 3, 2021: "Age, Coronavirus Sharpen Focus on Biden’s Health"

* The Hill, December 11, 2021: "How Old Is Too Old to Be President?"

* Financial Times, January 6, 2022: "The Awkward Issue of Biden's Age"
Apart fom these extremely rare pieces, and a few hundred more like them, the press has clearly been silenced on the question of Biden's age until just the past week or so!

And yes, Democrats have been in denial about Biden's age and vigor, unlike Republicans, who are remarkably clear-eyed about the age and health of their party's top leader:

And no, I'm not comparing apples and oranges when I cite cartoons and Photoshopped images of Trump because they're among the main drivers of the public pwerception of Trump's vigor among right-wing voters. They really believe he is that guy.

Sunday, June 19, 2022


Texas Republicans have been meeting in Houston for the past few days, in their first in-person convention since 2018. You may know that the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian organization, was denied an opportunity to participate in the convention. You may also know that Congressman Dan Crenshaw and his staff were assaulted by critics, at least one of whom said he should be hung for treason.

Texas Republicans produced a platform document that includes virtually every right-wing grievance, some of them expressed in ways I haven't seen before:
They approved measures declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected” and rebuking Sen. John Cornyn for taking part in bipartisan gun talks. They also voted on a platform that declares homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and calls for Texas schoolchildren “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child.”

... the party platform vote on Saturday by roughly 5,100 convention delegates would argue that those under 21 are “most likely to need to defend themselves” and may need to quickly buy guns “in emergencies such as riots.”
I know that Kyle Rittenhouse was young, and that Fox-watching Republicans think that what happened in Kenosha on the night Rittenhouse killed two people happens every night in "Democrat-controlled cities," but do these people actually believe that unrest of this kind disproportionately poses a danger to 18-to-21-year-olds? Apparently so.

In addition:

And here's one I didn't see coming:

What's the point of this? Oh, it's a brilliant ploy for a purple state: First you gerrymander the state legislature, so that even if there's a year when Democrats win the most votes overall in legislative elections, the districts are draw so that Republicans always win the most seats. Then you devise this system whereby each state senate district elects a member of a board that chooses the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and any other officials elected statewide. Permanent GOP control of the state legislature means districts will always be gerrymandered in the GOP's favor, and also means that the majority of members of this body will always be Republican. No risk of Governor Beto or Governor Castro -- forever.

I've always regarded Texas as a rebuke to the arguments in favor of the federal Electoral College. Texas is full of liberal-leaning big liberal-leaning cities -- Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso -- but somehow Republicans in Texas haven't needed an electoral college in order to win. They can still win the statewide popular vote.

But Texas GOP convention delegates fear a future when that's no longer the case. I don't know if they'll ever manage to get this enacted, but I won't be surprised if the idea surfaces as a serious legislative proposal in Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, or anywhere else where non-right-wing city-dwellers threaten GOP control of everything everywhere forever

Saturday, June 18, 2022


The Washington Post asked twelve of its pundits to speculate on whether Donald Trump will run for president again. Sensibly, most said yes. But Greg Sargent thinks Trump won't run:
What Trump’s embrace of the “big lie” shows above all else is how much he hates to lose. Trump not only knows he lost in 2020; he also knows he won in 2016 only because of a string of flukes — he faced an unexpectedly weak candidate after their party had held the White House for two terms. Risking a second loss to Biden is unthinkable: It would confirm his decisive rejection by the public. And Trump would be even less likely to defeat a fresh face should Biden decline to run. He knows that, too.
Does Trump really hate to lose? What he seems to hate is being perceived as a loser. If he can gull the public into believing that he's a winner, then he tolerates losing reasonably well. Recall that when he was nearly a billion dollars in debt in the early 1990s, he kept his name and face in the tabloids and wrote a book called Trump: Surviving at the Top, followed a few years later by Trump: The Art of the Comeback.

Trump told his followers that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if Democrats hadn't cheated, and they believed him. He told them he actually won the 2020 election, and some of them literally died for that belief, while others were ready to kill politicians who wouldn't install him as president. He seems fine with that outcome.

His base believes he can't lose to Biden a second time because he didn't lose the first time. And they believe he can't really lose the 2024 vote -- he can only lose the fake vote that results from Democratic cheating.

Also, why do you think so many stop-the-steal crazies being chosen in Republican primaries? I mean, sure, if Nikki Haley were somehow able to win the presidential nomination in 2024 and she needed some state election results nullified in the general election, I guess these folks would help her out. But the person they really want to do this for is Trump.

It's almost certain that if Trump runs and loses, he'll come close enough to persuade his base that he was cheated, and he'll be the beneficiary of a strenuous effort to pilfer the election. His people will absolutely believe he won. That's all he needs to feel like a winner.

Also: If he doesn't run, how can he fundraise?

Friday, June 17, 2022


Jeet Heer says what I've been thinking after January 6 hearing:
Beyond laying out the case against Trump and his inner circle, the purpose of the hearings has clearly been to sort out the decent Republicans from the miscreants. [Michael] Luttig and [John] Eastman ... were presented as a study in contrasts, as were Mike Pence and Donald Trump. The presentation was designed to draw in Republican support for the anti-Trump case.

... Never Trump Republicans were the guiding spirits of the hearings, setting the agenda of trying to present a narrative that redeems the party as a whole while holding guilty only a few individuals (Trump and his inner circle). Even most of Trump’s advisers were allowed to recast themselves as members of a “Team Normal” that tried to blunt the former president’s worst instincts....

The hearings are designed to give Republicans a face-saving off-ramp for leaving Trumpism behind. If they accept the findings of the hearings, they can still be proud Republicans and only reject a handful of leaders. They can even keep Mike Pence if they just reject Trump. But there’s little evidence that most Republicans want to take up this offer.
I understand why this approach to the hearings would appeal to the select committee's Never Trumpers, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. I understand why Republicans like Mitch McConnell who are sick of Trump but can't publicly acknowledge their disgust might privately be rooting for the committee to bring Trump and clear the way for a new generation of GOP leaders.

But what's in it for Democrats?

Many leftists would say that the Democratic Party is a Potemkin-liberal branch of America's right-wing plutocratic Uniparty, and that Democrats want to keep losing and hope we don't notice that their failure is by design. I don't buy that. I don't think they're clever enough or skillful enough to pull off that level of fakery (although select Democrats -- Manchin, Sinema -- seem to have sufficient skill and gall to pull off this con).

I think Democrats have been beaten so thoroughly by Republicans since the Reagan era that they're hostages in love with their captors. The Stockholm Democrats need to believe that the party controlling their lives and limiting their movement is kindly and benign. A strong Republican Party is good! Mitch McConnell is Joe Biden's friend!

Stockholm Democrats do feel anger toward Trump and wish for his political demise. They may believe they're allowed to feel this because many Republicans say in private that they wish Trump would go away. But instead of turning Democrats against the GOP as a whole, this state of affiars reinforces Democrats' sense that the remaining Republicans deserve to be admired and protected.

I don't know how we reverse this. Maybe turnover in the leadership of the party will take care of it, assuming the Democratic Party survives long enough for that to happen.


In a Washington Post op-ed, George Conway argues that Vice President Pence and the Cabinet could have ended Donald Trump's presidency immediately after January 6, using the 25th Amendment:
That’s because Section 4 [of the amendment] provides for the immediate disempowerment of the president once the vice president and a majority of principal executive officers declare the president unable to serve. Even if the president objects, he doesn’t get his job back right away. The matter goes to Congress. And while Congress must assemble within 48 hours to consider the issue, Section 4 gives it three weeks to debate who’s right. On Jan. 7, 2021, Trump had less than two weeks left in his term. Congress could have run out the clock. With a single sheet of paper, the vice president and Cabinet could have sidelined Trump for good.
I don't think it would have been that simple.

Section 4 of the amendment says:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
So far, so good. In this scenario, it's January 7 and a fed-up Pence and Cabinet make their declaration of Trump's unfitness. Pence is now the acting president.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office....
Sure, Trump had only two weeks left in his term, but he wouldn't have simply allowed Pence and the Cabinet to drive him from office prematurely. That would make him a loser. That would make him weak. So he would have denied that he was unfit and declared himself president again.

Yes, the amendment says that the president doesn't have the last word:
... he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
So Trump would have proclaimed that he was still fit to be president and he would have declared that the entire Cabinet was fired, effective immediately. (A president can fire Cabinet members at will.) Thus, he would have prevented the Cabinet from telling Congress that their original declaration was correct and he was unfit to serve, or, if they'd already sent this message to Congress, it would no longer be clear whether they did so as "the principal officers of the executive departments." (Congress, according to the amendment, steps in only after the Cabinet and vice president dispute a president's claim of fitness to serve.)

Do you doubt that our Narcissist in Chief would have compounded the pain of January 6 by plunging us into this constitutional crisis in its aftermath, just so he could avoid the shame of being told to leave office two weeks early? Of course he would have done that.

The 25th Amendment wouldn't have rid us of Trump.

Thursday, June 16, 2022


This story from Michigan doesn't surprise me:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley’s recent arrest by the FBI for his suspected involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol appears to have boosted his name recognition and favorability among GOP voters in Michigan, new polling conducted in the days following his arrest indicates.

Kelley was arrested June 9. In a June 10-13 poll conducted for the Detroit Free Press and our outstate polling partners by EPIC-MRA of Lansing, 17% named Kelley as their preferred candidate for the August primary to determine which Republican candidate challenges Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.
That's not a huge level of support, but it puts him in the lead (45% of respondents are still undecided). He's even ahead of this guy, who would seem to have an unbeatable message going into a Republic primary:

Kelley also had the highest total favorability and name recognition among Republican gubernatorial contenders; 39% of respondents said they viewed the Ottawa County real estate agent favorably.
If getting arrested for participating in the Trump riot is good for a Republican campaign, then the January 6 hearings ought to give a poll boost to Trump himself, at least among GOP voters. On the other hand, if Fox News and other right-wing media outlets continue to downplay the hearings, maybe Trump won't see any benefit at all. (Perhaps that's what the Murdochs are thinking: Don't give publicity to Trump and maybe he'll seem diminished relative to Ron DeSantis.) We watch the hearings and see guilt. Fox fans would see a hero under attack. Ron DeSantis is lucky that right-wing news outlets aren't giving Trump that gift.