Monday, October 31, 2022


The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
The Republican nominee for Congress in Texas’ 7th district is a self-proclaimed history buff, but his take on Anne Frank is not one that most historians would endorse.

Johnny Teague, an evangelical pastor and business owner who won the district’s primary in March, in 2020 published “The Lost Diary of Anne Frank,” a novel imagining the famous Jewish Holocaust victim’s final days in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps as she might have written them in her diary.

The kicker: In Teague’s telling, Frank seems to embrace Christianity just before she is murdered by the Nazis....

“I would love to learn more about Jesus and all He faced in His dear life as a Jewish teacher,” Teague’s Anne Frank character muses at one point, saying that her dad had tried to get her a copy of the New Testament. Anne’s father Otto Frank, who in real life did survive the Holocaust, seems to have been spared a tragic fate in Teague’s telling because of his interest in learning about Jesus.

Later, Anne does learn about Jesus through other means, reciting Christian psalms and expressing sympathy for Jesus’ plight.

By book’s end, Anne is firm in her belief that “every Jewish man or woman should ask” questions like “Where is the Messiah? ... Did He come already, and we didn’t recognize Him?”
Unsurprisingly, the account for a previous Teague congressional run retweeted QAnon messages:
Teague, on his since-deleted [2020] campaign account, had retweeted content explicitly promoting QAnon, including retweeting a video of QAnon supporters taking an oath supporting the conspiracy theory. He also retweeted a false conspiracy theory pushed by some QAnon supporters that John F. Kennedy Jr. is secretly still alive even though he died in a plane crash. Teague has since claimed to Grid News that “QAnon material shared by his campaign’s Twitter account was posted by a campaign manager and that he ‘had her take it down,’” though he added that “I am sure QAnon are good American loving citizens.”

Well, at least he didn't write a novel in which Anne Frank finds Q.

Fortunately, he's running in a district the Cook Political Report rates as D+13; Cook doesn't consider it a competitive district.

The JTA story tells us that Teague has a typical Texas Republican's views on energy policy, but filtered through his own version of Christianity:
The candidate’s top issues on his website include “Close the Border,” “Eliminate Property Taxes” and his belief that fossil fuels are divinely ordained: “If you believe in a Creator and that everything is here for a purpose, then you have to realize that fossil fuels are not an accident. At the very beginning of time, God knew we would need automation and industry, so in His Wisdom, He gave us the fuels that we would need.”
I guess Teague doesn't believe God made, y'know, the sun.


Ezra Klein suggests that we might have been rid of Donald Trump by now if Joe Biden had a bigger personality:
... Biden has ... run a relatively quiet administration. He gives comparatively few interviews, news conferences and speeches. He has filled the office Trump vacated but not the space Trump took up in the national conversation.... this strategy runs deep risks. Biden’s low-drama approach to leadership leaves room for Trump’s high-drama antics.

Politics has not moved on from Trump, in ways that it might have under a president who created new political cleavages and alignments. Biden has not been a strong enough communicator or presence to make Trump seem irrelevant. To make this more concrete: I wonder whether Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could have won in 2020. But if one of them had, I suspect politics would have reorganized around their concerns and conflicts and Trump would seem a more passé figure. I worry that Biden thinks too much about America’s soul and not enough about its attention.
This is nonsense.

Who was a stronger communicator than Barack Obama in 2008? Who commanded more of America's (and the world's) attention? Yet by the end of Obama's first year, the Tea Party had muscled its way to the forefront of American political discourse, challenging Obama for dominance. The same thing happened to Bill Clinton after the 1992 election, when he was a big personality and a great communicator: Politics began to be dominated by opponents of his health care plan, by people accusing him of financial and sexual misconduct, and, eventually, by Newt Gingrich.

It's possible to imagine a Democrat dominating the political conversation, but it never happens. The Republican Party and the right-wing media declare any Democrat who gains power the sworn enemy of decency and freedom and the greatest threat to our way of life in living memory, while the mainstream media demonstrates its independence by attacking the Democrat with nearly as much vehemence as right-wingers do, and by amplifying the voices of the opposition.

If all this happened to the three left-centrist Democrats who've reached the White House in the past thirty years, then of course it would happen to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who are already too far to the left and too skeptical of the established financial order for the mainstream media's tastes. (I don't think most mainstream journalists are right-wing exactly -- they tend to be socially liberal, but on economic issues they're corporatist.) Sanders and Warren draw big crowds and generate a great deal of energy, but if the energy level of Obama's 2008 campaign wasn't enough to prevent this reversion toward the mean, I don't see how Sanders or Warren could do better. That's just not the way our political world is built.

Sunday, October 30, 2022


When real-world events threaten to expose the GOP as a threat to American civilization, the party uses kettle logic -- multiple arguments, many of them incompatible with one another -- to rally both rabid and moderate party supporters, and to reassure fence-sitters that all evil lies elsewhere. Look at January 6: To the rabid base, the party's propagandists argued that the violence was justified, or was the work of Antifa or the FBI (or both), or that it was encouraged by Nancy Pelosi, who (they falsely claim) was personally and solely in charge of the Capitol Police. To voters in the middle, the response has been whataboutism: Remember when Antifa and Black Lives Matter burned down entire American cities? (Which didn't happen.) Why isn't there a select committee about that?

The Republican responses to the attack on Paul Pelosi have begun to multiply, and while they're not truly incompatible yet, they're being doled out for different niche markets. As I noted yesterday, for the conspiracy-minded, the message is that Paul Pelosi's assailant was his gay lover. Republican Elon Musk is now rebroadcasting that disinformation. But that's aimed at the rabid right. There was still a need for a message reassuring to right-leaning moderates. How do you persuade them that this attack had nothing to do with conservative politics? You do what the NRA has been doing successfully for a decade to persuade Americans that horrible gun crimes have nothing to do with guns: You blame mental illness.

And so we have Michael Shellenberger setting the terms of the debate in the New York Post with a piece titled "Pelosi Attack Suspect David DePape Was a Psychotic Homeless Addict Estranged from His Pedophile Lover & Their Children." Now, what Shellenberger tells us is ... not wrong. DePape does appear to be a mentally ill person who lived on the margins. (The "pedophile lover" was not a man. It was the mother of his two sons, who's been convicted of stalking a 14-year-old boy.)

But most mentally ill people don't attack other people with weapons. And the fact that DePape is mentally ill doesn't mean that we should ignore the specific ideas coursing through his disordered mind.

But ignoring them is precisely what the right wants normal people to do. He's mentally ill and that's all that matters.

DePape was a Green Party leftist and is now a Jew-bashing, commie-baiting, Q-believing rightist; if he'd retained his original political beliefs, the right would find them extremely relevant and would never stop talking about them.

But the right knows that playing the mental illness card works -- it's been a highly effective deflection through the last decade of mass shootings. It works because everyone wishes we could help the mentally ill, or at least intervene before the few who are inclined to violence act on their worst impulses. It's not clear that it will work in this case, but if it persuades a few undecided voters to vote GOP, particularly in tandem with "Democrats don't care about crazy people attacking ordinary Americans with hammers in liberal cities," then it was worth it.

On that subject, here's Fox's Jesse Watters:

Watters says:
I want this alleged perpetrator to be treated the exact same way if he had treated-- if he had attacked anybody else. Because a lot of people get hit with hammers. A lot of people get attacked. And a lot of the times, they're out on bail the next day and it's a simple assault charge.
Here's a hammer attacker in New York City who's been charged with attempted murder. Here's a hammer attacker in Phoenix charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, and criminal damage. Here's a hammer attacker in Detroit charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and three counts of unlawful imprisonment. Here's a hammer attacker in Chicago sentenced to four to six years in prison on a felonious assault charge. So Jesse, don't worry -- David DePape, who's charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, battery, burglary, and other felonies, is being treated very much like other hammer attackers.

Saturday, October 29, 2022


One of the trending topics on Twitter this morning is Grindr. No, it's not because Twitter is becoming a sex site in the era of Elon Musk.

If you click on Grindr on the trending topics list, you get gay porn clips, but you also get this:

And this:

And this (from a blue-check right-wing actor):

I'm not the only one who's noticed this:

I searched for "paul pelosi lovers" on Twitter and got this narrative in bulk:

These people are evil, but they're like a basketball team or jazz group full of real pros: They know what to do, fluidly and as an ensemble, at any given moment, in response to anything that happens. They have a repertoire of go-to moves, and they know how to work as a team to support someone taking the lead. I'm sure bots and professional disinformationists are amplifying these messages, but the messages make sense to ordinary right-wingers because those people have been primed to believe that liberals are evil and deceitful in every thought, word, or deed, in ways that press every hot button -- if not homosexuality, then race or wealth or power or cruelty to children.

You might not care about social media and you might find this all fairly ridiculous, but this is why it's absolutely impossible for our society to come together across ideological lines and say that some things are simply unacceptable. We can't reach the right because this is the nature of the right's information sphere.

We need to ensure that everyone on the left and in the center understands that conservatives aren't just people like us who happen to be less comfortable with societal change or activist government -- they're people who believe that their allies are incapable of evil and we are capable of nothing but evil.

Friday, October 28, 2022


I've been reading quite a few "Elon Musk will regret buying Twitter" hot takes. Here's one from Niray Patel at The Verge. It's titled "Welcome to Hell, Elon."
You fucked up real good, kiddo.

... you are now the King of Twitter, and people think that you, personally, are responsible for everything that happens on Twitter now. It also turns out that absolute monarchs usually get murdered when shit goes sideways.
Actually, many absolute monarchs, even ones who've had a ruinous impact on their societies, die peacefully in their sleep. But go on.
... you can write as many polite letters to advertisers as you want, but you cannot reasonably expect to collect any meaningful advertising revenue if you do not promise those advertisers “brand safety.” That means you have to ban racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total assholes. So you can make all the promises about “free speech” you want, but the dull reality is that you still have to ban a bunch of legal speech if you want to make money. And when you start doing that, your creepy new right-wing fanboys are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.
Do they? Do right-wingers turn on any right-wing site or media property that does even the slightest bit of censorship? If so, that would be news to Fox.

Nothing happened to Fox News a year ago when the channel decided that Lara Logan was unwelcome because she'd compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to Josef Mengele. Nothing happened because Fox "bravely" showcases other people the libs hate -- most of its hosts, obviously, but also people like Kyle Rittenhouse, who's been acquitted of homicide charges but is regarded by most liberals as a murderer. The crazies in the audience stay, as do most of the advertisers.

Now see how Elon Musk spent his first day as the owner of Twitter. The Daily Beast reports:
Elon Musk ascended the throne at Twitter on Thursday, and after swiftly axing the company’s top leadership, he tweeted, “the bird is freed.” His very next message: pledging to assist an account named @catturd2, which claimed to have been “shadowbanned, ghostbanned, [and] searchbanned” under the former regime.... Catturd2 ... previously made news when Donald Trump retweeted the account multiple after it broadcast election lies and tweets supporting the former president.
Note that while Catturd was allegedly shadowbanned by the previous Twitter management, he was never actually banned banned. Catturd has more than 875,000 followers on Twitter. He's obnoxious, but he's been playing by the rules. If Musk proudly proclaims that he's removing a real or imaginary form of self-deplatforming from Catturd's account, the fanboys will be so pleased they won't notice when he bans randos with names like JewKillerOvenMaster666.

But if Musk can't find the right balance and advertisers flee Twitter, are we sure he'll care? Very rich people routinely conclude at some point in their lives that they've made enough money and they want to give back; what if Twitter is Musk's idea of that? What if he regards it as his version of the Gates Foundation or the Open Society Foundation? If Musk loses money, will he really lose far more than Bill Gates and George Soros give away?

Musk may see this as his way of making the world a better place, at a cost he's rich enough to afford. He wants to make the world a better place for the likes of Putin, Trump, Kanye, and Catturd. I assume he regards that as a moral, positive act, his version of Bill Gates working on sanitation projects in the developing world.

So maybe he's ready to lose money. It's for a good cause, right?


Many people assume that a majority-Republican House will inevitably impeach President Biden. I've never believed that. Now Annie Karni of The New York Times tells us that Republicans are downplaying the likelihood of a presidential impeachment:
... top Republicans are seeking to downplay the chances that they will impeach Mr. Biden, distancing themselves from a polarizing issue that could alienate voters just as polls show the midterm elections breaking their way.

“I think the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, told Punchbowl News earlier this month. While he didn’t rule out moving forward on impeachment hearings if something rose “to that occasion,” Mr. McCarthy said the country needed to “heal” and that voters wanted to “start to see the system that actually works.”
As Karni says, this might just be an effort to lull moderates so they'll vote Republican in the midterms. And, obviously, McCarthy may not have buy-in for this from the more rabid members of his caucus (and his party):
Still, should he become House speaker, Mr. McCarthy would be under immense pressure from hard-right members of his rank and file — and from core Republican voters who swept his party into the majority in part based on promises to take down Mr. Biden — to impeach. The pressure will only increase if former President Donald J. Trump adds his voice to those pushing for the move.
But impeachment is still a niche idea:
Overall 10 House Republicans have either introduced or sponsored a total of 21 articles of impeachment against Mr. Biden and his top officials since the start of the administration.
That's 10 out of 212 Republicans in the House.

I stand by what I wrote in August 2021:
They don't want to impeach because they know that impeachment caused Bill Clinton's approval rating to soar, and also resulted in steadily rising poll numbers for Donald Trump from early November 2019 through February 2020. Much smarter to embroil Biden in multiple investigations, a la Benghazi, if they can keep their howling mob of a base calm while pursuing this course.

... The point will be to avoid a failed vote to convict Biden in the Senate, which will be widely seen as an exoneration, and will make Republicans look weak. The party would much rather keep Biden under a permanent cloud of suspicion -- seemingly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, but never tried -- until November 2024.
When I wrote that -- just after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan -- it seemed more likely to me that there'd be an impeachment of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. I don't expect that now, though the all-show-trials-all-the-time GOP House absolutely will hold one-sided hearings on the pullout.

If anyone in the Biden White House is impeached, it will be homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans are obsessed with the border, and he'll be their scapegoat and Biden surrogate. He'll be one of their top three targets, and the only one who'll actually be a government employee if (when?) they take over. (Hunter Biden isn't part of the government and Anthony Fauci is retiring.)

In 2021, one excuse Republicans gave for wanting to avoid impeachment was that they didn't want to be responsible for the empowerment of history's greatest monster, Kamala Harris:
Some Republicans say privately that they have raised the ascension of Vice President Kamala Harris to constituents as a reason why they are not behind impeachment.
And here we go again. In the Times, Karni writes:
Newt Gingrich, the House speaker who quit Congress after Mr. Clinton’s impeachment amid ethics allegations and Republican losses, said he was advising Mr. McCarthy against it.

“All you have to do is say to people, ‘Kamala Harris,’” Mr. Gingrich said. “Tell me the endgame that makes any sense. As bad as Biden is, she’d be vastly worse. I don’t think the brand-new Republican majority should waste their time on a dead end.”
Everyone thinks Kevin McCarthy is stupid, but I think he's skillfully evil, keeping nutjobs like Greene happy and on his side while conveying the impression that they're outliers within his caucus. I think he'll let them run as many star chambers as they want, while dissuading them from impeaching Biden. But we'll see.

Thursday, October 27, 2022


Herschel Walker has now wiped out Raphael Warnock's lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average. He's led Warnock in the four most recent polls listed at FiveThirtyEight (although one is from Walker's own campaign and two are from right-wing media outlets).

Chuck Schumer is concerned.

Do October surprises even work anymore?

The 2016 election suggests that they can, of course. The reopening of the FBI investigation into her handling of emails might have cost her the election. But it seems clear in retrospect that some of the votes she needed to win that election would have come from people who didn't fully trust her and were inclined to believe that said she could be deceitful and act entitled. A lot of people, including many Democrats, had internalized elements of the right-wing narrative about her.

The Tara Reade non-scandal wasn't an October surprise for Joe Biden -- it hit a few weeks after his Super Tuesday victories, when most of the Democratic field had dropped out of the race -- but it did no damage to his presidential prospects. Aside from Reade's credibility problems, the allegation didn't seem plausible to Biden's voters.

And while Republicans continue to grumble that a late-breaking Hunter Biden story, which was actually intended to be an October surprise, was surpressed by the media and tech companies, enough of the story surfaced that it might have had an impact -- if any of Biden's voters cared. In fact, they had a hard time seeing him as a corrupt global wheeler-dealer, and they still do, which is why Republican midterm attack ads criticize Biden for inflation, not his son's activities. Democratic voters don't care. Swing voters don't care. Republicans know that.

The awful thing about the Herschel Walker abortion stories is that, to any objective person, they absolutely do seem consistent with everything else known about him. We know that he has three children he never publicly acknowledged until the media revealed their existence. We know that even the right-wing son who was the only child he openly acknowledged has called him a terrible parent. We know that rich men pay for abortions all the time, as do current and former sports heroes.

But to his voter base, or even voters somewhat inclined to consider him seriously, he's just a God-fearing conservative man, and even if he did something that they'd find morally outrageous (and that he'd denounce in anyone else), it surely must be the result of momentary moral weakness, which the Lord Jesus has assuredly helped him to overcome.

Maybe October surprises work only when voters aren't worried about losing ground against the other party. Roy Moore lost his Senate election in 2017, when Republicans had just won an upset victory in a presidential election, and also controlled Congress. Democrats in 2016 were complacent after eight years of Barack Obama, and they also thought Hillary Clinton would win no matter what. Primary voters this year knew they could dump Madison Cawthorn and elect another Republican in his place. But Democrats and many swing voters in 2020 were desperate to drive Donald Trump out of the White House, which is one reason they dismissed (phony) Biden scandals. Republicans really want Congress backnow, so they seem more ready to vote for Herschel Walker the more he's attacked. They see the stories and all they think is: Our enemies are behind all this. We must destroy them. And so he might win.


New York Times opinion columnist Katherine Miller almost gets it, about a year late:
... what if we’ve already reached the post-Trump era?

Consider the case of Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s former private equity co-C.E.O. governor with a sunshine demeanor, and Kari Lake, Arizona’s Republican nominee for governor, a wild proponent of Donald Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him.... Mr. Youngkin campaigned for her last week, across several events.... there was no clash. It wasn’t one of those awkward, painful episodes in which a more traditional Republican makes an explicit transaction with a party dominated by Mr. Trump. Everything was smooth and cohesive — a joint case about the Republican Party of today.

Looking at this pair one way, you could see Donald Trump’s endless influence over the Republican Party. But if you zoomed out ... neither Mr. Youngkin nor Ms. Lake had much to do with anything that happened nationally between June 2015 and January 2021.

This observation ... coexists with another possibility: that Mr. Trump could be fading politically at the same time that his core support is hardening.... When people talk about a post-Trump era, there’s usually a subtext that it would involve a clean break and his permanent exit from political life. If we are entering a post-Trump period, though, rather than Mr. Trump being something to get past, he could remain a major factor in politics but no longer the sole reference point around which each development moves.
This is a long way of saying that maybe Trump really isn't on the verge of vanishing from the scene, either through a gradual slide into irrelevance or because he's vanquished by someone like Brave Liz Cheney wielding Excalibur. He might be retaining some relevance while not being the only relevant Republican.

And, well, duh. Of course that's what's happening. It's been happening since the spring of 2021, in plain sight.

While smart people told us that the GOP was a mentally healthy party suffering from a mania that was entirely a side effect of a drug called Trumpism, Fox News hosts and opportunistic GOP candidates like Glenn Youngkin were obsessing over the twin specters of critical race theory and trans students in schools, even as Republicans nationwide took the magical thinking of Trump's COVID denialism and honed it until it was a weaponized theory of disease that denied any societal responsibility to prevent or limit contagion -- if you care about trying to stop the spread of a deadly disease, you're a communist who hates freedom. Toss in hysteria about the border (an old Trump favorite, but also one of the GOP's greatest hits going back to the pre-Trump era) and about crime (the modern GOP's first #1 rhetorical hit, from the 1960s) and you've got the Republican Party of 2022. Of course it's Trumpist -- and of course it's much more than Trumpist. It's evolving, adding new and old songs to the set list, even as Trump's #1 concern -- himself, and the election he insists was stolen from him -- remains a central source of energy and grievance.

Miller grasps this obvious point, which she presents as a striking insight:
So much in the political conversation still centers on the prospective choices of Mr. Trump and people’s responses to them, as if we were forever in the loop of the period when Mr. Trump’s prominence still felt surreal. But time has passed, and people’s lives have continued — and things have already changed. Arguably, you can see this in some conservatives’ intense focus on restricting trans health care or avoiding Covid recommendations, two issues that have outpaced Mr. Trump’s promotion of them, even if he opened the portal to their prominence.
"Arguably, you can see this"? You could see this a year and a half ago! Or at least you could if you weren't fixated on the notion that Trump is the only thing wrong with the Republican Party, as most mainstream media pundits have been for quite a while now.

And despite all this, Miller still can't let go of the notion that the GOP is either purely Trump-driven or not:
Mr. Trump has become predictable in a certain way: You can usually anticipate what his reaction will be to things and what he’ll demand from people, no matter how staggering and corrosive. What happens if a party that orbited him starts to detach from him a little bit and becomes, therefore, even more unpredictable? ...

And in politics more broadly, it might still come to pass that Mr. Trump rolls through a presidential primary and straight into 2024, ushering in an eternal Trump era. But you can also imagine, in a party that has reshaped itself to Mr. Trump, his own obsession with the past puts him at a disadvantage with people who, unlike him, can discard it when they want.
A Republican Party that "starts to detach from" Trump is what we've had since 2021, and it's not "unpredictable" at all -- if you want to predict what its politicians are going to say and do, just watch Fox and you'll know. But that party is entirely compatible with a Trump who "rolls through a presidential primary and straight into 2024." The result of that wouldn't be "an eternal Trump era" to the exclusion of post-Trump ideas. Lake and Youngkin and Christopher Rufo and Marjorie Taylor Greene will still explore new vistas of shit-stirring, riling up base anger as a means of holding on to power. The Republican Supreme Court will continue to issue more highly corrosive rulings. The party will simultaneously belong to Trump and his successors and emulators, just the way it has since 2021, for the foreseeable future -- obviously.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022


If I didn't know better, I'd say that this seems bad for Herschel Walker:
A second woman has alleged that Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee in Georgia's Senate race, was involved in her getting an abortion.

... The woman, who was identified by attorney Gloria Allred as "Jane Doe," during a news conference Wednesday claimed Walker had "pressured" her into getting an abortion after she learned she was pregnant in April 1993.

"I was devastated because I felt that I had been pressured into having an abortion."
The reason I don't think it's bad for Walker is contained in this Washington Post piece, headlined "Herschel Walker Has Recovered from His (First) Abortion Scandal":
On Oct. 3, the Daily Beast reported that Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, had paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. Walker, who opposes abortion in all cases, denies the story. But he immediately looked like a hypocrite and lost ground in the polls.

Now, Walker might be bouncing back.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Walker has regained all of the ground he lost mid-scandal....
In fact, Walker is doing better now, according to Real Clear Politics, than he was doing on October 3. At that time, he trailed Warnock by 2.2 points. Now Warnock's lead is 0.5.

If RCP is right, the scandal actually helped Walker, presumably by persuading Republican-leaning fence-sitters that Walker is the target of evil liberals who want to destroy all God-fearing Christian conservatives.

And there's an extra element in this new story: the second accuser's lawyer. To the right, Gloria Allred might as well be Nancy Pelosi -- she lives in California, she's in her eighties, she takes no guff. She's just the kind of assertive feminist Republicans love to hate. (And just being an older woman makes her seem grotesque and repulsive to many on the right.)

When I go to the news aggregation site Memeorandum and look at the dozens of stories on this subject, I see that three of them mention Allred in their headlines -- all at right-wing sites (RedState, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller). And here's the first Breitbart comment: "All one has to say to discredit this woman's claim is Gloria Allred."

I'm serious: I wish this hadn't come out. It won't push many voters into the Warnock camp, but it will fire up the right. And let's hope the story stands up to scrutiny, because if it doesn't, Walker can start measuring the drapes in his Senate office.


John Fetterman had a bad debate last night.

Our debate formats require candidates to offer tight, nimble, complex-sounding answers that deflect attacks and put opposing candidates on the defensive, with every answer coming in a short span of time. If you have sixty seconds to reply to a question or fifteen seconds for a rebuttal, as Fetterman and Mehmet Oz did last night, you need to be fast and sharp. Oz was, although he fell into a pitfall with an answer on abortion that's now being used in attacks by the Fetterman campaign and its allies.

But Fetterman stumbled throughout the debate. It might cost him the election -- but it also might have very little effect.

Most ordinary people are afraid of public speaking. Most would have trouble giving articulate, pointed answers to questions not known in advance on a wide range of subjects over the course of an hour, even with preparation.

I'm not surprised that the incurious and inarticulate Herschel Walker is still in contention in the Georgia Senate race and I won't be surprised if the stroke-impaired and now inarticulate John Fetterman remains in contention in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Debating is an elitist skill. Most Americans can't do it. So they might not be rejecting two candidates for whom it's a struggle.



After last night, some people might be rooting for him even more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


The New York Times has returned to its happy place: Democrats are doomed.
Republicans are pressing their advantage deep into Democratic territory in the closing stretch of the 2022 campaign, competing for an abundance of House seats amid growing signs that voters are poised to punish President Biden’s party even in the bluest parts of America....

“We thought for a little bit that we could defy gravity, but the reality is setting in,” said Sean McElwee, executive director of Data for Progress, a progressive research and polling firm.
We're told that Republicans are on the verge of beating Democrats in Oregon, California, New York ... and that might be true. It's certainly what every major-media observer -- left, center, and right -- believes now.

So I'm grateful to Adam McGinnis for directing my attention to this. It's not from a political pundit. It's from Evan Scrimshaw, who mostly writes about sports betting. He notes that the polling in the New York governor's race is tightening -- incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul's lead is at 7.4 points, down from 18.4 in late August, and the online betting site PredictIt doesn't price the race as a guaranteed Democratic win. Scrimshaw thinks that's absurd:
The case for this being somewhere on the board is that a lot of polls have Hochul’s lead in the single digits, and that those pollsters overestimated Joe Biden’s leads in 2020 over Donald Trump.

... The problem with that is, we know those polls are wrong – because there’s also a Senate race in New York this year, and we know those polls are wrong.

In the three elections Chuck Schumer has run as an incumbent, his average margin of victory is 41%. Schumer is an electoral force, winning by at least 30% three straight cycles, including in 2010, a notoriously bad year for Democrats.

And his lead, on average, is only 17%.

... What’s happening is that Siena and Marist and Quinnipiac are correcting for 2020 in their polling. It’s a logical response to being wrong, and one we know generally leads to overcorrection.

... The idea that New York is going to go red during an at-best moderately GOP year – and a year where Democrats are winning Michigan and Minnesota Governors – is for the birds.
Is Scrimshaw right? I don't know. But why assume that the polls can only be underestimating the GOP's strength, as everyone in the political press is doing? Why couldn't it be the other way?

(Remember, in most of these tight races that once seemed to be sure Democratic wins, the Democrats are still leading in the polls. Many people are just assuming that it's necessary to correct for a pro-Democratic polling bias, even though that bias might not actually exist, so they're counting any race in which Democrats have a slight lead as a probably Republican win.)

Scrimshaw also thinks the polls are underestimating the strength of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, because polls generally underestimate Democratic strength in Nevada. And, well...

But even Sean McElwee at Data for Progress thinks Democrats are doomed! But Data for Progress polls sometimes skew right.

We've all forgotten last year's California gubernatorial recall election. The final Real Clear Politics polling average said Gavin Newsom would survive the recall by a margin of 14.5 points. The actual margin was 23.8. We can laugh at the final survey from the right-wing pollster Trafalgar, which predicted a Newsom victory margin of just 8.6 points (which is why the great results for Republicans in nearly every Trafalgar poll don't scare me) -- but the margin in the last Data for Progress poll was only 14 points. In fact, only a couple of pollsters predicted a Newsom win even close to the final margin, and no poll overestimated Newsom's victory.

So, yes, polls can be skewed against Democrats. Now, maybe the Democrats really are doomed. But they might not be.


Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman haven't even debated in the Pennsylvania Senate race -- the debate happens tonight -- but rodent-like supervillain Stephen Miller hads already proclaimed that Fetterman is guilty of cheating:

"The performance of a lifetime"? That seems ... implausible, given Fetterman's ongoing recovery from a stroke and Oz's well-honed TV slickness. But many on the right agree with Miller:

The use of the technology, as described by CNN, seems quite transparent:
The campaigns agreed weeks ago to allow Fetterman to use closed captioning technology during the debate, meaning that as Oz speaks, Fetterman will be able to read what he is saying on two 70-inch screens that will be placed above the moderators and in view of both candidates.
So Oz can see precisely what Fetterman is seeing -- as, presumably, can the TV cameras when they pan to the moderators.

None of which will prevent Rat Boy Miller and his allies from claiming that they saw a debate answer flash up on the screen. Prominent party hacks will repeat the allegations. Social media accounts mysteriously created in the past few months will post doctored screen shots of Fetterman's debate answers on the monitors. (Or, since the voice-recognition software will presumably keep working while Fetterman speaks, these social media operatives will un-sync the audio and video to make it seem as if a Fetterman answer flashed on the monitors before he gave it.)

This might not seem credible to anyone outside the right-wing bubble. But be ready for it.

Monday, October 24, 2022


Jake Tapper is righteously indignant:

Tapper adds, "and not with a blame game" -- but you know a blame game is precisely what he wants. Politically, he's a moderate, but his sociocultural cohort is upscale whites who lean more or less liberal. He wants to blame them, because years of ref-working by conservatives has taught liberal media journalists to hate their own kind.

Tapper is responding, of course, to today's headlines. From The New York Times:
Math Scores Fell in Nearly Every State, and Reading Dipped on National Exam

The results, from what is known as the nation’s report card, offer the most definitive picture yet of the pandemic’s devastating impact on students.

U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren.
There's something shocking about the word "indictment" in this context. This was a virus, for crissake. But it's obvious that elitist semi-liberals don't want to be told that something terrible emerged from amoral nature and severely damaged us. That's not good enough. Someone ought to be indicted. Someone must be to blame.

This would be justified if the elected officials who have smugly told us for the past two years that they handled the pandemic correctly, by choosing FREEDOM!!!, turned out to be right and had the least educational disruption. But that wasn't the case:
The picture was mixed, and performance varied by grade level and subject matter in ways that were not always clear cut.

For example, Texas, where many schools opened sooner, held steady in reading but posted declines similar to national averages in math.

In California, which stood out for its caution in reopening schools, scores declined slightly less than national averages in several categories — about in line with Florida, which was a leader in opening schools sooner. Los Angeles stayed closed longer than almost anywhere else in the country, according to data by Burbio, a school tracking site, yet it was the only place to show significant gains in eighth-grade reading....

In one bright spot, most big city school districts, including New York City, Dallas and Miami-Dade, held steady in reading.
Regarding Los Angeles, The Wall Street Journal adds:
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said factors including strong attendance for online courses and summer classes contributed to improved reading scores there.
But we all know the preferred narrative of the mainstream media (which is all but indistinguishable from the preferred narrative of the right-wing media): Liberals obsessed with social engineering did severe damage to children. But the damage was in places with long periods of remote learning and short periods of remote learning. The damge to reading scores looked a lot like a pre-pandemic decline:
... reading was not spared, and in both grades, more than half the states saw significant declines. In 2019, reading scores had also declined in many states.
Much easier to boil the story down to the headline: It's all our fault, as usual.

Sunday, October 23, 2022


This Rolling Stone headline seems alarming:
Trump Plans to Challenge the 2022 Elections — Starting in Philly
But I'm not really worried about his approach to this -- or at least I'm not worried that it will be effective at overturning the results. I'm sure it will succeed at stirring up the base, which is bad enough. But it will be unpersuasive to the rest of America, and it will fail as a legal strategy:
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER, Donald Trump welcomed a handful of Republican allies to Manhattan’s Trump Tower with an urgent message: He saw a “scam” happening with midterm election voting in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and he wanted conservatives to do something about it.

In recent months, Trump has convened a series of in-person meetings and conference calls to discuss laying the groundwork to challenge the 2022 midterm election results....

If there’s any hint of doubt about the winners, the teams plan to wage aggressive court campaigns and launch a media blitz. Trump himself set the blueprint for this on Election Night 2020, when — with the race far from decided — he went on national television to declare: “Frankly, we did win this election.”

... Pennsylvania has grabbed his interest most keenly, including in the Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-endorsed GOP contender Mehmet Oz. If the Republican does not win by a wide enough margin to trigger a speedy concession from Fetterman — or if the vote tally is close on or after Election Night in November — Trump and other Republicans are already preparing to wage a legal and activist crusade against the “election integrity” of Democratic strongholds such as the Philly area.
He's going to do this again? Assert that whoever is leading at 11:00 P.M. or midnight on Election Night should be declared the winner, no matter how many uncounted votes there are?

For most Americans, this was unpersuasive in 2020, and it will be unpersuasive this year, because of the way the media reports election results.

What happens? Votes trickle in. They get posted to maps on TV and on news sites. On TV in particular, analysts like Steve Kornacki on MSNBC and John King on CNN explain where the outstanding votes are and how, based on past voting patterns, they're likely to affect the outcome. We're used to this. We expect that we won't know exactly when we'll have every vote reported. In tight races, we know it will take a while.

Yes, Republicans think it's all a big plot. But for the rest of America, elections with prolonged vote counting are just standard operating procedure. The majority of Americans know that vote counting is like baseball or tennis, not football or basketball. There's no clock. You keep going until the process is complete. It's expected that the process will take a while.

So I'm glad Trump wants to pull this failed stunt again. Even the Big Lie crowd eventually abandoned it, talking instead about surreptitious ballot drops and manipulated computers and "mules" stuffing dropoff boxes.

It's a weirdly Trumpian approach to election manipulation. It's all about his lifelong belief that if you seize any opportunity to look like a winner, you'll be a winner. A normal would-be election stealer would grab a mic at midnight and talk about specific voting problems, while refusing to concede. Many Republican candidates will probably do just that this year. But Trump's idea is to say that merely counting votes after an arbitrary deadline of his choice ought to be disallowed, and since it ought to be disallowed, he -- or, this year, any candidate who's a substitute for him -- has the right to declare that he won.

And why fixate on Pennsylvania, where the governor is a Democrat, the secretary of state is the governor's appointee, and the courts were hostile to Trump's challenges two years ago? The obvious answer is that Trump's arguments precisely reflect the racist narrative that's been in his head all his life. If it's a close race by John Fetterman is on course to win narrowly, based on ballots reported late, what's the story? That there was cheating in Philadelphia -- an Eastern city with the approximate racial mix of most cities in the East. To Trump, you don't even have to offer evidence that vote-counting in an Eastern city is crooked. Philadelphia is full of Those People. Trump thinks everybody knows Those People cheat in every election. Who needs evidence?

If we approach midnight and it looks as if city votes will put Fetterman over the top, I really hope Trump persuades Dr. Oz to go out and declare himself the winner. Every major news organization -- yes, quite possibly including Fox, which has tended to play Election Nights straight -- will be saying it's too soon to call the race, or will say that the numbers look better for Fetterman. The strategy will fail.

There will undoubtedly be other Republican election deniers claiming their losses are the result of fraud. The smart ones will have laid the groundwork by identifying phony voting problems in advance, or at least during the voting on Election Day. But Trump and his crew appear ready to offer as little proof of fraud as they did last time. They'll just claim that Those People cheated the way they always do.

There are plenty of reasons to worry about other Republicans' claims of election fraus. I worry that Ron DeSantis's election Gestapo will arrest one or two apparently ineligible voters, and the story will be blown out of proportion by the right-wing media. I worry that innocent glitches will spawn conspiracy theories. I worry that aggressive challenges to voters by GOP poll watchers could create a sense that our elections have real problems.

But Trump worries me less. Elections don't end at midnight. This isn't "Cinderella." Trump can sell that idea to his base, but not to the rest of us.

Saturday, October 22, 2022


I made a prediction on Twitter a week ago:

I was right:
... Walker has turned the “fake badge” into a regular feature on the campaign trail, signifying his solidarity with law enforcement ... as NBC News reported:
Walker, a Republican, is now showing the badge, one of at least two he has from Georgia sheriffs, in TV interviews. He plans to tout it in a video cut for social media with Johnson County Sheriff Greg Rowland, who gave him the badge. And Walker’s campaign told NBC News that it has ordered 1,000 imitation plastic law enforcement badges that say “I’m with Herschel” as a fundraising tool....
At the moment, this is the centerpiece of Walker’s campaign.

Cops love Republicans, of course, and -- January 6 excepted -- Republican voters love cops. But, more important, Republican voters love phonies.

Republican voters loved the way Ronald Reagan incessantly returned the salutes of military personnel, even though, as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was superior to those troops and wasn't supposed to salute back. Reagan's primary military experience was as part of the 1st Motion Picture Unit in Culver City, California, during World War II; he spent the entire war stateside. He became president by defeating Jimmy Carter, who'd attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served on nuclear submarines in the early days of the Cold War. Yet Reagan's fans saw him as the real military man.

George W. Bush avoided service in Vietnam after strings were pulled to get him into the Texas Air National Guard. In 2003, he wore a flight suit while landing a military jet to celebrate what he wanted us to believe was the end of the Iraq War. Right-wing voters (and even some liberal journalists) swooned. A year later, allies of Bush distributed purple Band-Aids at the Republican convention to mock the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, who'd won three Purple Hearts in Vietnam.

That's the pattern: You're a tough guy -- a cop, a soldier -- if you're a Republican and claim the status. No Democrats need apply, even if they've actually done the job. Those are the rules, according to the right.

Friday, October 21, 2022


Jonathan Chait writes:
There are many examples of the sickness of the Republican Party’s internal culture — perhaps none more pure than its position on vaccines....

[Ron] DeSantis has instead repeatedly taken steps to cast doubt on the efficacy of the COVID vaccine itself.... DeSantis recruited Joseph Ladapo, an idiosyncratic vaccine skeptic, and made Florida the only state not to recommend the COVID vaccine for children. That is not an expression of opposition to mandates. It is an expression of opposition to the vaccine. He officially declared that the state “recommends against males aged 18 to 39 receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines” on the grounds that it is allegedly unsafe. That is an anti-vaccine stance, not an anti-mandate stance.

It is a stance that runs contrary to the overwhelming consensus of experts in the field.

... recently, Ladapo appeared on the QAnon-supporting program X22 Report, where he called the mRNA vaccines unsafe. “Basic questions about safety have either been spun, ignored, or suppressed,” he charged.
And after that, where did Dr. Ladapo's vaccine denialism show up? The august pages of the Wall Street Journal opinion section, naturally:
Under my leadership, the Florida Department of Health analyzed overall mortality and cardiac-related mortality risk associated with Covid-19 vaccination. We found an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among men 18 to 39 within 28 days following mRNA vaccination.

The left has smeared these results as “anti-science,” as Holden Thorpe, the editor of Science, recently stated in an editorial.
Mainstream science is now part of "the left."

Even the Journal's opinion section is (occasionally) resistant to the kind of edgelord extremism that's entered right-wing politics in the Donald Trump era. But we may be entering the DeSantis Epoch, and if so, it appears that nearly the entire right will be along for the ride.

Look, here's Jeb Bush -- a prominent member of a family that's regularly lambasted by Trump and his fan base. Jeb might resent the Donald, but he apparently loves the Ron:
[JAKE] TAPPER: The current Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is in that new generation.... Would you support him if he ran?

[JEB] BUSH: ... I can tell you, he's done a great job as governor. He's governed very effectively. His response to the Pandemic, I think, was extraordinarily good. His education policies are solid. He's made a real commitment to protecting the water resources and the natural environment of our state.

He's kept the legislature in line. He's done the things that I admire, as governor. And he also has a strong appeal, outside the state, because he's tackled these cultural issues that have pretty broad appeal, in the Republican mindset, right now.
And if DeSantis peddles junk COVID science, or campaigns with Trumpian election denialists like Kari Lake and Blake Masters, no big deal -- Jeb Bush, a paragon of establishment Republicanism, says he's okay.

We might still be living in the Donald Trump Era -- possibly until January 20, 2029. But if we're really moving on, the Age of DeSantis could be an age when any lingering GOP resistance to paranoid conspiratorialism simply disappears.

Thursday, October 20, 2022


Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen is, most of the time, a deceitful, propaganda-spewing Republican hack, but when he writes about what his party needs to do to succeed, he's capable of being sincere. Today's column, headlined "Liz Truss’s Resignation Is a Warning for Republicans," genuinely expresses a fear of GOP failure. Olsen writes:
Republicans should take note of [Truss's] mistakes if they want to avoid a similar debacle after the midterms and in 2024.

Truss’s first mistake was to push a radical economic agenda she did not campaign on.... She had promised some modest tax reductions and offered rhetorical backing for deregulation. But those were far short of the sweeping tax cuts she and her chancellor of the exchequer unveiled in their now-infamous mini-budget proposed in late September.

Failing to prepare public opinion for her proposals meant there was no widespread support for them in any segment of British society. Conservative MPs who championed fiscal stability were gobsmacked at the prospect of widening deficits as far as the eye could see. The broader public backed more spending and taxation, not less....

Republicans are at risk of making the same mistake if they retake control of Congress.... Using the national debt limit next year as leverage to force significant spending cuts, including to Social Security and Medicare, as has recently been rumored, would be as politically disastrous for the GOP as Truss’s supply-side tax cuts were for the Tories.
I wish I believed this.

If Republicans propose massive tax cuts for the rich, there'll be absolutely no resistance within their party. And while ordinary Americans will object to debt blackmail while it's going on, they'll forget about it as soon as the crisis is over. They might be so outraged at efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare that they'll force the GOP to back off, but the GOP's poll numbers will never drop as low as the Tories' have -- the Conservatives are now 36 points behind Labour -- and the Republicans will recover quickly, probably by ginning up outrage over trans teenagers and allegedly rampant crime in cities their voters never visit. This always works for them.

Olsen worries about 2024:
Republicans need to pick a 2024 nominee who has both intellectual depth and genuine courage. Former president Donald Trump has neither. He might sound like a fighter, but he regularly pulled back from his agenda under pressure from his staff.
Well, this time he's going to pick a staff that's entirely like-minded -- i.e., batshit crazy -- so that won't be a problem.
He also publicly excoriated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whom he will need to pass whatever agenda he comes up with.
Yes, but McConnell will back Trump wholeheartedly if he's the nominee, and will be completely transactional with him if he becomes president again. Their relationship will be fine.
Trump also shares Truss’s lack of serious engagement with ideas.... You can’t change the nation’s course if you don’t have an idea for where it should be going.
Trump obviously falls short in this area, but his future staffers have plenty of solid ideas about where the country should be going. (The short answer is Hungary.) They'll know what to do, I'm sorry to say.

In a way, I'm jealous of the U.K. The GOP hasn't seen the Tories' current level of disgrace since approximately 1964. I don't expect the Republicans will fall that far again in my lifetime.


Here's the anecdote that begins a Washington Post story about Ron DeSantis's relationship with Disney:
Early on March 9, Robert Chapek, Walt Disney Co.’s CEO, got on the phone with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the Parental Rights in Education bill, which restricts what teachers can say about gender and sexual orientation.

... Disney was a DeSantis donor and one of the state’s biggest employers. Thanks to a $578 million tax break approved during his administration, Disney planned to move 2,000 high-paid creative jobs from California to the Sunshine State.

But DeSantis was bristling about similar plans, as he soon made clear in public and private. Californians moving to Texas will “vote the exact same way they voted that turned San Francisco into the dumpster fire that it is,” he warned at a forum in April, adding that he also didn’t want “leftists” infiltrating Florida. He echoed such concerns to Disney executives, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations.
Then DeSantis declared his fatwa against Disney for its objections to the Parents Rights in Education ("Don't Say Gay") bill. Disney has since postponed the move of the 2,000 employees to 2026, at which time DeSantis will either be president of the United States, a defeated one-term governor, or a term-limited two-term governor in his final year in office, assuming he doesn't impose martial law and declare himself Florida's governor for life, which I suppose we can't rule out.

I reproduce this story because right-wingers like to gin up outrage whenever Democratic politicians seem to suggest that conservatives are unwelcome in their states. This past summer the New York Post ran an opinion piece about New York's governor headlined "Kathy Hochul’s Call for 5.4M Republicans to Leave New York Is Dangerous and Disgusting." In fact, Hochul never actually said that all Republicans should leave the state. What she said -- as the Post itself reported -- was this:
Gov. Kathy Hochul sparked controversy Monday night by saying political opponents like Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin ought to ditch New York as she rallied with fellow Democrats ahead of a special election in Congressional District 19 in the Hudson Valley.

“We are fighting for democracy. We’re fighting to bring government back to the people and out of the hands of dictators,” Hochul said at a Monday evening rally in Kingston alongside Democratic congressional candidate Pat Ryan, where she called out his Republican opponent, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Zeldin and former President Donald Trump.

“Trump and Zeldin and Molinaro – just jump on a bus and head down to Florida where you belong. OK? Get out of town. Because you don’t represent our values,” added Hochul....
(Republicans all over the country hit their fainting couches when Hochul's words were reported, but Democrat Pat Ryan won that special election.)

Hochul's predecessor said something similar, which was similarly misinterpreted by the New York Post.
[Andrew] Cuomo said Friday that members of the GOP with “extreme” views are creating an identity crisis for their party and represent a bigger worry than Democrats such as himself. “Their problem isn’t me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves,” the governor said on Albany’s The Capitol Pressroom radio show.

“Who are they? Right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay — if that’s who they are, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

He added that moderate Republicans, such as those in the state Senate, “have a place in their state.”
It's clear to me that Cuomo was talking about candidates who, in his opinion, are to the right of New York State's moderate voters, and was trying to explain why Republicans generally do poorly in elections here. But he also was accused of saying an entire class of people was unwelcome in his state.

Even if you accept the Murdoch media's interpretation of these statements, neither Hochul nor Cuomo ever told a top corporate executive not to move jobs into his state because the employees might be of the wrong ideological persuasion. Hochul and Cuomo weren't even talking about ordinary citizens. But DeSantis clearly wants to exercise at least some control over which citizens can move to his state.

How far would he take that, if he could? We already hear other Republicans asserting that they don't want Californians moving to their states. Would Republicans make it illegal for liberals, or people presumed to be liberal, to move to their communities, if they could? Will they actually pass laws to that effect someday? I wish I were certain that I could rule that out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


The New Yorker's Jane Mayer believes that liberals might now have a better chance of preserving democracy in America because now they have an important ally from the Republican establishment.
A powerful new litigant has joined one of the most momentous cases slated to be heard by the Supreme Court this term. The respondents in the case of Moore v. Harper filed a brief today that included a surprising new signatory: J. Michael Luttig, who has been known for years as perhaps the most conservative Republican judge in the country. Now, though, he has joined a coalition of veteran lawyers and nonpartisan government-watchdog groups who are fighting against a far-right Republican election-law challenge—one so radical that critics say it has the potential to end American democracy as we know it.
The plaintiffs' argument in this case is that the Supreme Court gives state legislatures the absolute power to run congressional elections (unless Congress limits their power) and also gives legislatures unlimited power to decide the fate of their states' electoral votes. According to this theory, known as the independent state legislature theory, not even state supreme courts can overrule their decisions. State constitutions can't. Governors can't. This is extremely convenient because many state legislatures, especially in purple states, are so heavily gerrymandered that they'll never turn Democratic again, even if Democrats win a significant majority of the overall legislative vote. The plaintiffs concede that Congress can write laws limiting this legislative power, because the Constitution plainly says so, but -- again conveniently -- the filibuster means that Democrats can never legislate effectively in this area, because reforms can never win sixty votes in the Senate.

But J. Michael Luttig could save democracy, Mayer writes.
Having such a well-known conservative former jurist argue against the election-law challenge may carry some weight with the conservative super-majority on the Court, several of whom have ties to Luttig that stretch back decades. Justice Clarence Thomas, for instance, was personally shepherded through his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings by Luttig in 1991. At the time, Luttig served as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in George H. W. Bush’s Justice Department....

Luttig’s ties to Chief Justice John Roberts also go back years. The two worked closely together in the Reagan Administration as young lawyers, both under the tutelage of then White House counsel Fred Fielding, and again together as lawyers in the George H. W. Bush Department of Justice.
These seem like very tenuous connections. But even if they weren't, this isn't how politics in America works anymore. Politics in America, at least on the Republican side, is total war, with permanent one-party rule as the ultimate goal. The ultras of the GOP -- and most Republicans are ultras now -- aren't going to let Luttig's seemingly sterling right-wing credentials deter them from doing what they're hell-bent on doing. As far as they're concerned, he's just another elitist who needs to decide whether he wants to be on the bus or under it.

Liberals -- and now, I guess, pro-democracy conservatives -- think the opinions of elites matter to the illiberal whackjobs who will probably soon run the entire country. In fact, the only thing that might give them pause is popular outrage. They wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade even though they knew most of the country wanted to preserve it, and they just went ahead and did it. They were planning to pass the most draconian laws imaginable in every state where they could manage it, as a prelude to a national abortion ban, and they got partway there, but then it became clear that the public was outraged and might defeat many GOP candidates as a result. So now Republicans running for office are claiming that they're the soul of moderation on the subject of abortion. It's a partial victory, and clearly a temporary one, but it shows that broad-based public anger, at least in election years, is one of the few things the GOP fears.

If we could get the public as upset about the possibility that Republican legislatures will throw out their votes if they don't vote the "right" way as they are about the loss of abortion rights, that would be worth a hundred J. Michael Luttigs. But I don't know to get that done. Pro-democracy elitists, across the spectrum, need to understand that GOP radicals don't care what they have to say. The Supreme Court's radicals won't even pay attention to their arguments. But if ordinary people were making a stink about this right now, maybe they'd care about that. Popular anger is the only thing that has a chance of saving democracy now.


Chris Truax of The Bulwark doesn't understand Donald Trump or Republicans very well:
Trump Shouldn’t Testify Before the Jan. 6th Committee—But He Might

... If it were anybody else, there would be no doubt that Trump would challenge the subpoena in court. But it’s Trump, so all bets are off—especially where his ego is at stake.... If Trump really wants to get his side of the story out, what better format than testifying before the committee? In the current political climate, this confrontation could well turn out to be the most-watched television event in American history.

There’s even a sort of political logic to it. Why shouldn’t Trump come forward and tell America what happened on that day? If he thinks the committee is twisting the record, now is his chance to set it straight. Not only does America have a right to hear his version of events, he should want to tell his side of the story. Or is he really that afraid of Liz Cheney?

By trying to dodge the subpoena, Trump would look weak, something that doesn’t sit well either with MAGA world or Trump himself. It would only be a matter of time before the Lincoln Project released a new ad with the sound of chickens clucking and aired it on Fox and Friends. By contrast, nothing would do more to strengthen Trump’s 2024 chances than staring down the committee just like Hillary Clinton did when she spent eleven hours testifying about Benghazi. And Trump would only have to testify for two hours, tops.
Truax is imagining that Republican voters care about basic virtues such as courage and honesty. They don't. Here's what they care about:
1. Winning.
2. Hurting their enemies, and making them howl in outrage.
That's it. That's the complete list.

Trump knows that the committee would pin him down with facts and evidence. He knows he's too damn lazy to pull a Hillary Clinon and go into a hostile committee room with a well-crafted argument and a solid command of the facts. He also knows he's guilty as hell.

Bu more imporant, Trump knows that failing to testify doesn't make him look weak in the eyes of the voters he's trying to reach. They don't see his inevitable refusal to testify as a lack of courage. That's not how they're looking at this. All they care about is: What will make Liz Cheney howl? What will make MSNBC commentators angry and frustrated? Dodging the subpoena will accomplish those goals, so it will help Trump with Republican voters. Testifying (and ineviably being made to look weak and guilty at times by the members of the committee) wouldn't "strengthen Trump’s 2024 chances," at least in the primaries. Not testifying will. Merely showing up would be conceding the legitimacy of an investigation into Trump's conduct. By definition on the right, all investigations of Trump are illegitimate.

So of course he won't testify, not even for the ratings. He won't risk looking bad. He'll just retreat to the GOP bubble, where his lack of courage will be perceived as strength.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


Today The New York Times gives us more results from its latest poll. Once again, those dumb old Democrats are out of step with real Americans.
Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.

Seventy-one percent of Republicans said they would be comfortable voting for a candidate who thought that year’s election was stolen, as did 37 percent of independent voters and a notable 12 percent of Democrats.
Here are the numbers:

If it fit a narrative The New York Times liked, this could have been reported a different way: Solid majorities of voters, including 60 percent of independents and nearly a quarter of Republicans, say they would be uncomfortable voting for a candidate who thought the 2020 presidential election was stolen, even if that candidate shared most of their positions on the issues.

Notice that the question doesn't just refer to a candidate who's an election denialist -- it refers to "a candidate for political office who you agree with on most positions" and who also thinks the election was stolen. "Agree with on most positions" is never mentioned in the Times write-up of the poll, even though it gives respondents an incentive to say they'd be at least somewhat comfortable. Nevertheless, independents said they weren't comfortable by a 60%-37% margin, and Democrats by an 83%-12% margin. For Republicans, it's 23%-71% -- but even that 23% is higher than I'd have expected.

The narrative the Times wants is: Those ridiculous elitist Democrats with their silly democracy crusade have -- as usual -- failed to connect with real American voters, who sensibly care more about gas prices. It's true -- voters do care more about pocketbook issues. But they're against election denialism by a 54%-37% margin. The Times could have called that a repudiation of a major Republican talking point. But saying Democrats are out of touch puts the paper right in its comfort zone.

Monday, October 17, 2022


It's been obvious for quite a while that the folks who do polling for The New York Times feel really burned by their overestimate of the Democrats' chances in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. So it's no surprise that the polling numbers in the Times today are some of the worst the Democrats have seen recently:
Republicans enter the final weeks of the contest for control of Congress with a narrow but distinctive advantage as the economy and inflation have surged as the dominant concerns, giving the party momentum to take back power from Democrats in next month’s midterm elections, a New York Times/Siena College poll has found.

The poll shows that 49 percent of likely voters said they planned to vote for a Republican to represent them in Congress on Nov. 8, compared with 45 percent who planned to vote for a Democrat. The result represents an improvement for Republicans since September, when Democrats held a one-point edge among likely voters in the last Times/Siena poll.
Is this accurate? It might be. But in a sidebar, Nate Cohn of the Times inadvertently provides a reason to question the numbers. In a passage explaining the methodological changes Times/Siena has made, Cohn writes (emphasis in original):
We now use additional information about the attitudes of respondents in determining whether they’re likely to vote, including whether respondents are undecided; whether their views about the president align with their party; whether they like the candidate they intend to vote for; whether they back the party out of power in a midterm; and so on, all based on previous Times/Siena polls. At the same time, we now give even more weight to a respondent’s track record of voting than we did in the past.
So Times/Siena has decided that voters are less likely to vote if their views of Joe Biden don't "align with their party." The problem with this is that it's obvious in nearly every poll conducted this year that Democratic midterm candidates are outpolling the president, whose job approval numbers are still weak. What the folks at Times/Siena are telling us is that they don't really believe that people who dislike Joe Biden but like Raphael Warnock or John Fetterman or Mark Kelly will actually show up in November. Republicans don't have this disconnect -- obviously, they all despise Biden, so the poll is weighted in favor of their votes. That's an automatic bump for Republicans.

In addition, Cohn says, Times/Siena now gives "even more weight to a respondent’s track record of voting than we did in the past." But what Democrats are telling us is that there's been a registration upswing since the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision that's been disproportionately Democratic and female. Now, maybe those new registrants won't actually show up to vote. Maybe they'll be outnumbered by GOP voters fired up about immigration, inflation, critical race theory, and (nonexistent) schoolkids who identify as animals and use litter boxes. But Democrats are insisting that they'll turn out new voters, with some emprical evidence to back them up (the surprisingly strong vote in Kansas for abortion rights) -- and the response from Times/Siena is to say that this is less likely than usual. Again, a GOP bump.

I'm sure Times/Siena wants to be accurate, but, faced with conflicting signals, the pollsters have clearly concluded that they'd rather overestimate the GOP vote than underestimate it. If they overestimate the GOP's strength, they're sure Democrats won't "work the refs" by denouncing the pollsters' bias; if they underestimate the GOP's strength, they know that Republicans will never stop bringing it up.