Tuesday, January 31, 2023


At The Bulwark, Sarah Longwell reports on a new poll that seems to suggest Ron DeSantis is in the GOP driver's seat -- but with one huge asterisk:
A large majority of GOP voters is ready to move on from Donald Trump. But a devoted minority might not let them.

That’s the dynamic I’ve watched unfold in my weekly focus groups with two-time Trump voters since the 2022 midterms. Today those findings are reinforced by a new poll by The Bulwark and GOP pollster Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research....
* In a head-to-head match, DeSantis leads Trump 52 percent to 30 percent....

* With DeSantis, Trump, and “another candidate,” DeSantis got 44 percent, Trump got 28 percent, and the generic “another candidate” got 10 percent....

* In a 10-candidate field, DeSantis got 39 percent, Trump 28 percent, Mike Pence 9 percent, Nikki Haley and Liz Cheney 4 percent each, and five other candidates registered at 1 percent.
This suggests that Trump is toast no matter how many candidates split the anti-Trump vote. That's possible. On the other hand, this is a poll commissioned by The Bulwark. Polls conducted for a political candidate's campaign are generally more favorable to the candidate than other polls; this is a poll commissioned by a publication built on anti-Trumpism, and Trump is losing in every scenario, whereas most other polls show him still winning in a multi-candidate field. So I'm not fully convinced.

But if this poll is an accurate picture of how the GOP electorate is thinking, there's still a problem:
... one question I was keen to answer with this poll is how many “Always Trumpers” would follow Trump if he lost the GOP primary and launched an independent bid for president.

And according to our poll, ... 28 percent of Republican primary voters already locked in for Trump say they’ll support him even if he ran as an independent in the general election.

Twenty-eight percent!

All of which is consistent with what I’ve been seeing in focus groups.
I'm sticking with what I said in November about this scenario: Trump won't run third party if he loses the Republican nomination because what's most important to him is looking like a winner, and he won't put himself in a position to lose twice in one year. Trump enjoys revenge, but he hates looking like a loser more than he likes revenge. Also, he'd have to put together an operation to get himself on fifty state ballots, and he'd never manage to assemble a team competent enough to do that. (Just failing to get on the ballot in a few states would make him look like a loser even before Election Day.)

But let's say I'm wrong and he does run third-party. Longwell says that 28% of the Republican and Republican-leaning poll respondents will vote for Trump. But that's just what they say now.

Do you think these people will completely ignore polls showing that Ron DeSantis is within a few points of beating the hated Joe Biden, while Donald Trump lags behind?

I'm sure some won't believe the polls and will stick with Trump, like the lefties who stuck with Jill Stein in 2016 and Ralph Nader in 2000. But Nader and Stein voters didn't like either major-party candidate. "Always Trumpers" appear to like DeSantis a lot. (I looked at the numbers in the poll, and respondents who say they're more supporters of Trump than supporters of the GOP like DeSantis better than respondents are primarily party loyalists.)

If this scenario comes to pass, these voters will be faced with a choice of (a) history's greatest monster, Joe Biden; (b) Ron DeSantis, a full-throated Biden-hater who's within reach of the president in the polls; and (c) Donald Trump, who'll be trailing by double digits. I think nearly all of them will do the most lib-owning thing possible: they'll vote for DeSantis.

But I think Trump, if he loses the nomination, will exit the picture -- gracelessly, yes, but he'll exit. And if he doesn't do it on his own to save face, I bet he could be bribed. Surely right-wing billionaires could find a way to surreptitiously channel money to a Trump bank account in order to get him the hell out of the race. One way or another, he'll be gone.


Will this be Donald Trump's downfall? I'll believe it when I see it:
The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The grand jury was recently impaneled, and the beginning of witness testimony represents a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.
What a coincidence that we're learning about the newly impaneled grand jury one week before the publication date of a book by Mark Pomerantz, a prosecutor who resigned last February, a day after DA Bragg informed him and another prosecutor (who also resigned) that he was not prepared to move forward with an indictment of Trump. In November, Bragg revived the seemingly dormant criminal investigation of Trump -- possibly in anticipation of the Pomerantz book, which I assume he knew was in the works -- and now we have the grand jury, just as the book is about to go on sale.

Will there be a Trump indictment now? I'm not sure. A Wall Street Journal report says:
It couldn’t be determined whether the district attorney’s office was pursuing charges against Mr. Trump, the company or others involved in the hush-money payment.
A previous grand jury didn't lead to a Trump indictment.

In his resignation letter, which was made public last March, Mark Pomerantz said,
I believe that Donald Trump is guilty of numerous felony violations of the Penal Law in connection with the preparation and use of his annual Statements of Financial Condition.... The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes — he did.
Bragg was afraid he couldn't make the charges stick -- and he still might be. In this Trump-hating, book-loving city, it would be nice if Pomerantz's decision to go public with his certainty about Trump's guilt shamed Bragg into a more serious pursuit of an indictment. But it's possible that he motivated Bragg to create the appearance of a more vigorous pursuit of Trump, particularly around the time that the book is in the news, even though the end result could be just another criminal case or two aimed close to Trump but not at him. The Journal also says,
Mr. Bragg’s office also is pursuing a separate line of inquiry related to potential insurance fraud by the Trump Organization, according to people familiar with that investigation. The status of that part of the probe couldn’t be learned.
That's good. Maybe Bragg is closing in on Trump. Or maybe not.

Monday, January 30, 2023


James Sasso, the senior investigative counsel for the House January 6 committee, argues in The New York Times today that the assault on the Capitol wasn't solely Donald Trump's fault:
Other political, social, economic and technological forces beyond the former president had a hand....

What my team and I learned, and what we did not have the capacity to detail with specificity in the report, is how distrust of the political establishment led many of the rioters to believe that only revolution could save America.

One rioter wondered why he should trust anything the F.B.I., D.O.J., or any other federal entity said about the results. The federal government had worked against everyday Americans for years, the rioters told us, favoring entrenched elites with its policies....

Guy Reffitt, who earned seven years in prison for leading the charge up the Capitol steps while carrying a firearm, [said in December 2020,] “The government has spent decades committing treason.” The following week, he drove 20 hours to “do what needs to be done” because there were “bad people,” “disgusting people,” in the Capitol....

Since the 1960s, political scientists have surveyed Americans and measured the steady decline of public faith in the federal government....

Mr. Trump did not appear out of a vacuum to upend democracy. His presidency was the culmination of years of political degradation during which voters watched our political institutions rust to the point of breaking.
Sasso thinks we need to get big money out of politics and make government more responsive to ordinary citizens. That would be nice -- but January 6 didn't happen because of a universal belief that government fails average people.

Pew has measured trust in government since 1958. It's a lot lower now than it was then, but it's been steadily low since 2007, and it was low early in Bill Clinton's presidential term and late in Jimmy Carter's. There were people who were violently anti-government then, but insurrectionists didn't win the approval of the president of the United States or the most powerful news organization in the country. (Carter didn't try to overturn Ronald Reagan's victory and Bill Clinton fought impeachment in the Senate, where he was supposed to.)

Also, trust in specific governmental institutions hasn't steadily declined. At times recently, it's even increased. Here's a Gallup story from January 2018, reporting on a December 2017 survey:
Majorities of Americans now rate the job performance of eight of 13 key government agencies as "excellent" or "good"; the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) again tops the list with a 74% positive rating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Secret Service trail the Postal Service as second and third on the list, respectively.

Most of the agencies received significantly higher ratings in 2017 than they did in 2014, when Gallup last asked about them. The Secret Service (+20 percentage points), the CDC (+16 points), the Department of Homeland Security (+11 points) and the Federal Reserve Board (+11 points) all saw double-digit improvements in their ratings in this latest update to Gallup's government agency job performance ratings....

The improvement in the overall ratings of most government agencies is largely the result of more positive ratings from Republicans. The greatest shift from 2014 is a 33-point increase in the positive ratings of the CDC, although Republicans now view most agencies more favorably than they did in 2014....
That's right -- Republicans liked most federal government agencies in December 2017, because their party was running the government. Republicans even liked the CDC -- 72% of them said it was doing an "excellent" or "good" job. There was a decline in their view of the FBI, which at the time was seen as engaging in an anti-Trump "witch hunt," but 49% of them still approved of it.

Cut to early 2021. January 6 has happened, Joe Biden is president, and Republicans hate government -- only 29% approve of the job the FBI is doing, only 24% approve of the CDC and Justice Department, only 38% approve of the CIA. But Democratic numbers are approximately the same as they were in December 2017 -- quite positive for most government agencies.

So January 6 didn't happen because of a generalized distrust of government. It happened because the government didn't do everything Republicans wanted done. It didn't overturn the results of the election. It didn't lock Hillary Clinton up. It didn't declare the COVID virus perfectly harmless and eliminate all public health measures. (That happened later.)

So if you want to prevent the next January 6, you can make government more responsive to the public -- or you can just give Republicans everything they want all the time. The latter would be far more effective.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail yesterday, with appearances in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Commenters at right-wing sites are underwhelmed. Here's a sampling of Fox News comments:
I supported him in the first two elections but not a 3rd. Time for new blood and if he runs I believe DeSantis is the strongest candidate with proven executive skills running a large state. He communicates well and I do not agree with Trump’s stand on Ukraine. Let the sunshine on DeSantis for president yin 2024. We need strong leadership that has the skills, moxy and ability to make change without making chaos everyday.


if republicans choose Trump for 2024 election, they deserve to lose. He is on several criminals investigations, and very high percentage of voters hate him. People usually vote against who they hate the most. In 2016 people vote against Hillary. and in 2020 people vote against Trump.


Trump needs to back off. If he runs, Republicans will lose. Trump isn't what our country needs anymore. He loves America but needs to support other candidates.


Recent polls show that roughly 30% of Republicans want Trump to run in 2024, while 100% of Democrats want the same thing.


Sure the Dems want him to run because they know he can't win. They are scared of DeSantis, though, which accounts for the recent attacks in the mainstream media.


Trump Nominee = Dem Whitehouse
It's a little better in the comments to a Breitbart post about the appearances. There's some support:
Historic support for American farmers.

Trump > Successfully negotiated more than 50 agreements with countries around the world to increase foreign market access and boost exports of American agriculture products, supporting more than 1 million American jobs


Trump is owed another term in office with no fraudulent Russian Collusion probes and fake impeachments and fake Whistle-blower hearings. Etc.
But there's a lot more of this:
Trump is a done Tom Turkey. Only a handful of die hard BB commenters don’t seem to get that. He’s whining about DeSantis running against him. He starts whining because he knows he’s toast so he tries to avoid competition. It’s becoming sad to watch.


DeSantis has Trump policies plus a whole lot more. But without the Trump immaturity, toxic ego, and hate.


In addition, no one fires up the Democrat crazies like Trump. He did a lot for us as president but it's time for him to pass the baton. DeSantis has a better chance of winning.


Agreed, many here wont listen to and they refuse to admit trump will not win. Nothing has changed from the last election as women can't stand him.


DeSanis. No stupid Trump bs.
There's dissent on DeSantis ("Desantis is a puss"; "De Santis is a great gov but he has big swamp establishment donors"), but if there's support for anyone else who might get in the race, I don't see it.

What much of the rank-and-file wants is what they'll never get: both Trump and DeSantis. Trump talked some trash about DeSantis yesterday, referencing his endorsement of DeSantis in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial primary:
After his South Carolina speech, Trump told The Associated Press in an interview that it would be “a great act of disloyalty” if DeSantis opposed him in the primary and took credit for the governor’s initial election.

“If he runs, that’s fine. I’m way up in the polls,” Trump said. “He’s going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over.”
Many of the Gateway Pundit commenters want Trump and DeSantis:
Would love to hear DJT announce DeSantis as VP!
Springboard for ‘28 & ‘32 to DeSantis!


Exactly. Pull DeSantis into the tent and that also give him four years to learn the ropes. There is a big difference between governor and president.


I was thinking along similar lines. DeSantis as VP, with Trump doing what he does best, but fading into the background to cue up DeSantis for president in 2028.

I can think of nothing better for our country. I can dream, can't I?


Trump 2024

DeSantis 2028


Or Trump retires... DeSantis 2024.


He will do the smart thing....serve out his 2nd term in FLA, which is crucial for the USA, and then take the job in the Trump admin of his (DeSantis) choice in 2026, and then cruise to election in 2028.


Still hoping for a Trump/DeSantis 2024 ticket, a sure winner. Then DeSantis can run for President in 2028 and 2032.


Both the President and the VP pick cannot be from the same state.

Maybe a Trump/DeSantis 2024 ticket could be possible IF Trump moves to somewhere in Nevada or some state other than Florida where his Real Estate business has property.
(Trump could change his residence to New York again, or Bedminster, New Jersey.)

There are comments in which both of them are called RINOs:
I want to support Trump badly, but he keeps doing stupid anti-MAGA things like choosing Dr Oz (a liberal who spent years on the Oprah Winfrey Show) or hanging out with Lindsay Graham (Mitch McConnell's mini-me). Trump wouldn't dump Ronna Romney McDaniels for RNC Chair, DeSantis did. McConnell & McDaniel both sabotaged MAGA candidates in 2022. I have to question Trump's judgment. Trump has a bad habit of choosing bad people (ex: Jeff Sessions, Bill Barr).


(The belief that U.S. Special Forces battled FEMA employees who were looting guns and other property comes from a couple of stories published at a site called Real Raw News, which specializes in "spinning a narrative of military arrests and executions that reads like a wish list for diehard believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory," according to PolitiFact. "In the alternative universe of Real Raw News, former Vice President Mike Pence has been on the run for months in an escape that saw him seek asylum in Qatar and take a bullet to the chest.... The military has arrested dozens of public figures — including Hunter Biden, former Attorney General William Barr, and billionaire Bill Gates — and several of them have been hanged, sent to the guillotine, shot by a firing squad or otherwise executed.")

What I'm seeing in all these comment sections is that Trump will struggle to win the nomination, though he still might have enough support to pull it off, and there's no one rejecting both Trump and DeSantis in favor of any other aspirant. Maybe there'd be excitement about someone other than these two if a true MAGA crazy got in the race apart from Trump -- Mike Lindell, Mike Flynn, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz ("Gaetz would be a better choice. He hasn't been purchased like Ron," says one Gateway Pundit commenter).

But for now all the interest is in Trump and DeSantis -- and we can be sure that Trump won't give DeSantis the running mate spot, because DeSantis clearly wouldn't be the kind of meek beta Trump wants. Horrifyingly, this could be a unity ticket on the right. But it won't happen.

Saturday, January 28, 2023


Yesterday, audiovisual evidence of two well-publicized crimes was released to public. In the afternoon we saw and heard evidence from David DePape's attack on Paul Pelosi: security-camera video of DePape breaking a window at the Pelosi house; audio of Pelosi's 911 call, which he made while trying not to arouse the ire of his intruder; and police bodycam video of the assault, which shows DePape brutally swinging a hammer at Pelosi's head. Here's the bodycam video:

And while there's still plenty of snickering in right-wing comment sections about a "lovers' quarrel" and hammers used as sex toys, there's recognition of reality from some surprising sources:

Far-right radio host Glenn Beck, who himself has promoted conspiracy theories, knocked down all the “crazy rumors” and conspiracy theories surrounding the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi after watching the newly released video of the incident.

“... He is not standing there holding the guy’s hand because they’re having a lover’s twist. That’s not what’s going on. He’s clearly being held hostage,” Beck said after playing the video on his show.
... He looks like a guy who was woken up in the middle of the night. This again dissolves all of the crazy rumors that, you know, they were having a, you know, sex fest or whatever it was. This obviously appears to be exactly what they said it was.
Then, in the evening, we saw video from the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis:

And while the right-wing media is still eagerly anticipating riots (or insisting that riots have already begun when they clearly haven't), they're generally describing the police violence as extreme and unjustified. A headline at the Daily Mail: "Tennessee sheriff suspends two deputies and orders new investigation after officers are seen FIST-BUMPING in sickening bodycam as Tyre Nichols lies on the ground in agony." At Fox News: "Reaction swift after Tyre Nichols police footage released; 'These men were street fighting,' former cop says."

We'll retreat to our corners soon enough, but the fact that some on the right acknowledge basic facts about these attacks suggests that there's some benefit in allowing the public to see the nature of the violence we argue about ideologically. The visual facts of these cases do not have a right-wing bias.

When Mamie Till held an open-casket funeral for her murdered and disfigured son, Emmett, then allowed photos of his body to be published in Jet magazine, she did the right thing. I wonder whether we now need to see graphic images of mass shootings, or even ordinary firearm murders or suicides. There's widespread agreement in our culture that these images are taboo, but technology, from television to TikTok, has made us visual rather than verbal -- we may never grasp the horror of gun violence without seeing that horror unexpurgated. I think someday there'll be a gun-violence Mamie Till. That person will be vilified, but we'll realize after a while that we needed to see what was exposed.

We've known since the time of Rodney King that many of us don't understand brutality even when we see it. But some of us can grasp the truth when it's presented that way. So we need the images.

Friday, January 27, 2023


Here are a couple of Politico stories, posted within ten minutes of each other late yesterday afternoon. First, a story about Donald Trump:
Former President Donald Trump is unveiling a 2024 education policy plan, one focusing heavily on the culture war components that have animated conservatives.

The plan, shared in advance with POLITICO, calls for cutting federal funding for any school or program that includes “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.” It also calls for opening “civil rights investigations into any school district that has engaged in race-based discrimination,” particularly against Asian American students, and promises to “keep men out of women’s sports.”

... Trump also calls for making significant cuts to administrative personnel and the end of teacher tenure and the election of school principals.

“As the saying goes, personnel is policy and at the end of the day if we have pink-haired communists teaching our kids we have a major problem,” Trump said. “We’re at the end of the list on education and yet we spend the most, but we’re going to be tops in education no matter where you go anywhere in the world.”
The quote is pure Trump, Archie Bunker-y and based on statistics that Politico's reporters couldn't be bothered to check. But this is Trump fighting on Ron DeSantis's turf.
Just days ago, meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) — a potential 2024 competitor — blocked high schools in his state from teaching an Advanced Placement African American studies curriculum over what he described as the inclusion of topics like “queer theory” and movements that called for “abolishing prisons.”
You'd at least expect Trump to invoke the call for "patriotic" education in the "1776 Report" he commissioned late in his presidential term. DeSantis tends to be more focused on race and gender, so performative patriotism would at least feel Trumpian. This just feels DeSantian.

Maybe enforced patriotism is in the policy document, but this is Politico effectively issuing a Trump press release and there's no indication of that, so either it's not part of the policy or Trump's people didn't highlight it for Politico's reporter. What's described here just seems like Trump playing copycat.

And it's boring and conventional. We've already learned about the Trump campaign's plan to attack DeSantis on his voting record during his time in the House of Representatives, which is not the Trump style at all. No Republican voter wants Trump to win by being good at politics. Republican voters want him to transcend politics. They want him to be a superhero whose power is solving problems by saying things other people won't say. This is Trump saying things Ron DeSantis says every day.

But the other Politico story says that DeSantis is being boring, too:
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday outlined a sweeping criminal justice proposal that came packed with changes that have long been politically popular with conservatives.

... DeSantis stressed he wanted the GOP-led Legislature to change Florida law to allow juries to administer the death penalty by a supermajority rather than requiring unanimity, which has been state law since 2017. DeSantis has tied this proposal to the case of the Parkland school shooter, who shot and killed 17 people but was spared the death penalty because one of the jurors was against the death penalty.

“One juror should not be able to veto that,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I don’t think justice was served.”

DeSantis also wants lawmakers to crack down on colorful fentanyl pills that look like candy and are commonly referred to as “rainbow fentanyl.” His proposal would make it a first degree felony to possess, sell, or manufacture fentanyl that resembles candy. It would also make it a $1 million penalty for trafficking those pills to children.

... DeSantis also wants to limit who can be released prior to a first court appearance after being arrested. DeSantis wants to give judges more discretion over those decisions.

“We have rejected in the state of Florida the idea you get rid of cash bail like they did in New York,” DeSantis said. “When the policy first went into effect...there was a woman that was arrested, released, and re-arrested four times in seven days.”
This is ... not appalling. It's right-wing justice policy and most of it is grandstanding, but it seems surprisingly within-the-pale. (If you live outside America, the death penalty proposal must seem morally repellent -- the death penalty itself must seem morally repellent -- but three other U.S. states currently permit a judge to impose a death sentence if a jury can't agree on one, so this seems well within our norms.)

DeSantis's proposals are, at best, culture war lite. No libs will be owned. (The "rainbow fentanyl" scare is largely mythical, but it's not as if any liberals are actually in favor of selling fentanyl to schoolchildren.)

DeSantis seems to be doing this so mainstream-media pundits will continue to say that while he's a culture warrior some of the time, he's actually Serious About Governing. If he and Trump keep this up, it makes me wonder whether Mike Lindell or Mike Flynn should get in the race and campaign on pure rage. There might be an opening here.

Thursday, January 26, 2023


This data point in a new CNN poll isn't particularly significant, but it annoys me nonetheless:
Most of the public, 60%, expects congressional Republicans to have more influence than Biden over the direction the nation takes in the next two years. That’s similar to the 56% of Americans in January 2011 who anticipated that Republicans’ takeover of the House would give the GOP more sway than then-President Barack Obama, although expectations for Obama’s influence rose later in the year.
A total of 60% of the respondents think congressional Republicans will have more influence, while 39% think it will be Biden. That's a 21-point gap.

In January 2011, after the Republican takeover of the House, 56% of respondents thought congressional Republicans would have more influence, while 36% thought it would be Barack Obama -- a 20-point gap (although by May of that year, the numbers were 48% GOP, 44% Obama). And in January 1995, after Republicans took both houses of Congress, the gap was a massive 67 points -- Republicans 80%, Bill Clinton 13%.

However, after Democrats took the House in the 2018 midterms, the numbers in a January 2019 CNN poll were Democrats 47%, Donald Trump 40% -- only a 7-point gap.

This is one of the many questions pollsters ask even though they know respondents have no way of knowing the answer. So it's a silly question.

But what it reveals is the public perception of the parties' relative strength -- and I mean "strength" in a very crude way. When Republican majorities took over one or both houses of Congress in 1995, 2011, and 2023, the public believed by large margins that they'd the alphas in Washington. But when it was Democrats and Trump, the public's expectations were more mixed.

I see this as a game of ¿Quién Es Más Macho? The numbers for Bill Clinton were dreadful in 1995 because Newt Gingrich swaggered as if he'd become the real president of the United States and Clinton was a pretender. For a while at least, the public believed him. Republicans always swagger and boast and declare themselves to be the embodiment of real Americanism. Democrats -- even Obama and Clinton, who were much more charismatic than Biden -- don't swagger nearly enough. But Trump didn't act as if he felt humbled after the 2018 midterms, and that's why his numbers weren't as bad as those of the Democratic presidents.

I realize it didn't matter in the long run. Clinton and Obama regained their swagger and won reelection, while Trump ran again and lost. But I wonder whether Democrats could benefit from a little more party-wide swagger. The Republicans' swagger seems to make a lot of voters overlook the fact that the party is bad at governing. What could Democrats get out of a combination of swagger and seriousness?


The New York Times has a story about the GOP's brutal campaign to strip trans people of full citizenship. Some of these measures reveal a twisted form of creativity, as Republican legislators search for clever new ways to demean and punish the trans community:
Legislation in Oklahoma and South Carolina would make it a felony to provide hormonal or surgical transition treatment to transgender people younger than 26 — an uncharted incursion into adults’ health care....

A measure in West Virginia would define “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display” as obscene, potentially outlawing transgender people’s presence around children....

An Arizona bill would ban drag shows on Sunday mornings whether or not minors were around....

And in addition to the bill in West Virginia that would define “transvestite and/or transgender exposure” around minors as obscene, bills in at least nine states would restrict drag shows, and some define them very broadly.

One in Nebraska, for instance, would apply to any show whose “main aspect” is “a performer which exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers; and the performer sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet in 1899, one of many women who've played this and other male roles from Shakespeare over the centuries. Bernhardt appeared in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1901, though not in a male role; a post on an official state website says that Nebraskans "loved" her performances. (I guess they weren't horrified to learn that she'd appeared in male drag.) And, of course, boys played all the female parts in Shakespeare's plays when the playwright's company was producing them. I assume that an originalist production of Shakespeare would be illegal in Nebraska under this terms of this bill.

Terry Schilling, the president of the American Principles Project, is forthright about the ultimate aim: to ban transitioning altogether.
And Mr. Schilling, of the American Principles Project, confirmed that his organization’s long-term goal was to eliminate transition care. The initial focus on children, he said, was a matter of “going where the consensus is.”
He means the Republican consensus, of course, which I guess is all that matters in these states. He's more or less right about this particular issue: according to a national Pew poll conducted last May, 72% of Republicans think it should be illegal for medical professionals to provide medical care to help those under 18 with transitioning. Overall, 46% of Americans say this. In these states, non-Republicans don't count toward "consensus."

Schilling thinks the entire wave of anti-trans legislation is good politics, even though Republican anti-trans hysteria didn't seem to help the party in the midterms.
“This is a political winner,” said Terry Schilling, the president of the conservative American Principles Project, arguing that more voters would have been swayed had many Republicans not “shied away” from the subject.
There may be Republican consensus on some of these measures, but is there party consensus for all of them? The results of the Pew poll are ambiguous: Republicans are clearly anti-trans, but even 48% of Republicans think the law should protect trans people from "discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces" (64% of Americans agree overall with that). Yet we may be on our way to a future in which it will be illegal to be trans, in red America and possibly all of America.

It's the same thing that's happened in America with abortion policy and gun policy: Where Republicans have control, they pass extreme laws, because that's what their most ideologically rabid voters want. But we've known for years that it's not what all their voters want on gun policy, and we're learning that many Republicans disagree with their party's abortion extremism.

And yet Republican voters who reject extremism on key issues still vote for Republican candidates who embrace extremism. A couple of months after Kansas voters overwhelmingly voted to preserve abortion rights, they chose the extremely anti-choice Kris Kobach as attorney general; he now wants the state Supreme Court to rule that abortion is banned in the state.

If you always vote Republican because Republicans are your tribe, but you have qualms about Republican extremism on guns, abortion, LGBT rights, and, at the national level, taxation of the rich and preservation of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, then you're part of the problem. Your elected officials are extreme now and will be more extreme in the future, unless you rethink your voting patterns -- and I know most of you never will.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023


Elon Musk unfroze Donald Trump's Twitter two months ago, and now Trump is planning his delayed return. And we learned today that Meta has decided to reinstate Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts.

On Twitter, I assume Trump will be allowed to tweet pretty much anything short of overt Nazi content. Twitter claims to have content standards, but everyone knows that the standards are arbitrarily determined by Musk on the fly, under the influence of the edgelord right-wing influencers he hopes will tell him he's cool. So Trump will get to post offensive and dangerously untruthful content on Twitter, no one will stop him, and we'll just get used to it.

But Meta insists that it plans to hold Trump to published standards.
... we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.

Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our Community Standards. In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses — penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol. In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.
Here's the part of Meta's press release that jumped out at me:
Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon. We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools. This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump. We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.
Of course Trump will post "content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon." He's been posting QAnon-related content on Truth Social, and he played a QAnon song at a September rally. He'll delegitimize upcoming elections by continuing to argue that the 2020 election was illegitimate and the alleged problems of 2020 haven't been solved. And probably, just to stir the pot, he'll declare that we need to worry about rigging in this year's elections -- for instance, the upcoming elections that will decide the composition of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

If he's suspended, or the reach of his posts is curtailed, right-wingers will throw a fit. If he isn't, the rest of us will.

This is very bad news for Ron DeSantis.

Trump has clearly lost his mojo. He endorsed many failed midterm candidates. His NFT announcement was widely mocked. He doesn't seem to have the energy to hold rallies.

But I assume his thumbs still work. He still has the energy to sit on his toilet and post inflammatory words.

And now we'll all pay attention again. If he gets away with irresponsible posts while we express rage, he's owned the libs. If he's disciplined by the social media companies, that's a Trump grievance. Either way, he rallies the angry GOP voter base.

Ron DeSantis, according to a new Daily Beast story, is paying B-list right-wing influencers to promote his social media posts. Trump, by contrast, can get everyone in the mainstream media to promote his posts for free. Advantage: Trump.


If you've gone to Breitbart anytime recently, you've been greeted by this ad:

Also at Breitbart, there's "sponsored content" on the same subject:
Have you heard about this thing called ESG? Most people have not. It stands for Environmental Social Governance. On its surface, ESG claims to have a well-intended objective — to promote corporate responsibility. And that sounds like something we can all support.

But under the surface, lurking inside the ambiguous language and claims of social compassion is something very different. In reality, ESG policies are a backdoor that progressives are using to invade our economy, so they can advance their radical economic, social, and climate agenda.

They know that they can no longer get their destructive ideas passed through our democratic process. And they can’t count on winning in the Courts.

So ESG is infiltrating corporate America with the help of unelected bureaucrats and regulatory agencies — like a shadow government with no accountability to everyday investors.

Leveraging Wall Street corporate board rooms, ESG is being used to attack our energy independence, our small businesses, and our family farms. They want to ban clean coal mining in West Virginia, oil drilling in Texas. They even want to ban wheat farming in Kansas, and cattle ranching in Nebraska.

They are even using ESG to push radical initiatives to mandate abortions on-demand and to strip away our Second Amendment rights. All of this is a direct threat to hard-working American families.
In the Christopher Rufo era, anything with an acronym is a sinister tool of the enemy. You know about critical race theory (CRT). Right-wingers also attack DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives, and in education, Ron DeSantis and others have attacked SEL (social-emotional learning).

So now we have an attack on ESG, from a group with a very dull-sounding name: the State Financial Officers Foundation. Who are these people? SourceWatch explains:
The State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that describes itself as “the premier free-market organization bringing financial officers together with the nation’s top private sector companies and organizations.” Although SFOF is registered as a nonpartisan nonprofit and claims “it is not involved in issue advocacy on behalf of elected officials,” the “team” is composed of all Republican financial officers, most of whom serve in elected positions....

Republican treasurers, auditors, and staff from 16 states huddled together with corporate lobbyists and an array of right-wing groups for the State Financial Officers Foundation’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans in February 2022 to discuss strategies to combat “woke” policies, fake news, and China, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported.
The people behind this are the billionaires who drove right-wing politics in the pre-Donald Trump era:
The Heritage Foundation awarded one of its inaugural Innovation Prizes to SFOF for their anti-ESG work....

Leadership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) occupy key posts in SFOF and were in attendance at the 2022 Annual meeting....

ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson is on the group’s board of directors. ALEC Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy Jonathan Williams is a senior policy advisor and sits on SFOF’s National Advisory Committee....

CRC Advisors senior vice president Mike Thompson, who is also secretary and treasurer of CNP Action, the political arm of the Council for National Policy (CNP), attended the State Financial Officers Foundation's 2022 Annual Meeting.

Other known CNP members that attended the 2022 Annual Meeting include: Justin Danhof, Executive Vice President of the National Center for Public Policy Research; Stephen Moore; ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson; and Bridgett Wagner, Vice President of Policy Promotion at The Heritage Foundation.
So the same old people are behind this: folks named Koch, Bradley, Mercer, DeVos, Coors, Scaife. But the language is modern: These billionaire-financed propagandists are warning about "elites" who are "woke"! But what they're fighting for is one of the things right-wing billionaire have demanded for years: they want America to be entirely dependent on fossil fuels forever.

The modern right's top elected edgelord, Ron DeSantis, is, of course, all over this. Last week, his office issued this press release:
Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and Trustees of the State Board of Administration (SBA) formally approved measures to protect Florida’s investments from woke environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG), ensuring that all investment decisions focus solely on maximizing the highest rate of return. Today’s updates to the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan policy and SBA corporate governance proxy voting guidelines build on actions taken last year to clearly define the factors fiduciaries are to consider in investment decisions, ensuring that ESG is prohibited from consideration.

“Corporations across America continue to inject an ideological agenda through our economy rather than through the ballot box,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Today’s actions reinforce that ESG considerations will not be tolerated here in Florida, and I look forward to extending these protections during this legislative session.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Cabinet reaffirmed today that we don’t want a single penny of our dollars going to woke funds,” said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “We need asset managers to be laser focused on returns and nothing more. Florida’s not going to subsidize the actions of a bunch of Leftist ideologues who hate America; we’re not going to let a bunch of rich people in Manhattan or Europe try to circumvent our democracy.”
This is new language, but it's the same old plutocrat agenda, driven by (literally) the same old plutocrats.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


Reporting from Davos, Semafor's Steve Clemons writes:
One more note about last night’s gathering, which was hosted by Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair Adrienne Arsht. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who was in attendance, sounded enthusiastic about a 2024 White House run, a possibility he’s been teasing in recent months. He thought his “authenticity” could break through and his record in Miami on crime and the economy as a rare Republican running a major city would stand out.
Many people who don't have a chance in hell of becoming president run for the office anyway. Some do it because they're delusional -- they don't know they can't win. Others do it because they're trying to position themselves for the #2 slot on the ticket.

Suarez can't win -- if Rick Scott gets in the race as well as Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, Suarez will struggle to be among the top three vote-getters from his own state. I suspect he knows that. Suarez is unlikely to be picked as a running mate, for the simple reason that he's from the same state as the top two candidates. The GOP is allowed to run an all-Florida ticket but, constitutionally, it would then have to forgo all of Florida's electoral votes. Suarez might think someone other than Trump or DeSantis can win the nomination -- a lot of otherwise smart people believe that -- but I suspect he knows better. (And if he really wants to be the presidential nominee of a party full of voters who hate "globalists," why is he saying so at Davos?)

I think Suarez plans to enter the race (a) to raise his profile and (b) to be the model Hispanic the GOP wants on the debate stage to show that it's a really diverse party and that the evil Democrat Party is the party of the real racists (and also to send the message that's it's fine to parrot Fox and Koch boilerplate even if your skin isn't white, a message some non-whites, especially male ones, find comforting).

Since 1996, the GOP has usually managed to have a Black presidential candidate on the debate stage in years when there were contested primaries -- Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, Ben Carson. In 2024, it will be Tim Scott, who clearly is running for vice president, and is also running as a "Look! Our party isn't racist!" candidate. But the GOP thinks it's making more inroads with Latin voters, so the party wants someone Hispanic on that stage too. Suarez has agreed to oblige.

We can assume that the GOP wants to pretend it's a welcoming, big-tent party in its 2024 debates. Despite the fact that Republicans routinely bash the "liberal" media as "fake news," the party has been reaching out to non-conservative news outlets in an effort to schedule primary debates. Among the outlets the party is speaking to are CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC -- and Telemundo. I assumed from Republicans' expressions of hostility last year toward the Commission on Presidential Debates that they had rejected the notion of trying to use debates to reach swing voters, but clearly not. So they'll want Suarez there.


Jamelle Bouie thinks he understands why Ron DeSantis spends so much time fighting the culture wars.
Here’s a question: What does Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida think about Medicare? Medicaid? Social Security? The Affordable Care Act?
Bouie the recounts the many culture battles DeSantis has been fighting. Then he writes:
... there is a reason that DeSantis has made these issues, and virtually nothing else, the platform from which he hopes to build national power.... DeSantis has made himself the hero of conservative elites and the bête noire of liberals and Democrats without so much as mentioning his radical and unpopular views on social insurance and the welfare state.
Bouie is referring to the views on government social programs DeSantis expressed when he was a congressman and member of the House Freedom Caucus.
He helped lead the effort to shut down the government over funding for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and, that same year voted to pass a budget resolution that would have cut more than $250 billion from Social Security and Medicare over a decade. In 2017, like most other Republicans, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to cut taxes on corporations, high-earners and wealthy heirs.
My first reaction to reading this was: Good point, Jamelle. Now do every other member of the GOP. It's mainstream Republicanism to want to transfer vast amounts of money from ordinary people to the rich; Republicans routinely distract voters from their plutocratic policies by talking about the culture wars.

But DeSantis is better at it. When you think about him, culture wars are probably all you think about.

If you're a right-wing voter, you probably feel that DeSantis takes you out of the realm of the mundane and into the realm of the transcendent. Rank-and-file right-wingers are persuaded that the fights DeSantis talks about are the existential battles of our lifetime, with civilization hanging in the balance. Fighting these battles vicariously through him -- like fighting Mexican immigrants vicariously through Trump -- feels thrilling and ennobling. It's a videogame. It's a superhero movie. It's what they probably imagine fighting in World War II must have felt like to their fathers and grandfathers.

Mike Pompeo and Nikk Haley will never make right-wing voters feel this way. That's why it's a two-candidate race.

Monday, January 23, 2023


Mediaite reports:
Just in case you needed more proof we live in the dumbest of all possible timelines, M&M’s are dropping their spokescandies after backlash from Fox News and other (mostly conservative) commentators, replacing the anthropomorphic chocolates with Maya Rudolph.

The spokescandies first appeared in 1954....

In Jan. 2022, Mars, Incorporated announced they were restyling the M&M’s logo and the looks for their spokescandies — mostly changes to their shoes — to be more “inclusive,” as well as giving the female Green and Brown characters “more prominent placement” to achieve “a little bit more gender balance.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was one of the most vocal critics of the redesigned spokescandies, panning them as “deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Another marketing campaign launched at the beginning of this year again drew fire from the right when the candy featured packaging with only their female spokescandies, printed upside down with a slogan about “supporting women flipping the status quo.”
You know about Tucker Carlson's response to the earlier redesign, but the Fox response to that recent marketing effort was truly unhinged:
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum expressed concern that Mars, Incorporated’s “focus” on making M&M packages featuring only female characters is emboldening China....

“I mean, if this is what you need for validation – an M&M that is the color that you think is associated with feminism – then I’m worried about you,” she said. “I think that makes China say, ‘Oh, good, keep focusing on that. Keep focusing on giving people their own color M&Ms while we take over all of the mineral deposits in the entire world.”

Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe added, “China’s also pushing all this through TikTok.”

Meanwhile, co-host Emily Compagno suggested Mars has taken away the agency of the M&M characters and, by extension, women.

“Once again, there’s also stripping everyone of agency because remember, they took the heels off Mrs. Green, or green M&M,” she opined. “They put her in sneakers because wearing heels was somehow detrimental because women who choose to wear heels must not be able to think for themselves. They must be doing it for a bad reason. Everything about this is wrong. And also, we already have the California raisins being all the different sizes We don’t need M&Ms to be different sizes too.”
And now the spokescandies are gone, which leads the folks at Gateway Pundit to invoke a favorite slogan:
Get woke, go broke.

... As expected, their ‘woke’ spokescandies caused a major backlash with consumers.

... their new, woke marketing strategy failed....
Right-wingers have succeeded in making this campaign a burden for the company, but did the campaign fail? Did Mars, the parent company, "go broke" after introducing these changes starting in January of last year?

No. As the Financial Times reported last summer:
Mars, the intensely private chocolate and pet care group, has revealed annual sales of almost $45bn — higher than Coca-Cola’s — as chief executive Grant Reid stepped down.

Reid, who took Mars into veterinary services and healthier snacks, is leaving after eight years of what the family-owned US company called “unprecedented” growth.
Obviously, the revenues of $45 billion weren't all from M&M's, or even sweets -- I didn't know until today that the company was also in the pet care business -- but the firm seems to be doing just fine.

And no, I don't believe the phony right-wing outrage earlier this month compelled the company to make a last-minute switch to a live spokesperson. The Super Bowl will take place in less than three weeks. If you're planning to introduce a new ad on the Super Bowl, you don't just film it in a couple of days. Big-budget Super Bowl ads require months of time and effort.

The company was still rolling out "woke" marketing as late as a few weeks ago, even as it was putting the finishing touches on a change of strategy. It seems clear that plenty of money was rolling in all the time M&M's were "woke." But who needs all that aggravation from Fox? So Fox is the bratty child in the backseat who got the adults to pull over. Bravo.


I saw this at Mastodon today:

It was in response to a post by Judd Legum:
Teachers in Manatee County, Florida, are being told to make their classroom libraries — and any other "unvetted" book — inaccessible to students, or risk felony prosecution. The new policy is part of an effort to comply with new laws and regulations championed by Governor Ron DeSantis....

... the policy was put into place last week in response to HB 1467, which was signed into law by DeSantis last March. That law established that teachers could not be trusted to select books appropriate for their students. Instead, the law requires:
Each book made available to students through a school district library media center or included in a recommended or assigned school or grade-level reading list must be selected by a school district employee who holds a valid educational media specialist certificate, regardless of whether the book is purchased, donated, or otherwise made available to students.
... A rule passed by the Florida Department of Education last week states that a "library media center" includes any books made available to students, including in classrooms. This means that classroom libraries that are curated by teachers, not librarians, are now illegal.
DeSantis is awful and the law is awful -- but is the goal really to drive children to private schools? Is that the master plan?

My hunch is that DeSantis has one master plan: to be elected president. He's trying to do this, of course, by being the most anti-woke politician evar. I'm sure he's not particularly fond of public education, but I question whether he's thinking about any of this beyond his own personal ambition. After all, if you were a liberal or moderate parent who didn't want to see messages and classroom photos like this from your own children's teachers ...

... wouldn't you assume that DeSantis, the Great Disney Slayer, might someday sign a law extending the ban to private schools in the state as well?

I think it's more likely that DeSantis just doesn't care what the consequences of this law might be. I don't think he cares whether children could be traumatized someday by seeing a teacher dragged out of a classroom and put in handcuffs, as long as he scores a few more Fox News appearances and his career is advanced.

Whether it's expanding access to firearms during a wave of mass shootings, urging an end to public health measures during a deadly pandemic, or repeatedly threatening to send the federal government into default during debt ceiling negotiations, Republicans just do what impresses with their angriest voters and don't care what happens to the country as a result. They've never been concerned about the possible consequences of allying themselves with armed right-wing anti-government activists like the Bundy family, or the Tea Party, or the QAnon and MAGA movements, even after January 6. They don't care how corrosive to America the relentless disinformation on Fox News is. And now Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, says this about Marjorie Taylor Greene, the most deranged conspiratorialist in Congress:
“I will never leave that woman,” Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, told the friend, who described the private conversation on the condition of anonymity. “I will always take care of her.”
Jonathan Swan and Cait Edmondson of The New York Times tell us that McCarthy, "who has little in the way of a fixed ideology of his own," has embraced Greene -- sometimes quite literally and passionately...

... because he apparently doesn't care what she and her ideological allies might do to the country. His alliance with her helps him -- that's all that matters. McCarthy, we're told,
has come to regard the Georgia congresswoman as a vital proxy for the desires and demands of the right-wing base that increasingly drives his party. He has adopted her stances on opposing vaccine mandates and questioning funding for the war in Ukraine, and even her call to reinvestigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to show what she has called “the other side of the story.”
At the end of the day, most of these people care about a couple of policy goals -- primarily making the rich richer, which, I guess, might be DeSantis's goal in harming the public schools, because rich people don't like powerful teachers' unions, and some want to cash in on a shift to private and charter schools. But for the most part, they seem to regard themselves as too well protected ever to suffer personally from the societal harm they're causing, or perhaps they don't even see the harm at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


A couple of days ago, I wrote about a Rolling Stone story that described what will allegedly be Donald Trump's strategy to take down Ron DeSantis during the 2024 capmaign. Yesterday, New York magazine's usually astute Ed Kilgore discussed the story, asking the question "Could Trump Run to DeSantis’s Left in 2024?":
... according to Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsoeng and Tim Dickinson, Trump is mulling an assault on DeSantis from what would conventionally be described as the left.

In other words, instead of maligning his governor as a RINO squish the way he has described most Republican rivals, Trump will go after DeSantis for supporting budget austerity, “entitlement reform,” and free trade....

Trump famously abandoned austerity politics upon taking office in 2017, presiding over an orgy of tax-cutting and uninhibited spending. And while his failed assault on Obamacare included serial efforts to gut the Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income Americans, he distanced himself from the traditional GOP hunger to mess with Social Security and Medicare....

Discarding the green eyeshade of austerity was one of several voter-pleasing steps Trump took to detoxify conservative politics. Others were abandoning free-trade shibboleths that the GOP’s white working-class base intensely disliked and downplaying a reflexive defense-hawk tendency that predictably led to unpopular “forever wars.” On all these issues, the Rolling Stone report suggests, Trump will try to depict DeSantis as an Establishment figure who would bring back the bad old days....
A couple of months ago, Rich Lowry, writing for The Washington Post, suggested that DeSantis is the true moderate, at least in terms of governing style:
Independents and centrists might find themselves disappointed or irked with a President DeSantis. But they’d be irked within normal parameters, not fearing that he’d burn the country down in a fit of rage because he thinks someone wasn’t being fair to him....

DeSantis, for all his pugnaciousness, colors inside the lines, operating within the traditionally defined powers of his office and the constitutional framework of government....

Every now and then, DeSantis takes the not-so-conservative path when it’s popular with his constituents. This doesn’t mean liberals will embrace him; it’s just an observation that a DeSantis presidency wouldn’t mean enduring four years of an inflexible, hardcore conservative. There would be occasional areas of agreement....
We've already been told that DeSantis was a moderate in the early days of his first gubernatorial term, as in this New Yorker profile:
In office, DeSantis took steps that suggested he intended to govern closer to the center. He buoyed environmentalists by forcing out the nine-member board of the South Florida Water Management District, political appointees who were considered hostile to environmental interests. He named a commission to tackle algae blooms, which befouled rivers and lakes in the southern part of the state. And he appointed several Black jurists. At his inauguration, DeSantis asked the Reverend R. B. Holmes, the pastor of a predominantly Black church in Tallahassee, to lead the prayer.
I tell you all this because one of these two men will by the 2024 Republican presidential nominee -- and whichever one it is, we'll be told that, thankfully, GOP voters have chosen the moderate one.

If it's Trump, we'll be told that he isn't an abortion extremist, doesn't want to gut entitlements, and isn't a hawk. If it's DeSantis, we'll be told that he's not a monomaniacal narcissist, he's serious about governing, and he occasionally thinks like a centrist. Heck, he raised teachers' salaries! (Experienced teachers in Florida are still among the lowest paid in the country, however.)

Either way, as we go into the general election, the mainstream media will probably be telling us that the Republican candidate is a right-centrist, even as the right-wing media is telling its audience that Joe Biden is a radical leftist. That's how it usually goes in America. It's amazing Democrats ever win the Electoral College.


Rolling Stone's Kara Voght and Tessa Stuart report on a straw poll of the 2024 Republican presidential race that's significant, but not just for the reasons Voght and Stuart think it is:
Anti-Abortion Voters Have Picked an Early 2024 Favorite. It’s Not Trump

TWO THOUSAND ATTENDEES at the National Pro-Life Summit cast their votes on Saturday for their favorite prospective GOP nominee for president in 2024. The winner is: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis....

DeSantis banked more than half of the votes cast, 53.73 percent. Former President Donald Trump placed in a distant second with just 19.22 percent. His former deputy, Mike Pence — who has called often for a national ban on abortion — took home roughly eight percent. Those three were followed by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with 1.57 and 1.37 percent, respectively. Everyone else — Kristi Noem, Greg Abbott, Glenn Youngkin, Liz Cheney, Larry Hogan, and Tim Scott, in that order — earned less than one percent of ballots cast. About seven percent of the poll’s voters remain undecided on their preferred would-be candidate.
Voght and Stuart seize on the voters' rejection of Trump, and that's a fairly big deal. But this was a gathering of people who are focused on the issue of abortion, and they chose Ron DeSantis, who's not known as one of the most anti-abortion contenders foe 2024. DeSantis signed a fifteen-week abortion ban and hinted that he might sign a six-week ban, but never explicitly said he would (“I’m willing to sign great life legislation” is how he put it). He was chosen over Mike Pence, Greg Abbott, Kristi Noem, and Ted Cruz, all of whom are anti-abortion absolutists. Presumably the attendees are anti-abortion absolutists themselves, but they didn't choose one of their own.

You can argue that they chose familiar names, which might explain the low vote totals for, say, Kristi Noem -- but how can DeSantis be better known than Mike Pence? Clearly, even these apparent one-issue absolutists are choosing based on a different issue: Does this candidate relentlessly own the libs?

If even these voters are going with DeSantis, then DeSantis and Trump are shrewd not to stake out the most absolutist anti-abortion position possible. I'm not saying we couldn't end up with DeSantis or Trump signing draconian national abortion legislation, but anti-abortion maximalism won't be the key to success in the GOP primaries.

But this poll is terrible news for Trump, right? Well, it's not good news -- but it might be consistent with other polling showing Trump in the lead.

The principal sponsor of the National Pro-Life Summit is Students for Life. That suggests that the attendees are educated, or at least are becoming educated. To judge from the photos on the summit's website, the attendees skew very young:

That's not good for Trump because as I've noted, polls show that DeSantis does best against him with the elderly (who presumably are retired and are therefore watching the most Fox News).

But those same polls say that Trump's supporters are the least educated Republicans. The kids at this summit seem as if they're in college or are planning to go. They're networking. Trump's supporters might not all be proletatarian -- many of his non-college supporters seem to own small businesses -- but they're still distinct from this crowd. If they stick with him, he's still in the race. But the lack of support for hardcore anti-abortion extremists even in this crowd tells me that it's still a two-candidate race.

Saturday, January 21, 2023


The New York Post published a story last night about a box at Joe Biden's house that the paper would like you to believe was an easily accessible (and readily accessed) repository of secret documents. The story offers no evidence that this was actually the case -- which doesn't prevent the paper from saying that it was the case.

Here's the headline:
What’s in here, Joe? Beat-up box of ‘Important Doc’s’ was out in open at Joe Biden’s house, laptop reveals
We're told:
This can’t really be where Joe Biden kept classified documents he took from the White House — or can it?

A box labeled “Important Doc’s + Photos” was left unsealed on a table ahead of a child’s birthday party in the Delaware home where the 80-year-old president has been discovered to have stashed sensitive government records, a photo from his son’s laptop, discovered by The Post Friday reveals.
Here's the photo:

If you were going to sneak classified documents out of the White House and make them available to your drug-addicted son so he could engage in shading business dealings with overseas clients, of course you'd label the box "Important Doc's" and allow it to be photographed. Wouldn't anybody?

But the story itself does not assert that classified documents were in the box. In fact, it suggests a possibility other than corrupt family skulduggery:
While it’s unknown what was actually in the box, reports have suggested Joe Biden may have taken the White House documents for use in writing his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” which was published in November 2017.
But I'm describing the text of the story. The caption to the box photo is another matter. It reads:
Photos from Hunter Biden’s laptop showed the box containing the classified docs open on a table in the house.
Brilliant. The story remains within the bounds of responsible journalism, but we also have a flat-out assertion that, yes, this is a box containing classified documents and it's out on a table as Hunter Biden and other family members gather, we're told, for a Biden grandchild's birthday party.

And if a sufficient number of prominent people point out that the caption asserts as fact something the story tells us is unclear, the caption will simply be changed, and maybe an intern will be scapegoated and fired. Meanwhile, the damage is done.

And we're off. On the right it's becoming an established fact that this particular box held classified documents and was out on display at a family gathering attended by Hunter. And the only evidence we have for this assertion is a photo caption that's contradicted by the story it accompanies. Very clever, Rupert.

Friday, January 20, 2023


I'm just a schmuck blogger and not a Very Savvy Insider like Puck's Tara Palmeri, but she's just published a story called "Who's Afraid of Rick Scott?" that says the circus-freak Florida senator might take down fellow Floridian Ron DeSantis, whom he apparently despises, in the 2024 presidential primaries -- and, well, I'm going to call bullshit.

A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics gives us the summary.
... the article by veteran journalist Tara Palmeri suggests, as one DeSantis alum puts it, it’s “very bad news” if Scott indeed passes on a re-election bid after all and runs for the presidency.

... Palmeri suggests the Senator has been operating on two tracks. His Chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which started and ended with Democratic control of the Senate, was a way to “build his own donor network across the country.”

“Rick is always a guy who maintains options because he has a checkbook,” a “former DeSantis staffer” was quoted as saying. “He’s very disciplined and he doesn’t do things half-assed. He’s very analytical and it’s a very dangerous proposition for DeSantis if he runs. Rick has the credibility to take the wind out of Ron’s sails and he has the money to wear him out.”
Oooh, scary! I mean, sure, Scott raised a lot of money in his bid to regain the Senate for the GOP. The campaign was an embarrassing failure, but I assume he connected with a lot of rich people. Also, he's very rich himself. But if he enters the presidential race just to hurt DeSantis, what exactly does he plan to do to him?
The attacks could take many forms, reportedly. “Scott views the DeSantis administration, I’m told, as overly focused on culture war piñatas rather than fiscal issues,” Palmeri writes...
Oh no! Not the culture war! Republican voters hate the culture war, and only spend seven or eight hours a day watching Republicans fight it on Fox News!
... before suggesting that double-Ivy DeSantis’ student loan debt may be a campaign trail albatross, useful to “frame DeSantis as a taxpayer-mooching grifter who is worth $300,000 while still carrying student loans.”
Are you kidding me? America's richest senator plans to attack DeSantis for having student loans? This is a subject on which even DeSantis can sound sympathetic:
“I basically made decisions to serve in uniform, as a prosecutor, and in Congress to my financial detriment,” DeSantis said in October 2018. “I’m not complaining about that, but I’m not entering (office) with a big trust fund or anything like that, so I’m not going to be entering office with those issues.”
You might think Republican voters would object to DeSantis using those loans at fancy-pants Ivy League schools, but the GOP base likes it when Republicans get fancy degrees, as long as those degrees are used for the purpose of owning the libs. (See, e.g., Ted Cruz.)

What else?

WAAAHHH! He's taking credit for my work! Yeah, that's an appealing campaign posture.

As for the jets, Florida had two of them available for state travel prior to Scott's time as governor. He eliminated them and used his own private jet instead. (All DeSantis has to say in response to this is "Unlike you, I didn't own my own jet.") The plane DeSantis is using went into service in early 2020 -- and DeSantis won reelection in a landslide two years later. Obviously, it wasn't an issue.

(And remember that the leading candidate in the race for the nomination will be the most corrupt grifter in the history of the presidency -- who is also the most beloved figure in the Republican Party.)

I'm not saying that DeSantis can't be toppled. I'm saying that the GOP base is predisposed to like him for his awesome lib-owning, and is not predisposed to like Scott, who fumbled away a chance to win the Senate back, and who never owns the libs. DeSantis can be beaten, but Scott won't do it.

Why did Palmeri even write this story? I guess it's beat-sweetening -- she thinks Scott will someday be an important figure (maybe as Mitch McConnell's replacement eventually) and she wants to curry favor with him. But to what extent does she actually believe this, merely because Scott wants her to and because he can provide quotable flacks arguing on his behalf?

I'm not a savvy insider, but I know bullshit when I see it, and this is bullshit.