Monday, July 31, 2023


CNN's Ella Nilsen tells us that some Republicans now understand the seriousness of climate change and the need to address it, but they can't actually do anything because of one person:
Deadly heatwaves are baking the US. Scientists just reported that July will be the hottest month on record. And now, after years of skepticism and denial in the GOP ranks, a small number of Republicans are urging their party to get proactive on the climate crisis.

But the GOP is stuck in a climate bind – and likely will be for the next four years, in large part because they’re still living in the shadow of former president and 2024 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

Even as more Republican politicians are joining the consensus that climate change is real and caused by humans, Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has driven the party to the right on climate and extreme weather. Trump has called the extremely settled science of climate change a “hoax” and more recently suggested that the impacts of it “may affect us in 300 years.”
It's this argument again: The GOP is a reasonable party that's been mesmerized by a madman. All we have to do is break his spell and everything will be normal. Sorry, but no.

Judging from her LinkedIn, Nilsen is in her early thirties -- but she still should know that the Republican Party has been denying the seriousness of the climate threat for decades. She does refer to "years of skepticism and denial in the GOP ranks," but she also says that "Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has driven the party to the right" on climate. But the party has been far right on climate for decades.

In the 1992 presidential campaign, George H.W. Bush referred to the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Al Gore, as "Ozone Man." George W. Bush beat Gore for the presidency in 2000 and subsequently
scorned the Kyoto agreement on global warming ... neutered the Environmental Protection Agency [and] filled his Administration with people like Philip A. Cooney, who, in 2001, left the American Petroleum Institute, the umbrella lobby for the oil industry, to become chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he repeatedly edited government documents so as to question the link between fuel emissions and climate change.
The 2008 GOP platform said:
Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government. We can — and should — address the risk of climate change based on sound science without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly.

A robust economy will be essential to dealing with the risk of climate change, and we will insist on reasonable policies that do not force Americans to sacrifice their way of life or trim their hopes and dreams for their children.
(Translation: Drill, baby, drill!)

Nilsen quotes a Republican who's Very Concerned about climate change:
“As Donald Trump is the near presumptive nominee of our party in 2024, it’s going to be very hard for a party to adopt a climate-sensitive policy,” Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, told CNN. “But Donald Trump’s not going to be around forever.”
So what did the GOP platform say about climate in 2012, when Romney ran for president against the incumbent, Barack Obama?
The current Administration's most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition.... [T]he strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates "climate change" to the level of a "severe threat" equivalent to foreign aggression. The word "climate," in fact, appears in the current President's strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.
In his acceptance speech at the 2012 Republican convention, Romney said:
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.
What if Trump weren't the front-runner this year? Would the GOP be magically transformed into a climate-aware party? What does the #2 candidate in the race have to say about the climate?
“What I’ve found is, people when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways. We’re not doing any left-wing stuff,” [Ron] DeSantis said....

“Be very careful of people trying to smuggle in their ideology. They say they support our coastline, or they say they support, you know, some, you know, difference, our water, environment. And maybe they do, but they’re also trying to do a lot of other things,” DeSantis said, without elaborating on the alleged “other things.”
While governor, DeSantis has adopted bills banning Florida’s cities from adopting 100% clean energy goals and barred the state’s pension fund from making investment decisions that consider the climate crisis due to what he called a corporate attempt to “impose an ideological agenda on the American people”. He has also attacked the US military for being “woke” for warning about the national security risks posed by climate impacts.
What about that nice Tim Scott?
... he has opposed most policies that would curb carbon dioxide emissions. During the Obama administration, Mr. Scott challenged a regulation that would have required utilities to move away from coal and adopt wind, solar and other renewable power. During the Trump administration, he argued for dumping the Paris Agreement. And last year, he voted against President Biden’s expansive climate and health legislation that will invest about $370 billion in spending and tax credits over 10 years into clean energy technologies.
How about that young up-and-comer, Vivek Ramaswamy? He said this to Fox's Maria Bartiromo in March:
... we've shot our own fossil fuel industry in the foot, and it is because of this climate religion, but the dirty little secret, Maria, that not a lot of people know is the climate religion actually has nothing to do with the climate. It is all about power, control, dominion and apologizing for America's own success.

... What they really want to do is punish America and establish this agenda of global equity, which also allows China to catch up to us, and I think it's important we have a president who sees through that. Republicans dance around this issue a little bit too delicately. I say it expressly: we need to abandon climate religion in America. Yeah, that's the easiest step to unshackle our economy.
The Republican Party was hostile to action on climate change before Trump and it will be hostile to action on climate change after Trump. We can have a successful Republican Party or we can have a livable planet. There's no third option.

Sunday, July 30, 2023


You'll probably want to decontaminate yourself after I tell you this, but -- unsurprisingly -- the lowlife scum at Gateway Pundit are implying that Barack Obama killed his private chef. Jim Hoft writes:
Obama Spotted at Golf Course with Bandaged Fingers, Days After Mysterious Paddle Boarding Accident Claims the Life of His Personal Chef and Friend

Just a week following the unexpected and rather tragic death of their personal chef and friend, Tafari Campbell, the Obamas were spotted out and about, seemingly unscathed and unaffected.

Barack and Michelle Obama were spotted at the Vineyard Golf Club and Farm Neck Country Club, respectively, according to exclusive photos obtained by Daily Mail. The pictures are the first public glimpse of the Obamas since the loss of their dear friend and personal chef.
The Daily Mail story says that Michelle "was seen receiving a consoling hug from a female friend on the [tennis] court," which doesn't exactly square with "unscathed and unaffected." But go on, Jim:
Dressed in a green polo shirt and white shorts, Barack Obama was seen engaged in a round of golf at the exclusive Vineyard Golf Club. The former president, noticeably bearing bandaged fingers, which causes speculations online.

Citizen journalist Travis of Flint, Michigan wrote, “just days after his personal chef and friend died in a very mysterious paddle boarding accident, Barack Obama appears to have injured fingers and a black eye. We still don’t know who the other person was and Obama loves paddle boarding. I think we can all guess what happened at this point!”

I don't know what (if anything) is going on with Obama's eye, but the taped fingers don't mean Obama's hands are injured. Many golfers tape their fingers, among them Tiger Woods. Woods tapes the middle finger of his right hand and wears a glove on the left; Obama, who's left-handed, has a glove on his right hand and tape on a couple of fingers of his left.

I don't know much about Travis_in_Flint, the "citizen journalist" Hoft quotes, but it clearly doesn't take much to establish a rep on that side of the aisle. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, and while I'm sure many of them are bots, his followers include Sarah Palin, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, Lara Logan, Lou Dobbs, Moms for Liberty, and Ron DeSantis's spokes-sniper, Christina Pushaw.

I don't know what's creepier in the Gateway Pundit comments. Is it the haters' favorite insinuations about the Obamas, that he's secretly gay and she's a man named Mike (or isn't even human)?
Sounds like Obama, Michael and the Chef got lost in the "FOG OF A GAY BUBBLE BATH" Nothing worse than a pissed off Sasquatch in an interrupted gay bubble bath on Martha,s Vineyard, (AKA home of we love migrants)


A la Paul Pelosi. Demoncrats sure have media and police protection to run interference when they get caught in their gay trysts that end up violent.


The former president, noticeably bearing bandaged fingers
They need to be careful with gerbils, they have sharp teeth.
(Homophobes love the urban legend that gay men routinely put gerbils up their butts.)

Or is it the insinuation that because the Obamas play golf and tennis, they hate white people?
The Obamas hate Whitey but have no trouble appropriating White culture in every way. Tennis. Golf. Martha's Vineyard.


Both in white outfits too.


Martha’s Vineyard will look like a Detroit shopping mall after enough Obamas move in.


They identify as white. Hence they are racists.


While wearing white supremacist hat, shorts, belt, socks and sneakers...


they hate "whitey" .. because it makes them $$$$ ... they are no different than all the other racists across this country in charge of hiring, admissions, and promoting the big lie ....


And they were propelled by stupid whites made to feel guilty if they didn’t vote for a non white, non American candidate. They owe everything to whites. And like all black Rats, chose a pristine white enclave to live in. So much for blm.
(In fact, parts of Martha's Vineyard have been getaway destinations for Black people since the nineteenth century.)

I don't expect this rumor to go mainstream -- though who knows? Meanwhile it's the Clinton Death List, version 2.0.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


Just yesterday, in a New York Times opinion piece, David Firestone wrote this about Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign:
The most obvious fault in his strategy is that you can’t beat Donald Trump if you don’t even criticize him, and Mr. DeSantis has said little about the multiple indictments piling up against the former president or about his character.... [H]e can’t become an alt-Trump without drawing a sharp contrast and holding Mr. Trump to account for at least a few of his many flaws.
Nearly every pundit believes this, of course, so let's take a look at what happened in Iowa when another candidate followed this strategy:

Former GOP Rep. and presidential candidate Will Hurd navigated boos and jeers in Iowa on Friday after declaring that former President Donald Trump was running for president “to stay out of prison.” ...

“One of the things we need in our elected leaders: For them to tell the truth, even if it’s unpopular,” Hurd said.

“Donald Trump is not running for president to Make America Great Again. Donald Trump is not running for president to represent the people that voted for him in 2016 and 2020. Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison.”

The remark sparked boos and jeers from the Iowa crowd as the candidate neared the end of his speech.
Why do pundits still believe this can work? Do they think GOP voters support Trump because they've somehow managed never to hear any anti-Trump arguments? Do they think this is a thoroughly unfamiliar message that, when heard, will somehow make the scales fall from the base's eyes?

NPR/Marist asks Republicans whether they support Trump or another candidate and 58% say they support Trump. Chris Christie has built his entire presidential campaign around the message that he's the one guy willing to punch Trump in the nose and 55% of Republican voters have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to Monmouth. Meanwhile, the only two Trump challengers who are rising in the polls are Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy, who never criticize Trump.

Republican voters like Trump. It's theoretically possible that a few more indictments and a few criminal convictions will lessen his appeal to the base -- although that seems unlikely. It's also possible that he'll decide to drop out of the race to deal full-time with his legal problems, or agree not to run as part of a legal grand bargain. Or he could die or get very sick.

But there's nothing any GOP rival can do to lessen his appeal. They have to pray for one of the above-mentioned lucky breaks. And if that happens, the party will choose a pro-Trump alternative.


Rolling Stone's Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng report:
WHILE DONALD TRUMP was publicly whipping his supporters into a frenzy over claims that the 2020 election was “stolen,” he was privately mocking his own allies’ outlandish conspiracy theories as “crazy.”

It’s a contradiction that Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office would like to know all about.

According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, federal investigators have questioned multiple witnesses, including some in recent months, about Trump privately suggesting, starting in November 2020, that certain conspiracy theories and “evidence” were nonsensical.

Among these witness accounts are moments of the then-president repeatedly calling Sidney Powell, one of the MAGA lawyers and die-hard Trumpists aiding his effort to stop the transfer of power, “crazy,” and dismissing many of her election-fraud arguments as patently absurd....

The special counsel’s continuing interest in incidents where Trump either seemed to know — or was told by his own aides — that his election-conspiracy theories were baseless suggests that prosecutors are likely preparing to demonstrate that Trump’s attempts to overturn the election were not the result of a reasonable or good-faith belief in conspiracy theories but instead a willful disregard of the facts. Demonstrating that Trump knew he was misleading the public could be a crucial evidentiary hurdle in any attempt to prove Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Here's the problem: It appears that Trump may have thought some election conspiracies were "crazy," but he talked as if he thought other theories were plausible. Maybe he didn't really believe any of them, but I don't think we know. I don't agree with Amanda Marcotte, who says, "It's obvious to reality-based people that everyone involved in the Big Lie knew it was a lie." I'm not sure it's obvious. Rudy Giuliani, for instance, is a longtime believer in rigged elections. He thought his loss to David Dinkins in the 1989 New York mayoral election was because of voter fraud ("some people voted eight or ten times" for Dinkins, he claimed). So why wouldn't he believe there was fraud in 2020? I know he's now admitted to falsehoods regarding two Georgia election workers, but he's just trying to minimize the damage from their lawsuit.

Sidney Powell, of course, had some batshit theories:
She told the president that Dominion Voting Systems had rigged their machines to flip votes from Trump to Biden and that it was part of an international communist plot to steal the election for the Democrats.

... Powell ... continued to elaborate on a fantastical election narrative involving Venezuela, Iran, China and others.
Whereas Trump, in his phone call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, asserted something much more down-to-earth: that fake Biden ballots were transported in suitcases to a counting center in Georgia, and that thousands of Biden ballots were cast on behalf of dead people.

I don't know whether Trump really believes this. But the fact that he found some conspiracy theories "crazy" doesn't mean he doubts others.

Whatever he actually believes, I assume his lawyers will simply argue that the election was rigged, to the extent that they're allowed to by the court. Maybe that won't fly with a D.C. jury, if that's where the charges are filed. But if the prosecution needs to prove that he knew he'd lost in order to win a conviction, I think it might be a struggle. And when 68% of Republicans think the election was rigged, it really might be hard to persuade a right-winger on the jury that fraud obviously didn't happen, therefore Trump can't possibly believe it did.

Friday, July 28, 2023


I've been reading pieces like this one at Talking Points Memo, with the headline "The New Evidence Against Donald Trump In The MAL Case Is BRUTAL." I've had doubts about the likelihood of a conviction in Trump's Florida case given the Trumpy makeup of the likely jury pool, but maybe the evidence in the case really is overwhelming. Maybe he'll be convicted. And maybe he'll be convicted in New York (though that probably wouldn't lead to more than a fine) and/or D.C. and/or Georgia.

But his poll numbers continue to defy gravity -- not just in the GOP, where that's expected, but in general election polls. (In the latest Marquette Law School poll, he and President Biden are 50%-50%. That's better than Trump's 52%-47% lead in May in the same poll, but it's still bad for Biden. Trump is also tied with Biden in the latest poll from Big Village, and ahead of Biden by 4 among registetred voters in the latest Premise poll.) And then there's the likely effect of the No Labels and Cornel West candidacies.

So I still believe the most likely outcome of the 2024 election is a legitimate Trump victory, at least in the Electoral College, because it doesn't seem as if there's anything that will turn even casual Trump supporters against him. If I'm right about the win, it could very well happen despite one or more felony convictions for Trump. Trump will appeal any convictions, and I assume, given the constitutionally fraught circumstances, the appeal or appeals will make their way to the Supreme Court.

The GOP majority on the Supreme Court answers to old-school Republicans -- billionaires who are mostly sick of Trump and wish he would go away. But if we have a Trump who's both victorious and a felon convicted on overwhelming evidence, isn't it likely that the Court will conclude that upholding the conviction(s) would create a constitutional crisis, even if the government's case is rock solid?

I'm imagining a Bush v. Gore-style decision sometime after Election Day 2024 but before Inauguration Day. It will be based solely on what the justices tell us is best for the country. And it will go Trump's way.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the timing of all this. Maybe it's more likely that the appeals process won't get that far before Inauguration Day, at which point Trump will be self-pardoned or declared an innocent man by his Justice Department. And you all might be right that polls right now are meaningless, and that a significant number of casual Trump supporters will finally reject him after one or more convictions, even though impeachments, the January 6 hearings, indictments, and the E. Jean Carroll civil case haven't made a dent in his general-election support.

I know I say these things all the time, but I continue to be struck by the disconnect between the reaction to news about Trump among politically engaged liberals and Never Trump Republicans -- Wow, he's even guiltier than we thought! -- and the reaction among the general public, which is that he's just as credible a general-election candidate as he was dozens of felony counts ago. I'm just waiting for some signs that he's become too unpopular to win the election, and I'm not seeing them. A question for those of you who think he can't win in November: When will we see a level of anti-Trump disgust sufficient to guarantee an election loss? What will be the precipitating factor?

Thursday, July 27, 2023


At his Substack, which is called Everything Is Horrible, Noah Berlatsky offers the theory that President Biden's approval ratings are low because ... well, everything is horrible:
The US since at least 2016 has been facing a crisis of democracy. One of our two major political parties has embraced fascism with terrifying religious fervor, and the effects of that are frightening and difficult to escape. The Supreme Court gutted abortion rights. LGBT people are facing escalating attacks, up to and including threats of terrorist violence. Red states have launched all-out assaults on local schools, banning books by Black and LGBT authors and letting teachers know that their jobs and even their safety is in peril if they try to do their jobs. Frightening Republican politicians run for office regularly, insisting that the US is a sewer, and promising to "fix" things by unelashing a wave of bigotry and cruelty. Meanwhile, there are more and more extreme weather events—storms, drought, floods, skyrocketing temperatures. And then there's the steady, horrific drumbeat of mass shootings.

... Things feel bleak. And when things feel bleak, people tend to say that the president isn't doing a great job. Which means Biden's approval ratings are terrible.
But everything isn't horrible for everybody. If you're a right-winger, you like the fact that the GOP is openly embracing fascism and bigotry. You like the assaults on abortion rights and LGBT rights. You like book banning when the books being banned are books you don't approve of. And you don't care about extreme weather because you're certain that climate change is a hoax.

But if you're in that category, you've hated Biden from the beginning, and the fact that many aspects of American life are going your way doesn't change that. So America consists of people who might be favorably disposed toward Biden, but many of them don't like the way things are going, along with people whose lives are pretty sweet, but they hate all Democrats, so Biden will never get any credit. No wonder Biden's numbers are low.

Admittedly, right-wingers don't think everything is good. In fact, they say that everything is horrible, even though their lives aren't horrible at all. I wrote about this paradox in March:
For years they've warned that "we won't have a country" if some calamity isn't averted -- Islamic terrorists have to be stopped, the border has to be sealed, Joe Biden's inauguration has to be prevented. They think COVID, COVID vaccines, or both are a liberal/Chinese/Deep State/Big Tech attempt at genocide. They think there's a war on Christianity. They think the World Economic Forum wants to destroy U.S. sovereignty. They think liberals want there to be only "one gender." They think every acronym poses a mortal danger -- CRT, ESG, DEI, SEL, CCP. And the right-wing movement is full of people who devote many of their waking hours to doomsday prepping -- preparing for the complete breakdown of civilization.
Deep down, they know that life is pretty sweet for people like them. No one's really coming for their guns -- they have plenty, and it's easy to buy more. No one's really coming for their red meat or their big-ass SUVs. No one's forcing them to be gay or bi or trans. Politically, they run half the states. They run the Supreme Court and will control it for decades. They run the House, and they have an excellent chance of taking the Senate and the White House next year.
Earlier this month, David French wrote about this happy-catastrophizer phenomenon after watching a right-wing congressman say this in a Fourth of July Twitter message:
Hey guys, Congressman Andy Ogles here, wishing you a happy and blessed Fourth of July. Hey, remember our Founding Fathers. It’s we the people that are in charge of this country, not a leftist minority. Look, the left is trying to destroy our country and our family, and they’re coming after you. Have a blessed Fourth of July. Be safe. Have fun. God bless America.
French unpacked the message:
Can something be cheerful and dark at the same time? Can a holiday message be both normal and so very strange? If so, then Ogles pulled it off. This is a man smiling in a field as a dog sniffs happily behind him. The left may be “coming after you,” as he warns, but the vibe isn’t catastrophic or even worried, rather a kind of friendly, generic patriotism. They’re coming for your family! Have a great day!
Life is actually very good for these people, even though Fox News and the rest right-wing media keeps feeding them reasons to be angry at Democrats. Life isn't so good for the rest of us, so some of us become disillusioned by Biden and other Democrats. And that's why Biden's numbers are low.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


National Review's Natan Ehrenreich has a genius strategy for Ron DeSantis's campaign reboot:
Kamala Harris has gifted DeSantis a golden opportunity to begin that reset by recentering his cultural message on issues that Republicans care about.... [H]e should start by attacking the narrative pushed in recent days by the Vice President that Florida’s history curriculum is teaching that slavery was good for slaves.

Charlie [Charles C.W.] Cooke has convincingly demonstrated that Harris’ brazen abuse of what he calls “Ctrl+F politics” is dishonest to the core. If National Review can make these points, so can DeSantis. And by recentering his “anti-woke” message on quality education for Florida’s children rather than obscure examples of “woke capitalism” (I’m still slightly unsure what ESG is, exactly), DeSantis can retain a focus on the cultural battles that made him famous without falling prey to the “terminally online” aura that has defined parts of his campaign. He should start right now.
Cooke says we're practicing "Ctrl+F politics," by which he means this:
A few years ago, I started writing about a political phenomenon that I termed “Ctrl+F politics.” The rise of the internet, I observed, had led to the rise of actors and institutions whose explicit role in our civic life was to scour the debates that it generates in search of words or phrases that can be stripped of their mitigating context and weaponized against the unsuspecting.
Harris has criticized a line in Florida's 2023 social studies standards:
Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.
Ehrenreich and Cooke insist that this one sentence from a lengthy curriculum shouldn't be read in isolation. I think I know what it might refer to. I was in Charleston not long ago and learned that some enslaved people in cities were hired out as part-time laborers, using skills they learned as part of their forced labor. In Charleston, they were required to wear metal neck tags.

For more than a century, slaves in Charleston were required to give all the money they earned this way to their owners. But there were some arrangements that permitted slaves to put away some money, and a small number of slaves were able to purchase their own freedom (after which, however, they were required to pay a tax on themselves, as members of a race that was otherwise seen as property).

Is "benefit" the right word for this? It seems to me like a small mitigating factor in an otherwise brutally cruel and inhuman system. But if you're defensive about slavery, maybe this is the word you want to use.

I hope DeSantis takes Ehrenreich's advice. When you're explaining, you're losing. Go ahead, Ron, and explain.

And while we're on the subjecty of "Ctrl+F," maybe DeSantis shouldn't have fired Nate Hochman, the staffer who made the video in which DeSantis's face was superimposed on a Sonnenrad, a symbol embraced by Nazis and neo-Nazis.

Hey, it's on the screen only for a split second, at 1:01. Aren't we just stripping this Nazi symbol of its mitigating context?

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


Greg Sargent reports that young voters seem to be even more progressive that previous voters their age, according to data from the Harvard Youth Poll:
Young voters have shifted in a markedly progressive direction on multiple issues that are deeply important to them: Climate change, gun violence, economic inequality and LGBTQ+ rights....

[The] numbers ... all suggest that today’s young voters are substantially more progressive on these issues than young voters were even five or 10 years ago. Sizable majorities now reject the idea that same-sex relationships are morally wrong (53 percent), support stricter gun laws (63 percent) and want government to provide basic necessities (62 percent).

Meanwhile, support for government doing more to curb climate change soared to 57 percent in 2020 before subsiding to 50 percent this year.... While that 50 percent could be higher, the issue has seen a 21-point shift, and the polling question asks if respondents want action on climate “even at the expense of economic growth.”
Sargent looks for an explanation:
... these new voters are politically coming of age during a remarkable confluence of events that appear to be conspiring in an improbable way to push them to the left.

Mass shootings have been on the rise, with the 2018 massacre at a school in Parkland, Fla., acting as a galvanizing moment. Heat waves and wildfire smog have driven home the realities of climate change with new urgency and vividness.

Meanwhile, the pandemic likely drove home the vulnerability of millions to economic shocks as well as the woefully patchy social safety net in the United States. And red states are escalating their assault on LGBTQ+ rights....

Then there’s the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last year....
But this isn't "a remarkable confluence of events." There's nothing "improbable" about the fact that all of this has been happening at the same time.

Since the 1970s, and especially since the election of Ronald Reagan, the American right has worked relentlessly to consolidate power. It has created a machine funded by right-wing billionaires that has worked to lock in power on the federal courts, sustain Republican majorities (through gerrymandering and other means) in red and purple states, and limit any threat to fossil-fuel domination of the U.S. economy and to the low-tax, low regulation status of big business in general, an effort that depends on pro-plutocrat Democrats as well as Republicans voting as a bloc. This is all sustained through enraging propaganda from the right-wing media and from conservative culture-war organizations, all of which keeps right- and right-centrist-leaning citizens voting Republican, primarily out of fear of gun confiscation, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, feminists, and liberals in general.
It's been working. It's been working since 1980. We've made progress on a few issues, but on the issues Sargent names and many others, right-wingers are either mounting a successful backlash (LGBTQ rights, abortion) or continuing their all-out war against progress (climate, guns).

If all this has young people angry and frustrated, it seems like politics working the way it's supposed to work: Government decisions that are out of step with what much of the public wants appear to be leading to a voter backlash.

But can the backlash lead to better policies? To make a real break from fossil-fuel dependence, for instance -- which, for the plutocracy, really is a line in the sand -- we'd need an environmentally conscious president plus a Democratic majority in the House that isn't compromised by pro-fossil-fuel sellouts plus sixty Democratic senators with a similar profile -- as well as courts that weren't sold out to the industry, and fewer states that are bulwarks of reaction. It's a bigger battle than just sending Democratic majorities to Washington. And when electing Democrats doesn't work, young progressive understandably get frustrated.

Which means we don't know whether they'll turn out in sufficient numbers to at least defeat Donald Trump and keep Congress out of the GOP's hands. In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 62% of 18-to-34-year-old respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of Trump -- but 59% have an unfavorable opinion of Joe Biden. They'd vote for Biden over Trump, but only by a 52%-41% margin.

It's hard to imagine that voters who dislike both major-party candidates and who are worried about a planet on fire will vote for Joe Manchin, but many could stay home, and some will vote for Cornel West. That won't get us any closer to the better world they want, but they may not think voting Democratic will, either.

Monday, July 24, 2023


Poor Rupert Murdoch. His chosen Trump-slayer, Ron DeSantis, seems incapable of dealing the death blow. There are small signs of life in other GOP campaigns -- Tim Scott is at 11% in a Fox Business poll of Iowa, while Nikki Haley is at 14% (ahead of DeSantis) in a Fox Business survey of South Carolina. But Scott, Haley, DeSantis, and the few other semi-credible contenders are still way behind Trump.

Who can possibly challenge Trump for the top spot? Who can take votes away from him? A Media Matters story suggests that Fox News is this close to recognizing the answer:
Fox News is aggressively promoting anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential run in a transparent attempt to damage President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. And the network’s fixation on the gadfly Democrat’s bid is crowding out coverage of Donald Trump’s Republican primary challengers, stymying their hopes of garnering enough attention to defeat the twice-impeached, twice-indicted former president....

On Tuesday night, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity ... will host Kennedy for a televised town hall....

Fox has hosted Kennedy at least 10 times on its weekday broadcasts since he announced his run on April 19.... That is more often than the network interviewed Republican candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (9 interviews), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (9), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (8), or former Vice President Mike Pence (7) over the same period.

Likewise, Kennedy is referenced more frequently on the network than much of the GOP field. His name was mentioned on Fox at least 779 times from April 19 through July 20 — more than any GOP primary candidate other than Trump (4,702 mentions), DeSantis (2,484), and Scott (941)....
There's your solution, Rupert! GOP voters want a candidate they think we hate. They want a candidate they think we're trying to cancel. They want a candidate who talks incessantly about how he's being silenced. RFK Jr.'s the man!

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, Kennedy has a 21% favorable rating and a 47% unfavorable ratingamong Democrats -- but among Republicans, Kennedy's favorable rating is 48% and his unfavorable rating is 22%.

So if you want to put up a serious challenger against Trump, persuade Kennedy to run as a>
I'm serious about this. I know that the ultimate goal of dumping Trump is finding a Republican who can win the general election and then deliver everything plutocrats want. RFK Jr. probably wouldn't be that guy, on either count. But he might be the only candidate who can seriously take votes away from Trump, and the only candidate who seems to be even more hated by libs than Trump. (They're starting to see that we're laughing at DeSantis.) If he can't beat Trump, he can at least soften him up while DeSantis works on that campaign reboot.

C'mon, do it. Take Kennedy off our hands. We don't want him.

Sunday, July 23, 2023


How many stories have we read recently about Donald Trump's very risky decision to alienate the governor of Iowa and the head of the best-known Evangelical group in the state? There was this story, from The New York Times on July 11:
[Trump] lashed out at Iowa’s popular Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, and then his campaign informed one of the state’s politically influential evangelical leaders, Bob Vander Plaats, that the former president would skip a gathering of presidential candidates this week in Des Moines....

“He’s shown his penchant for self-destructive behavior, and it’s one of those things that I think voters notice,” said David Kochel, a longtime Republican operative from Iowa who has advised Ms. Reynolds.
There was this in The Washington Times on July 18:
A top evangelical leader in Iowa thinks voters are ready to “turn the page” from former President Donald Trump.

Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader, made the assessment after his group’s summit last week. The event brought in a number of top GOP contenders for the 2024 presidential nomination, though Mr. Trump was a no-show.

Mr. Vander Plaats, in a tweet Monday, said former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley “intrigued and impressed” and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was “inspired and on message.”

He said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis showed “command and validated his leadership bona fides.”

... Mr. Vander Plaats said the high point of last week’s event was Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signing new abortion restrictions, while he pegged the “biggest loss” to Mr. Trump “as it becomes more clear ... people want to turn the page.”
The mere fact that Trump is alienating both Vander Plaats and Reynolds led to talk that Trump might be writing off Iowa. Marc Caputo of The Message wrote this:
An adviser for one of the other Republican campaigns speculated that Trump might intentionally be picking a fight with Reynolds and anyone he sees as DeSantis-adjacent to blunt the impact of their future endorsements or create an excuse in case he loses the state.

“Trump knows thinks things aren’t going to go his way in Iowa, so he’s laying groundwork for why his bid might not be successful in Iowa,” the adviser, who was not authorized to publicly weigh in on the race, told The Messenger.
So how are things going for Trump in Iowa after all this supposed self-sabotage? Let's look at the latest poll:
Trump leads by 30 points in a Fox Business survey of Iowa Republicans, as likely caucus-goers prioritize electability and see him as the one who can win in 2024.

Here are the numbers: 46% of likely GOP caucus-goers back Trump, putting him in a category all his own. The next tier is Ron DeSantis at 16% and Tim Scott at 11%.
Whoops -- so much for the narrative.

Back in 2016, FiveThirtyEight kept a running tally of elite endorsements in the Republican primaries. It assigned points for top endorsers: 1 point for each member of the U.S. House, 5 points for each senator, 10 points for each governor. The winner? Marco Rubio with 139 points. He was followed by Ted Cruz with 114 points and John Kasich with 48. Trump finished fourth, with 46.

These numbers, needless to say, didn't match the results of the primaries.

We understood what what happening back then: Trump -- because he was a TV star, and because he said racist things that weren't in code -- didn't need endorsements from Republican bigwigs. The voters liked him, and they rejected the party elites' preferences.

But somehow the press got fooled again this year. They thought voters cared what Vander Plaats and Reynolds think of Trump. That's clearly not the case.

Maybe when, inevitably, Vander Plaats and Reynolds endorse DeSantis (or maybe Tim Scott), it will be worth a percentage point or two in the final vote. But it won't be enough. It seems clear that Trump will win Iowa, on his way to winning the nomination. What seemed like self-sabotage wasn't.

Saturday, July 22, 2023


Ed Kilgore tells us that Vivek Ramaswamy is having a moment:
Two large-sample national polls this week have shown Ramaswamy surging into third place in the GOP race (a Morning Consult tracking poll has him at 8 percent and a Reuters-Ipsos survey shows him at 9 percent). The RealClearPolitics polling averages place him fourth at 5 percent, but hot on the heels of third-place Pence. Just as importantly, Ramaswamy is making a favorable impression as he becomes better known among Republican voters, as this data from the latest survey of New Hampshire shows:

There's more: In a national survey from the PR firm Kaplan Strategies, Ramaswamy is tied with Ron DeSantis for second place, at 12%. (Donald Trump is at 48%.)

Okay, this isn't a surge that threatens the front-runner, but it's impressive given the fact that Ramaswamy was all but unknown before he announced his candidacy, as well as the fact that he's brown-skinned and a Hindu in a party that includes many voters who see America as a white Christian nation. And I assume many Republican voters are struggling to pronounce Ramaswamy. Anyone remember Loretta Lynn campaigning for George Bush in 1988?
At one stop, Miss Lynn said Mr. Dukakis was simply not her kind of politician. Thickening her Kentucky drawl, she added: "Why, I can't even pronounce his name!" The crowd roared with glee.
Even if he were white and Christian, it's unlikely that Ramaswamy would be beating Trump in the polls -- but he might be in second place. And after dozens of pundits have told Trump's rivals that they need to take the gloves off and attack Trump head-on, how is Ramaswamy succeeding? By embracing Trumpism and portraying himself as the logical next step. Here he was on the campaign trail in May:
“I respect what Donald Trump did, I do, with the America First agenda, but I think he went as far as he was going to go,” Mr. Ramaswamy told a crowd of about 100 on Tuesday night at Murphy’s Tap Room in Bedford, N.H. “I’m in this race to take the America First agenda far further than Donald Trump ever did.”
The notion that you can beat Donald Trump by attacking him has never made sense in a party that still regards Trump as a hero. The best you can do is say that you're going to take Trumpist ideas even further. That's what Ron DeSantis does, and that's why, for all his recent struggles, he's still solidly in second place. Meanwhile, how's it going for the candidates who are attacking Trump? Real Clear Politics says that Chris Christie is in seventh place, with 2.1% of the vote (3.8 points behind Ramaswamy), and Asa Hutchinson is tied for eighth, at 0.3.

Could Ramaswamy overtake DeSantis? It's possible. DeSantis is burdened by the fact that much of his message consists of reciting what he's already done in Florida. That roots his campaign in reality. Republican voters like the reality of DeSantis's Florida, but what they really want is a fantasy: domination of the libs and the "deep state" at an unprecedented scale. Ramaswamy's platform is pure revenge fantasy:
He supports abolishing the Department of Education, FBI, and IRS ... by executive order.... He has pledged to fire "at least half the federal workforce" ... and dismantle federal civil service protections.... He has called for an eight-year term for all government employees and pledged to revoke the executive order issued by President Kennedy that gave federal employees a right to collectively bargain.... He also has proposed repealing the federal law that requires presidents to spend all the money Congress appropriates....

Ramaswamy favors raising the voting age to 25.... Ramaswamy has said he would allow citizens between 18 and 24 to vote only if they are enlisted in the military, work as first responders, or pass a civics test....

Ramaswamy has ... called for the U.S. to "drill, frack, burn coal" ... He has criticized what he calls the "climate cult" and said that as president, he would "abandon the anticarbon framework as it exists" and halt "any mandate to measure carbon dioxide".
Trump and DeSantis have similarly autocratic plans, and if the three of them are the top three finishers in this race, that's why. So Trump is still the near-certain nominee, but if he succumbs to legal pressure and takes himself out of the contest -- which is unlikely, but possible -- DeSantis and Ramaswamy might be in a two-man race.

Friday, July 21, 2023


I assume this is all for show, though it probably won't be long before corporations are in the dock because Republicans think they're guilty of Wrongthink:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging the state’s pension fund manager to consider legal action against Bud Light’s parent company....

In a Thursday letter obtained by CNN, DeSantis suggests AB InBev “breached legal duties owed to its shareholders” when it decided to associate with “radical social ideologies.” Sales of Bud Light have plummeted in the months since it entered into a minor partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney that precipitated a boycott from conservatives.

“All options are on the table,” DeSantis wrote, as the state reviews the impact of AB InBev’s recent financial downturn, though it’s unclear what legal recourse the state might have to challenge a multinational corporation’s business decisions.
DeSantis enjoys threatening corporations. We know about Disney. There was also this:
In early 2022, he threatened to hold Twitter shareholders accountable if they didn’t sell the social media company to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
And this late last year:
The Florida Supreme Court will convene a grand jury at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to investigate any wrongdoing with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines, the court announced Thursday.

The Republican governor ... earlier this month called for the investigation. He suggested it would be in part aimed to jog loose more information from pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines and potential side effects.
DeSantis isn't the only Republican who's threatening corporations this way. Recall the letter nine Republican state attorneys general sent earlier this month to Target after the company promoted some pro-LGBTQ merchandise during Pride month. Because the states' pension funds held Target stock, the letter warned that the company had a responsibility not to "improperly direct[...] company resources for collateral political or social goals unrelated to the company’s and its shareholders’ best interests." Like DeSantis's threat to AB InBev, this is probably just tough talk that won't be backed by action, but both threats suggest that if your company pursues social goals Repubicans don't like, and Republicans' own boycotts lower your stock price, Republican officials can take you to court for what they and their allies did to the stock.

I'm assuming Florida won't really sue AB InBev. But who knows? If DeSantis is 15 points behind Trump a couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses, who's to say his lackeys in the state won't sue?

The theory of this, and of the GOP's crusades against DEI and ESG, is that businesses shouldn't be allowed to pursue social goals that might reduce profits. But let's reverse this. Chick-fil-A stores are closed on Sundays, in accordance with the founder's Christian beliefs. Chick-fil-A is privately owned, so no pension funds holds the company's stock -- but could a liberal state hold stock in a Christian-oriented firm that made similar business decisions and then sue because the decisions cut into profits?

In announcing his threat to AB InBev, DeSantis is assuming that his audience is innumerate.
During a Fox News hit Thursday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis noted that Florida’s pension fund had roughly $50 million in exposure to the pension fund, as the state “overweighted” Bud Light parent company InBev.

“Well, we had over $50 million worth of stock, and Florida’s pension fund’s about $180 billion. So it’s a pretty big endeavor, but it has absolutely hurt teachers, it has absolutely hurt other pensioners,” DeSantis told Jesse Watters.
CNN is more specific:
At the end of March, Florida’s pension fund held more than 682,000 shares of AB InBev valued at the time at nearly $46 million. The company’s stock price has fallen since then from $66 a share to $58....
Let's break that down.

The pension fund is $180 billion. Florida held $46 million in AB InBev stock, which means it constituted approximately .026% of the fund. The stock lost $8 a share; $8/share times 682,000 shares = a $5,456,000 loss. That's something like .0028% of the fund. You're going to sue over that? How much would it cost the state to try to recoup that tiny amount, which is a relatively normal stock loss?

Oh and let's look at that decline in context:
The company’s stock price has fallen since then from $66 a share to $58, though it’s still higher than its 52-week low of $44 from September 2022, which was well before the company’s recent controversies.
So the stock has gained 31% over the last eleven months.

This seems like an empty threat. But I think lawsuits of this kind are coming.

Thursday, July 20, 2023


I almost feel sorry Austin Moody. Moody is a country singer who released a song a few months ago called "I'm Just Sayin'." The song fits in a genre I call "Fox News country." It isn't just right-wing -- it's built around incidents that get recurring coverage on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. A sample of the lyrics:
They’ve torn Portland all to pieces
And let Chicago go to hell
There’s people leaving New York City
Like they rang the fire bell

Well they call themselves enlightened
But cancel those who don’t agree
I wish all these folks
Who claim they’re woke
Would just go back to sleep
Portland? Still? Yeah, Nobody is still upset about unrest in Portland in 2020, presumably because the libs care more about a silly old attempt to overthrow the government in D.C. a few months later.

Recording a Fox News country song got Moody to the Top Five on the iTunes country chart. It got him several feature stories at Breitbart and coverage on NewsMax.

But Austin Moody is no Jason Aldean. Aldean is a country superstar with 23 #1 songs. He recently released a Fox News country song called "Try That in a Small Town," and it's a much bigger hit. What's interesting about this song is that it's essentially about the experience of having no firsthand knowledge of the things that make you angry. The implicit message is: I haven't personally been affected by any of these disgusting things I see on the news, but if you try to do those things where I come from, people like me will shoot you or beat the shit out of you.

From the lyrics:
Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it's cool, well, act a fool if ya like
Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you're tough

Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
'Round here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town
Possibly to ensure that the song was controversial, Aldean filmed the video in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where Henry Choate, an 18-year-old Black man, was lynched in 1927.

Aldean is a bigger star than Moody, and he seems to have been trying just a little bit harder to get canceled. It's working. Country Music Television pulled the video for the song, and now it's #1 on the charts. Fox News has covered Aldean relentlessly, running thirteen stories about the song in the past four days. Aldean is being defended by Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Lauren Boebert, Kristi Noem, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

You won't be surprised to learn that Aldean and his wife have been right-wing trash for a while. In 2021, the singer defended his wife after he appeared with her in an Instagram photo in which she wore a shirt with the slogan "Anti Biden Social Club." This was accompanied by a photo of their two- and three-year-old kids, Navy and Memphis, wearing "Hidin’ from Biden" shirts. Fox News reported, "The clothes are sold at a website called DaddyT45, an obvious reference to former President Donald Trump."

Last year, Aldean's publicity firm cut ties with him after his wife posted an anti-trans Instagram message to promote her beauty line. Britt Aldean posted a video clip in which she put on makeup accompanied by the message “I’d really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase. I love this girly life.” Facing criticism for this, she doubled down in a subsequent post:
“Advocating for the genital mutilation of children under the disguise of love and calling it ‘gender-affirming care’ is one of the worst evils. I will always support my children and do what I can to protect their innocence. The other day Memphis wanted to be a dinosaur and tomorrow Navy will want to be a cat. They’re children. Some parents want to be accepted by society so badly. That they’re willing to make life-altering decisions for their children who aren’t old enough to fully comprehend the consequences of those actions. Love is protecting your child until they are mature enough as an adult to make their own life decisions. Thankful my parents allowed me to go through my tomboy phase without changing my gender. Until then, leave children alone!”
It's no surprise to learn that Jason Aldean has played the Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party for the last two years.

With a few exceptions -- Lee Greenwood's pseudo-hymn "God Bless the USA," maybe -- right-wing country songs don't have an enduring cultural impact. But they're likely to be hits, so there'll be a lot more of them. Right-wingers think the NFL and the FBI are "woke" these days, so I suppose it's no surprise that they believe that a successful right-wing country song is a blow against the liberal empire.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


Josh Marshall is certain that a January 6 indictment (or indictments) will matter in ways that the first two Trump indictments didn't:
... the events of January 6th (which includes the probable state charges in Georgia) are damaging to Trump in a way the ones in New York and Florida simply are not.

... The nadirs of Trump’s public support and the only times GOP elites have toyed with the idea of abandoning him came when January 6th was at the center of public attention. That was on January 6th itself and during the public airing of those events during the January 6th committee hearings in summer and fall of 2022. Elected Republicans are happy to defend Trump on the charges in New York City. They are never wobblier than when called to defend Trump’s actions in the winter of 2020–21.
Marshall thinks Republican diehards will stand by Trump, but he assumes the rest of the public will be disgusted by a reminder of the events of January 6, and possibly by damaging new information. Marshall thinks this could drag down the entire Republican Party.
Every Republican candidate will carry those facts through the election. They’re the kind of impossible-to-answer questions that could easily knock a few percentage points of support from a number of Republican candidates. In a closely divided country, with closely divided houses of Congress, those small shifts can make all the difference.
It's true that Donald Trump's job approval numbers plummeted after January 6, in the last days of his presidency. It's also true that his post-presidential favorability numbers worsened somewhat, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average, after the televised January 6 committee hearings began in June last year.

But Trump's numbers in head-to-head polling versus Biden haven't changed much. He's still competitive. The numbers (currently Biden 43.8%, Trump 43.4%) suggest that quite a few voters outside the MAGA base are willing to vote for Trump again.

Could he still be a general-election contender because swing voters don't really care what happens in our elections?

When I look at polls that ask Americans about their trust in institutions, the numbers don't look good. Gallup says that trust in most institutions is "at or near rock bottom." Morning Consult says that the percentage of people who have "a lot of" or "some" trust in the U.S. government is only 44% and dropping.

What if a renewed focus on January 6 doesn't crater Trump's poll numbers versus Joe Biden because voters in the middle don't respect the government anymore and therefore don't care whether Trump and his allies tried to subvert the electoral process? January 6 was an attack on Congress, but according to the Real Clear Politics average, Congress has a 22% job approval rating.

If I'm right, this isn't just a problem for Democrats. The GOP's anti-indictment rhetoric will also fall flat with swing voters. Both Trump and his Republican allies refer to the legal pursuit of Trump as "election interference." That message resonates with GOP voters, but if swing voters don't think they get much out of elections, why would they care if someone says they're being interfered with?

I hope I'm wrong about this. The conventional wisdom is that the trial will make Trump unelectable. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023


Another Trump indictment is imminent:
Former President Donald Trump said in a social media post he’s been informed by special counsel Jack Smith that he is a target of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, a sign he may soon be charged by the special counsel....

Trump’s attorneys ... received the target letter from Smith’s team Sunday informing them that their client could face charges in the investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election....
Ed Kilgore states the obvious: This is highly unlikely to hurt Trump in the primaries.
I suppose it’s possible this indictment will be the straw that broke the camel’s back with a critical accretion to Trump’s “baggage.” But to credit that possibility we’d need to see some evidence that rank-and-file Republicans — not just anonymously sourced Beltway elites who have wanted to get rid of Trump from the get-go — are tired of him....
However, Kilgore continues:
But at this point, the most likely damage to Trump stemming from his legal peril and the evidence of his misconduct is to his strength as a general-election candidate.
Yes, there should be that kind of damage. Isn't the general consensus that Trump can't possibly win, or can't win a two-person race, because of his obvious repulsiveness and ever-accumulating legal baggage? But evidence of that hasn't shown up in the polls. Trump was indicted in New York on April 4 and in Florida on June 13. The last Economist/YouGov poll of a Trump-Biden race taken before the indictments was in January, and Biden was up by 4. The same pollsters conducted a survey April 1 through April 4, and Trump was up by 2. The margins since then: Trump +1, Trump +1, tie, Trump +2, Biden +3, tie, Trump +4, tie. All the surveys are in the same narrow range, and Trump is clearly competitive. The same is true for Quinnipiac. In late March, Biden led by 2 in Quinnipiac's polling. After the indictment's Biden lead hasn't really increased -- it's switched between 2 and 4 in several polls.

If the ever-accumulating Trump indictments were turning off less committed Trump voters, you'd think Biden's lead would be steadily increasing. It isn't. In at least one poll (Harvard/Harris), Trump's lead is increasing slightly. It was 4 just before the first indictment, and since then it's been 5, 7, and 6.

I'm regularly told that widespread disgust with Trump makes him unelectable. Will that disgust finally manifest itself in general-election polling after this indictment? Because if not, we have to ask whether it will ever show up at all.


Some people on our side believe that a segment on Fox's first 8:00 P.M. Jesse Watters show was an embarrassment for the host:

The mother of Fox News host Jesse Watters has urged her "honeybun" son to avoid falling down "conspiracy rabbit holes," warning that he could be putting his job in jeopardy....

"Use your voice responsibly, to promote conversation that maintains a narrative thread," Anne Watters said. "There really has been enough Biden bashing. And the laptop is old."

"Perhaps you could suggest that your people take less interest, for example, in other people's bodies," she added. "And you could talk about that."
Please don't imagine that Watters was surprised by his mother's comments. He's been using her as an on-air foil for years, as The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker told us in 2019:
Anne Bailey Watters’s motherly blend of reprimand and encouragement has inspired a sporadically recurring segment on The Five called “Mom Texts,” in which Jesse gleefully reads aloud (mostly critical) text messages from his very liberal mom....

Jesse started receiving these text-message reviews of his performance after he joined The Five in the spring of 2017. “I used to read them to my co-hosts, and everyone just got a kick out of it,” he told me. He doesn’t remember if it was his idea or a producer’s to read them on air, but, he said, “I always thought they were gold.” ...

Anne ... routinely addresses their serious differences head-on. One Mom Text was “Do your research about border security—you don’t sound like you have any facts!” Another was “I hope your Squad criticism can be just a tad more measured today … Please don’t sound like an old white guy who lacks any understanding of otherness.” ... Even as Anne has taken issue with her son’s commentary on the House impeachment hearings, she has sprinkled some affection into her messages: “Please be assured that despite your WRETCHED political orientation I love you forever!” read a text broadcast last week.
When Watters does this, it's meant to disarm us. It makes him look harmless and fair-minded, and not like what he really is: a media predator who punches down -- against Asian people (in a notorious 2016 segment for Bill O'Reilly's show), against homeless people (whom he's been denouncing for a decade), against women 9asking "Can you paddle female students?" in a discussion of corporal punishment, asserting that female reporters routinely have sex with their sources, arguing that single women need to get married so they'll stop voting Democratic), and so on.

Remember, Fox hires some angry shouters -- Mark Levin, Jeannine Pirro -- but its big prime-time stars are generally people the audience is supposed to read as reasonable. Sean Hannity doesn't yell. Tucker Carlson persuaded his audience that he was just asking questions, and was genuinely upset because his very deep research told him that the answers weren't what the authorities said they were. Bill O'Reilly is best known to lefties for shouty clips, but he delivered most of his monologues in a soft baritone voice, which was meant to suggest that when he did get angry, it was in response to something really awful.

Watters and his producers know that Mom's messages make him seem less nasty and threatening. They probably hoped that putting Mom on the first show would get Watters publicity outside the right-wing bubble. And guess what? It worked.

Monday, July 17, 2023


This Lincoln Project ad about No Labels is pretty good:

There's a risk that this and other denunciations of No Labels could backfire. Voters might conclude that "elites" want to suppress No Labels, and that could make the organization seem "insurgent" and "grassroots" and cool, which is odd given the fact that No Labels is a group founded by a former Democratic hack and run by professional operatives (many of them Republican), with funding from aging billionaires (many of them Republican).

We can't stop No Labels. We have to accept the near-inevitability of the No Labels campaign, and realize that these people won't back off because we try to put pressure on them. We need a memorable message that offers Americans a good reason not to vote for the candidate put forward by the No Labels campaign.

Here's a suggestion. Are you old enough to remember the long-ago ad campaign from the National Pork Producers?

I think Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans should call No Labels "the other Republican Party."

Here's the text of a possible ad:
The Republican Party wants to make Donald Trump president again. So does No Labels.

No Labels says its a nonpartisan group that just wants to offer voters a choice. But it's run by Republicans and angry ex-Democrats who want Donald Trump to win. They don't think Trump can beat Joe Biden one on one. But two on one? That could split the anti-Trump vote and hand the White House to Trump. The big donors to No Labels, including many Republican billionaires, will get just the kind of president they want, while the rest of us get more chaos and more extremism.

No Labels: It's the other Republican Party. If you vote for the No Labels candidate, you're helping Republicans. You're helping Donald Trump.
Could that work?


Often I'm told that it will simply be impossible for Donald Trump to win the general election next year -- he was never popular when he was president, and surely he must be less popular now. A civil jury said he sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll. He's been indicted in New York. He's been indicted in Florida. He's likely to be indicted in Georgia soon. The public must hate him now.

But Gallup says he's more popular than he was when he left office:
John F. Kennedy remains the most highly rated former president when Gallup asks Americans whether, in retrospect, they approve or disapprove of the job each did as president. Ninety percent of U.S. adults now approve of the job Kennedy did....

Seven of the nine past presidents included in the poll receive majority retrospective approval ratings. The two exceptions are Donald Trump, with 46% of Americans approving of the job he did in his initial retrospective approval rating, and Richard Nixon, at 32%.
An approval rating of 46% doesn't seem particularly impressive, but to paraphrase President Biden, we shouldn't compare Trump to the Almighty (JFK in this case), we should compare him to the alternative. Biden is the alternative. Last month Gallup said Biden's job approval rating was 43%. Advantage Trump.

Trump's numbers have improved. Gallup says his polling average while he was president was 41%; in his final poll while he was in office, he was at 34%. In other words, he's 12 points more popular than he was in the immediate aftermath of January 6. Presidents' poll numbers tend to rise after they leave office -- but other presidents haven't been repeatedly indicted on felony charges. Trump's legal woes haven't hurt his polling at all -- just the opposite, in fact. Two indictments haven't hurt him. A third one probably won't either. Even if he's convicted somewhere, he'll appeal and tell everyone that the conviction wasn't the last word. His poll numbers suggest that half the country will accept that argument.

I want everyone to understand that all the things we find repulsive about Donald Trump are shrugged off by nearly half the public -- while Joe Biden's poll numbers are mediocre at best. As a result, Trump is polling better against Biden than he did in 2020, and he's polling better than he ever did against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Remember that he doesn't need to win the popular vote to win the Electoral College -- Republicans have a built-in advatange in the Electoral College now, primarily because Democrats' popular vote totals include millions of excess votes in California, and millions of votes in states where they're all but guaranteed to fall short (Florida, Ohio, Texas). And next year Biden will lose votes to whoever runs on the No Labels line, as well as to Cornel West on the Green Party line (who's getting campaign help from Jill Stein).

I know I'm repeating myself, but Biden is facing a much more difficult lift than most people realize. The evidence is in plain sight.

Sunday, July 16, 2023


A few days ago, Axios ran a story about Minnesota swing voters who don't seem to be responding well to Ron DeSantis's culture-war campaign:
Axios sat in on two online focus groups Tuesday night with 13 Minnesotans who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. Nine identify as independent, three as Republican and one as a Democrat....

No one said they're more likely to vote for DeSantis after being shown a video, shared by his campaign online, that portrays him as an anti-LGBTQ crusader.

... Respondents described him as a "wild card" and "unpredictable" ...

Others had a harsher view of the governor: "We saw what happened in Germany 80 years ago," said Jeff D., making a reference to Hitler's rise.

Amber H. echoed the voter who called DeSantis a "wannabe dictator" after watching the video....
That's good news if you think DeSantis could be the GOP nominee. But it doesn't really matter in the much more likely event that we'll have a Trump/Biden rematch.

But this detail, tossed in at the end of the piece, should really worry you:
Seven of the 13 voters said that they'd ditch Biden in favor of "a generic, middle-aged, white, male, Republican governor with mainstream conservative views," when asked about that hypothetical matchup by the moderator.
There aren't very many swing voters in America these days, but remember, in 2020 Biden came within 44,000 votes of an Electoral College tie, which would have been resolved by the House in Trump's favor. If roughly half of the swing voters who voted for Biden that year would be willing to ditch him for a No Labels-y candidate, then the group could easily throw the election to Trump.

I write this at a moment when No Labels has just released a policy document that -- it kills me to say this -- is not laughable or easily dismissed. I'm not saying that I agree with it. But it's easy to imagine swing voters nodding in agreement.

The document is equal parts reasonableness, neoliberal boilerplate, and GOP-donor-friendly deficit hawkery. (Obviously, there's quite a bit of overlap in the last two categories.) To moderate voters, much of this will be appealing:
On the issue of abortion, No Labels avoids taking a stand on what point in a pregnancy abortion should be allowed, but rather argues that the issue needs to be reframed with “empathy and respect” to reflect the mixed results of public polling.

“Most American do not support a total ban on abortion and most Americans do not support unlimited access to abortion at the later stages of pregnancy,” the document reads....

The group seeks a similar middle ground on transgender debates. The group argues that most Americans support laws that protect transgender people from discrimination, while they also “don’t want sexuality and gender issues taught to young children in elementary schools and do want fairness in women’s sports.”
We should create a path to citizenship for Dreamers ... but we should also stop letting so many undocumented immigrants stay in the country. We should improve math and reading scores and make sure no child goes hungry ... oh, and charter schools are awesome. We should have universal background checks and not allow gun purchases by those under 21 ... but we need to respect an individual right to own firearms.

This will all seem reasonable to many voters, but probably not many Republican voters. For them, absolutism on guns, immigration, abortion, and trans people, to name just four issues, is an ingrained part of personal identity. By contrast, moderate Democratic voters (and voters who lean Democratic when the Republican opponent is Trump) aren't really invested in liberal ideas. So, yes, the No Labels candidate will absolutely appeal to more 2020 Biden voters than 2020 Trump voters.

We need to prevent the No Labels candidate from electing Trump, but I'm sorry to see that the public face of that effort could be an ancient mediocrity named Richard Gephardt:
Former House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt is planning to launch a new bipartisan group ... to oppose the No Labels third-party presidential effort, according to people familiar with the plans.
Gephardt was a hack in his time and is a lobbyist now. His group seems to be trying to kill the No Labels bid in its crib, which simply won't work. It's making the billionaire-funded No Labels seem counter-Establishment, which can only help the group in this political climate. Of course some voters will respond well to talk like this:
No Labels founding chairman Joseph Lieberman ... said the effort to stop the No Labels project was an effort to deny Americans options.

“They are really working overtime to prevent the voters from a choice,” he said....

Former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) and former House member Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also issued statements voicing continued support for the No Labels effort.

“Panicked Washington insiders in the Democratic Party who claim to oppose voter suppression are actively working to suppress the vote and to deny choice,” Hogan said.
Opponents of the No Labels presidential effort need to accept its inevitability and beat the group's candidate as a candidate. Calling the effort illegitimate won't work.

I get pushback whenever I say this, but Donald Trump is the favorite to win the presidency. This is a major reason why.