Thursday, September 23, 2021
Terry McAuliffe is leaning in on vaccines as the potential key to opening up a tight race for Virginia governor.
McAuliffe, a Democrat who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, has launched an extensive paid advertising campaign going after Republican Glenn Youngkin for not supporting pandemic-related government mandates, and it was one of the Democrat’s primary talking points during the first gubernatorial debate last week.
Youngkin is vaccinated and has been encouraging others to get shots, but he does not support mandates. McAuliffe does support a wide array of mandates — on Wednesday, his campaign put out a new call for child care providers to require staff to be fully vaccinated — and he’s talking about the contrast stridently: “He’s not requiring vaccinations. That’s the difference between the two of us,” McAuliffe said in last week’s debate.
The Democratic push on vaccine policy isn’t new in the last few weeks, but it has escalated in Virginia at the same time that the party celebrated victory in California’s recall election, in which Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom focused on vaccine mandates as he brushed back the effort to remove him. Newsom cast his victory as a message to national Democrats “that we need to stiffen our spines and lean in to keeping people safe and healthy” . . .
More than 60 percent of McAuliffe’s TV ads over the past week-and-a-half have attacked Youngkin on pandemic policy, according to data from the ad tracking firm AdImpact. The most frequently aired spots featured a doctor lambasting Youngkin over vaccine mandates for health care workers and mask mandates in schools. Two other mandate-focused spots — one an attack ad tying former President Donald Trump to Youngkin on the pandemic, another featuring a parent contrasting McAuliffe and Youngkin on mask and vaccine mandates in schools — are also running, though in lower circulation.
(There is a subtle but notable difference between McAuliffe’s two doctor ads: The ad airing in Northern Virginia has the doctor comparing Youngkin to Trump, saying both “won’t listen to doctors and scientists.” The ad airing in the state’s southern media markets omits the Trump comparison.)
Youngkin has also been on air with ads about vaccines. “It’s your right to make your own choice, and I respect that,” he said
While Youngkin is responding to McAuliffe’s attacks, there’s a big disparity in the emphasis the campaigns are putting on vaccine messaging. While most of McAuliffe’s recent ads focused on vaccine and other mandates, Youngkin’s two ads accounted for only 11 percent of his total TV advertising in the same time period, according to AdImpact.
Instead, he’s focused on a law enforcement message from sheriffs endorsing his campaign and an economic one, on eliminating the state’s grocery tax. Those two ads accounted for 75 percent of his total TV spots in the last week, per AdImpact.
Republicans have suggested that McAuliffe’s attention on mandates in advertising, combined with other messaging on abortion, show that he’s primarily focused on awakening an unengaged Democratic base as early voting begins. Most polling in the state has shown a fairly consistent enthusiasm gap between Democratic voters and more fired-up Republicans, and the surveys have shown Democratic-leaning voters more keyed into the pandemic.
In a recent Washington Post/Schar School poll showing McAuliffe ahead by a 3-point margin among likely voters, voters said that the economy was the most important issue in the governor’s race. But among Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters in the poll, the coronavirus was the top issue.
“I think there's a general feeling, at least among voters that we talked to, that vaccines are part of a common sense measure to keep communities safe from Covid.”
Meanwhile, a late-August poll from Monmouth University, which had McAuliffe up 5 points over Youngkin, found broad approval for school mask mandates, while a majority supported vaccine mandates for students to attend school. National polling has broadly found support for different types of mandates.
McAuliffe has supported a wide array of pandemic-related mandates in the state, calling for mask mandates in schools and backing former President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees — a large constituency in Virginia — be vaccinated. The Democrat said he supported adding the coronavirus vaccine to the state’s required vaccine list for eligible schoolchildren during the debate. It’s a stronger stance than McAuliffe took in May, before the proliferation of the Delta variant, when he encouraged vaccinations but told a local TV station that school districts should make the choice on mandates.
McAuliffe has also called for businesses to implement their own mandates for employees, and his campaign told POLITICO that he supports the regulations being developed by OSHA that would require employers with at least 100 employees to ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated or tested weekly.
Youngkin says people should get vaccinated, but without the pressure of government policies leaning on them, and that it is ultimately their choice to do so.
Smith, the California Democrat, said the specific issue of vaccine mandates for health care workers was one of the issues that turned the California recall in Newsom’s favor after some tight mid-summer polling.
“That’s what kind of kicked it off,” Smith said. “Politically, we went out of our way to make sure that all of our Republican challengers essentially had to answer that question.”
Vote Democrat as if your life and the lives of loved ones depends upon it - because it just might. Virginia simply cannot afford to have Youngkin in the governor's mansion.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Anthony Gonzalez leaves no doubt about what he thinks about Donald Trump and his impact on the GOP. The former president, he says, is like a “cancer,” and he has turned his party into a toxic and hostile environment. “I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” he said.
But if Trump is the one supposedly headed for the exit, why is it Gonzalez who announced he would not seek reelection?
Last week, Gonzalez (Ohio), the 37-year-old former rising star, announced that he wouldn’t stay and fight his Trump-backed primary challenger, walking away from what had once been a safe seat in Congress.
The decision was greeted with dismay among anti-Trumpers of both parties who saw Gonzalez’s survival as a test of whether Trump’s grip on the GOP could be shaken. It also came as a surprise. Gonzalez was an attractive candidate, with a strong resume and lots of cash, and he had out-performed Trump by nearly 7 points in November. Why would he hand his nemesis an easy win?
The answer is Gonzalez didn’t quit because he feared he couldn’t win, but because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Winning, it turns out, is not winning if the prize feels a lot more like a loss.
This was the key to his decision to self-purge: He could spend a year fighting off merde-slinging deplorables, only to win another two years sitting in a caucus next to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Paul Gosar (R- Ariz.) and the other avatars of Trumpism.
The Republican Party is already lost. And victory meant two more years trapped in a hellscape of crazified school board meetings, Trump rallies, My Pillow Guy insanity, Newsmax and Fox News hits, and a caucus run by Kevin McCarthy, a man without any principle beyond the acquisition of power.
So Gonzalez decided to become the latest Republican to walk away from it all. . . . . the young congressman’s decision also highlighted once again the transformation of the GOP. The party is okay with members who dabble in white nationalism, peddle conspiracy theories and foment acts of political violence. Neither bigotry nor nihilism is disqualifying.
The one unforgivable sin, however, is telling the truth about the 2020 election.
Trump has already made dozens of endorsements in down-ballot races against Republican officials who refused to back his claims of election fraud, not to mention the 10 members of Congress who actually voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The result is a Trump-led purge of dissidents, but the bigger story — and the one with longer-term implications — may be the self-deportation of the sane, the decent and the principled, who simply opt to leave on their own.
Their political emigration is profoundly changing the face of the GOP, and it is happening at every level of politics, from local school boards to the United States Senate. Whatever the result of next year’s elections, the GOP that remains will be meaner, dumber, crazier and more beholden than ever to the defeated, twice-impeached former president.
In 2020, Gonzalez had run unopposed in the GOP primary and won reelection in November with more than 63 percent of the vote. (Trump won the northeast Ohio district but by 6.7 percentage points less.) There was talk that the congressman, who has an MBA from Stanford and whose relatives fled Castro’s Cuba, could be a future governor or senator.
But that was before he became one of just 10 GOP representatives to vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection. “The President of the United States helped organize and incite a mob,” he said. At the time he explained that he was “compelled” to vote for impeachment because of Trump’s “lack of response as the United States Capitol was under attack.”
Immediately, of course, he became a target of Trump’s wrath, but there were still reasons to think the former college and NFL player might be a survivor.
In addition, Gonzalez had more than $1.5 million in his campaign war chest and even though he faced a tough primary challenge next year, his Trump-backed opponent was a deeply flawed candidate. As POLITICO reported in July, his Trumpist challenger, Max Miller, had a reputation as “a cocky bully with a quick-trigger temper.”
Miller has a long record of speeding, underage drinking and disorderly conduct. According to sources, “a romantic relationship with former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ended when he pushed her against a wall and slapped her in the face in his Washington apartment after she accused him of cheating on her.”
Gonzalez told reporters last week that he was confident he could have won his primary against Miller. But the father of two young children cited a rising tide of threats he and his family had to deal with after his impeachment vote. He recalled being greeted at the airport by two uniformed police officers, who were detailed to provide security. “That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” he told the New York Times.
In Georgia, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan went through the same gauntlet after he refused to support Trump’s claims of election fraud. . . . . Like Gonzalez, Duncan — also once a rising star in the GOP — has announced that he is not running for reelection next year.
In the end, they weren’t willing to pay the price to remain in a toxified Republican party. They are far from alone.
In 2018, according to Ballotpedia, 23 House Republicans retired from political life altogether, followed by another 20 who stepped away from political office in 2020. Others also retired, but ran for other offices. Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) continue to hang on, but they are increasingly isolated and outnumbered.
All told, according to FiveThirtyEight, only 161 of the 293 Republican representatives and senators who were in office when Trump was inaugurated are still in office.
Of course, there were many different motives for the Republican departures, but all of them understood that survival in Trump’s GOP required multiple acts of self-humiliation that would, in the end, only win them more years of self-abasement.
For Anthony Gonzalez, though, a chance to sit alongside Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas) in a Trumpified GOP caucus for another two years simply was not worth putting the lives of his wife and children at risk.
By leaving office and ceding the field to the Trumpists, they are also ensuring that the identity of the GOP is now frozen in place and will be for a generation.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Despite all the scientific and medical advances of the past 103 years, the Covid-19 pandemic has now killed more Americans than the 1918 flu pandemic did.
More than 675,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. That surpasses the estimated US death toll from the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.
"If you would have talked to me in 2019, I would have said I'd be surprised," said epidemiologist Stephen Kissler of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. "But if you talked to me in probably April or May 2020, I would say I would not be surprised we'd hit this point."
Back in 1918, there was no pandemic flu vaccine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. Now, Covid-19 vaccines are available -- but millions of eligible Americans have not been vaccinated.
36% of Americans ages 12 and older have not yet been fully vaccinated amid this Delta variant surge, according to CDC data. . . . Kissler said he believes the biggest disadvantage now compared to the 1918 pandemic actually involves a major technological advance. . . . . "The internet can be a double-edged sword," he said. "It provides us with the opportunity to receive the CDC and the World Health Organization (updates) and to share information much more quickly. But that also means we can spread misinformation quickly as well."
And thanks to these vaccine refusers and anti-vaxxers the nation now finds itself in a dangerous surge that could have been avoided had the vaccine refusers simply gotten vaccinated. They are harming both their families and friends and the nation's economy. Frighteningly, the batshit craziness extends far beyond Covid as more and more on the right are embracing the untterly insane tenants of Qanon. A piece in The Nation looks at this dangerous batshitery. The Republican Party of my youth and young adult years would have run screaming away from Qanon devotees. Now, these unhinged people are the core of the GOP base. Here are excerpts:
I titled my first book of essays Reasonable Creatures, after Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous remark “I wish to see women neither heroines nor brutes but reasonable creatures.” I’d never use that title now. Women are as rational as men, sure, but that’s not saying much. If Wollstonecraft came back to life, she’d have a heart attack. By comparison with her 18th-century day, we live in paradise, yet people seem as willfully ignorant and blinkered as ever.
The lack of progress has become staggeringly apparent since the onset of the pandemic. Is there anything less rational than people refusing vaccines that have been proved time and again to prevent a deadly disease? Well, yes—believing that the disease does not exist. If you’re feeling flu-ish, just follow the advice of noted medical experts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Joe Rogan and dose yourself with ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug you can pick up at the feed store.
[W]here’s the evidence that ivermectin cures Covid, let alone that the vaccines make you sterile, implant microchips in your blood, change your DNA, and magnetize you? What makes it possible to take the position that a virus that has already killed more than 650,000 people here and millions worldwide is a hoax that the government is using to scare you into submission?
It wouldn’t matter so much if these delusions affected only the believers themselves.
According to a PRRI poll last May, 15 percent of Americans believe in QAnon. Yes, one in seven Americans agreed with the statement “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child-sex-trafficking operation.” The strongest predictor of QAnon adherence? Reliance on Fox and other far-right news sources. . . . . Perhaps not surprisingly, 73 percent of QAnoners believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, as do 29 percent of all Americans.
Are we a nation of lunatics, some of whom found each other on the Internet, mobilized under Trump, and in a few short years took over the Republican Party? America has always had a lot of crazy right-wingers, but it’s one thing to believe that the Soviet Union was out to destroy us and another to believe that the world is run by a ring of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who kill and eat children to get their adrenochrome fix. At least the Soviet Union actually existed.
What does the popularity of QAnon do to comforting bromides about the wisdom of the people? We’re told to trust the voters because ordinary folk know what’s what, but how can you trust the voters if so many of them think their paranoid delusions are reality?
Liberals are castigated for “elitism,” for condescending to Republicans and red-staters and Trumpers and fundamentalists, who should be approached with empathy and respect. But how do you have an unthreatening, warm, friendly conversation with someone who thinks Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis eat children?
My friend Alan, a Marxist historian, says I need to resist the urge to blame human folly. He compares our present moment to the world described by Johan Huizinga in The Waning of the Middle Ages. As feudalism began to break up in the 1300s and 1400s, people lost their moorings. Pessimism, fear, and a sense of cultural exhaustion prevailed. As in our own day, religious fanaticism coexisted with extreme licentiousness. Maybe, Alan suggested, what’s happening now is a reaction to the decline of the American empire and of white supremacy. Whites and Christians feel their cultural preeminence slipping away, and they just can’t handle it, especially if superpatriotism, racism, and male supremacy were all they had to begin with.
It’s as if the Internet is bringing together all existing forms of credulousness: Covid denialism, Trumpism, health nuttery, hyperlibertarianism, New Age woo-woo, fundamentalist Christianity, and an unhealthy fixation on exaggerated or imaginary dangers to children.
Wollstonecraft’s fellow Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire famously wrote, “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” He was thinking of religion, but the same holds true for our present-day right-wing paranoids, who have already been implicated in numerous violent crimes, like the January 6 insurrection, the attempt to kidnap the governor of Michigan, and the recent gruesome murder of two children by their father, who believed they had serpent DNA.
Maybe Gramsci said it best: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.” Covid denialism may be just the beginning.
Be very, very afraid of where the GOP and its insane base are headed.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Because the United States has no real plan to handle climate change, average citizens end up in situations like this: At 6 a.m. the day before Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana late last month, my wife and I joined half of New Orleans’s population in evacuating. The drive to our daughter’s home in Houston, usually a six-hour trip, took 18 grueling hours. Stuck in stop-and-go traffic, we inched along at five miles an hour. The most impatient evacuees sped along both shoulders of the interstate, forcing themselves into a traffic lane when a broken-down vehicle or a narrow bridge blocked their way.
Images of Americans hurriedly evacuating from their homes are becoming commonplace as climate-related disasters grow in frequency and intensity. Just this past month, as my wife and I were leaving Louisiana, Californians fled the Caldor Fire as it surged toward Lake Tahoe. Mass evacuation, though, shouldn’t be routine. It is a last resort. When leaders choose it as their primary plan, they are admitting that they cannot protect their citizens from threats of climate change. They are, in effect, ceding responsibility to the individual. Those who stay and those who go are on their own.
Sixteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina sideswiped New Orleans while moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico. The storm itself left only moderate damage to the city. But in the hours after the storm, federal levees designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers collapsed, flooding the city with saltwater more than 14 feet deep in some neighborhoods. Many people drowned in their own bedroom the first night of the flooding; others, trapped in their sweltering attic awaiting help that never arrived, died of heat and dehydration. . . . The tragedy that shocked television viewers around the world was one of the first glimpses of how climate change would overwhelm unprepared governments. As I wrote at the time, “New Orleans is simply where the future arrived first.”
No one who has lived in a ruined city through the years it takes to rebuild forgets the emotional toll of the experience. Living under the constant threat of yet another evacuation and possible catastrophic damage gradually erodes the will to stay. In the year following Katrina, the population of New Orleans plummeted from 455,000 to 188,000; building back to even the pre-Ida figure of 380,000 has taken 15 years.
Lake Charles, a city about halfway between New Orleans and Houston, faced widespread devastation one year ago after two hurricanes—Laura and then Delta six weeks later—struck the area. Laura, equal in force to Ida, was then the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana since 1856. As Carly Berlin reported in Southerly, “According to the USPS data, Lake Charles, La.—a city hit by back-to-back hurricanes during the most severe Atlantic hurricane season on record—tops the list for out-migration between 2019 and 2020 out of 926 metro areas surveyed.”
The effects of wildfires are similar. A year after the 2018 Camp Fire destroyed much of Paradise, California, more than 90 percent of the town’s 27,000 residents had not returned. The current population is about 6,000.
If evacuations are not the answer, then what can be done? Governments that are committed to protecting public safety must work to fundamentally change the conditions that threaten their residents. In 1953, a North Sea flood in the Netherlands killed 1,836 people—very close to the estimated death toll in Katrina. The low-lying country—much of which is below sea level or less than a meter above it—began an ambitious flood-control program. Enacting the Delta Works plan in 1954 and completing the project in 1997, the Netherlands has succeeded in protecting its citizens from a major environmental threat. But what evidence exists that the United States is capable of safeguarding the citizens most immediately endangered by climate change, especially when one of our two main political parties continues to deny the existence of such change?
[E]vacuation remains the primary response to major hurricanes. State and local governments have adopted elaborate “contraflow” strategies that dedicate all traffic lanes in a single direction away from the zone of destruction. However, this strategy of last resort has its limitations. As New Orleans officials pointed out as the recent storm approached the city, such a plan requires at least 72 hours to execute.
During this most recent experience, the city’s planning shifted to include what Collin Arnold, New Orleans’s director of emergency preparedness, described in The New York Times as “post-storm evacuation.” He noted, “We’re not intentionally choosing it. It’s changes in the climate that are doing it to us.” The ferocity and speed of hurricanes fueled by climate change may dictate that we simply hunker down in the path of the storm while the government prepares to try to get us out of the damaged city after the hurricane passes.
Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, recently announced that “many of the life-supporting infrastructure elements are not present, they’re not operating right now. So if you have already evacuated, do not return.” Although the advice is understandable in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane, the governor’s notice to evacuees may well be heeded literally.
My family has lived in New Orleans for hundreds of years, weathering yellow-fever epidemics, citywide fires, wars, hurricanes, and floods. Sooner or later, though, as climate change worsens, an evacuation will be ordered from which none of us will choose to return.
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s upcoming tell-all book "Peril" - which is available on September 21st - contains many new and frightening accounts of just how dangerous and deranged Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenfuhrer was/is and the threat the man continues to pose to America and the world. Woodward and Costa interviewed more than 200 people at the center of the turmoil that was the Trump White House in its final days and compiled more than 6,000 pages of transcripts—and what Amazon describes as "a spellbinding and definitive portrait of a nation on the brink." The take aways include (i) Trump should never, ever hold power again and (ii) those who support him are equally unhinged and/or open racists and, I'm sorry to say about my Republican "friends" morally bankrupt. A willingness to close one's eyes to the reality of the Trump regime all so one can enjoy lower taxes is the height of moral depravity. A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the shockingly racist aspects of the Trump White House and Trump's embrace of white supremacists (the fear he might launch a nuclear war needs a whole separate post). Decent, moral people should be repulsed by Trump and everything he stands for. Here are article highlights:
The man [Donald Trump] is and always has been an out and out racist, and while the examples to back this up are too numerous to mention, just a small sampling includes calling for the execution of five Black and Latino teenagers; telling four congresswoman of color to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” when three-quarters of the group “came from” the U.S.; helping start an entire movement around the lie that the country’s first Black president wasn’t born here; and describing Baltimore, whose population is majority Black, as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being” would “want to live.” But wait, you say, what about the time he banned travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations? Or called Mexicans rapists and criminals? Or pardoned a guy a U.S. Department of Justice expert said oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agency in U.S. history? Or threw an absolute shit fit over the removal of statue of a Confederate general who thought Black people should be white people’s property, insisting said general was one of the greatest military leaders of all time? Obviously, if we were to include everything, we‘d be here all day.
So while it’s not at all surprising, it’s nevertheless extremely disturbing to learn that back in August 2017, not only did Trump praise a group of white nationalists and neo-Nazis and claim it had some very fine people among it, he referred to said group as “my people” while arguing with then House Speaker Paul Ryan over his remarks.
Donald Trump flipped out at then House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for condemning white supremacists after the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a new book claims. Ryan responded to Trump’s infamous “both sides” rhetoric about the violence at the gathering with a tweet calling white supremacy “repulsive.” Trump was apoplectic with Ryan over his comment, according to excerpts from The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s upcoming tell-all Peril that Insider published Wednesday.
Trump phoned Ryan and screamed about him not being “in the foxhole with me,” according to the book. Ryan reportedly told Trump he had “a moral leadership obligation to get this right and not declare there is a moral equivalency here.”
“These people love me. These are my people,” Trump raged at Ryan in response. “I can’t backstab the people who support me.” Ryan noted the presence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Trump admitted there were “some bad people.”
“I get that. I’m not for that. I’m against all that,” he reportedly said. “But there’s some of those people who are for me. Some of them are good people.”
In other Ryan-related revelations from Peril, Woodward and Costa report that in the wake of the 2016 election, the Republican from Wisconsin began to study Trump like a science experiment in the hopes of figuring out how to work with him. Per Insider:
Ryan, realizing that he would have to work with Trump, started researching how to deal with someone who is “amoral and transactional,” the book says. A wealthy doctor in New York, who was also a Republican donor, contacted Ryan later and told him, “You need to understand what narcissistic personality disorder is,” according to the book. . . . The book said that “Ryan studied them for weeks, convinced Trump had the personality disorder.”
Woodward and Costa do not say if Ryan subsequently started reading up on sociopaths and lunatics, but one would think that would be the natural progression of his research.
Friday, September 17, 2021
The best indication that Larry Elder was going down in the California recall wasn’t the polling, although that all swung the wrong way in the final weeks, but his suggestion late in the campaign that Democrats were going to steal the election.
Preemptive excuse-making isn’t a sign of great confidence—the winning side never complains of cheating.
Sure enough, incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom cruised to a victory made a little easier, as it happens, by Elder’s insistence that Republicans were robbed in 2020 and about to be robbed again. . . . His landslide defeat is the latest evidence that the idea the 2020 presidential election was stolen is poison for Republicans.
It’s not as though Elder, a talk-radio show host with no political experience who was running in a deep blue state and got massively outspent, was going to have an easy time regardless. But when he got pushed by Trump supporters into endorsing the stolen-election narrative, he ran directly into a Newsom political buzz saw linking him with Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 riot.
There may be other costs to come, perhaps up to and including the 2024 presidential election if Trump is the nominee again.
As my colleague at National Review, David Bahnsen writes, the stolen-election narrative is going to be an albatross “anywhere independents and moderates are needed to win an election—the backward-looking focus on the unprovable claims of a 2020 stolen election are toxic, self-defeating, and counter-productive.”
The odds were never in Elder’s favor. Still, polling during the summer showed the recall amazingly close. There was a chance Elder could define himself as an outsider worth taking a flier on, so long as he never lost sight of the fact he was running in a strongly anti-Trump state with an enormous Democratic registration advantage.
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee editorial board in August, Elder seemed aware of his situation. . . . Shortly thereafter, he appeared on a conservative talk-radio program and said he needed “a mulligan,” and related a variety of complaints about the 2020 election.
Although Elder didn’t deserve the abuse he endured during the campaign—getting smeared as an alleged tool of white supremacy and even physically assaulted at a campaign stop—here he’d given his opponents unnecessary ammunition.
If Elder had been running in a Republican primary in a red state, he would have secured his position nicely with his do-over, but he’d driven a nail in his own coffin in the recall.
The choice that was forced on Elder—admit that Biden won the election and alienate MAGA voters, or say it was stolen and alienate voters in the middle—will be faced by Republican candidates around the country for the duration.
That won’t change as long as Trump has an outsize influence on the party. He’s not letting 2020 go, rather is bent on vengeance against those Republicans he believes betrayed him by not embracing his various conspiracy theories.
Since he never admits the fairness of any loss, the number of allegedly rigged and stolen elections will only increase—the recall, Trump said in a statement, is “just another giant Election Scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!"
This is a cynical and corrosive view of American democracy that, to the extent it becomes GOP orthodoxy, can contribute only to further Republican frustration.
I hope McAuliffe pushes Youngkin on this issue.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
California’s gubernatorial recall election was not even close. With roughly 9 million votes counted (approximately two-thirds of the total), the “no” vote on Gavin Newsom’s removal leads by nearly 30 points, or 2.6 million votes. That may exceed Newsom’s 2018 margin (62 to 38 percent). With mail-in ballots distributed to all voters, turnout was exceptionally high and may come close to the 12.7 million cast in 2018.
This was nothing short of a debacle for the Republican Party, whose stunt cost the state around $300 million — money that could well have been spent fighting forest fires, treating covid-19 patients or addressing homelessness.
Newsom was triumphant late Tuesday: “We said yes to science," he said. “We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending his pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear. We said yes to women’s constitutional right to decide.”
Newsom was also indignant about the disgraced former president and the state Republicans who, before the votes were counted, rekindled the GOP’s 2020 lie that the vote was “rigged.”
The race calls into question California’s ludicrous recall system, through which a tiny percentage of voters (12 percent of those in the most recent gubernatorial race) can put a recall on the ballot. Under its rules, Elder or another Republican could have won with a plurality of the vote, even if they received, say, 20 percent of the vote.
Republicans’ effort to leverage a minority of extreme voters to overthrow a governor elected in a landslide is indicative of the party’s anti-democratic lurch, reflected in MAGA insurrectionists’ violent attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election and the GOP’s nationwide crusade to pass a raft of voter suppression laws.
Republicans’ humiliating defeat may further outrage taxpayers. Granted, California is a blue state, but the 2022 elections will involve a number of swing seats in the Senate and House in which Republican freshmen who barely defeated Democratic incumbents in 2020 promised moderation. Those Republicans should be concerned that Newsom fired up the “no” voters by running straight at Republicans’ anti-vaccine mandate stunts in other states and Texas’s perverse abortion bounty bill. If those issues are enough to gin up Democrats in 2022, their House and Senate majorities may be less vulnerable than normal for a first midterm election.
Take, for example, Republican Rep. Young Kim from California’s 39th Congressional District (including parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, all of which voted overwhelmingly “no” in the recall). She beat a Democratic incumbent in 2020 by a little more than 4,000 votes, or about 1.2 percent. Since then, she has voted in lockstep with GOP leadership on everything from impeachment to voting rights to the American Rescue Plan. She must be nervous that Democrats, charged up and resentful she turned out to be a rubber stamp for MAGA forces, will relish the chance to boot her out in 2022.
The same is true in California’s 48th Congressional District, covering a part of Orange County (which also voted overwhelmingly “no”). Republican Michelle Steel beat incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda 51 to 49 percent in 2020. In 2022, her constituents may also decide they have had enough of a MAGA loyalist in a party that has gone anti-democratic, anti-truth and anti-inclusion.
If Democrats can, as Newsom did, run against Trumpism, against covid-19 denial and anti-mandate hysteria, against diabolical abortion bounties, and against a party now willing to cry foul and discredit any election they lose, 2022 may turn out to be better for them than expected. Newsom certainly showed how Democrats can run effectively against Trump even when he is not on the ballot.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Many of the conservatives and Republicans appalled by Donald Trump’s presidency clutched a hope through the bewildering years: Someday this would all be over and politics would return to normal.
But normal has not returned. Those elected Republicans who stood for legality when Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election found themselves party pariahs in 2021, on their way to being out of politics altogether in 2022.
And it’s not just a few politicians who have been displaced by the Trump era. Millions of voters have been too. “Never Trump is not a political party. It is a dinner party”: That jibe was heard a lot in 2017 and 2018. It has not been heard much since. In 2018, Democratic candidates won districts that had loyally voted Republican for 30, 40, 50 years, including those once held by Eric Cantor, Newt Gingrich, and George H. W. Bush.
The anti-Trump Republicans did not return home in 2020. Now, in 2021, their former party seems much more eager to welcome anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers than to win them back.
Years ago, the late Christopher Hitchens described to me the experience of losing his faith in socialism. He felt, he said, like a man tumbling down a hill, and every time he clutched a branch to stop his fall, the branch snapped in his hands. Many former conservatives and Republicans experienced a similar disillusionment during the Trump years. In 2017, the longtime conservative commentator Bill Kristol tweeted: “The GOP tax bill’s bringing out my inner socialist. The sex scandals are bringing out my inner feminist. Donald Trump and Roy Moore are bringing out my inner liberal. WHAT IS HAPPENING?”
Once, Republicans and conservatives filled hours of cable-TV time and sold millions of books to argue the supreme importance of truthfulness, sexual fidelity, and financial integrity in a national leader. Then their party nominated and elected a president who gleefully transgressed every one of those human decencies. The minority of Republicans and conservatives who couldn’t execute the pivot were left to wonder how to reconcile what our old friends had said with what they now did.
Once, Republicans and conservatives advertised themselves as strict upholders of constitutional principle. They brandished pocket copies of the Constitution as props. Then the leader of their party incited a violent attack on Congress in an effort to overturn an election result. The minority of Republicans and conservatives who upheld legality were forced to confront the fact that their old friends had minimized and condoned the attack, and even glorified the attackers as “political hostages” and “political prisoners.”
Once, Republicans and conservatives defined themselves as the party of life. Human life was so precious that the law should require women unwillingly pregnant to give birth anyway. Then came a deadly pandemic, and suddenly “life” became less important than protecting the spring-break revenues of hotels and restaurants, or indulging the delusions and fantasies of people who got their scientific information from YouTube videos and Reddit threads. And again dissident Republicans and conservatives were left to wonder: What do we have in common with you?
This process of estrangement builds on itself.
I thought we believed X, says the dissident. You’re a bunch of hypocrites for now saying Y. You’re betraying everything I thought we believed.
No, reply the majority. We always deep down believed that Y was more important than X. We never before had to choose. Now we do. And if you choose X over Y, it’s you who are betraying us.
Economists call this “revealed preference”: a choice between two competing alternatives that forces the chooser to discover her highest values. Pro-Trump and anti-Trump conservatives have often each been mutually horrified to discover how radically their highest values differed from those of old allies and former comrades.
Not only differ—but diverge. Maybe the future pro-Trump Republican was always slightly more sympathetic to authoritarianism, maybe slightly more tolerant of corruption than the future anti-Trump Republican. Then Trump shoved authoritarianism and corruption into the political debate—and suddenly people who liked Trump were forced into positions they had never planned to take.
On November 7, 2020, former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal headlined: “If he loses, Trump will concede gracefully.” That of course proved a historically false prediction.
I wonder if it was not also a coping device for Mulvaney himself. Mulvaney faced the question: What would he personally do if Trump turned traitor to the Constitution and attacked the election result? He did not want to think about a terrible possibility, and so he denied the reality of that possibility. On January 7, 2021, Mulvaney resigned from the mostly honorific position of U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland. “We didn’t sign up for what we saw last night,” he told a TV interviewer.
[S]ome people did walk it, and they too rapidly found themselves in places they had never expected to go. They found themselves political exiles, banished or self-banished from the political home of a lifetime. This was a metaphorical exile only, not the shattering disaster of physical exile. For most anti-Trump conservatives, the losses of political exile have been emotional, cultural, and spiritual rather than material. . . . . Our political attachments often matter much more to us than our political ideas—which is why, when forced to choose, so many Republicans and conservatives discarded their former ideas in order to preserve their former attachments.
Many Democrats and liberals may wonder at this point: So what? Who cares? Why is any of this our problem? But it is their problem, like it or not. . . . . Democratic loyalists may find it exasperating to be urged to worry about these fickle new supporters. Republican leaders pamper and flatter their base with scant regard for uneasy moderates. Why shouldn’t Democrats do the same?
But Democrats know the answer. Democrats cannot do the same because their situation is not the same. The Democrats cannot win with a base-first strategy. Their base is not cohesive or big enough, and does not live in the places favored by the rules of U.S. politics.
Yet this disparity is not ultimately a disadvantage. The comparative weakness of the Democratic base obliges Democrats to build broad national coalitions of a kind that Republicans have not achieved since the days of the Chrysler K-Car. And those broader coalitions in turn deliver better government than would or could be delivered by a narrower ideological faction.
Thanks to Trump, Democrats find themselves leading a coalition more affluent and less progressive than the coalition many Democratic activists might desire.
It’s the former cultural core of the GOP—the college-educated, the professional, the suburban—that is exiting the party. It’s that core that will, if permitted, realign American politics. What do these recent arrivals bring with them to their new political destination? They’re often described as combining social liberalism with economic conservatism, but that is too broad and too imprecise a description. Here are five more specific ways that Never Trumpers may change the Democratic Party.
Donald Trump hoped to reverse the 2020 election by junking votes after they were cast. His successors more shrewdly hope to decide the next election by suppressing votes before they can be cast in the first place, or by gerrymandering voters in such a way that they don’t count equally.
For the Never Trump newcomers, however, democracy is issue one. January 6 was the true last straw for them—and preventing the next January 6 their top-of-mind issue. Democracy may not be the issue that motivates the most economically hard-pressed voters. But the less hard-pressed people who are painting the Sun Belt suburbs blue? Many of them live in places where their state governments are controlled by overrepresented rural voters. Their kids are exposed to COVID-19 in schools because overrepresented constituencies can overrule the majorities who want safety protocols.
The U.S. and global scientific communities have delivered incredible advances at record speed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It took only a few days for scientists to crack the virus’s genetic code, only a few weeks for scientists to understand how the virus spread, less than a year to develop effective vaccines.
And for their efforts, they were reviled by one of the country’s great parties as enemies of the people.
When your political coalition attracts support from millions of professionals, its respect for professional expertise rises. That’s how Democrats have become the party that acknowledges climate science and encourages vaccination, while Republicans tend toward the opposite.
Yet Democrats have their blind spots too, where their own constituencies elevate ideology over expert knowledge. . . . On all these issues, many Democrats are as far removed from “the science” as many Republicans are on vaccines or climate. This expertise gap obviously exacts severe real-world consequences. It also may inflict drastic potential political costs.
Globalism is a label for the quickening pace of cross-border immigration, trade, investment, information, and organization. The economic relationship among these factors is complex. Theoretically, it’s possible to have some without others. But the psychological relationship among the different elements of globalism tends to be more straightforward. Like some of them, and you will probably like all of them; fear any of them, and you will probably fear all of them.
Trump, however, successfully consolidated the fearers into his Republican Party. Hostility to immigration, trade, and almost any form of international cooperation became a defining theme of his presidency.
Trump held the support of those Americans most immediately harmed by his isolationism by lavishing them with direct cash payments. American farmers lost foreign markets—and got federal subsidies instead. In election year 2020, direct aid from the Trump administration provided one-third of all farm income. But other Americans who bought and sold on global markets got no such compensation for Trump’s economic sabotage.
In 2020, Biden appealed to globally minded America by promising to welcome immigrants and to stop insulting allies. But he mimicked the trade skepticism of Donald Trump. If the ex-Republicans extruded by Trump make a more permanent home inside the Democratic Party, however, trade skepticism will come under pressure. It may be good politics in Flint, Michigan, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. But it isn’t as effective in Northern Virginia and South Florida, in Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Retaining Never Trumpers requires discarding not only the snarling aggression of “America First” but also the quivering apprehension of “Buy American.”
Days after the 2020 vote, Representative Abigail Spanberger complained to Democratic colleagues about the harm done to House members by reckless ideological rhetoric. “We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again ... We lost good members because of that.” The slogan “Defund the police,” she said, had done even more damage.
The crime wave of 2020–21, and the unceasing surge of unauthorized people across the southern border, has created a sense of disorder and threat. . . . Traditional Republicans and Republican-leaners are swayed by those same influences.
Fiscal and economic issues may not seem to matter in the abstract. But when economic over-stimulus feeds into rising prices at the store, when protectionist trade policy foments electronics shortages that prolong the waiting time for delivery of new cars, when and if middle-of-the-road voters get the impression that economic policy is being driven by interest-group agendas and extreme ideologies—all of that can matter a lot.
Republican excesses offered Democrats an opportunity to remake themselves as the party of the broad American center. That center can be moved, but only by people who demonstrate that they respect its values: security and continuity.
Donald Trump lived by the old dictum that nice guys finish last. He proved it wrong. In 2020, Trump finished second in a two-person race—that is, last—in great part because Americans perceived him as nasty.
You’ll recall that Trump got considerably more than 33 percent of the vote. A large number of Americans voted for Trump despite—or possibly because of—his offensive behavior and intemperate language. For those former Republicans who broke ranks against Trump, however, the behavior and language mattered, and mattered a lot.
Here’s the warning for the future: The Democratic Party is also home to some abrasive loudmouths. And although none of those abrasive loudmouths has mounted a serious campaign for the presidency, some hold other high offices, and others occupy visible places in the media. Liberal communities tolerate and even approve of language about white men like Mike Baker that they would never tolerate or approve of about anybody else. That language exacts immense political costs.
The influx of anti-Trump Republicans into the Biden coalition should highlight the importance of discouraging that kind of talk. Some advice from Franklin D. Roosevelt remains timely today. In 1936, the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee had publicly mocked Roosevelt’s likely opponent, Alf Landon, as nothing more than the governor of a “typical prairie state” (Kansas, as it happened). Republicans seized on these dismissive words. Roosevelt wrote to scold his chair. It was bad politics, he said, for New Yorkers like themselves to speak disrespectfully of other parts of the country. If there had to be any characterization, make it positive. Roosevelt suggested instead describing Kansas as “one of our splendid prairie states.” Roosevelt carried the Midwest in 1936, including Kansas.
The pro-Trump Republicans and conservatives got one thing right about their anti-Trump former comrades: Never Trump was not fundamentally a political movement. It was a moral reflex. Will that reflex now be integrated into normal politics in the post-Trump era? If it can, it will transform American politics—and very possibly save the country from the forces of polarization, extremism, bigotry, and authoritarianism.