Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Right Is Going to War with Corporate America

Perhaps like me, you're old enough to remember the days when Republicans fought to give corporations free speech rights by granting them the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on political causes. Or how about that time they celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to grant private corporations "personhood" by allowing them to claim religious freedom. As recently as 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney insisted that "corporations are people!"

Of course, all of that was predicated on the assumption that corporations would fall in line when it came to supporting Republicans. As we saw with Florida Governor DeSantis, it became time to punish corporations when they challenged his "don't say gay" bill. All of the sudden the Disney corporation doesn't have free speech rights anymore.

Over the last few years, a growing chorus on the right is beginning to claim that corporations are generally being led by "leftist elites" who are spreading a "woke agenda." Where is that coming from? 

Two years ago, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chair of the World Economic Forum, raised an important question, “What kind of capitalism do we want?” He posited that there were three potential alternatives.

1. Shareholder capitalism—is focused on maximizing short-term profits;
2. State capitalism—otherwise known as “democratic socialism”—trusts the government with setting the direction of the economy; or
3. Stakeholder capitalism—is a system in which corporations serve the interests of all their stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, and local communities.
For decades, shareholder capitalism has ruled the day in the Western world. All that mattered was producing profits. But primarily since the turn of the century, corporations and their investors have been leaning towards stakeholder capitalism. That commitment has led to the development of something called ESG data collection. 

1. Environmental aspect: Data is reported on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, deforestation, pollution, energy efficiency and water management.
2. Social aspect: Data is reported on employee safety and health, working conditions, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and conflicts/humanitarian crises.
3. Governance aspect: Data is reported on corporate governance such as preventing bribery, corruption, diversity of Board of Directors, executive compensation, cybersecurity/privacy practices, and management structure.

The theory is that corporations that pay attention to environmental, social, and governance issues are a reduced risk for investors. According to at least one study, that has been verified.
[O]ver the past five years US sustainability funds with a capitalization of $10 billion or more that focused on growth averaged an annual return of 14% while conventional non-ESG funds grew 11% a year.

If all of this is news to you, then you probably haven't been consuming right wing news. They have launched a massive campaign against ESG. For example, Fox News regularly runs anti-ESG segments. The right wing Heritage Foundation has published numerous anti-ESG articles, but its also gone so far as to start a whole campaign titled "ESG Hurts." The message is always: how dare corporations consider any factor other than short-term gains for shareholders! Of course, anyone who pays attention to environmental, social, and governance issues is merely buying in to the "woke liberal agenda."

But it isn't just right wing media. Trump's Labor Department issued a ruling that put roadblocks against a corporation's ability to consider ESG factors in employee retirement funds - a rule that is now being overturned by the Biden administration. Both Governor Abbott of Texas and DeSantis of Florida have moved to ban or restrict pension fund investment in companies that take ESG factors into consideration.

Of course, the hypocrisy of all this is demonstrated by the fact that, when corporate America (Hobby Lobby) wanted to restrict employee's access to birth control, Republicans were all for it. But if corporations take the risks associated with climate change into account, they're "forcing woke policies down American's throat without going to the ballot box."

This is all part of the movement on the right towards "National Conservatism." Rather than an open embrace of free markets, they want to use government to punish anyone who doesn't toe their line in the culture wars. If that means going to war with corporate America...so be it.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

How the Underclass Voted Is All About Race

One of the things I often think about following an election is how Barack Obama talked about the pundits trying to "slice and dice" the electorate during his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention. Everyone who has an ax to grind tends to find a way to slice and dice the electorate to confirm their agenda. 

But someone who goes by the name Izzy on Twitter sliced the 2020 electorate in a way I haven't seen done before. He looked at how the poorest county in each state voted. Here's what he found:

Those results might surprise some folks. But it clarifies one thing: the poorest counties (as measured by median household income) where a majority of residents are white voted for Donald Trump. Other than in the Northeast, the poorest "blue counties" are where the majority is either African American, Native American or Latino. The one exception I found is Robeson County in North Carolina - which is approximately 1/3 white, 1/3 Native, and 1/3 African American - and has a fascinating history

As far as I can tell, all of the poorest counties are in rural areas. In states like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, they are Indian reservations. In Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, they are majority Latino. In Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, the poorest counties are majority African American. In the red areas across the middle of the country, the poorest counties are primarily rural white. 

What this tells us is that, among the poorest counties in the U.S., the divide is primarily based on race. 

But there's something that a map like this obscures. We could pick any state to demonstrate, but since all eyes in the political world are on this one right now, let's do Georgia. The poorest county in that state is Clay, where the total population is 2,848. By comparison, the population of the city of Atlanta is 496,480. With a poverty rate of 18%, almost 90,000 people in Atlanta live in poverty - which is over 30 times the entire population of Clay County. 

To demonstrate that's no fluke, let's take a look at a very rural state - South Dakota. The population of its poorest county, Todd, is 9,319. But South Dakota's largest city is Sioux Falls, where almost 18,000 people live in poverty - twice the population of Todd.

Just to take things one step farther, there are almost as many people living in poverty in the richest county in Texas (Rockwall, a suburb of Dallas) as there are in the poorest county in the state, 5,500:6,000. 

Those kinds of numbers are important to keep in mind as the media (and some pundits) feed us stories about how the so-called "elite" in major metropolitan areas voted. In major cities/metropolitan areas, a data point like "median income" is meaningless given the diversity that often spans from uber-wealthy to extreme poverty. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Education Level =/= Class

There is a group of pundits who focus most of their time setting their hair on fire over the idea that Democrats are losing ground with working class voters. Ron Brownstein calls them neo-New Democrats. While I tend to disagree with their proposed strategies, it is also important to set the record straight on what they mean by working class voters.

The truth is that we really don't have a definition of what we mean by working class. The word "class" indicates that level of income is determinative. But for some reason, that definition is rejected. Instead, level of education is substituted - suggesting that those without a college degree are working class. 

In order to analyze the accuracy of that assumption, it is helpful to have some data. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a full-time employee in the United States is currently $53,490. So half of Americans make less than that and half make more. 

I decided to cherry-pick some professions where the average salary is slightly less than the median and compare those that require a college degree to those that don't.

  • An elementary school teacher makes about the same as a plumber ($48,300).
  • A social worker makes slightly less than a garbage truck driver ($49,250 vs $50,640).
  • A librarian makes less than a police officer ($50,300 vs $53,890)
  • A special ed teacher makes less than an automotive technician ($51,430 vs $53,290).
I was reminded of the fact that, in the early 90s - when I became the executive director of a small non-profit that required at least a bachelors degree for staff - my first order of business was to raise enough money to give everyone a salary increase. When I was successful, I met with each staff person individually to tell them what their new salary would be. One person told me that, for the first time, he'd be making as much money as he had as a landscaper.

For jobs that don't require a college degree, a few that make more than the median might surprise you. The average salary for a truck driver is $57,680 and pipe welders average $60,340. But here's the shocker: according to the USDA, the median total household income for farmers is $80,060. That's on par with a clinical psychologist, which requires at least a masters degree.

My point is that whether or not one has a college degree isn't always indicative of how much money one makes. As an aside, my cursory review seems to indicate that a more pronounced factor might be that professions where women have been the majority of workers seem to have lower salaries than those that have been dominated by men. 

To the extent that exit polls are accurate, Joe Biden won those making less than $50,000 by 11 points (55-44). Hillary Clinton's margin in 2016 was 12 points (53-41). In the 2022 midterms, Democrats won the group 52-45. 

But here's something to keep in mind: the less money you make, the less likely it is that you will vote (even more pronounced in midterms).

To the extent that we focus on income rather than education, we learn that Democrats are winning the support of people on the bottom. Perhaps the question we need to be asking is: "why aren't more of them voting?"

Monday, November 21, 2022

Democratic Candidates Outraised Their Republican Opponents 2:1

As pundits pour over the minutia that contributed to the outcome of the 2022 midterms, not many of them are paying attention to the fact that Democratic candidates outraised their Republican opponents 2:1. The closest I've seen is an article at the AP titled "GOP’s lackluster fundraising spurs post-election infighting." Here's some of the data they reported:

  • In Arizona, Masters was outraised nearly 8-to-1 by Kelly.
  • In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised $52.8 million compared to Republican Adam Laxalt’s $15.5 million.
  • In Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman took in $16 million more than his GOP opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. That’s despite the celebrity TV doctor lending $22 million to his campaign.
  • Similar disparities emerged in crucial House races, including in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia, helping to limit House Republicans to a surprisingly narrow majority.
It is important to keep in mind that the contributions described above were made directly to the candidate's campaigns. Where Republicans tend to make up ground is in big money contributions to super PACs. But those dollars come with some major restrictions. Super PACs can't coordinate directly with campaigns, which limits their ability to get involved in grassroots efforts to engage and mobilize voters. As a result, their money is primarily spent on television ads. But the kicker is that television stations are required by law to sell air time to candidates at their cheapest rate. But that doesn't apply to super PACs. Here are some examples of the difference:
  • In Las Vegas, a candidate could buy a unit of TV advertising for $598. That same segment cost a super PAC $4,500. 
  • In North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham media market, a $342 spot cost a super PAC $1,270.
  • A $580 candidate segment in the Philadelphia area cost a super PAC nearly $2,000.
Super PACs get much less bang-for-their-buck in the TV ad game. But this isn't a problem that just emerged in 2022. As I've been writing, the same discrepancies plagued Republicans in 2018 and 2020. The problem facing the GOP in trying to correct the imbalance stems from their affinity for corruption.

Since the success Democrats have had with grassroots fundraising was enabled by the web site ActBlue, Republicans attempted to replicate it with their own - WinRed. But last summer the watchdog group, Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the FEC about the site's lack of transparency.

Similarly, Senator Rick Scott - who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee - seems to have blown much of the money he raised on questionable activities. In addition to spending enormously on paid consultants who didn't produce anything, the NRSC did this:

The committee would send text messages that didn’t say who they were from, but simply said: “This is URGENT! Do YOU support Trump? Reply YES to donate $25.” Users who replied yes, had their credit cards charged (thanks to their numbers being on file with payment processing company WinRed), and that was it.

Not surprisingly, Goldmacher notes that the amount the committee has had to refund has quadrupled since 2020.

With the Georgia senate run-off just around the corner, here's Scott's latest scam: 

Of course, the one person in the GOP who can potentionally raise small donor contributions from his MAGA followers is their leader. But...
[Donald Trump] was parsimonious when it came to sharing some of the more than $100 million he’s amassed in a committee designed to help other candidates. He ended up spending about $15 million on ads across five Senate races, records show.

In other words, it's all a grift for these guys. 

Democrats have never been very good at celebrating their success stories. But this one is about a couple of techies who started with an original idea back in 2004. Folks began to notice by 2007.

Operating from an office just off Harvard Square, Matt DeBergalis and Ben Rahn, through the Web site they created, ActBlue.com, have raised $32 million since it was started in 2004. They are gearing up to make good on their promise that it will raise $100 million for Democrats in this election cycle.

In many ways, ActBlue has turned fund-raising on its head by exploiting the power of the Internet and small donors that was pioneered by Howard Dean and bringing it to the next generation of grass-roots supporters and online donors.

Where big-dollar fund-raising is typically done behind closed doors with well-connected bundlers and showy, costly fund-raisers, ActBlue is just the opposite. It is an Internet-based political action committee that lets Democratic candidates use their Web site as a portal to collect donations, making fund-raising cheap, and, for donors, as simple as a click of a mouse.

The site now boasts that it has raised $11,580,000,000 since its inception in 2004. That includes over $1,883,000,000 for the 2022 midterms. It is, as Biden would say, a BFD!

But this story might also be a metaphor. Someone should tell Republican donors that they're being duped. And if you can't trust a party with your contributions, it's pretty clear that you shouldn't trust them with your tax dollars either.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Republicans Will Undermine Zelensky in Their Attempt to Go After Biden

The day after it was projected that Republicans would gain a majority in the House, there was no mention of what they'd do to address the issues they campaigned on: inflation, crime, and the border. Instead, they announced that their "top priority" will be to investigate the Bidens. 

That's not a surprise. But it's even more dangerous than most people realize. Take a look at how Ted Cruz talked about this at about the 1:00 minute mark of this video:

He brought up that Hunter Biden was on the board of the Ukrainian company Busirsma when Joe Biden was vice-president. He goes on to say that the president of Burisma was being investigated and Joe Biden insisted that the prosecutor be fired.

Compare that to what Trump said to Ukrainian President Zelensky during the infamous phone call that led to his first impeachment.
I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved...There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

A brief clip from the House impeachment hearings is perhaps the best way to correct the record. This is Rep. Jim Himes questioning Deputy Chief of Mission to Ukraine George Kent. 

To summarize, then-Vice President Biden was insisting that a corrupt prosecutor be fired as part of the Obama administration's "thoughtful and well-calibrated anti-corruption program." As Himes noted, however, "President Trump wasn’t trying to end corruption in Ukraine, I think he was trying to aim corruption in Ukraine at Vice-President Biden and at the 2020 election."

It's important to keep in mind that, prior to Zelensky's election in 2019, Trump had secured a deal with President Petro Poroshenko "in which the Ukrainian leader would get electoral help via a state visit to the U.S., while he would give Trump a lift by announcing investigations into the Biden's and potential Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections."

Trump was livid when Zelensky was elected. It stymied the deal he and Giuliani thought they had arranged with Poroshenko and explains the president’s reaction to the report he received about Zelensky from those who attended his inauguration. Here is how Ambassador Volker described that meeting.

Of course, all of that preceded Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. For most Americans, President Zelensky's performance since then has been remarkable, if not inspirational. But take note of Cruz's tweet up above. He said that the House Republican investigations will focus on whether "Biden was on the take from enemies of America" (emphasis mine). 

I doubt that Cruz wants to come out publicly claiming that Ukraine is an enemy of America. But that's what he's suggesting. Other right wingers haven't been so subtle. Here's Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority, telling Laura Ingraham that "Zelensky is a corrupt oligarch & psychopath."

Republicans not only refused to hold Trump accountable for his attempt to extort Zelensky. Now they're going to resurface all of the lies the former guy told in an attempt to smear Biden and undermine the Ukrainian president who is currently leading his people in a war to maintain their sovereignty as a free country. The word "deplorable" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Healing From the 2016 Trauma

Over the last few years I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the fact that, in the weeks before the 2016 election, I assured my friends, "Don't worry. The same country that just elected Obama twice will never elect Donald Trump." Putting aside the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, I was completely and totally wrong.

The fact that so many Americans would vote for a narcissistic lying con man who spewed nothing but hate rocked my world. Perhaps it is overkill to call it trauma. But it shook me to my core and became the lens through which I viewed the next six years. This once optimistic, hopeful person became deeply cynical about the future of this country. I became dour and frightened.

While some of those reactions are still warranted, I feel like the 2022 election helped me turn the corner. For just one example, voters in Arizona not only rejected the narcissistic lying con woman Kari Lake. They also passed a referendum allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at local colleges and universities. One of the real border states didn't buy into the GOP's fear mongering about immigrants. 

Some of the healing I began to experience came with seeing Barack Obama on the campaign trail during the last days of this election. Take a look at what he said about Tudor Dixon, the Republican running against Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

He did something similar while talking about Herschel Walker in Georgia.
That is vintage Obama. I was reminded of "Romnesia" in the final days of the 2012 election.


Less noticed was what he did to Sharon Angle in the 2010 election.


Watching Obama in those last few days before the 2022 election reminded me how I'd lost the ability to point and laugh at GOP absurdities. Trump's presidency made these extremists more scary than ridiculous. Obama had me laughing again.

As the results of the midterms started coming in, it also became clear that, under the leadership of Donald Trump, Republicans have lost the last three elections. Sure...they weren't all resounding defeats. But we're not likely to see any of those in the foreseeable future. Instead, we're in a period where small, incremental steps are the most likely pathway to change. 

Let me be clear: the threat to our democracy is still alive and well. The fear of that is not gone. But I'm not going to let the trauma of 2016 color my vision going forward. To paraphrase Cory Booker, "I'm done with letting these extremists steal my joy."

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

DeSantis Stepped in a Pile of Manure. Will the Media Ever Catch On?

Tuesday evening, Trump announced that he will run for president again in 2024. After tagging his potential opponent as "Ron DeSanctimonious," the governor of Florida shot back with this: 

Frankly, I don't know what's going to happen to the Republican Party over the next two years. We all know that Donald Trump is just another disaster waiting to happen. But the line on DeSantis in much of the media is that he's the "normal" (ie, not crazy) alternative who actually knows how to govern and get results. 

Excuse me, but I don't think that someone who goes on a rant like this in a fundraising email qualifies as "normal."
Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize...

This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob that will steamroll anything and anyone in their way. Their blatant attacks on the American way of life are clear and intensifying: stifling dissent, public shaming, rampant violence, and a perverted version of history.
When it comes to "delivering results," I'll just remind you of the fact that DeSantis is pretty much "all hat and no cattle." Over the coming months it will be interesting to watch whether the media catches on to that. 

As just one example, the Florida governor garnered a lot of attention for taking on Disney by supposedly stripping them of their special district status. What we didn't hear very often is that the bill passed by the state legislature punted the process down the road and it's not scheduled to take effect until next summer. In the meantime, we learned that if the special district is actually dissolved, taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties will be responsible for the $1 billion in bond debt Disney currently holds. 

What's going to happen is that sometime between next month (a December special session) and June 2023, DeSantis and the legislature have to figure out what to do about that. According to the Orlando Business Journal, they have three options:

1. Delay the dissolution date,
2. Retain the district and amend certain powers, or
3. Change/replace the district's charter.

In other words, there is NO scenario where Disney's special district status simply goes away.

The simplest solution would be #2. But that would mean that DeSantis winds up with a good deal of egg on his face. Some people are suggesting that #3 is the course the governor will take.
That sounds like exactly the kind of thing DeSantis would do, but here's the catch: it would still leave Florida taxpayers on the hook for the #1 billion. In addition, "it would require a 30-day public notice, discussions and approvals by delegations in the affected counties — Orange and Osceola counties — and other processes needed before a vote were allowed."

I'm sure DeSantis will try to muscle his way around all of these obstacles. But there's one thing he can't do: f*ck around with the municipal bond market. 

One thing we know about DeSantis is that he doesn't like being corrected, much less being proven wrong. But he stepped in a deep pile of cow manure on this one and is going to need to repurpose those white boots to wade through it. To twist the metaphor, it will be interesting to watch what the media does when the shit he flung starts to hit the fan.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

How Small Incremental Steps Lead to a Thunderbolt of Justice

There is a lot of speculation about how Twitter is going to implode now that Elon Musk has taken over. I don't know if that's true, but there are a lot of reasons why I have appreciated that platform. As just one example, it introduced me to a young Democratic woman who ran for a state house seat in Missouri - Jessica Piper

I first started noticing Piper's tweets because she talked so intelligently about the issues around K-12 education. That makes sense, given that she is a teacher. But her take was all about how Republican efforts to "defund education" in her state were affecting rural families. 

Piper's district is in the upper northwest corner of Missouri and it's as rural red as they come. The largest city is Maryville, population 10,000. So Piper refers to herself as a #DirtRoadDemocrat. 

The sad news is that Piper overwhelmingly lost to her Republican opponent. But in a lengthy Twitter thread, she provided us with some hard truths by recapping what she faced.

I'd love to give y'all some examples of what I heard at doors in rural Missouri to help you understand what folks out here say when confronted with a progressive message. I will say that we knocked over 5k doors and made as many calls. Also, we had near zero data to go on.

I knocked a door in a town of 200 people. The woman asked if I was a D or R. She immediately handed back my lit and said she was a Christian and couldn't vote for Democrats. She then said she'd heard I was a teacher (her kid's schools just went 4-day). She said there's something you can do about our schools and I was hopeful that she would talk about getting her schools funding so they could stay open 5 days. She wasn't. She said legislators should be working to mandate prayer in classrooms.

I talked to a man who said that if a woman dies of an ectopic pregnancy, it's God's will. Another man told me that a child who has been raped and impregnated should have to deliver the pregnancy because "a baby shouldn't suffer for another person's crime."

I had an elderly woman send my postcards back to me with "Biden's Demonrat" scrawled across my face. A man who I knew (I had his kids in class) sent me an email hoping "my soul would forever rest in hell for murdering babies."

I talked to a woman at her door who said she had heard that Democrats are releasing murderers onto our streets. I asked for an example and she cited a Fox News story. She also thought Biden was in control of gas prices and setting high grocery prices to starve the elderly.

There is a massive amount of misinformation out here and folks not only hear it on Fox, but also in church. They share it on Facebook and it came up at so many doors. Our papers lean conservative and elected Republicans are given space every week to preach their message in papers.

That last bit reminded me of an article written back in 2018 by Andrew Levinson on the challenges Democrats face in these deeply red rural areas. Levinson didn't limit the so-called “information bubble"  to right wing media like Fox News. He pointed out that national messaging is reinforced by local sources in many of these red-state areas, including “Sinclair TV stations, regional talk radio, and local hometown editorial pages.” But he also wrote about the third tier of this information bubble that is perhaps the most significant and least commented upon.

Finally, and most importantly, it is the network of personal relationships between neighbors and friends that works to validate and confirm the broader messages. Casual conversations with friends, Facebook messages and e-mails from relatives, and jokes passed among co-workers all reinforce the sense that Democrats are the “other” and lead people who once supported Democrats to mute their views, creating what sociologists call a “spiral of silence.” The result makes support for the Republican Party seem not just dominant but unanimous.

Levinson didn't specifically mention churches, but as Piper suggested, they are a major contributor to the "spiral of silence" in rural areas.

So should people like Piper just give up? She says "absolutely not!"

Every ounce of me and my energy went into a campaign that swayed 4% of non-Democratic voters. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went into 4%. Grassroots is HARD work and it takes more than just me knocking doors. It's very long game. Folks can walk away and say it wasn't worth it.

I can't walk away...I live here. So, I am now organizing those that put in the work with me. My campaign brought out a silent minority who has decided to be silent no longer--we found each other and we will continue the work. Every. Day.

I don't know what the future holds, but I will keep working in my community while our roads continue to crumble and our teachers flee and healthcare gets more scarce. The Dirt Road Democrat didn't start with me and it won't end in my failed run. I am rural. These are my people.

Even in a red state like Missouri, there are tiny glimmers of hope. 

Missouri House Democrats had their best election night in years Tuesday, adding three [suburban] seats to increase their caucus to its highest total in a decade.

The party also successfully defended a St. Louis County state Senate seat that saw massive spending by Republicans.

The New York Times is tracking county-level swings from the 2020 election. They haven't included all states yet, but what stood out to me was what happened in Missouri. 

All of this reminds me of something President Obama said on the day the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.

Jessica Piper is one of those citizens Obama was referring to when he talked about progress coming in small incremental steps. I'm sure there are thousands like her all over the country. A thunderbolt of justice isn't likely to arrive without their courageous, tireless efforts.


Monday, November 14, 2022

The Fight for Democracy is Far From Over

No conservative has chronicled the implosion of the Republican Party more accurately than David Frum. He's at it again with a post-mortem following the 2022 midterms titled: "The Lesson Republicans Refuse to Learn."

The question after the 2022 midterms is: Can conservatives learn?

Through the Trump years, the Republican Party has organized itself as an anti-learning entity. Unwelcome information has been ignored or denied...

The historian Bernard Lewis once offered sage advice to any group that faces adverse circumstances: “The question, ‘Who did this to us?’ has led only to neurotic fantasies and conspiracy theories. The other question—‘What did we do wrong?’—has led naturally to a second question, ‘How do we put it right?’ In that question … lie[s] the best hope for the future.”

I was reminded that in 2012, after suffering heavy losses, the GOP did an autopsy and came to the conclusion that they needed to do more to reach out to Hispanics, women, and young voters. They then proceeded to do the exact opposite. 

Some things never change. As the 2022 results roll in, many of the loudest voices on the right are indulging in the "who [or what] did it to us" by attacking young people, women, and mail-in ballots. Questions like "what did we do wrong" and "how can we put it right" are impossible for them to answer because they only have three options on where to go from here.

1. Remain loyal to Trump. 

This one has been a losing proposition for the last three elections. Adding to that is that their cult leader is pretty old and about to face indictments for multiple crimes. 

2. Return to the failed policies of the Bush era.

This is what many of the NeverTrumpers are hoping for - including people like Liz Cheney. But there is a reason why the GOP stopped emphasizing their policies of the past: they failed miserably during the Bush/Cheney administration (Great Recession, two failed wars, Katrina, etc). 

3. Embrace the fascism of National Conservatives.

This is the group that I have been following pretty closely over the last few months. When it comes to politicians, it includes people like Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley,  and J.D. Vance. Their loudest voice is, of course, Tucker Carlson. But behind the scenes are people like Rod Dreher, Peter Thiel, Sohrab Ahmari, and Curtis Yarvin. For a truly frightening look at that last one, I'd recommend reading a piece by Andrew Prokop titled "Curtis Yarvin wants American democracy toppled. He has some prominent Republican fans."

[Yarvin] stands out among right-wing commentators for being probably the single person who’s spent the most time gaming out how, exactly, the US government could be toppled and replaced — “rebooted” or “reset,” as he likes to say — with a monarch, CEO, or dictator at the helm. Yarvin argues that a creative and visionary leader — a “startup guy,” like, he says, Napoleon or Lenin was — should seize absolute power, dismantle the old regime, and build something new in its place.

That provides some context for this tweet from the guy who cheered on the January 6 insurrectionists: 

The hero for most of these guys (they're almost exclusively men) is Hungarian President Viktor Orban. That is important to keep in mind as the media begins to pay homage to DeSantis as the Republican who can defeat Trump. Here's what Zach Beauchamp wrote about the Florida governor last April:

DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

Most recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption; using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves. On issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power... 
Orbán’s political model has frequently employed a demagogic two-step: Stand up a feared or marginalized group as an enemy then use the supposed need to combat this group’s influence to justify punitive policies that also happen to expand his regime’s power.

In other words, DeSantis envisions himself as the monarch/CEO/dictator Yarvin longs for. If you think I'm exaggerating, then you probably haven't seen the closing ad for the DeSantis campaign.   

Of course, there's some overlap between these three options. For example, Jeb Bush recently said that DeSantis has done a “great job” as governor, praising his COVID-19 response and education policies. Bush also said that the Florida governor has broad appeal outside of Florida because he has attacked cultural issues that are present in the Republican mindset.

Since I don't really have a dog in the fight between these three options, I'd suggest that the most important thing to keep in mind is that they all embrace two things: racism and sexism. Taking away a woman's right to chose has been part of the GOP platform for decades. The same thing is true for voter suppression. One of the basic tenants of the National Conservatives is that Republicans have been too soft on fighting the so-called "culture wars," so it is time to use government power to go after their "enemies."

This is the fight that is going to consume Republicans over the next two years. As I see it right now, the momentum is currently with the National Conservatives - especially following solid victories by DeSantis in Florida and Vance in Ohio. That's why the fight for democracy is far from over.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Why Republicans Are Creating the Red Mirage

Like most of you, I'm incredibly nervous about the 2022 midterm elections. But it isn't just the outcome that has me worried. It's what comes next. The only two possibilities I see going forward are (1) Republicans win, or (2) Democrats win and all hell breaks loose. The former is being described as a "red wave," while the latter is based on the "red mirage."  

The irony here is that, while the media has almost fully embraced the idea that we're heading for a red wave, there are countless ways that the radical right is hinting at the fact that they're going to lose. As just one example, Republicans in three battleground states are already suing to disqualify thousands of mail-in ballots. Why would they bother if they were so sure of winning in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin?

As is often the case, Tucker Carlson laid out the strategy last week.

He first states that Democrats are expected to suffer overwhelming losses. That's pretty much what passes for conventional wisdom these days. But a closer look at reality shows that the signs are actually conflicted. On the one hand, Republicans seem to have picked up some momentum in the polls. But those who are tracking the early vote are seeing signs that are positive for Democrats. As a matter of fact, Jon Ralston - who knows Nevada politics better than anyone - has predicted that Democratic Senator Cortez Masto will be re-elected. That is mostly based on his analysis of the early vote.

The reason some folks are are more interested in the early vote than the polling aggregates is that for the last month or so, Republicans have been flooding the zone with polls that are likely biased.

Skeptics wonder why Republicans would do that. The answer if clear: going into Tuesday, they want to create the illusion (mirage) that the GOP is winning. The right wing site RealClearPolitics is projecting that Republicans will win a 53/47 majority in the Senate, as is captured by the map in the photo above. If/when Democrats win, they'll claim it's because the election was rigged (Big Lie 2.0), which sets up the exact same scenario that Bannon described back in October 2020.

The good news is that it is still possible that Democrats could do well in this election. The bad news is that if that happens, all hell is going to break loose. 

I don't mean to be an alarmist, but we should prepare ourselves for what's coming. We not only need to get out the vote, we need to be ready to stand firm against the onslaught that will be unleashed if we prevail. 

When it comes to the presidential race, are polls all that matter?

A little more than five months from the 2024 presidential election,  conventional wisdom  suggests that  Biden is losing . But according to ...