Wednesday, November 24, 2021

So-Called Dumbest Man in Congress Announces Bid for Texas Attorney General

Louie Gohmert, who is often derided as the dumbest man in Congress, has just announced he will run for Texas Attorney General in 2022.  That move will involve his challenging incumbent Ken Paxton who spearheaded the unsuccessful Supreme Court lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election. 

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Paxton, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has been under indictment for securities fraud since 2015 and was accused in 2020 of bribery, abuse of office and other crimes by several high-level assistants in Paxton's office.  Paxton, like Gohmert, has repeatedly spread The Big Lie, without a scintilla of proof, that election fraud caused Trump's 2020 defeat at the hands of Joe Biden.  

Gohmert's announcement might create an opening for George P. Bush, Commissioner of the Texas Land Office. Earlier this year, George P., who is the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, desperately sought the endorsement of Trump in the Attorney General's race.  During his bid to gain Trump's approval, George P. made it clear that he was willing to cast aside his father to grovel at the feet of Trump.  The effort proved unsuccessful when Trump instead chose to endorse Paxton.  

There is another candidate in the GOP primary, Eva Guzman, the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Texas Supreme Court.  She was appointed in 2009 by former Texas Governor Rick Perry, then was elected in 2010 to the Court and re-elected in 2016.  Both election victories were by sizable margins.  Guzman's website features a long list of legal accomplishments, making her almost certainly the most qualified candidate in the race.  Notably though Guzman's website omits any reference to Donald Trump.

If either Paxton or Gohmert wins the nomination, that would create an opening for the Democrats to win the Texas Attorney General's race.  That though assumes 2022 will be an ordinary election year.  Right now 2022 seems like it will heavily favor Republicans which should be enough to lift flawed candidates like Paxton and Gohmert to victory.

NOTE:  After writing this, I  learned that Matt Krause, a Texas state representative and a member of that chamber's Freedom Caucus, is also for the GOP nomination for Texas Attorney General.

OOP's short takes:

  • I have written previously about the bogus "matching" emails sent out by the Trump campaign.  Basically the Trump email claims that any donations will be matched by 4 to 5 times the amount.  Due to financial contribution limits on political donations, the matching claim is a lie. There is no matching going on.   The FEC has noted the dishonesty of the practice, but refuses to take action to stop it.  Yesterday, I received a Trump email saying that any donation will be matched 10 times the amount.  Since the FEC won't do anything about this fraudulent fundraising practice, it's time for state attorneys general to step in.   While the Trump folks didn't start the bogus matching political fundraising scam, they has taken it to new levels.  If there is no crackdown on this practice, it's going to spread to other campaigns.
  • After his acquittal, Wisconsin shooter Kyle Rittenhouse met with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago.  Unlike some, I'm not terribly offended by the Rittenhouse verdict.  It was evident that the prosecutors overcharged Rittenhouse.   But just because someone is found not guilty, doesn't mean what that person did was right.  Rittenhouse was an idiot to wade into that situation with a gun he was not legally allowed to possess.  To see him celebrated by some on the right is sad.  Adults are exploiting Rittenhouse for their own purposes.   We can only hope that he doesn't end up warped young man as a result.  I know he's 18, and an adult now, but where are his parents?

Monday, November 8, 2021

Republicans Who Voted for Biden Infrastructure Bill are Branded as RINO Traitors

For four years, President Donald Trump promised he would get Congress to pass an infrastructure bill.  But Trump failed to even get such a bill to pass one chamber, even though the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress up until his third year in office.  It took Sleepy Joe Biden to finally get the ball across the goal line.  Most noteworthy, it took a bipartisan effort in both the Senate (to clear the filibuster) and the House.  In the lower chamber, 13 House Republicans voted for the infrastructure measure.  Given six Democratic squad members voted against the bill in the House, it would not have passed without Republican votes.

Not surprising Trump World immediately jumped on those 13 House members calling them "RINOs" and "traitors."  Business Insider reports:

Thirteen House Republicans broke ranks Friday and voted with House Democrats, passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill and drawing the ire of some of their colleagues."

Leading up to the vote, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
 trashed the bill as "reckless, irresponsible spending" and urged his party not to vote for it.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia
 warned that any Republican who votes for the bill will "feel the anger of the GOP voter," while Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said: "Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you."

But some Republicans who didn't support the bill focused on their colleagues who did.

Greene labeled them "
traitors" and tweeted out a list of their names along with their office numbers.
There's a lot of Democrats who call themselves Republicans in the US House," Cawthorn tweeted Saturday.

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado said in a
 tweet "these fraudulent RINOs should be penalized for advertising themselves as Republicans but governing as Democrats."

"I can't believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill," Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas retweeted Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio, who
 said it was "painful" to watch his Republican colleagues deliver the votes to Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, President Trump aimed his fire at the Senate Republicans who had voted for the bill:

“All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!” Trump said in a statement.   
The former president called Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill “RINOs” — a widely used term he favors that means “Republicans in name only.” Trump suggested that Democrats would take advantage of Republicans by enlisting their support to pass their $1.75 trillion social spending bill.    
“How about all of those Republican Senators that voted thinking that helping the Democrats is such a wonderful thing to do, so politically correct. They just don’t get it!” Trump said.

You'll notice that Trump doesn't criticize the amount that is being spent or what the money is spent on. Details of the infrastructure bill do not particularly concern him (most likely he's never bothered to learn the details).  What concerns him is that passage of the bill hands Biden and the Democrats a "win."  Never mind what is best for the American people. Trump has never been concerned about that.

Unlike Trump, most Trumpers do complain about the price tag of the bill, some oddly calling spending on infrastructure "socialism."  If Trumpers have a superpower it is a lack of intellectual honesty.  That the positions they take, when compared to previous positions they held, smack of hypocrisy doesn't faze them.  When the Former Guy was in office, Trumpers had no problem whatsoever with lavish spending measures, and running up huge deficits.  They also would have had no problem with the infrastructure bill that passed...if it had Trump's name on it.  That Biden's name was affixed to the measure...that's what bothers them. 

Not that there aren't things that in the infrastructure bill that shouldn't cause a true fiscal conservative to pause, and possibly vote against it.  I don't think government should be in the business of building out electric charging stations (government help was not needed to build gas stations when cars first became popular).  And I think government pouring increased funds into antiquated mass transit systems is akin to flushing tax dollars down a toilet.


I've told this story many times before, but I will do so again.  When I transferred from Hanover College to Ball State in 1980, I became involved in conservative politics.  Believe it or not, there was a conservative tide that had washed over college campuses during those years.  It was a highly intellectual movement...conservatives had big ideas back then and they approached selling those issues in a positive manner.  For me, issues like balanced budgets, privatization, school choice, enterprise zones, etc. were important.  More generally, I was concerned we were drifting toward socialism and wanted a return to less government interference in the free markets.  I had also written a paper on pre-natal development in a health science class. a project that pushed me in the pro-life direction.  

I could be characterized as a small government conservative with libertarian views.  Naturally some of my positions have evolved over the years.  I think privatization, for example, is good on paper, but has been bungled horribly in practice.  And privatization certainly doesn't work in some contexts such as privatized jails/prisons.

Nonetheless, I thought those were the most important issues.  But the primacy of those issues was based on the assumption that both parties, Republicans and Democrats, believed in American democracy and that disputes about policies would be decided in free and fair elections.  If there ever was a time when a party turned its back on American democratic institutions, trampled on the Constitution and embraced rule by autocracy, then those aforementioned issues would take a back seat to the need to fight for the survival of the American Republic.

We are at such a point.   A sizeable percentage of Republicans no longer believe in the American experiment of democratic self-rule.   They instead lionize dictators in Hungary, Turkey and Russia as providing the model of autocratic leadership they want to see the United States adopt.   What is worse, they are fine with political violence to overturn the results of democratic elections that do not go their way.  

That's not an abstract assumption.  We have a real live example of Republican support of electoral violence.  On January 6th, Trump supporters, supposed "Backers of the Blue," assaulted hundreds of police officers as they stormed the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes in a last ditch effort to keep Donald Trump in power.  Their actions that day resulted in the deaths of several people.  They brought with them makeshift gallows to hang Vice President Mike Pence who they claimed was a traitor because he chose his constitutional duty over fealty to Donald Trump.  The collective GOP response to this violent insurrection has been a collective shrug of the shoulders to full support.

Since the January 6th insurrection we have learned that Donald Trump and his minions had developed an extensive plan to steal Joe Biden's win at the polls.  That plan was only foiled by elected and appointed local, state and national Republicans who insisted on counting and certifying the votes honestly.  Since that foiled coup attempt, Trump has made it a point to target those Republicans for removal, replacing them instead with loyalists who will do his bidding next time around. With Trump's urging, laws are also being considered by Republican legislatures that will allow them to override the popular vote for President in their states.  Not surprisingly, a bipartisan committee attempting to investigate what happened on January 6th is being stymied by President Trump who is making bogus legal claims to try to delay the American people finding out his exact role in the attempted insurrection.

Until my Republican Party returns to supporting American democratic institutions, the Constitution and free and fair elections, none of those issues I have cared about my entire adult life matter.   What good is winning some Trumped-up fight against "socialistic" policies if the cost is the end of American democracy?

OOP's short takes:

  • The NFL needs to suspend Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers until the end of the season.  His lie to NFL officials about being vaccinated against Covid-19 resulted in him bypassing testing requirements and put hundreds of NFL players and support personnel at risk.  No doubt, he infected several other people before he learned he had Covid. 
  • More stupidity from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who blasted Sesame Street's Big Bird for encouraging kids to get vaccinated.  He calls the tweeted message from Big Bird "government propaganda."  Never mind that Big Bird has been encouraging vaccinations for children since, well, forever.  Ted Cruz, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, never misses an opportunity to prove that stupid people can earn Ivy League degrees these days.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Republican Tide Sweeps Over 2021 Elections in Virginia, New Jersey

The Virginia and New Jersey off-year elections results are in.  Republicans scored major wins in Virginia.  Not only did political newcomer Glenn Younkin win the Governor's race, but Republicans also won all the other statewide races as well.   The GOP also took control of the House of Delegates, the lower chamber in the Virginia legislature.  In New Jersey, in what would have been a shocking upset, the Republicans just missed winning the Governor's office but did pick up several seats in the New Jersey legislature.

Gov.-Elect Glenn Youngkin (R-VA)

Returning to Virginia, former Governor Terry McAuliffe is being blamed for having run a bad campaign. Certainly, the campaign could have been better and the school board comment was a huge gaffe (even if Republicans were distorting a bit what he actually said). But here's the thing. McAuliffe ran only slightly behind the other statewide Virginia Democratic candidates who also lost. (Analysis is complicated somewhat because the Governor's race also featured a Libertarian candidate who received .7% of the vote.) McAuliffe ran near the Democratic baseline for Virginia in 2021. The trouble is that the Democratic baseline in Virginia was awful across the board, regardless of the campaign.

But it just wasn't just Virginia. The results in New Jersey (+16 for Joe Biden in 2020), where the popular incumbent Democratic governor nearly lost his re-election bid, further demonstrates that the problem wasn't individual campaigns, but the Democratic brand. (The NJ Governor's race was, wrongly, assumed to be non-competitive so virtually no quality polling was done.)

People are mad at the Democrats and they took it out on them by voting for Republicans in 2021 or staying home. And the anger is not just tied to Biden, but is across the board. The chief blame belongs to the House Progressives, aka the "Suicide Squad" who decided to deny the President of their party a huge win on the popular, bipartisan infrastructure bill by insisting that bill be tied to the much less popular social spending measure. The Suicide Squad could have just taken the infrastructure bill win and then worked for a compromise on the social spending measure that could get moderate D's on board. But members of the SS were worried they wouldn't get as much "stuff" as they would if they held the infrastructure bill hostage. The attempt to blackmail more moderate Democrats to vote for something they had cold feet on by tying it to something that is popular in their districts was always an absurd, counterproductive strategy. It tanked President Biden's ratings and Democratic fortunes in the 2021 off-year elections.

If the Dems are going to salvage 2022 and win the White House in 2024, Biden needs to kick the progressives in the rear and move strongly to the middle. Can you imagine how popular Biden would be if he governed as a pragmatic, centrist Democrat who approached issues in a thoughtful, fiscally responsible manner, like say Joe Manchin?

Monday, November 1, 2021

Virginia Electing a Republican Governor Might Be the Wakeup Call Democrats Need

I am convinced that Republican Glenn Younkin is going to win the Virginia Governor's race tomorrow.  Although most polls show former Governor Terry McAuliffe with a point or two lead, I'm most persuaded by the Fox News poll released last week which showed Youngkin up by eight points.  Only two weeks earlier, the Fox News poll had McAuliffe up by five points.  A 13 point move in a poll over a two week period is hard to discount.

Glenn Youngkin
Youngkin has managed to straddle the fence during his campaign, throwing some reddish meat to Trumpers while distancing himself from the former President.  And President Trump, perhaps recognizing his own toxicity in Virginia has mostly stayed out of the race.  While McAuliffe has run a decent race, national trends seem likely to sink his candidacy.  President Biden's plunging popularity has dragged down McAuliffe's numbers while elevating Youngkin's.

If Youngkin wins tomorrow, he should send a thank you card to the House Progressive Caucus, otherwise known as the "Suicide Squad."  Biden's numbers are sinking because he is increasingly seen as an ineffectual leader who can't get things done.  But in fact, earlier this year Biden's team masterfully put together an infrastructure bill, which had earned bipartisan support in the Senate.  The House could have handed him a big win by passing it, then focusing on other priorities. But instead the Suicide Squad (sure hope that moniker sticks) decided that popular bill should be held hostage to try to garner more support for another less popular measure, wrongly dubbed as "human infrastructure."  That brilliant (note the sarcasm) maneuver managed to drive down Biden's popularity while gaining no additional support for the massive social spending bill.  Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin thanks you progressives!

The Suicide Squad is increasingly being compared to the Freedom Caucus.  Both groups of House members pursue unrealistic goals and threaten to blow their party up if they don't achieve them.  The difference though is the Suicide Squad has more members and has a greater influence in the House than the Freedom Caucus.

Biden ran as a moderate, courting the votes of working class whites who were increasingly voting Republican. While that strategy failed, what did work was his appeal to suburban Republican-leaning voters who despised Trump and who were willing to vote for a Democrat who was a reasonable moderate.  Once elected, Biden stopped trying to appeal to these Never Trumpers, instead looking to placate the left wing of his party which actually favored Bernie Sanders and/or Elizabeth Warren over his moderate approach to Democratic politics.

Losing Virginia just might be the wake-up call Biden and the Democrats need.  If they want to win re-election in 2024, and win at least one chamber in Congress in 2022 (the House looks almost impossible for the Democrats to win, but the Democrats should be favored to win the Senate), Biden needs to moderate his message and reach out to those suburban disaffected Republicans who put him over the top in 2020.  

And there is precedent for such an approach.  Bill Clinton in 1992 was elected along with a Democratic House and Senate.  Although Clinton ran as a southern moderate, he governed as a liberal, resulting in Republicans winning both chambers of Congress in the 1994 midterms, the first time that had happened in 40 years.  But the win also caused Clinton to turn sharply to his right.  As a result, Clinton won re-election by a sizable margin in 1996.