Friday, December 31, 2021

OOP's Best and Worst of 2021 Political Awards

Drum roll please....I present to you OOP's Best and Worst of 2021 Political Awards.

Best Breakthrough Politician:
  Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.
--Republican Youngkin managed to distance himself from Donald Trump while not antagonizing his MAGA followers.  Quite a feat.  Helps when you don't have to run a contested primary.

Best Political Retirement News:  Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
--Nunes is one of the biggest clowns in the U.S. House, and that is saying something.  Nunes is leaving Congress to run Trump's social media company. Does Nunes not know that Trump regularly stiffs his employees?  Does Nunes not know that Trump's companies regularly end up in bankruptcy?  Does Nunes not know that Trump is one of the worst businessmen this country has ever produced? 

Worst Political Retirement News:  Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
--The former NFL player and graduate of Stanford Business School had a bright future in elected politics.  As a Republican, Gonzalez got crossways with the MAGA folks for demonstrating integrity in his vote on Trump's impeachment.  (Trumpers hate things like honesty and integrity.)  But leadership means doing what is right, even if it is not what the crowd wants.  I expect that we will see Gonzalez back in politics when the MAGA-fever has subsided.  And it will subside.

Best Political Article:  "Trump's Next Coup Has Already Begun," The Atlantic by Barton Gellman.

Best Upset Victory:  Republicans losing two U.S. Senate seats in January.
--Hate to cheer against my party, but it is good that the obstructionists are not in complete control of the Senate. 

Best Political Message That Came Too Late:  Former President Donald Trump praising the effectiveness of the vaccines and announcing he received a booster.

Worst Political Development:  Increased Republican hostility to democracy and delusional belief in conspiracies to justify an insurrection.
--Thanks to the January 6th Select Committee, we are learning more and more about how close Trump and his allies came to stealing the 2020 election.  More alarming is that we are witnessing how they are making changes so that, next time, they won't be foiled in their efforts to steal an election.

Worst Reported Story:  Redistricting
--The reporting on redistricting has focused almost exclusively on how it will give Republicans a big boost in winning a majority in the U.S. House.  In reality, redistricting's effect on party control in the House has been minor at best.  The real story of redistricting this cycle is that it has been about entrenching incumbents in safe districts and eliminating competitive races that might produce more moderate candidates.  Most politicians only have competition in primaries which races they win by being the most extreme.  That's a huge problem that deserves more attention.

Best Politician Turned Statesman Story:  Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming)
--She was very late to oppose Trump, but she is now the leader in exposing his insurrection and is standing up for American democracy.

Worst Waffling Politician:  Former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie
--Christie is looking for a lane to run for President.  (No, I'm not going to make a joke about it having to be a wide lane.)  He has decided that involves now being anti-Trump even though previously he was one of Trump's biggest supporters.  Unlike Cheney though, Christie is still hedging his bets, hinting that he could become pro-Trump again.  Depends on which way the wind is blowing. Congratulations though to Christie for beating out former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in this category.  It was neck-and-neck before Christie pulled it out at the end of the year.

Best Republican Governor:  Charlie Baker, Massachusetts, Larry Hogan, Connecticut, and Phil Scott (tie).
--For the record, Donald Trump received 32% of the vote in Massachusetts, 39% in Connecticut and 31% in Vermont.  Republicans Baker, Hogan and Scott not only were able to get elected governor in these three very blue New England states, by some rankings they are the three most popular governors in America.  Turns out being a non-MAGA Republican is popular with voters.  Who knew?

Worst Republican Governor:  Ron Desantis, Florida and Greg Abbott, Texas
--Both have managed to not only kill thousands of their constituents through lax Covid protocols, they are actively working to stop the private companies from protecting their employees.  I remember back when the Republican Party believed in private companies being able to make decisions without government interference.

Best Democratic Governor: Jared Polis, Colorado
--Thanks to Governor Polis for putting the blame for the continued pandemic where it belongs - on the unvaccinated.  Although I would point out that the failure to get vaccinated does affect all of us, including those who chose to get vaccinated.  The pandemic would have been over a long time ago if 80% plus adult Americans had gotten vaccinated.

Worst Democratic Governor: 
Andrew Cuomo, New York
--I don't think I need to explain why.

Best Republican Member of U.S. House: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois
--A solid conservative who is pro-democracy.  Can't ask for more these days.  Like Cheney, he was late to oppose Trump's autocratic impulses, but better late than never.   For the record, Cheney was ineligible in this category having already won another OOP's award.

Worst Republican Member of U.S House: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia
--Greene had extremely tough competition for this award.  Runnerups include Paul Gosar (AZ), Jim Jordan (OH), Lauren Boebert (CO), Louie Gohmert (TX), Matt Gaetz (FL).

Worst Democratic Member of the U.S. House: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington
--As leader of the large Progressive Caucus in the House, Jayapal has been a gift to Republicans.  She insisted that the popular infrastructure bill be tied to the much less popular Build Back Better social spending bill.  The maneuver immersed the infrastructure bill, supported by strong, bipartisan majorities, into a standoff between liberal Democrats and even more liberal Democrats.  As a result of the boneheaded strategy, Jayapal and her progressive allies prevented President Biden from getting credit for the passage of an historic infrastructure bill and sunk his poll numbers, perhaps irreversibly.  While there are worse representatives in the Progressive Caucus (Cori Bush comes to mind), Jayapal is the caucus' leader and the buck stops with her.

Best Republican Senator:  Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
--Not a long list of nominees, but Senator Cassidy narrowly beats out Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Worst Republican Senator:  Ron Johnson, Wisconsin
--Johnson had steep competition in this category from Senators like Rand Paul (KY), Tom Cotton (AR), and Ted Cruz (TX).  But unlike Paul, Cotton and Cruz, Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022, is from a highly competitive state.  One would think that would cause him to temper his comments and to act like a reasonable, thoughtful person. But, no.  Johnson publicly embraces every nutjob conspiracy theory there is.  That he might not actually believe those theories doesn't matter.  Consider this, Wisconsin Democrats would rather face Johnson running for re-election than have him retire and Wisconsin Republicans nominate a new candidate.

Best Democratic Senator:  Chris Coons, Delaware
--I'm so tempted to select West Virginia's Joe Manchin.  The Democratic Party would be so much better off with thoughtful moderates like Manchin.  I think though he could have handled the Build Back Better negotiations better.  So, I'm going to instead select Sen. Coons who always comes across as reasonable, pragmatic and moderate in tone, if not always in policy.

Worst Democratic Senator:  Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts
--Sen. Warren is not without strengths.  When she is speaking out about ethics reform or challenging corporate monopolies, I am a fan.  But too often she's spouting far left, dare I say "socialist," nonsense.  She claims to be a capitalist, but I have never seen that side of her.  At least Sen. Bernie Sanders is honest about who he is.

***          ***     ***

That's the 2021 OOP's Best and Worst Awards.  Next up, 2022 Predictions.

Monday, December 27, 2021

A Lack of Republican Voters is Why Quality Indy GOP Candidates Remain on the Sidelines

The day after Christmas, Indianapolis Star writer James Briggs penned an article which argued that the Republicans could "matter again" in Indianapolis if they would just recruit a high-quality candidate to run for Marion County Prosecutor.

Briggs is filling the shoes of the late Star columnist Matt Tully.  And he is equally as awful.  He enthusiastically embraces every corporate welfare spending scheme put forward by Indianapolis government officials then, in the next breath, complains about a lack of funding for basic city services.  He, like Tully, never seems to get the rather obvious connection between the two. 

In this article, Briggs displays a poor understanding of politics.  Recruiting high quality candidates requires convincing them that they would be entering a competitive race.  Candidates, even the best ones, can only move party baseline numbers so much.  The Marion County GOP can't recruit quality countywide candidates because the political party baseline numbers are no longer close in Marion County.  

In the article, Briggs mentions that Republicans on Twitter have chided him for saying that Mayor Hogsett would easily win re-election if he chooses to run again.  They point to Republican Greg Ballard's 2007 election upset mayoral victory which was followed his being narrowly re-elected in 2011.  

Those Twitter Republicans are just as clueless as Briggs.  The GOP baseline numbers in Marion County have fallen off a cliff since 2011...not that those numbers were not declining dramatically before that.

Here is a dose of reality.  In the last comparable election, 2018, the Democratic candidate for State Treasurer John Aguilera, won Marion County with 61% of the vote.  In 2020, Marion County was the most Democratic county in Indiana.  That year, Democratic Attorney General candidate Jonathan Weinzapfel won Marion County with 63.4% of the vote.  By comparison, Weinzapfel won 62.4% of the vote in Monroe County and 57.1% in Lake County.

Marion County is made up of 9 townships stacked evenly three on top, three in the middle, three on the bottom.  When I began working in Marion County politics in 1986, Democrats controlled exactly one township, Center Township.   The rest of the townships were heavily Republican.  Washington Township used to be the center of the Marion County GOP universe.  Almost all the Republican movers and shakers hailed from that township, and Washington, the most populous of the townships, provided big GOP majorities.  

As of 2020, the most Democratic township in Marion County is my township, Pike.   In the 2020 Surveyor's race (an excellent race to assess the baseline), 77.3% of Pike's votes went to the Democrat.  Center Township provided 75.7%.  Washington Township was at 70.1%.  The other northside township, Lawrence was 68.6% Democrat.  (Interestingly, partisanship is not tracking wealth anymore.  Washington, Lawrence and Pike are the three wealthiest townships in Marion County.)  Warren is now 66.6% Democrat.  Wayne Township is 61.3% Democrat.   The three southside townships, Perry, Decatur and Franklin are still solidly Republican, but even their numbers are down significantly.  Unfortunately for Republicans, the GOP dominated Decatur and Franklin are the two least populated townships.   Two-thirds of the population in Indianapolis lives north of Washington Street which, for most of the county, is the north-south dividing line.   

Of the 25 Indianapolis City-County Council districts, the GOP controls just five southside districts. And that's not because of gerrymandering by Democrats. Republicans drew the council map.

Below is a look at several off-year election GOP baselines versus what it was during the presidential election year of 2020. 

The problem the Marion County GOP has is not a lack of quality candidates, but rather a lack of voters.  When Republican Greg Ballard won the Mayor's Office in 2007, he had a chance to rebuild the Marion County GOP grassroots including its partisan infrastructure.  For eight years, Ballard did exactly nothing toward that end.  Instead of embracing the anti-corporate welfare mantra that allowed him to score an upset over incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson, Ballard went the other direction, becoming just another mayor who put the interests of politically-connected developers and contractors ahead of the people.  The Marion County GOP is now paying a price for that blown opportunity.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Republican Anti-Vax Position is Literally Killing Off its Voters

Given his role in pushing the development of the Covid vaccine, then President Trump could have rightly claimed it as the major success he had in office.  After severely bungling his handling of Covid for months, missteps that cost thousands of Americans their lives, Trump had finally scored a touchdown.  He could spike the ball, honestly claiming that his efforts at pushing the vaccines saved lives.

Unfortunately for Trump, the touchdown came after time on the clock had run out. The first vaccine was approved on December 11, 2020, more than a month after Trump lost his bid for re-election.  Joe Biden would be the one in office as the vaccine began rolling out to the general population.

During the early days of the vaccine, African-Americans, younger Americans and rural Americans were the major demographic groups to express hesitancy on taking the vaccine.  But as Trump's role in pushing the vaccines across the finish line began to fade from memory, Republicans began seeing the vaccine as a Biden-Democratic development.  To Republicans, particularly Trump Republicans, anything associated with Democrats is inherently evil.  This is even more true when the policy can be (mis)cast as big government intruding on personal freedom. Of course, demonizing vaccines also feeds the Qanon crazy within the Republican Party.  

Over 91% of Democrats have received at least one vaccination shot. That compares to only 60% of Republicans.

In an article earlier this month, NPR reported on the partisan divide:

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That's according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.

NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who's been tracking partisanship trends during the pandemic and helped to review NPR's methodology. Those numbers have dropped slightly in recent weeks, Gaba says: "It's back down to around 5.5 times higher."

The trend was robust, even when controlling for age, which is the primary demographic risk of COVID-19 mortality. The data also reveal a major contributing factor to the death rate difference: The higher the vote share for Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

The analysis only looked at the geographic location of COVID-19 deaths. The exact political views of each person taken by the disease remains unknowable. But the strength of the association, combined with polling information about vaccination, strongly suggests that Republicans are being disproportionately affected.

Recent polling shows that partisanship is now this single strongest identifying predictor of whether someone is vaccinated. Polling also shows that mistrust in official sources of information and exposure to misinformation, about both COVID-19 and the vaccines, run high among Republicans.

"An unvaccinated person is three times as likely to lean Republican as they are to lean Democrat," says Liz Hamel, vice president of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank that tracks attitudes toward vaccination. Political affiliation is now the strongest indicator of whether someone is vaccinated, she says: "If I wanted to guess if somebody was vaccinated or not and I could only know one thing about them, I would probably ask what their party affiliation is."

While there are plenty of articles out there noting the Republican-Democrat split on vaccinations, there are scant few that discuss the political consequences of so many Republicans dying from Covid-19.  That's what this article attempts to do.

A quick note on my methodology.  Not every person who died of Covid was a voter.  Yet, those who have died tend to be older and older people vote at the highest rate of any age demographic. My analysis assumes 67% were voters.  As far as the partisan divide among those voters who died from Covid, I'm estimating that Rs outnumber Ds 2-1 (67% to 33%) which, I believe, is a fairly conservative estimate.

Arizona: While in 2018, incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey was winning re-election by more than 1.3 million votes, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was upsetting Republican Martha McSally by 55,900 votes.  Ducey, whose performance in a good Democratic year, was quite remarkable, is term limited and won't be running for re-election.  The Trump-endorsed and highly controversial former TV broadcaster Kari Lake is one of the leading Republican candidates.  In a late November poll Lake and another possible Republican nominee, former Congressman Matt Salmon, trailed current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and likely Democratic Senate nominee by several points.  Hobbs won her statewide office by just over 20,000 votes in 2018.  The 2022 Senate race features newcomer Democrat Senator Mark Kelly seeking his first full-term after winning a special election in 2020.  A late September poll had Kelly several points up in Arizona.  The Republican Party in Arizona has been struggling of late and needs every voter it can get.   

Arizona Covid Deaths: 23,816
Arizona Voters Who Died from Covid:  15,957
Arizona GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   10,691
Arizona Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   5,266
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Arizona:  5,425

Florida:  The Sunshine State tends to have much closer statewide races during non-presidential election years.  In 2018, Republican Ron DeSantis won the governorship by just 32,463 votes.  That same year, former Florida Governor Rick Scott beat incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by just 10,033 votes.  In 2022, DeSantis will be running for re-election as will Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. The trouble is Florida has been one of the states hit the hardest by Covid.  Florida has seen 62,193 Covid deaths.  

Florida Covid Deaths: 62,264
Florida Voters Who Died from Covid:  41,717
Florida GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   27,950
Florida Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  13,767
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Florida:  14,183

Georgia:  In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the governorship to Republican Brian Kemp by 54,723.  The year 2022 will feature not only feature Abrams making another attempt, but also a U.S. Senate race involving incumbent Raphael Warnock taking on quite possibly college football legend and Republican Herschel Walker.  

Georgia Covid Deaths: 31,124
Georgia Voters Who Died from Covid:  20,853
Georgia GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  13,972
Georgia Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  6,881
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Georgia:  7,091

Michigan:  The Wolverine state features only a Governor's race.  But with outspoken Trump foe, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on the ballot, it is likely to be a major target for Republicans.  Whitmer won by over 400,000 votes in 2018, but polling suggests it will be closer this time around.  

Michigan Covid Deaths: 28,344
Michigan Voters Who Died from Covid:  18,990
Michigan GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   12,724
Michigan Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   6,266
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Michigan:  6,458

Nevada:  Nevada is one of the few bluish states that has become more Republican in the Trump era.  Democrats won a U.S. Senate race in 2018 by nearly 49,000 votes and the Governor office by 40,000. Republicans look well positioned to pick up the Governor's Office and the Senate seat of Catherine Cortez Masto in what is likely to be a good Republican year.  

Nevada Covid Deaths: 8,354
Nevada Voters Who Died from Covid:  5,597
Nevada GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   3,750
Nevada Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   1,847
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Nevada:  1,903

New Hampshire:  The popular Republican governor of the New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, has declined to run against the incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.  Nonetheless, this New England state will be a target for a Republican senate pickup in 2022.  Hassan won her Senate seat in 2016 by just 1,017 votes.

New Hampshire Covid Deaths: 1,875
New Hampshire Voters Who Died from Covid:  1,256
New Hampshire GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   842
New Hampshire Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   414
Net Loss of Republican Votes in New Hampshire:  428

North Carolina:  North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is retiring.  Several Republicans are running to try to hold onto the seat.  The last comparable election year, 2018, did not feature a Governor or U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.  In 2014, Republican Thom Tillis defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan by 45,608.  In 2020, North Carolina split its election results, handing a victory to Donald Trump by 74,481 votes and Republican Senator Thom Tillis by 95,633, yet Democrat Roy Cooper won the Governor's office by nearly 250,000 votes.  

North Carolina Covid Deaths: 19,233
North Carolina Voters Who Died from Covid:  12,886
North Carolina GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   8,634
North Carolina Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   4,252
Net Loss of Republican Votes in North Carolina:  4,382

Ohio:   In the Buckeye state, if Republican Governor Mike DeWine can beat back an attack from Trump inspired candidates, he should win renomination and be a solid favorite to win re-election.  But the 2022 Senate race in Ohio is getting the lion's share of attention.  The two leading GOP candidates seem to be former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mendel and the author of Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance. Mendel and Vance are locked in a battle to be the Trumpiest candidate. The trouble is the ultimate GOP nominee will likely face off against Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan who is very much in the Senator Sherrod Brown, pro-labor wing of the Democratic Party.  Brown won re-election in 2018 by more than 300,000 votes.  

Ohio Covid Deaths: 28,277
Ohio Voters Who Died from Covid:  18,946
Ohio GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   12,694
Ohio Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   6,252
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Ohio:  6,442

Pennsylvania:  The Keystone State will be a hotbed of political activity in 2022.  The key battleground is the Senate race where Democrats are trying to pick up a seat thanks in no small part to the retirement of popular Republican Senator Pat Toomey.   But Pennsylvania's election will also feature a battle for Governor.  As Republicans control the Pennsylvania legislature, Democrats winning the Governor's race is critical. 

Pennsylvania Covid Deaths: 35,783
Pennsylvania Voters Who Died from Covid:  23,975
Pennsylvania GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   16,063
Pennsylvania Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  7,912
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Pennsylvania:  8,151

Wisconsin:  The 2022 midterms will feature a U.S. Senate race.  Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson has not announced if he will be running for re-election.  Johnson has embraced a number of Covid conspiracy theories and is likely to be a major target for Democrats.  Wisconsin Democrats though have a problem of their own in Governor Tony Evers who will be running for re-election as an unpopular incumbent running in what is likely to be a good Republican year.

Wisconsin Covid Deaths: 10,894
Wisconsin Voters Who Died from Covid:  7,299
Wisconsin GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   4,890
Wisconsin Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   2,409
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Wisconsin:  2,481

CONCLUSION:  It does not seem that Covid deaths costing Republicans potential Senate seats and Governor's offices is yet likely.  But the election is still 10 1/2 months away.  If the trends continue, it is highly possible, maybe even likely, that the anti-vaccination position of many Republican voters could cost the Republicans a Senate seat or Governor's office in one of the aforementioned battleground states.  One would think Republican officials would be doing everything they could to ensure that their voters are vaccinated so they are around to vote in the 2022 midterms.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Duplicity of Fox Opinion Hosts on Full Display

The text messages sent to then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows by Fox News opinion hosts are revealing:   

“Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home…this is hurting all of us…he is destroying his legacy,” Laura Ingraham wrote.

“Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,” Brian Kilmeade wrote. 

“Can he make a statement?…Ask people to leave the Capitol,” Sean Hannity urged.

Laura Ingraham

While Ingraham, Kilmeade and Hannity are opinion and not news hosts, they don't have carte blanche to disregard journalistic principles.  While their opinions are subjective in nature, they're not supposed to distort the facts upon which those opinions are based. This includes encouraging politicians to take certain actions.

At any other network, a host getting caught advising a prominent politician would get them fired, or at least suspended (ask Chris Cuomo).  At Fox, Ingraham, Kilmeade and Hannity are unlikely to even be reprimanded, though I could see their bosses telling them next time to use the phone to convey advice, not put it in writing.

The Fox hosts later went out and tried to spin the Insurrection as being done by Antifa, the FBI, or that it was mostly a peaceful protest.  However, the text messages reveal the Fox hosts knew the insurrectionists were Trump supporters and that Trump had the power to end the violent melee.  Trump, of course, chose not to do that.

OOP's short takes:

  • The coverup continues. This time the insurrection coverup participant is John Eastman, the attorney who tried to aid Trump in stealing the 2020 election by offering the asinine legal theory that VP Mike Pence had the unilateral authority to prohibit certain slates of electoral votes from being counted. 
  • Eastman has sued Verizon to prevent the carrier from turning over cell phone data to the January 6th Commission.  Eastman cites numerous reasons, including attorney-client privilege.  Of course, as all attorneys know, attorney-client privilege does not cover all communications an attorney has.  Further, the privilege belongs to the client, not to the attorney.  It is not clear how Eastman continues to have a law license (or a job at Claremont Institute) given his extra-judicial, unethical conduct.

Monday, December 6, 2021

As Trump and His Allies Work to Ensure Next Coup is Successful, Never Trumpers Express Their Own Skepticism About Democracy

The Atlantic piece this morning "Trump's Next Coup Has Already Begun," written by Barton Gellman caught my attention.  Here is how it begins:

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.

Who or what will safeguard our constitutional order is not apparent today. It is not even apparent who will try. Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.

For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.


By way of foundation for all the rest, Trump and his party have convinced a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made-up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response.

Gellman's piece highlights what I've been warning about.  While Democrats are obsessed with minor changes in how votes are cast, Trump and his allies are working behind the scenes to ensure they control the counting and certification of those votes in 2024.  In 2020, Trump's attempt to steal the election was thwarted by some well-placed local, state and national Republicans who refused to cheat and did their jobs honestly even though doing so resulted in someone they did not support, Joe Biden, becoming President.  Those appointed and elected Republicans are being systematically replaced by Trump allies who promise next time will be different.  If there is one thing that Donald Trump and his supporters have proven is that they have no allegiance to democratic self-rule.   In fact, they openly admire autocrats and their ability to enact policies without having to bow to the will of the majority.

Maybe the word is starting to get out.  Reportedly, the January 6th Select Committee is considering changes to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the poorly written law that was key to Trump allies' unsuccessful effort to steal the 2016 election for the now ex-President.

I have always been a Never Trump Republican.  In 2015, I viewed Trump as a buffoon, a failed and dishonest businessman who didn't have the intelligence, background or temperament to be on a school board, much less President of the United States.  Trump's tenure in office proved my perception about the reality show star to be 100% correct.  But one thing I didn't see in Trump's background was his utter disdain for the Constitution and democratic self-government.  Worse yet, he has now turned 1/3 of Americans against the guiding principles of the American Republic.

As a Never Trumper, I find myself allied temporarily with Democrats to save American democracy from those Trumpers who desperately want to gut our current form of government and replace it with an autocracy.  But one thing I've learned is that my side has its own misgivings about democratic self-rule.  During a recent Beg to Differ podcast I heard Never Trumper Bill Kristol express strong reservations about turning the abortion decision back to elected legislatures because, unlike when Roe was handed down in 1973, he no longer trusts those democratic bodies to reach responsible compromises regarding the issue.  Other Never Trumpers have expressed the same sentiments.  And Democrats?  Well Democrats have always preferred rule by unelected federal judges as long as those judges are enacting the policies they prefer. 

Granted it is a far worse offense against democracy to try to rig the counting of ballots to achieve a certain electoral outcome as Trumpers want.  But Never Trumpers' hands are not clean if they support autocratic self-rule by judges over having policy matters being decided by democratically-elected representatives.

OOP's short takes:

  • Former Senator David Perdue has announced he is running in the GOP primary against Governor Brian Kemp.  Perdue has secured the blessings of former President Donald Trump who believes Kemp didn't do enough to reverse the Georgia election result which favored Biden.   The irony is that Perdue was also accused of not doing enough to help Trump.  Further, Trump actions in discouraging Republicans going to the polls probably resulted in Perdue's defeat in the January run-off.
  • The Michigan parents of the kid who did the shooting have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.  I would like to see them charged with something, preferably a felony, but involuntary manslaughter seems like a reach.  The problem is Michigan doesn't seem to have a felony on the books that would have covered their reckless behavior.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Stacey Abrams Holds a Trump Card in Her Run for Georgia Governor

Okay, I have to admit I was wrong.  I said Stacey Abrams would not reprise her 2018 run for Governor of Georgia.  Yesterday, she announced she is running for Governor again.  

My reasoning that Abrams would not run again was based on my observation that successful politicians generally do not like to take chances.  While Abrams did not win in 2018, she was widely praised for her voter registration effort and for significantly closing the R-D gap in Georgia.  To run again in 2022 would mean taking a big risk.   

Losing two big races can pretty much end a promising politician's career.  Take Michigan's John James for example.  In 2018, the Republican ran against incumbent Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.  In a bad Republican year, he lost by 6.5% a fairly strong performance.  So, he ran for Senate again in 2020, this time against a weaker Democratic opponent, Gary Peters.  James lost again, this time by 1.7%.  While his political career might not be over, overcoming being a two-time loser will be difficult for James.

Abrams was on the ballot in 2018, an extremely good year for Democratic candidates.   She lost to Republican Brian Kemp by 1.4%, or about 55,000 votes.  Abrams will be on the ballot again in 2022, which is likely to be a good Republican year.  It's going to be difficult to duplicate her 2018 effort. One thing you learn in politics is the importance of timing.  A rising tide lifts all boats.  A good Republican year in 2018 will lift Governor Kemp's boat.  And there is nothing Abrams can do to stop that.

But Abrams has a Trump card.  No doubt Abrams is depending on the former President attacking Kemp so harshly that he fatally injures the Governor with the GOP base.  Trump might even cause Kemp to lose a primary, giving Abrams an easier primary opponent.  Trump has already indicated a preference for Abrams over Kemp who he feels wronged him by not helping him steal the Georgia election.  

For the record, I'm no Stacey Abrams fan.  I do admire her work registering voters and building out the Democratic infrastructure in Georgia.  But Abrams has also been perpetuating her own version of The Big Lie, claiming that Kemp and Republicans used voter suppression to steal the 2018 gubernatorial contest from her.  In fact, 2018 featured heavy Democratic turnout and record African-American turnout in Georgia.  Abrams to this day will not concede the 2018 gubernatorial race, despite losing Georgia by three times the margin that Trump lost the state.  Most of the media have allowed her to peddle, without demanding any proof, the nonsense that Republicans stole the governorship from her.

If Abrams does get elected Georgia Governor it will almost certainly be because of Donald Trump.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Can Beto O'Rourke Win the Texas Governor's Race?

Over the weekend, Matthew McConaughey announced he will not be a candidate in the 2022 Texas Governor's race.   A couple of recent polls actually showed McConaughey with a solid lead over incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott.  The cynic in me says that McConaughey's several week flirtation with the race might have been more about reviving a lagging acting career than a serious interest in politics.  

Nonetheless, McConaughey's departure from the political scene leaves former Congressman Beto O'Rourke as the likely Democratic nominee.  O'Rourke earned substantial attention in running a much closer than expected race against Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018.   In that election, O'Rourke lost to Cruz by just 200,000 votes, a 2.6% deficit.  That contrasts to 2012 when Cruz defeated his Democratic opponent by 1.3 million votes, nearly a 16% margin.

In facing off against Cruz, O'Rourke proved highly skilled in raising money from the Democratic base, while wrapping his more liberal views in a moderate package acceptable to Texans. Many Republican-leaning voters, alienated by Cruz's increasingly extreme antics in the Senate, proved eager to cross over for Beto.

The same year Beto was losing to Cruz by 200,000 votes, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was crushing his Democratic opponent by 1.1 million, 13.3%.

There is no doubt Texas is quickly becoming a purple state.  In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney beat President Obama in Texas by nearly 16%.  Four years later, Trump won Texas by 9 points.  Then in 2020, Trump's victory margin in Texas was down to about 5.5%.  Texas is likely to be among the swing states in 2024 and if it goes blue, the Democrats are going to fall in love with the Electoral College...again.  That assumes, of course, that GOP-dominated state legislatures do not start overturning presidential popular votes that favor Democratic presidential candidates.  That is a real possibility.

At the outset of his governorship, Abbott presented himself as a thoughtful conservative.  Those days are long gone.  Abbott, at least in part to fend off a primary challenge from Trump crazies like former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, has gone crazy himself, embracing the most extreme policies he can find.  Abbott's popularity is now below Cruz's.  According to the Texas Politics Project, University of Texas at Austin, Cruz has a job approval rating of -1% while Greg Abbott's is -5%.

So, given Texas' increasing purple hue and Abbott's falling popularity, Beto should be well positioned to win the Governor's race, right?  Well, here's the thing.  After his impressive 2018 run, Beto decided to run for President.  To appeal to Democratic voters, he set aside the moderate Texas persona he had cultivated and ran far to the left.  The Democratic faithful was not amused by Beto's disingenuous political maneuver and soundly rejected his candidacy.  

Now Beto wants to return to his political roots to sell himself once again to Texas voters as a thoughtful moderate.  Apparently, Beto doesn't think independent and the Republican leaning voters who supported him in 2018 will remember his adoption of Bernie Sanders-esque policies in his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination. That strategy doesn't appear to be right.  In contrast to the McConaughey-Abbott polls which show the actor with a strong lead over the unpopular Governor, Beto-Abbott polls show the Democrat running several points behind.  Texans don't seem inclined to buy Beto as the thoughtful moderate.  As 2022 is likely to be a good Republican year, it is difficult to see how Beto O'Rourke takes office as Texas Governor in 2023.