The Direction Of The Wind…

It is certainly possible that I am engaging in the confirmation bias I constantly warn others about, but I recently read an essay recommended by Robert Hubbell, whose Substack newsletter I get, and I found it persuasive. It was titled “The Wind Has Changed,” and–assuming the accuracy of its observations–ought to give aid and comfort to citizens terrified of  MAGA victories this November.

Here are a few of those observations, written just after the House agreed to vote on the much-delayed assistance to Ukraine. The essay charted changes that–as Hubbell often cautions–should make us hopeful but not complacent.

The MAGA movement got splintered last night, and I for one don’t think they have the skill to put Humpty-Dumpty together again. (How’s that for mixed metaphors? Good?)

For one thing, J.D. Vance, Moscow Marge, and the rest of the Space Laser Putin Caucus, got thrown under the bus by Fearless Leader last night – who may not be able to do much, but he can read polls. He knows the wind has shifted, that the wind is filling the sails and we are beginning to move out of The Doldrums. He knows he’s losing control.

After last night, Ukraine aid will pass. Mike Johnson and Mitch McConnell braved the FART (Floor Action Response Team) of the Space Laser Putin Caucus and Did The Right Thing.

Trump gave Mike Johnson and Mitch McConnell the green light, while at the same time casting J.D. Vance, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and the rest of the Russia Traitors over the side.

The essential line of Trump’s “Truthing” post last night is this: “As everyone agrees, Ukraine Survival and Strength should be much more important to Europe than to us, but it is also important to us!”

He’s not doing this because he cares about Ukraine; he’s doing this because the polls are shifting; he needs fewer hassles. The wind is changing.

As the essay notes, Trumpism – “particularly its J.D. Vance-led German-American Bund Putinism” – is pessimistic. Trump and what the writer aptly dubs the “Space Laser Caucus” constantly tell supporters “We need to retreat, withdraw, hide, and let regional warlords like Putin reign over as much territory as they can seize.”

But constant pessimism has a sell-by date.

MAGA broke something in the House. Retirements are up. Swing seats are in danger. The endless infighting has soured many “normie” Republicans on the Space Laser Caucus and their strategy of screaming, throwing feces like a rabid monkey in a zoo, and all the performative lying. Even in the right-wing media bubble, the act has gotten old.

Fox has had enough of Marjorie Traitor Goon’s tantrums, her unearned sense of entitlement, and her political terrorism.

The perverse incentives of MAGA rewarded the Space Laser Caucus while leaving the rest – or at least those not representing the most ruby-red districts – fearing electoral survival this fall.

It turns out that shitting in the punchbowl is unwelcome over time. The tell is that Fox has slowly stopped booking the MAGA clowns while Rupert and Lachlan try to find and anoint the Next Star after their major fakakte with DeSantis.

The author points to the likely defeats of crazy caucus members Gaetz and Boebert, and asserts that the House GOP is staring down the barrel of a political gun.

Happy warriors like Jamie Raskin, Jared Moskowitz, Eric Swalwell, Jasmine Crockett and others know who is in charge in the House now.

Chuck Schumer managed to keep his caucus together, pulling in some GOP support, as the Senate schooled the Space Laser Caucus about their impeachment clown show of the House. No high drama; just procedural murder

What has been going on at 100 Centre Street in New York City, where Trump is finally facing the prospect of justice for his crimes in a case that now is seen as far more important than it was originally, is also a good sign the tide and wind are changing.

Here in Indiana, the disarray of the GOP is seen daily by those of us bombarded by the increasingly nasty, unhinged accusations being leveled by Republicans running for Governor. Anyone who thinks that these candidates  will smile and play nice after the primary is smoking something. Meanwhile, Senate candidate Jim Banks may no longer have a primary opponent, but his membership in the Space Laser Caucus and his constant support of unpopular bills–ranging from a national ban on abortion with no exceptions to his recent bill to defund NPR–suggest that he is far, far to the Right of most Hoosier Republicans. In contrast, for once, Indiana Democrats are working together and fielding a first-rate statewide ticket.

Even in Indiana, the wind is shifting.


November Danger Signal

There is nothing that makes my heart drop down to my knees more quickly than a headline that reads “Trump Gets Some Good Election News.” But that was a Politico headline a week or so ago, and it was and is very troubling.

Late last month, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that while new voter registrations had plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who were registering in competitive states tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before.

When he saw the numbers, Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, said he “got nervous,” and other Democratic-leaning groups felt the same.

The report seemed to confirm what state elections officials and voter registration groups had been seeing in the field for weeks: Neither Democrats nor Republicans had been registering many voters during the pandemic. But Democrats were suffering disproportionately from the slowdown.

Unlike countries like Australia, America doesn’t have mandatory voting. If U.S. voters want to ignore the political process, if we want to leave the outcome up to those most passionate about it, if we just don’t care and want to stay home, we can. One of the reasons polls can so often be misleading is that pollsters have to make educated guesses about who will actually show up on election day.

Unlike a lot of countries, America doesn’t have a national agency that administers federal elections, either. Election day isn’t a national holiday–it isn’t even on a weekend–and very few states have made it easier, rather than harder, to register and vote. Add to that the GOP’s determination to use every suppression method it can muster–including some recent “enthusiastic” purges of the voter registration rolls– and the fact that a substantial majority of Americans want Donald Trump and the GOP defeated becomes irrelevant.

As one political observer puts it, “The electoral dynamics have already hardened. Donald Trump will lose if everyone who wants to vote can. His remaining hope is to choose his own electorate.”

In our system, what matters isn’t what a majority of Americans think or want. What matters is who shows up.  

November has always been about turnout. Democrats need to turn out a blue wave–a blue tsunami–if voters are going to decisively defeat Trumpism. Whatever happens in the wake of such a defeat–further erosion and ultimate disappearance of the cult that was once the GOP, or a thorough housecleaning by the sane remnant–is less important than the decisiveness with which we defeat the corrupt and traitorous cabal that currently controls the White House and the Senate.

That tsunami cannot happen if Democratic registrations lag.

We know that Trump’s cult will show up at the polls. If rational Americans don’t register and vote in numbers sufficient to overwhelm them, we can kiss America goodby.

As Politico concluded:

The months-long lull in registration, at a minimum, has added an additional measure of uncertainty to the fall campaign, muddying the likely composition of the electorate. In some areas of the country, a swing of even several hundred voters could tilt the registration balance on Election Day.

Ask everyone you know whether they are registered. If they aren’t–or don’t know–get them registered. In Indiana, you–and they–can check whether they are registered by going here.

We can’t afford to let the polls lull us into false complacency. Again.


Odds and Ends

Today, rather than discussing a single topic, I thought I’d post a couple of observations that are related to some of the previous month’s discussions.

Russia. A fairly common response to the media’s focus on the Russia investigation–especially but not exclusively from supporters of Trump and/or the GOP–is that it is unlikely that Russian interference made a difference in the outcome, so why the big obsession with it?

Unless it turns out that Russia hackers actually changed vote totals, I tend to agree that the efforts probably didn’t change the election results. That said, let me respond to the “then why the fuss” question with an analogy.

Let’s say you own a company. Your internal auditor comes to you with evidence that one of the bookkeepers tried to embezzle from the corporation’s account, but was unsuccessful. Would you breathe a sigh of relief, and go about your business as usual? Or would prudence dictate that you investigate in order to find out what was attempted and why, so that you could 1) add safeguards to be sure the account is protected in the future; 2) determine whether the bookkeeper was acting on her own or in concert with other employees; and 3) inquire into management practices that may have given the impression that embezzlement was possible–or that so angered an otherwise good employee that she felt no compunction trying to steal from the company?

I should also note that success of a venture isn’t the key to whether it’s right or wrong. (If you try to kill someone and fail, you’re still guilty of attempted murder.)

Joe Donnelly. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly is a big disappointment. (Not as big a disappointment as Fifth District Representative Susan Brooks, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Even conceding that he’s an Indiana Democrat and thus will need independent and even a few Republican votes, he’s been really bad on issues I care a lot about. That said, I will still vote for him in November, and you should too.  We don’t get to choose between perfect and not-perfect. Mike Braun, the Republican candidate, is dramatically, unacceptably worse. But even if Braun weren’t a self-satisfied, self-described “Trumper,” a vote for him would be a vote for Mitch McConnell–aka the most evil man in America– to continue leading the Senate.

The odds of the Democrats winning control of the Senate aren’t good, but if there is a blue “wave,” it is possible. In order for that to happen, however, we have to elect every Senate candidate who has a “D” next to his or her name–and that definitely includes Joe Donnelly. (And to be fair, he does support a progressive agenda about half the time–which is half more than Braun would do.) Think of it this way: a vote for Donnelly is really a vote against Mitch McConnell.

The Democrats and America’s myriad imperfections. A number of commenters to this blog have railed against the imperfections and misdeeds of the Democratic Party. I agree with some–hell, a lot– of those criticisms, just as I agree that any accurate history of this country documents a whole host of failures to live up to our national ideals. I also recognize that today’s America is more plutocracy than liberal democracy, and that needs to change.

What really drives me nuts about purists, however, is the naiveté. (Assuming, that is, that they truly want to effect change, and aren’t just satisfied parading their moral superiority.) In real life, making the perfect the enemy of the good simply rewards the bad. (See discussion of Donnelly election, above.) The Democrats are very imperfect. Today’s GOP is many multiples worse. Our choice is between not-so-good and demonstrably horrible.

Any honest look at history confirms that sustainable progress is incremental. If we can move from horrible to not-so-great (but a hell of a lot better) in November, we can get to work making the systemic and cultural changes that need to occur if we are to have any hope of salvaging democratic governance–not to mention the planet, the economy, the  justice system and public education.

If the purists stay home, and we don’t dislodge the horribles, we’re toast.