Wednesday, March 3, 2021

BTRTN: Biden Back Better – The Political Maturation of Joe Biden

Tom with the BTRTN February 2021 Month in Review.

There were countless times in the 2020 election cycle – particularly in 2019 – when one had to wonder whether Joe Biden was through as a politician.  The archetypal 20th century pol, the back-slapping, glad-handing, square-jawed, touch-too-much, loosed-lipped white male, Biden seemed woefully out of place in the early campaign months.  And it showed, particularly at the ballot box – if Biden could not crack the top three in the hallowed grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the country, how could he possibly have what it takes in these spectacularly diverse times?

Even after Jim Clyburn stuck his neck out for Biden, delivering a huge win in South Carolina, and propelling Biden to the nomination, the doubts continued.  Bernie Sanders attacked Biden from the left, and Donald Trump made much of Biden’s supposed cognitive decline, a falsehood that was nevertheless reinforced by the traces of Biden’s lifelong stuttering problem and his inability to inspire anything beyond faint praise.  The most powerful argument for Biden was that he was inoffensive in the Midwest.

But the Joe Biden who is now the President of the United States is not that man.  Rather, Biden is making a stunning case for the lifelong potential for personal growth.  It turns out that Joe Biden, at 78, is not past his prime at all – he is in it.  In his first 40 days in office, Biden has met the moment with a sure-footed display of empathy, pragmatism and outright leadership that has been breathtaking to watch. 

And what a moment!  Biden was faced with a dismal platter, unlike any faced by a predecessor since FDR.  A nation ravaged by COVID, with a new peak in cases and deaths in the very month he was inaugurated.  A briefly buoyed economy now backsliding under the weight of that surge.  A nation more divided than at any point since at least Vietnam, but more likely since 1865.  And a country traumatized by an attack on our Capitol inspired by Biden’s predecessor, who promulgated the most dangerous, destabilizing, democracy-threatening lies (including The Big Lie) ever uttered by a President – ever.

Biden has met each of these crises head on and, while not without a blemish or two, his efforts have been not only gaffe-free but extraordinarily effective.  The worst thing that has happened to date have involved neither words nor actions, but rather in his goal-setting.  He arguably set the bar too low with respect to vaccine distribution, and too high with respect to school re-openings.  That, and a failure in one cabinet nomination (Neera Tanden for Budget), is it.  Far from the image of Uncle Joe, Biden has been graceful and adroit, appearing to be unfazed and in control, even while expressing humility in the face of his challenges.

On the policy front, Biden has danced rather nimbly on a tightrope, with impatient progressives on one end, arch conservatives on the other and, with a 50/50 split in the Senate, absolutely no margin for error.  How could Biden possibly thread that needle?  The first big test – the crown jewel of his first 100 days – has been his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the “American Rescue Plan,” which passed the House last week and is now with the Senate.  The package includes extensions of jobless benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans crushed by a COVID-ravaged economy, $1,400 checks for those eligible, aid for state and local governments and small businesses, increased support for COVID testing and vaccinations, and much more. 

Biden’s playbook has included, on the one hand, an outreach to the GOP, and on the other, engagement  with the left, particularly in their push for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour (the current minimum was of $7.25 was last set in 2009).  Biden rather artfully met in the Oval Office with a set of more moderate Republicans, 10 of them who supported a far smaller ($600 billion) package, ten being the number of GOP votes required, with 50 Democrats, to pass the package without either a filibuster or using the partisan-busting reconciliation method.  When that proved to be a futile exercise -- Biden had no interest in going small -- Biden moved on to the reconciliation method, and simply redefined “bipartisan” not in terms of GOP congressional support, but rather with the general public, as polling indicated that roughly two-thirds of Americans supported his package, including anywhere from a third to half of the GOP.

For the left, Biden signaled early that while he supported the minimum wage increase, he had doubts it would make the final package.  The bottom line is that with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona opposed to the $15 level, the provision simply did not have the votes.  And here Biden received some cover from the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled the minimum wage could not be raised via reconciliation.  This type of jostling is in Biden’s wheelhouse, and he should emerge with his signature on this bill on March 14, which would become his first major victory.

New COVID cases and COVID deaths dropped sharply in February, the former by 63%, from 5.6 million in January to 2.1 million in February, the latter down 35% from 104,000 to 68,000.  Perhaps Biden’s call for greater mask-wearing vigilance found a willing audience after months of dramatic and deadly surging.  Biden gave his team of professionals freedom to tout the science and develop new plans for mitigation and vaccine distribution.  As of now, we are well on the way to exceeding Biden’s rather low bar goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office (in 40 days, we are now at 75 million doses).  The bill, of course, is his main COVID bid, but he has pushed hard to increase and improve vaccination distribution, and a deal his Administration brokered to have pharmaceutical giant Merck, shut out of the vaccine game, begin to manufacture J&J’s vaccine, and is an example of his resourcefulness.

Biden’s approach to foreign policy has been slightly nuanced.  The most visible of his early actions were simple teardowns of Trump policies (which in turn were rather mindless teardowns of Obama/Biden actions).  This included reinstating U.S. participation in the Paris climate accords, reaffirming U.S. commitment to NATO, and an attempt to reinvent the U.S./Iran nuclear deal.  More broadly, Biden has talked up the importance of our longstanding European alliances, and has taken a far harder line with Russia. 

But Biden has also largely supported Trump’s tough stance on China, though he will likely differ on tactics.  A prime example of the Biden approach are the positions he has taken with Saudi Arabia.  He quickly scuttled Trump’s arms deals with the Saudi’s and withdrew U.S. support of the Saudi war on Yemen.  But, like Trump, he refused to punish the Saudi’s for de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman’s role in approving the killing of U.S. journalist Jamal Khoshoggi.  

First and foremost, Biden wants to pursue a cautious foreign policy, renouncing Trump’s “America First” approach and reinstating America’s primacy in the world, but not setting off any fireworks so that he can rightly focus on his massive domestic priorities.  One aspect of this is Biden’s inclination to reduce focus on the Middle East, which was a massive, dominant sphere in both the Bush and Obama administrations – an unpredictable one at best, and a quagmire at worst.  

Some Democrats have chafed at the pace of confirmations of the Biden Cabinet, which has lagged those of his predecessors.  Those critics have seemed to have forgotten the delaying effects of the unexpected Georgia Senate wins, the disorder of the Trump transition, and the impact of the Trump trial on Senate business.  Biden had to pull the Neera Tanden nomination, but he just might get the rest, a record certainly in line with his predecessors, accomplished in a far more contentious times with that 50/50 Senate.  If the Tanden defeat – a classic “inside the Beltway” drama that has little import or impact beyond the DC zip code – makes the “worst” list for Biden, he is doing well indeed.

Biden has shown a sure hand in assuming the mantel of “empathizer-in-chief” for the nation, a role that fits him as well as it ill-suited Trump.  Building on the memorial in the Mall on the night before his Inaugural, Biden led another memorial when the death toll from COVID reached half a million Americans.  This was beautifully staged on the Southern Portico of the White House, bedecked with 500 candles lining the stairs, one candle for every 1,000 Americans who have died from COVID.  This was, of course, the very setting where Trump cynically ripped off his mask after returning from Walter Reed Hospital while recovering from his bout of COVID. 

Biden’s words carried the depth of feeling that only a fellow survivor could share:  “I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens.  I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as they look in your eye and they slip away. That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”  For all of Trump’s love for spectacle, the Biden White House has shown an incredible facility for staging wonderful events.  And with his moving words, Biden did well in his first full month in maintaining some of the poetry while naturally also transitioning to policy prose.

Perhaps our narrowed world does indeed suit Biden perfectly, as it did in the general election campaign, limiting his exposure, focusing his messages, minimizing the opportunities for him to make off-script mistakes.  But while that may be true, the feeling here is that his performance is better explained as Biden simply rising to the moment, with the breadth of his life and political experiences coming together at this harrowing time – a man whose life has been shaped by decades of personal pain and face-to-face negotiations here and abroad.  Biden is ready, and he is moving at the just the right pace.  It is a sign of his sure-handedness that nobody is completely happy, yet everyone is following his lead.

Biden’s ascendency, for better or worse, was bound to shove Trump to the sidelines, and Trump has been decidedly quiet, even accounting for his eviction from mainstream social media.  But there are too many storylines related to Trump, including his continued dominance of the GOP, his pending legal troubles and, of course, this last month, his impeachment, for him to disappear.

The impeachment trial found American politics at its most cynical, which is quite a statement.  Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which involved backroom dealing that deeply offended, essentially, diplomatic norms, this impeachment was a front-and-center assault on our democracy with plenty of visual evidence.  The House managers did an extraordinary job making the case that, from beginning to end.  They clearly proved that Trump was guilty not merely of inciting the attack, but also of laying the groundwork for it, first with The Big Lie but also, specifically, in convening the faithful in Washington on January 6, the certification date.  And, perhaps most damning, they showed how, once the insurrection was underway, Trump not only took no steps to stop it, expressed no concern for the safety and welfare of Mike Pence, or members of Congress, or the various police forces on the front lines – he actively took joy in the efforts of his thugs. 

But GOP Senators simply relied on an argument that was not only disproven – that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional – while either dodging the merits or agreeing that Trump was guilty on them.  The unconstitutional argument had three easy retorts:  there was a clear precedent for dealing with someone who had left office (the Belknap case in 1985); the matter was hardly moot, given that Trump’s future was on the line given that after a conviction, the Senate could (and almost certainly would) vote to permanently bar him from office; and the matter of the “January Exception,” that any president could do what they wanted in their last month in office if they had no fear of impeachment.

But only seven GOP Senators joined with the Democrats, in and of itself an impressive, if insufficient tally.  Others, notably Mitch McConnell, excoriated Trump even while voting to acquit him.  McConnell’s actions perhaps defined Washington at its most cynical.  He essentially said he agreed that Trump was guilty, but believed the Senate had no role to play given his “former president” status, while blithely overlooking the fact that McConnell himself could have begun the trial while Trump was still in office, but instead kicked the can down the road to post-Inauguration.

With his acquittal, Trump began his comeback.  The wing of the party that is fighting to get past Trump, the McConnell/Lynn Cheney/Mitt Romney/John Kasich faction, could not leverage the moment into an all-out break, but they remain defiant and of material size and influence.  Trump’s primary enablers, led by Kevin McCarthy, are likely going to find that Trump is far more interested in punishing his GOP defectors in Congress than winning battleground seats held by Democrats.  Indeed, if Trump is successful in primarying his GOP enemies with more conservative Trumpsters, his involvement may actually backfire, as centrist districts may prefer Democrats.  But that is down the road.

For now, with his CPAC speech on Sunday, Trump is back, lashing out at this enemies, ripping Biden’s policies, hinting broadly at his 2024 plans.  His embrace by CPAC and the many 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls there – plus most of the others in the party – clearly demonstrates that the GOP remains deeply committed to Trump at its core.  This is a strategy that lost them the House, Senate and White House in four short years.  But that seems to be understood only by McConnell, Cheney and a few others.

Almost certainly will come a slew of Trump rallies across red state America.

But he better schedule those rallies carefully, because the courts beckon.  Trump is facing a dizzying array of legal battles that will compete with his Vengeance Tour for time and attention.  There is New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance both poking at his finally-fully-released tax records, looking for fraud, inflated valuations for securing loans while devaluing the same assets for tax purposes.  James’ case is a civil one, while Vance’s is a criminal one, and could be broarder.  There is Georgia Attorney General investigating Trump’s role in defrauding Georgia voters, with Exhibit A being Trump’s phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding, under threat of lawsuits, that he find enough votes to overturn the Georgia outcome.  And, of course, there are also potential charges related to Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.

Biden has basically ignored Trump.  He took no position in the Senate trial, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki makes it clear that the “former president” and his critiques are of no interest to the White House.  Biden himself referred to Trump as the “former guy,” a sentiment that was expressed in a “Biden Back Better” moment.

 

MONTHLY MADNESS

Trump has left office but we have decided to keep our BTRTN “Monthly Madness” feature because there are just too many opportunities to pass up.  This month was easy:  Ted Cruz heading off for a quick vacation with his family in Cancun while his fellow Texans suffered brutally due to a shutdown of Texas’s private power grid.  This resulted in no electricity and no water for millions.  Cruz was caught by the social media brigade on the flight to Cancun, forcing him to scurry back and make a series of, firstly, pitiful defenses and then, finally, some mea culpas.

The surprise here is not the lack of empathy and humanity exhibited by Cruz.  That is to be expected from Cruz, a man who zealously licks the boots of a man, Trump, who savaged his wife for her looks and implicated his father falsely in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. 

What is surprising is Cruz’s lack of political savvy in seeing that his flight from Texas was bound to be discovered and would play very poorly in his state (and elsewhere).  Cruz obviously cuddles up to Trump for political expediency – he wants to inherit Trump’s base – and thus has long exhibited a finely-tuned, self-interested political antennae.   How it failed him in CancunGate is a mystery.

 

TRUMP AND BIDEN APPROVAL RATINGS

Joe Biden maintained his 55% approval rating in February, though his disapproval rating rose (and thus his net shrank) a bit. 

 

BIDEN APPROVAL RATING

 

2021

 

Jan

Feb

Approval

55

55

Disapproval

34

38

Net

21

17

 

HOW BIDEN IS HANDLING COVID-19

The same dynamic was at work with the public view of how Biden is handling COVID-19.  But his approval rating on this measure was even stronger than overall, and his negatives even less.

BIDEN HANDLING OF COVID-19

 

2021

 

Jan

Feb

Approve

59

59

Disapprove

25

33

Net

34

26


BIDENOMETER

In these early days of the Biden Administration, it is too soon to see his full impact on the economy.  The “Bidenometer” was at zero at month’s end, unchanged from when Trump left.

As a reminder, this measure is designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  We reset the Bidenometer at this Inaugural to zero, to better demonstrate whether the economy performs better or worse under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

This exclusive BTRTN measure is comprised of five indicative data points:  the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP.  The measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from one period to another.

Thus far, we are 40 days in, and there has been only modest changes on all the measures.  The slight downturn in the Dow and rise in gas prices have been offset by a rise in consumer confidence and a dip in the unemployment rate.  These have offset, and thus the needle has not moved.  Obviously, more time will have to pass before we can take the measure seriously as a determinant of the economy’s performance under Biden’s stewardship.

Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, you can see from the chart below that under Clinton the measure ended at 55.  It declined from 55 to 8 under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then rose from 8 to 33 under Obama’s recovery.  Under Trump, it fell again, from 33 to 0, driven by COVID-19.  Now we will see how it does under Biden.

 

Presidents >>>

Clinton

Bush

Obama

Trump

Biden

Measures (all as of last day of term, except GDP which is rolling last 12 months)

End Clinton  1/20/2001

End Bush 1/20/2009

End Obama 1/20/2017

End Trump 1/20/2021 (base = 0)

Biden February 2021

Bidenometer (Now) >>>

55

8

33

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Unemployment Rate

4.2

7.8

4.7

6.7

6.3

  Consumer Confidence

129

38

114

89

91

  Price of Gas

1.27

1.84

2.44

2.46

2.72

  Dow Jones

10,588

8,281

19,732

31,188

30,932

  GDP (last 12 months)

3.9

2.2

1.4

-3.5

-3.5

 

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Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.

Monday, February 22, 2021

BTRTN: The Lone Star-ving State... Was This The Week Texas Turned Blue?

Are the people in Texas not suffering enough without having to tolerate the endless incompetence, hypocrisy, and tone-deaf human depravity of their Republican leaders? Steve thinks it is time that Texas turns blue… Beto late than never.

 

It was one of those days of stunning juxtapositions that leave you slack-jawed at the agony and the ecstasy.

The day I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I felt a sense of genuine awe and wonder that in the span of one year, scientists had identified and understood  the virus, developed a vaccine, rigorously tested it, gained regulatory approvals, and then a supply chain had been built to manufacture it, distribute it, and get it into my arm. What a country!

Then I turned on the tv, and watched in horror as CNN flashed video of freezing, desperate people in Houston, Texas burning furniture to survive.

It was all too much… after four years of denial, deceit, political calculation, misinformation, polarization, hypocrisy, corruption, cruelty, racism, inequity, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance, violence, and insurrection, I sat numb as our nation neared its 500,000th COVID-19 death and our second largest state writhed in agony, operating under Dickensian conditions.

What a country.

What happened – and continues to happen -- in Texas is terrifying. Appalling. The week began with power outages and loss of heat in freezing conditions, with thermostats inside homes showing temperatures below 40 degrees. And yet the crisis managed to grow worse as the freezing temperatures refused to budge and the agony of frigid weather was exacerbated by food shortages and a dearth of potable water. Millions of Texans were forced to spend a week in utter misery that could only be relieved by rising temperatures.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the suffering inflicted by the weather was the behavior of the Republican leaders in Texas.

At the peak of the crisis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was on Fox News, saying “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.”

Somehow, I truly doubt that the freezing and infirm 86 year old grandmother in Big Spring leaned forward in her chair and said, “You tell’em, Sonny Boy! I am so glad that you are focused on getting the word out that A.O.C. and all those liberal commies will exacerbate the Federal deficit with their crazy schemes about saving the planet! Now excuse me while I burn my rocking chair.”

It would be one thing if Abbott was exploiting the suffering of his citizens to make an honest point about the perils of over-reliance on clean energy.  It rapidly surfaced, however, that the far, far bigger problem was that the weather impacted the flow of natural gas. Then it came out that Texas had made a decision to not invest in wind technology that could withstand freezing temperatures. Which is to say: had Texas invested in the proper equipment, the wind turbines would have continued to generate electricity where gas failed.

As the days passed and the stories emerged about what actually caused the massive chain of failures in the Texas power grid, we learned that the state’s famous aversion of Federal government interference and government regulation in general played a key role. The “privatized” power system is run by the “Electric Reliability Council of Texas,” which was specifically formed to ensure that electricity generated in Texas would not be transported across state lines, and therefore would not be subject to Federal jurisdiction or interference. The result? Texas is an electricity island, unconnected to any other states, and therefore unable to tap into national power resources at times of need.  

Regulations that would have required energy providers to winterize their equipment were “optional.” The next time someone asks you to give you an example of an oxymoron and you are tired of saying “jumbo shrimp,“ may I suggest “optional regulation?”

As so often happens, we are shocked by the devastation caused by a horrific “natural” disaster, only to learn that the far greater disaster was the human failure to anticipate problems and act pro-actively to prevent them. In fact, the storm in Texas was hardly unprecedented: prolonged freezing conditions in both 1989 and 2011 had resulted in widespread outages and recommendations that investments be made to winterize equipment. While some parts of Texas – notably El Paso -- heeded this advice, most did not.

It would be unfair to offload the full blame for the actions and inactions that led to last week’s acute misery on one party. Indeed, the decision to operate the Texas power grid independently dates back to 1935.  A state that prides itself on small government, minimal regulation, and no state income taxes may have been allowing the seeds of this calamity to take root for a very long time.  

But this much is fact: Texas has had Republican governors since 1995, when Ann Richards was defeated by one George W. Bush. Bush was succeeded by two-term Republican Rick Perry and the current incumbent Republican Abbott.   The last Democratic Senator from Texas left office in 1993.

Now we all know that deep in the Texan soul is a notion of personal responsibility. No hand-outs. Frontier character. So if there is going to be responsibility for the decisions about failing to winterize equipment or keeping the energy grid separate… well let’s just say that it would be colossally nuts to blame things on the Democrats.

Which is why Abbott’s attempt to foist his responsibility off on the “Green New Deal” is so appalling.

And it is not just Abbott. We had to endure the bloviation of the state’s Republican icons.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry used this week to fiercely defend the state’s frontier spirit of independence: “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Gee, Rick, you really might want to do a quick Rasmussen poll on that one, because I traded texts with the daughter of the aforementioned 86 year old grandmother, and she was worried sick about her freezing, Lone Star-ving relatives, and I am pretty sure that she wasn’t ready to sign her mom up for three more days of misery.

This, of course, is the same Rick Perry who has on several occasions coyly postured about seceding from the Union.  In 2009, he was caught on tape saying “when we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.” It was not the only time. At a Tea Party rally in the same time frame, Perry said that if the Federal government “continues to thumb their nose at the American people … who knows what might come out of that.” Rick Perry loved playing the role of Texan rogue spirit incarnate, but I don’t recall him discouraging FEMA from bringing billions in aide after Hurricane Harvey clobbered Houston, and we suspect that Texas is going to need a heaping serving of Federal disaster relief after last week. What were you saying about no hand-outs?

Perry is not the only Texan Republican leader to float the idea that the citizens of Texas would rather defiantly suffer rather than tolerate the involvement of the Federal government. At the outbreak of the coronavirus, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went considerably further, insisting that Texas seniors would rather sacrifice their lives to the coronavirus than risk the health of the economy in a lockdown. “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?  And if that's the exchange, I'm all in."

And, of course, Texas was one of the four Southern states – all led by Republican governors -- that last spring invited utterly disastrous coronavirus outbreaks by re-opening their states for commerce far too quickly in order to demonstrate proper fealty to Donald Trump. Governor Abbott watched calamity unfold in Texas until finally back-pedaling and issuing a statewide mask mandate.

Yeah, you knew we were saving the best for last: that punctually unctuous blizzard of bloviation, the passenger-side gas bag of the Republican Party, Ted Cruz. The Senator chose this particular moment to fly to Cancun, Mexico, alleging that he was responsibly filling his obligation to be a great Dad by flying to a posh, warm vacation spot as the citizens who elected him froze, suffered, and, yes, died.  Cruz cruelly abandoned ship, jumping on the plane to a warm, dry Ritz Carlton hotel while Texans suffered unbearable misery. Personal responsibility? Cruz attempted to offload his epic dereliction of duty onto his ten and twelve year old daughters, who apparently “wanted a vacation.” I have to think that hiding behind the skirt of your ten year old daughter does not sit well in Marlboro Country.

The very best part? Watching the videos that ordinary citizens took of Cruz striding thought the airport and casually sipping his latte in one of those upscale airport lounges. You can see him become increasingly aware that his day is about to turn into the ninth circle of Instagram, and yet all he can do is carry on. He would later claim that he realized his little junket was an error “as soon as he sat down on the plane,” which is essentially saying that he regretted the error of his ways when he realized that he was not simply trending, he was keeping up with the Kardashians. This is of course functionally identical to feeling no remorse for sleeping with your best friend’s wife, but feeling deep, burning regret for getting caught.

Oh, Ted: when will you learn? Within hours The New York Times had the full text trail of Heidi Cruz’s game plan for a rager in Cancun, presumably having checked to make sure that the citizens of Texas had plenty of cake before downloading her boarding pass. (P.S. – Heidi makes no reference to her daughters’ need for a vacation).

Even if this had been the first and only lapse in ethical judgment in an otherwise sterling career of public service, it’s hard to imagine any politician weathering this agonizing storm. But this is Ted Cruz. Donald Trump mocked this guy’s wife’s physical appearance, threatened to “spill the beans” about her – we still don’t know what that means -- and then accused his father of participating in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

What does Cruz do in return? On January 6, Cruz was one of two U.S. Senators who endorsed Trump’s assertions of voter fraud which, in turn, emboldened the insurrectionists. One of the most nauseating moments in the video of the attack on the Capitol was when two thugs came upon Ted Cruz’s desk in the U.S Senate, and, in rifling through his papers, were pleased to conclude that Cruz was on their side.

Everything is indeed big in Texas, but unfortunately that extends to the Republican leadership’s 4-H Club of hyperbole, hypocrisy, hubris, and hostility.

You see, the big lie in Texas is that for all of the alleged streak of independence and Republican chafing at Federal “interference,” Texas is actually one of those states that takes more money from Washington than it sends in. No, it’s not wildly out of proportion, but that is a fact. Indeed, my humble little state of Connecticut pays proportionally far more to the Federal government in taxes than we get back.

So it is mathematically accurate to say that Connecticut, in some real measure, subsidizes Texas. That’s a better kept secret down in Plano than who shot J.R.

It has been a horrific week for our fellow citizens in the state of Texas.

Please know that for all our raging criticism of your Republican leaders, we ache with sadness as we watch the suffering of millions of hard working and good-hearted citizens. We feel deeply for the children and the grandmothers. You deserve so much better than the pompous, deceitful Republican gas bags that hold so many of your statewide and Federal offices.

Please consider the many brilliant Democratic stars you have to choose from.

For starters, the guy who did not get elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas – Beto O’Rourke – spent last week doing a whole helluva lot more for Texas than Cruz, the guy who was. While Cruz was packing the Coppertone, O’Rourke led a volunteer crusade that resulted in 784,000 “wellness calls” to Texas senior citizens, according to reports in The New York Times.

Texas, you will have a chance to undo the absolutely terrible decision you made to re-elect one of the most despicable human beings in government when you could have elected O’Rourke. Oh well, Beto late than never.

Among the many House Managers who argued brilliantly that Donald Trump deserved to be convicted in the impeachment trial, your Congressman Joaquin Castro was particularly sharp, measured, and brilliant on his feet in the Q and A section.

His brother, Julián Castro, was elected mayor of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S., at the age of 35. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he was the youngest member of Barack Obama’s cabinet. And as the field of Democratic candidates for President in 2020, Castro was one of the final ten to stand at a podium in the debates.

Please, Castro brothers, run for Governor. Run for the U.S. Senate. Run all of these smug Republican cowards, blamers, and utterly heartless jerks out of Dodge.

The Democratic Convention named two Texans among its “17 Rising Stars” who shared the keynote responsibility, State Representative Victoria Neave and Congressman Colin Allred.

Texas, there are many terrific female Democratic stars on the rise that each deserve your attention… women such as M.J. Hegar, Candace Valenzuela, Sima Ladjevardian, and Gina Ortiz Jones. Worthy of note: in addition to the fact that every Texas Governor since the mid-nineties has been a Republican, they have also all been male. Just sayin.’

There has been much talk about the changing demography of Texas, and the seeming inevitability that it will morph to swing state and then blue state. Indeed, in 2018, Beto O’Rourke nearly toppled the incumbent Cruz, losing by only 214,921 votes out of 8,306,185 cast.

Perhaps the horror of last week will accelerate the process by which Texans evaluate whether all that macho talk about going it alone, small government, and supposed self-reliance gives way to a more modern understanding of the roles and responsibilities of government.

Or, perhaps it simply causes Texans to conclude that they don’t need any more heartless leaders deep in the heart of Texas.

Come on, Texas. Give your Democratic leaders a chance.

Right now, all you have is an Abbott without the Costello, a Perry who isn’t even a Cuomo, and Cruz without the control.

Hook ‘em, Horns. Give them all the hook.

Vote Blue, Texas. You know… the color on your state flag where the Lone Star sits.

 

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