Sunday, November 27, 2022

BTRTN: The One Thing That the United States Indisputably Does Better than Any Country on Earth

We used to be known as the world’s leader in democracy, education, and creating opportunity for all.  Now, after still more American carnage – this time in Colorado Springs and Chesapeake -- let’s face the truth. The thing this country does uniquely better than any other is invent, mass-produce, and broadly distribute murder weapons.

 

Remember that missile that took out al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri back in July?

The Hellfire R9X missile was nicknamed the “flying ginsu” because of its uniquely ingenious method of destroying a target without any type of explosive detonation that could cause catastrophic collateral civilian damage. The R9X is fired from a drone at a relatively short range, homes in on its target, and -- moments before impact -- unfurls a set of six whirring blades that turn the target into fillet au terrorist faster that you can say “hold the fries.” The missile is undetectable to the human eye until a mere 1,000 feet away, at which point the target has less than four seconds to don any anti-Cuisinart protective garb that may be within reach.

Talk about a precision death machine. The Hellfire R9X Missile killed the al Qaeda leader without a single civilian casualty.  The owner of the house in Kabul that sheltered al-Zawahiri may have needed only to repair some damaged moldings and repaint the balcony before listing it for rent to the next big global terrorist.

Ah, American ingenuity!  We are so kind and moral as a nation that we will spend millions of dollars on the most advanced technology so that we can take out the bad guys while their immediate families carry on with household chores without needing so much as a band-aid. Compare that to the feral scum in the Kremlin who intentionally terrorize, kill, and rape Ukrainian civilians to compensate for the incompetence of their military.

We are the good guys.

Look what we are doing in Ukraine. It was originally predicted that it would take the Russian military four days from initial invasion of Ukraine to the collapse of Kyiv. There are many reasons why that did not happen… starting with the will, courage, determination, and bravery of the Ukrainian military and citizenry. The second reason is the vastly more strategic and intelligent plan of battle followed by the Ukrainians, coupled with unimaginable incompetence on the part of the Russian military. But the third – superior weaponry from the West, largely the United States – leveled the playing field, enabling the Ukrainian army to punch well over its weight against waves of Russian troops and artillery.

Our anti-aircraft weaponry has helped prevent the Russians from owning the Ukrainian airspace, and our Javelin anti-tank missile is being used by Ukraine to neutralize the huge Russian advantage in tanks, a critical element of Russian war strategy. The Javelins are programmed to score direct hits from above, smashing into the top surface of the tanks, where the protective surface is most vulnerable.

We have developed the finest military killing technology the world has ever seen, and we are putting it in the hands of the brave souls repelling the brutal and savage invasion by a nation of barbarians. 

We really are the good guys, aren’t we?

Not so fast.  

Meanwhile, back home…

There was Newtown. Las Vegas. Parkland. Uvalde.

And now we add Colorado Springs and Chesapeake to a list that is far, far longer than you realize. Think you are up to date on your gun violence? Visit https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.

It is not your imagination: it is getting worse every day.

James Alan Fox, a professor at Northwestern, says, “I’ve been studying mass killings for over 40 years and I am quite confident that there has never been a year where we’ve had so many… There have been 35 mass shootings in 2022.  That’s an average of about two mass shootings per week, compared with the usual average of two per month.”

No country in the world comes close to that.

We are the only country on earth with more guns in civilian hands than civilians. Indeed, we have 120 guns for every 100 citizens. (Yes, that counts men, women, and children).  Australia, by contrast, has 14.5 guns per 100 citizens. Spain has 7.5. England and Wales? 4.6.

Interesting: Pew Research found that 40% of U.S. households have guns. Do the math.That means that the fifty million American households with guns have an average of upward of seven each.

What a powerhouse of innovation, product segmentation, manufacturing, sales, distribution, and marketing! We can't convince people that households need seven washing machines, toasters, dining room tables, or cars. But guns? Never enough. 

Does gun ownership correlate with homicide? According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the United States leads the world by far in its “rate of firearm homicides per 100,000 in population.” The U.S. has 4.2 homicides per 100,000 people. The next closest is Chile, with 1.82 – less than half the rate found in the United States.

Americans often think that the United Kingdom is a country similar to the United States in values, allegiance to democracy, and global perspective. Perhaps. But try extending the comparison to gun violence and you’d strain to find two countries more different. The rate of gun homicide in the U.K. is 0.04 per 100,000… that is to say, there are one hundred times as many firearm homicides per capita in the United States than in the United Kingdom.

Let’s put the extraordinary civilian gun carnage in the United States in a particularly damning perspective.

The United Nations reports that there have been 6,900 civilian deaths in Ukraine in 2022.

Let’s think about that number relative to firearm violence in the United States.  The Gun Violence Archive reports that in 2022 so far, there have been 39,816 deaths in the United States caused by guns. Of those, 21,648 were suicides, leaving 18,168 deaths characterized as “Homicide, Murder, Unintentional, Defensive Gun Use.”

Yes, we kill more civilians with guns here at home than Russians do in Ukraine.

When we build missiles like the Hellfire R9X, it implies that we are vastly more concerned about accidentally killing the family of a terrorist than we appear to be about slaughtering innocent LGBTQ people in a bar in Colorado. We invest millions to develop killing machines that limit “collateral damage” deaths in homes sheltering a terrorist in Kabul, but we strive to ensure that unstable 18-year-olds here at home have the right and ready access to machines that are designed for the sole purpose of inflicting as much collateral damage as possible on patrons of our bars, shoppers at markets, and children in our kindergartens.

Before we depart the grim statistics detailing gun-related deaths in the United States, let us pause and reflect on the fact that more gun-related deaths in the United States were suicides than murders, accidents, or defensive uses combined. This is a particular tragedy, as one must assume that suicide is often an impulsive act of desperation and despair… an impulse readily turned into reality by the ubiquitous presence of guns. There must be a straight-line correlation: fewer guns, fewer suicides.

I, for one, am tired of listening to all the fools who think that the Second Amendment guarantees unrestricted access to military-grade killing machines to any 18-year-old with a pulse, and those who contort the words of the Second Amendment to mean what they want them to mean.

Here is a different -- and perhaps most relevant -- way to think about what the framers of the Constitution intended. Perhaps they merely intended that any citizen in the United States is entitled to own a gun as guns existed in 1789.

When James Madison took out his quill pen in the candlelight and drafted the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution on parchment, he was informed by the technology of his day. He was not imagining a weapon that any deviant could use to walk into an elementary school and spray molten lead into the tender bodies of defenseless six-year-old boys and girls.

All James Madison could have possibly meant is that citizens are entitled to own a gun as guns existed in his day.  

So sure, if you are a damaged human being, and you want to take your anger out on innocent people, I suppose James Madison has protected your right to take a 1789 musket into Walmart and take your one shot. By the time you reload,you will be wrestled into submission by a real-life action hero like Richard Fierro, and the carnage you can inflict will be limited. We will lock you up and throw away the key.

Gun advocates like to say intellectually lazy things like “we don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem.” The very construction of his sentence says something about the brainpower of people who think that there can only be one cause per problem. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said “anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge,” somehow failing to grasp or articulate the real tautology -- that “anybody who shoots somebody else has a gun.”  

Experts, by the way, would hasten to point out that even Governor Abbott’s core assertion is flawed. The New York Times ran a story in 2017 about the findings of Dr. Michael Stone, a Columbia University psychiatrist who studied 350 mass killers. Dr. Stone concluded that about one in five mass murderers were “likely psychotic or delusional,” but “the rest of these murderers did not have any severe, diagnosable disorder.”

Yes, we do have a mental health problem. A very serious one. Our mental health problem is the irrationality of Americans who think we have a mental health problem but not a gun problem.

This past year, Senator Chris Murphy led the effort to finally pass the first major piece of gun legislation since 1994. Sure enough, it did provide money for expanding mental health resources. There was money for improving the safety of our schools, and for improvements in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The “boyfriend loophole” was addressed.

Notice anything missing? How about this: Pew Research shows that 63% of Americans believe that we should “ban assault weapons.” The 2022 legislation does not even mention the sale or ownership of assault rifles.

I guess our leaders don’t want to put any limits on the thing America is uniquely good at.

We all like to say that our brand – the “United States of America” – stands for things like freedom, equality, opportunity, and democracy.

The problem is that brands are not a function of what you say about yourself. The meaning of your brand is the cumulative sum of all the facts, behaviors, actions, and functionality of your product over time. The surest way a brand is damaged is when there is dissonance between what is claimed to be true and what the customer actually experiences.

Once upon a time, the United States’ brand was first and foremost known as world’s beacon of democracy. That is a very tough claim to sustain when the most recent former leader of the nation screams to the world that our elections are fraudulent – and when a full one-third of our population believes it. That is dissonance.  

You might want to believe that our brand stands for racial and gender equality, but five minutes on google will blow that theory sky-high.  

You might hope that our brand stands for scientific achievement and expertise, but the rest of the world watched one nation drop out of the Paris Climate Accords.  

To the world, we have become a nation that now careens wildly between periods of authoritarianism, racism, xenophobia, and haughty delusions of superiority, followed by cycles we insist are returns to “normalcy,” when we strive to appear measured, respectful, and driven by ideals… all in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary.  Yes, even when on our best behavior.

What is consistent throughout these wild oscillations? An obsession with entertainment, an industry that seems to focus most of its energy on ever more spectacular depictions of war, domestic violence, and the solving of brutal homicides. Yes, even our diversions are “on-brand.”

What are we, really? What has been our consistent truth, the truth that sets us apart from other nations, through different administrations, and through the decades? We are masters at the design, manufacture, and comprehensive distribution of the most effective murder weapons ever known to mankind.

That’s why the breaking news of another mass murder at a night club, a Walmart, or an elementary school may make us sick, repulsed, terribly saddened… but never surprised.

It is why we offer thoughts and prayers,  Thoughts are not actions, and prayers are wishes that an omnipotent power will act for us. Because we do not have the will. Because we refuse to change who we are.

It’s all “on-brand.”

Until we rise as a people and make our government put an end to the mass-manufacture and consumer distribution of military-grade killing machines, we are just re-inforcing the new brand meaning of the United States of America.

Let’s demand a government that is less worried about collateral damage to a terrorist’s family, and a whole helluva lot more focused on the collateral damage wrought in a bar in Colorado Springs, a Walmart in Chesapeake, and in elementary schools from Newtown to Uvalde.

We are the most violent country the world has ever known, and the only way the reign of terror in our nation will end is if the citizens demand it.

You can debate a lot of things, but not this: What the United States does indisputably better than any other nation on earth is invent, mass-produce, and broadly distribute murder weapons.

 

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Sunday, November 20, 2022

BTRTN: For the Next Seventeen Days, Georgia Better Be on Our Minds

If just 5,000 Nevadans had shifted their votes to Adam Laxalt instead of Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrats today would today be vibrating at Def Con 23, and sending every resource, every dollar, and every volunteer to Georgia to win the Senate run-off. But with Senate control now secure and Dems trotting self-satisfied victory laps, will they relax and fail to focus on a very winnable – and immensely important – 51st seat in the Senate?

 

Listing on ZipRecruiter: “$174,000 salary, with opportunity for huge future revenue in lobbying, television, Public Boards. High national visibility, large staff, great benefits. Guaranteed no termination or performance review until 2028.

Woah, dude, sign me up!

Yes, United States Senators have a sweet gig. They face re-election only once every six years.

Unless, that is, you are Reverend Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Come December 6, this man will have run for the exact same job in U.S. Senate four times in the last 25 months.

There was the November, 2020 election to complete the term of Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health concerns. Warnock finished first, but did not exceed 50% of the vote, triggering Georgia’s mandatory run-off election. Warnock then defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler by a thin 51%/49% margin in the January run-off. So that’s two elections in two months.

And what was Warnock’s reward for those two victories?  The right to serve in the Senate all of two years before being required to run again in November, 2022, this time for a full term. Last week, Warnock received the most votes -- but again did not reach the 50% threshold to avoid a run-off, which is now set for December 6. That’s four elections for the same Senate seat in 25 months. Billy Martin got hired and fired as Yankee manager five times by George Steinbrenner… but that was over the span of ten years.  

Georgia Senatorial elections are not for the faint of heart. The last two Warnock competed in were decided by 2% of the votes (2020) and less than 1% (2022).

Each and every time he has run, the stakes for the Democratic Party – and the country – were sky high.

And every time, he has won the most votes.

Raphael Warnock has come through for us when we needed him.

Now he needs us to come through for him.

The specific worry: once Nevada was called for the Dems, clinching control of the Senate, Democrats breathed world’s biggest sigh of relief.  The media focus shifted to the elementary school-caliber cafeteria food fight consuming the Republican Party.  Georgia? Haven’t heard a word about it except for the daily barrage of fundraising texts pleading that we send money to support Warnock in the run-off.

Could that mean that the urgency and focus needed to win the Georgia run-off on December 6 has been substantially reduced?

Dems, if Georgia isn’t on your minds, it better be… soon. Counting today, the run-off is only 17 days away. It is a crucial opportunity. It would be a tragedy to fail to seize the opportunity it represents, for so many reasons.

Consider what the future looks like if Hershel Walker wins the run-off.

For starters, a Walker win means another precise 50/50 split, and control once again comes down to Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote in her role as President of the Senate. Look ahead to 2024. This means that once again, if the Democrats lose even one seat, control of the Senate reverts to the Grim Reaper, Mitch McConnell.

A victory by Warnock gives Dems an incredibly important one-seat cushion. We could lose one 2024 race and maintain control.

More on 2024: If the outcome of the Senate races in 2024 were to produce yet another precise 50/50 split, but Ron DeSantis wins the Presidency, the Republicans would control the Senate. VP Kamala Harris currently wields the magic 51st tie-breaking vote… but that would flip to the Republican VP under DeSantis.

A victory by Warnock now gives the Dems a one seat cushion, which, if held in 2024, would mean that a Republican White House victory would not flip the Senate.

But the most worrisome headline about the battle for control of the Senate in 2024? The Democrats will face a daunting Senate map, defending incumbencies in 23 of the 33 seats, including three states that Joe Biden lost in 2020 (Ohio, West Virginia, and Montana) and seven other states Biden won by less than ten points (Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Maine). It will be a herculean task to win each and every one of these seats – but that’s what the Dems will have to do to maintain control.

But… a victory in Georgia’s run-off for Raphael Warnock on December 6 gives Democrats a sliver of breathing room in this daunting electoral environment.

Consider this unnerving fact: seven states (Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia) currently have Democratic Senators but Republican Governors. If any one of the Democratic Senators in those states is unable to complete their term for any reason, the Republican Governor will appoint a Republican to fill out the incomplete term. And – as easy as that -- the next instant, control of the Senate will flip to Republicans, and Mitch McConnell will once again be Senate Majority Leader.

Unless, of course, Raphael Warnock wins the Georgia Special election.

Or, how about this: let’s say Joe Biden is re-elected in 2024, and the House flips back to Democratic Control. With Warnock in place, we would only need one more Senate victory to neutralize Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the two Democratic Senators who openly oppose ending the filibuster. To be clear: there is no guarantee that other Democratic Senators would not emerge with their own opposition to ending the filibuster.

But with declared opponents Manchin and Sinema neutralized, it is possible to imagine eradicating the filibuster… and then making Roe v. Wade the law of the land, legislating a national ban on assault rifles, and passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights act.

Just for starters.

In today’s radically polarized society, victory in a Senate race is worth its weight gold, simply because of the six-year term. Think of it this way: a win in 2022 is essentially also a win in 2024 and 2026. A win today means you don’t have to win a seat in another state in two subsequent elections.

All of these are simple, practical reasons of hard math: the Georgia run-off is an incredible opportunity to buy some insurance.

Let’s move on to what may be the most important reason to make sure Raphael Warnock wins: Hershel Walker is unqualified for this job.

Indeed, you’d think you’d have to look long and hard to find a less qualified, more hypocritical, utterly inexperienced, and hopelessly inept candidate for the U.S. Senate than Georgia Republican Hershel Walker.

Unfortunately, however, in the modern Republican Party, it turns out that such a search is not that arduous. It was only a few years ago that Missouri’s Tod Akin advanced his theory that “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy. ““If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Then there was Ray Moore, Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, who stood accused of sexually assaulting three women, two of whom were minors. And beyond Moore, there are still more.

Still and all, Hershel Walker has earned his place in the Pantheon of Republican Senatorial candidates noted for the grossest hypocrisy, deceit, ignorance, and misogyny.

There was the time he contended that his resume rivals Barack Obama’s, seeming to imply that the 1982 Heisman Trophy was equal in stature to The Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidency, editing the Harvard Law Review, a few Grammys, and Time Magazine’s Man of the Year combined. Hmmm.

There was the toy badge he waved during the Georgia Senate debate that we can only infer was offered as proof that he has the same law-enforcement credentials as the average ten-year-old trick-or-treater.

There was the explanation that global warming occurs when Georgia’s “good air decides to float over to China,” and China’s “bad air” floats back.

There was the suggestion that there was no need for further legislation on global warming because “we have enough trees.”

At a rally, Hershel Walker proudly proclaimed “Do you know we are the best country in the United States?”

There was the rambling story he told about a bull who had impregnated three cows but nonetheless gazed longingly at the three cows in an adjacent pasture. With a wink and an ever-present smile, Walker explained how the bull was unable to restrain his ancient longings and vaulted the fence… only to discover that the three distant cows were actually bulls. The moral of the story was… geezuz, who knows? But we can all agree that a parable about a desperate urge to impregnate random cows probably shouldn’t be the lead message for a man who appeared to have lost track of how many children he had fathered out of wedlock.

Sure, the tales of Hershel Walker on the campaign trail are the stuff of comedy, but the man’s utter moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy is deadly serious.

As a candidate for Senate, Walker advocated an aggressively anti-abortion stance, toeing the line of the party he represented.  During the campaign, we learned that two women were impregnated by Walker (neither his wife), both were pressured to have an abortion (one twice), a check for $700 was produced as evidence that Walker indeed paid for one abortion, and one woman had to repeatedly pursue Walker to make him pay the money for the abortion he had demanded. Hershel Walker, it turns out, is not against abortion – he simply believes in the man’s right to choose.  

Oh, but that is not all. There is more, and it is ugly. Hershel Walker’s former wife said that he threatened to kill her twice, once held a gun to her head, and once held a knife to her throat. A judge issued a protection order for her, writing – chillingly -- that Hershel Walker “represented a clear and present danger of domestic violence.'

Walker’s own conservative son howled publicly about his father’s hypocrisy. Christian Walker did not mince words: I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.”

Walker is a cinch to be nominated for BTRTN “Grahammy” Awards, named for Lindsey Graham, and honoring the most egregious examples of Republican hypocrisy in the prior year. Look for Hershel Walker to compete for the “Grand Grahammy” for speaking out frequently against “absent fathers” as his son scorches him on Twitter and Walker seems unsure just how many children he has fathered.

All in all, Hershel Walker’s campaign seems to be a tour-de-farce, the product of a truant high school class-clown bent on making a mockery of the class president election. Indeed, if there is any justification whatsoever for Hershel Walker’s candidacy, it is to be found in the questionable endorsement that Republican Senator Roman Hruska gave, once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, to Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell:

“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?”

Ah, yes. Hershel Walker would indeed be a splendid representative of the deep reservoir of ignorance, hypocrisy, misogyny, deceit, arrogance, and selfishness that now permeates today's Republican Party. To Senator Hruska’s eternal question about whether the mediocre deserve representation, all we can say is that that particular cohort is already extremely well-represented in our government.

Faced with a choice of being represented by Walker or a humble, effective, hard-working, accomplished, articulate, educated, and deeply moral man of God, the great State of Georgia has been split precisely in two.

To all who want to believe that the Republican fever-boil caused by Donald Trump was somehow finally lanced in this midterm election, and that the defeat of election deniers is somehow proof that the party is on its way back to sanity, please look very closely at the tally of votes in the Senate race in the state of Georgia.

As of this writing, 1,907,272 Georgians voted for Hershel Walker for Senator, and 1,943,737 voted for incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. The presence of an inconsequential third-party candidate prevented both Walker and Warnock from achieving the 50% required to avoid a run-off election, which will now take place on December 6.

All to say: out of 3,932,134 votes cast, a grand total of 36,465 – less than one percent – separated Warnock from Walker.

Half of Georgia’s voters apparently felt that Walker’s claimed espousal of Republican policy overrode the overwhelming evidence that no such belief system informs his personal behavior. They didn’t care that he was lying through his teeth.

Republicans in Georgia demonstrated that they do not care about a man’s character, his integrity, his truthfulness, his compassion, his sense of responsibility, his temperament, his intellect, his experience, his willingness to learn, or his wisdom.

All they want is a sock puppet who will vote the way Trump tells him to vote.

Forget, for a moment, all those partisan motives for supporting Raphael Warnock. Forget controlling the Senate.

Rather, think about the fact that in difficult times, we need smart, capable people sitting at seats of power in our government.  The world we live in today is infinitely complex, nuanced, and rapidly changing, and the stakes surrounding decisions about crises like climate change, the war in Ukraine, and the global economy rise each day. We really do need the best and the brightest focused on meeting these challenges. 

So if I found that in my own home state, I was encountering the Georgia situation in reverse, let me say emphatically: give me a brilliant, informed, thoughtful Republican over an unqualified, foolish, immature, inexperienced Democrat any day of the week.

We must do all we can do to help Senator Warnock defeat Hershel Walker because we cannot afford to have ignorant, unqualified, lightweights taking up vital space in our government.

Of course, there is one last reason that Warnock’s victory is so essential. Right this minute, the Republican Party is on the verge of an epic balkanization into three sub-parties that each have an urgent and well-defined goal:

--The Ferocious Trump Loyalists, a cult of personality that will follow Donald Trump only without any concern for the fate of the Republican Party.

--The Right-Wing Pragmatists, who only care about finding a winning candidate and would dump Trump for DeSantis in a heartbeat if DeSantis appears the better bet to win the White House.

--The Fervent Conservatives but Moderate in Temperament, who are sick of the bomb-dropping culture wars, the incitement of violence, and vilification of opponents, who may give some oxygen to Mike Pence.

Hershel Walker is the last candidate standing who was hand-picked by Donald Trump. The party was clearly disgusted with the terrible performance of Trump’s candidates in the mid-terms. Sending Trump’s final lackey candidate to resounding defeat in this last and very public race could help the Republican Party gather the resolve to leave Trump behind forever.

And, as we have written before, it is the belief of this blog that should Donald Trump succeed in returning to the White House, democracy in America will end. Yes, America is far safer if Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence – warts and all – becomes the Republican nominee for President in 2024.

If you need a final reason to do anything you can to help elect Raphael Warnock, how about this: he is a good human being, far better prepared and far richer in experience to serve as a United States Senator than Hershel Walker. He earned graduate degrees in Divinity and Philosophy from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Even now, as a Georgia Senator, he still serves as the Senior Pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the congregation once led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Warnock became active in Georgia politics while working to expand Medicaid in the state. As a Senator, he has been a reliable supporter of Joe Biden’s agenda.

Rapheal Warnock is the real deal… not some joke selected by Donald Trump based on their second-tier celebrity status, their pliable political beliefs, and their willingness to kneel before the grand orange blowhard of Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s the link to Warnock’s campaign website. Do what you can: you know the drill… send money, write postcards and texts, make calls, knock on doors and drive people to the polls if you can physically be in Georgia.

https://warnockforgeorgia.com/

Hershel Walker deserves to lose.

Rafael Warnock deserves to win.

Let's all help make sure that everyone gets exactly what they deserve.  

For the next seventeen days, let's keep Georgia on our mind. 

 

 

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Monday, November 14, 2022

BTRTN: Reports of Trump’s Political Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated.

We’d all love to see Donald Trump tossed into the dumpster of history. But with the crush of “Trump is weakening” buzz in the media, Democrats should not delude themselves that Trump has lost his control over the GOP.  The only way Trump’s clenched fist on the Republican party is going to be released is if he is taken down at the ballot box… and that is best done by a Republican in a primary.

 

Much had been made about the idea that “the biggest loser on Election Day was Donald Trump,” that the “red wave” never materialized because of Trump, that Republicans failed to flip the Senate because Trump's candidates far under-performed those who had not been hand-picked by him. It was all his fault.

Surely, surely, this must be the last straw, the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the moment the Republicans finally… finally…break their cult-like submission to the Big Orange Loser.

Then again, maybe not.

Having written too many columns about other moments when Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party was alleged to be weakening, I am hesitant to conclude that Trump will be substantially diminished by mid-term elections in which the House of Representatives will still likely flip to Republican control.

Trump no longer calling the shots? Trump no longer requiring Republicans to kiss his ass? Not so fast.

There’s no question that Ron DeSantis flexed real muscle on Tuesday, and that the announcement of a DeSantis Presidential run would create a Succession-grade internecine war in the Republican Party. But Ron DeSantis just won a four-year term for Governor. Sure, he pointedly did not pledge to serve out that full term, but he cannot possibly announce a run for President anytime soon.

So, in the meantime…?

It is the media frenzy-du-jour, the notion that Trump is going to be sent packing to Republican Siberia because Mehmet Oz lost Pennsylvania. Let’s take a look at the chatter about Trump’s supposed weakness.  

Republican Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Winsome Sears said that it is time to “move on” from Trump. Chris Christie said Trump’s political instincts were about “himself, not the party.” (Uh, news flash?) Peter King, the retired Republican Congressman, said “I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party.”

CNN ran a breathless headline: “Republican Senator Drops a Truth Bomb on his Party.” Then you find out that the Senator dumping the bomb is Pat Toomey, who indeed came right out and blamed Trump for the midterms. But Pat Toomey is retiring, and no longer has any reason to fear the wrath of Trump.

Then we read this juicy: “He transformed the Republican party, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the right guy to actually lead the party going forward into an era of governance and prosperity.” That quote came from the extremely conservative former Senator Rick Santorum. Key word: former. He, too, no longer lives in fear of Trump’s retribution.

Fox reported that a current GOP Congressman had said that "As one would expect, Trump certainly played a factor in the outcome of the midterm elections. As for 2024, there will be other worthy candidates who will put their names forward who may approach the conservative movement differently." Wow, rebellion! Oh, never mind. That Congressman only spoke to Fox on the condition of anonymity.

The right’s extreme-stream media ventured further into Trump angst than we’ve seen before.  Laura Ingraham delivered a startling indictment of Trump, though never mentioned him by name:

“Going to 2024, the Republicans are going to be looking for candidates who are focused on winning – not just making a point or settling a score. So, to really change it, we’re gonna have to win and we have to win over voters outside our traditional base. That means young people, too. That’s got to be the goal for the next presidential election. The populist movement is about ideas. It is not about any one person. If the voters conclude that you’re putting your own ego or your own grudges ahead of what’s good for the country, they’re going to look elsewhere, period.”

Let's start our critique of Ms. Ingraham's assessment with her saucy contention that the "populist movement is about ideas.” Laura: you are talking about a political party that literally did not bother to write a party platform in its 2020 Convention. Some would say that one reason the Republicans fared so poorly in the midterms is that for they whined about inflation, they offered no “ideas” about what to do about it.  And the assertion that the populist movement “is not about any one person” is breathtaking coming from Donald Trump’s personal Pravda, the news organization that completed a six-year mission of turning the Republican Party into a cult of Trump. Now a major figure on Fox News is egging Ron DeSantis to challenge the cult leader for the loyalty of the cult members, but still doesn't have the guts to call out Trump by name.

It is true that a small number of Republican Representatives in Congress were quoted on local talk shows musing that it would not be a bad thing to have the nomination sorted out in a primary race between Trump and DeSantis. Yes, speculation about Trump's influence is real and growing. 

But the key fact here is that the loudest hue and cry about Trump being “weakened” is coming from retired politicians, second-tier players, people who remain so frightened of Trump that they speak on the condition of anonymity, or pundits hedging their bets.  

Do we note anything missing from the pile-on?

Maybe every major player in the Republican Party?

Not one current major national Republican Party leader has condemned Trump for having a negative impact on the election. Sure, Mitch McConnell grumbled about “candidate quality” months ago, but that was then. Now? Crickets.

Note to anyone who thinks that now, finally, the Republican Party is ready to move on from Donald Trump: Wake me up when any of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, or Kevin McCarthy walks up to a microphone and announces that the Republican Party should not nominate Donald Trump for President in 2024.

Ron DeSantis himself has wisely chosen to not say a word.

Despite stories of confidantes urging Trump to delay his big announcement, no comment from any pundit, politician, or family member appears to be discouraging Donald Trump from declaring that he will run again in 2024.

The minute Trump makes that announcement, the big Republican politicians will have microphones thrust in their faces and will be put on the spot: do they endorse Trump’s candidacy? That's when things will get interesting.

Some may try to run but they cannot hide. With their chance of leading their respective chambers of Congress in the balance, do we think Kevin McCarthy or Mitch McConnell is going to say that they are not going to support Trump in 2024? Mitch McConnell is a master of equivocation and avoidance and may try to say that he won't talk about 2024 until 2022 is over, or that 2024 is too far off to talk about, but the better bet is that they with both fall in line with obsequious curtsies of fealty. These guys fold tents faster that it’s done in a demo video on REI.com.

Sycophants like Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Nicki Haley, and Mike Pompeo have already stated that they would not run if Trump decided to run. These people are all very ambitious, but they all want to inherit Trump’s base when he moves offstage rather than directly challenge him for it now. They may change their minds if DeSantis throws down the gauntlet, but for now they will retreat, cower, and salute the Trump flag.

So just imagine that Trump makes his big announcement, and then gathers expressions of support from McConnell, McCarthy, Graham, Cruz, Haley, Pompeo, Abbott, Marco Rubio, Kari Lake, Kristi Noem, Roy Blunt, Lee Zelden, Elise Stefanik, Steve Scalese, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz, and the full litany of members of members of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election. Many immediately vow they will aggressively campaign for Trump if any Republican is so disloyal as to challenge the king. 

That would be an imposing phalanx for any challenger to confront.Yet into this Republican valley of death rides...

Mike Pence,  who may run on the belief that there are “moderate Republicans,” but he might as well be on a quest for the unicorn vote or the Holy Grail cohort. He may think he can challenge Trump for the right-wing base, but last time we looked, those were the people who wanted to hang him.

Liz Cheney, who vowed to “do anything” to prevent Trump from regaining the White House, widely interpreted as a threat to run for President. Such a campaign could prove a real nuisance for Trump, as Cheney would delight in broadcasting the details she learned from the January 6 Committee to Republicans who have never heard them before, via interviews on conservative forums and potentially primary debate stages. She might inflict wounds that would linger in the general election campaign… but given her status as pariah in Trump's party, she could not derail him from the nomination.

Which leaves us with Ron DeSantis… alone in being clearly positioned to have the stature and demeanor to challenge Trump for the base of the party now. But Ron DeSantis faces a very, very tricky calculus indeed.

The flurry of incoming from Trump aimed at DeSantis, featuring the creation of his first new nickname in years – “Ron DeSanctimonius” -- is Trump’s way of telling the Florida governor that he must be prepared for a scorched earth if he runs in 2024. Trump would sooner turn his base wholly and permanently against DeSantis than allow DeSantis to beat him. So DeSantis’s decision is fraught: if he runs against Trump for the nomination and loses, his career could be badly damaged. If he runs against Trump and wins, he may have infuriated the molten core of the Trump base… and it’s hard to see him winning a general election without that support.

Again: he just won a second term as Florida governor. By the time it seems appropriate for him to announce a candidacy, Trump will have been campaigning, locking up endorsements, and fundraising for months.

Ron DeSantis is a young man in Presidential politics.  If he ran for President twenty years from now in  2044, he would be 66 years old. With time so clearly on his side, is it so certain that DeSantis would want to initiate an internecine bloodbath against Trump in 2024… a battle which could fracture the party and leave both candidates unable to prevail in a general election?

Trump is locked, loaded, and planning to announce his candidacy for 2024 this week. Trump apparently accepted that he could not make an announcement prior to the mid-terms, in part because he knew that the prosecutors pursuing him could take no action in the “quiet period” before an election.

Now, however, he sees urgency in such a declaration: he wants to toss his hat in the ring before the DoJ or the Atlanta DA bring indictments against him. Being a declared candidate gives him grounds for claiming that these investigations as politically motivated “witch hunts.” Trump’s calculus may simply be that running for – and winning – the Presidency is his best protection against the onslaught of legal investigations that inch ever closer to personal existential crisis.

Who knows? Maybe somewhere deep, hidden, and repressed in Donald Trump’s mind, he realizes that he actually did lose in 2020, and he desperately, desperately needs to run and win in 2024 to eradicate the psychological hell of being a “loser.”

So let’s be real.

We’ve been to this party too many times, and we’ve never once had a good time.  

People thought that Trump was politically dead for his “grab’em by the pussy” video. For his appalling ignorance, sloth, and self-protecting political calculations during the Covid crisis. For Charlottesville. For separating immigrant children from their parents. For his own disastrous mid-terms.  For the first impeachment. For losing the Presidency in 2020. For leading a bloody insurrection that was intended to topple our democracy. For urging a mob to violence against own his Vice President. For the second impeachment. For stealing top secret documents.

And now Trump will lose his iron grip on Republicans his candidates performed poorly in the midterms?

Well, it is entirely possible that for most Republicans, losing the battle for the Senate is a sin worse than lying, misogyny, sedition, or treason. But will it really cause him to lose his vice-like grip on the party?

I don’t think so.

Some Democrats who apparently enjoy high-wire acts believe that yet another Trump Republican nomination for President would create the very best odds that the Democrats would win. These may be the same people who felt Democrats should contribute to the campaign of election-denier Republicans on the theory that they’d be easier to beat. Perhaps this theory was vindicated by the midterms, but count me among those who would avoid any scenario that would risk Donald Trump regaining the White House. If he ever got back inside, this time he’d know exactly how to end democracy in America.

The Republican Party seems dimly aware that it is in a downward spiraling doom loop… where Trump has enough hold over the party to control it, but he is ever more toxic beyond it. Anyone powerful enough to damn Trump with the truth is too cowardly and concerned about their own power to do so.

The only thing that is going to take Trump out of the national picture – other than a precipitous decline in his physical health -- is when someone in the Republican Party takes him on… and brings him down.

The only true kryptonite that will be effective in destroying Trump is if someone in his own party beats him at the ballot box.

Ron DeSantis may feel that it is his time.  Much has been written about how Chris Christie briefly appeared to have the Republican nomination for the asking as a rising star of the party in 2012. He decided not to run, and by the time the next cycle came around, scandal in New Jersey and Donald Trump rendered him a distant also ran. The lesson: run when you are hot… you may never be hot again.

What is becoming clear is the platform that a challenger could use to run against Donald Trump: electability. It’s not hard to imagine Ron DeSantis building a campaign for the nomination on the idea that he is actually a big fan of Donald Trump, that he believes in the changes Trump brought to the party, and that he believes in the same ideas… but that Trump is damaged goods and can no longer be elected.

Ron DeSantis is the man of this moment. If he passes on a run for the Presidency, we have to endure the existential threat to democracy that a third Donald Trump Presidential campaign represents. And if Ron DeSantis takes Trump on, there is no guarantee that he can beat him.

But I like to imagine this: it’s primary night in New Hampshire in 2024. The ballots are pouring in, and Ron DeSantis is soundly thumping Donald Trump.

Trump races to a microphone and begins to howl that the election is rigged, that it is all phony, that the primary election is being stolen, that Ron DeSantis is fake news, that Fox News is trying to destroy him, and he is the real winner.

This time, it would fall to the Republicans -- DeSantis, McCarthy, McConnell and the leaders of the Republican Party -- to say, once and for all, no. No, Mr. Trump.  Elections in the United States are not rigged. You lost.

Imagine the sight of senior Republicans realizing that their only hope to get rid of Trump once and for all is to defend the sanctity and integrity of free and fair elections.

Ah, one too many ironies in the fire.

For now, Democrats should keep their eyes on the prize.  A great worry is that the resolution of control of the Senate may cause Democrats to fail to focus ferociously on the Georgia run-off. However, Georgia remains an incredibly crucial race. In two years, we will once again be in an election, battling for control of the Senate, and having a secure seat in Georgia will be a cushion that means we are protected if we lose a state somewhere else. And sending Hershel Walker to defeat would be yet another humiliation for Donald Trump... and inch him closer to irrelevance.

Some caution that we should be careful what we wish for... that DeSantis would indeed be a more powerful 2024 Republican Presidential candidate than Trump. 

For me, the choice is easy... as distasteful as Ron DeSantis is in so many ways, I do not think he would run for the White House with an agenda of personal vengeance and a determination to end democracy in the United States.

And I can't help but believe that a no-holds barred slug fest between Trump and DeSantis would result in a deeply fractured Republican Party that would be difficult to unify behind either candidate. An internecine war in the Republican Party would help Democrats.

Trump fading into the sunset? 

I think not. We should be prepared for the darkest hour before the dawn.


 

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