Worries

This follows up on the preceding post—which I published in the interest of being fair and balanced. Here are some questions and answers.

Should we be worried about the historical trend that shows the party in power losing the midterm elections?

Answer: No, says Nancy Pelosi and so say I. The political situation in 2022 will be very different, in many ways, from 2010 or 1994. (See, for example, Politico, Teflon Joe muddies GOP’s midterm strategy.)

Should we be worried that the Republicans will gerrymander themselves into control of the House of Representatives?

Answer: Yes, we should. But there are lots of factors that will be militating against complacency by the remaining semi-sensible Republicans, come Election Day. 

Should we be worried that more and more people will believe the Big Lie—and thus be revved up to support Republican candidates in 2022?

Answer: I don’t think so. Maybe three quarters of the shrunken Republican base believes Trump won in 2020. With all the bruhaha that’s already gone on, one would think that the number of idiots has pretty much maxed out.

Should we be concerned that non-Big Lie believing Republicans will “come home” and vote Republican anyway?

Answer: Yes. Definitely a concern.

Should we be concerned about lack of interest on the part of the Democratic base?

Answer: I don’t think so—although right now the polling could be better. The Big Lie, Republican authoritarianism, and the future of Democracy will be on the ballot. I really don’t think our side will let us down.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

In 2022, we shall see what we shall see.

Smart

From Charlie Sykes (in my inbox this morning; he says it’s OK to share):

Here’s the headline from Harry Enten’s CNN’s analysis: “Why GOP leaders are playing it smart when it comes to Trump.”

Since it’s Monday, let’s talk about the word “smart” for a moment.

Enten looks at some early polls and concludes that “the statistics reveal that Republicans may be playing it right when it comes to Trump.” The cancellation of Liz Cheney may look messy, but the base likes it, and the GOP is doing well on generic matchups. As Enten notes: “Republicans are in no worse position than they were in the 2020 election. In fact, they’re actually polling better now on the generic ballot than they were heading into the last election by about 3 to 4 points because polling across the board underestimated Republicans.”

“The best case scenario for Republicans,” he writes, “is to turn out his voters, while trying to keep Trump out of the limelight.

“Right now, it could be argued they’re doing exactly that.”

So coups, conspiracy theories, cultic loyalty, and purges turn out to be acts of heartbreaking political genius after all?

I respect Enten’s work, so this is worth some thinking about, if only as a reflection of the internal ethos of the swamp.

We can easily recognize this logic: Success — measured by polls, or profits, or high grades — is “smart” if you don’t dwell too much on other metrics. A company may pollute the environment, cut corners on quality, and game its taxes. but is “smart” if it leads to profits. The kid on the playground who gets in his secret punches, but then gets a gold star from his teacher is “smart.” A sports team that cheats to win the World Series and gets to keep the ring — “smart.”

And a politician who gaslights and lies, but still polls well, can expect the muted applause of cynical punditry. Getting away with it is all that matters, because #winning.

Enten is right: this is what Republicans are telling themselves. And even though it may be cynical and amoral, that does not mean that their analysis is totally wrong.

As Bill Kristol pointed out in the Bulwark last week, there are reasons to be worried. Polls suggest that Republicans are coming home, and are now more engaged than their Democratic counterparts.

Over the weekend, the pollsters at the Democracy Corps sounded a similar alarm, warning that their surveys make it “painfully clear Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, and Kevin McCarthy know their party.”

“The Trump loyalists who strongly approve of him are two-thirds of those who identify as, ‘Republican.’,” they write. “And they are joined by the Trump-aligned to form a breathtaking, three quarters of the party in the electoral battleground states and districts that will decide who leads the country.”

We were also surprised by how much Donald Trump’s loyalist party is totally consolidated at this early point in its 2022 voting and how engaged it is. Yes, they have pulled back from historic presidential year levels: the percent scoring 10, the highest level of interest in the election, has fallen from 84 to 68 percent. But Democrats’ engagement fell from 85 percent to 57 per-cent. Republicans are following their political theater much more closely than are Democrats — producing an 11-point gap.

A Thumbsucker for a Lazy Sunday Morning: The Split Between Big Business and the Republican Base

N.Y. Times, Looking for Bipartisan Accord? Just Ask About Big Business. In surveys and political discourse, Republicans are increasingly critical of corporations, but not for the reasons Democrats have long held that view.

Republicans in Washington and around the country have soured on big business, joining Democrats in expressing concern that corporations wield too much influence. The shift has left corporate America with fewer allies in a tumultuous period for American society and the global economy.

The erosion of support is evident in opinion polls, on cable news and in political campaigning. It is the continued outgrowth of a populist surge among liberal and conservative Americans alike, but it is particularly pronounced on the right and often linked to the grievances of white voters on racial issues.

The article goes on from there, at considerable length, but informative nevertheless.

My Observation

How long will it be before Rick Scott or Ted Cruz or someone else of that ilk decides to get out his bullhorn and demand that Republicans join with Democrats and raise corporate tax rates?

Gotta show all those woke Fortune 500 companies who’s boss, nest-ce pas?

Oh Yes, They’re the Great Pretenders

Jennifer Rubin, Republicans don’t just lie to voters. They lie to themselves.

Jonathan Chait, Elizabeth Warren’s Book Shows She Has No Idea Why Her Campaign Failed

As I have been saying, the 2022 election will be a horrid, reckless experiment in political psychology.

I believe that Kevin McCarthy not only lacks the mental capacity to think three steps ahead, but also that he fundamentally misunderstands the American electorate.

But so, as Mr. Chait points out, does Elizabeth Warren.

And so, maybe, do I. Not to mention Liz Cheney.

But at least I try to look at the evidence and to compensate as best I can for my mental biases.

Senator Warren thinks the electorate is better than it actually is. But Kevin McCarthy is placing a huge, risky bet that enough folks have well and truly gone off the deep end—and have fully embraced their inner assholes.

It’s important for the good guys to embrace neither illusion. 

I believe they will not. I believe they will proceed with eyes wide hope. 

And that they will whup them some ass.

Glub Glug?

Jane Mayer, The Secret Papers of Lee Atwater, Who Invented the Scurrilous Tactics That Trump Normalized: An infamous Republican political operative’s unpublished memoir shows how the Party came to embrace lies, racial fearmongering, and winning at any cost.

James Downey, The big myth about Cheney, Trump and the GOP

Yes, indeedy. Republican leaders been lyin’ for a long, long time. That is the gist of both pieces. And every single solitary sentence in them is true.

But but but … not until late 2020 did they start lying about whether they actually won or lost the last election.

Republican leaders want to hold onto Donald Trump’s base. But, it appears—contrary to their fondest wishes—the only way they can do that will be to embrace the Big Lie. And to make the 2022 election a referendum on the Big Lie.

And so: the 2022 election will be another horrendously unethical experiment in social psychology.

Will the 30 percent of Republicans who don’t actually believe the Big Lie hold their noses and vote for the Trumpy Republican candidates anyway?

Will the nice elderly lady down the hall at Happy Acres, who voted for Trump reluctantly, vote for the Trumpies again?

And will the majority Democrats say, “Oh, well, it’s an off-year election. Doesn’t matter very much. And the state legislature has made it a little more trouble to vote this year. And I do need to wash my hair”?

All this at a time when the anti-Big Lie side is going to be banging the drums and clanging the symbols about what is at stake in 2022?

Maybe all of that will happen. And maybe Americans will just vote away their constitutional republic. Maybe it will turn out in 2022 that the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Certainly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Nevertheless, putting all your eggs in the anti-democratic basket poses one hell of a risk for the bad guys.