Friday, September 18, 2020

Republicans, the 'imposters', are STILL not ready to govern.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has a new book out titled “The Imposters.” He shows how little regard Republicans have for serious governance. They don’t even show up in support for their own priorities. And they just get in the way of those who have serious policies to guide our country and the skills to implement them. They are the party of no know. And you cam parse that however you choose.

The latest in this travesty is their so-called “Commitment to America.” Benen dismantles it.

House GOP’s new policy blueprint shows a party running on empty. Republicans hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party. Their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

In recent decades, House Republicans looking to regain power have had some success unveiling election-year policy blueprints. Ahead of the 1994 midterms, for example, GOP leaders presented voters with the “Contract with America.” Ahead of the 2010 midterms, the party pitched the “Pledge to America.”

Though voters’ familiarity with the plans may have been limited, Republicans went from the minority to the majority in both of these election cycles.

And with this in mind, GOP leaders are giving it another try, hoping for similar results. Roll Call reported yesterday:

Less than two months before the November election, House Republicans on Tuesday revealed their agenda which aims to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, rebuild the economy and increase funding for the police. The House GOP’s “Commitment to America” outlines their legislative priorities if they win the majority this fall.

To a very real extent, this is the first and only attempt the Republican Party has made to tell voters what the GOP would do with power after the 2020 elections. Donald Trump has no policy agenda – indeed, his campaign website doesn’t even have an issues page – and for the first time since 1854, the Republican Party didn’t bother to write a platform.

All of which makes the “Commitment to America” all the more significant: voters who want to know what GOP officials would do if rewarded by the electorate have this, and nothing else, to go on.

The trouble, however, is that the new Republican policy agenda appears to lack an actual policy agenda.

The full blueprint is online here (pdf) and aside from category headings, it includes 17 bulleted goals. That may seem like a lot for a party that’s been indifferent toward governing for more than a decade – you’ve all picked up a copy of my book, right? – but many of the 17 points are commitments to keep doing the same thing both parties are already doing.

The GOP agenda, for example, vows to continue to fund law enforcement, fund the military, “uphold” the First Amendment, and pursue the kind of tax measures the party has long supported. Those aren’t exactly surprising goals, but just as importantly, they’re evidence of Republicans promising voters more of the status quo. “Vote for us and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing” is hardly the stuff of a meaningful policy agenda.

Similarly, the blueprint is filled with anodyne goals such as “slashing drug prices,” “reducing our debt,” and “investing” in education. As is always the case in governing, the details matter, and GOP officials haven’t expressed any real interest in fleshing out how it might implement any of these ideas.

For the most part, the “Commitment to America” is less a policy agenda and more of a list of pleasant-sounding priorities. Republicans want to “defeat” the coronavirus, for example, with uncontroversial goals. They want to “modernize America’s infrastructure,” just like Democrats do. The problem is not with the priorities, but rather, with the party’s capacity for pursuing these priorities in an effective way.

There are plenty of predictable elements – GOP officials promise through the document to “defend the unborn” and subsidize private schools through vouchers – but even here, it’s simply more of the same from the party that’s pushed these same lines for decades.

If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) and the rest of the Republican leadership team hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party, their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Latest polls from Wisconsin and over-65 land are positive for Biden

Charlie Sykes reports via The Bulwark on the latest polls;

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin.

Why the obsession, you ask? Because I live here and because it will decide the outcome of the election.

Two polls of note: yesterday’s CNN poll has Biden up by a rather stunning 10 points– 52% to 42%. Today’s Washington Post/ ABC poll shows a more modest lead: 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters, and 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters.

The Post/ABC poll also shows Biden with a much wider: 57 percent to 41 percent lead among Minnesota likely voters

The olds may tip this election.

New numbers from a poll commissioned by AARP confirm the shift of older voters away from Trump.

According to the survey, Biden leads Trump among 65-plus voters in eight states: Colorado (51% to 44%), Iowa (55% to 38%), Maine (62% to 32%), Michigan (57% to 39%), Montana (50% to 45%), North Carolina (52% to 45%), Pennsylvania (53% to 42%), and Wisconsin (56% to 39%). Trump leads Biden in one state: Georgia (54% to 42%). Biden and Trump are statistically tied in two states: Arizona (49% to 47%) and Florida (49% to 48%).

Herd mentality runs amuck among Congressional Republicans

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Scientists Believe Congressional Republicans Have Developed Herd Mentality.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that Republican members of Congress have obtained “extremely high” levels of herd mentality, a new study shows.

According to the study, the researchers found that, in obtaining herd mentality, the G.O.P. lawmakers have developed “near-total immunity” to damning books, news reports, and audio tapes.

Herd mentality was observed in congressional Republicans from every region of the country, with the exception of one senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who was deemed an outlier and therefore statistically insignificant.

Davis Logsdon, the scientist who supervised the study, said that Republicans were exhibiting herd mentality to a degree never before observed in humans.

“Herd mentality at these levels historically has appeared only in other mammal species, like lemmings,” the researcher said.

What scares McConnell and the GOPlins in the Senate

Dartagnan at the DailyKos thinks that McConnell and the GOP Senate must be scared about something.

When Republicans are scared, they can always be counted on to gin up the race-baiting. And right now, Mitch McConnell is scared.

As reported by The Hill:

“I think the American people should know what it means if the Senate shifts control and you heard it. Eliminating the filibuster, D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood and packing the courts. That’s what you get if you change the Senate,” McConnell said on Tuesday, asked if Republicans were highlighting these issues because they were worried they could lose the Senate.

Really? Filibuster, court packing, D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? That’s what the American people should be worried about?

To be sure, the Republicans in the Senate are freaking out about losing the filibuster if—as is looking increasingly possible– they get shellacked in November and find themselves in the minority. In fact, losing the filibuster is their whole menu of talking points for the week. Apparently someone decided that talking about how important it is to preserve the GOP’s right to obstruct the legislative process is better than talking about why they’re not actually helping Americans in need during the worst public health crisis this country has seen in over a century:

GOP senators, during floor speeches and press conferences this week, are pointing to chatter that a Democratic-controlled Senate could nix the 60-vote filibuster to make their case to voters that the party has shifted too far to the left in the run up to the election.

The fact that they’re talking so much about what amounts to a procedural rule change suggests just how concerning their internal polling must look. But since the average American couldn’t explain the difference between the filibuster and a Phillips screwdriver, that one’s pretty much a nonstarter with the public. Nor is McConnell’s vague allusion to Democrats “packing the courts” likely to inspire much concern, since Vice President Biden has already explicitly rejected the idea of “adding seats” to the Supreme Court, for example. In reality, “packing the courts” is just what McConnell and his henchmen have been doing for the last three years, since they’ve controlled the Judiciary Committee by virtue of their majority. In fact, it’s the only thing they’ve been doing, routinely confirming ideologically extreme Judges, many of whom were considered “unqualified” by the ABA. At this point there really aren’t very many courts left to pack. So while that may be a shout-out to their Evangelical base to get out and vote in places like Georgia and North Carolina, there’s nothing particularly new there.

But of all the things Democrats might do with a Senate majority, why ever would McConnell mention D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? Those are important concerns, to be clear, but it’s not as if those issues are exactly at the top of ordinary Americans’ radar right now. Honestly, the issues foremost in most Americans’ minds are hanging on to their jobs and surviving the COVID–19 plague that Donald Trump has allowed to endlessly metastasize.

But there’s not much that Mitch McConnell can say about either of those things, since his party and its Dear Leader bear responsibility for the current state of the country. Nor can he talk about what the Democrats plan to do to fix either the pandemic or the economy, because he knows those measures—like direct aid to those out of work, child care subsidies, improved health care services, assistance to state and local governments and schools– are going to sound pretty damn good to most voters, come November. And they’re all things that the GOP-controlled Senate under McConnell has blocked from happening during the past six months.

So instead he’s left with conjuring up visions of African-Americans in our nation’s capital, and brown people in Puerto Rico, clamoring for equal representation in the electoral process. Apparently that’s McConnell’s “go-to” nightmare scenario for the average white Republican voter, the number one worry that keeps them tossing and turning every night after they switch off Fox News: “Why can’t you sleep, honey?” “Leave me alone, I’m worried about D.C. statehood!”

I guess if you have no ideas, no plan, and no solutions, that’s all you have to go with.

Flippable Senate seats

The Senate seats most likely to flip in November.

Flip

Republicans have a slim, three-seat majority in the Senate that they’re trying to hold on to in November. And they are in for a battle to do it: There are 13 chances on this list for Democrats to flip Senate seats and just two for Republicans.

But Republican strategists say they’re seeing evidence that Republican-leaning voters turned off by President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus are starting to come home to the party in the final stretch, and they think it might be enough for some of these vulnerable Republican senators to hang on and deny Democrats the majority.

Democrats’ path to the majority is to net at least four Senate seats or net three and win the White House to get the majority, but that requires going through some Republican-leaning states.

Because so many of the races could go either way — while others are more of a stretch — we divided them in three categories: More likely to flip than not, toss-ups, and could flip under the right conditions.

I’ve nominated three that I think have a chance of flipping from R to D.

More likely to flip than not: Alabama, Colorado and Arizona

Colorado (Republican-held): Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is trying to pull away from Trump in this purple-blue state by talking about an outdoors conservation bill he wrote, rather than how he voted to acquit the president on impeachment. His opponent, former governor John Hickenlooper (D), hasn’t seen an ethics scandal hit his polling in a significant way. A new AARP poll of all likely voters shows Hickenlooper leading 51 percent to Gardner’s 46 percent. Gardner will need Trump to perform better than expected here to keep this seat. Said one Republican strategist: “If the president is really struggling in Colorado, that makes the math difficult for Cory.”

Arizona (Republican-held): Former astronaut and gun-control activist Mark Kelly is one of the Democrats’ strongest candidates of 2020. He has outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) the entire race and is leading in recent major polls. Republicans are hopeful this could become more of a toss-up race, because Arizona is a Republican-leaning state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president in decades, and Kelly would also be just the second Democratic senator from this state in 25 years. (Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in 2018.) A new CBS/YouGov poll in Arizona finds Kelly leading by seven percentage points.

Toss-ups: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia, Montana

Maine (Republican-held): One Democratic strategist predicted the battle for the majority could come down to these next two races. Maine and Iowa are going to be down to the wire, but as the home stretch to the election begins, Republicans say they feel good about where they are in both.

In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R) is trying to lean on her expertise and history representing the state for more than 20 years to overcome Democratic attacks, led by her opponent, Maine’s House Speaker Sara Gideon (D), that she is no longer independent from Trump. (Maine is not a state Trump is expected to win.) Collins was also a co-author of the small-business loan program when the coronavirus shut down the economy, which Republicans say can help buoy her. A new Quinnipiac University poll that was released after this story published has Gideon leading Collins 54 percent to 42 percent — and Collins more disliked than liked by voters in her state. As another Democratic strategist put it: “It takes a perfect storm to unseat someone like Collins, but that storm is happening.”

Trumpers push martial law, have little else to offer America as Biden stays ahead in the polls

Molly Jong-Fast, Editor-At-Large, at the Daily Beast SAW THIS ONE COMING Trumpworld Martial-Law Talk Might Be More Than Talk Soon

They’re starting to say it out loud now: Michael Caputo, Mark Levin, and Roger Stone all hint or just say that Trump might have to “put down the enemy.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that as the election grows closer, Donald Trump’s allies and sycophants are trying to shop a low-key civil war via the Insurrection Act of 1807, which Trumpworld learned about in early June when Trump gassed protesters so he could do a photo op in front of a church holding a Bible upside-down. Trumpworld is now very jazzed to use this 1807 act. Not entirely clear they know much about it except that they think they can do martial law with it.

Trumpworld has every reason to be worried. They can read the polling on the internet, and it’s not great. Trump’s economy is even less great, and coronavirus has already killed 195,000 Americans. And then there’s the Woodward tapes, which show the president knew the coronavirus was “the plague” while still holding indoor rallies and tweeting about liberating states from lockdown. There is not much American greatness happening, despite Trump’s promise of it. This is so true that the campaign slogan “make America great again, again” feels like something right out of Veep.

Trump’s civil war pitch started in June with an opinion piece by one Tom Cotton, or as I like to think of him, the worst senator in the Senate except for Rand Paul. Tom Cotton loves war. Tom Cotton has embraced the idea of war with two countries so far, Iran and China; and now he’s casually shopping the idea of a low-intensity civil war by deploying federal government forces “to protect law-abiding citizens from disorder.” He added, “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” This was in response to one night of looting in SoHo, where a Chanel store was broken into. I mean the federal government does not need to be harnessed for one night of looting in SoHo.

From there it was all of Trump’s most deranged sycophants supporting this idea of Trump’s civil war to own the libs. Nasty online troll Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said on Facebook, “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” Just the kind of normal stuff a person who works for Health and Human Services says. Caputo later apologized, which is very off-brand for Trumpworld.

And then there was Trump-humper Mark Levin, who said on his radio show, “And I have a sneaking suspicion—and no, I have no firsthand knowledge, but a sneaking suspicion—should our president be re-elected, God willing, that he will dust off the Insurrection Act that was first passed by the Jeffersonian Republicans and used by Jefferson and used by so many presidents since Jefferson. And he will have to use it to put down the enemy.” The idea here is that Trump will need to seize power if he wins… or who knows, maybe even if he loses.

And then there’s Trump friend and prison sentence-commutation recipient Roger Stone. You may remember Roger Stone from his direct communication with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the jail sentence he’s supposed to be serving, or the Nixon tattoo he has on his back. Either way Roger went on the famous “banned from all platforms” Infowars show and suggested that Trump should form “an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.” Or as layman call it, contesting election results and then enacting civil war.

But that was not all. Roger also gave a special shout-out to The Daily Beast, saying “If The Daily Beast is involved in provably seditious and illegal activities,” he said, “their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down. They wanna play war, this is war.” But The Daily Beast is not involved in “provably seditious and illegal actives,” and arresting journalists for not writing nice things about you is against the law, at least for now.

And then there’s Michael Scheuer, the former senior CIA official who was once in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden but “has spent the summer calling for the slaughter” of the members of Black Lives Matter.

It’s not just Trump’s crazy fringe sycophants who are shouting civil war as loud as possible. Trump himself told Judge Box of Wine that if left-wing protesters start making trouble, law enforcement agencies should “put them down very quickly if they do that.”

This civil war business, rather like the Trump presidency itself, started out very stupidly, with crazy people saying insane stuff on right-wing outlets. But like everything in Trumpworld, these people will go as far as you let them. If Democrats and the one Republican who has a spine (I’m looking at you Mitt Romney) don’t push back on this, Trumpworld will happily litigate this election into another term for the president.

I remember something Mary Trump wrote in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. She explained that Trump will do as much as he can get away with. If Trump can get away with installing himself as the American Vladimir Putin, he will. If democracy is to survive, what’s left of our federal government must push back on the moronic autocrat who is holding our country hostage.

Scientific American endorses Biden, dumps Trump

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden. We’ve never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now.

That’s a long article spelling out in detail why the magazine endorses Biden over Trump. It’s worth the read but if you are strapped for time, here is a synopsis by Heather Cox Richardson in her Letters from an American.

For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American has endorsed a presidential candidate. The editors wrote: “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID–19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.”

It is an enviable endorsement, but for his part, Biden seems aware that Americans are just tired of the constant drama and chaos of the Trump presidency. Tonight he tweeted simply: “We’re going to get this virus under control and get your life back on track.”

This article was originally published with the title “From Fear to Hope” in Scientific American 323, 4, 12–13 (October 2020)
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1020–12