The GOP’s troubles.
January 19, 2022
Audio version here
I write as the Senate Democratic caucus continues its efforts to find a path forward for voting rights legislation. Because that situation is so fluid, I will defer comment and instead focus on other news. I intend this newsletter to serve as a counterweight to the unrelenting media blitz hyping the supposed tsunami of “bad news” and challenges faced by President Biden after one year in office. Yes, Biden faces challenges and must regain momentum going into 2022. Since those stories are ubiquitous today, I won’t repeat them here. I will instead examine the media’s narrative that the Republican Party is buttoned-down and primed for victory in 2022. Spoiler alert: The GOP has bigger troubles than does Biden.
Let’s start with the shining example of how Republicans are (supposedly) going to dominate in 2022—Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. The newly elected governor squeaked into office by promising voters that he was not Donald Trump—a claim everyone knew was a lie—including the media. But the media nonetheless lionized Youngkin as the GOP harbinger of the post-Trump era because that literary conceit heightened the dramatic tension necessary to sell newspapers and generate computer clicks. Within hours of taking office, Youngkin issued a series of executive orders that essentially said, “Fooled ya! I really am Trump in sheep’s clothing.”
The man has no shame. Or smarts. The backlash against Youngkin has been immediate and widespread. The last thing anyone should do is stand between a parent and the safety of their children—which is what Youngkin’s “no mask mandate” does. Within days of issuing an order that Youngkin believed would make him the darling of the conservative set, Youngkin has an open rebellion on his hands among Virginia’s largest school districts. See Talking Points Memo, “Hundreds Of Schools Defy Virginia’s New GOP Governor.” The “hundreds of schools” in open revolt represent hundreds of thousands of parents who are wondering why Youngkin is prohibiting schools from taking simple steps to protect their children.
Youngkin blew it—presumably because the media gave him a “free pass” by reporting his “I am not Trump” lies as though they were credible. Jennifer Rubin published a brilliant op-ed in the Washington Post on this subject, “Dear media: Stop giving Republicans the benefit of the doubt.” Rubin’s essay deserves to be read in full, but her most pointed and cogent lines include the following:
When Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race in Virginia, the media gobbled up the GOP talking point that he had cracked the code for the post-Trump era. See how clever he was to keep his distance from former president Donald Trump?.
The media’s predilection for portraying Republicans as tactically brilliant is indicative of their preference for treating politics as a game. They denude their coverage of any qualitative judgment that would inform voters that the party’s “cleverness” is lying, plain and simple.
So, a week into Youngkin’s tenure, he is a governor in trouble. If he is the “template” for future GOP success, the GOP needs to develop a new set of lies to deceive voters.
Of course, Youngkin was forced to deceive the public because they weren’t buying what Donald Trump was selling. A different approach is to drop all pretense and admit that you are a Trump clone—which is the strategy adopted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The problem with that strategy is Donald Trump—who will try to squash any competitor who tries to challenge him. As DeSantis has attracted the media’s attention, Trump has gone on the attack. See Business Insider, “Trump has been talking trash about Ron DeSantis in private, saying the Florida gov. has a ‘dull personality’ and is ungrateful: report.”
While Trump is engaging in private criticisms of DeSantis, his attack-dog surrogates have initiated a whispering campaign against DeSantis. The rumors are ugly and personal but are being spread by untrustworthy Trump allies, so I won’t repeat or link to them. Let’s just say that Trump’s friends are giving DeSantis a taste of what it will be like to run against Trump—in case he can’t take a hint.
The GOP wunderkinds are facing trouble because they are either (a) trying not to be Trump or (b) trying to be Trump. Which brings us to Idaho, where the state GOP is in a state of chaos. The details are way too complicated to explain, but the upshot is that Trump has endorsed an insurgent GOP challenge to the sitting GOP governor—thereby picking sides in an ugly political civil war that portends the eventual dissolution of the GOP. See Politico, “Why There’s a Civil War in Idaho — Inside the GOP.” Idaho isn’t the only state where Trump supports (or is hinting at supporting) a primary challenger against a sitting GOP governor. Other states include Ohio (DeWine), Georgia (Kemp), Massachusetts (Baker), and Florida (DeSantis).
So, yes, Democrats are having trouble agreeing on once-in-a-generation voting reform. But Biden is not trying to pick off every sitting Democratic governor who has failed to extoll the virtues of Biden’s presidency. In short, despite Democratic troubles, the upcoming midterms will be difficult for Republicans to navigate as they grapple with the legacy and control of a twice-impeached, failed coup-plotter who may soon be indicted.
Speaking of Trump being indicted . . . .
As noted yesterday, the apparent concerted effort among Republican state legislatures to present falsified electoral ballots to Congress is likely a felony. Today, Michigan’s Attorney General said, “I feel confident that we have enough evidence to charge should we decide to pursue” the fake electors. Of course, if Michigan state officials are indicted, they will be under tremendous pressure to “flip” on anyone at the federal level who urged them to prepare the falsified electoral ballots.
We know that knowledge of the conspiracy made its way to the Oval Office, at least, because Mark Meadows received a text from hapless Rick Perry encouraging state legislators to present falsified electoral votes to Congress. Whether the trail continues to Trump is anyone’s guess, but Democrats are betting that it does. And today, for the first time, a filing in federal court states that prosecutors asked about Trump’s role in an organized conspiracy to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. See NYTimes, “Prosecutors Reportedly Asked About Trump’s Role in Jan. 6 Riot.” Stay tuned!
The controversy over Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask during oral argument.
NPR reported that Justice Gorsuch refused to wear a mask during oral argument despite a request by Chief Justice Roberts “in some form” to mask up. See NPR, “Fissures at the Supreme Court suggest justices are like a dysfunctional family.” Per the NPR report, Gorsuch refused the request to “mask up” despite knowing that Justice Sotomayor suffers from diabetes. Gorsuch wasted no time in leaking a denial to the press, saying that the reports were “not accurate.” The carefully worded denial (reported on Fox News) leaves open the possibility that Roberts specifically asked Gorsuch to wear a mask, and Gorsuch did not respond, but merely showed up on the bench without one.
The competing narratives miss the point. It does not matter whether Roberts asked Gorsuch to “mask up” or not. Gorsuch sits near two justices over seventy years old and one justice who is immunocompromised. And he is doing so during the deadliest pandemic in American history. No one should need to tell Gorsuch to comply with CDC guidance about masking indoors. And Gorsuch’s failure to wear a mask violated the Court’s own protocol that orders attorneys appearing before the Court to wear a mask “except when presenting argument.” Gorsuch’s actions are cruel, reckless, and unprofessional. Roberts should rebuke Gorsuch publicly, and Gorsuch should issue an apology to his fellow justices.
On January 29, 2022, at 12:00 PM Pacific, I will join the San Gabriel Valley / Swing Left organizing meeting to make a few remarks by video. If you want to sign up for the virtual meeting, use this link: Swing Left / San Gabriel Valley. My remarks will focus on why I remain optimistic about our democracy and the ability of Democrats to prevail despite strong challenges. The remainder of the meeting will focus on SL / SGV game plan for helping Democrats to win races up and down the ballot in Southern California. But everyone is welcome to listen to the discussion.
Yesterday, I closed with a note about the tremendous upside for Democrats in registering younger voters. Today, Axios published an article titled, “America’s youth turn left.” The report features comments by John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. Della Volpe notes that there are 70 million “Gen Z” voters who are becoming more politically active and more Democratic as they “replace” their elders in Gen X. The combination of increasing urbanization, education, and diversity portends well for Democratic prospects as Gen Z voters come of age.
But we can’t wait for demographics to overtake the Republican Party. As the GOP clings to power by its fingernails, it is doing its best—or rather, its worst—to turn back the clock on civil rights, equity, and equality under the law. Although we can be sure that Republicans cannot stop the tide of history, we must do everything we can to stop the damage being inflicted by Republican legislators at the state and federal levels. The next battle is 2022. If you don’t belong to an organized group like Swing Left, Indivisible, Sister District, PostCardsToVoters, Fair Fight, or your local Democratic Party, now is a great time to join. What are you waiting for?
Talk to you tomorrow!