We need an attitude adjustment.
May 10, 2022
[Audio version here]
What if you gave a victory parade and no one came? Although thousands attended Vladimir Putin’s much-anticipated May 9th anniversary celebration, Putin did not utter the word “Ukraine”—much less proclaim “victory.” As one commentator observed, “Putin can’t even pretend he’s winning in Ukraine.” It is too early to declare victory (or defeat) for either party in Putin’s war on the Ukrainian people. But no one believed that Ukraine could last two weeks against a three-pronged Russian attack. And yet, 76 days later, the momentum in the war is with Ukraine.
Despite Putin’s formulaic attacks against “executioners, punishers and Nazis,” Putin’s speech was relatively subdued. His failure to declare war against Ukraine and call for a general mobilization of troops in Russia may signal political weakness on the home front. See Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Putin’s Victory Day Speech Forgoes an Opportunity to Escalate Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. Per the ISW,
Putin likely calculated that he could not ask the Russian population for a greater commitment to the war effort and implicitly reassured the Russian people that he would not ask for a greater societal commitment in his speech. Putin may be recognizing the growing risks he faces at home and in Ukraine and may be adjusting his objectives.
Although Putin has not formally declared a nationwide mobilization, his private mercenary army—the Wagner Group—has “urgently” requested “hundreds of thousands more troops for the Donbas offensive.” The request is motivated, in part, by continuing problems with low morale and insubordination among Russian troops in the Donbas region. According to Jack Detsch (Pentagon correspondent for Foreign Policy Magazine), the “U.S. has seen indications that some Russian officers are refusing to obey orders or not following commands ‘with alacrity’ in Donbas.” When mid-level officers and ground troops have lost confidence in their commanders, it is difficult to recover.
Although the West overestimated the military readiness and capabilities of the Russian army, the deciding factor has been the unexpected valor and effectiveness of the Ukrainian army and people. There is a lesson for all of us in Ukraine’s heroic resistance in defense of democracy. Read on.
The media doomsday machine is in overdrive.
Readers are again filling my inbox with stories that predict disaster for Democrats in the midterms. All I can say is that we should be thankful that the journalists declaring defeat are not in charge of defending Ukraine. The current narrative is that the only issue that matters to voters is the economy. Of course, except for inflation, the economy is strong—a fact universally ignored by the media. But in the “short-attention-span” media, the criminalization of abortion is a story that has run its course and is baked into the outcome of the midterms. Such a view denigrates the role of voters in the political process and ignores the possibility that the attitudes of voters can change over the course of an election.
So, let’s reset where we are at this moment in time. Most primaries for midterms have not yet occurred, so Democrats don’t know who they will be facing. But we have strong signals that Republican candidates will be more extreme, less qualified, and more vulnerable than the GOP had hoped. The surge of activism that should follow the criminalization of abortion is just getting off the ground. The final opinion was expected in late June; the leak in early May caught many grass-roots groups by surprise. Republicans and the mainstream media want to create a narrative that says, “Nothing to see here, move along. The fight over abortion won’t motivate Democrats or persuadable Independents.”
I believe the above narrative badly mis-reads what is about to happen. We are no longer arguing over abstract legal principles. We are facing a situation in which abortion will be a crime, and teenage girls raped by family members will be ordered by the state to bear children forced on them by violent attackers. The narrative ignores that a strong majority of Americans supported the Roe / Casey paradigm for balancing individual liberty and societal interests. And it ignores the fact abortion is far more common than many believe. Per the NYTimes, “25 percent of women will have an abortion by the end of their childbearing years.” Telling those women, even retroactively, that they are “felons” or “criminals” will surely have some effect on their view of their Republican accusers.
So, what should we do? First, we need an attitude adjustment. If you see a story predicting disaster, you must summon the fighting spirit to say that pundits and “conventional wisdom” do not control your actions or your destiny. The fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people is instructive. The “conventional wisdom” predicted their defeat in two weeks. Our first clue that the Ukrainians would not allow conventional wisdom to determine their destiny was Zelensky’s statement, “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.” The second indication came from the defenders of Snake Island who were ordered by a “Russian warship” to “surrender” before being shelled. The reply, “Russian warship, go f**k yourself” will live in legend. [Note: The “warship” in question was later sunk by Ukrainian missiles.]
We all need a bit of the “in-your-face” confidence to tell the doomsayers what they can do with their predictions. In that regard, I recommend the video in a tweet by MeidasTouch, “Hey, Republican Party. Go f—k yourselves.” Fair warning—the video includes about a dozen profanities, which are usually unproductive and distracting. But the sentiment expressed in the video captures the fighting spirit that all Democrats need at this moment. Republicans are busy telling the mainstream media that the 2022 midterms are over and that Democrats should surrender. As the Ukrainian defenders on Snake Island said, “Russian warship, . . . .”
More ex-Trump officials find the courage to speak up in order to sell books.
Except for Lt. Colonel Vindman and a few of his colleagues (Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, and Bill Taylor, to name a few), almost no one in the Trump administration had the courage to speak out in real-time to alert others to Trump’s illegal activities and unhinged suggestions. Add to the list former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who is now promoting a book in which he reveals that Trump wanted the US Army to “shoot protestors in the legs” and to send missiles into Mexico against drug cartels. Trump believed that “no one would know” that it was the United States who fired the missiles into Mexico.
Esper was aware of these incidents as Trump was seeking re-election, but Esper chose to remain silent. He allowed the American people to vote for president without knowing that one of the candidates wanted to shoot protestors exercising their First Amendment rights and fire missiles into a neighboring country. Esper should be ashamed of himself but instead wants you to reward his silence by paying $24.95 to read the shocking details Esper withheld from the American people. See Newsweek, Mark Esper Under Fire for Keeping’ Essential’ Trump Information Secret.
What Esper did was unforgivable. But even more unforgivable is that nearly all elected Republicans in federal and state offices want to re-elect Trump as president. Given what they now know, their support for Trump is anti-democratic.
For those readers who skip to “Concluding Thoughts,” you really should watch this video: MeidasTouch, “Hey, Republican Party. Go f—k yourselves.” For context, check out the explanation in the second article in this newsletter, “The media doomsday machine is in overdrive.”
In yesterday’s newsletter, I made a pitch for focusing on state legislative and gubernatorial races as the future battleground of abortion rights. I have mentioned a group (The States Project) that is focused on supporting candidates in winnable state legislative races that can, in turn, break up a Republican “trifecta” (control of both chambers of the legislature and the governorship). Republicans can outlaw abortion only where they have a trifecta, so breaking up those trifectas are “Job One” for Democrats and Independents interested in protecting reproductive rights (and other privacy-based rights).
Here is my past write-up of The States Project:
I previously highlighted the good work of The States Project on the Today’ s Edition Podcast (The interview with Melissa Walker is here: Future Now / The States Project). Winning state legislative races is vital to protecting the integrity of federal elections and protecting the rights regulated at the state level.
So, if you are looking for a “point of entry” into the battle for state legislatures, the States Project is a good way to get involved. If you want to contact someone in the organization to get a jump start, write to Melissa Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you tomorrow!