The Party Of Trump

[ Posted Thursday, May 6th, 2021 – 16:46 UTC ]

The way things are going, they might as well just go ahead and rename the Republican Party the "Party of Trump." It'd certainly be more honest, that's for sure. Not only has Donald Trump successfully co-opted the party from within, he is now also in charge of who is allowed to stay. If you're in Trump's good graces, then you are a true Republican (and a patriot to boot). If you are not, then you are shunned and booed and excluded. There is no "big tent" to the party anymore -- it's a small tent (and getting smaller) and the tent is wholly owned by Trump, Inc.

Plenty of people -- President Joe Biden among them -- expected some sort of magical return to normalcy after Trump's forced exit (both from public office and from social media). They figured most Republican politicians would sort of come out of their daze, shake themselves vigorously, and return to garden-variety conservatism. The party would reunite in opposition to a Democratic president, and by the next election cycle almost all of the Trumpian fervor (or fever) would have melted away.

They were wrong. This has not happened. In fact, the opposite has happened. The remaining "never-Trumpers" and those who were aghast at Trump inspiring and egging on a direct attack on American democracy and our elections have now been both ostracized and silenced. Or "cancelled," perhaps. They're about to be put out to pasture, in one way or another. And it doesn't matter how prominent they are, their former political heft now means very little.

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Liz Cheney Goes Down Swinging

[ Posted Wednesday, May 5th, 2021 – 16:01 UTC ]

Representative Liz Cheney did not come from the planet Krypton, but not unlike Superman (at least, the Superman from the 1950s television version) Cheney is in the midst of a "battle for truth, justice, and the American way." This may sound rather odd to hear, coming from me (as well as both dated and cliché). But while I disagree with Cheney on just about every ideological item on either one of our lists, I have to applaud what she is doing now -- standing up to the idiocy which has taken hold of her own political party, reminding them that they used to stand for things like personal responsibility and the U.S. Constitution, and calling a Big Lie an actual Big Lie. In today's Republican Party, that is both admirable and (sadly) almost extinct.

Liz Cheney knows the emperor is wearing no clothes. And she is loudly telling the rest of her party this fact. So, in response, the party is going to unceremoniously chuck her out of their caucus's third-highest leadership position in the House Of Representatives. For refusing to publicly and knowingly lie to the voters.

To put it another way, the Republican Party has just lost any remaining shreds of honesty or morality it may still have had retained over the past five years. Its members are shown to be white supremacists or investigated for child sex trafficking -- and the party leaders look the other way: "Nothing to see here... move along...." But when one of them refuses to swear loyalty and utter fealty to their Dear Leader, then she must be expelled. Ironically, she'll be booted out for actually acting like a political leader -- you know, by leading instead of blindly following (and encouraging) the senseless mob.

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Is Biden's Independence Day Vaccination Goal Achievable?

[ Posted Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 – 16:34 UTC ]

[CORRECTION: I wrote this entire article using the wrong metric. I didn't fact-check it closely enough, even before I sat down to write it. President Joe Biden called today for 70 percent of adults to be vaccinated by July 4th, and not (as the article states) 70 percent of all Americans. To correct this would have meant rewriting almost the entire article, so I am not even going to attempt this. Most of the points made here are still valid, especially the one about listening closely to what is being measured in any statistic you hear cited. Basically, I should have followed my own advice. I apologize for the error. Mea culpa.]


President Joe Biden announced a new goal for his administration today: getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated at least once before the Fourth of July. That's a pretty high number, even though we've got two whole months to go. But it is an interesting one to pick, since it is the low end of the estimate for what the country will need to achieve "herd immunity" (others put the number higher, as high as 80 or even 85 percent). So it is without doubt a worthy and admirable goal to shoot for.

But I've noticed something about the way these numbers are reported in the media and even from the scientists and medical experts -- different people are using different yardsticks, which can lead to some confusion in the public. So you've really got to be sure you're comparing apples to apples when you hear one number or another reported on the news. There are many ways to measure the success of the vaccination program. But for various reasons, some report things differently. So whenever you hear a number quoted on the news or by a medical expert, pay close attention to what the quoted percentage is actually referring to ("all Americans," or "those eligible," or "adults").

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Shut Down The Big Lie

[ Posted Monday, May 3rd, 2021 – 16:39 UTC ]

Back in 2015 and 2016, the mainstream media gave Donald Trump's presidential campaign a huge boost. Trump was like catnip to them, endlessly entertaining, and as a result, they made his campaign a gift of hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in free airtime. They'd cover his rallies in full, just to see what outrageous things he said. When the Republican primary season happened, all their questions to the other candidates were basically some form of: "What do you think about what Trump said about X?" Trump was a creature of television and pop culture, and as such understood the value of generating high ratings. And the media gleefully went along for the ride. And as a result, Trump dominated the primary and then dominated the general election.

Much later on, the media went through a bit of soul-searching: "How could we have allowed this to happen? How complicit were we in the con job?" But by then, of course, it was too late.

Fast-forward to now. Now, the mainstream media is giving not Donald Trump the same amount of breathless coverage, but instead Trumpism -- the toxic cult that the Republican Party has now become and fervently believes in (with the notable exception of a precious few). And at the heart of this is the blind belief in The Big Lie -- that with not a shred of an iota of a speck of proof to back the claim up, the 2020 election was somehow a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the American people and the realty was that Trump won in a landslide. Other than a few core principles the Republicans will never give up, this is truly not only what they now believe, but it has fast become a litmus (or loyalty) test to even gain entrance or acceptance to the GOP ranks.

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden Goes Big

[ Posted Friday, April 30th, 2021 – 17:44 UTC ]

President Joe Biden is either a radical, far-left socialist who hates many things about America and lied to everyone in his campaign about "unity" (because deep down he really just wants to divide us to foster his own political ambitions)... or he is not. If he isn't, then he just might be a moderate Democratic centrist who has been thrust into three simultaneous crises and who has reacted by abandoning his former timidity and instead decided that the time is now to prove to the American public that the federal government can indeed be a force for good in their lives, in the biggest way possible. Joe is going big, even though his natural instinct would be to sit down with Republicans and hash out a compromise that fell far short of what the Democratic side of the aisle thought was necessary.

That is the state of our political divide. Either you believe the first sentence in that former paragraph, or you believe the rest of it. The problem for the Republican Party is that a majority of the American people believe (to some degree or another) the more-reasonable interpretation of Joe Biden. This is why his job approval poll numbers are still higher than Donald Trump ever managed even once. Joe Biden looks and sounds like a moderate. But he seems determined to rise to the occasion, and he has shown a surprising amount of steeliness (and impatience) when confronted by GOP stalling tactics. This is likely due to the lesson he learned full well while serving as Barack Obama's vice president, when Obama was stymied multiple times by GOP bait-and-switch tactics. Obama, most notably on Obamacare, gave in on all sorts of issues in the hopes of forming a compromise plan that Republicans would vote for. This effort took up an enormous amount of time, and in the end, the Republicans refused to vote for it anyway. Biden learned the lesson: "put them on a timetable, and if they can't deliver enough GOP votes to matter in the Senate when that time is up, then feel free to ignore them and use budget reconciliation rules to get it done -- because all people will remember later is whether you got it done or not, and not how you got it done." That's an excellent lesson to have learned, when dealing with today's Republican Party, which is even worse than they were back in the Tea Party era under Obama.

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Are You For Or Against The Actual Idea, Though?

[ Posted Thursday, April 29th, 2021 – 15:25 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has proposed a very ambitious agenda, after he already successfully passed the equally-ambitious American Rescue Plan (to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic). The next two legislative initiatives Biden has now unveiled -- the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan -- are also just as breathtaking in scope. Republicans, at least so far, have been caught rather flatfooted in their response. And it is up to the mainstream media to start pointing this out, by zeroing in on questions of actual policy rather than getting distracted by the GOP's attempts at demonization and misdirection.

Biden's pandemic plan is, so far, extremely popular with the public. It's even more popular when the individual items are broken out and asked, one by one. This is also true of almost everything that is in his second and third plans as well, and yet so far the Republicans have been allowed to object on the weakest of grounds. Their reaction to the American Jobs Act was to parse and hairsplit exactly what they considered was proper "infrastructure" and what was not.

To date, I have yet to see any journalist interviewing any Republican politician ask a rather basic question: "Do you really think the public really cares what category you put it in, or are they just going to support or oppose the initiative on its merits?" This would then lead immediately to much more pointed queries: "Do you support the idea? Why or why not? If you oppose it, please make the conservative case against the idea, because that is all the public really cares about."

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Joe Biden's First Big Speech

[ Posted Wednesday, April 28th, 2021 – 21:22 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has achieved one rather monumental task since he took office, at least to me: in his first 99 days as president, Biden has successfully made the presidency boring again. This sounds like a joke, but it isn't. The previous president was the one to make the presidency itself a joke, in fact -- Biden is just returning us all to the normal state of things. And the public -- even a lot of Republicans -- are relieved at this development. Joe Biden is not an egomaniac nor is he a megalomaniac. The difference is striking. Biden does not crave seeing his face on the news each night, so he has no need to deliberately cause a mini-crisis just to get everyone to pay attention to him during that day's news cycle. Biden also does not communicate like a petulant pre-teen on social media. He's downright boring, and that's an enormous relief to us all.

Part of this transformation has happened because his predecessor got kicked off social media, for fanning the flames of political violence. If this hadn't happened, Biden might have had a tougher time making the presidency boring again. But for whatever reason, Joe Biden made being boring cool again for politicians.

Tonight, Biden gave his first big speech, an address to Congress -- the "don't call it a State Of The Union" State Of The Union speech (the technical term isn't used until after a president has been in office for a year).

President Biden's speech was boring in parts, animated in others, but delivery aside it was a consequential speech that not only celebrated a portion of what the Biden administration has already achieved but also called on Congress to act on a rather large laundry list of agenda items. In other words, pretty standard as these things go.

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James Carville Is Right

[ Posted Tuesday, April 27th, 2021 – 17:13 UTC ]

Democratic strategist James Carville is getting a little attention right now as a result of an interview just published in Vox. As is his wont, he uses some rather indelicate language to identify a number of problems plaguing Democratic efforts at messaging and getting elected. But I have to say, I largely agree with what Carville says. He's essentially right on his three main points. And other Democrats should take heed at what he's saying instead of complaining about it or denouncing it.

The biggest overarching point Carville makes is that the right way to craft a modern political message is to base your argument in emotion, not reason. More specifically, he derides what he calls "faculty lounge politics," or using the language from the ivory tower rather than speaking to people in the language they use. And finally, he makes what seems to me to be an almost-permanent complaint about Democrats -- they just don't fight as hard as Republicans, and that's why they lose a lot of messaging battles they really should win.

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Biden's Millionaires' Tax

[ Posted Monday, April 26th, 2021 – 14:34 UTC ]

This Sunday, I watched some political malpractice take place. The ABC morning political chatfest had their usual duelling roundtable, although for some reason Rahm Emanuel was missing from the lineup. This allowed Chris Christie to demonize the idea that President Joe Biden will be proposing (officially, on Wednesday) to tax upper-income capital gains at the same rate as wage income. The two liberals on the panel just weren't a match for him, and got drawn into the weeds of the debate rather than framing it correctly for the American public. Because not once did they use the phrase: "millionaires' tax."

That's what the new tax plan would be. Plain and simple. Cut and dried. If you make less than one million dollars per year in income, then your taxes will not change at all (at least not on capital gains -- there are reportedly other parts to Biden's proposal, but none of them was even part of this discussion so they can be treated separately). Got that? Only millionaires will pay. And not just millionaires in the traditional sense of the word ("those who are worth more than a million dollars"), but annual millionaires, since the tax rate wouldn't even kick in until you make that much in one year's income (no matter what your actual overall wealth may be). That's an even smaller slice of the public than "millionaires," but the label is still a useful one. In fact, it isn't even the "one percent" -- it is instead only the top three-tenths of one percent.

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden Enters "First 100 Days" Homestretch In Good Shape

[ Posted Friday, April 23rd, 2021 – 17:57 UTC ]

President Joe Biden just had a pretty good week. And next week's going to be even better for him. Especially considering how far we've come since this time exactly one year ago.

In the past week alone, Biden and his administration chalked up the following achievements or milestones:

Biden has already reached his (doubled!) goal of 200 million vaccine shots into people's arms in his first 100 days in office -- a week early.

Over 41 percent of the American population has been vaccinated at least once, including over 51 percent of all those currently eligible (age 16 and up).

The average number of new infections has actually started to come down once again, and is once again lower than the peak of the second wave. It is still too high, but at least it is heading in the right direction once again. The average deaths per day seems to have plateaued at just below 750 -- again, too high, but a lot better than the peak of almost 3,500 deaths per day.

We are very close to -- and in some areas, already beyond -- the tipping point for vaccinations, where the supply of vaccine suddenly becomes greater than the demand. Once this point is reached (it will arrive at different times in different states), anyone who wants a shot should essentially be able to get one on the same day, with no (or very little) waiting. This is much earlier than most experts had predicted, which is a positive sign indeed.

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