Michael Avenatti Bites the Dust

Michael Avenatti attends the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa, August 10, 2018. (KC McGinnis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Michael Avenatti, self-styled fighter, finds that karma has a hell of a counterpunch; why Nancy Pelosi is somewhat overrated as a House leader; New York governor Andrew Cuomo belatedly realizes that his state has high taxes that drive away businesses; and Kyrsten Sinema gets an early start on breaking campaign promises. Today’s a special “Democrats are awful” edition.

Karma Punches Back

Apparently karma punches back twice as hard, too.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with President Donald Trump, was arrested Wednesday in the Los Angeles area on suspicion of domestic violence. He was released on bail hours later.

The police report was filed Tuesday night by an unidentified victim at a residence on the 10000 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD tweeted that it was an “ongoing investigation.” The department would not reveal the identity of the reporting party or the exact nature of the person’s injuries.

Avenatti was arrested and booked on felony domestic charges Wednesday afternoon, police said. He was released from custody around 5:30 p.m. and his bail was set at $50,000, according to jail records.

Avenatti calls the charges “completely bogus.”

Yes, it’s possible this is a false accusation. The accuser is apparently convincing enough to persuade the LAPD to pursue charges. If the short-tempered angry guy who kept talking about how tough he was and how he was a fighter and touts mottos like “If you can’t take a punch, you don’t belong in the ring” and “Don’t tell me what cases you’ve won, tell me who you’ve beaten” ended up having a violent temper . . . it wouldn’t be the most shocking twist in the world. The man’s political-action committee is called “Fight PAC.” If you always boast about how strong you are with metaphors of physical violence, people might start to think you’re physically violent.

Unsurprisingly, groups such as the Vermont Democratic party are beginning to recognize Avenatti’s potential radioactivity:

Vermont Democrats, who planned to host two events with the lawyer Friday and Saturday, will refund ticketholders, said R. Christopher Di Mezzo, the party’s communications director, on Wednesday evening. Avenatti has said he would pursue the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. 

There was a time when the selection of a party’s presidential contenders consisted mostly of familiar figures from Washington and state capitols — senators and governors and the occasional ambassador or House member thrown in the mix. These figures could be well-known and boring, but that old system had some advantages. The figures who rose to the top were generally known quantities. They had been covered by the press for a long time, their backgrounds had been investigated, and the local rumor-mill checked out.

Those with certain character flaws were generally weeded out by the process to get to that level of political power. Perhaps figures like Thomas Eagleton and Edmund Muskie were treated too harshly by the national press. But we were deciding who would have access to “the button” during the Cold War — this was no position for a man who was temperamental, moody, short-tempered, or who had trouble controlling his emotions. We were hiring the leader of the free world, not casting the protagonist of a drama series.

We can argue about when exactly it changed — Richard Nixon, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton — but it clearly has changed, and I’d argue the country is worse off for that change. Just because anyone can run for president doesn’t mean that anyone should run for president.

Is Nancy Pelosi Really that Good of a Leader of House Democrats?

Insufferable gun-control activist David Hogg, a few months ago: “Older Democrats just won’t move the [expletive] off the plate and let us take control. Nancy Pelosi is old.”

(Hogg sure disappeared in recent months, didn’t he?)

Lefty Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman can’t quite believe that Democrats are even considering anyone else:

What’s truly absurd about this is the fact that everyone — both her supporters and her opponents — agrees that not only does no one else have Pelosi’s combination of skills and experience, but also that she might be the most effective congressional leader of the past half-century or so. The current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, had to struggle to pass a tax cut through a Republican-led House; when Pelosi was speaker she passed cap and trade, a huge stimulus, banking reform, and a whole lot else besides. And of course, the Affordable Care Act — the most important issue in the election we just had? It never would have passed in 2010, at a moment when other Democrats were ready to give up, had it not been for Pelosi’s skill and determination.

Er . . . Democrats had 257 seats beginning in 2009! That’s a huge margin — getting 218 votes in that environment isn’t particularly difficult. You can have 15 percent of your caucus vote “no” and still pass a bill. By comparison, Paul Ryan began this last Congress with 241 Republicans and by March 1, 2017, it was down to 237 because of presidential appointments and other vacancies. By May of this year, Ryan was down to 235. Ryan could never lose more than 9 percent or so of House Republicans and still pass a bill.

Waldman makes a fairer point when he observes that as of this writing, there’s no clear alternative to Pelosi among House Democrats. When it comes to knocking off a well-established front-runner, it’s like that story of certain native cultures using the much simpler counting system of “one, two, many” and that all numbers beyond two are indistinguishable. If the House Democratic leadership fight becomes Nancy Pelosi vs. One Alternative Younger New Option, she can be beaten. If the fight becomes Pelosi vs. A Bunch of Other House Democrats, she’ll win easily.

Andrew Cuomo: Whoa, I Just Realized My Own State’s Taxes Are High

These are the sorts of statements that just make you want to scream at people:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the deal, arguing that New York has to offer incentives because of its comparatively high taxes. At 6.5 percent, New York’s corporate income-tax rate is only modestly higher than Virginia’s 6 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. But other business and individual taxes are higher in New York.

“It’s not a level playing field to begin with,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview Tuesday. “All things being equal, if we do nothing, they’re going to Texas.”

First, what about all the companies in New York that don’t get a special deal the way Amazon does? Why is it okay for them to pay the high taxes, but not Amazon?

Second, if Andrew Cuomo thinks that his state’s taxes are too high and are scaring away businesses, why doesn’t he try to lower them?

ADDENDUM: Kyrsten Sinema, July 2: “I am not going to vote for him,” she said matter of factly when pressed on her view of Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Notice that there are no caveats, conditions, or wiggle room.

Schumer was reelected as Democrats’ leader in the Senate on Wednesday. Newly elected Arizona Senator Sinema: “Had there been a challenger for minority leader, I would have considered new leadership and a fresh perspective.”

A broken promise on her first day — way to go, Arizonans!

Politics & Policy

Jim Jordan Might Be the GOP’s Man for the Job

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan speaks at CPAC. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: weighing the options of Ohio’s Jim Jordan or California’s Kevin McCarthy to be the next GOP House minority leader; Amazon’s wildly lucrative deal with Virginia and New York appears to have hit a snag; Beto O’Rourke stands out among a geriatric set; and brilliantly simple but powerful words from the late, great Stan Lee.

To Lead the House Minority . . . Air Jordan?

Jim Jordan might make a really good Republican House minority leader. In fact, if being in the minority requires more metaphorical bomb-throwing at the majority and rallying the base and less coalition-building than being speaker of the House, Jordan might be ideal for the job.

Back when Jordan was hoping he would have a shot to be speaker, he criticized the current leadership of outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan and House majority leader Kevin McCarthy as simply not getting it done. Jordan’s attitude towards President Trump is wildly enthusiastic. He characterizes the current leadership as simply lacking the will to enact key parts of the GOP agenda.

It’s not widely known that under Ryan, the House of Representatives “passed 1,032 bills and joint resolutions in the current session, the third highest number in the last 30 years.” Most notably, the GOP House passed its version of health-care reform; it couldn’t pass the Senate once John McCain voted “no.”

Ryan himself notes, that “Of those roughly thousand bills, over 80 percent of them are bipartisan bills. So we’ve tackled opioids. We’ve tackled human trafficking. We’ve rebuilt the military. All of those are bipartisan. But they don’t get reported. It doesn’t sell.” This Congress passed and President Trump signed tax cuts; the repeal of the individual mandate from Obamacare; drilling in ANWR; new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia; the Right to Try Act for experimental medication; reforms of the Department of Veterans Affairs; laws designed to make it easier to fire federal workers; expansion of job training and technical-education programs; a sweeping change to copyright law; reducing the impact of Dodd-Frank on banks and repeal of at least 15 last-minute regulations enacted under the Obama administration. Sentencing and prison reform may get done before the end of the year.

Jordan wants the Senate to change the rules on the filibuster. But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell isn’t going to do that, and even if McConnell wanted to do that, he would need 50 votes to change the rules of the Senate. It’s not clear that 50 Republican senators would vote to do that. Earlier this year, Ted Cruz discussed four ways to work around a filibuster, and assessed that only half of the caucus was willing to get rid of it.

Jordan and President Trump saw the filibuster as the primary obstacle to enacting their shared priorities and agenda. That isn’t going to change anytime soon, and now there’s a Democratic House for at least the next two years.

For a long time, some conservatives argued that the primary obstacle to enacting their agenda was their own leadership — that the leaders of the party in either or both chambers were too compromising, too milquetoast, too easily satisfied with half a loaf, and that they weren’t “fighters.” No amount of legislative success could ever really dispel this simple narrative.

Maybe it’s time to let this crowd have a chance at the steering wheel. I think if we could look into alternate universes and see what 2019-2020 looks like with Jim Jordan as minority leader and Kevin McCarthy in the same position, we would not see earth-shaking differences. (I suspect both men will grumble at that assessment.) It’s fascinating to hear Fox News describe McCarthy as “a moderate — some would argue at times liberal — Republican” when he’s got a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 86.66. McCarthy has voted with Trump’s position 98.9 percent of the time. Jim Jordan scored a perfect 100 score in his lifetime ACU rating, and votes with Trump 85.7 percent of the time. (Jordan disagreed with the administration on the “compromise” immigration bills, the appropriations bills, the farm bill, and FISA reauthorization.)

But if the House Freedom Caucus thinks it can do such a better job, maybe it’s time they were given a chance to put up or shut up. For the next two years, the primary job of House Republican leadership will be making the argument against what the House Democratic leadership is doing.

There are two primary obstacles to enacting the conservative agenda. First, yes, the filibuster; a lot of proposals and ideas might get 50 votes but getting 60 votes is nearly impossible.

There was a time when ten or more Democrats might vote for various GOP ideas, but that time has passed.

But the more consequential obstacle of the conservative agenda is that it simply is not as popular as its adherents wish it were. People like smaller government in the abstract but lash out once spending cuts are proposed for government programs that they like. Far too voters see entitlement programs as ticking time bombs; they will refuse to step away from the explosive devices until the last second, if then. There’s little evidence that a decisive portion of the electorate sees itself as overtaxed. General economic anxiety about health-care costs, education costs, and the impermanence of employment has made people more interested in expanding government-run social-welfare programs, not less. The ideals of social conservatism are more often breached than honored, by both the general populace, less scrupulous GOP lawmakers, and at times the president himself. The general population is tired of war but oblivious or nonchalant about a world with significant and growing dangers and military threats.

That’s the task before conservatives, and it is a mission that is likely to loom large long after the Trump presidency ends.

Finally, I suspect that as minority leader, Jordan would continue to never wear a jacket.

According to reports this morning, Trump wants to see a compromise — McCarthy as minority leader, Jordan as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

Sinking In the Amazon

Yesterday I wrote about how awful the Amazon deal is for northern Virginia residents and Virginia taxpayers. This morning . . . one has to wonder if this deal is actually going to go through after all, at least up in New York City:

City Council members fumed Tuesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut them out of a deal to build one of Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens, obviating one of the city legislature’s most important functions…

“This is beyond top-down, I’m not even sure what to call this,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, also a candidate for public advocate. “This was done with no stakeholders in the room at all.”

“I also don’t understand why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money for its expansion plans at a time when New York desperately needs money for affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and education,” [Speaker Corey] Johnson said in a statement.

[City Council Member Jimmy] Van Bramer questioned the political wisdom of the move, saying the de Blasio administration and the governor “misread the moment” and the level of outrage that the deal would trigger.

“I think if the takeaway from the recent election in Queens, New York City and nationally is that we should actually step up corporate subsidies and billionaires getting billion-dollar bailouts — if that’s the takeaway, somebody’s not got their fingers on the pulse of Democrats, certainly, but people generally in this country,” he told POLITICO in a phone interview.

As Matthew Walther puts it, “So-called economic development benefits the developers, not ordinary people.”

Beto the Rock Star, in More Ways Than One

Last night, I dreamt Beto O’Rourke had rebounded from his unsuccessful Senate campaign by forming a band and going on a nationwide concert tour. Considering that a new poll shows him to be the third-most popular option among Democrats for the 2020 presidential nomination, maybe that isn’t such a weird dream. The figures around him look like a retirement home: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

ADDENDUM: An absolutely beautiful two-paragraph essay from Stan Lee in the back of a Marvel comic of 1968:

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

“Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God ― a God who calls us ALL ― His children.


One Week Later: The Midterms Don’t Look So Good For the GOP

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at his midterm election night party in Orlando, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri )

Making the click-through worthwhile: the latest on the Florida recount shenanigans, including one county just deciding to improvise the rules in violation of state law; why the outlook for Donald Trump and the Republicans looks darker today than it did a week ago; and the Kansas City local government cracks down on the urban menace of . . . free food for the homeless.

Florida County Blatantly Violates State Laws on Ballots and Voting Restrictions

Guys . . . you can’t just make up new laws and rules for voting right before the election, even if you have the best of intentions.

As counties recount ballots in three statewide races and lawyers battle over the complex vote tallying in court, the top elections official in Bay County said he allowed some displaced voters to cast ballots by email or fax after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle, even though there is no provision for it in state law.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen said Monday that 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 ballots were domestically faxed in, though state statute does not allow emailed ballots and faxing in ballots is only permitted for military and voters overseas.

But Andersen defended his decision to accept those ballots by email and fax vigorously, noting the mass devastation that rocked the coastal county one month ago.

“You did not go through what we went through,” he said, describing areas that were shut off by law enforcement and people barred from returning to their homes. “If some are unhappy we did so well up here, I don’t know what to tell them. We sure had an opportunity to not do well, I can tell you that much.”

Andersen said that all of those ballots were verified by signature and that voters were required to sign an oath. “If I can validate it with a signature, the ballot is there, how is that different than a ballot that comes in through the post office?”

There’s no doubt that Andersen meant well, and perhaps some subsequent lawsuit will determine that all of these ballots should be counted because all the ‘i’s were dotted and all the ‘t’s were crossed. But until a judge rules otherwise, those 158 ballots are not legal under state law. Before the election, Rick Scott — the governor, who’s running for Senate and who appears to have won the Senate race — issued an executive order that allowed counties to extend early voting days and designate more early voting locations.

But the governor’s statement and executive order were clear:

Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order. In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues. The Department is actively reviewing ways to provide more absentee ballots to those voters in the counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael.

In the governor’s race in Bay County, Republican Ron DeSantis won 45,695 votes for governor, about 72 percent; and Democrat Andrew Gillum won 16,738, about 26 percent. In the Senate race, Scott won 73.7 percent, and Democrat Bill Nelson won 26.3 percent.

Meanwhile, further south in the Sunshine State, Broward County election officials are still sorting the ballots for the recount, separating the first page with the contested races from the ballot’s other pages; this process will take, by the county’s estimate, 35 hours. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County is running comparably smoothly, declaring they expect they will complete the recount well before Thursday’s deadline. Scott’s lead is 12,562 votes; DeSantis leads by about 34,000 votes; and in the state’s agriculture commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried leads by about 5,300 votes over Republican Matt Caldwell. Based upon history, one should not expect the new numbers to reverse the results:

According to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote, which advocates for electoral reforms that make it easier to vote, out of 4,687 statewide elections between 2000 and 2016, just 26 went to a recount. Of those 26, just three recounts wound up changing the initial result of the race: The 2004 Washington governor’s race, the 2006 Vermont state auditor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The average swing in those three elections after the recounts? About 311 votes.

What the Miami Herald didn’t note, but that longtime conservative election-watchers probably remember, is that in all three of those recounts, the new count showed the Democratic candidate beating the Republican candidate.

Why Election Day 2018 Looks Worse for the GOP One Week Later

What a difference a week makes, huh? With Arizona’s Senate seat lost, Florida and Georgia down to the wire, and GOP House losses approaching 40 seats, it’s time to adjust Wednesday morning’s “It wasn’t that bad” assessment.”

What’s more, President Trump and his team should be nervous about 2020. There’s still a lot of road between now and the next presidential election. We don’t know what the state of the country will be in autumn of that year. What will the unemployment number be? Will Americans feel prosperous and that American has been made “great again”? Will there be a terrorist attack? Another war?

What should worry Republicans and Trump is that the economy on Election Day 2018 was just about as good as they could want, and the Democrats made those big gains anyway. The economic picture in autumn of 2020 may not be as rosy as it is now. We’re technically overdue for a recession, or at least a slowdown. The U.S. economy could slow down because of global-economic forces; a bubble bursting in the real estate, tech, or financial sectors; instability  overseas; tariffs . . . and we’re at trillion-dollar-a-year deficits already.

A rational administration would look at the “excite the base” strategy in the final weeks before Election Day and declare it either a failure (a bit harsh) or insufficient. Maybe President Trump’s focus on repealing birthright citizenship, the caravans, crimes of illegal immigrants, and so on helped ensure GOP wins in the Senate races in Indiana and Missouri. But it sure as heck didn’t help the Republicans who were running in competitive races in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, California, and some parts of Florida . . . you can’t just dismiss those red-to-purple districts in blue or purple states. Republicans can’t just write off all of those soccer moms and white-collar professionals as folks who were always RINOS and closet liberals. You have to win back those suburban districts if you ever want to see a House GOP majority again.
Beyond that, the electoral college map looks challenging once again. The upper Midwest is pretty ominous beyond Ohio. Pennsylvania Republicans got wiped out. Wisconsin wasn’t much better, although Scott Walker kept it close. Beyond John James, there weren’t many bright signs for Michigan Republicans. Without those three states going red in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have won. In these states, a lot of people rolled the dice on Trump and the Republicans in 2016 because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton. By 2018, they weren’t willing to roll the dice again.

Trump doesn’t have many blue states that could easily flip. Minnesota was supposed to be turning purple; that didn’t happen. Nevada, Colorado, Virginia . . . a whole bunch of once-purple states look pretty darn blue.

How confident should the GOP be about Florida in 2020? Or Georgia? Or Arizona? Texas probably won’t flip this cycle, but the trend is not Republicans’ friend.

But Trump is who he is. He doesn’t want to change. So Trump is going to be the soccer-mom scaring guy he’s always been. This makes winning back the House tough, and keeping Senate seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and maybe Alaska difficult, too. (Sure, Republicans probably beat Doug Jones in Alabama if they don’t nominate a walking liability again.)

Good luck, Republicans.

No, Government Is Not ‘The Things We Choose To Do Together’

It’s a small miracle that I don’t explode in rage every time I hear the insipid phrase, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” It is often attributed to Barney Frank, the former Democratic representative.

I didn’t choose to pour bleach on food for homeless people, did you?

The Kansas City Health Department threw away and poured bleach on food meant for homeless people.

The food was going to be distributed by a group called Free Hot Soup KC. The Kansas City Star saidthat the food, which included home-cooked chili, foil wrapped sandwiches and vats of soup, was destroyed on Sunday, Nov. 5, during a coordinated sting at several parks where volunteers had gathered.

The Health Department said the group did not have a permit and was putting people at risk.

“E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food,” department director Rex Archer said. “And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable, they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure.”

The mayor also agreed with the Health Department, tweeting that “Rules are there to protect the public’s health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions.” END

Really? This was the only option? There was no way a city inspector could examine the food?

And they’ve got “coordinated sting operations” aimed at programs to feed the homeless? What, is there no real crime in Kansas City anymore? All the other problems in the city are solved, the only real issue left to tackle are these dangerous freelance unregulated programs to feed the hungry?

ADDENDUM: Apparently my Ted Cruz impression, exhibited in Jonah’s podcast, The Remnant, is quite convincing. The only way I can explain it is if you listen to enough speeches of lawmakers, their voices just get stuck in your head.

Politics & Policy

Elections Have Consequences — and Controversies

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: a look at Trump’s would-be two-year agenda, a look at the elections still hanging in the balance, and a look at a book — or my review of that book, anyway.

Economic Populism in Name Only?

Readers of National Review will be familiar by now with a standard midterm diagnosis. The Republican party is hemorrhaging suburban voters, and it is struggling to retain its gains among midwestern whites. Trump has repelled voters in, say, the Philadelphia and Richmond suburbs, turning off those who once might have voted GOP and inspiring a number of women to vote Democratic. Meanwhile, the party has not managed to solidify the inroads Trump made in states such as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and most of Pennsylvania. To use Henry Olsen’s analysis, the modern GOP has deterred the RINOs while not doing enough to win over the TIGRs (or Trump Is Great Republicans).

Why? Some combination of Trump’s personality and a lack of policy imagination seems to be a reasonable explanation. RINOs are turned off by Trump’s personality and his culture-war fights, while TIGRs have material interests distinct from any allegiances they might have in the debates over NFL player protests and migrant caravans. If the GOP is going to keep its coalition a winning one, it will have to speak to those interests.

So there’s been a renewed call for a genuinely populist economic agenda in the wake of the midterms. There’s also been a simultaneous recognition that, legislatively speaking, nothing is likely to happen for the next two years. Instead of a grand bargain on a sweeping infrastructure bill or a dogged attempt to find some comprehensive solutions to the health-care system, we’re likely to get a series of House investigations into the petty wrongdoing of the Trump administration and escalatory counterpunches by the president. Insofar as anything happens on the policy front, it will come unilaterally. Executive actions will be the extent of policymaking for the next two years.

What Trump’s economic program might look like over the next two years is anyone’s guess. Trade will continue to be a focus, as will taking aim at low-hanging regulatory fruit. One idea: Take aim at Amazon and Google, push for antitrust action against tech companies, and force California to come out on the side of Capital. A rhetorical war against the behemoth company that cajoled midsize cities into jurisdictional competition for its HQ2 only to likely pick Washington, D.C., and New York City as its locations would probably play well for the president.

I suspect that advocates of a more populist economic agenda have more lasting and materially meaningful policies in mind, and business-friendly Republicans would protest were Trump to target Silicon Valley himself. But those in the GOP who plan on being around after Trump ought to start thinking about how they can keep the coalition he built. (Start with Oren Cass’s The Once and Future Worker, and his wage-subsidy, career-track, and labor-reform proposals.)

Elections, Elections

But the midterms aren’t quite over yet, with the results of races in Arizona, Georgia, and Florida still technically in doubt. But Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, now up in Arizona by 32,000 votes, looks poised to become Arizona’s next senator, while Republican Brian Kemp, up by 58,000 votes, will almost certainly be the next governor of Georgia. Both of these races have been dotted with implausible claims of malfeasance — from the people you would expect — although only one set of these claims has gotten sympathetic write-ups in the press. But the writing is on the wall for Martha McSally and Stacey Abrams.

Things in Florida are less clear, as Rick Scott’s and Ron DeSantis’s leads have shrunk to within the 0.5 percent margin within which a recount is required. There is plenty of drama in Broward County, which has a history of mishandling recounts. NR’s editors called on Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes to be fired over the weekend:

On Friday, a court in Broward County found that Snipes was guilty of violating both Florida’s public-records laws and the state’s constitution by failing to provide mandatory updates to the public, and it ordered the immediate release of the missing information. As that ruling was coming down, Snipes’s office was laying out more lawsuit bait. According to the Miami Herald, an election worker found bags of “uncounted early ballots” in the Broward County office — ballots whose provenance could not be established. Snipes, meanwhile, was busy mixing together rejected provisional ballots and accepted provisional ballots, processing them all together. . . .

Such behavior is by no means out of character. This year alone, Snipes has been reprimanded by the courts twice: once, in May, for illegally destroying ballots during the 2016 Democratic primary, in violation of both state and federal law; and again, in August, for illegally opening mail-in ballots in secret. How long, we wonder, does it take to establish a pattern?

One thought: The Trump administration was banking on McSally and Scott being part of a 54-seat majority in the Senate when it fired Jeff Sessions and appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, right? The closeness of these elections makes the timing of that decision all the more baffling, as James Hitchcock points out. First there’s the constitutional objection to Whitaker’s appointment — that “principal officers” require Senate confirmation, which is the position of conservative legal writers from George Conway to Jonathan Adler to John Yoo — and then there’s the issue of whether Trump will be able to get Whitaker confirmed to the position full-time if Republicans only hold a two-or three-seat majority.

It’s Not Self-Promotion If It’s Not Your Book

Wesley Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk is out this week, one of my favorite books of the year. I reviewed it for National Review in October:

“Is it OK to be white?” [Yang] asked in a column in Tablet magazine last November. “The question is at once disingenuous, facetious, satirical, and self-parodic. It is also one of the consequential questions being posed in earnest by the moral and political vanguards of our time.” He was referring to a then-ongoing alt-right campaign, conceived online by those same disposessed male Internet denizens, to put up posters at universities and high schools that answered the question in the affirmative, and to the media furor that had followed. “The question invites the typical reader to resist its implications — to deny that the question is one that anyone would think to ask, or that people are asking. But people have thought to ask it, they are asking it. It is the sort of question that one doesn’t think to ask at all unless the answer is going to be no.”

Some 2,000 words later, after affirming that yes, it is okay to be white, Yang had covered a lot of ground. He explained the goal of the alt-right troll campaign (to invite “dissent that would delegitimize the dissenters”), pointed out the nature of the dissent (social-justice activists take whiteness and masculinity to be “forms of identity rooted in genocide, colonialism, and slavery that reproduce the violent conditions of their emergence everywhere they are treated as neutral”), and located its philosophical source (a shift from neutral liberalism to a post-structuralist Foucauldianism that has seeped into the academy, the media, and human-relations departments, and is coming to a screen near you). By the end of the column, Yang had managed to capture the essence of online social-justice activism in a single sentence: “This intricate system of racial casuistry, worthy of Jesuits, is a beguiling compound of insight, partial truths, circular reasoning, and dogmatism operating within a self-enclosed system of reference immunized against critique and optimized for virality.”

This trenchant essay appears toward the end of Yang’s debut book, The Souls of Yellow Folk. The title is an homage to W. E. B. Du Bois’s look at the souls of black folk at the start of the last century, and Yang’s volume is not really about the alt-right or digital political fights. It is a diffuse collection of previously published essays that coheres, albeit loosely, around the “centrality” of the Asian-American experience to contemporary American life. (Du Bois argued that the African-American experience was central to the larger national story, although later in life he lost that conviction and sadly dove into the murk of Stalinism and Afro-Liberation.) Yang is aware of the excesses of progressivism yet under no illusions about race’s continuing importance in the United States; his major observation is that Asian Americans, at once marginalized and successful, overlooked by whites yet rebuffed by other racial minorities, occupy a unique cultural space in our identity-obsessed country. Mostly, though, Yang’s book is a primer to the wider oeuvre of a perceptive writer with undeniably sharp insights into American life.


What’s Next for the Resistance?

Sign at a protest outside Trump Tower in New York City, February 8, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Tuesday night’s midterms were a bit of a mixed bag for both parties. Efforts by Republican leadership, and especially by President Trump, to spin the night as a clear-cut win for the GOP were clearly unfounded. Any time the party in power loses control of a chamber of Congress, it isn’t a great time to break out the champagne.

But Tuesday wasn’t an all-out win for Democrats either, and the most politically salient question to consider as the dust settles —  aside from “Why did these races turn out the way they did?” — is “Where do we go from here?” And for a Democratic party eyeing 2020, in particular, what lessons will presidential hopefuls, party leadership, and the Left’s most zealous advocates draw from what happened on Tuesday?

The Senate election map this year was, of course, favorable to the GOP, with ten Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016, and many of which he claimed by double-digit margins. But losing four Senate seats to GOP challengers (pending a recount in Florida) and flipping only one Republican-held seat (pending the ongoing count in Arizona) isn’t a very thrilling outcome in what was widely billed as The Year of the Anti-Trump Blue Wave.

Given that the Trump administration and GOP Congress have set an agenda during the first half of the president’s term that, aside from last year’s tax reform, has focused almost solely on reshaping the courts, pickups in the Senate are just what the doctor ordered. And the Democratic candidates who flipped congressional districts in the House don’t necessarily foreshadow a host of suburban voters rejecting the entire GOP as a result of Trump — so Democrats shouldn’t count on having the upper hand heading into 2020.

In short: If Tuesday night can be considered the first real fruits of the Resistance, they’ve still got some work to do. Bret Stephens considered some of these questions in his latest New York Times column:

Are you interested in seeing Donald Trump voted out of office in two years? I hope so — which is why you should think hard about that “meh.” This week’s elections were, at most, a very modest rebuke of a president reviled by many of his opponents, this columnist included, as an unprecedented danger to the health of liberal democracy at home and abroad. The American people don’t entirely agree.

We might consider listening to them a bit more — and to ourselves somewhat less.

It also underscores that while “the Resistance” is good at generating lots of votes, it hasn’t figured out how to turn the votes into seats. Liberals are free to bellyache all they want that they have repeatedly won the overall popular vote for the presidency and Congress while still losing elections, and that the system is therefore “rigged.”

Stephens is exactly right about how liberal bellyaching comes across to those outside the progressive movement. The activist portions of the left, whose overblown rhetoric has undoubtedly bled over into how Democratic politicians portray themselves to voters, despise Trump and have radical ideas for what they want their government officials to do in response. There’s no doubt Resistance voters will show up to the polls to vote against Trump as a result, and that matters. But especially after Tuesday — which showed that GOP voters, and Trump voters to the extent they’re a different bloc, will turn out, too — it’s less clear that the Resistance has the ability to convert. More from Stephens on this point:

It didn’t convert when it nominated left-wing candidates in right-leaning states like Florida and Georgia. It didn’t convert when it poured its money into where its heart was — a lithesome Texas hopeful with scant chance of victory — rather than where the dollars were most needed.  . . .

It didn’t convert when Chuck Schumer chose to make Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court the decisive political test of the year. It didn’t convert when it turned his initial confirmation hearing into a circus. It didn’t convert when media liberals repeatedly violated ordinary journalistic standards by reporting the uncorroborated accusations against Kavanaugh that followed Christine Blasey Ford’s.

Above all, it didn’t convert the unconverted

As Stephens rightly notes, this isn’t the most prudent strategy for a party that will need to win folks over in addition to motivating an already-loyal base if it wishes to take down Trump in 2020. 

A Showdown with No Winner: Donald Trump vs. Jim Acosta

Wednesday’s power struggle between President Trump and CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta serves as a helpful microcosm of the melodrama we’ve been dealing with since the moment Trump rode down his golden escalator and into the presidency. Absolutely no one benefits from the vicious cycle of Trump fighting with the press — no one, that is, except for Trump . . . and the press.

In the post-midterms press briefing, Acosta’s regular showboating routine went a little too far for the president’s liking and ended with the White House revoking his press pass until further notice. Acosta — who has become known for questions that are less interrogative than they are assertions of his own opinion followed by, “So then why did you say the opposite?” — began badgering Trump when the president failed to satisfactorily answer Acosta’s “question” about the migrant caravan.

The exchange ended with the reporter making some kind of effort to prevent a White House intern from taking away the microphone. (This newsletter will not delve into close readings of whether Acosta “placed his hands” on her, as the White House communications team now attests.) Trump, for his part, responded characteristically, labeling Acosta “a rude, terrible person” and instructing him to “run CNN” and let him run the country.

CNN, always on the lookout for Trumpian threats to the First Amendment, described the White House’s revocation of Acosta’s pass in the starkest of terms: “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better.” As usual, both sides of the Trump–media skirmish are wrong, although to differing degrees. A president who often calls the press “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” ought to know better; and a journalist who decides to argue with the president ought to know he doesn’t have a constitutional right to be in the room.

These constant, meaningless dustups are a battle with no winner that we’re all forced to watch, a foolish spectacle posing as our politics. As we’ve learned again and again and again over the last several years, a reality-television president will turn our government into reality television, and he’s been aided in that quest by no one more than the press that claims to hate him.

Lest anyone notice how low the stakes in this battle really are, Trump and his media critics behave as if they’ve formed a silent pact to continuously escalate the drama between them, allowing us no time to pause and ask ourselves why we even care.

These theatrics are detrimental to everyone except for Trump and the press: Acosta is now one step closer to hosting his own primetime show on CNN, and the White House has one more anecdote to bolster its narrative of a hostile, disingenuous press corps. Meanwhile, the nation suffers from increasing opacity and a lack of truth.

ADDENDUM: Glad to be filling in for Jim Geraghty this morning. While I have you, I’ll also be filling in for Jim on today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast with Greg Corombos. And if you enjoy that . . . you’re always welcome over at Ordered Liberty, the National Review podcast I cohost twice a week with David French.


Winning Makes Liberals Angry, Too

Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I’m out tomorrow and Monday; the next Jim-written Morning Jolt will be November 13.

Making the click-through worthwhile: Liberals win a bunch of elections but just get angrier, an update on the Senate races in Arizona and Georgia, checking the pre–Election Day predictions and polling, and some surprises during my special guest appearance on The Remnant.

The Left Wins, and They Just Get Angrier

Republicans lost a bunch of races on Tuesday that they wanted to win. Since Tuesday night, I haven’t seen any riots. I haven’t seen any violent protests, like the ones that have plagued Portland this year. I haven’t seen any Democratic candidates hung in effigy, the way Marsha Blackburn was in Tennessee earlier this month. I’m sure the “Proud Boys” will pop up again in some form, but they’ve been quiet since the NYPD announced arrest warrants for nine of them after that mid-October brawl.

Democrats, progressives, and liberals won a lot of the races that they wanted to win. And what happened? Did they celebrate with glee and good cheer? Did they relax? Did their anger and rage over the 2016 election dissipate and give way to relief and a more optimistic outlook for the future?

No, apparently some of them just got angrier and more explicit in their threats:

A group of protesters congregated outside what they claimed was Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s home in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night to chant threatening messages.

Smash Racism D.C., a self-described “anti-fascist” group, posted a video of their members screaming obscenities at Carlson’s house and blaming his “policies” for the deaths of thousands of people.

“Tucker Carlson, we will fight!” the protesters chanted. “We know where you sleep at night!”

This is the same group that harassed Senator Ted Cruz and his wife in the restaurant.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee ranking member and congressman Jerrold Nadler made the mistake of sitting next to Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist and Fox News on the Acela train and basically openly discussing everything he planned to do next year, including holding hearings investigating Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for alleged perjury and investigating the FBI for doing an insufficient job in looking into the claims against Kavanaugh. Indeed, right after the Kavanaugh fight cost Democrats seats in Indiana, Florida, North Dakota, and Missouri, Nadler (and presumably at least some other House Democrats) is ready to have the exact same fight all over again.

House Democrats want to spend the next two years investigating the past two years: Trump’s pre-presidential ties to Russia; the Trump administration’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the family-separation policy; the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern border; the White House security-clearance process; the travel ban; Cambridge Analytica; the use of private email by White House officials; the response to the Puerto Rican hurricane; Jared Kushner’s business ties; and former national-security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with foreign officials. The House of Representatives will be in reruns for the next few years.

No doubt, some of these areas of investigation are legitimate — I’d love to see vigorous, skeptical scrutiny of runaway spending by cabinet officials — and some of them will be wastes of time, like arguing that the president is being influenced by foreign governments booking events at Trump hotels.

Come on! This president doesn’t base his foreign policy and relationships with foreign leaders on bribes! This president bases his foreign policy and relationships with foreign leaders on flattery and perceived slights.

Keeping Up with Those Not-Quite-Resolved Races . . .

Arizona . . . how do you have 600,000 votes uncounted a day after Election Day? “There are more than 600,000 votes left to count statewide after Election Day, according to an Arizona Republic count of votes outstanding in Arizona counties voters as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.”

Come on, we need some answers, this was the hottest Senate race in the country! Although being Arizona, it was a dry heat.

Meanwhile, in the land of not-dry-heat, Florida’s Senate race will go to an automatic recount. Few in the state expect the results to change: “The actual raw numbers Wednesday morning — with a trickle of absentee ballots possibly still to be tallied — put Scott ahead of Nelson by 30,162 votes with more than 8.1 million votes cast.”

Florida Democrats are once again waking up to a loss, and are particularly despondent this year:

The loss was crushing, and left some strategists believing that Florida, particularly in midterm elections, isn’t a swing state any longer. Of the last 26 statewide races, including presidential contests and Cabinet elections, Democrats have won just five.

“This Groundhog Day conversation has happened every Wednesday morning after the election every two years,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami pollster who helped Donna Shalala flip a congressional district blue. “There’s enough of a losing streak now that there’s no longer a question of whether there should be a change or a massive reevaluation, but why it hasn’t already happened.”

If Pundits Are Humble and Reserved in Making Predictions . . . Are They Boring?

I like Peter Hamby, formerly of CNN and now writing for Vanity Fair. I think his coverage of Beto O’Rourke was a little too credulous this year, but I have no doubt that his coverage accurately reflected what he was seeing and hearing on the ground in Texas, and that he genuinely believed he was witnessing a transformative phenomenon in the Lone Star State. Beto-mania was something of transformative phenomenon in the Lone Star State — just not enough of one to come out with more votes than Ted Cruz. Texas Democrats picked up a dozen state house seats and two state senate seats.

A week ago, Hamby scoffed at the folks who were scoffing at the likelihood of an O’Rourke win.

Then there’s Texas, where Democrat Beto O’Rourke appears to have reclaimed some late momentum against Republican Ted Cruz, who expanded his lead in the race after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings energized G.O.P. voters. Right-leaning analysts have fallen all over themselves to mock the endless stream of Texas polling and the glowing coverage O’Rourke has received from the national press. Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini tweeted that “Beto is and has always been fanfic.” The Weekly Standard published an otherwise sensible piece about the race on Wednesday under the headline “Beto-Mania Is a Joke (Probably).” Yeah, O’Rourke might lose. That’s the most likely outcome and the best bet. But here’s a wild concept: he also might win.

Well, he didn’t, so maybe that skepticism and mockery wasn’t so foolhardy after all. We’re all vulnerable to the temptation of seeing what we want to see, instead of what’s actually happening. Lord knows I’ve done that plenty of cycles; this is why those of us who cover politics should try to resist the siren’s call of “falling in love” with a particular candidate. It happens.

The overall gist of Hamby’s piece was that some humility is in order when it comes to making predictions about election outcomes. And he’s right! That’s why elections are interesting to cover. If the RealClearPolitics polling average always told us who was going to win, we wouldn’t need to pay attention on Election Night. But predictions are also fun; that’s why the old McLaughlin Group always ended with them. No one ever thought any pundit was psychic. Predictions are our best guesses based on what we’ve observed, what we’ve heard, and what we know. Sometimes that pans out into genuine insight, sometimes that gets clouded by wishcasting.

Still, some of us get better at resisting self-delusion than others. And while every cycle brings some polls being wrong, the polls in a lot of races were pretty accurate this year.

After the apparent defeats of Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacy Abrams in Georgia, it’s fair to wonder if post-Obama America still has something of a “Bradley Effect” — people who tell a pollster they’ll vote for the African-American candidate, but vote for the opponent on Election Day. Gillum led 16 of the last 17 polls in Florida, although it’s worth noting most of those polls had Gillum up by a point or two, so a DeSantis victory by seven-tenths of a percentage point shouldn’t be quite so shocking. When people gripe about the polls being “wrong,” are they including ones that have candidate A ahead by a small margin, and on Election Day candidate B wins by a small margin?

But it’s also fair to wonder again if America has a “Shy Tory” effect, where respondents don’t want to tell a pollster that they’re voting for conservatives. Josh Hawley won by six percentage points in Missouri’s Senate race, much wider margin than most of the final polls. Three of the final polls in Florida showed Senator Bill Nelson with a lead of four percentage points. That East Tennessee State University poll had Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn tied; Blackburn won, 54.7 percent to 43.9 percent. Maybe they oversampled Taylor Swift fans.

(Can we laugh at the “Tennessee voting experts” who told Vice that she “could turn their state blue”?)

Keep in mind, before we start flaying the pollsters, that no amount of weighting, sample size, or other adjustments to a survey can compensate for respondents not being honest about the candidate they support!

I’ll give partial credit to those who predicted a “red wave.” If you said there would be a red wave in the Senate, you’re excused. But if you thought a “red wave” would lead to GOP gains in the House, take one step back.

Joe Scarborough predicted Democrats would pick up a seat in the Senate. In fact, quite a few Democrats convinced themselves that they were going to gain a Senate seat.

If you thought high turnout automatically meant that the Democrats would win, take a step back. Turnout was astoundingly high in Florida, Ohio, and Texas, and Republicans took five of the six statewide races in those places.

In fact, in Ohio, Republicans won the races for state attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, and state treasurer. And incumbent Democratic senator Sherrod Brown won by about six and a half points — as recently as early October, polls had had Brown up by 18. For a purple state, Ohio looks awfully red. Maybe it’s more of a “Magenta State.”

ADDENDUM: On the next edition of Jonah Goldberg’s The Remnant, you’ll get to hear both my immediate live reaction to Jeff Sessions’s firing — not thrilled — and I did a bit of my Ted Cruz impression. I like Cruz, I’m really glad he was reelected — both for his viewpoints and that impression remaining relevant for another six years.


The Not-So-Bad Duck-Rabbit Election

(James Lawler Duggan/Reuters )

That . . . wasn’t so bad after all, was it? This midterm election was like that optical illusion of a duck or a rabbit. If you look at it from one angle, it’s a blue wave with a huge shift in the U.S. House of Representatives! If you look at it from another angle, it’s a red wave with the GOP picking up a bunch of Senate seats! If you look at it from the governor’s races . . . eh, it’s a mixed bag.

The hottest of hot takes: If last night had been a disaster from top to bottom and coast to coast for the GOP, there would have been a much greater appetite for a GOP challenger to Donald Trump in the 2020 primary. The president’s approval among Republicans would have taken a hit, and the anti-Trump voices within the party would have argued, “Look, we tried his approach and it failed. His win in 2016 was a fluke. We’re going to get demolished at every level in 2020 if we re-nominate this guy, it’s time for something different.” But now, states such as Ohio and Florida still look pretty red, and states such as Iowa and Wisconsin don’t feel all that far out of reach.

It’s also worth noting that we’re in a fairly consistent pattern since at least 2006 where a party’s victories generate complacency and a party’s defeats generate outraged enthusiasm. John Kerry’s loss in 2004 begat the 2006 Democratic wave, Obama’s 2008 landslide begat the Tea Party and the 2010 wave, the scare of 2010 got Obama and the Democrats to hit the panic button for 2012, the disappointment of 2012 generated that second GOP midterm wave in 2014, and Democrats started thinking about the 2018 midterms during Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.

That’s What Happens When You Mess with Cocaine Mitch, Punks!

Dear God, did the Senate Democrats’ strategy on Brett Kavanaugh backfire on them on an epic scale. I do think that before the Kavanaugh fight, the Democrats were on the path to that “Blue Tsunami.” And then they decided that rerunning the Neil Gorsuch fight wasn’t going to be enough; they had to fully embrace a bunch of accusations that had no supporting witnesses.

Claire McCaskill, gone. Finally. I laid out her devilish luck in yesterday’s Jolt; for at least twelve years, Missouri Republicans yearned for a chance to take her on in a relatively normal political environment with a candidate who wasn’t a walking Superfund site of toxicity. Lo and behold, with no political wind at her back, no good GOP rivals being knocked out by the political equivalent of anvils falling from buildings or alien abductions, Josh Hawley won . . . by about 144,000 votes. The old “Vote liberal for four or five years, veer back to the center in election years” strategy of red-state Democrats finally stopped working.

Taylor Swift could not deliver Tennessee for Phil Bredesen. In retrospect, the hype around the former governor looks like wishful thinking on the part of Democrats. He last won a statewide race in 2006, and as soon as Marsha Blackburn nationalized this race, it was over. Blackburn won by about 245,000 votes last night. You figure that Democrats will have a hard time recruiting a top-tier candidate anytime soon.

Rick Scott won in Florida! Never underestimate this man again. If aliens invade Florida in 2022, Scott will lead the forces of humanity to a narrow upset victory, because that’s what he does every four years — win something that nobody thinks he has a chance to win, by about one percent. Florida Democrats will console themselves that it was so close, but with the high turnout, four-tenths of a percentage point comes out to . . . about 34,000 votes. After the 2000 presidential election, that’s a Florida landslide.

As of this writing, Mike Braun is on pace to win Indiana’s Senate by 10 points, or about 189,000 votes. A lot of people are pointing to this result as a polling failure, but remember that because of Indiana’s strict anti-robocall laws, pollsters survey this state less frequently because they have to use live interviewers. The lesson here is, trust your instincts! A GOP candidate in a longtime Republican-leaning state, the home state of the current vice president, up against a Democrat who won with 50 percent in a presidential year and who votes against Kavanaugh a month before Election Day . . . has a really good chance to win and win comfortably.

Face it, we’re not even that upset that Joe Manchin won in West Virginia. His victory offers the lesson that any red-state Democrat could have improved their chances for reelection by voting for Brett Kavanaugh.

We should give Beto O’Rourke a bit of credit; coming within three points is better than any Democrat running statewide in Texas since . . . Ann Richards, I think? But that’s . . . not a victory, which is a fair expectation when you raise $70 million and spend $60 million. And because of the scale of the turnout, those three points amount to 213,750 votes. Turnout was more than 8.3 million votes, and I recall seeing O’Rourke fans insisting that if turnout surpassed 8 million votes, then their man was certain to win. Guys, there are a lot of Republicans in Texas.

As of this writing, Matt Rosendale has a narrow lead over Jon Tester in Montana. Sean Trende thinks the precincts that have yet to report are probably more Tester-friendly and should put him over the top.

As of this writing, Martha McSally is narrowly ahead in Arizona, by about 16,000 votes, with eleven precincts still to report. Gee, it’s almost like that heavy-registered Republican advantage in the early vote meant something, huh? I understand that every time Arizona Republicans told exit pollsters that they were voting for McSally, the nearby Democratic volunteers would gasp in surprise, “Martha? Why did you say that name?”

The one GOP frustration for the night? Dean Heller lost, and it wasn’t that close; five percent or about 48,000 votes. Credit Jon Ralston and his analysis of the demographics of Nevada’s early vote.

If my biannual “Hey, Republicans have a shot in New Jersey this year” piece felt pretty skeptical . . . well, experience can be a painful but effective teacher.

And about six years later than I wanted to, I get to write the headline, “MITT ROMNEY WINS; HE’S ON HIS WAY TO WASHINGTON.” He’s been a governor of Massachusetts and will be a senator from Utah; the only other American who’s been a governor and senator of separate states is . . . Sam Houston, who was governor of Tennessee and then governor and senator from Texas. Pretty cool!

The Bad News: Speaker Pelosi. The Good News: Running Against Speaker Pelosi in 2020.

Don’t underplay this; this was indeed a blue wave. As of this writing, Democrats are picking up 27 seats, with about 21 races still waiting to be called. Democrats won just about all of the seats that I predicted would flip on Monday, and could get a dozen more.

The absolute shocker of the night in my book is Joe Cunningham beating Katie Arrington in South Carolina’s first district — Mark Sanford’s old district! This is Charleston and Hilton Head and parts of Beaufort County.

The Democrats won seats no one saw coming, such as in Oklahoma’s fifth district, where Kendra Horn beat GOP incumbent Steve Russell. Russell won his district, which encompasses Oklahoma City, by 21 points in 2016! No poll had that race closer than ten points! Republicans lost the House district that represents Staten Island, the last Republican stronghold in New York City.

The narrative that Trump is killing his party in the suburbs accumulated a lot of supporting evidence last night, in races such as Barbara Comstock’s and Dave Brat’s districts in Virginia, John Faso’s district in New York, and Mia Love’s in the Salt Lake City suburbs.

The GOP lost three out of four competitive House races in Virginia. (Thanks a lot, Corey Stewart.) A reader in Virginia’s second district wrote in, “At my polling place the Republican table had flyers for Corey Stewart, but none for Scott Taylor who, unlike Stewart, had a chance. Heck of a job, GOP.” The GOP lost three out of four competitive seats in Iowa. The GOP lost at least three competitive seats in New Jersey, and a fourth one is too close to call.

But in Texas, Dan Crenshaw won. Take that, Saturday Night Live.

The Democrats are thrilled with their new investigative powers, but I’m not sure those enthusiastic efforts will be as fruitful as they hope. For starters, this White House may just pull an Eric Holder and ignore the subpoenas and scoff at being found in contempt of Congress. (Separately, this administration may be so disorganized that they simply never get around to responding to the subpoenas.) The problem is that looking at Trump’s tax returns or other investigations of Trump may thrill the party’s base, but it’s not quite the forward-looking agenda that Democrats are going to need to keep this majority. Apparently Nancy Pelosi is already trying to downplay talk of impeachment.

There’s a silver lining or two in here for Republicans. Some of these seats, such as Darrell Issa’s old seat in California, are probably lost for a long, long time. But some of these Democratic wins look like flukes or fairly easy to win back, like the Oklahoma City or coastal South Carolina seats.

And the House Republicans who withstood this wave are probably pretty secure for the future.

Brian Fitzpatrick in Bucks County, Pa.; Ross Spano in that stretch between Tampa and Orlando; Troy Balderson in the suburbs of Columbus; Scott Perry in Harrisburg. At this hour, Bruce Polquin is hanging on in northern Maine, as is Jeff Denham east of San Jose. If Democrats couldn’t take Ed Royce’s old seat in the district covering parts of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties, in an open-seat race in this kind of political environment, they may never.

The Governors: Not So Bad!

That massacre of the GOP in the upper Midwest wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In one of the biggest surprises of the night, Republican Mike DeWine, a senator quite a few years ago, will be the next governor of Ohio. Kim Reynolds won in Iowa. Scott Walker almost hung on in Wisconsin, but fell short by 31,000 votes. Wisconsin Democrats are dancing this morning, but Walker had a huge and lasting impact on how that state is governed. I hope Walker doesn’t stay away from politics for long; competent managers are hard to find.

Remember when I said Republicans were telling me that Stacey Abrams was the most overhyped candidate besides Beto O’Rourke? As of this writing, it appears that the Republicans won the governor’s race in Georgia, but Abrams and the Democrats don’t want to acknowledge it. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Brian Kemp has 50.5 percent, more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He leads by 75,386 votes. Abrams isn’t even arguing that she won; she’s arguing that once all the absentees are counted, Kemp won’t be above the threshold and the race will automatically go to a runoff on December 4.

As of this morning, there are 3,886,414 votes cast in this race. To shave off that half-percent of Kemp’s lead, Abrams and Libertarian candidate Ted Metz would have to gain 19,432 votes out of the remaining absentee ballots. The Abrams campaign calculates that there are about 100,000 absentee ballots out there. Abrmas and Metz would have to win about 60 percent of them to get Kemp under the threshold to avoid a runoff.

The crown jewel for Republicans was Ron DeSantis’s win in Florida, in a year when Democrats were convinced that Andrew Gillum was the next superstar. When you look at where Democrats actually picked up governorships — Janet Mills in Maine, Steve Sisolak in Nevada, Michelle Grisham in New Mexico, Laura Kelly in Kansas – maybe the national hype for a first-time gubernatorial candidate is counter-productive. Or maybe it’s better for Democrats in these red-to-purple states to tone down the claims that the Great Socialist Revolution is upon us.

A couple of good opportunities slipped through Republican fingers, such as Ned Lamont currently leading in Connecticut, as of this hour.

Incumbent Republicans who were on the ballot did pretty well, with the exception of Bruce Rauner in Illinois. Larry Hogan in Maryland, Doug Ducey in Arizona, Greg Abbott in Texas, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Phil Scott in Vermont, Bill Lee in Tennessee, Henry McMaster in South Carolina — these are largely no-flash, little-controversy guys.

ADDENDUM: I’m taping Jonah’s podcast today, look for it later this week. There will be no Jolt on Friday or Monday.


The Big Election Day Preview

(Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Yesterday we looked at the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, district by district. Today, we’ll look at the big Senate and gubernatorial races, starting in the Northeast, and work our way down . . .

New Jersey Senate: No, Bob Hugin’s not going to win. He might make it a little closer than usual, but New Jersey voters do not punish Democrats for corruption. The Garden State endorses and encourages it.

Pennsylvania Senate: Looking back, how did Republicans not give a real challenge to charisma-free Bob Casey in a state Trump won, that Pat Toomey won last year, and in a state where they had, until redistricting, a 13-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation? On paper, Lou Barletta looked like a good candidate, former mayor of Hazelton in the northeast corner of the state, classic blue-collar working-class Pennsylvania territory, maybe one of the most naturally “Trumpy” members of the House GOP . . . and yet he never really made Casey sweat. Barely running any television advertising in the Philadelphia market probably didn’t help.

Maryland Governor: Larry Hogan wins, but maybe not quite by the eye-popping landslide numbers in recent polls.

Virginia Senate: Can we permanently retire the idea that Virginia Republicans need to get “Trumpier” to win in this state?  Corey Stewart’s campaign is going to be a farshtunken disaster area, and he’s up against Tim Kaine. Tim Kaine! Virginia’s incumbent senator is human oatmeal. You probably already forgot that he was Hillary’s running mate. And Corey Stewart is at 33 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Stewart will be lucky if he cracks a million votes. By contrast, that allegedly awful establishment squish Ed Gillespie lost by an awful margin last year . . . but he won 1,175,731 votes, the most votes for any Republican candidate ever. It wasn’t that Gillespie was too squishy, it was that the state’s Democrats were too numerous and too motivated by the first year of the Trump era.

Why can’t Virginia Republicans find somebody like Larry Hogan? I’d rather have a moderate Republican blocking bad Democratic ideas and disappointing me every now and then than watch table-pounding gadflies lose 2-to-1 statewide and hurt candidates down-ticket.

Florida Governor: Similarly, it’s fair to ask if Ron DeSantis was a good fit for Florida — yes, a Republican-leaning state, but a diverse and thriving one. A lot of these races might be seen as Trumpist policies and style against the Democratic agenda, without Hillary Clinton. More registered Democrats voted early than registered Republicans. DeSantis went after Andrew Gillum hard on his ethics and his record as mayor, but so far there are only limited signs that it worked. It will be close, but I think Democrats win here . . .

Florida Senate: . . . and pulse-less Bill Nelson somehow beats Rick Scott in the Sunshine State’s Senate race, which should count as one of the biggest disappointments for the GOP this cycle. It will be fascinating to see if Scott’s all-business, even-tempered, I’m-all-about-creating-jobs-and-focusing-on-efficiency style runs well ahead of DeSantis’s attacking style.

Georgia Governor: I’m being told by Republicans that Brian Kemp is going to hold on, and that Stacey Abrams is the second-most overhyped candidate of the cycle. We’ll see. I’m picking Kemp, but if Abrams wins, it means a lot of Georgia Republicans were whistling past the graveyard for the last few months.

Ohio Governor: I think the whole upper Midwest is just going to be ugly for the GOP, and one of their best gubernatorial hopes in this region, Mike DeWine, will fall short against Richard Cordray. Like in Pennsylvania, this is another race where the GOP first thought they might have a chance in the Senate race and just never made it competitive.

Illinois Governor: The worst (or at the very least most disappointing) Republican governor in the country is sent packing after one term. Bruce Rauner tried fighting the Democratic establishment in Springfield, then he tried negotiating with it, and then he tried making ever-more concessions. Nothing worked; nothing will work until Illinois voters stop accepting the same old favor-trading and backroom deals of a long-entrenched power structure.

Michigan Senate: John James might be the GOP’s best surprise candidate this cycle. Incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow might win, but the state’s other Democratic senator, Gary Peters, is running for reelection in 2020, and if James keeps it close tonight, you’ll hear a lot of people urging him to run again in what will hopefully be a better election cycle.

Indiana Senate: I’m going out on a slightly shaky limb here and picking Mike Braun. If Braun doesn’t knock off Joe Donnelly with all of the structural advantages in this race — it’s a red state, Donnelly barely won in a presidential turnout year, Donnelly voted against Brett Kavanaugh after voting for Neil Gorsuch — then Braun will probably be remembered as the most disappointing GOP Senate candidate of this cycle. Braun outspent his two rivals, congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, in a nasty primary, and if the millionaire businessman falls short, Indiana Republicans may wonder if it was wise to nominate the least well-known and least experienced candidate with the deepest pockets.

Wisconsin Senate: After Trump’s win, Scott Walker’s repeated victories, and Ron Johnson’s surprise comeback in 2016, Republicans started asking whether it was safe to classify Wisconsin as a red state. No, not really.

Wisconsin Governor: Losing Scott Walker will hurt and make little sense when the state’s unemployment is so low. But when the Democratic base is so fired up in a state like Wisconsin, it’s hard for Walker to hang on one more time.

Missouri Senate: Man, Claire McCaskill has the luck of the devil. First, way back in 2002, she ran for reelection for state auditor against a Republican who had served nine months in prison after convictions for felony fraud, and the state GOP disowned the nominee. Then she eked out a victory with less than 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic-wave year of 2006. Then Missouri Republicans were dumb enough to nominate Todd Akin against her in 2012. Then earlier this year, Missouri’s Republican governor Eric Greitens resigned in a horrific scandal, depressing and angering the state GOP. I’m picking Josh Hawley to win, but this is the sort of race where McCaskill’s numbers ought to look like Heidi Heitkamp’s. Speaking of which . . .

North Dakota Senate: Kevin Cramer wins, and let’s face it, this race has been over for a month. Heitkamp and North Dakota Democrats managed to lose all dignity and self-respect in the last few weeks, publishing the names of sexual-assault victims without their permission and offering a false claim that voting can lead to losing out-of-state hunting licenses.

Tennessee Senate: Marsha Blackburn wins; sorry, Taylor. This is one of a few states with a competitive Senate race but a gubernatorial race where the GOP should win in a landslide — Texas and Arizona also fit this description. If voters aren’t in a mood to split their tickets, you may see a really good night for the GOP in the Senate.

Montana Senate: It will be close, but incumbent Democrat Jon Tester will win. Another deeply frustrating missed opportunity.

South Dakota Governor: I know there’s been some buzz about a Democratic upset here, but I think former congresswoman Kristi Noem becomes the first woman governor of South Dakota . . .  and she gets completely ignored by the talk of the “Year of the Woman” post-election analysis.

Texas Senate: Yup, if by some amazing turn of events Beto O’Rourke pulls this off, I’ll have a lot of egg on my face — but not as much as Texas Republicans, who have been absolutely confident that they will get out the vote. The Beto O’Rourke for Senate campaign ends tonight, the Beto O’Rourke for President campaign unofficially begins tomorrow — and Democrats could do a lot worse than Lone Star Vanilla Obama.

Nevada Senate: The early vote numbers don’t look too good for Dean Heller, according to Jon Ralston’s back-of-the-envelope math. If you’re looking for hope, remember Heller won reelection in 2012 by roughly 1 percentage point while Barack Obama was winning the state by 7 points. I think Jacky Rosen wins narrowly.

Arizona Senate: I keep getting told not to put too much stock into the early voting numbers, but . . . almost 1.6 million Arizonans have voted already, and that’s more than the total vote in 2014! When early voting ended, 656,822 registered Republicans had voted, and 538,174 registered Democrats had voted. That’s 118,648 more registered Republicans voting early than registered Democrats! Insert all appropriate caveats that people don’t have to vote for the party they’re registered in, and Kyrsten Sinema could well be winning among the nearly 380,000 independent or non-affiliated voters, but . . . that would seem to be a nice early advantage for Martha McSally, no?

The great Henry Olsen, who predicts a Sinema win, observed that this is about three percentage points closer for the Democrats than in the last cycle. But last cycle, Arizona Republicans won the governor’s race by about twelve points, the secretary of state’s race by about 15 points, and the state attorney general’s race by five points.

If McSally wins by a more comfortable margin than the polls indicate, please remember that I was paying attention to the partisan split in the registration of early voters, and this was an early sign that the Arizona GOP’s get-out-the-vote-team had eaten their Wheaties. If Sinema wins, forget I said any of this.

This adds up to Republicans gaining two seats, and enjoying a 53-47 majority starting next year. The GOP keeps Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee; the Democrats keep New Jersey, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Montana. The GOP flips North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana; Democrats flip Nevada.The governor’s races are a mess for Republicans, but we expected that.

ADDENDUM: NBC News correspondent Shomari Stone with an astute observation: “Some people complain about Election Day lines. But they have no problem waiting in line for Black Friday shopping, movie premieres, concerts, Jordans and new iPhones.”

Of course, maybe that reflects that Black Friday shopping, movie premieres, concerts, Jordans, and new iPhones are satisfying, whereas voting gets you a sticker and a sense that your vote is a drop in the ocean.

Film & TV

Progressive, Pompous Pete Davidson

(Image via Twitter)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Pete Davidson, the icon of insufferably smug urban progressives; the challenge of predicting what you actually see, as opposed to what you want to see; and the question of whether Beto O’Rourke has been setting himself up for a presidential bid in 2020 all along.

Predicting What You See, Not What You Want to See

Here’s a classic example of a sentence in campaign coverage that strikes me as wrong, from Politico: “The indictments of Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.) have unexpectedly brought their seats on the map, even though Trump carried both districts easily.”

I wouldn’t mind if these two GOP members of Congress lose, but the goal here is not to predict what we want to see, but what we actually see. I don’t particularly like Duncan Hunter Jr., but he’s led every poll, even after the indictment. One in September had him up by 13 points. Every independent poll has put Collins ahead. If these guys are still ahead in polls after getting indicted, just how vulnerable are they?

Over at the Inquisitr — clearly, no one reads that site for the spelling — an article begins, “The final Tennessee Senate polls show a race that is deadlocked and the potential that the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ could help Democrat Phil Bredesen pull off an upset victory.”

First, we saw no movement towards Bredesen in the polls after Swift’s endorsement.

Second, the polls don’t show a race that is deadlocked. Emerson puts Blackburn up by 8, Fox News puts Blackburn up by 9, East Tennessee State University shows a tie, CNN puts Blackburn up by 4, Marist puts Blackburn up by 5. That’s not deadlocked! You don’t get to pick the poll you like and ignore the other four most recent ones!

Over on the homepage, I have my final House race preview. It’s probably not what National Review readers would prefer to hear, but I don’t predict a big Democratic House majority — in fact, I think that Democrats will just barely eke past the 23-seat threshold for control of the chamber.

I could end up being terribly wrong; every election cycle brings some surprises. But you can rest assured that this is what I see, not what I want to see, because I’m predicting a bunch of my favorite House Republicans losing. I really want to see Barbara Comstock hang on in northern Virginia, Mia Love hang on in Utah, and Maria Elvira Salazar beat Donna Shalala in Florida. But I picked the Democrats in those races because right now, the polling and various other factors — including the demographics of the districts and past margins of victory — point to the seats flipping.

And there are a bunch of jump-ball races I may well have been too pessimistic about. Bruce Poliquin could hang on in Maine. The demographics in Minnesota’s first district are perfect for a GOP pickup, but the candidate isn’t; maybe if the race is sufficiently nationalized, the GOP wins that one.

If you’re a Republican who wants a good day tomorrow, get out there and vote . . . and find some friends to go, too.

Was a 2020 Presidential Bid Beto’s Backup Plan All Along?

You might have thought that everything needed to be said about the Texas Senate race has already been said, but our old friend Tim Alberta writes a long piece in Politico asking a question that might haunt some Texas Democrats in two days: What if Beto O’Rourke had run as a centrist?

The problem for O’Rourke is that his further-left positions — ban AR-15s, impeach the president, consider abolishing ICE — were a big part of what drove all of that national Democratic fundraising excitement, combined with animosity towards Ted Cruz and the significance of a Democratic win in the Lone Star State.

For contrast, do you recognize the name Jayne Raybould? She’s the Democratic nominee in Nebraska running against GOP senator Deb Fischer. She’s running against the tax cuts and school vouchers, endorses “common sense gun measures,” and refuses to take PAC money . . . in other words, her positions are not all that distinguishable than O’Rourke’s. She actually out-raised Fischer in the third quarter!

But you’ve heard almost nothing about Raybould because national Democrats don’t dream of winning Nebraska and its five electoral votes the way that they dream of winning Texas and its 38 electoral votes. Democrats have been telling themselves that demography would make Texas competitive for at least two decades now. And yet in 2014, the party had one of its worst cycles ever.

Since at least 2008, Democrats have put enormous faith in the notion of the “Coalition of the Ascendant”: young voters, Latinos and African-Americans, and single women, who Democrats believed would be ever-expanding parts of the electorate, while older voters, white men and married women would be an ever-shrinking part. It is hard to overstate how much the mentality of The Emerging Democratic Majority influenced Democrats’ approaches to campaigning and governing. If the more conservative demographics in the electorate were destined to die off, Democrats could ignore them and/or demonize them as “deplorable.”

Of course, the elections of the past decade have not turned out the way Democrats hoped. It turns out that the demographics in the “Coalition of the Ascendant” don’t always turn out in the number the party needs, and some Republicans run better among Latinos than Democrats expected. In Texas, Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2014, and he’s aiming for a bigger share this year.

For Democrats, getting demolished up and down the ballot in a majority-minority state — Texas was nearly 40 percent Latino and 11 percent African American in 2014 — suggests that everything they thought about the “emerging Democratic majority” was wrong.

Meanwhile, votes for Democrats have collapsed among the demographics in the Coalition of the Allegedly Not Ascendant, and those demographics include the groups most likely to vote, particularly in non-presidential elections.

What Democrats crave is someone who can emulate Obama’s message and agenda without conceding such a large chunk of white-male voters. (Remember Obama won 41 percent of white males in 2008, the best any Democrat has done since Jimmy Carter.)

Some observers of the Texas Senate race have a cynical theory that O’Rourke always knew that beating Cruz was a longshot, but that by running as the 2018 version of Barack Obama, he could catapult himself into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic presidential discussion. After all, a guy who could “almost” win Texas could surely put other purple and red states in play, right?

Pete Davidson, Millennial Icon

I could scream and yell about the classless Pete Davidson, but . . . in the end, isn’t it just sad? There was a time when Saturday Night Live wasn’t just funny, not just less partisan . . . it genuinely brought joy to audiences.

The whole joke in that Weekend Update bit was basically, “Look, this guy has an eyepatch.” That’s a mean thing to say even if the person isn’t a retired Navy SEAL who lost his eye in Afghanistan on his fifth deployment. A room full of well-paid writers, and this is what they came up with? No one around Davidson thought that was a dumb, mean joke? No one objected?

You could even have done an eyepatch joke that wasn’t mean, something such as, “If he doesn’t get elected to Congress, his backup plan is to run SHIELD in the Marvel movies” or something similar. But instead they went with the sneer that he looked like a porn actor, and Davidson — who seems to giggle and snicker his way through most sketches — added, “He lost it in the war or whatever.”

“The war or whatever.” Dear God, you will never hear a more perfect encapsulation of the smug, sneering, impudent, self-satisfied sense of unearned superiority in an insufferable Millennial hipster. Save that video and put it in a museum somewhere, so future generations can witness and appreciate the ultimate vivid example of the disconnect between the urban-progressive entertainment-industry employee and the rest of the country, who, no matter what they think of the wars in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria, or anywhere else, understands that there’s no “or whatever” to a veteran’s injuries. People who roared in laughter at Mort Sahl, and George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy, and Don Rickles, and who relished every joke that pushed a boundary of good taste or jabbed at a sensitive topic or nerve . . . understood you just don’t make fun of a war veteran’s injuries. You just don’t.

Unless you’re Pete Davidson and the writers of Saturday Night Live.

ADDENDUM: Michael Graham writes about Democratic expectations for tomorrow: “If Democrats take the House, and all of your liberal friends are in a lousier mood about it than your Republican ones — don’t be surprised.”


Election Results Will Be a Reflection of President Trump

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., October 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why the results of this election will be a reflection of Trump’s presidency — for good or for ill — and will provide real data on whether Republicans can win in the suburbs; some fantastic new jobs numbers right before Election Day; why you never know which way the polls will be wrong; and the long-dormant pop-culture podcast returns.

Like It or Not, the 2018 Midterms Are a Referendum on Trump

Back at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 2016, I heard Chuck Schumer argue that parties were trading groups of voters in that election cycle and that Democrats were getting the better deal. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Either his assessment was wrong (GOP Senator Pat Toomey nearly tied the Democrat in the Philadelphia suburbs, while Trump took about 43 percent) or his math was wrong.

But as you look at the map in 2018, Schumer’s assessment of the demographic trade may be more accurate. If you look at the House districts where GOP incumbents look like they’re in serious trouble, or an open seat looks particularly difficult to retain, you see America’s suburbs.

You see races like Barbara Comstock up against Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s tenth district, the state’s northern suburbs west of Washington, D.C.; Leonard Lance against Tom Malinowski in New Jersey’s seventh district, covering Scotch Plains, Westfield, South Plainfield, and other suburbs of New York City; Brian Fitzpatrick against Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s first district, which covers much of Bucks County; Dave Brat against Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s seventh district, which includes much of Richmond’s western suburbs; John Faso against Antonio Delgado in New York’s 19th district, covering the Catskills and Hudson Valley; and the open seat race in Florida’s 15th district in the eastern suburbs of Tampa, pitting Ross Spano against Kristen Carlson.

Even suburbs in some pretty red states look shaky. Mia Love’s reelection is not guaranteed in Utah’s fourth congressional district, encompassing the suburbs of Salt Lake City. Keven Yoder looks like he’s in real trouble in Kansas’s third congressional district, which includes the western suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Andy Barr is hanging on by his fingernails in Kentucky’s sixth district, which includes Lexington and its suburbs.

Trump supporters might scoff, “Fine, suburban women are drifting towards the left and those voters were always destined to fall away eventually.” But it’s extremely difficult to build a House majority if your party can’t compete in the suburbs. And before anyone scoffs that these must be a bunch of weak candidates, Comstock, Fitzpatrick, Brat, Faso, Love, Yoder, and Barr were good enough to win these districts in past cycles. What changed?

One theory is be that the Trump presidency came to town, and it repelled usually winnable voters in these purple-to-light-red districts.

The president’s preferred focus in the closing week of the campaign is crystal clear: immigration, in particular the caravan coming up through Mexico; sending U.S. troops to help secure the southern border; eliminating birthright citizenship through an executive order; discussing the possibility of U.S. troops firing on migrants who throw rocks; and crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Will that work? We’ll know in a couple of days. Trump may be betting on a ricochet effect, where he expresses some uncontroversial views — migrants should not be allowed to enter the country illegally, violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants should be taken seriously, the trend of “birth tourism” violates the spirit of U.S. immigration law, if not the letter — in a hyperbolic and incendiary way, triggering a furious reaction from Democrats. That furious reaction could reinforce voter doubts about whether Democrats are willing to stop illegal immigration, whether they avert their eyes from violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and whether they really believe in U.S. immigration laws at all. After all, progressive grassroots activists were chanting to “abolish ICE” not too long ago, a position most elected Democrats realized was political suicide.

That could work. Or those suburban moms and white-collar, college-educated whites could see Trump’s drumbeat as confirmation of their worst suspicions about him — that he really is a xenophobe, that he really does see caravans of desperate migrants as malevolent monsters, and that he really does see today’s world as a preview of Camp of the Saints, where the good, majority-white democracies are overrun by hordes of Third World migrants that are barely above zombies or some other sub-human being.

One other thought about the midterms: The biggest change to the Electoral College map in 2016 is that Donald Trump succeeded in upper Midwest states where Mitt Romney, John McCain, and to a lesser extent, George W. Bush, failed — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin in particular, and Iowa, and Ohio. (Trump’s margin in the Buckeye State was double that of Bush’s in 2000.) Trump came within 55,000 votes of winning Minnesota, too. There was a down-ticket effect for the GOP — Toomey won, Ron Johnson won in Wisconsin, and Rob Portman crushed his Senate race in Ohio.

But the outlook for the GOP in the region looks pretty grim, in both the Senate and gubernatorial races and a bunch of the House races. (The new district lines are just going to slaughter GOP members of the House in Pennsylvania.) That swing region may have rolled the dice on Trump and the Republicans in 2016 . . . and fairly or not, they may not be all that impressed with the results in 2018.

The Polls Will Probably Be Wrong . . . But in Which Direction?

Right now, the polls point to the GOP picking up a few seats in the Senate, the House being very close but probably a Democratic majority, and a really bad night for Republican governors.

It is possible that the results will be much better for Republicans than the polls indicate. In 2014, “the average Senate poll conducted in the final three weeks of this year’s campaign overestimated the Democrat’s performance by 4 percentage points. The average gubernatorial poll was nearly as bad, overestimating the Democrat’s performance by 3.4 points.”

It is possible that the results will be much worse for Republicans than the polls indicate — in 2017, the RealClearPolitics average of polling in Virginia indicated that GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie would lose to Democrat Ralph Northam by about three points. Northam won by almost nine points, and the GOP got slaughtered in suburban districts all across the state. (Weirdly, the RCP average was almost right on the button for the New Jersey gubernatorial race, which was always projected to be landslide.)

Hey, Guys, Maybe You Want to Run on the Economy This Year 

You can tell that there are some who would like the closing Republican message to be about the economy. In fact, if President Trump and congressional Republicans don’t tout the economy for the next five days after today’s phenomenal jobs report, they’re insane and can’t be saved. This is the kind of monthly jobs report that should be unveiled with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Booyah, America:

Job growth blew past expectations in October and year-over-year wage gains jumped past 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls powered up by 250,000 for the month, well ahead of Refinitiv estimates of 190,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent, the lowest since December 1969.

The ranks of the employed rose to a fresh record 156.6 million and the employment-to-population ratio increased to 60.6 percent, the highest level since December 2008, according to the department’s household survey. That headline jobless number stayed level even amid a two-tenths of a percentage point rise in the labor force participation rate to 62.9 percent.

Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent for the New York Times: “Man, this is a really great jobs report. The job market is firing on all cylinders: Strong job growth (esp for this stage of expansion), wages rising faster, more people in labor force.”

This economic news, less than a week before the midterm election, is as good as the president possibly could hope for, which means later today we’ll probably get tweets such as “I HAVE HEARD FROM RELIABLE SOURCES THAT ELIZABETH WARREN IS A WEREWOLF.”

ADDENDUM: Hey, after a long hiatus, Mickey and I found time to record a show yesterday! We talked Kanye-exit, things we can’t say anymore, Nathan Fillion’s new television series “The Rookie,” how the new “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” reboot is apparently straight-up pro-Satanism, and why allergies are the worst. We’re still on iTunes, and the newest show is up there, too.


The Truth about George Soros Is Damning Enough

Making the click-through worthwhile: a deep dive into separating fact from fiction when it comes to George Soros, and finding that the truth is bad enough without any of the exaggerations; the Washington Post offers another round of white-knuckle polls for control of the House; and a prominent force in past election cycles has been a little quieter in 2018.

The Bad-Enough Truth About George Soros

This morning, the New York Times writes about George Soros and declares . . .

On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a “globalist” movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.

This is a good moment to sort out the nonsense claims and Internet rumors about Soros and the verified truth, which is bad enough.

Soros was born in 1930, making him nine when the war broke out and 15 when it ended. There’s no evidence that he played any role in the atrocities of the Nazi regime in World War II.

What is true is that to survive in that time and place, Tivadar Soros had his son George assume a non-Jewish identity — “Sandor Kiss” — and pose as the godson of a Hungarian agriculture ministry bureaucrat named Baumbach, whose job was taking inventory of Jewish properties confiscated by the Nazi occupiers. Soros accompanied Baumbach on one job, traveling to the estate of a wealthy Jewish aristocrat named Moric Kornfeld. What’s not disputed is that Soros hung around the estate while Baumbach did his work for the Nazi-occupying regime; what is disputed is what, if anything, Soros did while Baumbach took inventory.

That isn’t embracing the Nazi cause, and it’s difficult to argue that cooperating with taking inventory once in order to maintain a non-Jewish disguise constitutes an unforgivable sin while sitting in a country that ran Operation Paperclip to win the Space Race.

For what it’s worth, Soros did make his role sound more active in a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes.

Kroft: “My understanding is that you went . . . went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.”

Soros: “Yes, that’s right. Yes.”

Kroft: “I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?”

Soros: “Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t . . . you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.”

Kroft: “No feeling of guilt?”

Soros: “No.”

Kroft: “For example, that, ‘I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.’ None of that?”

Soros: “Well, of course . . . I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that if I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would — would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”

There’s one other wrinkle: Tivadar Soros offered a similar account of the trip in his 1965 autobiography titled Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi Occupied Hungary, except he described Baumbach as “Baufluss” and made his son’s role sound more active:

The following week the kind-hearted Baufluss, in an effort to cheer the unhappy lad up, took him off with him to the provinces. At the time he was working in Transdanubia, west of Budapest, on the model estate of a Jewish aristocrat, Baron Moric Kornfeld. There they were wined and dined by what was left of the staff. George also met several other ministry officials, who immediately took a liking to the young man, the alleged godson of Mr Baufluss. He even helped with the inventory. Surrounded by good company, he quickly regained his spirits. On Saturday he returned to Budapest.

Did young George Soros help with taking inventory of property seized from Jews? His father’s autobiography says yes, Soros himself says no, aside from that initial answer in the 60 Minutes interview. At the very least, he was hanging around while inventory was being taken; he has, in subsequent interviews and writings, said he “accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.”

By the way, Kornfeld “was taken to the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp. In return for permitting the Nazis to assume administration of his family’s vast industrial enterprises, he and his family were allowed to leave for Portugal. Following the war his holdings were nationalized and he never returned to Hungary.”

Whatever Soros’s worldview and philosophies as a boy during World War II were, he’s a committed, outspoken, extraordinarily deep-pocketed liberal progressive now. It is not an exaggeration to characterize Soros’s views as radical, particularly compared to the American mainstream.

Because Soros grew to prominence on the U.S. political scene when he spent more than $25 million trying to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, most members of the media think of him as just another liberal billionaire — Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg with a different accent. But his views are genuinely shocking to middle America when they hear them.

Soros was flatly opposed to the War on Terror after 9/11 and declared the U.S. response to al Qaeda to be morally equivalent to the terrorist attacks: “We abhor terrorists, because they kill innocent people for political goals. But by waging war on terror we are doing the same thing.”

In 2006, Soros said that “the main obstacle to a stable and just world is the United States.” Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Islamist terrorist groups, not transnational crime . . . the United States.

In 2010, he declared that China has “a better functioning government than the United States.”

He has generously donated to groups that call on governments the world over to sever or downgrade their diplomatic relations with Israel and calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He’s made several comments that some interpreted as blaming Jews for anti-Semitism, such as, “I don’t think that you can ever overcome anti-Semitism if you behave as a tribe . . . the only way you can overcome it is if you give up the tribalness.”

He wrote in 2007, “I do believe that attitudes toward Israel are influenced by Israel’s policies, and attitudes toward the Jewish community are influenced by the pro-Israel lobby’s success in suppressing divergent views.”

Soros’s comments either deliberately or inadvertently feed into the notion of Jewish control of American politics:

The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism. Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby’s ability to influence political contributions. . . . Academics had their advancement blocked and think-tank experts their funding withdrawn when they stepped too far out of line. Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification… Some leaders of the Democratic Party have promised to bring about a change of direction but they cannot deliver on that promise until they are able to resist the dictates of AIPAC.

Soros is not a fan of national borders or border enforcement. When criticizing Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in 2017, Soros said, “[Orban’s] plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.” In many interviews, Soros has decried nationalism and national identity as a menace.

He contended that withdrawing from the Iran deal is “effectively destroying the transatlantic alliance.”

None of the above quotes are from the rumor mill or secret recordings or secondhand claims. Soros openly lays out his beliefs in interviews, speeches, and articles. His viewpoints are not a secret. And it is completely understandable that those who believe in military responses to terror attacks, secure borders, who support Israel, who don’t believe that anti-Semitism is driven in any part by the actions of Jews, who oppose the Iran deal, and who are wary of the notion that China’s government “functions better,” would see Soros as a malevolent force in politics at home and abroad.

The irony is that the Right’s beliefs about Soros aren’t that different from the Left’s beliefs about the Koch brothers, and before that, Richard Mellon Scaife. The grassroots of each party always loathe the biggest donors of the other side and always sees them as shadowy and nefarious. (Of course, the demonization of the Koch brothers usually involves some fudging of their actual philosophies — they’re civil-society building libertarians, not traditional conservatives.)

The false “Soros was a Nazi” accusation helps out Soros by giving him a glaringly implausible charge that makes his critics sound like paranoid loons. The truth about George Soros today, and the agenda he seeks to enact, is bad enough.

Washington Post: Hey, Those Competitive Districts Look Pretty . . . Competitive

I’ve long wondered why news organizations think nationwide “generic ballot” surveys tell their audiences anything useful about which party will have a majority in the House of Representatives after Election Day. If you win all of your seats 90 percent to 10 percent, and the other guy wins all of his seats 52 percent to 48 percent, you can win the national popular vote by a lot and still have considerably fewer than 218 seats.

Credit the Washington Post for narrowing its survey to competitive districts and finding a result that should generate a lot of white knuckles:

Across 69 congressional districts identified by the Cook Political Report and The Post as competitive in late August, the Post-Schar School poll finds 50 percent of likely voters support the Democratic candidate, while 46 percent support the Republican. The Democrats’ four-point edge represents a superficial advantage with Republicans, given the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error.

Of those 69 districts, 63 are held by Republicans. The GOP is going to lose a bunch of seats, but the question is whether they lose 22 or less, or whether they lose 23 or more.

One other important detail: “Voters who did not turn out in the 2014 midterms favor Democrats by 55 percent to 42 percent, while those who did vote split 49 percent to 48 percent in Republicans’ favor.” If all of those who say they’re intending to vote keep their word, Democrats will do well. If, as usual, some people are telling the pollster that they’ll vote but don’t, the Republicans might do better than the conventional wisdom suggests.

That ‘Gun Lobby’ Isn’t Spending As Much As It Used to Spend

The Virginia Democratic party really has to stretch to make it sound as if extraordinarily secure incumbent Gerry Connolly is in danger of being unseated by “the gun lobby” that has spent a whole . . . $32,500 against him. That’s less than the Connolly campaign spent on payroll and administrative costs, polling and consulting, or renting a space for a fundraiser.

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund has been quieter and focused on fewer races this cycle. If the election goes badly for Second Amendment advocates, some may wonder if the group was a little too focused.

ADDENDUM: October was a phenomenal month for Jolt subscriptions, click-throughs, web traffic, Three Martini Lunch listeners, and even some book sales in there. Once again, thank you for your support. If you find election season exhausting, we’re almost done . . .

. . . I mean, unless Georgia goes to a runoff, which would be held December 4, and the Louisiana elections would be held December 8.


Trick or Treat Yo’ Self Tonight

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out Halloween candy to trick or treaters at the White House, October 28, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

We’ve seen some awful headlines in recent days — bombs in the mail, shootings in synagogues, angry mobs in the streets. But the odds are good that despite all the troubles in the world, you’re surrounded by a lot of good, decent people in your community. Tonight is Halloween, otherwise known as one of the few nights that people actually knock on the front door.

There’s a good chance that in the after-school hours and into the evening, your doorbell will ring and you’ll be visited by little ghosts and goblins and Iron Men and about a million Elsas from Frozen. The littlest ones will try to remember what they’re supposed to say; the slightly-bigger-than-the-littlest ones will try to remember to say thank you. There’s a good chance that mom or dad will be standing at the end of the driveway; they’ll appreciate a wave. (God bless the guy in my neighborhood who hands out beers to parents escorting the kids around the neighborhood.)

As usual, leave your porch or outdoor light on if you’re home and giving out candy. Drive slowly. And enjoy it. Halloween gets people to walk around in their neighborhoods and interact with the people who live down the street and around the corner, something we probably ought to do more often.

Are Republicans Falling Short in the Final Week Before the Midterm Elections?

As I mentioned to Glenn Beck yesterday, I don’t know if the past week being dominated by news of the Florida mail-bomber and this week being dominated by news of the synagogue shooter is necessarily hurting Republicans’ chances in the midterms. But it’s not helping.

If nothing else, it gets in the way of the closing message. The White House’s closing ad for the cycle is deliberately reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection commercial “Morning in America” — families moving into new homes, businesses breaking ground on new projects, parents beaming at elementary-school concerts. “Things are getting better. We can’t go back. November 6, 2018, Vote Republican.” The actions of two hateful nut jobs shouldn’t make us feel like things aren’t getting better anymore. But some voters might look at the headlines and feel like the country’s in a bad place and that Washington needs a change.

The polls should make Republicans nervous; the early vote numbers should soothe them a little (to the extent that one can draw conclusions from the early vote). Remember, there’s no guarantee that a registered Republican will vote Republican or that a registered Democrat will vote Democrat.

Republican governor and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott just can’t seem to get over the hump in most Florida polls. I fear that Sunshine State voters are about to teach their elected officials an awful lesson: If you focus on your duties as governor in the aftermath of a hurricane instead of campaigning, you will lose ground against your opponent.

As of this morning, 1,431,655 registered Republicans in Florida have either voted by mail or voted early. That’s a little ahead of the 1,368,718 registered Democrats who have done so, and 592,136 Floridians with no party affiliation have voted early, and another 22,000 or so in other parties.

In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has enjoyed leads in the past two polls over Republican Martha McSally. But the early vote looks pretty good for the GOP:

As of Tuesday morning, Arizonans have cast 1,098,280 ballots – of those, 475,798 are by Republicans, while 365,642 Democrats have voted, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s arizona.vote website. Potential swing votes from unaffiliated and minor parties make up the remaining 256,840 votes. The median voting age for the state is 64, and slightly more females than males have voted, at 50.6 percent.

A lot of Democrats are excited by a private firm’s analysis of the early vote that reports that “voters under the age of 30 in Texas have increased their turnout by 508 percent” compared to 2014, while “voters over the age of 65 in TX increased their turnout by 96 percent.” But I’ll bet the total number of young Texans who voted early in 2014 was really low. Voters under 30 years old were 13 percent of the total electorate in the 2014 exit poll; by comparison, those 65 and older were 19 percent. In 2014, young voters had a slight preference for incumbent GOP senator Jon Cornyn; those 65 and older preferred him by a three-to-one margin.

In this year’s Texas primaries, Democratic-primary early voting increased by 98 percent, while the Republican early vote increased only by 16 percent. But when both primaries were done — both early and primary day voting — about a million people voted in the Democratic primary, while 1.5 million voted in the Republican primary. It’s very easy for Texas Democrats to show phenomenal improvement upon the 2014 numbers, because the 2014 numbers were abysmal.

(Notice the arrogance of Democrats in believing that all young voters are their voters.) A CBS News poll found that O’Rourke is winning voters under 30 by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent. That’s nice, but the same poll found O’Rourke tied Cruz among voters under 44 and Cruz was clobbering O’Rourke among older voters, who are likely to be more than half of the electorate. In 2016, voters over 45 years of age made up 54 percent of the electorate; 65 percent in 2014; and 65 percent in 2006.

In Nevada, Jon Ralston’s back-of-the-envelope math suggests that Senator Dean Heller is slightly trailing Democrat challenger Jacky Rosen. Yes, it’s possible that Heller is winning more Democrats or Rosen more Republicans, but the assumptions are logical and in line with historical patterns.

In Colorado, the early vote is evenly split, with registered Republicans enjoying a roughly 1,000 vote lead out of 801,385 votes cast already. In 2014, Republicans enjoyed a consistent and sizable lead.

You Kanye Have It Both Ways

Apparently just a week or so after meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, Kanye West announces he’s distancing himself from politics, declaring, “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in.”

I leave the intense analysis of Kanye-world to Mickey; I’ll just observe we’re not supposed to care that much about what a celebrity thinks about politics. In fact, I know everyone is capable of ignoring the political thoughts of celebrities, because there are far too many celebrities to keep track of and most people tune out their manifestos, declarations, and diatribes.

In fact, the popular perception that celebrities and pop stars help the Democrats might be wrong. If celebrity endorsements really persuaded voters, Republicans would never win a race.

I left one Senate race out above; in Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn looks like she’s in good shape. You may recall that in early October, Taylor Swift announced her endorsement of Democrat Phil Bredesen. People thought this might carry more weight than the usual endorsement; until recently, Swift was relatively apolitical, she has an adoring fan base, and she’s involved in a lot of Tennessee charities. And yet polling showed no clear sign of a bump for Bredesen; Blackburn appears to have gained strength throughout autumn.

This probably doesn’t represent an anti–Taylor Swift backlash, just a red state reverting to form as Election Day approached. (Unless the percentage of the electorate that self-identifies as “one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends” has now grown large enough to become a key polling demographic.)

Most celebrities in the worlds of music, television, and movies are going to end up on the left. This really shouldn’t bother conservatives that much. It isn’t really unfair. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that musicians, actors, comedians, and television personalities are supposed to split 50-50 or represent the popular vote.

Why are pop stars, actors, directors, and the rest more likely to be liberal Democrats? By and large, artists think of themselves as rebels and Bohemians, defying closed-minded conventions and customs and daring to challenge a hidebound culturally conservative establishment. That establishment died off sometime in the 1950s, but they still believe in it. To the extent that those in the entertainment industries are associated with libertine lifestyles, entertainers may believe their lives embody true freedom.

Hollywood is nothing like small-town America because the capital of the entertainment industry is largely populated by people who couldn’t wait to leave small-town America. Someone once theorized that The Simpsons offers such a cynical view of American suburbia, full of bumbling fathers, incompetent cops, power-mad principals, hapless teachers, and insufferable Christian neighbors because each writer came from his or her own personal Springfield and arrived in Hollywood eager to mock the communities that shaped them.

Entertainment’s movers and shakers think of themselves as anti-establishment, even though they became the establishment decades ago. The industries of music and acting have always pursued the youth audience and celebrated young performers; some might argue they’ve always exploited young talent.

The culture in the entertainment industry is self-sustaining and self-reinforcing; we hear how strongly those movie stars and pop stars feel about liberal causes during their speeches at the Oscars and Grammys. In interviews, celebrities sound indistinguishable from a liberal blog’s comment section. It takes a lot of courage and willingness for working performers to dissent from such orthodoxy — and risk repercussions to their careers. Many ideas that conservatives perceive as part of the liberal policy agenda — gay rights, environmentalism, the right to an abortion — are seen by a lot of Hollywood figures as merely commonsense good causes.

Celebrities are generally wealthy and have their wealth managed by others, so taxation isn’t really a high concern. The vast majority are members of unions that they genuinely believe protects them from exploitation — or, after Me Too, even worse exploitation. Hollywood’s casting always seems kind of random, and perhaps some stars feel a sense of guilt. They’re living a life of luxury, while the guy who was almost as good as them gets stuck in an endless series of minor roles in schlocky B-movies. The stories about Harvey Weinstein’s vendetta against certain actresses suggest that actors and actresses were rarely cast on merit.

I recall Andrew Breitbart’s declaration that politics is downstream from culture. It would be nice to have more conservative celebrities, but it’s hardly a priority. The Right looks silly when it throws hosannas at long-forgotten performers such as Scott Baio or Stephen Baldwin. There’s nothing wrong with being a fan, but the reason you pay any attention to those guys are the fond memories you have of their work in Happy Days, or The Usual Suspects, or other television and films. God bless them for standing up for what they believe in, but we shouldn’t be turning to actors and singers for guidance on how to handle Iran, set tax rates, or develop a competitive workforce.

ADDENDA: Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana: “Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she’s African-American. But she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine.”

Man, it must be nice to be a Democrat, knowing that any awful-sounding slip of the tongue won’t be misconstrued as a racist insult and a major issue dominating the final week of the campaign.


Eliminating Birthright Citizenship: A Dramatic New Step

President Trump at a White House event, August 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: President Trump wants to eliminate birthright citizenship through an executive order, a move that is certain to face a legal challenge; Julia Ioffe says something awful, continuing a long pattern; and the Energy Information Administration unveils some new data that should have environmentalists cheering . . . but probably won’t.

A Week Before Election Day, a Birthright-Citizenship Debate Rises

Axios reports: “President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens born on U.S. soil, he said yesterday in an exclusive interview for ‘Axios on HBO,’ a new four-part documentary news series debuting on HBO.”

Here’s the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

At first glance, the amendment’s language appears straightforward: All persons born in the United States are citizens — leading to the conclusion that if Trump and his allies want to change birthright citizenship, they’re going to have to amend the Constitution.

(We haven’t changed the Constitution since 1992, when the country barred Congress from granting pay raises to themselves in the current session; all raises must take effect in the following session. We on the right get justifiably angry when gun-control advocates choose to ignore the Second Amendment instead of trying to repeal or edit it. Why not set the proper example and make a national effort to amend the Constitution to limit birthright citizenship? Just think of how much this would educate the country. Yes, amending the Constitution is difficult and it’s supposed to be: It requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then it has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states — 38 out of 50. But if we don’t demonstrate that the plain text of the Constitution must be respected, who will?)

But some constitutional scholars argue that the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” would exclude illegal immigrants. After all, they’re not subject to our jurisdiction, because they’re not in the country legally. At the time of the adoption and since, there has been broad legal and political consensus that the 14th Amendment excluded some small groups in particular circumstances. Peter H. Schuck and Rogers M. Smith write, “Everyone agrees that ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude the children of foreign diplomats, occupying enemy armies, and children born to foreigners while on foreign vessels in U.S. waters — even though they are then literally subject to our jurisdiction. Everyone also agrees that the 14th Amendment’s framers intended to exclude tribal Native Americans” who were classified as “domestic dependent nations” by the Supreme Court in 1831.

Michael Anton, the most outspoken advocate for ending birthright citizenship, argued that the birthright-citizenship policy in place since the 1860s is based on a misreading of the amendment, and that it was never meant to apply to the children of those in the country illegally. He contends that any fair-minded judge would have to concede that U.S. policy has been misinterpreting and misapplying the amendment all along.

He may get that assessment from the Supremes soon. An effort to overturn more than a century of precedent with an executive order is going to face an instant legal challenge — some group is probably writing up the request for a preliminary injunction as we speak. But who knows if this Supreme Court, even with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on it, will approve of a sweeping change to longstanding policy done by executive order. The Supreme Court has upheld the executive branch having wide latitude on who to allow into the country, but denying citizenship to children born here would be a dramatic new step.

This Isn’t Ioffe’s First Gaffe

GQ correspondent Julia Ioffe on CNN yesterday: “I think this president, one of the things that he really launched his presidential run on is talking about Islamic radicalization. And this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did.”

(For perspective, estimates of ISIS forces at their apex ranged from 9,000 to 200,000.)

Ioffe later apologized.

After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Ioffe claimed “this president makes this possible” and contended that Jews who voted for Trump “have some thinking to do.” (In 2009, an 88-year-old white supremacist shot at the U.S. Holocaust museum, killing one person and injuring another. In 2014, there were two shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., leaving three dead. Did the president at that time “make those possible”?)

Previously, Ioffe contended that a “silent majority” of Trump supporters are “okay with racism and anti-Semitism.”

She once asked the Trump organization in a list of written inquiries, “Was there ever a time when Donald Trump Jr. felt any oedipal impulses?”

After the appointment of three retired generals, Ioffe said the Trump administration should be called a “junta.”

She contended that Republican animosity towards Susan Rice is driven by racism.

She suggested that President Trump was having sexual relations with his daughter, leading to her dismissal from Politico.

She refers to the attorney general as “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.” While this is indeed the attorney general’s middle name, use of all three names is an attempt to play into negative stereotypes of the South. The press was rightly wary about those who consistently referred to the previous president with all three names — “Barack Hussein Obama.”

Some of us remember back in 2013, when Ioffe, then writing for The New Republic, suggested President Obama should deal with congressional Republicans the way Boris Yeltsin did, by dissolving parliament and then using military forces to shell the Russian parliament building when they refused to leave.

In other words . . . how many awful things do you have to say before the CNN bookers say, “Hey, let’s leave Julia off the panel?”

Who Has Eliminated Carbon Emissions by 28 Percent Since 2005? You Did!

News from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that the environmentalists should celebrate . . . but will probably ignore:

U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

Increases in electricity generation from noncarbon power sources since 2005 also had an effect on emissions from power generation. This growth has been driven largely by state policies and federal tax incentives that encouraged adoption of renewables. In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28% of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38%. Almost all of this growth was in renewables, including wind and solar, as shares for other noncarbon sources such as nuclear and hydroelectricity remained relatively flat.

The EIA also reports that “U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.” This has happened as the U.S. population has increased by 21 million people in the past decade.

So why won’t the environmentalists be touting this news? Because they want policy changes, and it’s hard to build momentum for policy changes if the news is good. If carbon emissions are going down because of market forces, consumer choices, and technological development, then there’s no need to force additional changes in people’s behavior through the law. The environmental movement needs you to be worried about your children’s future, because otherwise, you’ll turn your attention to other, more pressing problems.

ADDENDA: Thanks to all who have donated to the current webathon. One of my favorite readers wrote in, pointing out that when she discusses National Review, her friends think that we’re an institution rolling in money. The magazine always looks nice and glossy on the newsstand or in the bookstore, our staff is dressed in suits when you see us on television, and of course, William F. Buckley was debonair sophistication personified.

The suits can run through the numbers in more detail than I can, but you don’t create a political magazine to make a fortune. A lot of traditional magazine advertisers are scared of being associated with anything too controversial. Companies’ interest in web advertising is growing, but slowly. Subscriptions help but are never enough. NR makes some money on the cruises. But we’ve always run on donations from readers — from the beginning. We’ve never been part of a larger conglomerate, never had a billionaire backing us as a hobby. It’s always been the slow accumulation of all of those small donations from readers who are simply the best.

I’m blessed to do what I do, and I thank you for helping make that possible.


You Aren’t Important Enough to Be Conspired Against

Police guard the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., October 28, 2018. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Happy Monday. We’re eight days away from Election Day. Making the click-through worthwhile: why we need to push back against conspiracy theories; anti-individualism, and the troubled minds attracted to those ideas; the youth aren’t interested in voting early so far this year; and why the GOP could have a good Election Day but not quite live up to the “red wave” claims.

Take This Conspiracy Theory and Shove It

What do the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, the Florida mail-bomber, the angry young man who drove a van into a crowd on a Toronto street in April, and last year’s shooter at the congressional baseball field have in common?

Based on what we know at this time, they all subscribed to a worldview where the problems in the world stemmed from a particular group of people they deemed sinister and powerful. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter believed it was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The Florida mail-bomber believed that it was George Soros and prominent Democrats. The Toronto van driver believed that it was a vast, coordinated effort of the world’s women to keep him and other “incels” from relationships and happiness. The shooter at the congressional baseball field believed that President Trump and Republicans had “destroyed our democracy” and that they were the “Taliban of the USA.”

At some point, all of these men became fixated on “them” — some sort of group that they could blame for all of the problems in their lives. The baseball-field shooter was married and had his own business once, but he had been arrested for domestic battery towards a foster daughter; another foster daughter killed herself. The baseball-field shooter eventually dissolved his business and became increasingly obsessed with politics. The Florida mail-bomber had declared bankruptcy, had been arrested nine times, and was living in his van. The Toronto van driver was nearly friendless, awkward, technically proficient, but had difficulty with social skills.

We’re still learning details about the synagogue shooter, but by Sunday, the familiar portrait was coming into focus: “an isolated, awkward man who lived alone and struggled with basic human interactions, neighbors and others who knew him said on Sunday.”

It’s almost always the same, isn’t it? Few or no friends, no relationships, estranged from family, difficulty holding down a job, and a lot of time spent online on chat boards and sites that reinforce growing paranoia, scapegoating, and hatred. It’s safe to assume this shooter’s life, like the others, did not turn out the way that he had hoped.

All of these men shared an inability to face the possibility that the problems in their life were a result of their own decisions and actions. They retreated to the flattering conclusion that only a vast conspiracy of powerful forces could possibly have brought them to this state of perpetual disappointment.

The good news is that very few of us walk around thinking like this. If all it took to turn someone into a homicidal maniac was a Donald Trump speech, or a Bernie Sanders speech, or an anti-Semitic website, or a rant against women, then the world would be nonstop massacres.

To blame Trump or Sanders or anyone else in our political realm for the actions of the homicidal is as arbitrary as blaming video games, heavy-metal music, rap music, violent movies, or Dungeons and Dragons for youth crime.

But if one of the preeminent arguments in our society about the power of the individual — whether we are the captains of our fate and masters of our soul, or whether the quality of our lives is heavily determined by broader societal factors outside of our individual ability to control, influence, or overcome — then the conspiracy theorists are just a more extreme form of a pretty widespread anti-individualist philosophy.

The average progressive activist may or may not be much of a conspiracy theorist in terms of chemtrails, Area 51, the Roswell crash, the JFK assassination, and so on. But they’re likely to believe that the Kochs; Sheldon Adelson; big businesses; top-level Republicans; some of the Supreme Court justices; and variously, “the military-industrial complex;” Diebold voting machines; the Saudis; the Russians; and various other malevolent forces are working in concert to take America towards a dark future.

And Trump-era conservative activists may buy into farfetched notions of secret sinister plots uniting George Soros, illegal immigrants, Silicon Valley moguls, climate-change scientists working together to con the public, “crisis actors,” the Clinton “Arkancide” list, the killing of Seth Rich, Pizzagate, the “deep state,” and so on.

A 2012 poll found that roughly one-third of Democrats believed that the 2004 election was stolen, and one-third of Republicans believed that the 2012 election was stolen, and research in 2009 found that about 40 percent of Republicans believed that President Obama was born abroad, and about 40 percent of Democrats thought that 9/11 was an inside job.

At least all of these folks can come together and unite by refusing to vaccinate their children.

What we need is a broad, society-wide push to hammer hard truths into people’s heads.

If you’re having problems with your career, it’s your own damn fault. If you’re having problems in your relationships, it’s your own damn fault. It’s not because of the Illuminati, or the Trilateral Commission, or the Bilderbergers, or the Stonecutters.

If your life has not turned out the way you wanted it to, do something about it — stop sitting in front of a computer screen, reading a site that is assuring you that it’s because of government false-flag operations, or that the elections are rigged, or they’re putting stuff in the water, or that natural-cause deaths of famous figures were disguised assassinations, or that the weather is being controlled, and that secret government agencies are behind every major news event. You’re not important enough for the world’s rich, powerful, and/or sinister to get together and seek to undermine you. They don’t need to hold you back; you’re doing that job just fine on your own.

(You’ll notice that shooters and bombers don’t get named in my columns. If part of their motivation is the appetite for fame and recognition, let their names be forgotten.)

Maybe Young People Just Aren’t Interested in Voting Early

Young voters may still turn out in big numbers in 2018, but so far they’re not voting early. In Nevada, only 12 percent of early voters are under age 40, as of Saturday. A full half of the early voters are between the ages of 59 and 80 years old.

Politico looks at the numbers in Florida, where one-fifth of all the active registered voters have voted already:

Voters between the ages of 18-29 are 17 percent of the registered voters in Florida but have only cast 5 percent of the ballots so far. They tend to vote more Democratic. Meanwhile, voters 65 and older are 18.4 percent of the electorate but have cast 51.4 percent of the ballots. And older voters tend to vote more Republican.

Republicans Might Have an Okay 2018, But It’s Not a ‘Red Wave’

While I’m mildly bullish on Republican chances in the midterms, the “red wave” talk was always unrealistic. The Democratic base is fired up, and there’s not much that President Trump or the GOP can do about that. They can fire up their own base, and they have. The president has maintained a marathon schedule of rallies in corners of key states where he can do the most good. They can mitigate and attempt to equal the “blue wave,” but they can’t get Democrats to lose interest in voting in the midterms.

Trump and Republicans could take a certain pride in Democratic enthusiasm; the opposition gets fired up when the party in power actually does something consequential. But we saw the consequence of that highly motivated Democratic base in Virginia in 2017, and a whole bunch of states are tough for a Republican to win if the Democratic base shows up in force.

In Michigan, John James is a great candidate who’s closed the gap against Debbie Stabenow by a lot. But she’s still the favorite, and in the governor’s race, Republican Bill Schuette has consistently trailed Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. In Ohio, Jim Renacci never really put incumbent Democratic senator Sherrod Brown in danger, and in the governor’s race, Mike DeWine is no better than neck-and-neck with Richard Cordray. In Wisconsin, Leah Vukmir is a good candidate running in a tough year, and while Governor Scott Walker has overcome doubters many times before, this year looks particularly tough. In Pennsylvania, Congressman Lou Barletta represents a blue-collar district in the northeastern corner of the state, and he looked like the perfect challenger against incumbent Senator Bob Casey, but so far the race looks like a blowout. And Scott Wagner has failed to make his bid against incumbent Democratic governor Tom Wolf competitive.

There are nine big statewide gubernatorial or Senate races in those five Rust Belt/Upper Midwest states that were key to the 2016 election — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Democrats are on pace to win about six of those nine races, which should make the GOP at least a little nervous about Trump’s ability to keep them red in 2020.

ADDENDUM: (Sigh) Well, congratulations to Greg Corombos and Chicago Bears fans everywhere. After the game, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he was “very proud of the way they fought and stayed together.” When you’re praising your team for not retiring or running away from the stadium before the final whistle, you’ve really set the bar low.

Politics & Policy

Avenatti’s Swan Song: Democrats’ 2020 Nominee Should Be ‘A White Male’

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, on CBS This Morning. (CBS via YouTube)

Making the click-through worthwhile: a series of scandals and gaffes that hopefully represent the last we’ll ever hear from Michael Avenatti, the latest on the suspicious devices being sent in the mail to prominent Democrats, and a historical perspective on the media hyping a young Democrat in Texas.

Lawyer, Liar, Pants on Fire

What is the legal consequence of providing false evidence to a congressional committee? Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels who has been talking about a 2020 presidential campaign, is probably about to find out. You may recall that his client Julie Swetnick walked back a lot of the allegations in her sworn statement about Brett Kavanaugh and a wild accusation of a three-year reign of terror as high schooler organizing group predation of college girls. Now a second woman is saying that Avenatti did not accurately describe what she told him.

NBC News also found other apparent inconsistencies in a second sworn statement from another woman whose statement Avenatti provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bid to bolster Swetnick’s claims.

In the second statement, the unidentified woman said she witnessed Kavanaugh “spike” the punch at high school parties in order to sexually take advantage of girls. But less than 48 hours before Avenatti released her sworn statement on Twitter, the same woman told NBC News a different story.

Referring to Kavanaugh spiking the punch, “I didn’t ever think it was Brett,” the woman said to reporters in a phone interview arranged by Avenatti on Sept. 30 after repeated requests to speak with other witnesses who might corroborate Swetnick’s claims. As soon as the call began, the woman said she never met Swetnick in high school and never saw her at parties and had only become friends with her when they were both in their 30s.

When asked in the phone interview if she ever witnessed Kavanaugh act inappropriately towards girls, the woman replied, “no.” She did describe a culture of heavy drinking in high school that she took part in and said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were part of that group.

But reached by phone independently from Avenatti on Oct. 3, the woman said she only “skimmed” the declaration. After reviewing the statement, she wrote in a text on Oct. 4 to NBC News: “It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn’t see anyone spike the punch…I was very clear with Michael Avenatti from day one.”

NBC then described Avenatti trying to get the woman to change her story again, in response to the network’s questioning. After several days, she texted NBC News, “I will definitely talk to you again and no longer Avenatti. I do not like that he twisted my words.”

“Sworn statements” are supposed to be considered more reliable because the person making the statement is declaring them “under penalty of perjury that the forgoing is true and correct.” They are not press releases or advertising. This is why you should do more than “skim” a legal document being sent to Congress in your name.

(An odd contrast: Donald Trump and his companies have been involved in 3,500 legal actions in the past three decades. He estimates that he’s given about 100 depositions and testified in court about 100 times. He’s got a reputation as a notorious, even pathological liar or at best a serial exaggerator . . . and yet somehow Trump’s never been charged with or convicted of perjury. He backs down from implausible claims, and a lot of the bluster disappears. For a man who loves taking risks, Trump sure knows how to get cautious when the consequences are high enough.)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley referred all of the contradictions to the sworn statements to the Department of Justice, and noted that the committee spoke with “45 individuals, obtained 25 written statements and reviewed numerous other materials” but could not find “any information to corroborate Ms. Swetnick’s claims.”

It’s good that NBC News did this story. But it raises tough questions about how the media will treat Avenatti from now on. Swetnick’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. This other woman’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. And Avenatti pursued a longshot “defamation” lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels against President Trump and now Daniels has to pay Trump’s legal fees — which, with four lawyers working for six months, is probably going to be a hefty sum. (Avenatti insists that he’ll win bigger damages for Daniels against Trump in a separate lawsuit.)

Does . . . Michael Avenatti really operate in the best interests of his clients? Are these women better off now than before they met him?

The irony is that might not even be Thursday’s most damaging news story for Avenatti. He sat down for an interview with Time magazine, and basically said the Democratic party shouldn’t nominate a woman or a minority for president in 2020.

“I think it better be a white male,” Avenatti said of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”

Besides shameless and self-serving — par for the course for Avenatti — his argument is historically illiterate. We just had a two-term African-American president! Women have been elected to statewide offices in 49 out of the 50 states. The holdout is that notorious bastion of right-wing misogyny . . . er, Vermont. Forty states have elected minorities to statewide office. The electorate didn’t have a problem with a woman president. The electorate had a problem with that particular woman as president.

Then Avenatti told the Daily Caller that he never made such a statement. The Time interview describes him “leaning back in an easy chair in his well-appointed New Hampshire hotel suite” and the article begins with describing Avenatti at a mid-August event in New Hampshire.

And the other irony is that this might not even be the most embarrassing Avenatti news story of the week! Monday was pretty bad, too:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was hit with a personal judgment of $4.85 million Monday for his failure to pay a debt to a former colleague at his longtime Newport Beach firm.

Less than an hour after his defeat in the Los Angeles lawsuit, Avenatti suffered another setback at a trial in Orange County: The Irvine Co. won a court order evicting him and his staff from their offices because the firm, Eagan Avenatti, skipped the last four months of rent.

That trial described checks bouncing. If Avenatti’s spending way more than he can afford, maybe he’s more suited for government work than we thought.

The Latest on the Suspicious Package Deliveries

We’re up to twelve suspicious packages, as of this writing: George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Eric Holder (addressed to him incorrectly, returned to the office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz), two to Maxine Waters, one to John Brennan care of CNN, two packages to Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, and just breaking this morning, a package addressed to Cory Booker, and a package addressed to James Clapper, care of CNN again.

You’re going to hear a lot of people arguing whether the devices were meant to merely look like bombs, or whether they could function as bombs. We shouldn’t expect authorities to shed too much light on this until the perpetrator is caught, because the inability to detonate could be accidental. The police can’t say, “yeah, it wouldn’t have gone off because he’s using the wrong kind of wires” or anything like that, to tip him off or any potential copycats out there.

You can see the thinking on the Right: “These are non-functioning bombs because the bomber didn’t really want to hurt anyone. It’s a Leftist who wants to make Trump supporters and Republicans look bad. This is designed to take over the news cycle two weeks before Election Day, and feed the narrative that Trump supporters are violent and dangerous.”

And that could be the case! Or it may not. We just don’t have enough information to rule anything out at this point. It could also be what many of the Left suspect: “This is a dangerous and deranged individual who loves the president and hates all of his critics.”

The sender could be building them to not function, because as angry as he is, he only wants to scare his targets, not kill them. Or he may just not be all that skilled at building bombs.

But a lot of people out there have skipped straight to casting blame, offering some variation of, “We don’t know who’s responsible, but we know who’s really ultimately responsible.” They’re much less interested in determining criminal culpability than establishing political culpability.

Texas Political History Repeats Itself

My article about the media’s passionate love affair with Beto O’Rourke and his campaign in the latest issue of NR is out from behind the paywall. Way back in 1996, I was a hapless and intimidated intern in the Washington Bureau of the Dallas Morning News, just thrilled to get the occasional assignment to cover stories like the National Spelling Bee. I was working in the office after little-known schoolteacher Victor Morales won the Democratic Senate primary, and I remember how most of the reporters and editors at the bureau reacted like it was an earthquake story. Morales’s win was a huge surprise, and marked history as the first Latino Senate candidate of either party, but even back then as a right-leaning polywog I remember thinking, “Okay, slow down, this is a feel-good story, but he’s not going to beat Phil Gramm.” The incumbent Republican senator who had just ended his presidential campaign went on to win by 11 points, but you would never be able to tell from the national ,media coverage of 1996 that Morales had no real shot.

Twenty-two years have passed, and the national media is still getting wildly excited about a young, photogenic Democratic candidate running statewide in Texas.

As Detective Rust Cohle told us, “Time is a flat circle.” 

ADDENDUM: All right: “The economy looks like it will expand above a 3% rate in 2018. That hasn’t happened since 2005.”

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