The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Ed Gillespie’s Clever Play in the Virginia Gubernatorial

Today making the click-through worthwhile: Ed Gillespie re-uses a shrewd move in Virginia’s governor’s race, why a government shutdown would be another example of Republicans shooting themselves in their own feet, and how Twitter makes journalists dumber.

A Familiar Move From the Gillespie Playbook

Really late in Virginia’s 2014 campaign, everyone thought Democrat incumbent Mark Warner was going to skate to an easy victory over Ed Gillespie. September polls had Warner up by 20 and the final Real Clear Politics average had the Democrat ahead by almost 10 points.

Then, in late October, the Republican aired an ad during Monday Night Football when the Washington Redskins were playing the Dallas Cowboys.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a bill to force the Redskins to change their name,” the narrator says in the ad for Gillespie. “Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not. Why won’t Warner fight the anti-Redskins bill? Why won’t he answer the question?”

“I’ll answer the question,” Gillespie then said with a chuckle. “I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill. Let’s focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay and making our nation safer, and let the Redskins handle what to call their team.”

It was a precisely targeted message for Washington Redskins fans in the northern Virginia suburbs. There was little or no sign that the Mark Warner campaign sensed any vulnerability on this issue or the race overall.

Warner won by about one percentage point.

Yesterday Ed Gillespie tweeted that ESPN’s decision to reassign Robert Lee from a University of Virginia football game represented “When political correctness becomes self parody.” At this point, Gillespie doesn’t have a good way to tie his Democratic opponent, Ralph Northum, to the idiocy of the network’s decision. But the theme is the same: incoherent political correctness has invaded the world of sports, and Gillespie is as tired of it as you are, Virginia.

We’ll see if that theme has the same traction in 2017.

Government Shutdowns Are Stupid.

Funding for the federal government’s operations runs out on October 1. Congress needs to pass additional appropriations bills before then to keep the government open; the bills may or may not end up including significant funds to begin construction of the border wall that President Trump promised on the campaign trail last year.

At his rally in Phoenix, Trump declared, “Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw suggests President Trump might as well dig in his heels and shut down the government if Congress won’t send over a funding bill that includes wall funding:

If he vetoes a bill without funding for the wall, a number of things would almost undoubtedly happen.

‐ The President’s poll number might take a slight additional hit, but remain somewhere in the 30s and his base would love him.

 . . . what in that scenario is different from each morning’s news out of Washington lately? That’s just another day at the office for Trump. He’s always spoiling for a fight, and this would be a big one. That scenario ends in one of two ways. The first is that Congress caves and comes up with at least some money to start construction on the wall, giving Trump room to claim a big win rhetorically if not in substance, and the government reopens. The second is the unheard of idea that enough Democrats and Republicans come together with some compromises to override the veto and pass a bill where both sides get something. (And the government still reopens.)

What does Trump really have to lose? And for that matter, what does the country really have to lose?

What does Trump have to lose? A government shutdown probably enhances the risk that Nancy Pelosi will be the next Speaker of the House. We’ve seen government shutdowns before, all under a Democratic president and Republican control of Congress. For the federal government to shut down when Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House will be a supreme embarrassment, a vivid verification of the accusation that Republicans are incapable of governing. Republicans should be able to pass a bill to fund wall construction, full stop.

A lot of conservatives insist that government shutdowns are inconsequential, mostly because they themselves do not immediately see the impact.

A quick refresher on the sorts of things that happen when the government shuts down, based upon our experience in 2013:

‐ Social Security benefits checks will continue to go out, but if you’re applying for benefits, the workers won’t be there to process your request.

You can shut down the federal government for a couple of days before people feel any genuine frustration — more if it’s a weekend. But after a while, people get irritated that they’ve paid their taxes and the people running the government can’t work out an agreement to keep the whole operation working as it should.  

(One caveat: it’s possible Congressional Republicans and the Trump White House could cooperate to pass funding bills to mitigate the most unpopular consequences of a government shutdown.)

During a government shutdown, people who don’t care about politics and who don’t follow the news closely usually respond, “Why can’t those knuckleheads get their act together?” If there is a government shutdown this fall, people will respond, “why can’t those Republican knuckleheads get their act together?” Yes, Democrats are not helping get the funding bills passed, but with great power over the federal government comes great responsibility. Voters could well get fed up with the drama and dysfunction of Republican control of Washington and decide to vote for Democrats next November.

Twitter Reveals the Vocabulary Limitations of Headline Writers

I think social media, particularly Twitter and the ability to dash off half-formed thoughts instantly, is making a lot of people in the world of news journalism dumber. Look, none of us is perfect, none of us are born with complete knowledge of everything, and the desire to write a dramatic headline can obscure dry facts. But some of these mistakes are difficult to excuse.

Reuters made two embarrassing mistakes while touting its coverage of ESPN’s decision to reassign sportscaster Robert Lee from a University of Virginia football game. The first was a Tweet declaring, “Confederate General Lee namesake pulled from upcoming University of Virginia football.”

Merriam-Webster gives Reuters a tiny sliver of coverage on this usage, defining namesake “one that has the same name as another; especially one who is named after another or for whom another is named.” But Robert Lee, the Asian-American sportscaster, is not named after Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. Reuters later deleted the original Tweet and offered another with a clarification.

The mistake that stuck in my craw was this Tweet: “Confederate General Lee doppelganger [sic] pulled from upcoming University of Virginia football broadcast.” Ever hear someone attempting to sound smart by using a word they just learned, but they use it incorrectly? That’s what we appear to have here with the person running Reuters’ Twitter account. Two people who share the same name are not doppelgängers.

The sound of the word hints at its German origins (it literally translates to “double walker” or “double goer”) and it comes from that culture’s mythology.

Doppelgänger is a German word [meaning] “double goer” and refers to a wraith or apparition that [casts] no shadows and is a replica or double of a living person. They were generally considered as omens of bad luck or even signs of impending death — a doppelgänger seen by a person’s relative or friend was said to signify that illness or danger would befall that person, while seeing one’s own doppelgänger was said to be an omen of death.

Some accounts of doppelgängers, sometimes called the ‘evil [twin,’] suggests that they might attempt to provide advice to the person they shadow, but that this advice can be misleading or malicious. They may also attempt to plant sinister ideas in their victim’s mind or cause them great confusion. For this reason, people were advised to avoid communicating with their own doppelgänger at all costs.

One of the more intriguing tales of a doppelgänger comes from Abraham Lincoln, who claimed to friends in 1860 that he had seen two “separate and distinct” reflections of himself in a mirror. His account: “I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was somewhat worried about it. She thought it was a “sign” that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.”

(Why yes, doppelgangers are a recurring concept in Twin Peaks.)

Anyway, journalists and copy editors, if you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it in a headline.

ADDENDA: A really astute observation from John Podhoretz: “The thing about good entertainment for adults is that it does not exclude the young — rather, it can show the young that there are wonders into which they can grow and that will help them to grow.”

 That’s “entertainment for adults,” not “adult entertainment”!


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