Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Debate Wrap

Like most of the previous outings, I didn’t watch the debate last night on CNN from Des Moines, but that’s never stopped me from posting about it.  I rely on a variety of pundits to tell me what I missed.

Kate Riga at TPM: Candidates’ Best and Worst Moments.

Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post: Reason to Hope for a Happy Outcome.

Jennifer Rubin, also at the Washington Post: Klobuchar and Biden won.

Chris Cillizza at CNN: No, Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren won.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells at The New Yorker: The Democrats’ State of Stasis.

I have yet to be convinced that the debates have produced anything substantial, and yet there will be more of them, produced with all the fanfare of the next reality show.  But I sincerely doubt that history will record the next president of the United States became so just because he or she impressed a newspaper columnist or blogger.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Getting To The Point

Via Hunter at Random, this is why I like Pete Buttigieg.

Jake Tapper: Let me just ask you, some of your Democratic opponents including senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who I’ll be talking to shortly, called the strike a “assassination.” They say it’s an assassination. Do you believe it was an assassination?

Pete Buttigieg: I am not interested in the terminology. I’m interested in the consequences and I’m interested in the process. Did the president have legal authority to do this? Why wasn’t Congress consulted? It seems like more people at Mar-a-Lago heard about this than people in the United States Congress who are a coequal branch of government with a responsibility to consult. Which of our allies were consulted? The real-world effects of this are going to go far beyond the things that we’re debating today and we need answers quickly.

Meanwhile, pundits and idiots (often a redundancy) are getting all twitterpated because Elizabeth Warren used the word “assassination.”  That is entirely beside the point but it’s a perfect example of how the nutsery can create a meaningless distraction so as to avoid the real issue: Trump is starting a war because he’s been impeached.  People will die because of it.  And he’s committing more impeachable offenses to do it.

That’s the point.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for the coming year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019. There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.

That was an easy A.  As of today, the articles of impeachment are still with the House as Speaker Pelosi holds on to them.

The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing. Despite that, see above.

I get a C on that.  There were no leaks and the Mueller report was too nuanced for the punditry to read it and spit out sound bites.  The unintended consequence, though, was that the day after Mr. Mueller testified before Congress, Trump picked up the phone and placed an overseas call to Ukraine.

There will be no wall. There never will be. Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.

That was a gimme.

There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke. There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.

Another gimme, more’s the pity.

Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.

Roe vs. Wade will still stand.

With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.

An A- on these three.  As of today, Obamacare is still in place but the Supreme Court is sniffing around the whack-ass lower court ruling, so see below, and the same goes for Roe v. Wade.  The House has passed over 250 bills and sent them on to the Senate, but Mitch McConnell has not touched them, and won’t.

We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020. I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes? That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.

A big old red F on that one.

The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations. The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space. But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.

That’s a C.  It hasn’t happened yet, but with the deficit doubling since Trump took office, something will have to give.  The question was — and remains — when will it?

There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening. Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.

That’s an A.  It’s already happening.

I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.

Another big old red F, right up there with the Dolphins and the Lions ending up in the Superbowl in 2020.

Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.

Things went pretty much as planned this year.  I retired on August 31 and started my new part-time jobs the next week.  The run of “Can’t Live Without You” was great, and I had a very busy year in getting plays done and conferences attended and new friends made from Miami to Alaska.

On to the predictions:

  • Trump will survive impeachment.  The fix is in.  Revelations about his corruption will keep on coming, and yet the Republicans will cower with him.  It will be his big campaign rallying point.
  • I have no idea who the Democratic Party will nominate for president, and neither do you, but whoever it is will beat Trump in November despite the best efforts of the Kremlin.  I hope it is by such a margin that even Fox News will call it a blowout.  Trump will scream and carry on about it being rigged, but by this time in 2020, he’ll be doing everything he can to trash the place on the way out the door with pardons and lame-duck appointments of Nazi sympathizers and pedophiles.  (If I’m wrong on this and Trump is reelected, I’m moving to Montserrat.  It’s safer to live on an island with an active volcano.)
  • Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court but by a 5-4 ruling.
  • There will be more restrictions placed on reproductive rights, but Roe v. Wade will not be struck down.
  • The Democrats will take back the Senate by one seat and all that bottled-up legislation will finally get through in time for the House, still under Nancy Pelosi, to pass them all again and get them signed by the new president.
  • The economic bubble will burst, the trade deals with China and Europe will screw over the American consumer, and it’s going to look like one of those 19,000 piece domino videos.  Trump and Fox will blame the Democrats for the monster deficit and carry on about how we need to cut more taxes and destroy Social Security and Medicare to save them.
  • Even with the Democrats taking over in 2020, they won’t be in office until January 2021, so I’ll save predictions for what they’ll come up with in terms of health care, gun safety, and climate change until this time next year, assuming my house in the suburbs of Miami at 10 feet above sea level is still on dry land.
  • As for me, my playwriting and productions thereof will continue.  I’m planning on my 29th trip to the Inge Festival in May and hope to be invited back to Alaska in June.  As I’m writing this, the novel that I started twenty-five years ago tomorrow is on the glide path to land by the time I go back to work next week.  I can predict that it will never be published because I never meant it to be.
  • As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

Okay, your turn.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

See Him In The Funny Papers

You would think that the Trump campaign would do a little research.  Nah, just kidding.

Via the Guardian:

Donald Trump is a genocidal warlord hell bent on destroying half of existence in the universe. That’s not a criticism from the unhinged leftwing media, it’s apparently how the president and his team see him.

Shortly after the House brought two articles of impeachment against the president for his efforts seeking foreign interference to bolster his own political interests, the official Trump War Room re-election campaign Twitter account posted a video to social media that superimposed his face over that of the villainous Marvel comic book character Thanos.

In the scene from the movie Avengers: Endgame, Thanos snaps his fingers, attempting to destroy the diverse array of heroes from throughout the universe who’ve teamed up to defeat him. I am inevitable Trump/Thanos says.

“House Democrats can push their sham impeachment all they want,” the team tweeted. “President Trump’s re-election is inevitable.”

The video then cuts to footage of Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Jerry Nadler who magically vanish much like in the movie. Not the movie in question, mind you, the previous one, but these low-effort trolling operations from Trump’s social media team tend not to be heavy on consistency or logic.

Marvel Universe timeline discrepancies aside, the choice of this moment from the film was a strange one, as it’s seconds before Thanos realizes he’s about to be defeated.

[Spoiler alert] Thanos snaps his fingers and slowly dissolves like wind blowing a pile of charcoal ash.  End of story; he’s gone.  Poof.

The creator of Thanos responds to that Trump ad: “Seeing that pompous fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego, it finally struck me that the leader of my country and the free world actually enjoys comparing himself to a mass murderer.”

I thought last week when they compared him to Rocky Balboa and unleashed a twitter-storm of mockery, they’d learned their lesson about hijacking cultural references, but obviously not.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Killer Act

They did a beta-test of Trump’s 2020 campaign rally here in Miami Saturday night.

Trump, speaking during a closed-door speech to Republican Party of Florida donors at the state party’s annual Statesman’s Dinner, was in “rare form” Saturday night.

The dinner, which raised $3.5 million for the state party, was met with unusual secrecy. The 1,000 attendees were required to check their cell phones into individual locked cases before they entered the unmarked ballroom at the south end of the resort. Reporters were not allowed to attend.

But the secrecy was key to Trump’s performance, which attendees called “hilarious.”

Riding the high of the successful event turnout — and without the pressure of press or cell phones — Trump transformed into a “total comedian,” according to six people who attended the event and spoke afterward to the Miami Herald.

He also pulled an unusual move, bringing on stage Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who Trump pardoned last month for cases involving war crimes. Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers shoot at unarmed men in Afghanistan, and Golsteyn was to stand trial for the 2010 extrajudicial killing of a suspected bomb maker.

He’s a regular Bob Hope.  The best part was trotting out the war criminals.  That’s a killer act.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

What Mayor Pete Said

Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post:

When you’re black and gay, there are times when you feel that the two identities integral to your whole self are in conflict. Actually, let me rephrase that. There are times when other folks put your two identities in conflict and you feel compelled to respond.

When I thundered against the ugly lie that homophobia among African Americans was the reason Democratic presidential contender Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., wasn’t gaining their support, I had more than a few white gay men lecture me about black people as they hurled studies at me in the worst-ever display of apples meeting oranges. Those folks were blocked. Now, I have to push back against African Americans who are ripping Buttigieg for what they see as his equating his experience being gay with that of being black.

That’s not what happened. That’s not what he said.

We got here because of a question posed to Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) at the Democratic debate last month. She was asked to elaborate on her criticism of Buttigieg’s outreach to black voters. Harris used her response to widen the aperture to encompass the entire party and how it takes advantage of African Americans, black women in particular.

“You know, at some point, folks get tired of just saying, oh, you know, thank me for showing up and — and say, well, show up for me,” Harris said to applause. After a powerful riff on what black women face, Harris said, “The question has to be, where you been? And what are you going to do? And do you understand who the people are?”

Mayor Pete was asked to respond to Harris. Here is what he said in its entirety, with the relevant lines in bold.

My response is, I completely agree. And I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t yet know me.
And before I share what’s in my plans, let me talk about what’s in my heart and why this is so important. As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low income, for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity that has built-up over centuries but been compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory.
I care about this because my faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I make myself useful to those who have been excluded, marginalized and cast aside and oppressed in society.
And I care about this because, while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here. Wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.

Let me state at the outset that I do not for one minute disregard the anger over what folks thought Buttigieg said. I of all people know that when you’re black in America, you’re used to your feelings being discounted, your experience being devalued and your very presence being denied, if not outright ignored. I understand why hellfire is visited upon anyone who tries to draw direct parallels or attempts to equate our unrelenting battles against racism and white supremacy with their own struggles with discrimination. But what I will not do is drag someone for using their own experience to build a bridge of empathy, openness and awareness to try to help make the lives of others better.

Buttigieg could not have been more clear when he said, “While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate.” This is an open acknowledgment of his status as a white man immunizing him against racial prejudice. But he is also asking everyone to see that he is acquainted with bias as a married gay man under attack from his own government.

From Day One, the Trump administration has gone after the rights and legal protections of the LGBTQ community, including scrubbing our existence from federal government websites. And folks forget that while same-sex couples can be married on Sunday, they can still be fired on Monday for being — or being perceived as being — LGBTQ in 17 states. Only 22 of the remaining 33 states grant blanket protection from discrimination to LGBTQ people.

No, it’s not the same as the systemic racism and white supremacy that took root in 1619. But that supremacy and the cisgender straight white men who are its focus continue to hobble the efforts of the rest of us to fully claim the equality promised in our founding documents. That’s why I say there is a shared (not same) struggle for civil rights between blacks and the LGBTQ community. The late civil rights icon Julian Bond made it plain in a 2008 interview. “You are what you are, and you cannot be discriminated against in this country for what you are,” he replied when I asked him about the connection between the black civil rights movement and its gay counterpart.

Also lost in the anger was the “I see you” of Buttigieg’s response: the part where he says, “I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity that has built up over centuries but been compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory.” Recognizing the corrosive effects of structural racism past and present is not new for Buttigieg. And, remember, he said this before he was called “a lying MF” for not recognizing the impact of structural racism on education during a 2011 mayoral candidates’ forum in South Bend.

The last part of Buttigieg’s answer is key to understanding why he is so eager to show he’s empathic to, if not fully able to understand the fear and concerns of, folks who aren’t like him. The part where he talks about “how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.” This reminded me of what Buttigieg told me during our sit-down at the 92nd Street Y in May:

… at a moment like this, when every possible reason for excluding somebody has been weaponized by this administration, it’s a reason we’ve all got to be ready to stand up for each other, not by pretending that we know what it’s like to be in somebody else’s shoes. I don’t know beans about what it’s like to be, even within the LGBT community, I don’t know what it’s like to be trans, I just know enough to know I gotta stand up for somebody who is ….
All of us have to figure out how to find what’s in our identity and use it as a source of solidarity for others, because anybody can be marginalized. And so many people right now are that if we don’t stick together, you never know who’s gonna be next.

If you’re still dragging Buttigieg after reading that, then you’re not really interested in having allies willing to join the fight with you. That’s not to say you have to support his run for president. That’s your business. But when someone like Mayor Pete says, “I see your struggle. How can I help? How can I be of service?” my inclination is to say “Welcome!” — especially when they promise to be on the national stage for decades to come.

It would be one of the most karmic events in the history of karma — not to mention every Frank Capra movie ever — if Pete Buttigieg became president.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Campaigning Is Murder

Really?

If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.

Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency—fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday—Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.

“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” said one of these sources, who requested anonymity to talk about private conversations. “The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” like former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who refused to execute detained civilians ahead of a devastating Taliban attack.

Former Army Lt. Lorance was sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2013 for murder after ordering his soldiers in 2010 to fire on three unarmed Afghan men riding a motorcycle, killing two of them. He walked out of military prison at Fort Leavenworth on Nov. 15. Next month, former Green Beret Maj. Golsteyn was supposed to stand trial for the murder of an unarmed Afghan man whom he told the CIA he killed in the belief the man was a Taliban bombmaker. Golsteyn, who allegedly burned the man’s corpse, pleaded not guilty to the murder; the Green Berets stripped Golsteyn of his Special Forces tab. Lorance and Golsteyn were both causes célèbres in certain military circles and among their right-wing supporters, as was Navy SEAL Chief Gallagher.

A military jury this summer acquitted Gallagher for the murder of a wounded teenage fighter for the so-called Islamic State. The case, which both featured Trump’s conspicuous intervention boosting Gallagher and serious prosecutorial misconduct, began, like Lorance’s, with Gallagher’s own platoon mates reporting his conduct. Against Gallagher’s denial, two SEALs testified seeing the senior SEAL chief stab the wounded teenager in the neck. Gallagher, along with lower-ranking SEALs, took a photo with the corpse and texted it with the caption “good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.” But another SEAL reversed his testimony to say that he, not Gallagher, killed the wounded teenager by closing off an inserted breathing tube. Gallagher’s only conviction was for taking the photo and he was released for time served. Trump pardoned Lorance and Golsteyn and reversed Gallagher’s demotion in rank.

I wouldn’t put it past him to have pardoned them just so he could take them on tour.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Debate Wrap

I watched the first fifteen minutes and again it was a joint press conference, so I didn’t really see the need to hang around and wait for Chris Matthews to tell me who won, lost, or floated to the top.

For what it’s worth, here’s TPM’s four key takeaways from the debate.

On the heels of a day stuffed with explosive developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, which produced positive returns for the Democratic party‘s impeachment effort, 2020 Democrats coalesced in Atlanta and highlighted the fractures in the party’s views on key issues.

The atmosphere of the fifth Democratic debate stage on Wednesday evening was remarkably more quaint and noticeably more jovial than previous debates. While candidates’ attacks on one another were direct and blunt, the 10 on stage voluntarily offered each other support on several occasions and even traded their fair share of lighthearted jabs.

But the moderators asked substantive questions, and a few key candidates were clearly more rehearsed than they’ve been in the past four parleys.

Make of it what you will.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Preview Of Coming Distractions

The Kentucky governor race was close, so of course the losers are raising a stink.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers threw another wrench into the state’s razor-thin gubernatorial outcome late Tuesday night, saying that the legislature could decide the race.

Stivers’ comments came shortly after Gov. Matt Bevin refused to concede to Attorney General Andy Beshear, who led by roughly 5,100 votes when all the precincts were counted.

“There’s less than one-half of 1%, as I understand, separating the governor and the attorney general,” Stivers said. “We will follow the letter of the law and what various processes determine.”

Stivers, R-Manchester, said based on his staff’s research, the decision could come before the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Under state law, Bevin has 30 days to formally contest the outcome once it is certified by the State Board of Elections. Candidates typically ask for a re-canvass of voting machines and a recount first.

The last contested governor’s race was the 1899 election of Democrat William Goebel.

I fully expect to see stories like this all across the country a year from now if Trump loses by anything but a landslide, and if you thought Bush v. Gore in 2000 was disruptive, disheartening, and basically third-world tin-pot-despot kind of result, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Plus it’s going to cost a ton of taxpayers’ money to prove that yes, the vote count was right and YOU LOST.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Good Morning, Schadenfreude

Kentucky, a state that went 30 points over Clinton for Trump, elects Democrat Andy Beshear as governor, and Virginia flips both state houses to the Democrats.

Washington Post:

Democrats’ claim of victory Tuesday in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president.

Many allies of President Trump rushed to explain away the poor performance of incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) as an anomaly, while other GOP veterans expressed alarm about the party’s failure in a state where Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016 — and where he just campaigned this week.

Although Bevin was controversial and widely disliked, he was also a devotee of the president, embracing Trump’s agenda and his anti-establishment persona. And in the contest’s final days, Bevin sought to cast his candidacy as a bulwark against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of Trump.

And of course Trump made it all about him.  At a rally in Fayette County, which Beshear won by 2 to 1, he screamed, “You’re sending that big message to the rest of the country, it’s so important… Because if you lose it sends a really bad message. And they will build it up. You can’t let that happen to me.”  (Last night, among the rubble, Don Jr told Laura Ingraham that the election had nothing to do with Trump.)

Loser Bevin has yet to concede, claiming there were “irregularities.”  But according to Kentucky law, there are no automatic recounts; the loser has to petition a court, and the court has to grant it.

It’s going to be fun to watch Trump explain this one — as one commenter said, the result won’t be official until Trump tweets something bad about Bevin — and Mitch McConnell, who faces reelection in 2020, has got to be wondering if his carapace will protect him; he’s way behind in polls as of now.

In Virginia, both houses of the state legislature flipped from GOP to Democrat:

Several results were still close after polls closed on the most expensive and most watched Virginia legislative races in years, but Democrats flipped at least two seats in the state Senate and at least five in the House of Delegates to take majorities in both.

And to put a cherry on top:

A legion of reasons propel political neophytes to run for office, but none may be as unusual as what inspired Juli Briskman, the cyclist who gave President Trump the finger two years ago and found herself without a job and at the center of a national uproar.

On Tuesday, Briskman got a new job, winning a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors — ousting a Republican in the process.

“It’s feeling fantastic, it’s feeling surreal,” Briskman, 52, a Democrat, said by telephone as she celebrated her victory. “The last two years have been quite a ride. Now we’re helping to flip Loudoun blue.”

In 2017, Briskman was engaged in a different form of flipping, this one involving her middle finger, which she raised as she rode a bicycle alongside the presidential motorcade as Trump departed his golf club in Sterling.

In Mississippi, Democrat Jim Hood lost his race for governor, but it was comparatively close, and after all, it’s Mississippi.

All in all, it was a great night and hopefully, a harbinger of things to come.

Monday, November 4, 2019

One Year Out

A year from today, November 4, 2020, we’ll be waking up in a different world.  It will be the morning after the general election, and since we haven’t perfected time travel, I can’t say with any certainty whether it will be A) wonderful news or B) making plans to either make tracks (“Retire to the Caribbean” will get a lot of serious hits) or bracing ourselves for another term in the thrall of rank and venal narcissistic right-wing nutsery.

To make sure Plan A happens, we have to do everything we can to ensure that someone else is elected, someone who will oppose with every vote, every fiber of their being, the policies and hate of the current occupant and his sniveling minions.  I’m not talking about just into the presidency but into every other elected office, from county commissioner to Senate, and if they cannot say that they oppose what that alleged human being is doing, then find someone who does.

How?  There are a lot of ways, from donating money to donating time at the local office; to writing letters to the editor and making your voice heard through whatever means is at your disposal.  The How is important, but more importantly is the Why.

I’ve been through a lot of elections where we’ve heard “this is the most important election in history.”  Usually that means it’s the most important election to the person saying it because if they lose, they have to go back to doing whatever it was before they ran.  But this time I really believe it.  I believe that if we allow the current occupant to remain in power, the country and the world will be worse off in so many ways that we can only jolt awake from: climate change, wars, immigration, reproductive rights, gender equality, privacy, racial relations, healthcare, corporate corruption, taxes, the economy, child care, education, the rule of law; all of those plus a plethora of concerns that confront us now will be magnified exponentially if left unchecked.  Impeachment and conviction is one way, but it’s not a guarantee — there are too many people with too many selfish and fearful motives who can stop that process — leaving a resounding 50-state repudiation at every level of government the truest and most vocal way to bring it to a swift and merciless end.

I have my own plans for helping to make sure Plan A happens, including continuing to speak out here and using some of my semi-retirement to work locally in order to change globally.  As for you, you will find your way, too.  And find it we must.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Trivia Time

Did you know that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was running for president?

Trick question: he’s not anymore.

Full disclosure: I forgot he was ever in it to begin with.  But now his campaign buttons will be hot properties on E-bay.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Debate Rap

I made it through the first hour and a half of last night’s Democratic candidates’ debate, which was more like an antic version of the lightning round of “Wait… Wait… Don’t Tell Me” without the bell and the final gong.  Whoever dreamed up this format was counting on a high Red Bull consumption quotient on the part of the candidates.

As I noted on Facebook, Bernie Sanders killed it with his impersonation of Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but I will give him credit for being back in full cranky mode two weeks after having a heart attack.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg was calm and on point, Sen. Elizabeth Warren withstood being attacked for being the current front runner as well as she could, and Joe Biden, after weeks of being hammered by Trump as the current target of misdirection for his own crimes, didn’t seem a whole lot different than the previous debates, which is to say, stumbling over his answers as he tried to be the adult in the room.

I went to bed before it was over so I missed the final question that asked the candidates how they felt about Ellen DeGeneres being friends with George W. Bush.  Good thing, because I would have thrown something at the TV and scared the cat.  At a time with a White House being turned into the headquarters of the most corrupt enterprise since the end of Prohibition, with sea levels lapping at the foundations of Miami Beach, with mass killings turning shopping malls and schools into armed camps, the finale on this debate was something out of a truth-or-dare session from summer camp?  Who needs SNL when you have inanities like that?

We still have another year of this.  Giant meteor, anyone?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Make ‘Em Laugh

Sen. Elizabeth Warren got off a good one last week at CNN’s LGBTQ forum.

[Rim shot]

Now that’s how you tell a joke.  And a lot of people got it and thought it killed.  And it did.

Then again, there are those among the Very Serious People who neither know a good joke when they hear one or get all freaked out by whom it might offend.

The glitterati gushed. “The single greatest response to this question, in or outside politics,” wrote actress Minnie Driver. “Made my day,” added actress Alyssa Milano. Javier Muñoz, who recently played the title role in the smash musical “Hamilton,” posted seven emoji of clapping hands.

But Republicans and some Democrats warned that the quip at the CNN-sponsored forum would play poorly among a big swath of voters.

“It’s about telling people who don’t agree with you that they are backward by definition,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist who advised Bill Clinton’s presidential reelection campaign. The line was a “stab” to those who don’t agree with her, he said, and “it is a battle cry for men to turn out against Elizabeth Warren.”

The 44-second exchange captured the promise and peril of Warren’s candidacy. She is quick-witted and sharp-tongued in a way that has played well in the Democratic primary and could prove effective against President Trump. But conservatives warn that she can come off as condescending and dismissive.

Oh, conservatives are warning about coming off as condescending and dismissive?  As if their current example of how to tell a joke is the headliner at the Laugh Factory.

The problem — and I’ve said this many times but obviously it needs repeating — is that the conservatives and the Trumpers do not understand the basic essence of humor or how to tell a joke, including the most important rule: punch up, not down.  Making fun of the snooty, the elite, the pompous, and the self-important works, but making fun of the poor, the downtrodden, the ones hurting does not.  This has been axiomatic in comedy since the ancient Greeks right up through today.

This also proves one cosmic truth about humor: it is the ultimate weapon against Trump and the base who support him.  They literally cannot take a joke, and every time someone gets off a laugh at their expense, it makes them look like the fools and trolls that they are, especially when they get all huffy about being made the butt of jokes.  And it proves the point that Mel Brooks and many others have known for time out of mind: if you really want to defeat someone, laugh at them.

Friday, September 20, 2019

This Could Be The Big One

Via TPM, it’s looking like the whistleblower complaint to the DNI has to do with Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine by withholding military aid unless they helped him go after Joe Biden and assist in Trump’s reelection.

Fierce denials from the White House, but they’re doing everything to keep anyone from investigating it, including courting contempt of Congress, so it sounds like we’re skating really close to the truth.

And then Rudy Giuliani let the cat out of the bag.

“No, I didn’t!  Yes, I did!”

Wow.  Happy Friday.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Save Your Pixels

No, Justice Brett Kavanaugh is not going to be impeached despite the reporting in the New York Times that brings forward more evidence and corroboration that he was a drunken horn-dog in college.

Josh Marshall is pushing the idea that the Democrats could nail him on perjury when he testified last year before the Senate.

Removing someone from the Supreme Court is extremely difficult. You need the same 2/3rds majority as you do to remove a president. But it’s crystal clear that Kavanaugh repeatedly perjured himself to get on the court. The incidents may have happened decades ago but the perjury was only last year.

I know that several Democratic candidates are calling for his removal, but if they couldn’t get rid of him during the original hearings after the testimony of Christine Ford and others, then it’s not going to happen.

And please, Democrats, stop e-mailing me for money to support your campaign along with this quixotic goal, which seems to be the only reason you’re calling for it in the first place.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Reading

Trust Exercise — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker on the Democrats’ debate.

Resilience in the face of a personal setback was the subject of the final question in last Thursday night’s Democratic debate, in Houston. When it was the turn of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, to answer, he spoke about the years in which he lived with the fear that, as a military officer and an elected official in a socially conservative community, revealing that he was gay would end his career. But he reached a point, he said, where he was “not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer,” and he came out during the final months of a campaign. “When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them,” he said, “they decided to trust me, and reëlected me with eighty per cent of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated.”

Buttigieg’s story was moving on its own terms, but it also threw into relief a fundamental question of the Democratic primary race: What vision of themselves—and of voters—are the candidates willing to trust? At a basic level, that question has to do with being able to convince voters that they’re being spoken to without deceit. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke, of El Paso, has that ability, and it was on display in one of his stronger moments on Thursday. Asked whether he was serious when he said that he would require the owners of military-style weapons to sell them to the government, he replied, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” Politicians are often anxious to offer assurances that no one is coming for anyone’s guns, but O’Rourke said he believed that these gun owners, too, were sick of seeing children dying in mass shootings. When he visited a gun show recently, he added, some people told him that they would be willing to give up their guns, because “I don’t need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself.” Doing the right thing, O’Rourke said, was not a separate task from bringing all Americans, including conservative Republicans, “into the conversation.”

The health-care segment of the debate also hinged on questions of trust. The Medicare for All bill, which Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, wrote, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, signed on to, includes a provision—“on page eight,” as Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, helpfully pointed out—that would effectively ban most forms of private insurance. In this respect, the bill is far more restrictive than not only the “public option” but also the European universal-health-care systems that Sanders admires. Both Buttigieg, who favors “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and Senator Kamala Harris, of California, who introduced a plan in July that includes a longer transition and a larger role for private insurers, maintained that people should be trusted to choose their own option. (Harris has zigzagged on the issue—she originally signed on to Sanders’s bill—raising a different question of trust. Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, who co-sponsored the bill, has also backed away from elements of it.) When Sanders said that workers whose unions had agreed to wage cuts in return for private health-care coverage would be able to recover that money from their employers, Vice-President Joe Biden told him, “For a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”

That exchange, like several others on Thursday, was largely about how radical, or just how ambitious, the Party is prepared to be. Is sweeping, structural reform the best way to effect change, or is Obamacare worth building on? (Some factions in the Party have been busy rejecting parts of Barack Obama’s legacy—in the area of immigration, for example.) Pervasive doubt about existing institutions could make it easier to persuade people to commit to entirely new ways of doing things; it could also lead them to give up on a political system that they think is irredeemable, or just mean. Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, did not help matters when, during a discussion of public-option insurance enrollment, he seemed gleeful at a chance to portray Biden as doddery—“Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?” he asked. Castro later said that his approach was the way the primaries are supposed to play out. But his gibe seemed a crude bit of gaslighting, since Biden hadn’t quite said what Castro claimed he had. As Klobuchar put it in an interview following the debate, the remark was “not cool.”

Castro barely qualified for the debate; he is averaging about one per cent in the polls. Of the ten candidates on-stage, only three—Biden, Warren, and Sanders—are polling in the double digits. For some of the others, to continue competing seems to call for either an extraordinary amount of confidence in themselves or, especially in the case of Andrew Yang, in the resonance of their message. Yang, a businessman, presents a notable example of the twinned qualities of pessimism and hope. He believes that, in the face of automation, traditional responses to unemployment, such as retraining programs, are hopeless, but that, with a universal basic income of a thousand dollars a month and the “boot off of people’s throats,” Americans will not sink into inertia but remake their lives and their country. He undercut his own message on Thursday, however, by announcing, game-show style, that his campaign would give that money to ten American families so that they could try the plan. At its most developed, the strength of the case for basic income lies in how it would change the entire economic climate, not just the prospects of a few lucky winners.

There is also the reciprocal aspect of the trust equation: having faith in voters. The Democratic Party seems split on the question of how much of its resources should be directed toward certain voters, particularly white working-class men struggling with deindustrialization. The willingness of so many voters to cast their ballots for Donald Trump has been disorienting. But the case remains that some of those same people previously voted for Obama. The categories are rarely neat. As Buttigieg noted, “Where I come from, a lot of times that displaced autoworker is a single black mother of three.”

None of this is easy. Even Buttigieg’s decision to come out publicly, which he did in 2015, would likely have turned out very differently twenty years ago. But it is true that the victories surrounding L.G.B.T.Q. rights have been brought about by a combination of activism, litigation, and people telling their stories within their communities—through conversation, as O’Rourke put it, as well as confrontation. This is how primaries ought to play out. Every election is an exercise in trust.

Of Course It Is — John Nichols in The Nation on the House moving to open an impeachment inquiry.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan has been saying for months that “Congress must now do its job” and open a formal impeachment inquiry. It’s been a frustrating fight for the Wisconsin Democrat in the face of resistance from House Democratic Caucus leaders.

He’s not alone in his call. Most members of the caucus now support formal action that might lead to the impeachment in the House and a trial by the Senate. They know Mitch McConnell’s amen corner for this presidency might reject its duty to remove an errant executive whose presidency has turned into a daily assault on the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

But Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has it right: “I want to see every Republican go on the record and knowingly vote against impeachment of this president knowing his corruption, having it on the record.” Instead of worrying about holding the president to account, Democrats should be forcing the issue—if only to identify the Republican senators who are willing to “protect the amount of lawlessness.”

But even as the Democrats who matter—the members of the House Judiciary Committee—are acting on the issue, leaders of the party keep sending mixed signals. And the media, obsessed as it always is with the meanderings of the powerful rather than the actual news of the day, tends to go along with the charade. So there is still some confusion about whether the Judiciary Committee has launched an actual impeachment inquiry.

Let’s clear things up: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that she’s “not answering any more questions about a possible inquiry, investigation, and the rest” because “there is nothing different from one day to the next.”

But something new did happen on Thursday. The Judiciary Committee’s Democratic majority voted to open an “investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with regard to President Donald J. Trump.” In so doing, they established guidelines for pursuing an inquiry—with committee chair Jerry Nadler noting, correctly, that “Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms.”

The “resolution for investigative procedures” that was approved by the committee allows its members to accept sensitive evidence in closed executive sessions. It clears the way for subcommittees to schedule hearings and question witnesses on impeachment-related issues. And it permits legally and technically experienced staffers to join in the questioning of witnesses during committee hearings.

This is how an impeachment inquiry works—no matter what Speaker Pelosi says or refuses to say about it.

Doonesbury — In the future.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Debate Aftermath

I still listen to my record player, you young whippersnappers.

My take is that Julian Castro’s fifteen minutes are up, and Andrew Yang can now hang out with all his doctor friends or explore a career as the next host of “The Price is Right.” Mayor Pete got in some great points, and Bernie’s somewhat bug-eyed rants took on the stuff of caricature.  I thought Elizabeth Warren had a good night; so did Cory Booker, and I think Beto O’Rourke at least got the attention of the NRA.

Other than that, what did you think of Dems 3.0?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Reading

Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald:

If you’re going to lie, make it a good one.

Meaning, put some effort into it. Make it convincing. Make sure the truth is not easily discoverable. Don’t just draw on a weather map with a Sharpie.

That’s apparently what Donald Trump or someone in his employ did last week to prove he was right all along in claiming the state of Alabama lay in the path of Hurricane Dorian. He made this claim via Twitter Sunday morning and it was so alarmingly wrong that the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service quickly tweeted an emphatic correction: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

A smart person would have let it go at that. A smart person would have said, “Oops, my bad” and moved on. Trump, not to put too fine a point on it, is not a smart person. Worse, he is saddled with a congenital inability to admit when he is wrong.

So what followed Wednesday in the Oval Office was both predictable and pathetic. Trump trotted out a forecast map on which someone had used a black marker to extend the storm’s possible track across the southeastern tip of Alabama. Reporters asked if someone had drawn on the map. “I don’t know,” said Trump.

Later, he tried to further justify himself by trotting out raw computer model data indicating a low likelihood of Dorian striking Alabama. “I accept the Fake News apologies!” he crowed. But the data were from August 28 – four days before Trump’s lie. By then, everyone in the country knew Alabama was in no danger – everyone but him.

Yes, you’re right. The fact that Trump lies is hardly breaking news. The Washington Post says he’s made over 12,000 “false or misleading claims” since taking office. He’s lied on nations, public officials and presidents. Why not lie on a hurricane?

But it’s not the fact of the lie that occasions these words. It is, rather, the laziness of it.

As noted once before in this space, the quality of a lie is in direct proportion to the respect the liar has for the person being lied to. You would not tell your boss that the reason you’re taking a day off is that you’re needed to do repairs on the International Space Station. No, you put work into a lie, you make it credible, when you respect the person you’re lying to, when his or her good opinion matters.

Otherwise, you draw on a map with a Sharpie and call it a weather forecast.

Point being, we’ve grown so used to the fact that this guy lies that we forget to marvel at how truly bad at it he is. Meantime, the coterie of suck-ups and sycophants he calls an administration insists with a straight face that he’s telling the absolute truth and we’re somehow missing it. We are living the fable of the emperor’s new clothes, only it’s not a fable and the emperor has nuclear weapons.

It gets worse. Roughly coincident with Trump’s whopper, there appeared on Medium an article by psychiatrists David M. Reiss and Seth D. Norrholm, renewing concern about the state of his mental health. “We definitely believe that based upon his observed behaviors, it is clinically indicated that Trump undergo a full and comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation,” they wrote.

So maybe he’s not just lazy. Maybe he’s also mentally impaired.

It’s an alternative that offers a sobering sign of the depths to which we’ve been brought by the bigotry of Republican voters who put him in office and the spinelessness of Republican (and Democratic) lawmakers who keep him there: We face two options, one of which is that the president of the United States simply does not respect the presidency or the people.

And incredibly, that’s the best case scenario.

“I’m Outta Here” — Frank Bruni in the New York Times on Republicans quitting the House.

There was no home for Representative Will Hurd in Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

For a while he tried to make one. For a while he succeeded, if success means preserving some of your dignity while steering clear of Trump’s wrath and surviving politically. Although Hurd’s Texas congressional district voted narrowly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, he held on to his seat that year and again in 2018, but by slim margins. It was anyone’s guess how he’d fare in 2020, and now no one will know. Hurd, 42, isn’t seeking re-election — he and a big, expanding bunch of his Republican colleagues in the House.

We talk and write all the time about the Never Trumpers: those previously stalwart Republicans who cringed at Trump’s entry into the presidential race; grew increasingly apoplectic as he raged on; began to live, courtesy of him, in an unwavering state of unalloyed outrage; and scaled new media and sometimes financial heights as party turncoats, their antipathy toward the president more titillating and telegenic by dint of their loyalty to Republicans before him.

But they’re not the best gauges of his and the party’s political fortunes. Their estrangement and emotional pitch have been changeless.

The more interesting and maybe predictive group are the Republicans who, to varying degrees, tried to make do with Trump, found ways to rationalize him and still won’t acknowledge how offensive he is but have fled or are fleeing government nonetheless. He made their participation in political life joyless. He so thoroughly befouled their party’s image that they reek by association. And, thanks largely if not entirely to him, many of them faced or face punishment at the polls.

What to call this crowd? Maybe the Toppled Trumpers. Maybe the Shotgun Trumpers.

Maybe bellwethers.

In the cause of figuring out whether, in November 2020, Trump will be rewarded with a second term, many numbers and dynamics get tossed around: the unemployment figures, the Dow Jones, the trade war, the advantages of incumbency, the peculiarities of the Electoral College and Trump’s approval ratings, consistently low but not entirely static.

Democratic stumbles are raptly chronicled, and there’s much concern — I share it — that the candidates vying for the party’s presidential nomination are at this point tugging it farther to the left than is prudent for the general election. The decriminalization of unauthorized border crossings? Free health care for undocumented immigrants? An end to private health insurance? This is uncertain terrain, and I for one worry that Democrats could be sabotaging themselves and increasing the chances that Trump again prevails.

But at least one constituency is unconvinced of that: Republicans in Congress, especially in the House. They’re making their predictions with their feet, and they’re heading for the exit.

To recap: Before the 2018 midterms, 46 Republicans but only 20 Democrats decided not to seek re-election to their offices in Congress, and among those, 32 Republicans and 11 Democrats weren’t doing that in order to run for some higher, different post. They were just bolting. The discrepancy between the Republican and Democratic numbers amounted to a weather forecast — and an accurate one at that. Although Democrats didn’t improve their standing in the Senate, they picked up a whopping 40 seats in the House.

Heading into the 2020 election, 19 Republicans in Congress have already announced that they won’t seek another term in their current office, a number higher than at the same point two years ago. Of the 19, 17 aren’t retiring from Congress to pursue some kind of political promotion. Meanwhile, only four Democrats in all are retiring from Congress. To analyze these numbers in the context of what happened in the midterms is to conclude that Republicans are limping toward a disastrous Election Day.

Maybe Trump’s fortunes are untethered from his party’s. Maybe, as has happened so often over the course of his charmed life, he will soar while all around him plummet, and they instead of he will suffer for his sins. His campaign associates go to jail; he goes to the Group of 7. The most principled Republicans are driven from the fold; he reigns without principle over a party that has largely bent to his wishes rather than stand up for what it purported to believe.

“Most often I’m asked why so many Republicans aren’t running for re-election,” Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told me. “But I ask why so many are. This isn’t the cruise they signed up for.” He noted that up until a few months before Trump effectively secured the Republican nomination in 2016, not a single Republican in Congress had endorsed him. The first two House members who took that icy plunge — Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California — are now under criminal indictment (though not for anything having to do with Trump).

Both before the midterms and now, Republicans are leaving Congress for all sorts of reasons. But they outnumber Democrats on the way out because, generally speaking, they assume that Republicans will remain in the House minority and they’re exhausted by the tandem experiences of powerlessness and answering for Trump’s chaos and cruelties.

The departures this time around speak volumes about looming threats to the Republican Party. Five of the House Republicans who aren’t running again, including Hurd, are from Texas, a red state whose demographic composition fills Democrats with more and more hope. Two of only 13 Republican women in the House are stepping down. Hurd is the only black Republican in the House — a detail that he underlined in a sort of farewell note that he wrote and posted on his website.

That note, read carefully, is a warning to fellow Republicans and a kind of subtweet of Trump’s spectacularly divisive governing style. “I will stay involved in politics to grow a Republican Party that looks like America,” Hurd wrote, adding that he loves America because “we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor independent. We are better than the sum of our parts.”

Hurd announced his decision not to run again shortly after Trump attacked “the squad” of four congresswomen of color by tweeting that they should “go back” to where they came from. He was one of only four House Republicans who voted to condemn those remarks, which he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour were “racist and xenophobic.”

But he’s in a much larger crowd of House Republicans who, for all their usual silence, privately bristle or gasp at Trump’s behavior. After Trump’s “go back” ugliness, Representative Paul Mitchell of Michigan publicly tweeted to the president that it was “beneath leaders” and that “we must be better than comments like these.” He had previously taken Trump to task for comments after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that some white supremacists were very fine people.

Mitchell has at this point apparently had enough. He announced in late July that he’d leave the House at the end of this term, which is only his second. He cited the “rhetoric and vitriol” that dominate our politics now. Make no mistake: Those are synonyms for President Trump.

Doonesbury — Woo woo?

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunday Reading

The Urgency of the 2020 Senate — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.

This summer, a Dallas Morning News poll asked Texas Democrats to pick their favorite from a list of declared candidates for the 2020 U.S. Senate race. The winner was: “Someone else.” This shadowy figure, who garnered nineteen per cent of the vote—almost twice that of the next nearest contender—was easily recognizable: he has the tall, lanky profile of former congressman Beto O’Rourke, of El Paso. About half of those polled said that O’Rourke should drop his Presidential bid and take on the Republican senator John Cornyn, whose approval rating is in the thirties. (Even Ted Cruz, whom O’Rourke almost defeated last year, does better than that.) “Beto, if you’re listening: Come home,” the Houston Chronicle said in an editorial after the poll was released. “Texas needs you.” He heard, but said that he would not run for the Senate “in any scenario.”

For many Democrats, that was a disappointing reply. Even if Donald Trump is defeated, the Democrats will need to pick up three Senate seats in order to gain control of the chamber and have a reasonable chance of turning their ambitious plans into legislative reality. If Trump wins, the crucial net gain will be four. (The Vice-President gets to break any tie; there would be an added complication should either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders beat Trump—the Republican governor of the winner’s state would name an interim senator until a special election could be held.)

The urgency cannot be overstated. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are both in their eighties; whether Trump has an unimpeded choice to replace one or both of them, potentially remaking the Court in his Constitution-defying image, could come down to a couple of seats. It’s not going to be so easy to get them. Republicans have to defend twenty-three of the thirty-five Senate seats on the ballot next year, but most of them are in deep-red states.

There are openings for the Democrats. One has already been taken: two weeks ago, in Colorado, the former governor John Hickenlooper abandoned his Presidential campaign, and he will now run against Senator Cory Gardner, instantly turning what had been a likely Republican win into a possible Democratic one. In Georgia, an increasingly purple state, there are now two Republican seats up for grabs. David Perdue, who is a cousin of Sonny Perdue, Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, is running for reëlection, and Johnny Isakson announced last week that he would step down at the end of this year for health reasons. There is a Democrat who could be a formidable contender for either seat: Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, who narrowly lost a highly contested governor’s race last year. Abrams has said that she is not interested, even though, as in Texas, no other candidate commands the field. She intends to stay focussed on her voting-rights work, but she did say that she would “be honored” to be considered as the Democrats’ Vice-Presidential candidate.

In Arizona, Mark Kelly, a former Navy combat pilot and astronaut, is running against Senator Martha McSally, who lost last year to the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema but was appointed by the Republican governor to fill John McCain’s seat after his death. Kelly is the husband of the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded eight years ago in a mass shooting at an event with her constituents in Tucson, which left six people dead. Since then, Giffords and Kelly have become tireless advocates for gun control. He is a well-known figure with a strong message in a state that seems ready to hear it.

But the Democrats have their own vulnerabilities. Doug Jones won in a special election in Alabama last year against Judge Roy Moore, a far-right extremist who was accused of sexual misconduct with teen-age girls. (Moore has denied the allegations.) Jones must now defend that seat in a state where Trump’s approval rating is above sixty per cent. Unless Moore gets the Republican nomination again—and he’s trying—Jones may have a short Senate career. In Michigan, the junior Democratic senator, Gary Peters, is facing a strong challenger in John James, an Iraq War veteran and a businessman, who, if elected, would be one of only two African-American Republicans in the Senate. In these states—and in others that may be in play, such as Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina—the essential message is the same: the candidates matter.

There is no imperative, at this point, for every low-polling Presidential contender to drop out of the race. Andrew Yang, for example, is using his candidacy to spur a conversation about universal basic income. And he is from New York, which has no Senate race next year. But, if there’s a chance to take a seat, why not try? Governor Steve Bullock, of Montana, has been asked that question many times, because he could have a Hickenlooper-like effect on the Senate race in his home state. His answers boil down to this: the Senate is a miserable place, ill-suited for anyone who wants to “get things done.” The chamber has done much to earn that reputation, particularly under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Yet the present morass only underscores how important it is to elect better senators. (The Senate is also a place where Montana, with a population of one million, has the same representation as California, with forty million—something that might at least inspire Bullock.)

Even O’Rourke, for whom, just last year, being a senator was something of a dream job, said that running for the same office now “would not be good enough for El Paso and it would not be good enough for this country.” He made that comment soon after a mass shooting in El Paso, in which the gunman targeted what he called a “Hispanic invasion.” On a human level, it’s understandable that O’Rourke would want to directly take on Trump and his bigotry; on a political level, though, the logic is less clear. When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand left the Presidential race, last week, she said, “It’s important to know when it’s not your time, and to know how you can best serve your community and country.”

There are many fronts on which the battle against Trumpism can be fought. More broadly, too much is lost if legislative politics, as practiced in Washington, is simply scorned. The Senate can be a safety net for our democracy, and, at the moment, it needs saving. Someone has to do it.

Hurricanes Unite Us — Cynthia Barnett in The Atlantic.

The Louisiana writer Walker Percy got a lift from approaching hurricanes. The need to jump into action is so exhilarating that people forget their malaise and despair.

Will Barrett, the passive, autobiographical southerner in Percy’s 1966 novel, The Last Gentleman, had the impression that “not just he but other people felt better in hurricanes.” Even amid the eye, “everything was yellow and still and charged up with value.” A hurricane, Barrett thought, blew away life’s “sad, noxious particles.”

Percy captured a truth that is all but taboo in the fearsome path of a major storm like Hurricane Dorian. The days leading up to a hurricane bring a physical and emotional buzz. Sense of purpose rises as barometric pressure falls. Hurricane preparations fill some of the cracks in our fractured world, awakening a sense of belonging to a ragged and reluctant tribe that is nevertheless galvanized to deal with an emergency.

We talk with the neighbors we haven’t seen since Christmas. We share grim jokes with strangers in the gas line. Relatives we haven’t heard from in a while call, email, and text to check in, and we actually answer. Passive personalities like Barrett feel they have to become decisive

People also pay relentless attention to things they usually ignore—say, public-service announcements and the science of the atmosphere. The Dorian models now transfixing millions of Americans are generated by many of the same research organizations, such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that model climate change and the devastating track of warming.

Those climate models are in far closer agreement than the spaghetti strands that loop on weather maps a week out from a hurricane’s arrival. Here are just a few things they project in the latest worldwide analysis of hurricane and climate data published in the journal of the American Meteorological Society: Human-caused warming will likely worsen storm inundation because of sea-level rise. Human-caused warming will likely heighten the overall intensity of tropical storms around the world. Human-caused warming will likely increase the rainfall unleashed in such storms—on the order of 10 to 15 percent. Human-caused warming will likely increase the proportion of hurricanes that reach the most destructive levels, Category 4 and 5.

Public manipulation by the fossil-fuel industry has crippled action on those and other life-threatening projections. But we know we’d be fools to ignore the computer models urging us to prepare for the major hurricane on its way. I find hope in the extraordinary mobilization out front of Dorian, in the human charge that Percy felt from his home north of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. Our instinct to do what’s best for the human tribe, or at least for ourselves, will finally overcome the small cabal of special interests keeping us to the dangerous path of the status quo.

Desmond Meade, who spearheaded last year’s ballot initiative to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions, talked about hurricanes as he accepted the award for Florida Citizen of the Year from the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service in May. Amendment 4 was another extraordinary mobilization, crossing political and class boundaries. The effort reminded Meade of the communal energy sparked by storms. Counterintuitive though it may sound, he said that over a lifetime in Florida, some of the “brightest times” he remembered happened surrounding hurricanes.

“That’s when people just come together to engage with their neighbors,” Meade said.

Then he told the story of the heavyweight fighter Derrick Lewis of Houston, who drove around in his pickup truck following Hurricane Harvey, rescuing more than 100 stranded souls. One of them had nothing but the clothes on his back and a Confederate flag.

“That African American gentleman was able to look beyond that and just see another human being,” Meade said. “When you’re in an emergency situation, the first question is not going to be: ‘Did you vote for Donald Trump?’ It’s going to be: ‘Are you okay? How can I help?’”

Doonesbury — A detailed budget.