Friday, October 23, 2020


 Locals. They're good.

•    I did a thing for the newsletter (this issue free even to non-subscribers! How can I do it? Low overhead!) about last night's debate. The only way you can paint it as a victory for Tubby is if you grade it solely on yelling, posturing, and other alpha-ape displays of dominance. I certainly don't understand all the people saying, as "Access Maggie" Haberman did, that he "heeded the pleas of his advisers to tone it down." As I observed in the newsletter, that lasted maybe ten minutes. Perhaps Haberman means he sometimes resorted his baby-whisper voice between bellows, but on my TV he was mostly his usual self -- and, as I observed much further back than this, his is not an act that wears well over time, let alone during a pandemic. And who on God's green earth thinks hollering "I'm the least racist person here" over and over again is a winning strategy -- except for total racists, and he's already got them locked up? For the election, I am cautiously optimistic, which is to say frightened rather than despairing. 

•   Speaking of white supremacists, Republican golden boy Madison Cawthorn -- Good looking! Young! Disabled, but charismatically so like Greg Abbott! Running for a safe seat in the South! -- keeps outing himself as a Nazi, and the media keeps outing itself as unable to accept the evidence. Candidate Cawthorn first became famous for his effusions over a visit to "the Fuhrer"'s house in Germany. One could have interpreted his remark charitably, and conservatives did: My very favorite of these attempts is National Review's "Madison Cawthorn Is Not a Nazi." There's a headline that doesn't arouse suspicion! Cawthorn's also been accused of prevaricating about his career and military intention, and of sexual harassment, and of still more fash weirdness:

Cawthorn oddly follows precisely 88 people on Twitter. (88 is white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.”) He posed for a photo wearing a gun holster emblazoned with a Spartan soldier’s helmet, a symbol associated with far-right gun culture in general and the Oath Keepers specifically.

Also he called his no-work company "SPQR."  But, ho ho, maybe he just doesn't know what he's saying! "It would surprise me if Cawthorn knew that these have become alt-right symbols," tut-tutted Reason's Robby Soave, "just as it would surprise most people to learn that making the OK gesture will get them branded as white nationalists by hate-group watchers." (Not if they're paying attention, it wouldn't.) Regular old newsies cut Cawthorn slack, too; even stories that point out more dumb shit he did refer to him affectionately as a "a 25-year-old in a potentially historic bid for Congress."

Anyway, a few months pass, and now we find Cawthorn's website accused a critical reporter of working "for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.” (Cawthorn took it down but the internet is forever.) Suddenly all Cawthorn's weird fascist tells look a lot harder to excuse away. Not that the Republicans won't try (Ben Shapiro's already covering for him, posting a Cawthorn op-ed that's light on the Nazism) because they want that seat badly. But the next time they and the press back up one of these guys and say, "I can explain everything," we ought to tell them not to bother.  

•   I see Peggy Noonan's making her late push for a Trump comeback ("Did he? Could he?"), claiming he won the debate and achieved the important goal: 

If you wanted or needed an excuse, an out, to vote for Mr. Trump, if you wanted an argument that justified your decision in a conversation in the office, he probably gave you what you need.

First of all, what's with this persistent rightwing theme that Trump can win by giving his followers an excuse rather than a reason? Isn't that a disqualification rather than a recommendation? Secondly, what would "justify your decision in a conversation in the office"? Sheets and pillows? "Russia Russia Russia"? "ACO plus three"? If you're using this gibberish to excuse your vote to your colleagues, you were voting for him already. No leaner, if such a sad creature exists, was waiting for Trump to yell that he was the least racist person in the room to make the leap.

Mr. Trump’s power, recovered Thursday night, is to speak like normal people, so you can understand him without having to translate what he’s saying in your head. 

"Oh, I get it -- he says Blacks Lives Matter is all about killing cops!" 

Trump supporters believe he will win because of his special magic, Trump foes fear he will win because of his dark magic. Pollsters and pundits stare at the data and wonder how to quantify his unfathomable magic.

Pollsters are looking at polls that overwhelmingly show Trump losing and musing upon his "unfathomable magic"?  If it were anyone else I'd say Noonan was counting on Republican election fraud to make her prediction sensible ex post facto (which it could! So defend your vote, people!), but with her I guess it's the leprechaun telling her to burn her credibility.  

•  Oh, I have one more thing to say about this awful Noonan column:

It’s only a poll, but after Gallup, a New York Times/Siena poll asked the same question, and 49% said they were better off.

What’s interesting, though, is that when Siena asked respondents if the country was better off than it was four years ago, only 39% said yes.

What does this mean? No one knows. If the polling is more or less correct, you wonder: Will people vote on their own circumstances or what they perceive to be the country’s?

This is very, very reminiscent of something longtime rightwing buffoon Jeff Godlstein (old-timers will understand why I spelled it that way) claimed in 2006 as a reason why, despite the "good" economy, "the health of the economy has not polled well among the American public." To Godlstein, it started with Paul Krugman telling them (perniciously!) that some people were suffering, and the American public, which was doing great, taking it too much to heart: 

...the result is Americans -- a compassionate people -- are often concerned about this phantom suffering of others in the abstract, and will react less confidently to the current state of the economy based on how they believe others are suffering under it, even while they themselves note (often with some degree of secret shame) that they seem to be doing just fine.

That was January 2006. Remember the 2006 midterms? Kinda like the 2018 midterms. Americans are prey to all kinds of bugbears and prejudices, but most of us know when we're being conned. 

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