Monday, April 23, 2018

The Words, the Attitude, the Hat -- But Is It a Winning Look for 2018?

So far, the Republican candidates trying to out-Trump Trump have not been doing so well with voters. Roy Moore in Alabama wanted to be the Bama Basher in the style of his hero in the White House. Rick Saccone liked to say "I was Trump before Trump was Trump" in his Pennsylvania race for the US House, but he lost badly to Conor Lamb.

They're often Trump's parrots (see below), and often decked out in that scarlet hat and claiming to be more like Twitterman than their Republican opponents. Ex-Massey Energy Co. boss Don Blankenship, once he got out of prison and decided he wanted to be US Senator from West Virginia, became a Twitter sensation himself, emulating his idol (who's endorsed not one but both of the Republicans running against Blankenship in the primary. There's no end to irony).

Todd Rokita (pictured above in his MAGA hat) is running as the trumpster who wants to represent Indiana in the US Senate. "Not to be outdone, one of Mr. Rokita’s opponents, Luke Messer, tarred Mr. Rokita as 'Lyin’ Todd,' an echo of Mr. Trump’s epithet for Senator Ted Cruz, 'Lyin’ Ted.' Mr. Messer’s gripe? Mr. Rokita falsely claimed to have received the president’s endorsement" (Jeremy W. Peters). Rokita got the endorsement not of Corporal Bonespurs but of the corporal's head Indiana campaign persons back in 2016.

The poker bluff of 2018: "I see your strut, and I raise you a fuss."

“We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary,” thunders Don Blankenship in a campaign ad in West Virginia.

“I proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp,” declares Rokita in his own TV spot in Indiana.

"Let’s get this ‘@#$% thing’ done,” Martha McSally, candidate for US Senate from Arizona, said at a campaign rally about The Wall, and was quoted in the press.

“Someone told me the other day that I was the first Trump, the Trump for Mississippi,” said Chris McDaniel, a candidate for Senate in Mississippi.

The obvious question: Is any of this strut and fuss playing well beyond his base? And what's his base, anyway? Maybe 35% of the voting public, which is only a fraction of the whole public which can and might actually vote.

Like Twitterman likes to say on all occasions, "We'll see what happens."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Corruption of the NC Court System Becomes an Issue in 2018

Take a look at this mailer being sent out in several NC House districts (at least) by a group calling itself "Fair Courts Now." It's designed to put pressure on Republican lawmakers who, under the leadership of  Phil Berger and Tim Moore, have been messing with the judicial system in an effort to avoid having their unconstitutional laws thrown out by the courts.

This particular example is aimed at Rep. William "Bill" Brawley, who represents District 103 in the NC House. Brawley's got the race of his life on his hands this year, with Democrat Rachel Hunt, the daughter of former Governor Jim Hunt, filed to run against him.

This same mailer is showing up in other House districts with other Republican members pictured on the front: "Call Rep. Whosit Today." (So far I've seen one other aimed at Rep. Ted Davis in District 19. Indebted to Jonathan Kappler for collecting political mailers from all over the state and posting them for our edification.)

We're glad to see the issue of a judiciary under attack surfacing in this year's General Assembly races.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Next Special Election in Arizona Has GOP in a Cold Sweat

Or a hot panic.

Twitterman is cutting robocalls, warning that if the Democrat wins the special election to replace Trent Franks in the 8th Congressional District of Arizona next Tuesday, then “illegal immigrants will pour right over your border.” That kind of talk sounds like part of a comedy routine, seriously, but maybe it works in Arizona. Dunno.

The Arizona 8th takes in the suburbs to the north and west of Phoenix and a good deal of open ranching country. Republican presidential contestants carried the district by at least 20 points in all three of the last three elections. Heavily Republican -- the district includes Sun City -- and wouldn't you know it? Current absentee balloting in this special election has been lop-sidedly Republican -- 49% of requests to the Democrats' 28%, which means that the Unaffiliated are voting at a respectable clip -- 23%.

Those stats can give Republicans bragging rights -- “When you look at the number of Republicans who’ve requested absentee ballots, I don’t know how you conclude that this is a race” -- meaning, why would you even think that a Democrat could win this seat? That's what Corry Bliss said, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund -- which is also incidentally pumping in hundreds of thousands to shore up the Republican candidate.

You've heard of whistling through the graveyard, right?

Some polls show the race as a "dead heat," so certainly some Republicans are worried. Why else would they stoop to the desperation of a Corporal Bonespurs robocall?

Historical note: What happened to Congressman Trent Franks: resigned in 2017 after revelation that he had offered a female staffer $5 million to carry his child.

The Republican candidate, Debbie Lesko --
She was until recently an incumbent state senator, representing at least some of CD 8. She resigned her seat to run for Congress. She ran unopposed in her last election. Her greatest accomplishment in the state legislature appears to have been a law allowing Sun City residents to drive golf carts on the road. When the bill was passed, the community feted officials including Lesko with a 100-golf cart parade.

Curiously, if you go to her website, where usually a candidate will write a short autobiography -- "This is where I come from. This is what I've done. This is who I am as a human being" -- there is nothing personal about Debbie Lesko. Zero. Just a bullet-point list of service/work/activity, like you'd do if you were applying for Who's Who.

She's a doctrinaire conservative, with a distinct Tea Party aroma, and the question in this year of the Twitterman 2018 is whether that message is selling any more, even in Sun City. Especially in Sun City. Wikipedia sez, "Lesko has said she opposes universal health coverage and favors repealing the Affordable Care Act." You have a history of wanting to take away people's health insurance, at the same time that the Party in Power has repeatedly and deliberately destabilized the insurance marketplace and driven everyone's costs up, then maybe you're looking and sounding a little like very old fish wrap.

Her big issue is "build the wall." Sun City has been an enthusiastic consumer of any anti-immigrant rhetoric you cared to peddle. Those folks were Joe Arpaio's base, so how in the world would someone who opposed the wall -- as the Democratic candidate (below) does -- expect to win a race for Congress?

But because Lesko has actually lagged behind the Democrat in fundraising, outside Republican and conservative PACs have dumped a million or two into District 8 to change Lesko's persona.

Why would her persona need work? Lesko is “everything you hate about politics,” said Lesko's Democratic opponent, Hiral Tipirneni, a first-time candidate in her first-ever TV commercial. That line hurt because it's true.

The Democrat, Hiral Tipirneni --
From her website: "Hiral came to America from India with her family at the age of three. Her parents were seeking the American dream because they knew the United States was a place where, if you worked hard and lived by the rules of democracy, you could be successful no matter where you came from."

Hiral finished public school in Ohio and went on to a medical degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University. She's spent the last 20 years as an emergency room physician. Her introductory video is another compelling presentation, in a year of great political video. You should go watch it.

According to Ballotpedia, Tipirneni outraised Lesko between February 8 and April 4, 2018, with $434,000 in contributions to Lesko's $367,000. “If you look at that national wave of momentum, Arizona is no different,” Tipirneni told the Guardian. “Our Democratic base is energized. And what’s amazing is that we didn’t realize how many Dems were there just waiting for somebody to step up and represent them.” She acknowledges that Democrats alone can't elect her. She'll have to win Republican votes. How many Republican votes she needs depends on how those Unaffiliateds are voting.

Tipirneni is running on health care and saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that Tipirneni points out the Republicans want to slash to pay for the deficit that was created by the tax cuts. She advocates a plan that would allow anyone, of any age, to buy into Medicare, the most sensible fix and the one that gives conservatives the ultimate vapors.

She's against The Wall. That may kill her in Sun City -- probably will -- but it's otherwise a clear contest and a choice in the Arizona Eighth: An Immigrant v. an Immigrant Basher. If Tipirneni even comes close, it proves the sponginess of Republican enthusiasm this year.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Dan Forest, Alarmed (And Annotated)

N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, "a likely candidate for governor in 2020," was among the headline speakers this weekend during the Civitas think tank’s Conservative Leadership Conference at the Crabtree Valley Marriott.

In a short speech Friday night, Forest argued that government can’t — and shouldn’t be expected to — fix all of society’s ills. But, he said, small-government conservatives are in a dangerous place in history because “the left” marches and lobbies for bigger government with “religious fervor.”

“It’s the thing that wars used to be fought over,” Forest said.
Wars? Onward, Christian soldiers?
“You see it on issues like climate change or the Me Too movement or Black Lives Matter or gun control,” he continued. “Name the issue today, the fervor has reached a religious pitch in America. Why? Because it really is the religion of the left.”
Penis envy. Dan Forest is furious that the Republicans aren't showing the same fervour as Democrats. Personally, I pray to the earth and the sky, in that order, and I don't tend to think the exercise of the rights in a Republic to protest and to be heard is in itself a threat to the Republic.
Real societal and cultural change comes with changes in character, Forest argued. Referencing a push for more gun restrictions, Forest at one point noted that God punished Cain — and not the rock — when Cain used a rock to kill his brother Abel in the biblical book of Genesis.
At the root of everything wrong is character. True dat!
The left, however, “they don’t have a hope in God," Forest said. "They have no hope in a higher power. They are hopeless."
No, not hopeless, Your Holiness.
"They truly do believe that, but for the government, but for the work they do, there’s no hope for America. So, it’s a dangerous place to be.”
Don't get run over by the Welcome Wagon!
Republicans are guilty of relying too much on government too, Forest added. He noted that the recent omnibus spending bill in Congress raised America's debt, didn’t block funding to Planned Parenthood and didn’t repeal Obamacare.
Virginia Foxx, call your office.
Government isn’t the answer, he said.

So what is? “Before we can change government, we must change men’s hearts,” Forest said.

He suggested that people don’t help each other enough because they expect government to step in. “Why would we help our neighbors if government is going to do it for us?” he said. “Why would we help the poor if government’s going to do it for us? Why would we feed the hungry, help the sick, take care of mom and grandma in their old age if government’s going to do it for us?”
Send this child to camp! Does he know anything about what goes on every day in this state?
The U.S. Constitution and founding documents were crafted through a “God-ordained framework,” Forest said.

But, he argued, America‘s culture is no longer God-centric. “We need to teach character education in North Carolina,” he said. 
Again with "character." Totally agree! Teach kids not to lie, not to grab each other by the pussy simply because they can get away with it, not to boast and then insult lesser human beings as stupid, ugly, fat, lying slobs, etc.
“If you want to make a huge dent in the breakdown of society, then make a dent in fatherlessness.”
Hmmm. Father figures we can respect. There's a plan!
Forest laid out these numbers: 43 percent of children live without their father, fatherless children are four times more likely to live in poverty, 70 percent of children in state-operated facilities come from fatherless homes and fatherless kids are twice as likely to die by suicide.

“If you want to make a dent in all these issues, don’t make a policy, don’t get government involved,” Forest said. “Start to do something about fathers in homes.”

He didn’t elaborate on what that might look like.

This Is Something

The writer of what is copied here (Watauga Conservative) wears the collar of an Anglican priest, taught some sort of psychology at ASU for years, and runs a website that the local Republican Party under Anne Marie Yates cut off from communion.
Those of you who have followed the blog over the years, know that when Trump announced his candidacy and was coming down the escalator, God spoke to me. He informed me Trump was to be president.
I was not surprised that God would take a personal interest in America. After all we are the pivotal country in His work to establish His Kingdom.
As I always do, I asked God what part I was to play. And even though I have had many miracles in my life, I was totally unprepared for what followed. Although he had no idea of who I am, one of the most famous prophets in the world , not only called me out by name on TV, but so I would know he was speaking to me, he told me exactly what I was doing at the moment I heard his broadcast. The prophet then told me specifically what God wanted of me.
I was to be an intercessory prayer warrior for Trump.
And as St Paul said before " King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." I immediately joined one of the many intercessory prayer groups–Potus Shield. We all pray for hours daily. We have prayer conference calls with thousands around the world and we hold large meetings national and international meetings..
I need to cut this article short. So, back to the disheartenment. Every personal attack on my president is painful. In my long life I have never seen such over-the-top virulence. Trump has sacrificed so much to bring his enormous talents to save our country and also the church. I understand Trump and his family are taking these hits precisely because God called him and anointed him to be president. The hatred is directed more toward God than to him. This is a spiritual battle which can only be won spiritually
Trump also understands this as well as the blowback he receives from the corrupt swamp creatures he is driving out.
But with so many in my own party working to destroy him, it is dispiriting.

Unchained (But Can't Skip Away from Judgment)

Stuck inside during yesterday's deluge followed by today's snow showers and cold wind, I've entertained myself by reading Katy Tur's "Unbelieveable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History," her account of the over 500 days she spent with Donald Trump in 2015 and 2016 as he was running for president.

She's a very good writer, and I finished the book in two sittings, reliving at a safe remove what I already lived in the lobster pot of breaking news during that year and a half.

Tur was at every Trump rally and became a favorite Trump target, called out by name by Trump and offered up to those screaming crowds as a sort of symbolic sacrifice standing in for all the hated "fake news" media. She was literally spat upon and threatened. This passage from the book resonated, detailing how the rally crowds fed off Trump and got their "patriotic" license to act out. This passage follows the release of a certain notorious tape:
The enthusiasm for Trump isn't waning. The crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the night after the [St. Louis] debate, three days after the Access Hollywood tape, is just as big as ever and even rowdier than others have been. When I walk in, a man and his wife are leaning over the bicycle racks of the press pen. At first it looks like they're trying to talk to a CNN reporter. When I get closer, though, I realize they're actually yelling at her.
You need more makeup, the husband advises. Keep piling it on! On second thought, don't bother, he adds. You're so ugly it won't help. He is going on and on, heckling this reporter as his wife stands there, laughing. They are trying to break her concentration, to draw a reaction, but the reporter is a rock. They're about four feet from her, but she is completely ignoring them.
I wish I could have done the same. Instead I start yelling at the man. I tell him to stop it and I congratulate his wife on being married to such a great guy. After they walk away, the reporter walks over to her camera. A couple of minutes later she is on live TV. The couple is standing off to the side still staring at her, hoping she'll mess up or give some hint that they rattled her. I'm staring, too, hoping she doesn't give them the pleasure. She doesn't miss a beat.
The thing is, they don't look like cruel people. They look like they're in their forties. They're wearing designer jeans and nice boots. They seem healthy and comfortable, and it's hard to imagine them acting this way at home or in the office. Hillary Clinton recently called Trump's supporters a "baset of deplorables," and while some might be easy to single out like that, most aren't. A lot of your coworkers and your neighbors. They're your taxi driver, your fireman, and your supermarket cashier. They're the mom in riding boots and a Barbour coat helping her cute daughter with her school science project. You would never know that they're Trump supporters, quote unquote deplorables.
But inside a Trump rally, these people are unchained. They can drop their everyday niceties. They can yell and scream and say things they'd never say out loud on the outside.
"Obama is Muslim!"
"Hillary Clinton is a cunt!"
"Immigrants need to get the hell out!"
"Fuck you, media!"
On the outside, this kind of behavior is disreputable. But inside a Trump rally, they can tell a woman she's ugly and needs more makeup. They aren't deplorables. They are patriots. And they're waiting to see their hero for the first time after a three-day fight for his political life.
He won the fight. We're living the outcome, which has been no less bizarre, no less dangerous to the body politic, no less abnormal that the campaign that preceded it, and I'm grateful to Katy Tur for her bravery, her stamina, and for her appreciation for the judgment of history:
Every day on the campaign trail Trump's actions test the definition of normal. He calls for jailing his opponent. He openly admonishes sitting generals. He singles out minority groups for blanket condemnation. He goes after the spouses of his rivals. He questions the integrity of the election itself. He is endlessly hostile toward the media. All of this Trump does so often that it's a struggle to remember what's old news, by the stadard of his behavior, and what is big news, by the standard of history.
We're coming up on an election in 2018 which will be the American voting public's first chance to pass judgment since that dark night in November 2016. It will be a judgment, finally, on disreputable behavior. If it is not, then we are truly doomed. If we are salvageable as a democratic Republic, it will also be a judgment on those in a political party which have condoned, facilitated, and applauded the father of lies.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Maverick and Unpredictable Republican Candidates Embroil Senate Races

The US Chamber of Commerce has entered the fight in the Mississippi special election in November: Will the appointed woman with no pizzazz keep the seat, or will the more charismatic but extremely conservative upstart push her aside?

We profiled Cindy Hyde-Smith's Republican upstart opponent, Chris McDaniel, back on March 1, when he was thought to be a likely Trumpian primary opponent to Sen. Roger Wicker this year, but then Cochran resigned and Cindy Hyde-Smith got appointed, and well, opportunity smells.

Anyway, the US Chamber of Commerce seems worried enough about the rise of McDaniel, and the loss of the seat to Democrat Mike Espy, that they're spending millions on that 30-second TV ad.

In West Virginia, something similar is happening, with the scary upstart being a recent felon who presided over a coal company that lied about the deaths of 29 coal miners, one Don Blankenship, who's notorious in West Virginia without necessarily being electable. So the Republican funding base is rallying against Blankenship, while state polls show Rep. Evan Jenkins in the lead and with Twitterman on stage in the state appearing to endorse both Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, while very publicly dissing Blankenship. Everyone thinks Blankenship would be a disaster running against Democrat Manchin, who might otherwise be uniquely vulnerable this year.

"Non-Native" Could Spell Trouble for the NC GOP

Some 20 years ago, in the elections of 1998, when Watauga County elected its first Democratic majority County Commission in many years, we had noticed a shift -- non-native voters were growing in numbers while pure North Carolina natives were shrinking. In a second-home and tourism-dependent scenic mountain county, what else would you expect?

Yesterday I heard from Rob Christensen that the shift is now state-wide: People born out-of-state now outnumber native North Carolinians among all registered voters.


Speculation always leads to stereotyping, including here. Some 33 percent of the non-native voters are Democrats, 30 percent are Republicans and 37 percent are unaffiliated. They tend to vote in lower percentages than the native-born, who are still the majority of "active voters." So non-natives are sometimes a deep mystery. Will they turn out? Which way will they go? Will it even matter?

One caveat: Christensen says, "There are 5.9 million registered voters whose birth state is listed in State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement records, out of the state's 6.9 million total registered voters." Meaning that there's a million voters of unknown origin -- because they've been registered a long time or they left the question blank on the form -- so who knows who the real majority is? And does it even matter?

Christensen is cautious: "The politics of those born out of state seem to be a little different from North Carolina natives." Cautious for good reason. Christensen doesn't want to make too much out of the numbers, because is that even really a voting bloc? Or a heterodox invasion of people looking to blend in with the local communities as quickly as possible.

Does "non-native" signal anything about political leanings or outcomes? I think so, especially as voters born out of state have paid attention to what's happened since 2010 in Raleigh. An outsider might justifiably see the direction the state has taken as off a cliff.

Something's already happened in other states, too, especially Southern ones. You've noticed the swings in deep red Alabama, in Virginia, in Pennsylvania, right? And in a bunch of other states, like Wisconsin and even Oklahoma. Those swings swung because suburban Unaffiliateds (and some suburban Republican women) had had a bellyful of sky-diving conservatives, and, along with fired-up Democrats, swept aside Republican candidates in special election after special election. That's without even uttering the given name of Corporal Bonespurs. Every demographic blip potentially drives an electoral wave.

The suburbs of North Carolina are full of non-native recent arrivals.

Could be coming a judgment on Raleigh, and Washington, this November, that might be largely the doing of the Unaffiliated, a majority of whom ain't from around here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

You May Be Seeing an RNC Operative in Your Neighborhood Soon

A Friday headline to go with your second breakfast: "GOP breaks the glass as House outlook darkens; The party is scrambling to shore up seats deep in Trump country, where incumbents won by double digits in 2016."

And this paragraph, deep in the article:
The RNC [Republican Nat'l Committee] has established an elaborate field program in North Carolina, where [George] Holden, [Ted] Budd, and [Robert] Pittenger are running — and where there are otherwise few voter turnout mechanisms in place. With North Carolina in a “blue moon” election cycle, meaning that there are no statewide races on the ballot other than Supreme Court contests, the committee has dispatched six full-time field staffers to the state.
Presumably those hotshot Republican operatives will be fixating on Congressional districts 2, 9, and 13, where Holden, Budd, and Pittenger have been dragging their heels with fundraising, while their likely Democratic opponents (Ken Romley, Dan McCready, and Kathy Manning, respectively) have had no trouble attracting enthusiastic support.

(Yes, I'm aware that Romley, McCready, and Manning all have Democratic primary opponents, and anything might happen, but Romley, McCready, and Manning are far ahead in fundraising and national recognition. Just saying.)

Anyway, where will the RNC station those six full-time field staffers? In urban centers, that the Republicans in the NC General Assembly have been shitting on for five long years?