Trump’s Electoral College Plan: Liner Notes

My column for today at The Federalist is “President Trump Could Lose 5 Million Votes And Still Win In 2020.” It’s a synthesis of what a number of data analysts have been realizing about the effect of the Electoral College and the rural/urban split on the 2020 election.

Of course, it’s an unlikely scenario, as I note in the column. With more space, I would have emphasized this more. But the extreme example is useful to get the focus on the structural advantages President Trump currently enjoys (it’s a long, long way to Election Day, obviously).

Although I have written about Trump doing a round of the mainstream media as part of an appeal to more moderate voters, the current realities of the Electoral College are driving his re-elect campaign. Eventually, the tension between those two approaches will probably become more apparent. President Obama was the first since Washington to win his first re-elect with a smaller popular and electoral vote. Given how narrow Trump’s victory was in 2016, he probably cannot afford to lose those five million votes.

But for now, it looks like the campaign is very much thinking about another narrow win, ground out in probably ugly ways. Fortunately for Trump, he does not mind winning ugly.

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Canceling the Moon Landing: Liner Notes

My latest column at The Federalist posted yesterday: “The Left Dumps On Apollo 11 As A White, Male Enterprise.” I was deluged by (generally good) things yesterday, so these are the bleated notes.

At the time I submitted the piece, The New York Times had not published a third piece dumping on NASA in favor of the diversity of the Soviet space program. Karol Markowicz has that one handled, as does Cathy Young:

As I note in my column, NASA had the same sorts of issues with race and sex as the rest of the culture (ask Ed Dwight, who was selected for training but ultimately rejected as an astronaut — both likely because of race). But dwelling on these stories at the 50th anniversary, rather than looking at the achievement, reflects the left’s assessment with fixing blame rather than fixing problems.

The Soviet angle would have been useful because — as my reference to Walter Mondale in my column indicates — there was always a faction of the left that opposed the space program. There were those who thought the money would be better spent on welfare programs; there were anti-anti-communists who did not like us winning a round in the Cold War.

If you watch the archival TV coverage of Apollo 11, this sentiment bleeds through into interviews where Neil Armstrong and other notables get asked whether the lessons of Apollo can be applied to domestic problems. Jerry Seinfeld later joked about how the moon landing launched a culture of complaint. But it may be that one reason the left has never liked the moon landing much is that it implicitly exposes that space engineering — as difficult as it is — remains easier than social engineering.

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The Far Left Gets Sick of Obama: Liner Notes

Today’s Federalist column is “Far Left Prepares To Throw Barack Obama Into The Dustbin Of History.”

Last weekend’s Netroots conference provided a flesh-and-blood example of the disconnect between the Democrats’ woke activist class and the black voters whose interests they claim to champion (and Democrats generally). It’s also a tale of two conferences, as the contrast between Netroots and the annual LULAC confab was striking. And I get to take a couple of digs at Dave Weigel, which is only becoming more fun as his partisan hackery becomes ever more servile.

What got left out? I have written plenty about the Democrats’ “Upstairs / Downstairs” coalition that I could have re-supplied, but I viewed this piece as an opportunity to “show, not tell,” which can be more effective. Sometimes, the writing of a column just flows naturally, so I went with the flow.

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The Democrats’ Uncivil War: Liner Notes

I have a column up at The Federalist, “House Democrats’ Uncivil War Is Fueled By Identity Politics.”

Given that the news was a moving target and the inevitable delay of the editorial process (not complaining about that; I noticed a couple of things that were fixed in editorial), my approach is generally to illustrate larger points. Here, the piece sums up the Democrats’ internecine warfare to make a point about what it means for disputes to be filtered through identity politics.

What got left out? The column demonstrates that last weekend’s acrimony — which will return — was instigated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti. Their roles at Justice Democrats (a group from which AOC had to detach herself and now the subject of two FEC complaints), threatening to primary mostly black colleagues, could have been emphasized more. That AOC is not requiring Chakrabarti to make the financial disclosures usually filed by a chief of staff is also raising eyebrows. These sorts of vulnerabilities would normally make people more cautious, which is a measure of the hubris in AOC-land.

Also left for later consideration is the fantastic passive-aggressiveness of these fights within the left. They will back down on the rare occasions they asked directly whether they are accusing a colleague of racism, choosing to label them as enablers of a racist system. The media loves to make Republicans squirm over Trump’s xenophobic tweets and chuckle over the lack of direct answers. The coverage of Democrats, as always, is a bit different.

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Twofer Thursday: Liner Notes

I have two columns up today at The Federalist: “The ‘Ditch Mitch’ McConnell Campaign Is Just Democrats Lighting Their Money On Fire“, and “The AOC-Pelosi Feud Will Not Be Settled In Congress.”

The blurb for the first: “Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised more than $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign against Mitch McConnell. The people who donated may as well have lit their money on fire. ”

What got cut for space? As I wrote, ” What is the point of turning campaigns into the performance art of protest? Answering this seemingly simple question becomes a tour of what’s wrong with American politics.” So the answer is plenty got cut or minimized. I note only in passing the role identity politics plays in this story and it almost could be its own column. This was a case where my mind was a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

The blurb for the second: “The feud between Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi represents a clash of two different types of politics, the outcome of which will define the Democratic Party and American politics for some time to come.”

In this case, there was fairly little I had to leave out, inasmcuh as I wrote it quickly late last night as a sort of semi-request. But I think it is usually useful to put the story of the moment into a larger context — and to remind people that it is not always an unalloyed good for your opponents to be in disarray.

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Kamala Harris’s Bigger Problem: Liner Notes

I end the week at The Federalist with “Kamala Harris Has A Bigger Problem Than Forced Busing.” I have to be annoyed to write something on a holiday, but the senator’s waffling on busing did the trick, and I salute editorial for taking time out of their holiday to prep it for publication today.

What got left out for space? Harris making high-risk, empty political gambits is not only a pattern, but perhaps a symptom of an even larger issue than the one I described.

With the other top-tier candidates — Biden, Sanders, and Warren — it is not difficult to see the theory of their campaigns. Biden wants to extend the Obama legacy and poses as a “return to normalcy.” Sanders wants the democratic socialism he has been pushing for years. Warren’s policy wonkery represents a modern update of early progressivism.

But why is Harris running? Her behavior suggests the answer is that she thinks she can win. In particular, she thinks she fits the longing of those who think Democrats win by duplicating the Obama coalition of minorities, young voters, and woke progressives.

There are two problems with this approach. First, every president wins largely by forming their own coalition, and winning coalitions are rarely the same as a preceding coalition. Sean Trende’s book, The Lost Majority, illustrates this at length.

Second, and probably related, Harris is not Obama. Her strengths and weaknesses are different. Obama always came across as more comfortable with himself. Perhaps Harris can become more comfortable with herself, but her campaign so far has been more like Romney 2008 than Obama 2008.

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Young People Souring on LGBTQ, or Half Of It? (Liner Notes)

I have a new column at The Federalist, “GLAAD Poll: Young Americans Are Increasingly Uncomfortable With LGBTQ Culture.” This not the sort of topic I usually write about, but I do take an interest in polling and this one seemed like it was in FDRLST’s wheelhouse. So much so that it turns out they published another piece with largely the same thesis today. Go figure.

What got left out for space? The piece presumes — as GLAAD does — that the polling is accurate, largely because it seems to be a trend over time. But when measuring the subsample of young people, the margin of error will be higher and there’s always some chance the result of the poll is an outlier.

Conversely, it’s possible that younger people, forced to deal with LGBTQ issues more directly than most, are more willing to give the politically incorrect answer than older people, in which case GLAAD has a bigger problem than it thinks.

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The Potemkin Socialists: Liner Notes

The week ends with a new column: “The Democratic Debates Are A Pageant Of Potemkin Socialism.” And because it was written after the first of the two debate nights, it’s more about the debates being the first look for many at today’s Democratic party elites than it is about the debates themselves.

If I had the luxury of waiting for the second night, I would have added that the performance of Kamala Harris illustrated these problems in two distinct ways.

On one hand, her attack on Joe Biden over his working with segregationists and his opposition to busing in the 1970s showed she understands not only that you have to beat the front-runner to be the front-runner, but also that she probably cannot win unless she captures a significant chunk of the black vote that falls outside the woke bloc she has been targeting so far. Whether her personalization of the issue damages Biden, or whether this issue continues to play less with older voters than younger ones remains to be seen — but at least Harris has a strategy, which is more than can be said for the rest.

On the other hand, today Harris finds herself having to explain yet another debate answer on whether she would effectively abolish private health insurance. She claims to have misunderstood the question. Believing that requires that you believe the most prepared candidate on the stage Thursday night was not prepped on the questions asked Wednesday night, on Elizabeth Warren raising her hand and flipping to single-payer, and the media reaction to Warren’s flip. It may not hurt Harris much in primaries, but will loom large if she is the nominee, all because Harris started from the posture of chasing the woke 25 percent of her party.

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Trump’s Mainstream Media Campaign: Liner Notes

Today’s column at The Federalist asks “Why Is President Trump Campaigning In The Liberal Media?“, to which I present three major answers.

I suspect casual readers may find the column a bit pro-Trump, when the subtext of the piece is about the hole in which his re-elect campaign finds itself. The inspiration here is the Time magazine cover story referenced in the piece, which I found overly shallow and credulous. That piece seemed to suggest that prior presidents did not have to grind their way to second terms. George W. Bush won a fairly narrow re-election; Barack Obama became the first president since Washington to win a smaller popular and Electoral College vote in a first re-election, against a good man who was a bad candidate. The idea that those campaigns were not focused on turnout borders on the bizarre.

Conversely, both of those campaigns also worked on persuasion — as Trump will, for the reasons stated in the column. Trump is already making his case, but once the Democrats narrow their field, it is fairly clear Trump (and the GOP generally) will be heavily campaigning on dissuasion. Republican operatives went so far as to tell the New York Times they plan to focus on the the extremism fueling the Democrats — and I do think that should be credited far more than the current Trump campaign line that all they care about is turnout. The dissuasion will be used to drive turnout.

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Biden’s Dixiecrat Comments: Liner Notes

The week ends with another column at The Federalist, “Joe Biden’s Dixiecrat Comments Are Freaking Out The Left, But Not Many Dem Voters.” That last bit of the headline may be a bit premature, but editorial is probably right about it.

I do think Biden’s history here will be a legit problem for some, which is why I’m careful to note that the column is discussing additional reasons why they have become an issue now. Many (but not all) of the people and institutions blasting Biden now said nothing when he was a heartbeat away from the presidency for eight years. The younger woke folk may at least plead ignorance.

The column ultimately lands on a discussion of how much black Democrats will care. Pundits may be overestimating the offense, much as they misjudge other aspects of the black Democratic vote.

As Jonah Goldberg writes today, the media is cheering Pete Buttigieg for calling Mike Pence a bigot on LGBTQ issues and not noticing Buttigieg does not say the same of black Democrats who are not particularly woke on the subject. Perhaps not coincidentally, Buttigieg tends to find almost zero support from black voters in the early polling — a fact which, if unaltered, probably dooms his candidacy. And yet the media will probably not say much about it because it would involve recognizing the schism in the party about which I have been writing for months.

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