• Vaccinations Remain Way Behind Schedule
• The Stock Market Did Great in 2020
• Could Georgia Be a Split Decision?
• Democrats Are Targeting Midsize Cities in Georgia
• Trump's Legacy: A Divide on Trusting the Media
• Miller-Meeks Will Be Seated Provisionally
• Goodbye 2020
Many Americans support democracy, even many elected Republicans. But "many" isn't "all." Reportedly, more than 100 House representatives and representatives-elect may support Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) when he challenges the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Of course, announcing you have doubts about the integrity of the election and actually going on the record opposing the certified electoral votes are different things and some of them may get cold feet when Jan. 6 rolls around.
Here is a list of the representatives who have already made their intentions publicly known. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk. The others are representatives-elect.
For your viewing pleasure, we have sorted the districts by their PVI. Most of the representatives (and representatives-elect) are from deep red Trumpish districts. Probably most of them realize that their grandstanding will not get anywhere, but going on record effectively saying that you would prefer Donald Trump as dictator-for-life will probably prevent a primary in 2022. Democracy is pretty old and is in need of an upgrade anyway.
Not all Republicans in Congress think that throwing out democracy in order to get the result you prefer is a cool thing to do. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), for one, has written a Facebook post saying that trying to overturn an election is not a wise idea. Sasse himself didn't vote for Trump in either 2016 or 2020 (he wrote in Mike Pence both times), but he said Congress should challenge the electoral votes only when there is evidence of widespread fraud. He said there is virtually none in 2020, and noted that Trump's own AG William Barr said that out loud.
Sasse, who is definitely smarter than the average bear (he has a bachelor's from Harvard and a Ph.D. in American history from Yale), noted that Trump has used "election fraud" to dupe his supporters into donating half a billion dollars for "election defense," but almost all that money goes into a giant slush fund that Trump can use for nearly any purpose he wants, including paying himself a huge salary. The Senator goes on to say: "We have a deep cancer in American politics right now: Both Republicans and Democrats are growing more distrustful of the basic processes and procedures that we follow...If we normalize this, we're going to turn American politics into a Hatfields and McCoys endless blood feud—a house hopelessly divided." He ended the long piece by hoping we have enough sense to rebuild common trust and save the republic. (V)
Last year, Donald Trump bragged that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated before year's end. Well, the year has ended and only 2.6 million have received the first shot (a second booster shot is also required). Any other president would be on top of this and demanding to know where the bottleneck is. Trump has been playing golf in Florida and tweeting that he won the election. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have died of COVID-19 has passed the total number of combat deaths in World War II and Vietnam combined. The number of deaths per day is about to pass 3,500 and will grow even more as the consequences of people getting together at Christmas start to hit. For 2,000 years, people have been saying that Nero fiddled while Rome burned (which may or may not be true). We wonder if in 2,000 years people will be saying that a great plague hit America in 2020 and Trump golfed.
As is his wont, Trump didn't accept any responsibility for falling more than 17 million vaccinations short of the goal that he set. He said vaccinations were up to the states, so if something has gone wrong, it's their fault. However, even that argument doesn't entirely hold water, as only 14 million doses have been shipped to the states. Governors have been complaining for weeks that they didn't know how many doses they would get, so they couldn't make plans. If a state was going to get 500,000 doses in December, they would make different choices and would implement different procedures than if they were only going to get 100,000 doses. The administration was not able to tell the governors how many doses they would get, making it difficult for them to do any planning.
In addition, the governors got no information about which vaccine they would be getting. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultracold freezers, but the Moderna one requires only regular freezers. The governors wanted to know if they should order large numbers of the (expensive) ultracold freezers, which would be a waste of money if they were getting the Moderna vaccine. Needless to say, they got no answers. Government at its finest. Or, maybe not.
In addition, Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill only last weekend. The bill provides funds for the states to cover the costs of immunizing people. Trump could have been on the case and demanded weeks ago that Congress appropriate those funds immediately. He didn't.
One question that has come up is whether everyone who got the first shot should get the second one quickly to give full immunity. Some people have argued that from a public-health point of view, using all the available doses to give twice as many people some immunity might be better than giving half as many people full immunity. Other countries have done this. The federal government could clearly have taken a stand on this, and didn't.
Joe Biden has said that his goal is to vaccinate 100 million people within 100 days of taking office. He also said this will cost money and he wants Congress to appropriate it now. He observed that at the rate it is going now, it will take years for everyone to be vaccinated. That's a fact; at the current pace of 200,000 vaccinations/day, every American would be vaccinated by July...of 2025. And that's for just one shot; if we extend it to two shots, then the completion date is in December...of 2029. Biden also declared that for schools to open safely, money is needed for better ventilation and other health measures. In addition, he said he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad powers to expand the industrial output of key materials and products during an emergency. In particular, he wants to use it to increase vaccine production. (V)
For most groups of people, 2020 was an annus horribilis. However, for stock market investors, it was a banner year. The S&P 500 was up 16%. The Dow Jones index was up 7%. The NASDAQ was up 44%. Pain? Economic stress? Ten million people unemployed? Nonsense!
The markets' resurgence has been fueled by huge government stimulus bills, historic support from the Fed, interest rates close to zero in the U.S. and negative in Europe, and optimism on the part of investors that 2021 will be a lot better than 2020. Predictions about the economy in 2021 are largely rosy. Goldman Sachs is expecting 6% economic growth. The Fed believes unemployment will fall to 5% by the end of 2021. Corporate earnings are expected to balloon in the second half of the year. All those small mom & pop businesses, restaurants, etc. that didn't make it don't count for much to economic forecasters. Here is a chart of the S&P 500 for 2020.
David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors explained why Wall St. is doing great when Main St. is not: "The markets are dominated by the folks who are in the upper echelons. They don't feel any pain. They read about it, but they don't experience it." In fact, they profit from the fact that many companies became more efficient under pressure—for example, eliminating travel costs by holding all meetings on Zoom and getting good deals on renting office space due to the depressed real estate market. In addition, rich people traveled less, rarely dined out, and didn't go shopping much, so they saved a lot of money that they could invest in stocks, driving up prices. Richard Clarida, vice chair of the Fed said: "This is the only downturn in my professional career in which disposable income actually went up in a deep recession."
Of course, many Americans didn't just miss eating out—they missed eating, period. One in 8 American adults (27 million), reported not having enough food to eat last week. Their pain will be eased a bit by the $600 payments that are being distributed right now (possibly $2,000, but that seems unlikely). However, the stimulus measures will run out by April, and unless the virus is contained by then, more measures will be needed. If the Democrats win the two Georgia runoffs, that might happen—otherwise, probably not. (V)
There haven't been a lot of quality polls of the two Georgia runoffs, and the ones that have been conducted all put both races within the margin of error. And as we have repeatedly said, it all comes down to which party is better at turning out its base.
Since the polls aren't very useful, what else can give us a hint of what will happen there? Early voting has been enormous, which favors the Democrats, but maybe in-person voting on Tuesday will be even enormouser ("enormouser" would also be a good name for a large robotic cat). It's probably a safe bet that most people aren't going to switch parties from how they voted in November, so one can ask what has changed since then. Well, consider the regular election between Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D). In November, Perdue got 49.7%, which is close but no cigar since he failed to hit 50%. Ossoff got 47.9%. Most of the rest went to Shane Hazel (L), who is not on the runoff ballot. On the one hand, Libertarians tend to align more with the Republicans than the Democrats. On the other hand, a vote against Perdue can also be seen as an anti-incumbent vote, which could help Ossoff. Maybe both. It's also true that not every Joe Biden voter also voted for Ossoff. What will they do? Are these Republicans who simply can't stomach Trump? If you add up all the votes in this race, the Republican candidates got 47,808 more votes than the Democratic candidates. If everyone votes and everyone comes home to "their" party, Perdue will win. But neither is likely.
The other race (Sen. Kelly Loeffler vs. Raphael Warnock) is fundamentally different. Perdue was elected in a statewide election in 2014. Loeffler was appointed and then fought a bitter primary with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Appointed senators have a far weaker record than elected senators. Loeffler has made a big point in her ads bragging about her 100% Trumpish voting records in the Senate. Is this the best way to win over those critical suburban housewives in a state that just went for Joe Biden? We think not. Also, there may have been strategic voting in the November jungle primary. Democrats who thought Warnock was a shoo-in to make the top two may have voted for the Republican they thought would be the weakest runoff opponent. Also a factor here is that Warnock is not only Black, but pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s church. There could be some Black voters who don't follow politics and don't know who Ossoff is, but intend to vote to have Georgia send a Black person—and MLK's successor at that—to the Senate. Some of these folks may skip the other election, potentially leading to Warnock and Perdue as the new senators.
Historically, Republicans have done well in Georgia runoffs. But also historically, affluent suburban voters, who are rapidly becoming Democrats, are more likely to vote in a runoff than rural voters. Also noteworthy is that Trump hasn't faded into the background. He is out there screaming all the time. Republican voters in the suburbs who despise him may decide to turn out and smack him in the face one more time. And Republican voters who love him may withhold their votes from Loeffler/Perdue to send a message.
Trump's demand for sending everyone a $2,000 check could also play a role. One of the arguments that Loeffler and Perdue are making is that a Republican Senate is needed to prevent Biden from turning America into Venezuela. But now that the Democratic House has passed a bill that gives (almost) everyone $2,000, Ossoff and Warnock can say that if the Democrats capture the Senate, you'll get your $2,000; if they don't, you won't. For some people, the very real possibility of getting an extra $1,400 could motivate them to vote for the two Democrats.
Negative ads are saturating the airwaves in Georgia. The Democrats are saying that Perdue and Loeffler are both crooks who engaged in insider trading to benefit themselves while keeping their constituents in the dark. Loeffler is running ads focusing on some "inflammatory" remarks Warnock made as a preacher, as well as disputes he had with his former wife.
Would you like yet another wild card to add to the mix? Very well; Perdue announced yesterday that he's going into quarantine because he was exposed to someone with COVID-19. Maybe spending the last few days of the campaign off the trail will hurt him. Or maybe the integrity that shows will help him. Or maybe the acknowledgment of the "fake news pandemic" will aggravate Trump voters. Who knows?
It is unusual to have two Senate races at the same time and then have three out of the four candidates be people who have never won an election. In short, everything is possible. (V)
It has long been known that even in red states, Democrats do quite well in cities. That includes midsize cities, though Team Blue has rarely acted on this knowledge. Stacey Abrams is one of the few Democrats who have bucked that trend, registering voters and getting them to the polls in cities like Columbus and Macon, not just in Atlanta. In particular, although the population of Georgia is 32% Black statewide, Muscogee County (Columbus) is 48% Black and Macon-Bibb County is 56% Black. In statewide elections, getting out the vote in these midsize cities can be crucial.
Trey Hood, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said that to win the runoffs, Democrats need an electorate that is 30% Black, which is up slightly from the November election, in which 28% of the voters were Black. He cautioned that voting patterns will be different this time because Trump is not on the ballot. This cuts both ways.
Republicans are also targeting the midsize cities. In the Columbus area alone, Republicans have spent $21 million on advertising compared to the Democrats' $6 million. However, the Democrats have actually aired more ads because Warnock and Ossoff have raised far more money than Loeffler and Perdue and candidates get a much better ad rate than super PACs, where the Republicans' money is coming from. The Muscogee Republican Party chairman, Alton Russell, conceded that Biden won Muscogee, but Trump still got 30,000 votes there. He noted that in a statewide election, 30,000 votes in Muscogee are just as important as 30,000 votes in Fulton County (Atlanta). However, Republican leaders have to contend with Donald Trump's (false) claims that the election was rigged, so they have to convince voters who believe that to vote in the runoffs anyway, even if they believe their vote won't be counted. (V)
Donald Trump will be gone in 3 weeks, but he will leave a number of legacies behind. One of the most important ones is a huge distrust of the media among his supporters. This graph shows public trust in the media by partisanship since 1997. Republicans have never trusted the media as much as Democrats, but the gap, based on a Gallup poll, has never been anything like this before:
On the whole, only 40% of U.S. adults have a great deal (9%) or a fair amount (31%) of trust in the media to report the news truthfully. But for Republicans, only 10% have at least a fair amount of trust in the media. It is hard to interpret this result, though. If they had asked (in this order): (1) "Do you trust Fox News?" (2) "Do you trust CNN?" (3) "Do you trust any media outlet to report the truth?," they might have gotten a different result. We find it hard to believe that 90% of Republicans have basically no trust in any media outlet, including Fox News. Maybe Republicans realize that Fox News is not in the business of reporting the news, so when answering the question, they were thinking only of sources that do report the news, like The New York Times, and others they don't trust. Certainly, when right-wingers complain about a media controlled by the left, they are excluding Fox, OANN, Newsmax, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, Rush Limbaugh, etc. as part of "the media."
There was always a partisan gap, but since Trump began telling people they couldn't trust the media, it has become a chasm. Or maybe a gorge. In 2015, when Trump decided to run for office, the gap was 23%. Now it is 63%. That is close to three times as large. This is a clear sign of the polarization of everything. Before Kellyanne Conway popularized the concept of "alternative facts," everyone agreed that people could have their own opinions, but not their own facts. Now everyone feels entitled to have their own facts. For example, who won the election.
This divide has far-reaching implications. If North Korea were to nuke Los Angeles, killing millions of people, and Fox News decided not to report the story at all, preferring to focus on Hillary's e-mail server, then if the president were to ask Congress for a declaration of war, senators and representatives from red states would probably vote "no" because their constituents saw no reason to get into an unprovoked war. If half the country doesn't believe that well over 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, it will be hard to get them to accept any measures to combat it. In general, if there is no agreed upon set of facts that everyone believes (previously called "reality"), the country will be nearly ungovernable, even after Trump is gone. (V)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks will be sworn in this weekend and take a seat in the chamber provisionally when it convenes on Jan. 4. Miller-Meeks flipped IA-02 by a margin of 6 votes, though a House committee is still examining the race. Democratic incumbents lost 12 seats in the election; the Party's only pickups were two open seats in North Carolina and one in Georgia. In NY-22, a recount is still going on in the race between Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and Claudia Tenney (R). When the House convenes, there will be 222 Democrats, 211 Republicans, the undecided NY-22 seat, and the vacant seat in LA-05 due to the death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA). However, the Democrats will (temporarily) lose several seats due to members taking positions in the Biden administration.
Under the Constitution, the House, not the state of Iowa, gets to make the final call about seating Miller-Meeks. There is a limited range of issues that they may legally consider, namely if the candidate meets the constitutional requirements for their office (age, citizenship, etc.), but also if they were "duly elected." Obviously, the latter issue is the one in play here. State Sen. Rita Hart (D), Miller-Meeks' opponent, is asking the House to consider 22 votes that she claims were not counted. If they are counted, Hart will win. For example, one ballot was from a legal voter but it was placed in a drop box in the wrong county. Hart says that Iowa law does not require ballots to be deposited in the voter's county, so the vote must be counted. The county disagrees. The Democrats will control the new House but the House hasn't overturned a state result since 1984. (V)
Here are a few signs that bid a (fond?) farewell to 2020:
But now we are in 2021. Let's hope it is a new and much improved version of 2020.
That said, we do always like to take the New Year as an opportunity to thank those who make this site possible. We are grateful to all of you who take the time to read, as well as the smaller subset of you who take time to send in comments, corrections, questions, items, etc. Even if we are unable to answer every message, we do read all of them.
We also appreciate the folks who give generously of their time and expertise to help make the site function. They don't get daily credit, the way we do, but our copy editors, computer support, poll inputter, and Grumpy all do a great deal to make this possible.
Happy New Year! (V & Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec30 Let the Chess Game Begin...
Dec30 Pelosi Walks a Fine Line
Dec30 Congressman-elect Dies of COVID-19
Dec30 U.S. Way Behind Schedule on Vaccination
Dec30 Pence Distances Himself from Gohmert Lawsuit
Dec30 Vance Brings in the Big Guns
Dec30 Trump Is Finally America's Most Admired Man
Dec30 Newsom Recall Effort Gets $500K from...Someone
Dec30 Today's Senate Polls
Dec29 It Just Keeps Getting Dumber
Dec29 House Passes Bill to Increase Payments to $2,000...
Dec29 ...And Also Overrides Trump's Veto of the Defense Bill
Dec29 Biden: Department of Defense Is Dragging Its Feet
Dec29 What the President-elect Can Do To Improve Elections
Dec29 Sanders Is Unhappy About Biden's Cabinet
Dec29 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part II: Andrew Jackson
Dec28 Trump Signs on the Dotted Line
Dec28 House Will Vote on Upping the Checks to $2,000 Today
Dec28 Putin Is Setting Biden's Foreign Policy
Dec28 Biden Will Focus on Regulations
Dec28 Why Fox Loyalists Are Changing the Channel
Dec28 Five Myths about Voting Machines
Dec28 Voting Machines Weren't Hacked, But There Are Still Security Lessons to Be Learned
Dec28 Vaccine Hesitancy Is Fading Away, Just Like Donald Trump
Dec27 Sunday Mailbag
Dec26 Saturday Q&A
Dec25 Trump Creating Chaos in Washington...
Dec25 ...But He's Having Zero Luck with Overturning the Election Results
Dec25 Georgia Senate Candidates Are Awash in Cash
Dec25 "Trickle Down" Tax Cuts...Don't
Dec25 U.K., E.U. Have a Brexit Deal
Dec25 Holiday Quiz: The Sequel
Dec25 Fox News Is Now in the Christmas Movie Business
Dec25 Today's Senate Polls
Dec24 Trump Vetoes the Defense Bill
Dec24 Trump Unveils More Pardons
Dec24 Trump Repeats Demand for $2,000 Checks instead of $600 Checks
Dec24 Ted Cruz and AOC Agree on the Corona Relief Bill
Dec24 Meanwhile, Republicans Are Already at War--with Other Republicans
Dec24 White House Staff Told to Prepare to Leave and Then Told Not to Prepare to Leave
Dec24 E. Jean Carroll Wants to Personally Depose Trump in 2021
Dec24 Asian Americans Could Make the Difference in Georgia
Dec24 Today's Senate Polls
Dec23 A Tale of Two Pandemic Responses
Dec23 Trump Not Going Gentle into That Good Night
Dec23 Turns Out, Lawsuits Go Both Ways
Dec23 Twitter Has Bad News for #45, #46
Dec23 California Gets Its First Latino U.S. Senator
Dec23 Israel's Government Collapses