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Food Getting More Costly in 2022
Select Committee to Hold Public Hearings on Probe
Fauci Says Not to Expect Vaccine Mandate for Air Travel
Federal Appeals Court to Hear Texas Abortion Case

Far Right Denounces Trump

On Friday, we noted that Donald Trump is encouraging people to get vaccinated with the Trump vaccine, which he invented. After all, the Trump vaccine is the best vaccine there is, so why settle for substitutes? That story can be (and was) filed under "Politics makes for strange bedfellows," but other than it being a bit odd, we thought the interview Trump gave endorsing the vaccine would be the end of it.

Turns out that is not the case. Part of MAGAworld is hopping mad about Trump encouraging vaccinations. It seems that being anti-vaxx is now one of the pillars of the Republican Party, along with believing Trump won the election and owning the libs.

So Trump is now like Dr. Frankenstein: The thing you created comes after you. This is the ultimate irony, because Trump did help create Operation Warp Speed to fund quick development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and it succeeded. If he had campaigned on the theme: "Due to my brilliant leadership, we now have a vaccine that can protect everyone from this awful disease" he might well have been reelected. Getting the Trump Vaccine™ could have been a part of Republican dogma, but Trump got on the vaccine bandwagon much too late (even though he was personally vaccinated early on), so his supporters never jumped on and refuse to do so now.

Various high-profile MAGAworld figures have attacked Trump now. "Stop the steal" organizer Ali Alexander wrote: "Trump, stop. Just stop. Have your position (backed by Fauci) and allow us to have ours (which is backed by science)." Alex Jones was less generous. He said: "Hell, we're fighting Bill Gates and Fauci and Biden and the New World Order and Psaki and the Davos Group. And now we've got Trump on their team!" Ron Watkins, a prominent QAnoner, said the shots were "subscription suicide shots."

Yesterday, Anthony Fauci told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he was stunned that Trump was booed for recommending that everyone get vaccinated. Fauci said he didn't realize how ingrained the opposition to vaccines was with Trump's supporters. However, he hopes that Trump continues to advocate for vaccinations.

The crowd turning on Trump bares a reality that is not often stated (though we've pointed it out a couple of times): Trump doesn't actually lead the MAGA crowd. He merely is pretty good at figuring out where it wants to go and getting in front of it so it looks like he is leading it. Once in a rare while—like right now—he guesses wrong. Instead of changing direction to follow the leader, the crowd boos the leader and continues to do what it was going to do anyway. This is only one issue and if COVID-19 isn't much in the news by 2024, Trump can probably survive this episode without too much damage, but it might make him more careful about saying things that displease the monster he created. (V)

Republican Legislatures Are the New Death Panels

Way back in 2009, fresh off being defeated in her run for vice president, Sarah Palin announced that the draft ACA legislation contained "death panels" that would decide who would live and who would die. Politifact called this the "Lie of the Year" and FactCheck called it a "whopper" (and it wasn't referring to a product sold by one of McDonald's competitors). In reality, the bill provided funding for doctors to counsel elderly patients with serious illnesses about living wills, medical powers of attorney, and end-of-life care options.

But now we really do have "death panels"... and they are the Republican-controlled state legislatures in 19 states that have passed laws curbing the power of state health officials to require masks, promote vaccinations, determine when schools have to be closed, and take other measures aimed at corralling corona. In some states, the new laws also prevent private businesses (e.g., restaurants and airlines) from requiring employees and customers to show proof of vaccination before entering their premises. In other states, businesses are allowed to ask for proof but are forbidden from discriminating against anyone based on their vaccination status. So much for the Republicans' former claim to be in favor of letting businesses decide themselves what is best for them, their employees, and their customers.

Tennessee, for example, now has a law forbidding employers from requiring workers, job applicants, or customers to show proof of vaccination. The Florida legislature just passed four bills (that Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, has signed) forbidding employers, schools, and colleges from requiring customers or students to be vaccinated. One of them strips state health officials of the power to order vaccinations, even in an emergency. Ohio's new laws are slightly more lenient. There, organizations can require vaccinations, but workers and students can opt out if they object to them. The new laws also limit what measures state and local officials can take to combat pandemics.

These laws are putting hospitals (and other organizations) in a bind. Federal law says that hospitals that take funds from Medicare or Medicaid (which is basically all of them) must require employees to have started the vaccination process by Dec. 5. In Montana, a state law says the hospitals can't do that. The hospitals' lawyers felt that federal law trumps state law, so they started enforcing federal law. Now the lawsuits are flying and the result will be up to the Supreme Court, as usual. (V)

Democrats Are Trying to Get Voters Focused on State-Level races

Republicans have focused on capturing state legislatures for over a decade and have done very well at it. During Barack Obama's time as president, they picked up 1,000 seats in state legislatures. Democrats have seemed oblivious to the importance of the state legislatures, but now that the Republicans are passing laws to restrict voting, lock in their members of Congress, and overrule public health authorities, they are beginning to wake up.

Former AG Eric Holder, one of the few high-profile Democrats who are focused on state-level offices, recently said: "I'm not being hyperbolic or alarmist. I think our democracy is on the line." Daniel Squadron, a former New York state senator, whose group the States Project is trying to raise $30 million, said: "We believe the right wing is signaling a strategy to steal the election through state legislatures in 2024." And there are a few others.

But convincing the voters—and especially the donors—to pay attention is something else. The Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky who ran against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Amy McGrath, raised $96 million and was easily crushed anyway. She never had a chance in the first place. In contrast, the Democratic Party committee that raised money for state legislative seats raised a total of $51 million for all 50 states combined. If all of McGrath's money had gone to the state races, the Democrats might have flipped a few chambers. In the end, they didn't flip any and the Republicans flipped a couple of Democratic chambers. Similarly, Jaime Harrison raised an astounding $130 million in a completely futile race in South Carolina. If the $226 million from those two hopeless races had gone to Arizona legislature races the Democrats could probably have flipped both chambers. Democrats are attracted to bright shiny objects, like opposing senators they hate, no matter how bad the odds are, whereas $1 million in a state House race is an incredible amount of money.

Also a big problem for Democrats is "roll-off," where the voter gets tired of filling in the ballot after the top couple of races and doesn't even bother to vote for state representative or state senator. Republicans vote right down to deputy assistant dog catcher.

It's not only state legislative races that Democrats tend to ignore. In 2019, Democrats lost a crucial Wisconsin Supreme Court race by fewer than 6,000 votes, cementing that court's conservative majority. The only bright light for the Democrats at the state level is the governors' mansions. Since 2017, Democrats have flipped 10 of them, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. But again, these are high-profile races, whereas the state senator from Oshkosh is not. And to enact laws that make voting easier, rather than harder, Democrats will have to win state House and Senate seats in large numbers all over the country and that will require a major shift away from wasting money on unwinnable high-profile races to much-more-winnable low-profile races. (V)

Trump Broke the Mold

Donald Trump changed politics in more ways than one. Before him, for the most part, candidates for public office came up through the ranks. Candidates for the state Senate were typically members of the state House. Candidates for the U.S. House were typically members of the state legislature or mayors of important cities in the district. U.S. Senate candidates were commonly members of the state's House delegation. Trump showed that "celebrities" with zero political experience could parachute into even the highest office with no qualifications for the job at all. Before him, serious presidential candidates were generally governors, senators, or generals, and not amateurs who saw the presidency as an entry-level job.

Trump changed all that, not just for the presidency, but also for other offices. Now being a "celebrity" of some kind is widely viewed as a sufficient qualification for high public office. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) was elected senator because he knows a lot about winning football games, something previously not viewed as part of a senator's job description. When asked about this, Tuberville said: "I started a trend, didn't I?" That is not entirely true, since actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, but that was in a freaky recall election with a crowded field and the main alternatives with serious name recognition who were running to replace then-governor Gray Davis were a porn star (Mary Carey), a former child star (Gary Coleman), and a comedian (Gallagher). There were other celebrity candidates in the past, as well, but they were pretty few and far between.

This cycle, by contrast, we already have multiple celebrity candidates running for the Senate. So far that includes:

  • Herschel Walker (football player) running for senator in Georgia
  • Mehmet Oz (TV doctor) running for senator in Pennsylvania
  • J.D. Vance (author) running for senator in Ohio
  • Mark McCloskey (famous gun-wielding lawyer) running for senator in Missouri

In addition, Nicholas Kristof is running for governor of Oregon, and Matthew McConaughey very nearly ran for governor of Texas.

Celebrities have a number of built-in advantages. Clearly they have name recognition going for them, which can be especially important for getting the attention of low-information voters who don't follow politics. Celebrities can raise money much more easily than, say, obscure House members. And in many cases the celebs are rich enough to self-fund, which eliminates the need for fund raising altogether. Any candidate who doesn't have to spend half the day dialing for dollars clearly has a leg up on less-well-heeled candidates. Celebrities can also claim to be "outsiders," which is often a plus since almost nobody approves of Congress. Finally, celebrities can get on cable talk shows easily and they are used to being interviewed on television.

They also have a serious downside, though: They haven't been vetted before. Anyone who has been elected to the House has already had an oppo research team look for dirt on the candidate and much of it is probably already out there. That is not true of celebrities, whose image has been very carefully managed by professional PR people.

Current senators are not fond of celebrities parachuting into the Capitol. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said: "These celebrities don't come here with an interest in legislating. They come here with an interest in grandstanding and getting TV clips, because that's what they've spent their entire career doing." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) noted: "It can be hard to go from a position where people like you and say kind things to you and then when you become a candidate and your words get dissected and it actually matters... how you're able to handle that is, I think, important." (V)

Biden Is Quietly Reversing Some of Trump's Actions

Some Democrats are urging Joe Biden to try to enact BBB using executive orders. But the trouble with government by EO is that what one president can do by EO, the next one can undo the same way. Biden understands that and is busy undoing much of Donald Trump's legacy in exactly that way. Case in point: Trump invited states to apply for permission to deny people on Medicaid health care unless they could prove they were working. Many Republican-led states did exactly that and 12 of the proposals were approved. Now Biden is busy undoing the policy and trying to restore health care to people from whom Trump stripped it.

Last week, Georgia proposed imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients. The administration rejected it. Pretty soon, work requirements will be dead in all states as the administration is working on withdrawing all the approvals previously granted.

The real issue here isn't that Trump wanted Medicaid recipients to work. Actually, many of them had jobs. What Trump did was make the reporting requirements so difficult and complicated that many Medicaid recipients would make a mistake in the reporting, which would give the state the opportunity to reject them for incomplete paperwork. For example, there might be a question after "Address" like: "List all other addresses you have lived at in the past 3 years." If someone left those fields blank because he had lived at his current address for more than 3 years, the application would be rejected because the instructions said to fill out all fields (the correct answer would be to write "not applicable" there). That is not an accident. It was a feature and not a bug, and was the main purpose of the work requirement: to reject people who made a mistake in the paperwork.

Trump also tried to smother the ACA in bureaucracy. That didn't work and now Biden is aggressively trying to expand it. A record 13 million people have now signed up for coverage in 2022. Part of the reason is that the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March expanded the number of people eligible for subsidies. It also increased the subsidies for people already eligible. And it spread the word, so people signed up in droves. But the new goodies will expire next year unless the Democrats manage to pass a reconciliation bill including it. And what's in that bill (if there is a bill) depends in large part on what Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants. (V)

Biden Picks Two More Black Women for the Appellate Courts

While he is not busy dismantling as much of Donald Trump's legacy as he can, Joe Biden is busy fulfilling a campaign promise. During his campaign he promised to put more women, especially minority women, in high positions. He is continuing to do that.

Mostly recently he has nominated South Carolina U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Childs is Black. She will take the slot of Judge David Tatel, who replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg when Bill Clinton nominated her for the Supreme Court. The D.C. Appeals Court is the breeding ground for Supreme Court justices. In addition to Ginsburg, John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh served there, as did Merrick Garland, who was blocked from being on the high Court but got to be AG as a consolation prize.

Childs was born in Detroit, got a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida, an LL.M. degree from Duke University, and Master's and J.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina. She is an expert on employment law. Barack Obama nominated her to be a U.S. district judge in South Carolina. If she is confirmed to the D.C. court, she will be a potential Supreme Court nominee, along with Ketanji Brown Jackson, another Black woman judge. Biden promised that his first Supreme Court nomination would be a Black woman. If the Senate confirms Childs, Biden will have two plausible candidates to choose from.

In addition to nominating Childs, Biden also picked Nancy Abudu for the 11th Circuit, headquartered in Atlanta. Abudu is also Black and will be the first person of color to serve on that court. She was born in Alexandria, VA, the daughter of immigrants from Ghana. She has a bachelor's degree from Columbia University and got a J.D. from Tulane in 1999. In 2016 she also earned a master's from Duke University School of Law. She worked for the ACLU for 15 years and then joined the Southern Poverty Law Center. With that background, she is definitely in the pipeline for a possible promotion by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court some day. (V)

Another Reaction to the Texas Abortion Law

Two weeks ago, we noted that California wants to get into the vigilante business, like Texas, by offering a $10,000 bounty on anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit/parts in California.

Now Pennsylvania wants to jump in, as well. State Rep. Chris Rabb (D) has announced a bill that will require men to get a vasectomy within 6 weeks of the birth of their third child or their 40th birthday, whichever comes first. As in Texas, there would be a $10,000 reward for anyone reporting a violator.

Rabb said that as long as legislators feel it is appropriate to legislate women's reproductive health, they should also direct their attention to men as well. His bill will codify the concept of "wrongful conception" in Pennsylvania law. The bill has no chance whatsoever, because the Pennsylvania House is controlled by Republicans and they never approve bills written by Democrats, and certainly not by progressive Black Democrats from Philadelphia.

Rabb said that since his announcement he has received thousands of hate mails and death threats from both men and women, most of them racist. That means he's achieving what he wanted, since his purpose was not to pass an actual law, but to make a point that would be heard by as many people as possible. (V)

Americans Are Lukewarm on Biden Running in 2024

The 2024 election is almost upon us, with less than 3 years until Election Day. So, the polling has started. Morning Consult ran a poll to see what the landscape looked like. Only 34% of Americans want to see Joe Biden run again vs. 58% who don't want him to try again. Among Democrats it is 63%, while among Republicans it is only 10% who want him on the 2024 ballot. More important, independents are against another run 67% to 23%.

As to Donald Trump, 39% want to see another Trump run vs. 56% who don't. A surprising 14% of Democrats want to see Trump run again (possibly because they think he is a weak candidate). However, 82% of Democrats don't want Trump on the ballot again. Among Republicans, 70% want him to run again, somewhat more than the 63% of Democrats who want Biden to run again. Independents don't fancy another Trump presidency, though, 59% to 31%. So it looks like much of the country isn't really looking forward to a rerun of the 2020 election.

Morning Consult also asked Democrats who they wanted to see as their candidate if Biden bows out. The results were: Kamala Harris (31%), Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (11%), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (8%), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (8%), Sen. Cory Booker (5%), Gov. Gavin Newsom (3%), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (3%). In addition, 5% wanted someone else and 25% were not sure.

The top three candidates have very different profiles, though, if you look at the crosstabs. Harris is the favorite of 52% of Black voters but only 27% of white. In contrast, Buttigieg is favored by 14% of white voters but only 3% of Black voters. Warren got 10% of the white votes and only 4% of the Black votes. This means that if Biden calls it a day, a lot depends on the order of the primaries. If two very white states, Iowa and New Hampshire, go first, Buttigieg is likely to do well in Iowa, which is close to his home state of Indiana and Warren is likely to do well in New Hampshire, close to Massachusetts. Harris is not likely to do well in either one. But when South Carolina rolls around, she might be able to catch up.

PaddyPower is already taking bets on the Democratic nominee. Here are the implied probabilities: Biden (33%), Harris (25%), Buttigieg (11%), Ocasio-Cortez (6%), Beto O'Rourke (6%), Sen. Bernie Sanders (6%), Stacey Abrams (6%), Andrew Yang (4%), Booker (4%), and Warren (3%). Also noteworthy are Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton at 2% each. We would estimate the probability for either of them at exactly zero. Tied for last place, at 0.6%, are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rachel Maddow, Angelina Jolie, Mark Zuckerberg, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Gates, Al Franken and Jake Tapper.

What about the Republican side? Here they are: Trump (48%), Ron DeSantis (17%), Nikki Haley (14%), Mike Pence (8%), Tucker Carlson (6%), Gov. Kristi Noem (5%), Sen. Marco Rubio (4%), Sen. Tim Scott (4%), Sen. Tom Cotton (4%), Sen. Ted Cruz (4%), Mike Pompeo (4%), and Ye, whose name change from Kanye West was announced this week (3%). Tied for last place here at 0.4% are Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and Jon Voight.

As to which party will win, it's the Republicans at 55% and the Democrats at 50%. This doesn't add to 100% on account of the vigorish (the bookies' take).

Although the primaries are actually about a bazillion years away, a couple of things surprise us about these results. First, Pete Buttigieg is doing amazingly well for a young gay guy who has pretty limited experience and is not a celebrity. From what we have heard, he is doing a perfectly competent job as Secretary of Transportation, but several other cabinet members are also doing well and none of them are even on the radar. It is possible that many (older) voters want Camelot II, and he is the most like JFK of the well-known potential candidates. Also surprising is how well AOC is doing. We think the chances of her getting the nomination are definitely better than Andrew Cuomo and maybe better than Bill Gates, but also very close to zero. Her lane—a young woman of color—is blocked by Harris, who not only is "next in line" but also has much more experience (California AG, senator, and now veep). (V)

A December to Rhymember (Parts 32-33)

As it turns out, this will work out rather neatly, as the last weekday of the month is also the final day of both the month and the year. Here are the previous entries:

Today's subjects are the (apparent) frontrunners if Joe Biden and Donald Trump decide to throw in the towel in 2024. Covering the Democratic side is S.S. in Detroit, MI:

Anyone seen Vice President Harris?
I've been wondering just where her lair is
Her status she sought to elevate
By mixing with foreign heads of state
But maybe she never left Paris

And handling the Republican side is D.H. in Chicago, Illinois:

There's a Guv'nor named Ron DeSantis
In a hot Southern state where my aunt is
He's ambitious an' wants to be Prez
Without a vaxx, a hoot, or a fez
A predator of sorts like a Mantis

In short, the poets don't seem to be much more enthusiastic than the bettors or the poll respondents. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec26 Sunday Mailbag
Dec25 Saturday Q&A
Dec24 More Good News on the COVID Front
Dec24 Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows, Part 413
Dec24 The Courts Are Busy
Dec24 Biden Administration Pushes Back on Uyghur Genocide
Dec24 Cruz for President, Part II (and III, and IV...)
Dec24 Arizona Adopts New District Maps
Dec24 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec24 A December to Rhymember (Part 31)
Dec23 Schumer Promises a Vote on the Reconciliation Bill in January
Dec23 McConnell Is Actively Courting Manchin
Dec23 Thune Might Retire
Dec23 Hope Hicks Joins Team McCormick
Dec23 Jan. 6 Select Committee Wants to Hear from Jim Jordan
Dec23 FDA Approves COVID Pill
Dec23 Biden Extends Student Loan Pause
Dec23 Democrats Get Their New Jersey Congressional Map
Dec23 A December to Rhymember (Parts 29-30)
Dec22 Biden Speaks
Dec22 Scott Perry, by Contrast, Declines to Speak
Dec22 Biden Administration Finally Has Its Ambassadors
Dec22 Dominion 1, Fox 0
Dec22 Trumper vs. Non-Trumper Senate Races Already Getting Ugly
Dec22 Iowa May Get a Temporary Reprieve
Dec22 A December to Rhymember (Parts 27-28)
Dec21 The Day After
Dec21 Pandemic: Deja Vu All Over Again?
Dec21 1/6 Committee Turns Inward
Dec21 Trump Sues Letitia James
Dec21 Democrats Get Good News from California...
Dec21 ...But Bad News from Florida
Dec21 A December to Rhymember (Parts 25-26)
Dec20 Manchin Doesn't Want to Build Back Better
Dec20 Democrats Are Hoping They Lose Only 10-20 Seats in the House
Dec20 House Republicans Are Already Planning What They Will Do with the Majority in 2023...
Dec20 ...But Some Republicans Are Worried about Roe v. Wade
Dec20 Omicron Is Going to Take over This Winter
Dec20 Capitol Rioter Gets Sentence of Over 5 Years
Dec20 Another House Democrat Calls It Quits
Dec20 The FDIC Is in Turmoil
Dec20 In Nevada, It's Environmentalists vs. Environmentalists
Dec20 Johnny Isakson Passes Away
Dec19 Sunday Mailbag
Dec18 Saturday Q&A
Dec17 Build Back Better Will Wait Until Next Year
Dec17 FDA Makes More Relaxed Abortion-Pill Rules "Permanent"
Dec17 Rep. Jim Jordan Sent Insurrectionist Text Message
Dec17 Gonna Turn My Red State...Redder
Dec17 This Week in Schadenfreude