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The Story of 1/6 Just Keeps Getting Worse...

The Washington Post, being located in Washington, DC, as it is, has been on top of the 1/6 insurrection as much as any media outlet. And on Halloween, the paper published a three-part exposé on the subject, divided into "before," "during," and "after." WaPo chose its publication date well, since the stories are frightening.

The purpose of the new reporting was to put all the information known about 1/6 into one place, but also to add a bunch of new things the Post's reporters have uncovered. The paper had 75 journalists working on the story, conducted over 200 interviews, and reviewed thousands of pages of documentary evidence. Here are the major takeaways/revelations:

Because the whole coverage package is, in effect, an indictment of Trump, the former president was afforded the opportunity to respond. WaPo even sent him a list of 37 findings they planned to publish, most of which involved him. Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich sent the paper a lengthy... rant, which served as Trump's official response. The Post decided that the response was mostly off-topic, counterfactual, and served only to propagate Trump's anti-democratic conspiratorial thinking, so they declined to publish most of it.

Naturally, this will trigger claims that Trump is being denied his "free speech" rights from people who don't actually understand the First Amendment, and will also lead approximately 100% of Trump supporters to claim media bias. But he's not entitled to respond however he sees fit, and given that one of the main themes of the Post's coverage is that ongoing, divisive rhetoric continues to make the wounds of 1/6 worse, the paper really had no other choice. Though this does mean that the Unabomber was able to get his manifesto published in the Post, but the former president was not. It's not an easy task to be even more crazy and dangerous than Ted Kaczynski. (Z)

...While Anti-Democracy Views Are Taking Hold

The Washington Post's reporting (see above) makes clear that the American democracy continues to take serious damage from Donald Trump and his supporters, nearly 10 months after the insurrection. A new poll from the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute makes the exact same point with cold, hard data. Here are the major findings:

Considering this item, and the previous one, we see one irrefutable conclusion: The time has come for the Department of Justice to get serious about the insurrection. AG Merrick Garland is by nature cautious and methodical, and we've previously noted that federal prosecutions take time to piece together, and we get that.

However, even if Justice is not ready now (or ever?) to go after Trump, or Mark Meadows, or Rudy Giuliani, it has had opportunities to make a statement with its actions and has largely not taken them. The folks who have been arrested, charged, and convicted of participating have gotten slaps on the wrist. The pattern is clear enough that federal judge Beryl Howell, who happens to be Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, took the DoJ to task last week, declaring that the descriptions of crimes committed by the rioters, as reported in court filings, as compared to the relatively minor punishments meted out, was "almost schizophrenic." She added: "This is a muddled approach by the government. I'm trying to make sense of the government's position here."

And then there is the 1/6 Commission, and their request for DoJ assistance, particularly as regards the enforcement of the Steve Bannon subpoena. It's been over a week, and thus far Garland & Co. have sat on that request. The time has come for the Department to make clear that they support the 1/6 Commission—that is, the legally elected government of the United States—and will use the full extent of DoJ powers to aid the Commission in its work and to act on its findings. In nearly any other governmental context, the full cooperation and support of those in law enforcement would be a given. It is inexcusable that Garland is allowing the Commission to twist in the wind.

Whatever Garland thinks he is doing—affirming that the DoJ is above politics, or showing that he's not a presidential toady like his two or three immediate predecessors, or trying to keep further violent rebellions from breaking out—he's achieved as much as he's going to achieve. There are some who will never accept his actions as legitimate and, like the bipartisanship fetishists, it's time to wake up and smell the 2021 coffee. You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet, and if Garland doesn't break some eggs soon, it may be too late. (Z)

Today's the Day in Virginia...

As you might have heard, there are elections in Virginia today. What happens with the state's House of Delegates is probably more meaningful and more instructive, but it's the gubernatorial race between Terry McAuliffe (D) and Glenn Youngkin (R) that is going to get all the attention.

We had a pretty thorough rundown of the dynamics of the gubernatorial race yesterday, and so there's no need to restate all of that today. According to the polls, the contest remains neck-and-neck, and could go either way. Sabato's Crystal Ball issued its final assessment of the race yesterday, shifting it from "Leans Democratic" to "Leans Republican." That seems about right, since Youngkin clearly has the momentum, and there are a lot of dispirited Democrats in Virginia (and elsewhere) right now. That said, anything can happen in a race this close, and it's at least possible that pollsters are having trouble accounting for early voting (which is way up this year) or are over-correcting for Trump voters who do not like to respond to pollsters. Whatever happens, we might not know the result tonight.

There is a dynamic in the race that is interesting, and that has really shown itself in the past 48 hours or so. As we have noted many times, Youngkin is holding Donald Trump at arm's length, since Trump is not very popular in Virginia. The would-be governor is running on very Trumpy issues and using some very Trumpy rhetoric, most obviously whining about critical race theory. But he is pointedly not hugging Trump close.

In many ways, Trump is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. However, he has an uncanny instinct for maintaining his political brand, which is currently "I am Dear Leader of the Republican Party." And so he recognizes that it's not great for him, and for his influence over the Party, if the most high-profile race of the year is won by someone who has had no need of Trump. Other Republicans might just take a lesson from that; that it's the rhetoric and not the man.

And that is were the interesting dynamic comes in. While Youngkin continues to stay away from Trump, Trump is desperately trying to claim credit for Youngkin. The former president issued a statement on Monday declaring that he and Youngkin are good friends, and that the duo "strongly believe in many of the same policies." On Tuesday, this dynamic was even more obviously on display, as Trump held a tele-rally for Youngkin. The gubernatorial candidate pointedly did not participate, even though all he had to do was make a phone call, just as Trump did. Meanwhile, El Donaldo managed to find just five minutes in his schedule, and he spent the entire call talking once again about what a great guy Youngkin is, and how much they are on the same page about everything.

As a sidebar, incidentally, one Youngkin supporter gave an interview to an activist group called The Good Liars, and asserted that critical race theory (CRT) is the single-most important issue in this election. That's been Youngkin's signature issue for the last couple of months. The interviewee also conceded that he couldn't explain exactly what CRT is, because "I don't understand it that much." We've had a discussion on this site recently (see here, here, and here) about Democratic messaging, and how the blue team isn't as good at marketing themselves as the red team. If Republican voters don't even insist on understanding an issue before accepting the politicians' claims of mortal peril, that may help to clarify why the red team has an easier time of things.

In any event, the big takeaway from Virginia—unless there is an unexpected McAuliffe blowout—is going to be "Uh, oh, the Democrats are in trouble!" It is understandable that the media will focus on this, since it's the biggest, shiniest data point, and since there is a propensity to assume that today's election predicts the next election.

We don't think that's a great assumption, either in general, or in the case of Virginia (and we've laid out some data to support our case). There actually is evidence out there that the Democrats have a tough 2022 ahead of them (like, say, the growing number of House Democrats who are retiring). However, we do not believe that today's results (excepting a Youngkin blowout or, possibly, a dramatic swing in the composition of the Virginia House of Delegates) are a particularly compelling indicator.

We submit for your consideration that the bigger story is actually the one we've alluded to above, namely that—win or lose—Youngkin may have found the key to running on Trumpism without Trump. Assuming it's a win, or a reasonably close loss, Republican politicians running in purple states next year (and possibly even in red states) are going to look long and hard at Youngkin's playbook. And if lots of Republicans start to keep the former president at arm's length, he is going to be furious, and he is going to lash out, with unpredictable results. (Z)

...And in Other States, Of Course

Again, Virginia is going to be the 1A story tonight and tomorrow. There is also a governor's race in New Jersey, but every poll—even those from Republican houses—has given Gov. Phil Murphy (D) a comfortable lead. Unless there is a big upset there, which will prompt a deluge of "What's wrong with polling?" stories, then Jersey will be an afterthought.

That means that the 2A story is likely going to be the mayoral races. We ran down four big ones yesterday (New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Buffalo), but there are several others. Here are a few notes about some of the other interesting ones:

That covers most of the big cities, but it's far from an exhaustive list. St. Petersburg, FL; Topeka, KS; Annapolis, MD; Helena, MT; Concord, NH; Jersey City, NJ, Albuquerque, NM; Albany, NY; and Durham, NC, are among the others that will hold mayoral contests today. (Z)

Supreme Court Hears Arguments about Texas Abortion Law

The Supreme Court fast-tracked the case about Texas' new abortion law, with the result that it heard oral arguments yesterday. The oral arguments were not about the underlying law, but instead about the possibility of imposing an injunction until the case works its way through the court system.

The obvious message of the questioning was that a majority of the justices are skeptical about the legality of what Texas did. That includes the three liberals, of course, but there were also pointed questions from Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

That said, the questioning comes with some significant caveats. The first is that reading the Supreme Court tea leaves is often a fool's errand. The second is that the conservative justices appear to be more irritated about the Lone Star State's infringing on federal prerogatives than they are about limiting abortion. The third is that there's a very real possibility that one or more conservatives are playing up their opposition to the Texas law right now so they can appear to be "fair-minded" when they take a different position on a future abortion case.

And that takes us to the biggest caveat of them all: Even if SCOTUS rules quickly on this one, it isn't going to matter too much. In a month, they will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which is a full-frontal assault on abortion rights, and does not make use of enforcement loopholes the way the Texas law does. Once the Court rules in Dobbs, the Texas law is likely to be mostly or entirely moot. Either the Texans will be reminded that they cannot restrict abortion rights beyond what SCOTUS has already laid out, or they'll learn that there's no longer a need for trickery and that they can pass a straightforward abortion ban. (Z)

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