• Republicans Hungary for Extremism?
• A**hole Watch 2022: Tucker Carlson
• PM Tossed Overboard by Voters Down Under
• Three Comments: Foreign Affairs
This week, we have primaries in Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, as well as a runoff in Texas. There are quite a few interesting storylines, so we'll just preview Georgia and Alabama today.
- Donald Trump, Put on Some Goggles: Donald Trump loathes Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). We presumably don't need to tell anyone who would read this site
why, but just in case there's one of you who was released yesterday after four years spent in a Russian prison due
to a bogus possession charge, it's because Kemp and Raffensperger refused to (illegally) swing the state's electoral
votes to the former president in 2020. Mind you, that wouldn't have changed the outcome in the Electoral College.
Still, Trump has obsessed about it ever since, and badly wants revenge.
Trump won't get that revenge. In an effort to unseat Kemp and Raffensperger, Trump backed former senator David Perdue (R) and Rep. Jody Hice (R). Perdue was always a lazy campaigner, has run a lackluster campaign this time around, and has spent the last week canceling appearances and ad buys. The only drama in that race, such as it is, is whether Kemp will clear the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. The last seven polls of the race have Kemp above that cutoff, and the gap has generally gotten larger over time. The very latest, for example, is a Fox poll that has Kemp up 60% to 28%. Oof. So, that's definitely one poke in Trump's eye, and if Perdue doesn't even make the runoff, it's a double poke. Once Kemp is done with the former senator, he will move on to face Stacey Abrams (D), who is unopposed.
To the extent Trump has hope tomorrow, it is in the race for secretary of state. Raffensperger is likely to win more votes than any other candidate, so that's likely to be another poke in the eye for Trump. However, this one has a very good chance of heading to a runoff. The latest poll, from SurveyUSA, had Raffensperger at 31%, Hice at 20%, lesser candidates with 9%, and 40% of voters undecided. Other polls of the race (and there haven't been many, particularly recently) have similar numbers. That leaves open many possibilities; the most likely is "Raffensperger comes out ahead but has to face a runoff," followed by "Raffensperger comes out ahead and avoids a runoff," followed by "Hice comes out ahead but has to face a runoff." For Hice to win big enough to avoid a runoff just isn't plausible; the numbers don't support that outcome.
Whichever Republican survives will then face... a Democrat. Which one? Good question. There's been virtually no polling of that side of the race, and what polls have been done have all the candidates in single digits with 55%-60% undecided. The five folks in the running are former state representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler, former Cobb County Democratic chair Michael Owens, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, former chair of the Fulton County Commission Robert Eaves, and former state senator and former mayor of Milledgeville Floyd Griffin. Nguyen is of Vietnamese descent; the other four are Black. Presumably this one will head to a runoff on June 21.
- Another Day, Another Skeleton: The primaries will not tell us much that we do not already
know when it comes to the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is going to win renomination, and
former football player Herschel Walker is going to claim the Republican nomination. Since he is Donald Trump's
handpicked candidate, the former president is going to focus a lot on Walker's success and is going to ignore wins by
Kemp and Raffensperger.
The problem for the Republican Party is that Trump does not believe in vetting candidates. Heck, he might not even know what "vetting" is; we're not sure. In any case, yet another skeleton emerged from Walker's closet this weekend. Throughout the campaign, Walker has bragged about founding and volunteering for a charity called Patriot Support, which ostensibly helps veterans grapple with mental illness.
It turns out there are a few... problems here. Walker did not help create the organization, to start. And he's not a volunteer; he's a paid spokesman, collecting a salary in excess of $300,000 a year. Worst of all, however: It's not a charity. It's a for-profit concern, and one that has been credibly accused of exploiting veterans to fatten profits. As a general rule, people don't like profiteering, particularly at the expense of wounded veterans.
- Marjorie Taylor Gone?: If Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) is sent packing just one week
after Rep. Madison Cawthorn's (R-NC) career came to an end, it's going to seem like Christmas in May for Democrats.
For many Republicans, too. That said, she probably won't be, at least not tomorrow. The Representative has drawn five
challengers, none likely to claim 50% of the vote. The best hope for those who would like to send Greene to an early retirement
is that the challengers keep her below 50%, allowing Jennifer Strahan to advance to a runoff against Greene. Strahan is
certainly a Republican
but isn't, you know... nuts, and she has the backing of much of the GOP establishment. There's only been one poll of the
race, and it had Greene at 60% and Strahan at 30%. However, it was conducted way back in January, and so does not
account for the four additional challengers, not to mention another four months of crazy on the part of Greene.
- A House Democrat Will Fall: Thanks to redistricting, Reps. Carolyn Bordeaux (D) and Lucy
in the same district, with no obvious alternative for either of them to do some district jumping. The district, GA-07,
is very blue, so the winner of the primary will keep their job. The loser, however, will be out of luck.
- Bishop Is King?: The same round of redistricting that forced Bordeaux and McBath into a
fight for their political lives also left Georgia with one true swing district, GA-2, which covers the southwest corner
of the state. The Democrats will run an incumbent, namely Sanford D. Bishop Jr. He is currently serving his 15th term in
the House, so it would seem he knows a few tricks, and it's likely he'll survive in the general election. However, in a
swing district and a Republican-favorable year, you never know. There are six Republicans vying for the opportunity to
challenge Bishop, all of them are political newbies. The apparent frontrunners, such as it is, are Jeremy Hunt, A. Wayne
Johnson, and Chris West. They are, respectively, a Black West Point grad and national security expert, a white veteran
and Ph.D. in education who worked in the Trump administration, and a white lawyer who attended Faulkner University,
which bills itself as a Christian law school. We do not know how the curriculum at a Christian law school differs from
the curriculum at other law schools. Maybe the study of the ten amendments is replaced with the study of the
- Record Early Turnout: Georgia had higher early turnout for this election than for any primary in state history, and by a large margin. A total of 615,378 ballots were cast by the time the early-voting period came to an end; 567,815 early-in-person and 47,563 absentee. That is an increase of 153% over 2018 and 189% over 2020. A little over 57% of the early votes were cast by Republican voters. We would suggest two lessons here: (1) if people want to vote, they will deal with the hurdles placed in front of them, and (2) apparently early/absentee voting aren't as evil as many Republican politicians have claimed.
- Bad Mo on the Rise: A month ago, the crushing defeat of Brian Kemp figured to be the biggest
poke in the eye that Donald Trump would get tomorrow. But hold the presses. In the U.S. Senate race, Donald Trump pulled his
endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks (R) because the Representative was sinking like a stone. And after, providing us with reminder number
1,322 of why politics is so interesting, Brooks' polling numbers began to rise. The lesson: Once you've made your pick,
you should stick with your horse. Or, in this case, your horse's a**.
At the moment, polls have frontrunner Katie Britt (R), the preferred successor of retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), around 30%, Brooks around 28%, and Michael Durant around 23%. So, this almost certainly headed to a runoff between Britt and Brooks. That will be embarrassing enough for Trump, and if Brooks somehow lands the nomination? Forget Schadenfreude of the Week; that's enough for a full month. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is headed to Alabama today to campaign for Brooks, which—and we would not have guessed this—is actually expected to help the Representative.
The Democratic side of this contest has three candidates. Will Boyd is a pastor and perennial candidate, and is the clear frontrunner tomorrow. Either he will win the nomination outright, or he'll win in the runoff, and then he will get crushed by either Brooks or Britt.
- Gubernatorial Runoff: As with the Senate race, this one is probably headed for a runoff.
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is up for another term, but she's not wildly popular, and she's being challenged by Tim James (R), son
of former governor Fob James (R). Apparently, the Philippines is not the only place where voters like dynasties. There
are seven other Republicans in the primary field, but they are non-factors. The last time that an Alabama Senate race
and an Alabama gubernatorial race went to a runoff in the same year was... 1978.
The Democrats have six candidates, but the nomination is clearly going to go to activist and educator Yolanda Rochelle Flowers, who will then be trounced in the general election.
- Zzzzzzz...: While there are some House races of interest in Georgia, there isn't much
intrigue in Alabama. The state has seven districts; six are safe Republican and one is safe Democratic. Incumbents
are running for reelection in six of the seven, and are unopposed in all but one of those cases (AL-03). In other words,
the new Alabama House delegation is going to look an awful lot like the old Alabama House delegation.
The only actual race is in AL-05, the deep-red district being vacated by Mo Brooks. Five Republicans are running for the nomination. Here are pictures of the five:
Perhaps this gives a sense of what, uh... qualifications for office are wanted by voters in that district. Anyhow, two of the five will likely end up in a runoff, and then the winner of that contest will go on to defeat Democrat Kathy Warner-Stanton.
Arkansas and Texas will be under the microscope tomorrow. (Z)
Let's review some of the items on the "résumé" of newly-reelected Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán:
- He is an authoritarian who has little regard for civil liberties
- He is a proponent of replacement theory
- He is close to Vladimir Putin and now, having won reelection, is preparing to help the Russian war effort
- He is guilty of all manner of corruption, pocketing billions for himself and his family
- He is xenophobic, homophobic and Islamophobic
This does not seem like the type of person you'd want to associate with, right?
Wrong! This weekend, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference was held... in Hungary, and nearly all of the speakers were effusive in their praise of the Hungarian leader. Here are some of the folks who spoke this weekend:
- Donald Trump
- Tucker Carlson
- Jack Posobiec, a noted American antisemite who was behind the Pizzagate conspiracy
- Zsolt Bayer, a right-wing media star in Hungary who has referred to Roma as "animals" and Jews as "stinking excrement"
Why would American conservatives make a point of going such a long distance to hold an event like this? Why would they praise Orbán? Why would people like Trump and Carlson have no problem sharing a podium with someone like Bayer, whose views are no secret? Readers can presumably answer those questions just as well as we can. All we've really got to add here is the old quote from Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." (Z)
Please forgive the less-than-evenhanded headline. For the last few days, we've been sitting on stories about really offensive behavior from three different Republicans, trying to figure out what to do with them. On the one hand, we don't want to normalize or approve of such behavior by overlooking it. On the other hand, we don't want to get into the business of railing against right-wingers. We're not the Huffington Post.
However, the time has come to finish off the bracket competition. We actually have a huge backlog of stuff we'd like to write about right now, but it's not as huge now as a week or two ago, so we aren't quite as constrained as we were. And while we did what we could to avoid this result, the fact is that Republicans utterly dominated the competition, particularly the final rounds. Yes, that is partly a reflection of the readership of this site. But it's also a reflection of the fact that many Republicans engage in a lot of the kind of behavior that might earn someone the title of "worst political figure in the country." Even if one objects to Democrats' policies, the Democrats do not generally act like a**holes.
So, we figure we can run down (and we mean that on several levels) one ill-behaving Republican per day for three days, as entree to the last three days of brackets, and as something of a reminder as to why the competition turned into a sea of red. Up today, as you can see from the headline, is Tucker Carlson.
It is hardly news that Carlson is an a**hole. We're honestly not sure if anyone really thinks otherwise. Whenever we see him, we're reminded of a line from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: "You don't like me. No problem. I have many friends that don't like me." Our guess is that even fans of Carlson's program say to themselves: "Yes, he's an a**hole. But he's our a**hole."
Carlson, of course, is the media's #1 proponent of replacement theory. And replacement theory pretty clearly influenced the Buffalo shooter to do what he did. These facts alone would be enough, by themselves, to qualify Carlson for the A**hole Hall of Fame. The Fox host knows he's got a problem on his hands (and on his eternal soul?) and has expended much oxygen making the world's most predictable argument, namely that the shooter was mentally ill, and that his actions had nothing to do with "hateful right-wing rhetoric." We have not examined the shooter, nor do we have the training to reach conclusions even if we had, but here's a question: Why can't it be both? Even if he had mental issues, that doesn't mean he wasn't triggered by the rhetoric, right?
That said, it's not Carlson's attempt to excuse himself that inspired this item, nor his address as the Orbán lovefest this weekend (see above). It's something much less consequential, and yet gallingly hypocritical. Readers may remember that (now-former) Saturday Night Live castmember Pete Davidson made a joke about the eyepatch Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) wears due to a combat injury, and was forced to apologize the next week:
At that time, Carlson was among the folks who were screaming the loudest; he devoted a whole segment to Davidson, framing it as proof that liberals have no respect for veterans. "Yeah, so that's their position and they are not hiding it anymore," explained the Fox host. While he said this, the chyron below read: "SNL Sinks To New Low By Insulting Wounded Veteran."
Well, if you haven't heard about it already, you probably still know where this is headed. Crenshaw, these days, is anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine. Carlson is anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia, and Crenshaw's position makes him angry. And so, on his show this week, the Fox host slurred the Representative as "Eyepatch McCain":
The first minute of that video gives the context for the remark; if you want to jump right to the remark itself it's at 1:05. For those keeping score at home, that's two veterans slurred—Crenshaw and former senator John McCain—for the price of one. Apparently, conservatives who did not themselves serve have a very low regard for those who did serve. That's their position and they are not hiding it anymore.
While Davidson apologized as rapidly as he possibly could (after all, SNL is only on once a week), Carlson—despite being on TV five times a week—has yet to back off his words or to apologize. And you presumably don't tell us not to hold your breath waiting for him to do so. This weekend marked Davidson's final appearance on SNL, and in his final bit before bidding the show adieu, he talked about how much has changed in his 8 years on the show:
It's cued up to the line that brought down the house, but in case you don't want to watch/listen, the line was: "In three years, Fox News went from calling me a 'monster' for making fun of congressman Dan Crenshaw's eyepatch... to also making fun of Dan Crenshaw's eyepatch." Davidson certainly knows what it looks like when hypocrisy reaches laughable levels. (Z)
Aussies headed to the polls this weekend, and presumably consumed many pounds of democracy sausage. And apparently, they are tired of the Liberal Party (which, in Australia, is the center-right party). Or maybe they are just tired of guys with British names. Whatever it was, Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison lost his job this weekend, to be replaced by Labor leader Anthony Albanese.
Albanese really did make a point of noting his "non-Anglo Celtic name" during the campaign, and of telling his story of having grown up as the son of a poor single mother. The election wasn't especially close; Labor picked up at least 8 seats, giving them 75; the Liberals currently stand to lose 19 seats, putting them at 56; and the third-largest party will be the Greens, who are up to at least three members after having just one in the last parliament.
It actually takes 76 seats to form a government in Australia, which means Labor is currently one short. In addition to the 75 seats that have been called for them, the 56 that have been called for the Liberals (actually the Liberal/National Coalition), and the 3 for the Greens, there are 10 independents along with one member of Katter's Australian Party (surprise: his name is Katter) and one member of the Centre Alliance (his name is NOT Centre). That leaves four seats in doubt; if Labor does not claim at least one of them then Albanese will have to put together a coalition government. If it comes to that, he shouldn't have too much trouble getting the Greens on board, since they would be able to exert influence far beyond what three seats would normally afford.
Although the results aren't official, Morrison promptly conceded defeat and resigned because someone needs to represent Australia at the Quad Summit this week with Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, and Fumio Kishida. Our staff psychologist suggests that someone might learn a lesson from Morrison about acting like an adult when dealt a setback, as opposed to throwing a tantrum like a small child. We are not clear to whom she might be referring, but maybe readers will be able to figure it out.
Keep reading for a bit more on the election. (Z)
The summer has arrived, which means that we are now in a position to make some changes to the site in hopes of improving it. You're going to see a lot of stuff on the front in the next few weeks and months.
Last week, we ran guest columns from five different readers. We were seeing what the response would be and, we're happy to report, it was overwhelmingly positive. We'll be soliciting some feedback about how best to implement that possibility moving forward.
Another thing we'd like to work on is the Sunday mailbag feature, which we believe has a lot of value, but which tends to load a LOT of content into a single day. Nobody else runs letters only once a week, and maybe we shouldn't, either. So, what we are going to experiment with this week is a different approach where we run a few comments a day, and see how that works. Note that the Sunday mailbag wouldn't go away, even if this does work, though it would evolve into something a little different. Anyhow, today we're going to have one comment on last week's guest column on the Philippine election, and two on the election in Australia this weekend:
S.O.F. in Jersey City, NJ, writes: In response to the columns from your contributors in the Philippines regarding the election there, I think there is a side to this which needs to be acknowledged. While I am likely not as exposed to the situation on the ground as your contributors, my wife grew up under Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and I was exposed to a lot of the discourse associated with this election. Despite the focus being on BongBong Marcos and what he represents for the country, his dubious strategies for getting elected, etc., there are a lot of parallels with politics in the United States regarding the opposition.
As a lifelong Democrat, I was amazed at the classic "Democrat" moves that were on display by the Leni Robredo Campaign. It was kind of like holding the last 8 years or so of the United States up to a mirror. My in-laws who were fierce supporters of Leni would often focus on her crowd sizes as an indication that she would win (a homage to Bernie Sanders supporters). They were quick to point out online polls to cast doubt on the more mainstream polling showing Marcos with a commanding lead. The crux of their argument for electing Leni was her accomplished résumé, as well as the importance of electing the first female president. The campaign was heavy on identity politics; everyone wore pink (à la the Women's March) to the rallies. Most of the campaign's surrogates were celebrities, pop stars, etc. There was a fair amount of elitism from some of my relatives, basically "support for Marcos equals stupid." Leni also often took the high road despite the political ramifications, most notably proclaiming her support for LGBTQ+ rights. In a staunchly conservative Catholic country, that is political suicide, like it or not.
Despite all of this, I get the impression that this election did not come down to support for Marcos or dislike of Robredo, nor were dirty tricks and misinformation a major factor. The biggest issue for my relatives who voted for Marcos was continuing the Duterte policies—infrastructure, crime, economic development. But there are some important, and difficult, takeaways from analyzing the opposition. If defending Liberal Democracy against Autocratic Nationalism is the main issue of our time, the above outlined strategy has failed. It most notably failed in the United States in 2016 and we are still watching in real time the consequences of that loss play out in the Supreme Court. It has now failed in the Philippines, and there is a real possibility that the country takes an unhealthy step back to autocracy because of it. Losing elections has consequences. If the political Left, as it is defined in the Western (and West leaning) world, is to be the last Bulwark in defense of Democracy, they need to learn that being seen as standing for the right thing is far less important than winning elections and then doing the right thing.
J.S. in Iowa City, IA, writes: I care way more about Australian politics than any red-blooded American should, but I was happy to see Labor pull off a more decisive-than-expected victory over the weekend.
As much as I want to think this reflects a growing consciousness of environmental issues and a rejection of the creeping Trumpism among Australia's political right, I hypothesize that backlash to this ad did the Liberal/National coalition in:
I heard the jingle one time and it hasn't left my head since. I can't imagine that a marginal voter, being forced to listen to this for weeks, would be sympathetic to the ad's source.
G.B. in Canberra, ACT, Australia, writes: There is an old saying in Australia that oppositions don't win government, it's governments that lose. That is very true of Saturday's result. The Liberal-National Coalition lost government. They lost my vote too, primarily because of their immorality. I had thought it would be difficult for a Conservative government to be immoral. But the Morrison government showed how. Maybe my view of morality is too broad. But, to me, lying, cheating, insider favoritism, self-dealing and infidelity are immoral and that government had them all. But worst of all to me was the lack of regard for other people. They were actually, intentionally cruel to some people.
There are many examples of that government's cruelty but one which really struck me, and was mostly ignored in the election campaign, is colloquially called "Robo Debt." In summary, the government used automatic (i.e. "Robo") calculations to claim people were overpaid unemployment and other benefits. On the basis of those calculations they raised debts which could only be expunged by being repaid or by providing proof there was no debt. That is, they reversed the burden of proof on the debt. Some calculations went back 10 years. They sent notices to old addresses then engaged debt collection agencies to find and harass "debtors" who had not responded. Many vulnerable people committed suicide. Some brave people took the government to court. After nearly 3 years, a court held that the basis of the debt calculations was unlawful. It was not a weird loophole. The entitlement calculations were just wrong and not based on what is in the law—so basic that anyone could read the law and find out. After getting legal advice, the government accepted the court ruling and agreed to pay back the money and write off unpaid debts. The cost of that exercise could be upwards of A$1 billion. No one knows how many people died because of the harassment and threats. The Robo Debt saga was but one of many examples of egregious, mean, immoral actions by that government.
I have just finished reading an excellent commentary on the last government and its failings. Some might think it very odd that it was written by a senior minister in the New South Wales State Liberal-National government—i.e. the same party as the last federal government. But I think it was just honest.
Three more comments tomorrow. Expect abortion to make an appearance. (Z)
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May20 Tuesday's Dust Is Still Settling
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May20 This Week in Schadenfreude
May20 Guest Columnist: The High Price of Education
May19 The Day After
May19 Two Days After
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May16 Mass Shooting Produces the Usual Responses
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May16 Van Hollen Suffers Stroke
May16 Guest Columnist: Update from the Philippines
May15 Sunday Mailbag
May14 Saturday Q&A
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