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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Make America Bigoted Again?
      •  L.A. (Not So) Confidential
      •  Not so Fast, Sasse
      •  Dobbs v. Biden
      •  You Can't Spell "Grim Reaper" without M-A-G-A
      •  Vance, Ryan Debate
      •  Senate Leadership Fund Is Spending in Colorado Again
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Make America Bigoted Again?

That headline doesn't quite produce the correct acronym, but there's no synonym for bigoted that starts with a 'g.' Sorry about that. In any event, the last couple of weeks have seen numerous instances of Trumpers letting their inner bigot shine through.

Many years ago, back when the Democrats were the conservative party, overt bigotry was a viable campaign strategy. Once or twice in the past, we've shared some of the paraphernalia from the white supremacist 1868 presidential campaign of Horatio Seymour:

A poster shows a picture
of Seymour and underneath says 'The Democratic Platform is for the white man' and then a picture of a gross Black
stereotype that underneath says 'The Republican Platform is for the negro.' There is also a ribbon that shows Seymour
and VP nominee Francis Blair and that says: 'Our motto: This is a white man's country; let white men rule.

Note that we said "viable," and not "successful." It's not like Seymour won that election, or even came particularly close. Indeed, 12 years earlier, William Seward observed that "No man can be elected President of the United States who spells negro with two g's." Since Andrew Johnson wasn't actually elected president, Seward was proven right about that.

Over time, racism became socially unacceptable enough that overt appeals to bigotry became politically problematic. Thus began the era of the racist dog whistle. Your Richard Nixons and your Ronald Reagans are often credited with inventing this strategy, with their "welfare queens" and "urban crime," but it really predates them by generations. From the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War to concerns about maintaining the "quality" of Southern schools to insinuations that the Civil Rights Movement was a front for Russian communists, conservative politicians have been very skillful at the art of "Tell me you're a bigot without outright saying you're a bigot."

As we have written many times, Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd ushered in the era of the racist bullhorn. Trump, like all con men, has relatively little regard for the intelligence of his supporters/marks, and clearly doesn't believe they can pick up on something as subtle as a dog whistle. So, he's amped things up, with talk of "sh**hole countries" and Mexican rapists, such that there remains a little space between him and a Horatio Seymour, but... not a lot.

Last weekend, the former president moved even further in that direction (again, not that there's a lot of distance left to cover before Trump is full-on white supremacist). At one of his rallies, this one in North Carolina, Trump decided to comment on the situation in Ukraine. And his "hook" was to ask the crowd if they know what the n-word is:

This being a Trump crowd, several folks obliged the former president and shouted out the word he was hinting at. But the "twist," as you can see in the tweet, was that he actually meant "nuclear." Ha, ha! Very clever. That's about as close as it gets to using the actual word without actually using it. Seems like the kind of bit you'd go with if you were... well, does anyone know what the "d" word is? Or the "a" word?

Trump wasn't the only one, either. At yet another Trump rally, this one on Saturday in Nevada, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) decided to share some thoughts on reparations with the crowd (despite the fact that no Democratic officeholders are on record as being pro-reparation). The Senator decreed that the reason Democrats want reparations is because they want to give money to criminals. Since reparations, of course, would go to Black Americans, he is ipso facto strongly implying that Black people are inherently criminal. We wonder if Tuberville's Black former players are shocked right now, or if they are knowingly nodding their heads. The NAACP has demanded an apology, though of course they won't be getting one.

And finally, there is Kanye West, who now goes by the mononym "Ye." We have no idea what political party he is a member of these days; probably even he doesn't know. But he's certainly a Trumper. And, embracing his inner Donald, West wore a "White Lives Matter" shirt to a public event last week. Not a great choice, but maybe you just conclude he's being "edgy" and you move on. However, West apparently decided he wanted some more notoriety, or maybe that he felt like lashing out, or... something, because over the weekend he hopped on his long-neglected Twitter account to advise:

I'm a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I'm going death [sic] con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE The funny thing is I actually can't be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.

Uh... wow. He posted similar thoughts to Instagram, and was promptly suspended by both platforms.

It seems pretty clear to us, at this point, that Ye is suffering from some form of untreated mental illness. He's erratic, paranoid and prone to lashing out. He's wrecked numerous personal relationships, including his marriage. So, it would appear that the better part of valor here would be to ignore his words and to hope that he gets the help he needs.

That is not, however, the choice that Trumpy elements in the right-wing media made. Fox & Friends Weekend was the first program to get its hands on the news that Ye had been booted off of social media, and they railed against cancel culture and insisted that he was being persecuted. To their credit, we suppose, they reversed course when they found out exactly what he'd said to get himself suspended. That strikes us as the kind of thing you might want to clarify before you get on your soapbox, but what do we know?

There were also some folks in the right-wing media who learned exactly what Ye said about the Jews, and... kept right on defending him. Candace Owens, for example, devoted much of her podcast to the matter. She asserted that declaring war on Jews is not antisemitic, lamented that "you can't even say the word 'Jewish' without people getting upset," and said that "[the] tweet inspired questions, not answers." Again: Uh... wow.

After she was done with her podcast, Owens headed over to Tucker Carlson's show, where they reached a consensus that Ye is indeed a victim of great injustice. Carlson, for his part, was obsessed with the White Lives Matter shirt, and the social media suspensions, and didn't actually mention the antisemitic tweet. Since it is 100% certain the Fox entertainer knew about the tweet, we are left to infer what the omission means. We would suggest it means that Carlson has no issues with what Ye said, but is aware that he can't get away with defending any statement that includes "death" and "Jewish people."

We really don't know where the country is headed with the Trumpist bigotry, which really does seem to be getting less and less subtle and more and more overt over time. Either The Donald and his acolytes will finally go too far, and there will be a backlash, or else overt bigotry will again be socially acceptable, at least in many quarters, and we'll be right back in 1868. (Z)

L.A. (Not So) Confidential

There is still one major political party where overt racism is, as far as we can tell, unacceptable. That would be the Democratic Party, which had a mini-scandal this weekend, although one that was quickly dispensed with.

In short, about a year ago, L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez (D) was having a conversation with two of her Latino colleagues, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo (D) and Kevin de León (D), as well as Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. Martinez had some very unkind things to say about her colleague Mike Bonin, who is both white and gay, and who has already announced his retirement due to the stresses of the job. Martinez observed that Bonin "thinks he's f**king Black," and also opined that Bonin "handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory." Martinez also described the son as "parece changuito" ("looks like a monkey"), and said she would happy to give the son the "beatdown" he needs.

Someone was recording that conversation—it's still unclear who it was—and recently posted it to Reddit. That brought it to the attention of The Los Angeles Times, which gave the matter extensive coverage. Martinez' position quickly became untenable, and yesterday, she resigned. De León was also an active participant in the conversation, while Cedillo gave tacit approval by not objecting to what he heard, so it's entirely possible they will have to fall on their swords, too.

Beyond the fates of those two men, there's still some drama surrounding the leaker(s)—who recorded the conversation, why did they sit on it for a year, why did they release it now? There's a mayoral election in Los Angeles this year, of course, though it's hard to see how this news works to the benefit of either Karen Bass (D) or Rick Caruso ("D"). Martinez herself wasn't up this year, so it wasn't her opponent, or some other enemy looking to spring an October surprise on her.

This story doesn't have much national significance, but we note it because it provides such a striking contrast to the item above. (Z)

Not so Fast, Sasse

When it comes to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) becoming University of Florida President Ben Sasse, it seemed to be full speed ahead. He wants the job, and the UF search committee wants him; they came up with no other candidates for the position. All that was needed was for Sasse to go through some of the remaining formalities of an academic job search.

As it turns out—and we wondered if this night not be the case—sometimes the formalities aren't so pro forma as the candidate might hope. Anytime anyone gets hired for an academic post—president, provost, dean, professor, etc.—they have to do a meet and greet with the various stakeholders in the university community. Usually that means the administration, the faculty, and the student body—with each group usually getting their own meet and greet.

Yesterday, Sasse was present for a public forum, at which members of the UF community—both students and faculty—were able to ask him questions. And it did not go well. Sasse may not be a Trumper, but he's still a Republican who managed to get himself elected from the very red state of Nebraska. And that means that he's publicly (and possibly privately) been an outspoken opponent of LGBTQ+ rights. As it turns out, UF has a fairly sizable LGBTQ+ community, and they don't want to be led by someone who, well, appears to regard them as inferiors.

And so, Sasse's forum was crashed by 200+ people who had some very pointed questions for him, and who also staged a protest outside. Afterward, when the press asked him for a response, the Senator channeled his inner politician: "I won't say I precisely welcome the protesters, but I sort of intellectually and constitutionally welcome the protesters." Translation: "I am OK with protest when the target isn't me. But since it is me, I wish they would go away and never come back."

This does not appear to be a one-time thing. Sasse still has one more public forum left, and that one was already moved online to avoid... "distractions." One protester warned "[Sasse] won't live a day in peace," while another said they couldn't abide having a "sleazy politician" running the university.

These things are real problems for the Senator. Students are often low on the academic totem pole, but universities don't like ongoing campus unrest. Unhappy students are a risk to drop out or transfer. Alumni don't like the negative coverage that the unrest generates. Nor do the donors. Even a well-ensconced academic administrator can have their careers suddenly ended by student protests. The most famous example is probably Clark Kerr, who lost his post as the President of the University of California system in 1967 because of the perception that Berkeley was out of control and Kerr was unable to do anything about it.

Sasse, of course, hasn't even been hired yet. It's possible the university's trustees will decide the risk-reward calculus just doesn't add up. And if the faculty comes out against him, then he's definitely toast. So, Nebraska might not lose its junior senator, after all. (Z)

Dobbs v. Biden

David Byler is The Washington Post's political numbers cruncher. We didn't realize it was possible to be hired for a job like that without being named "Nate," but apparently it is.

Anyhow, Byler has looked at the polling from 2022, and has concluded that exactly what you think is true... may very well be true. Joe Biden is pretty unpopular, but he's not really dragging the Democrats down, because of the counter-weight being provided by the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision. To put a slightly finer point on it, Biden's approval tracks pretty closely with key economic indicators. And the more that the economic indicators point southward, the more drag he creates, and the less significant Dobbs becomes. On the other hand, the better that the economics get, the less drag he creates, and the larger that Dobbs looms.

For our part, we're not 100% sold on the notion that there exists some sizable number of people out there who care about abortion rights, right up until gas costs $4.00/gallon. It also remains the case that presidential approval ratings might not mean the same thing they once did. They used to be a fairly good proxy for "I think the country is headed in the right direction, and I'd like to see more, please." But now, the "disapproves" might be made up of very different groups of people, some who think Biden is too far to the left, and others who think he's not far enough to the left. Obviously, the votes of those latter folks are not likely to be available to the Republicans.

In short, we don't feel entirely confident that Byler is on the mark here. Ballpark, certainly, but bullseye? Maybe not. Nonetheless, we pass it along for readers' consideration, even if his name isn't Nate. (Z)

You Can't Spell "Grim Reaper" without M-A-G-A

Speaking of things you think are true, there's a new study out on death rates from COVID. And the authors conclude that the disease killed considerably more Republicans than it did Democrats, though the divergence between outcomes wasn't really noticeable until the vaccine was introduced. Thereafter, there were many months where 30-40% more Republicans died than would be otherwise expected, as compared to 5-20% more Democrats.

It should be noted that the study comes with a couple of caveats. The first is that the peer-review process hasn't been completed (though the draft was put together by the National Bureau of Economic Research, whose "drafts" tend to be more polished than most folks' final versions). The second is that the paper is based on data from Florida and Ohio, which might not be perfectly representative of the rest of the country.

Still, despite these cautions, it is evidence that the pandemic wrought more havoc on Republican voters than Democrats. The question that is still being answered is "exactly how much more havoc?" A secondary question, which stems from the first, is whether or not the disparate outcome by party will be enough to affect election outcomes. That is something we presumably won't know until the 2022 and/or 2024 elections are held, and data scientists are able to comb through the data.

Meanwhile, a question we will never really know the answer to is: How much blood is on the hands of Donald Trump (and, ultimately, those leaders who followed in his steps, like Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL)? Recall that Trump tried to downplay the pandemic, in hopes that it would go away and would not affect his political fortunes. He was encouraged in this by those in his inner circle, particularly Jared Kushner. Once it became clear that this was a once-in-a-century event, Trump had traveled too far along the path of denial to change course. After all, this is a guy who couldn't even admit he misspoke about a hurricane.

That said, while Trump might have been leading from the front on this, he might also have been leading from behind. The Republican Party has had strongly anti-science and conspiratorial elements for many years, and it may be that the MAGA crowd was never going to mask up and was never going to vaccinate, no matter what Trump said.

Our guess, if we had to make one, is that Trump actually could have done a lot of good if he had made a speech along the lines of: "Like the Greatest Generation did, it is time for us to make some sacrifices for the good of the country and the world. I will never support vaccine requirements, but I hope all Americans will do their duty voluntarily, like all the fellows who rushed to enlist on December 8, 1941. And if you just can't vaccinate, for whatever reason, then I ask you to wear a mask in public, just like the one you'll see me wearing for the duration of the pandemic. Let's overcome this so we can get back to work making America great again."

Of course, Trump didn't do anything remotely like that. So, we would argue he certainly has blood on his hands by omission. And it's really gotta be the case that at least some folks only went anti-vaxx and anti-mask because Trump told them to. So, that's blood on his hands by commission. But again, the thing we can never know is: How much? (Z)

Vance, Ryan Debate

Another day, another Senate debate. This one was between Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and J.D. Vance. Vance has already proven that he's willing to say anything to get elected. And while Ryan might not be willing to go quite that far, he is willing to roll up his sleeves and get down in the gutter. So, it was a bit rough.

There are, of course, some things that you're going to see in pretty much all of these debates. Finger-pointing on abortion rights. Claims that the other candidate is an extremist. Non-officeholders claiming that officeholding candidates are swamp creatures and Washington insiders, and officeholders trying to distance themselves from their party and its not-so-popular leader (whether that leader is Joe Biden or Donald Trump). All of this was on display last night.

That said, Ryan in particular clearly came with some pre-scripted bits. He decreed that "Ohio Needs an Ass-Kicker, Not an Ass-Kisser," and went on an extended diatribe about Vance's relationship with certain parts of Trump's anatomy:

Just a few weeks ago in Youngstown on the stage, Donald Trump said that J.D. Vance, all you do is kiss my ass to get my support. He said that. That's bad, because that means J.D. Vance is gonna where he wants. Mitch McConnell's given him $40 million. He's gonna do what he wants. And Peter Thiel gave him $15 million. He's gonna do what he wants. And here's the thing that's most troubling about this: the lack of courage.

After Trump took J.D. Vance's dignity from him on the stage in Youngstown, J.D. Vance got back up on stage and started shaking his hand, taking pictures and saying, "Hey, aren't we having a great time here tonight?"

I don't know anybody I grew up with, I don't know anybody I went to high school with, that would allow somebody to take their dignity like that and then get back up on stage. We need leaders who have courage to take on their own party, and I've proven that. And he was called an ass-kisser by the former president.

This is generally being described as the most significant blow landed by either candidate last night, especially since so much of MAGA culture is about respect and vigorous masculinity.

Debates don't often move the needle enough to matter, but in a race this close, any slight advantage could be decisive. As you can see above, we have Ryan up 2 points. FiveThirtyEight has him up 1.5, and RCP has Vance up 1.4. So, it is most certainly a nail-biter. (Z)

Senate Leadership Fund Is Spending in Colorado Again

Here's a story that, once again, we don't really understand. After dropping a few million bucks in Colorado, on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Joe O'Dea (R), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, is at it again. The Kentuckian's PAC just sent an O'Dea-affiliated PAC a check for $1.25 million.

There have been zero polls this cycle that put O'Dea on top. In fact, there have been no polls this cycle that put him within the margin of error. In fact, in the three polls reliable enough to make the cut for our database, O'Dea hasn't been within single digits, trailing by 11, 10 and 10 points. With so many close races across the country, it's hard to imagine McConnell can afford to waste a million bucks tilting at windmills.

That leaves us with three possibilities that we can come up with. Option 1 is that McConnell has internal polling that tells him that the race is closer than it looks. Option 2 is that McConnell has internal polling that tells him the other races are not as close as they look, and that Colorado is actually a better pickup opportunity than, say, Arizona or Georgia. And Option 3 is that McConnell is doing this to send some sort of message. For example, that message might be: "Candidates who aren't rabid Trumpers are guaranteed to have financial support from me, so they can fight the good fight." This may be the best of our three theories, since while $1.25 million is a lot of money, it's not enough to change the trajectory of a political race in a fairly populous state like Colorado. It's the sort of payment that seems designed to be just large enough to be impressive, but not a dollar larger than that.

We'll see if we get more polling of the race in the next few weeks. The problem is that there aren't too many media outlets in Colorado that have money to spare for polling. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Can you imagine what would happen if McMullin won, and his vote controlled the balance of power in the Senate? He could have anything he wanted. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Utah Evan McMullin (I) 37% Mike Lee* 42% Oct 03 Oct 06 Dan Jones

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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