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Four More States Take Their Turn, Part II

Yesterday, we took a look at the interesting races that are on the ballot today in Georgia and Alabama. And now, we'll take a look at the interesting races on the ballot today in Arkansas and Texas. And a bonus state, too!

Arkansas Texas Minnesota

We will, of course, have the results and some thoughts about them tomorrow. (Z)

Democrats Fire First Salvo on Abortion

We have predicted, many times, that the Democrats would make abortion their core issue this cycle. We have also predicted that the Party would do everything possible to make Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (R) the face of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and of the Republican Party in general, because his views are extreme, even by the standards of the modern GOP. Heck, they're even extreme by the standards of Benito Mussolini.

These were not exactly the boldest predictions we've ever made. No, they are more in line with predicting that the Pittsburgh Pirates won't win the World Series this year, or that Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) would eventually be the target of an ethics investigation, or that Will Smith won't be getting an invite to Chris Rock's birthday party this year.

Still, it didn't take long for us to be proven right. Mastriano hasn't even been the official GOP nominee in the Keystone State for a week, and yet a coalition of Democratic-aligned groups, including the Strategic Victory Fund, Planned Parenthood, and the Democratic Governors Association just announced a $6 million anti-Mastriano ad buy. Much of the advertising will air in Pennsylvania, of course. After all, that's kind of a two-fer, since anyone who gets to the polls to vote against the would-be governor will also probably cast a vote for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman. But at least $1 million will be spent on Facebook and other online advertising meant to reach a wider audience.

It will take the blue team some time to tweak their approach and to figure out what works best. But the fact is that with the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, and all the red-state laws coming down the pike, and the many very extreme candidates the GOP is nominating, it's giving the Democrats a potential lifeline in the face of a problematic economy and a not-so-popular president. And the Democrats are clearly going to grab that lifeline and use it for all it's worth. (Z)

A**hole Watch 2022, Part II: Greg Abbott

As we lay the groundwork for the final portion of the "Worst Political Figure in America" bracket contest, we had someone else planned for this space today, and we were going to do Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) tomorrow. However, in view of the fact that the Texas runoff is today, we decided to switch. So, it's Abbott now and the mystery a**hole tomorrow.

Anyhow, continuing on the subject of abortion from the previous item, there's something interesting that maybe you've noticed and maybe you haven't. Texas was on the front lines of this fight before the Roe decision leaked, passing the now-infamous "bounty" law. So, now that the fight appears to be won, what has Abbott had to say about this triumph? Nothing. He's barely uttered a peep.

What you must understand is that Abbott does not care about abortion, per se. When he launched his first gubernatorial campaign in 2014, he was staunchly anti-abortion. However, his opponent was staunchly pro-choice, and it looked very much like that issue might power her to victory. So, Abbott suddenly became pro-choice. An official statement from his campaign, just a couple of weeks before Election Day, explained that the would-be governor "now supports a Texas law that allows abortions to take place up to 20 weeks of pregnancy for any reason."

Once Abbott became governor, of course, his main concern was once again Republican primary voters, and he magically became anti-abortion again. Up against a weak opponent in 2018 (Lupe Valdez), he stuck with that through that election and into this year's primaries. Now he's confident of reelection, and he's thinking about a run for president. Since he doesn't exactly know how this Roe stuff will play out, and since a Texas-style stance on abortion is probably not viable nationally, he's keeping his mouth zipped.

That's not to say that Abbott is twiddling his thumbs, though. He's confident that anti-immigrant sentiment is a winner, and so he's done all sorts of stuff to make sure everyone knows how "strong" he is on the border. There's his bellyaching about formula for immigrant babies, of course, and his busloads of immigrants sent to Washington D.C., and his mobilization of the Texas National Guard to confront the "border crisis." But perhaps the most despicable act of performative xenophobia was his order that every truck coming in from Mexico be stopped at the border and inspected.

The truck stunt lasted a little more than a week. It resulted in the capture of zero immigrants and $0.00 worth of illegal drugs. On the other hand, it caused massive traffic delays along every conduit into Texas, adding 25-30 hours to the average trucker's trip. That costs a lot of money for the companies that employ those truckers, of course. The long wait times resulted in the spoilage of an estimated $240 million in food, and at a time when shelves in Texas are increasingly bare and food prices are increasingly high.

Running these political-theater inspections also cost the Lone Star State a fair bit of money. How much, you might ask? Over $4 billion. In contrast to liberal California, which is currently running a massive budget surplus, Texas doesn't have that kind of money just laying around. So, how did the governor plug the hole in the budget? Well, he redirected about $1 billion in federal funds that were allocated to Texas... to fight COVID-19. He also shifted about $500 million from Texas' Health and Human Services Commission and its Department of Public Safety. Next time there's an outbreak of disease in Texas—say, of COVID—or there's a mass shooting, think about what might have been done with a properly funded safety net.

The thing is, if Abbott was actually interested in governing, and in doing something with all that money he's burning chasing the shadows of undocumented immigrants, there are some obvious areas for improvement in Texas. For example, last weekend, six power plants in Texas went offline because they were overtaxed. It turns out that, as the summer approaches, the state gets pretty hot and people want to use their air conditioners. Who knew?

Most states prepare for this, and additionally they have arrangements to import electricity from other states as demand requires. But not Texas. So that the Lone Star State could avoid adhering to federal laws about renewable energy, its grid is unconnected to the rest of the United States. That means that when the hot season (or the cold season) hits, Texas is on its own. In theory, they have the resources to make that work, but the grid is cheaply constructed and badly maintained in many places. There are a total of nine large-scale electrical grids in the United States and Canada, and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a think tank dedicated to electrical infrastructure analysis, consistently ranks the Texas grid as the worst of the nine, particularly in meeting summer demand.

So, if the Governor wanted to actually, you know, govern, there are things he could be working on. And it's not like this electricity thing is a surprise; we all know what happened this winter because of the Texans' pi**-poor electrical grid. But, of course, he does not want to govern. He wants to build a base of support for his presidential run. And when a person has shown themselves to have no apparent moral compass, and no apparent limits on the ways they'll abuse their office to promote their political aspirations, they're not only an a**hole, they are dangerous.

And if you thought that piece was harsh, wait until tomorrow's entry. It's going to be a scorcher. (Z)

Republican Voters Want Biden Impeached

As long as we're on the subject of Republican extremism, there is a new poll out from University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB. And it's got one number that is making a lot of headlines: 68% of Republican voters want to see Joe Biden impeached if and when the Republicans retake control of the House of Representatives.

That is a pretty staggering number. Clearly, some percentage of Republican voters don't fully grasp what the purpose of impeachment is supposed to be. Others have undoubtedly persuaded themselves, aided by far-right propaganda about Hunter Biden or pedophile pizza parlors or whatever else, that the President really has committed a crime of some sort. Still others presumably just want Donald Trump avenged at all costs (which means, we would guess, that they will only be satisfied with two Biden impeachments). And note that support for a Biden impeachment appears to be growing among members of the Republican base.

This is potentially a real problem for would-be Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) & Co. On one hand, the House isn't likely to get any real laws enacted between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2025 if it is under Republican control, and the House Freedom Caucus and Republican voters are going to be demanding an impeachment on a daily basis. So, if Republican leadership doesn't deliver, they could be setting the GOP up for a shellacking in 2024, including a bunch of even-further-right "I'll make sure Biden is impeached" primary candidates.

On the other hand, Biden hasn't done anything even remotely impeachable. And if House Republicans try it, they could very well be walking into a trap. If they go for charges related to Afghanistan, the Democrats can respond with awkward questions about how Donald Trump was the one who committed the U.S. to a withdrawal. If it's the border, the Democrats have plenty of Trump-era pictures of immigrants in cages. If it's gasoline prices, everyone in the country will be reminded on a daily basis of the deal Trump made with OPEC to cut production a couple of years ago.

Then, after the "trial" in the Senate, Biden would be acquitted. No Democrat would vote to convict (much less a dozen or more of them). And there would be some Republican senators who would also be reluctant to vote for a conviction—Mitt Romney (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Ben Sasse (NE), etc. If it's 54-46 against conviction, and the Republican Party is split while the Democrats are united, the whole thing looks like even more of a sham and a political stunt.

Most Republican politicians want no piece of this, which is why you don't see them running on an "I'll impeach Biden" platform. But they may be left with no choice. And we all know what happened to the Republicans after their stunt impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998-99. (Z)

About Donald Trump's Return to Twitter...

A week or two ago, it seemed to many in the media that Donald Trump's return to Twitter was all-but-inevitable. Elon Musk was set to acquire the platform, was going to reverse the former president's lifetime ban, and Trump would be unable to resist the temptation to accept. The prodigal son returns, as it were.

And people are still predicting that it's imminent. Just yesterday, for example, CNN's Chris Cillizza had a piece headlined "Why you shouldn't believe this latest Donald Trump promise." Here's the key passage:

Trump is no dummy. He knows that his voice is significantly lessened by being banned from Twitter. While he has a financial incentive to keep Truth Social afloat—the site would almost certainly collapse if Trump left it—the former President is always driven primarily by what gets him the most attention and influence.

And that is, without question, Twitter. Which is why you shouldn't believe his pronouncements that he would never return to Twitter. He would—in an instant.

Cillizza's main reasons for this conclusion are: (1) Trump loves attention, and (2) Twitter has vastly more users, by several orders of magnitude, than Trump's platform TRUTH social.

Cillizza may yet be proven right. For our part, however. we were a bit skeptical that all the pieces would fall into place. And, at the moment, we see no reason to revise that prediction. In fact, two rather sizable roadblocks to a Trump Twitter return have presented themselves:

  1. Cold Musk Feet: It is not clear why Musk was interested in buying Twitter. It might have been a pump and dump scheme, or it might have been impetuous, or it might have seemed like a fun project, or he might really have seen the potential to make big bucks. Who knows? Whatever the case may be, Musk is now getting very cold feet. He claims that the problem is that he thought that only 5% of Twitter accounts were bots (automated and run by a computer script rather than a human) and that he wants proof the number is not higher before he consummates the deal.

    This is a steaming pile of horse manure. Anyone who has even vague familiarity with Twitter knows that the percentage of accounts that are bots is in the double digits. And certainly, someone who was ready to drop billions should have been familiar with the research that's out there. What's really going on is that Musk is trying to terminate the agreement with cause, in hopes of avoiding a $1 billion penalty. And the reason he would want to do that is that the news of his taking over Twitter did cause Twitter stock to increase in value a fair bit... but it also caused Tesla stock to take a giant hit. On the day the Twitter deal was announced, Tesla was trading at $1,074 a share. Yesterday, it closed at $675 a share. Musk owns about 175 million shares, which means he's lost roughly $69,825,000,000. That's considerably more than he was set to pay for Twitter, and recouping at least some of that by backing away from Twitter is very worthwhile, even if he does end up having to pay the $1 billion penalty.

    It's possible that Musk could still stick with the Twitter deal. And it's possible that even if he bails out, the current (or future) leadership of the platform could decide to invite Trump back. But none of these things seems likely at the moment.

  2. Trump's Contract: This hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as you might expect, but an SEC filing from last week includes the specific terms Donald Trump agreed to as part of the TRUTH Social deal (that has significantly enriched him):
    President Trump is generally obligated to make any social media post on TruthSocial and may not make the same post on another social media site for 6 hours. Thereafter, he is free to post on any site to which he has access. Thus, TMTG has limited time to benefit from his posts and followers may not find it compelling to use TruthSocial to read his posts that quickly. In addition, he may make a post from a personal account related to political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the-vote efforts on any social media site at any time.
    In other words, if Trump regains his Twitter account, he can use it. But anything he posts there has to have been available on TRUTH Social for at least 6 hours. Does he seem the type to send out an anti-Biden, or anti-Pence, or stop the steal TRUTH in a fit of pique, and then to get out his phone 6 hours later and re-send it? He could have a staffer do it, we suppose, but then things like replies and retweets start to get messy.

    It is true, of course, that Trump is famous for disregarding the contracts he signs. However, this one was written by people who were well aware of that tendency, and who have the money and the motivation to go after him if he tries it.

Again, you never know with the former president. But beyond the problems above, re-embracing Twitter would require Trump to admit that TRUTH Social is a failure, and to accept, in effect, charity from some businessman (Musk or otherwise) who is wealthier and more successful than he is. In view of this, and the two problems outlined above, this seems like it could be several bridges too far. That may explain why Trump, after letting his TRUTH account lie fallow for several months, has started using it extensively, and was TRUTHing up a storm this weekend. (Z)

Three Comments: The MEs' Opposition to Abortion

As we noted yesterday, we're trying something a little different this week, namely running a few reader comments each day as opposed to saving them all until Sunday. And many of the comments will be based on the experiment we did LAST week, with the guest columnists. Such is the case today; the "Nose-Holding Trump Voter" piece generated a lot of feedback, and we wanted to share a few examples:

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA writes: I have long contemplated writing in, regarding the abortion question, but it wasn't until I read the MEs' posting that I was able to focus my thoughts to (hopefully) write coherently.

ME and ME are "single-issue voters." When I was active in the Sierra Club, we often had to work with single-issue voters. They view the entire world and their existence through just the one lens, other consequences be damned. They were the most frequent to challenge me when I described my own donation choices as including such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Planned Parenthood, along with a couple of other environmental organizations. In their mind, all my disposable income should go towards supporting their issue or, at best, supporting one environmental group. Each time, I would explain that without our civil liberties or without separating church from state, we would have no basis on which to fight the good environmental fight. And, without supporting family planning and birth control, overpopulation would render any small, fragmented habitat rescue moot. They cared not and did not believe that any environmental issues could ever be tied up with civil liberties.

As an example: Several years ago, preserving Ormond Beach was driven by a single-issue activist. As a restored habitat, it has had great success, but at what cost? It marginalized those who wanted to also save the ag land at the bottom of the Camarillo Grade as well as the ag land where there now exists a huge retail outlet center. Single-issue focus yielded a single success, instead of looking more broadly for different levels of success.

My thoughts on abortion run parallel. The single-issue voter who thinks sacrificing women's health, a woman's right to informed choice, along with her healthcare provider, and who believes that government involvement in such health issues is "worth it," miss the big picture by a long shot. They might win this single success, but at what cost? Their single focus has eroded our civil liberties (abortion rights being just one of them) and, by inviting ever-more dictatorial control by government entities, such single-issue anti-abortionists are actually welcoming a more disturbing future for us all. Why is it any more reasonable to think that "government-mandated pregnancy" (to use Hakeem Jeffries' accurate description of what is happening) won't lead to government-mandated abortion down the road? The authoritarian government in China has long used several methods to control over-population, including forced abortion. As our population pressures continue to increase worldwide and in the United States, what is to guarantee this won't happen, once our civil liberties are a thing of the past?

Further, B.P. in Pensacola has the right of it, when it comes to biblical interpretation being misused and being hypocritical. I cannot tell you how many anti-abortionists I know go into pretzel mode, when trying to explain why it's OK to kill someone for a crime that they (might have) committed, but not OK to allow a woman to choose her own health care. This is why I refer to them by their real agenda: anti-abortionists. Their single-issue focus is not about right to life, it is not about a biblical mandate. It is strictly a control issue—controlling a woman through her body. That has been made clear by all of the men in various state government positions across the U.S. declaring that next on the agenda will be banning contraceptives.

My view is dark and bleak, when it comes to this next chapter for women in our country. I have been involved in the right to choose for longer than I have been involved in the environmental movement--over half a century. What is happening now does not take us back to the 1970s, it takes us back to the 1770s or 1670s.

M.M. in La Crosse, WI, writes: So the MEs are one-issue voters, then. I will not say that it is wrong to be that way since I believe every voter has the right to make a decision based on what is important to them. I will also say that I agree with the MEs that life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong in most instances. However, it is cruel and inhumane to not recognize that there are some instances when an abortion is the correct choice, such as to protect the health of the mother. Nobody with a soul would ever expect a 14-year-old girl who was raped to bring that pregnancy to term.

Instead of just narrowly focusing only on abortion, I choose to be a pro-life voter. Being pro-life covers much more ground than just that one issue. Gun violence is a pro-life issue. Child abuse is a pro-life issue. The single mother of three small children on the southside of Chicago who doesn't know if she can afford to feed her children this week, this is a pro-life issue. Just treating your fellow man with kindness and respect is a pro-life issue.

What bothers me most is that TFG cares about none of these things and he is a fascist, a liar, and a disgustingly evil human being and yet Trump voters such as the MEs can still rationalize their vote to put him in office. Is there any point with these voters where the quality of the person occupying the Oval Office becomes more important than their pet issue? Because at the end of the day, for me, it is the only thing that matters.

P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: I am enjoying your guest columnist section this week, but I read the column from M.E. in Roanoke with stunned disbelief. I am truly amazed that they can reduce a subject as complex as abortion to a very simplistic belief that isn't even rooted in science. The outcome of this personal belief is that "people should do what I want and ignore the consequences."

Donald Trump's inability be a leader instead of pandering to his base has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths from COVID. His scientific advisers tell him one thing and yet he ignores them in favor of people who think a mask is oppressive. He stands next to Vladimir Putin, saying that he has no reason to doubt him while denigrating the U.S. intelligence services and driving a wedge between the U.S. and its allies. This directly led Putin to take the gamble on Ukraine. Again, thousands dead and millions are suffering. Your belief that you are saving lives has caused the deaths of thousands of people. This isn't some responsibility. There is a lot of responsibility for those deaths.

Since 1981, the rate of abortions has consistently dropped. Interestingly, it drops the most when there is a Democratic administration. While that is a very simplistic view, it does coincide with the implementation of Democratic policies. For example, increased access to affordable contraception due to the Affordable Care Act, among other policies.

Contrary to popular belief, Democrats don't want abortions. They want to reduce the need for them. If the party of family values really believed that, they would be increasing access to childcare, increasing access to affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, increasing access to education and contraception. Voting Republican just perpetuates the main reasons why women have abortions. Sure, some people have abortions as a form of birth control, but guess what? They will still be doing that in a post Roe world. You have stopped nothing, just increased suffering.

I may be unfairly implying that the MEs are pro-birth not pro-life, as they may well be writing to their representatives and pushing for policies to improve the standard of living for pregnant women. Somehow, though, I doubt it very much. It seems like a no brainer that if you don't want a woman and her medical provider to make deeply personal healthcare and welfare decisions you would at least make sure there was a support network in place first.

Government has no place in the medical room. Roe kept it out, you have put it back in there because of your own belief.

If we shift to doing this daily, or multiple times per week, we would not generally expect the comments section to be so long. But we got more than 300,000 words worth of replies to the column from the MEs, such that running just 1,500 words is actually quite restrained. (Z)

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