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I'm Being Indicted for You

Donald Trump clearly can't avoid the topic of his indictments since he will soon be indicted in four jurisdictions. He has to deal with it somehow and now he has decided how to spin it. He is going to say: "I'm being indicted for you." It's not exactly "Christ died for your sins," but it's in the same ballpark. Trump is going to be crucified, so you don't have to be. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it has a nice ring to it and many evangelicals will see the connection. Of course, very few people have hidden top-secret documents in their bathrooms, so most folks are not really in danger of being indicted for anything. Still Trump can make them feel afraid and be convinced that the deep state is out to get someone, somehow, for something, and since he "volunteered" to be the victim, then he is protecting them.

Trump has recently, and repeatedly, said: "They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom." Who is "they"? What freedom do "they" want to take away? The freedom not to get vaccinated during a worldwide pandemic? The freedom not to have to be accidentally near a transgender person on a bus? Certainly not the freedom to have an abortion, since that is a freedom he wants to take away. On the day of his third indictment, he posted to his boutique social media site: "I'm being indicted for you." He says that all the time now. It is a main theme of his campaign, maybe the main theme.

His platform seems to have migrated from the political to the pseudo-religious. Maybe Jesus is your primary savior but Trump is your backup savior. He will go to prison so you don't have to. This is so different from normal politicians who promise things about taxes, jobs, energy, environment, China policy, health care, crime, education, immigration, etc. Can you envision Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, or John McCain promising to suffer for you so you won't have to? And McCain, a former prisoner of war who was tortured in Vietnam, might have had a case, but he didn't try to make it. Trump's campaign has moved from the sphere of politics to the sphere of theology.

Trump's pitch, crazy as it may be, could work. Lorraine Rudd, who the Times interviewed at a Trump rally in New Hampshire, said: "If they can do it to him and take him down, they can come for me." Who's "they"? Why would "they" have any interest at all in some random 64-year-old woman in Massachusetts? Did she do something wrong? She may think that because she attended the rally, "they" have marked her as an enemy of the state and put her on "their" list. Steve Vicere apparently wasn't afraid of being put on some list. He drove all the way from his home in Florida to see Trump in New Hampshire. He said: "Everyday freedoms are being systematically taken away, and nobody ever gets held accountable." What freedoms are being taken away every day? The freedom to buy an incandescent lamp that will cost you far more in electricity than an LED lamp that lasts 20 or 30 years instead of 2 or 3 years? As to being held accountable, it's pretty amazing that Trump supporters even want to bring the subject up. But Trump's ploy could work because his true believers clearly believe it.

The only Republican who is willing to challenge Trump on his role as a savior is Chris Christie. He visited Ukraine and said: "As I'm walking around Ukraine, he's waltzing into a courtroom in Washington, D.C., to tell us that he's being indicted for us. For us! How lucky are we! That we have such a selfless, magnanimous leader. Because you know that the government was coming to get you and on their way to get you, lo and behold, they came across Donald Trump and they said, 'Okay, we won't get you, we'll get him, for you.'" The link above is to the Times, but only because they beat The Onion to it.

While Trump may be consciously or unconsciously setting up a comparison of himself with Jesus, actually a better comparison might be with L. Ron Hubbard, who created a new "religion," Scientology (which some people regard as a cult). Like Hubbard, Trump has raked in millions of "followers" and dollars from it. (V & Z)

The Missing Link Has Been Discovered

No, not some kind of half-monkey half-human. The missing link in the fake-elector scheme. It is well-established that Donald Trump tried to retain power after he lost the 2020 election. It is also well-established that slates of fake electors popped up in seven states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), where some of the "electors" signed certificates saying they were the duly elected electors. Up until now, it hasn't been clear if these two things were connected. Did fake slates of electors just happen spontaneously, or what? A new report in The New York Times explains how the pieces fit together.

Here's what happened. On Dec. 6, 2020, it was becoming clear that all of Trump's attempts to get the courts to overturn elections in the seven states named above were failing. The date on which the presidential electors were required to meet and vote was 8 days away, on Dec. 14, 2020. Something had to be done, and fast, or it would be too late. Panic was setting in. That's when lawyer Kenneth Chesebro wrote a memo outlining a bold strategy to substitute fake electors for the real ones. In the memo, Chesebro said that the fake electors would cast their fake electoral votes on Dec. 14 and then on Jan. 6 Mike Pence would decide to count the fake ones instead of the real ones. Pence knew nothing about this plan at the time.

Three days later, Chesebro drew up specific instructions to create the fraudulent slates of electors. He wanted lawyers in seven states to put together fake slates of electors who would certify that Trump won their states, even though he actually lost them. Another lawyer, John Eastman, championed the plan and worked closely with Trump to execute Chesebro's plan. In Special Counsel Jack Smith's recent indictment, Chesebro and Eastman are listed as co-conspirators, although not by name. They could still be indicted.

The day after, Rudy Giuliani got Chesebro's memo to start the process of getting the fake electors. Giuliani sent an e-mail to co-conspirator #6, probably Boris Epshteyn, asking for suggestions who the lawyers should be in each state to collect the fake electors. That day, Epshteyn sent Giuliani an e-mail recommending lawyers in each of the seven states. Then Giuliani got the ball rolling. This whole process is the basis for the indictment. If any of the four—Chesebro, Eastman, Giuliani, or Epshteyn—flip to save their own necks and agree to testify, the other three (and Trump) will be in exceedingly deep doodoo. If none of them flip voluntarily, Smith could put one or more of them on the witness stand, grant them immunity (thus taking away their Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying), and force them to choose between spilling the beans or going to prison. The fact that Smith knows all this now and has the memo is going to put Chesebro and the others in a tough position. (V)

Arizona Groups Want to Put Abortion on the 2024 Ballot

Even though it was not directly about abortion, Issue 1 in Ohio was kinda about abortion, and the vote on the matter made clear that abortion is still a potent political issue. Turnout in the middle of August for a referendum wasn't that much lower than for a regular gubernatorial election. Democrats understand that they can now turn the tables on the Republicans. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Karl Rove got states to put initiatives on the ballot banning same-sex marriage in order to goose turnout among conservatives. Now Democrats are going to put abortion on the ballot in 2024 to get young voters to the polls.

Case in point: Arizona. Major pro-choice groups there Tuesday launched an effort to put the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. The groups include Planned Parenthood, NARAL, ACLU, and several local Arizona groups. If they get it on the ballot in 2024, that is sure to drive young voters to the polls. While there, many of them are likely to vote for Joe Biden for president and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) for senator as well. It is the mirror image of what Rove did in the 1990s.

If the ballot measure is approved, abortion would be legal until the point where the fetus could live on its own, outside the mother. That is usually at 22-24 weeks of pregnancy. After that period, abortion would still be allowed to protect the life, physical health, or mental health of the mother. What if a woman 30 weeks pregnant tells her doctor "If this baby is born, I'm going to kill it and then myself." We're not psychiatrists, but OB-GYNs aren't either, and one can imagine one of them seeing this as a mental health issue.

It is not a sure thing that the abortion initiative will make it. The groups working on it estimate that it will cost $40-50 million to get it on the ballot. They have until July 3, 2024, to collect 383,923 valid signatures of registered Arizona voters. Typically groups needing signatures for an initiative try for at least 20% more than they need, since some may be invalid. If the measure gets on the ballot, anti-abortion forces will spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat it, but in every state (so far) where abortion has been on the ballot, the pro-choice forces won. One thing going for the pro-choice team is Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ), who is definitely on their side.

Arizona isn't the only state where pro-choice groups are thinking about ballot measures. It might make the ballot in Florida and Missouri as well. Given the high cost of getting a measure on the ballot, these may or may not succeed. Measures to enshrine abortion in the state constitutions will definitely be on the ballot in Maryland and New York because the legislatures put them there. Measures or not, abortion is definitely going to be a big issue in 2024. (V)

House Republicans Are Struggling to Find Someone to Impeach

The Democrats impeached Donald Trump twice so now that Republicans control the House, they feel they are entitled to two impeachments, too. Only they don't seem to agree on who or why. Never mind that impeachment was intended only for the most grievous of offenses ("high crimes and misdemeanors"), not policy disagreements, but House Republicans want blood and they don't care whose it is. The problem is that the votes aren't there.

The two leading contenders for being impeached are Joe Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. For the Freedom Caucus, nailing Biden would be more satisfying, but some Republicans remember what happened when Republicans got ants in their pants to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998: Democrats did very well in the midterms. Mayorkas is barely known and so the blowback to impeaching him would surely be less, but it is also far less satisfying. Also, in both cases, the Democratic Senate would probably find the impeachee not guilty in one day and then it would all be over.

The thing holding up the works is that the votes for impeaching anybody aren't there. Eighteen House Republicans are in districts that Joe Biden won and they know voting to impeach Biden (and probably Mayorkas) would be a suicide mission. They also know there is zero chance of conviction, so why give up their seats just to make members of the Freedom Caucus feel good? Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is trying to convince the "Biden 18" (see below) but they are not budging, and without them, there are not 218 votes to impeach anyone.

Freedom Caucus member Rep Chip Roy (R-TX) said: "Some of my colleagues get hung up on high crimes and misdemeanors in a way that they don't want to take that step with respect to Mayorkas. I disagree." What a bummer that a handful of Republicans insist that unless someone has committed a high crime or misdemeanor they shouldn't be impeached. Don't they know that we are entitled to two impeachments on account of what the Democrats put "Jesus" Trump through? Roy is trying to educate them, but so far without much luck, and without their votes, he can't get to 218. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said: "Think about it—you replace Mayorkas with another Biden appointee." Of course, Mayorkas won't be replaced unless there are 67 votes in the Senate to convict him and there are almost certainly not going to be 50 votes, maybe not even 45 votes.

The White House has chimed in on the impeachment discussion. Ian Sams, a spokesman of the White House Counsel's Office, has said that McCarthy "continued lying about President Biden—making a series of plainly false, widely debunked attacks in order to promote the extreme far right's baseless impeachment stunt that even some members of McCarthy's own caucus are expressing concerns about pursuing." He called the whole thing a "shameless and baseless stunt." (V)

Democrats' Plans for the "Biden 18" Leak Out

Yesterday we had some inside baseball about the Republicans' 2024 strategy. Today we have some about the Democrats' strategy. In particular, a leaked memo says the DCCC is going to focus like a laser on the "Biden 18" referenced above. These are Republicans in districts Joe Biden won in 2020. The 2024 presidential results may not parallel the 2020 results exactly because redistricting happened after 2020, but in a rough approximation, these are the main targets. Some are in Arizona, California, New Jersey, and Virginia, where independent commissions drew the new maps, but others are in Oregon, where the Democrats drew the maps, and New York, where Democrats yet hope to redraw the map. The maps the Democrats drew are bluer for the Biden 18 than they were last time.

That's the "where." What about the "how?" The focus will be on the fact that the Biden 18 voted with the MAGA extremists 94% of the time. That varies slightly from member to member, of course, but the campaigns will say "[Member X] claims to be a moderate, but he voted with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and the loonies 94% of the time. He's as crazy as she is." The campaign will harp on issues like cutting away reproductive freedom, veterans' services, defunding law enforcement, and gutting manufacturing jobs, while ignoring issues like lowering living costs and creating good-paying jobs. The whole plan aims to paint the Biden 18 as being fake moderates who are in reality as bad as the worst of the MAGAs. As expected, votes on abortion-related subjects will be high on the list of topics for ads. For members in New York State, votes to keep Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) from being expelled will be used, too. Out in Oregon, people may not know who he is, but in New York, many people do. (V)

The Thermometers Are Rigged

In July in Phoenix, the temperature hit 110 F every day. Many days were above 115 F. This broke all records. Nights were above 90 F, breaking another record. Many people died and the Maricopa County morgue had to bring in refrigerated storage containers to hold all the dead bodies. Thirty-nine deaths were definitely caused by the heat, with another 300 under investigation.

So how did state Republican officials deal with this? When August session began, they had the chaplain of the state Senate pray for lower temperatures. The air conditioning in the state House couldn't handle the heat and broke down. Whether the House chaplain then prayed for a repairman to fix it quickly was not reported. Maybe not, because fans were set up in the House, but the noise from the fans made doing business impossible so they were turned off. Besides, lobbyists were tripping over the extension cords and in 110 F heat, nobody wants do deal with angry, injured, sweaty lobbyists. Some conservatives said that thermometers were rigged, just like the past elections (one measuring point is at the airport, which has a lot of concrete nearby). Pretend governor Kari Lake accused actual governor Katie Hobbs and Ruben Gallego of "pushing mass hysteria in an effort to declare a climate emergency."

The one thing the month of 110 F temperatures and many dead bodies in a refrigerated container did not do is get Republicans to say: "Hmmm, maybe the climate is changing and we need to do something about it." State Rep. Justin Heap (R) said: "I don't recall feeling that this July was particularly hotter than any other July that I remember. It's just that all of a sudden, every media story was telling me it was hotter than it's ever been." The reason there were so many media stories is that it was hotter than ever in terms of days over 110 F. One day it even got to 119 F. State Sen. Justine Wadsack (R) said: "If ya can't stand the heat in Arizona, you're welcome to leave." Of course, that is hard to do if you just died of heatstroke.

Some Arizona Democrats are only slightly better. State Rep. Analise Ortiz (D) wants the National Guard to drive up and down streets spraying water on the ground so homeless people sleeping don't burn. She also wants Joe Biden to order FEMA to step up and do something, like it does after a hurricane. The only problem there is that the Stafford Act, which authorizes federal help for victims of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, does not cover extended heat due to climate change and it would take an act of Congress to change that. Given that Arizona Republicans, who are in the middle of it, deny that anything unusual is happening, we doubt that many senators from North Dakota, Idaho, or Wyoming would be interested in changing the law.

Needless to say, spraying the sidewalks with water does not address the core problem of climate change. But as long as Republicans claim climate change is a hoax, the federal government is limited in what it can do about the problem. Some blue states are acting (e.g. California has banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars after 2034), but individual states can do only so much. (V)

Will Romney Run?

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is up in 2024. Will he run again? Normally, there isn't much of an issue about an incumbent Republican running for reelection in a deep red state unless he is on the wrong side of 90. Romney is 76, so his reelection should be a slam dunk, no? Well, it's not. The problem is his lack of Trumpiness. If he runs, he is almost certain to have one or more primary opponents. He doesn't have to decide now. The filing deadline is in March 2024, and he could delay until the last day to keep his potential opponents in uncertainty, but they might just file anyway and see how it develops. Romney has only $1.6 million cash on hand, but he could drop $30 million of his own money into the race if need be.

For Romney, the big question is "Does he want to be remembered as the guy who lost the presidential race in 2012 and then lost a Republican primary in 2024?" Many sources say he doesn't. One advantage of not running for reelection is that he could spend the next 15 months attacking Donald Trump and doing everything he can to see him not be elected president, and let the chips fall where they may. As a candidate, that would likely be fatal, even in Utah, where Trump is not wildly popular by red-state standards.

If Romney decides to run, his biggest opponent is likely to be state House Speaker Brad Wilson (R). He has formed an exploratory committee and is raising money. If more Republicans enter the race, Romney's chances go up because the anti-Romney vote might splinter. Utah doesn't have runoffs. The candidate with the most votes gets the nomination. If Romney declines to run, the field will be gigantic. Former representative Jason Chaffetz and Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT) would probably jump in, as well as Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and others. (V)

Rosendale Is about to Jump in

Another state where the Republican Senate field is in flux is Montana. The NRSC has its candidate in rich businessman Tim Sheehy. The only fly in the ointment is that Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), the Freedom Caucuser who was formerly Montana's only Representative and now represents Montana's 2nd district, seems poised to challenge Sheehy. He has hired Kari Lake's fundraiser and has been appearing all summer at events in the other Montana district. Normally congressmen don't spend a lot of time campaigning in some district other than their own unless they are planning to run for some statewide office. Challenging the reelection bid of Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) seems very unlikely. Rosendale clearly has his eyes set on the Senate. From the point of view of Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), a knock-down, drag-out fight between a right-wing Republican (Sheehy) and a far-right-wing Republican (Rosendale) would be wonderful. If Rosendale were to win, it would be even better, since Tester beat Rosendale in 2018.

Rosendale has secured the support of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), and the Heritage Foundation's Jim DeMint, as well as the Freedom Caucus, Turning Point Action, and other extreme right-wing groups. On the other hand, the Club for Growth has wavered and may not support Rosendale in the primary. That would be a big hit for him, but he might still do it even without them. (V)

Meet the New Blue Dogs, Not the Same as the Old Blue Dogs

The Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats once numbered 70 members. It dropped to as few as seven and is now at 10. The leaders, Reps. Jared Golden (D-ME), Marie Perez (D-WA), and Mary Peltola (D-AK), are all under 50 and all represent districts Donald Trump won in 2020. Perez and Peltola are women of color (a Latina and a Native Alaskan, respectively). This is quite different from the Blue Dogs of yore.

The old Blue Dog Caucus was formed in 1995, largely by male conservative Southern Democrats who really didn't support much of what their Northern colleagues wanted, but couldn't bear the thought of becoming Republicans. A key issue back then was reducing the federal deficit. The 2010 midterms were a bloodbath for the group, when more than half the members were defeated for reelection. The decline continued for years.

The new leaders are trying to grow their coalition. Among other things, they are more socially liberal than the old Blue Dogs and are less out of touch with the Democratic mainstream than the old Blue Dogs were.

The Blue Dogs vote with the Republicans sometimes. Given their districts, they have to. Golden and Perez voted against Joe Biden's student debt forgiveness bill, for example. They recognize climate change, but want to address it slowly and cautiously.

They are a small group, but with House margins so small these days, Democrats can't write them off. If the Democrats pick up 10 seats in 2024 and take over the House, many of those 10 are likely to come from Trump territory (because the deep-blue districts already are represented by Democrats). They will be prime candidates for joining the Blue Dog Coalition and putting a brake on what the majority of Democrats want to do. Only a huge blow-out, with Democrats picking up 30 or 40 seats, is likely to prevent the Blue Dogs from becoming a real power center. (V)

The Partisan Divides Are Getting Worse

That America is highly polarized is hardly a secret, but the amount that the polarization between Democrats and Republicans has increased over the years is astounding. Here are graphs showing how the polarization has developed over the past 20 years.

Partisan divide on six issues since 2003

On gun laws, global warming, and abortion, the gap between Democrats and Republicans has grown by 24, 23, and 30 points, respectively. On two of the others, support has flipped. In 2003, Democrats thought the federal government had too much power, now Republicans think that. Of course, then there was a Republican president and now there is a Democratic one. Also, Republicans used to be more happy with K-12 education. Now Republicans are quite unhappy with it, probably because many of them believe that critical race theory is taught and kindergarteners are learning that boys can become girls and girls can become boys if they prefer that.

On some issues, partisans are moving in opposite directions. Democrats are becoming more worried about global warming and Republicans are becoming less worried. On education, Democrats are becoming happier with schools and Republicans are becoming less happy. All in all, the gaps on so many issues are enormous and largely growing. No wonder politics is so toxic. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug09 Ohio Takes Issue with Issue 1
Aug09 Mississippi Had an Election, Too
Aug09 Good News for Democrats in Arizona
Aug09 House Republicans Know They Have to Win in Hostile Territory
Aug09 DeSantis Has Figured Out What Ails His Campaign
Aug09 Can You Identify the Woke Movie?
Aug08 Trump Legal News: Here, There and Everywhere
Aug08 It's Trump's Party Again
Aug08 This Week in Woke
Aug08 Pence Makes the Cut
Aug08 The GOP 25: A Rundown
Aug08 Today's the Day in Ohio
Aug07 Four Defenses Trump May Try
Aug07 At a Trial, Trump Insiders Could Be Called to Testify
Aug07 Trump's Finds His Inner Mafia
Aug07 Ramaswamy Chickens Out
Aug07 Could Trump Be Imprisoned?
Aug07 Poll on Indictments Shows Huge Partisan Split
Aug07 DeSantis' Biggest Donor Pauses Donations
Aug07 Clarence Thomas Is Living the Good Life
Aug07 Neither Trump Nor Biden Can Win
Aug07 Mooney Won't Budge
Aug07 Some Democrats Are Urging Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to Challenge Rick Scott
Aug06 Sunday Mailbag
Aug05 Saturday Q&A
Aug04 Trump Legal News: Only in America
Aug04 Feinstein's Daughter Assumes Power of Attorney
Aug04 The Sharks are Circling McConnell
Aug04 Rep. Dan Bishop to Run for AG in North Carolina
Aug04 Early Voting Is Still Way Up in Ohio
Aug04 DeSantis to Debate Newsom
Aug04 No More AP Psychology in Florida
Aug04 Magic's $50K Donation to DeSantis Has an Unpleasant Odor to It
Aug04 Lamenting the Loss of Local Newspapers
Aug04 This Week in Schadenfreude: Tennessee Republicans go 0-for-2 (Squared)
Aug04 This Week in Freudenfreude: When Republicans Do Good
Aug03 Takeaways from Trump's Indictment
Aug03 How the Other Candidates Responded to the Indictment
Aug03 Georgia on My Mind
Aug03 The Candidates Are Burning Through Their Cash
Aug03 Being a Copycat Isn't a Good Campaign Plan
Aug03 The Rules for the Second Debate Are Now Set
Aug03 No News Is the New News
Aug03 Potential Challenger to Tammy Baldwin Is Staying Put
Aug03 Ranked-Choice Voting Takes a Hit
Aug03 Crossover Governors Are Going Out of Fashion
Aug03 The House Could Be Won or Lost in the South
Aug02 Trump Legal News: Every Breath You Take
Aug01 Trump Legal News: Today Was a Fairytale
Aug01 I, The Jury, Part XI: In the Jury Room, Continued