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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Biden Guilty on All Counts
      •  Voters in Another 4.06 States Head to the Polls
      •  Sinwar, Grant, Sherman and Wilson
      •  Elections in India: Reader Reports
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

Biden Guilty on All Counts

It did not take long for a jury of Hunter Biden's peers to find him guilty on all three counts that he faced in connection with buying a gun while in the thrall of illegal drugs.

On the facts, Biden was pretty clearly guilty. First of all, the gun purchase took place during a phase of his life where illegal drugs were a constant part of his existence. Convincing a jury that he just so happened to buy the gun during a sojourn from the crack was a tall hill to climb. Further—and we never fully understood how the defense was accounting for this—the current thinking on addiction is "once an addict, always an addict." So, there's an argument to be made that it did not matter if he was on the stuff or not at the time he bought the gun.

Anyhow, the defense really hoped for some jury nullification, and some members of the jury wanted to grant that, but in the end, they just couldn't do it. "I really don't think that Hunter belongs in jail," said one of them (identified only as Juror 10). "It was very sad... not that he was being convicted of these crimes, but that his life has turned out the way it did."

Once the verdict was in, the Bidens responded like grown-ups. Here is the statement that Hunter released to the media:

I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome. Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time.

Joe Biden traveled to Delaware to be with his son yesterday afternoon, and released a statement of his own:

As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery. As I also said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.

These responses stand in marked contrast to... certain other convicted felons' responses, let's say.

So, what is next for Hunter Biden? He's got another trial, of course. As regards this one, sentencing has not been scheduled yet; Judge Maryellen Noreika said she would calendar that sometime in the next 120 days. The three counts carry a maximum sentence of 25 years. However, first-time offenders don't get the maximum. There are also other mitigating factors here:

  • Biden has cleaned up his life since the gun incident.
  • He only had the gun for 11 days.
  • The law here is being applied in circumstances in which it's not usually applied.
  • By all indications, Biden is contrite. Certainly, he did not behave like a braying ass both within court and without.

We read several "predictions" pieces from current and former federal prosecutors, and there's a general consensus that Biden will get some prison time. The guesses ranged from 6 to 22 months. Of course, Biden is going to appeal, so any time in the clink is still pretty far in the future, even if it does come to pass.

And now to the political dimension of this conviction. For the Democrats, this one is easy as pie. From Joe Biden on down, they are all saying, "The justice system did its work, and we will respect the result." Just as simple as that. And when Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is (likely) convicted, they can say it again.

For the Republicans, it's much trickier, for the following reasons:

  • The result puts a big dent in the "Biden crime family, above the law" narrative that many Republicans have been hawking.
  • The result puts a big dent in the "Weaponized DOJ" narrative that Trump and his acolytes have been using to excuse his conviction.
  • The result puts a big dent in the "nobody gets busted for shady paperwork" narrative that Trump and his acolytes have been using to excuse his conviction.
  • Biden was convicted for gun possession, which doesn't mesh well with the GOP's Second Amendment fetishism.
  • Biden is a somewhat sympathetic figure, given the traumas of his life, and attacking him could rebound.
  • Biden's conviction is a reminder of Trump's conviction, and only one of them is a candidate for president.

This is a pretty good list, but it's probably not exhaustive.

The challenge here is indicated by the response from the right yesterday. Although the Republican Party tends to be pretty disciplined when it comes to messaging and soundbites, and although they've known for weeks this day was coming, they were all over the place yesterday. Let's start with some right-wing websites, and their front pages after the verdict yesterday:

six right-wing websites; details to follow

It's a bit tough to see the Hunter Biden-related stuff in some cases, as there was a general tendency toward downplaying the story. In fact, OAN didn't have anything at all. Beyond that, one major theme was "Republicans good, Democrats bad." Fox, as you might be able to see, went with "justice is served" and a bunch of quotes from Fox viewers about how wicked Hunter is. Townhall's story was about how whackadoodle the media coverage of the trial was among non-right-wing sources.

Another major theme was, in effect, conspiratorial thinking. Note that Newsmax talked to Alan Dershowitz, who said that Hunter Biden's conviction was 100% legit while Donald Trump's was 100% phony. Boy, how far that guy has fallen. Meanwhile, Breitbart attributed the conviction to a broader conspiracy to somehow distract attention from the Biden family's corruption (more on this coming up, too).

Virtually every Trumpy politician had a response, and they were all over the place. Let's run down a few to illustrate the various lines of attack that are presumably being workshopped right now:

  • Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt: Like Breitbart, she decreed that the conviction is just a distraction from the crimes of the Biden Crime Family. Exactly how being convicted of a felony sends the message "no crimes here" is not clear.

  • House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY): He said that the verdict is an OK first step, but that he won't stop until he's brought down the entire Biden criminal enterprise.

  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD): His view is that since Hunter Biden IS NOT running for office, his prosecution could not possibly have anything to do with politics. And since Donald Trump IS running for office, his prosecution MUST be about politics.

  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL): Scott told reporters that the law that Hunter Biden was prosecuted under was a well-established law that has led to people being prosecuted before, while the law that Donald Trump was prosecuted under has never been used in that way before. Therefore, Biden is guilty and Trump is innocent.

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO): Hawley's theory is that Hunter Biden had a plea deal that fell apart, and then he ended up convicted. This is therefore proof that the plea deal was a sham, and the DoJ is in the bag for the Bidens.

  • Stephen Miller: He says that the whole thing is a DoJ conspiracy. His notion is that AG Merrick Garland charged Hunter with the crimes that only involve Hunter, while burying the crimes that would implicate Joe.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): He downplayed the conviction, and said that it's no big deal. This is probably the wisest and most consistent position to take—neither the Trump conviction nor the Biden conviction means anything. However, it is unlikely that other Trumpublicans will see things in this way. It is particularly unlikely that Donald Trump will adopt any line of thinking that involves his admitting that he got convicted (even if he says it's a dumb crime), as opposed to playing martyr and railing against the "corrupt" DoJ.

In short, Trump's enablers in both the media and in the political establishment are (mostly) bending over backwards, left, right and sideways to explain how Trump's conviction could not possibly be legitimate, even if the justice system just convicted the son of a president. As we wrote before the verdict came down, we have no doubt that the True Believers will buy one, several, or all of these theories lock, stock and barrel. But they aren't the voters that matter, it's the fence-sitters. And as of yesterday, Trump is not only a convicted felon, but a felon without much of a compelling story to tell as to why voters should disregard his conviction. (Z)

Voters in Another 4.06 States Head to the Polls

The presidential contest is over, both figuratively and literally. However, there are still some states where voters need to make decisions on other races. Yesterday, Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina held primaries, while Ohio held a special election for OH-06 (that's one of fifteen CDs in the state, hence the .06 in the headline). Here are the notable results:

  • North Dakota, Governor: They don't have term limits in North Dakota, but Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) is seeking a promotion (?) to vice president. So, it's time for North Dakotans to pick a new chief executive. The state hasn't elected a Democrat to that post since Ronnie Reagan was in office, so the GOP primary was the de facto gubernatorial election. And your winner is Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), who nearly tripled up Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller (R-ND), 73.2% to 26.8%. Both candidates are conservative, but Armstrong is only kinda Trumpy. He was one of seven Republicans who did not join in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results in the House, he did not support motions of censure against Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and he is a supporter of same-sex marriage.

  • Nevada, Senate: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) has no problem with party unity; she took 91.7% of the vote in her primary. She learned that she will face off against Sam Brown (R). Brown is a veteran of the War in Afghanistan; his face was badly burned when an improvised explosive device exploded in close proximity to him. His first run for office was in Texas, which may give him some carpet-baggage. He also ran for the U.S. Senate in Nevada once before, but lost in the primary to Adam Laxalt (R). Brown is the most moderate of the three Republicans who were on the ballot yesterday, and won easily, with 59.6% of the vote. He was endorsed by Donald Trump, but that endorsement came just 2 days ago, by which time Brown's victory was assured. In other words, the endorsement is not evidence that Brown is the most Trumpy (he's not); it's evidence that Trump is trying to keep his batting average high.

  • ME-02: If you count this R+6 district, then there were four competitive House districts on the ballot yesterday. Normally, an R+6 district is not considered competitive, but this one is because it's held by a Democrat, Jared Golden. He is one of the blue doggiest Democrats, for obvious reasons. And now, he will learn if he's been blue doggy enough, as he faces off against state Rep. Austin Theriault (R), who easily won his party's nomination. His main qualification for office is that he used to be a NASCAR driver. And his platform is... he used to be a NASCAR driver. To the extent that he has policy positions, the main one is that he wants to fix Maine's roads. Maybe so they can host a NASCAR race? The Walpole 400?

  • NV-01: Rep. Dana Titus (D), who was unopposed yesterday, represents this D+3 district. Her opponent will be Mark Robertson, who fended off two other contenders with 48.4% of the vote. He's a political newbie, and is pretty conservative, so he's out of step with the district. He's only going to be elected if the presidential and/or Senate contests produce some coattails.

  • NV-03: Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) easily won her primary over trans woman RockAthena Brittain, taking 92.1% of the vote. Now, Lee will try to hold on to her D+1 district against Drew Johnson (R), who outpaced six other candidates with 32.0% of the vote. Johnson is a throwback Republican who sounds a lot more like Ronald Reagan than Donald Trump. Our guess is that will be a pretty good match for a purple district, particularly one that is fairly suburban (it includes the area south of Las Vegas, including Henderson).

  • NV-04: Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) easily brushed off a challenge from the left in his D+3 district, taking 89.9% of the vote. His opponent will be former North Las Vegas mayor John Lee (R), who won a close one, barely edging out David Flippo (R), 48.1% to 45.4%. If there is one thing Lee would like you to know about him, it's that he really, really loves Donald Trump. Perhaps this one will be close, but since the district acquired its current boundaries in 2012, it's gone for the Democrat in every statewide and House election save one (Cresent Hardy was elected to the House for a single term in 2014). That fact, plus incumbency, means you should probably bet on Horsford to win and Lee to show.

  • OH-06: That's all of the competitive districts; at R+16, this one most certainly is not competitive. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. However, in the special election occasioned by the resignation of Rep. Bill Johnson (R), state Sen. Michael Rulli (R) defeated Michael Kripchak (D) by just 9 points, 54.7% to 45.3%. That's not exactly close, but it's about 10 points closer than the partisan lean of the district would predict. The wonky nature of special elections? The fact that Kripchak ran on reproductive freedom? Could be either... or both.

  • SC-01: At R+7, this one isn't really competitive, either. However, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) faced a serious primary challenge from the Kevin McCarthy-backed Catherine Templeton (R). At least, it was supposed to be a serious challenge, but Mace took 56.8% of the vote, as compared to 29.8% for Templeton in the three-way race. That means that Mace will avoid a runoff. It also means that McCarthy's first attempt to have revenge against the Republicans who voted to fire him came up way short. Better luck next time, we suppose.

  • SC-04: This one is R+12. Rep. William Timmons (R) faced a challenge from the far-right courtesy of state Rep. Adam Morgan (R), who leads his chamber's version of the Freedom Caucus. Timmons had the backing of a bunch of his colleagues, as well as Donald Trump, and he won in a nail-biter, 51.6% to 48.4%. Yet again, Trump's endorsement was about his batting average (and, indeed, he was 100% on endorsements yesterday). He's definitely thinking much more tactically in 2024 than he did in 2020 or 2016.

  • North Dakota Measure 1: This measure would impose age limits on members of North Dakota's congressional delegation, disqualifying them from running if they would turn 81 prior to the end of the year before the end of their term. It passed, 60.9% to 39.1%.

    It could not be any more transparent that this is about messaging and nothing else. First, note that Joe Biden just so happens to be 81 (surprise!), while Donald Trump is 77. Hard to imagine how they came up with 81 as the cutoff point (as opposed to 75, 80 or 85). Second, the oldest current member of North Dakota's congressional delegation is 67 (Sen. John Hoeven), and so the law likely would not kick in until the 2040s. Third, if it takes constitutional text to establish a minimum age, then it surely takes constitutional text to establish a maximum age, so there's no way this survives a court challenge. The only issue is finding someone with standing to sue.

Next week, Georgia has its primary election runoffs, Oklahoma will pick the Republicans who will represent it in the House in the next Congress, and Virginia has primaries for both the House and the U.S. Senate. Most news that is made on Tuesday will surely come out of the Old Dominion. (Z)

Sinwar, Grant, Sherman and Wilson

We will eventually get to the big Middle East news of the day, which involves Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. But first, let's climb in the time machine and go back to the 1860s. We've written about this before, but when the U.S. Civil War began, the world was on the cusp of a new era of warfare. The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz was among the first to grasp this, writing in the 1820s that the line between the battlefield and the homefront, war and politics, civilian and soldier, right and wrong, had become permanently blurred. It was no longer just a chess game limited to the battlefield.

It took a long time for Clausewitz' ideas to achieve wide acceptance, and many military leaders of the mid-19th century (including of the Civil War) went to their graves in denial of the fact that Napoleonic-style war was passé. This is, perhaps, understandable. Many of these folks had grown up in, and had been educated in, a world of "just," limited war. Not easy to turn your back on what you've known your whole life, particularly if you are career military.

Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were not among the holdouts, however, and from the beginning of their Civil War service they appreciated that they would have to throw out much of what they had been taught at West Point (not a big problem for Grant, who didn't pay much attention in class, anyhow).

There are numerous ways in which the two generals implemented this new approach to war. One good example of this is Grant's approach to prisoners-of-war. When (Z) teaches the Civil War, students are stunned to learn that in the early years of the conflict, a captured soldier was... told to go home and wait there until he got notice that he had been "exchanged" for a soldier on the other side. There was even a conversion chart called the Dix-Hill Cartel, with privates as the base unit of measure. One private was equal to one private, two privates got you a corporal or sergeant, four privates got you a lieutenant, all the way up to 60 privates for a commanding general. Any equivalent combination was acceptable; for example, the Union could trade four privates, a captain (+6 privates) and a lieutenant colonel (+10 privates) for a brigadier general (worth 20 privates). One can see the chess-like/checkers-like dimension here; get your low-ranking piece to the other side of the battlefield, get a high-ranking piece in return.

This arrangement became less and less tenable over the course of the first 2 years of the war, largely because of disagreements over which soldiers had, and had not, been exchanged. But it was at Grant's urging that Abraham Lincoln put an end to the exchanges entirely. Grant reasoned, quite correctly, that the Union was able to replace captured soldiers while the Confederacy was not. And so, the exchanges were inherently working to the benefit of the Confederates. By ending the exchanges, Grant and Lincoln condemned many tens of thousands of Union soldiers to horrible fates (starvation, disease, and often death), but they knew that would ultimately save lives by bringing the war to a more rapid close.

And how about Sherman? Here, the obvious example is much more well known. In 1864, Grant assumed overall command of the Union Armies, while Sherman succeeded Grant as the commander of Union armies in the Western theater (that is the correct Civil War name, though note that the "Western theater" was largely the Deep South—Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas—and not the American West). Both Sherman and Grant agreed that it was not enough to defeat the Confederate armies; the Confederate homefront had to be defeated, as well. And so, Sherman marched through Georgia, and then marched to the sea, with the goal of making the Southern homefront feel "the hard hand of war." Sherman tried to limit the amount of indiscriminate harm done to civilians, but the line between indiscriminate harm and necessary harm is often a thin one, indeed.

In the end, the choices made by Grant and Sherman resulted in some true horrors. Does that make them evil bastards? Maybe so. Certainly, plenty of Southerners back in the 19th century felt that way (and some still do). From the vantage point of a historian, such value judgments are largely beside the point. In the end, the job of the historian is to understand what happened and why, and largely to avoid making judgments on who was right and who was wrong. There are some exceptions to that, but that's the general idea.

And that brings us to Sinwar, who sounded positively Sherman-like (Shermanian?) in "leaked" messages first reported on by The Wall Street Journal. We put leaked in quotations because we very seriously doubt that Sinwar accidentally allowed his thoughts to be shared with the U.S. and the world. In any event, there are two main things that the Hamas leader asserted in the now-public messages: (1) that the death of civilians will ultimately work to the advantage of Hamas, and (2) that Hamas is winning the PR war, and now has the upper hand in negotiations.

Is Sinwar an evil bastard? Maybe so. You don't need us to reach your own conclusions on that point (though a trickier question is: Is there a substantive difference between his approach and that of Grant/Sherman?). Is Sinwar right in his strategic analysis of the situation? This is something we've written about many times, and we'll say it again: It certainly looks that way. Fair or not, sensible or not, the response from the international community strongly suggests that Israel is losing the PR battle. And since, as Clausewitz observed, war is policy by other means, then losing the battle on policy renders moot any victories on the battlefield.

CNN's Nic Robertson had a very interesting piece yesterday making this same basic point. The headline pretty much tells the tale: "Hamas gambled on the suffering of civilians in Gaza. Netanyahu played right into it." Robertson writes:

If this were a conventional war, it would be easy to write Sinwar off as deluded; Israel has the upper hand by far in conventional weapons. But the weapons' devastating effectiveness is becoming a liability in this asymmetric conflict, and against the backdrop of a tortured history that Sinwar is adroitly weaponizing against Israel.

There's no doubt that the Netanyahu administration concerns itself with PR and narrative... sometimes. But largely, to put this in the terms laid out above, the Israeli government is fighting a 19th century war, while Sinwar is fighting a 21st century war. Remember, this is not a question of who is right and who is wrong, it's a question of whose approach is more effective in advancing their ultimate goals.

Israel is hardly the only nation to make this mistake. And that brings us—brace yourself for an aggressive shift in gears—to Woodrow Wilson. Once the shooting in World War I stopped (November 11, 1918), Wilson took the unusual step of traveling to the Versailles Conference to personally represent the United States in the treaty discussions. That's basically the only time in American history that's happened (Yalta and Potsdam, at the end of the European phase of World War II, are the other possible additions to the list).

Whatever you might say about Wilson, good or bad, he was certainly very smart. Indeed, he's probably in the top five smartest men to serve as president. He knew that Germany bore primary responsibility for starting the war in the west, and also that the Germans did horrible things in trying to win (that Fritz Haber is known as a Nobel laureate, and not as a war criminal thanks to his role in developing brutal chemical weapons, is truly remarkable). For these reasons, Wilson recognized that the leaders of the victorious European nations, particularly David Lloyd-George of the U.K. and Georges Clemenceau of France, would be out for blood.

Wilson also knew that the Allies' plans for Germany were an unwise play, long-term. He opposed efforts to make Germany suffer, economically and otherwise, for their role in the war. He opposed efforts to gut the German military, so as to leave them in a permanently weakened state. The President's expectation was that these measures would breed resentment and radicalism, and would produce another conflict within a generation or two. He was right about that, although he was unable to do much with that wisdom. Part of the problem was that Wilson was somewhat wanting when it came to diplomatic skill. But the larger part of the problem was that even if he was able to convince Lloyd-George and Clemenceau, they were both representing voters who badly wanted to see Germany punished and gutted. Had they returned home and announced "We decided to take it easy on the Germans!" they would have been tossed out of office.

Is the situation in Gaza all that different? Hamas clearly started this conflict, and has clearly done problematic things. In fact, shortly before this post went live, the U.N. released a report finding that both Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes since October 7. In response, the Netanyahu administration is trying to punish Hamas, and to leave them so weak they cannot come back to life. History makes pretty clear this cannot work. It did not work with the Germans in 1918, it did not work with the North Vietnamese in the 1970s, it did not work with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it's not going to work here. The PM has his own personal motivations here, but the fact is, he also represents voters who demand the course of action that he is pursuing. If he changes course, he's done for, politically.

And so that is the mess that Joe Biden is currently dealing with. He is Woodrow Wilson in this situation, and surely knows that Sinwar is playing his hand in a manner that is ugly but rational, that Netanyahu is playing HIS hand in a manner that is ugly but rational, and there is not much middle ground between the two. Just in case there was any doubt on that point, Hamas announced yesterday that it has agreed to Biden's ceasefire proposal and that it's Israel that is the holdout. On Monday, when the U.N. Security Council endorsed the proposal, the story was that Israel had agreed to the proposal and that Hamas was the holdout. And so, the fighting and the finger-pointing continue. What a diplomatic nightmare. (Z)

Elections in India: Reader Reports

We don't like to have so few items, but there were three BIG news stories yesterday, and not a lot else (unless you want, for example, another item about how Jimmy Carter is fading away).

Anyhow, there have been some pretty momentous elections around the world in the past couple of weeks, and we want to follow up on those before too much time has passed. So today, we're going to have a few reports from readers more expert than we are on the election in India. Then, on Friday, it will be the elections in Mexico, South Africa and the EU. Next week, we'll try to make some sense of it all, and give some thoughts about how it all relates to U.S. politics.

And with that said, here's S.A.K. in Karnataka, India:

For those of us who have followed politics in India, especially over the past decade or so, the latest general election results are the most dramatic in that period. I would go as far as to say this century.

Let me level-set here. Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, won a big mandate in 2014 on the back of anti-incumbency as well as a rising wave of Hindutva (a conflation of national and religious identity on the far right). They won an even bigger one in 2019, this time banking on the Pulwama attack. The last 10 years saw all of the following perpetrated by the regime (in no particular order):
  • Extreme communal rhetoric and dog whistling against the minorities, specially Muslims. This was amplified many times over during election campaign seasons for state legislatures and the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament).

  • A vast ecosystem created by the social media cell of the BJP (the dreaded 'IT cell') to spread fake news, especially targeting the minorities. Altnews has done a fantastic job righting that wrong. But it can only do so much when fake news is combined with cheap smartphones and cheaper intent.

  • An almost across-the-board sellout of media (both print and TV) to the benefit of the ruling regime. National media houses like The Times Group and the India Today Group have led the charge on this front. Mukesh Ambani's Network18 Group wasn't far behind. Network18, incidentally, has a franchise licensing agreement with CNN Worldwide. NDTV, one of India's oldest media houses, had remained the last vestige of independent media. That too was gone with Gautam Adani becoming a majority shareholder in December 2022.

  • The handful of journalists that dared to speak up against the regime were imprisoned on trumped up charges.

  • Passage of bills in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures (where the BJP ruled) that targeted Muslims. The triple talaq bill comes to mind. This bill ostensibly was passed to help Muslim women, but it turned into a weapon to victimize Muslim men.

  • Abrogation of article 370 of the Constitution. This has led to disastrous consequences for Kashmir and Ladakh. The Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional.

  • Courts of law being mute spectators except in rare cases. Even several Supreme Court judges were in the bag for the regime, including a couple of chief justices. The current CJI has exhibited a spine at times.

  • A few months before the announcement of dates of the general elections, two sitting chief ministers (similar to governors in U.S. states), Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren, both belonging to opposition political parties, were arrested and jailed.

  • Bank accounts of the largest opposition party (the INC) were frozen, due to alleged irregularities.
It was against this backdrop that dates for the general election were announced in March this year.

The BJP (which is said to be in perpetual election mode) hit the ground running with its campaign. As it turns out this was the absolute lowest of the low campaigns for a Lok Sabha election the country has seen. Modi started the campaign by claiming that his party would singlehandedly win more than 400 seats. And he also presented a reason for why that was important. He indulged in extremely toxic communal rhetoric targeting Muslims, referring to them as infiltrators. You can read here and here about how dirty this campaign was.

Exit poll results were released on the evening of June 1 (after the last round of elections was over). Almost all of them predicted 350-400 seats for the BJP alone. Those predictions led to a huge buying spree in the stock markets on June 3 (the BJP is a business-friendly party and encourages crony capitalism). When the actual results started pouring in on June 4, stock markets crashed by as much as 10%, recovering a bit later in the day. There are already calls for those pollsters to be investigated for possible fraud they might have committed.

The BJP eventually ended with 240 seats, 63 less than what they had won in 2019. And more importantly, 32 less than required for a majority on their own. The party suffered huge losses in Uttar Pradesh (electorally largest state) as well as Maharashtra and to some extent in Karnataka (my home state) and Rajasthan. They made up somewhat for these losses by sweeping Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.

The Rahul Gandhi-led opposition alliance, called INDIA, won 230 seats.

The BJP-led alliance, the NDA, is sticking together for now. By the time this piece is published, Modi will have already taken oath for the third time as PM. This time around, though, governing as part of a coalition, especially with partners who are not keen to further authoritarianism, will be a massive challenge for him. One that he hadn't faced till now.

I'll leave you with this episode of Last Week Tonight.

Next, K.S. in Lafayette, IN:

As an Indian American who is an avid reader of your site, I thought it might be worth giving the readers my two cents on the Indian election. Many American readers may recall that a lot of the coverage around Narendra Modi over the course of the past few years revolves around India's high rate of economic growth and the "de-risking" movement from Western companies with regards to China (which India stands to benefit from). However, while Modi's economic and infrastructure policies have brought more manufacturing and foreign investment, the economic growth experienced under his tenure is seen to have disproportionately benefited the billionaires close to his regime. The average voter has not seen a significant growth in their quality of life, and unemployment remains high, so they chose to punish Modi after 10 years of placing their trust in him. As James Carville once said, "It's the economy, stupid."

While Modi appears to have a parliamentary majority, he will have to deal with a coalition for the first time. This means that he no longer has the ability to pursue his divisive right-wing religious agenda (which some of his coalition partners aren't so keen on) and may have to back off from his aggressive crackdown on the newly-reinvigorated opposition. It will also mean that he has to make serious attempts to solve the problem of unemployment (which has now emerged as the biggest political issue in India) if he and his party are to stand any chance of winning in 2029. In short, while India's Trump has won his election, he'll be forced to moderate himself if he stands any hope of winning in the future. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Trump himself to do the same.

And finally, H.R. in Pittsburgh, PA:

I feel compelled to write in, despite being an Indian expatriate who has been accused by my Indian compatriots ("inpatriates"?) of "abandoning" the country of my birth, and "rejecting" its values, and traditions, since I have not even visited India during the Modi era.

That is why I am loathe to characterize the slap in the face dealt to Modi by the so-called "illiterate masses" in the recent elections in India as a watershed moment. I will leave the adjudication of those two descriptors to those who actually have skin in the game, which I do not.

My purpose is to provide background and context, from my personal perspective, as to why I believe Narendra Modi, the man who no other than Steve Bannon described as "Trump before Trump," to be just as dangerous as the OrangeTan—maybe even more so, because he cloaks himself in the garb and demeanor of a holy man in a country where holy men (saadhus) are revered. In fact, during the lead-up to the election he even said, "God has chosen me" (sound familiar?).

Although I have no skin in the game in India, I am not dispassionate, nor can I forget my initial alarm, morphing more recently into dread, as I watched the country in which I grew up—and still love, even if it holds no allegiance from me—morph over the last decade that Modi has been in power into something unrecognizable to me. And this is coming from someone who lived through the infamous 1975-77 Indira Gandhi Emergency. As a trainee physician at the time, I witnessed the consequences of the draconian laws passed in the name of "family planning," with allegations of buses stopped on highways and men off-boarded to undergo forced vasectomies, including even 70- and 80-year-old men, just so quotas could be met. (Thankfully, my status as a trainee spared me from being dragooned into participating in such heinous acts.) Despite all those abuses of power, never did any of us—including those like me who were vocal in their opposition to what was happening—feel threatened or in danger.

Indira Gandhi made the mistake of announcing elections—a level of hubris that Trump will never fall victim to if he gets back to power—and was trounced, losing her own parliamentary seat! I was in the crowd outside the Indian Express Headquarters watching the results roll in, in a massive crowd, dancing in euphoria.

Since then, India has seen a steady—and mostly peaceful—sequence of elections. And, while Hindu-Muslim riots were never far from the headlines, they were mostly local and, even when violent, not widespread or barbaric.

All that changed in the early hours of one fateful morning on February 27, 2002, truly a day that will live in infamy in the history of India. Euphemistically named the Godhra "Incident," it involved the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims by Muslims (although others have alleged otherwise, admittedly without proof). The anti-Muslim riots that engulfed the state of Gujarat in its aftermath (aka "The Gujarat Riots") gave us the first look at the man who was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time, one Narendra Damodardas Modi.

I will not dwell on the acts of extreme barbarism committed in the name of religious retribution on both sides of the communal divide. Keep in mind, though, that Hindus (like me) outnumber Muslims 4 to 1 in India. So make your own deductions as to what the relative degrees of retribution constituted. Or just read the Wikipedia article, referencing reputable sources quoted as describing it as a "pogrom", and "state-sponsored genocide".

Modi, who describes himself as "Chosen by God," oversaw that spasm of murderous barbarism and did nothing to stop it, let alone prevent it. And that is the prologue to what he has done as prime minister, giving license to others to wreak violence against Muslims, often through proxies (again, sound familiar?). He even called Muslims "infiltrators who would take India's wealth" during the election campaign, despite their presence in India for generations, going on 400-plus years.

So, the election results are a well-deserved slap in his face, if not a comeuppance. Particularly in the context of his arrogant claim of winning 400+ seats to get an absolute majority that would have enabled him to rewrite India's constitution to remove all secular guarantees, which were modeled, I might add, after the U.S. Constitution.

So, even though he will return as prime minister, his aura of invincibility has been destroyed, and he will be much diminished as the head of a coalition government. Best of all, his worst impulses will be reined in by his coalition partners, who do not share his Hindu Nationalist (so-called "Hindutva") ideology.

For those not familiar with the term, do not conflate "Hindutva" with Hinduism, which Modi and his sycophants would have you believe. Do not fall for that blasphemy, because the essence of the religion, contrary to Modi's ideology, is tolerance and inclusivity, based on the principle that any person who lives to "serve, love, be good, do good, and be kind and compassionate," would be a Hindu, regardless of religion.

Those of us who hope for the day when the same comeuppance happens in the U.S. can view the election results in India, South Africa, and Mexico, as a faint glimmer of light at the end of a VERY dark tunnel.

As it is said in Sanskrit: "Tathaasthu" ("May it be so.")

Or, as Pharaoh Rameses (Yul Brynner) might say, "So let it be written. So let it be done."

Thanks, all! (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

This seems plausible to us. Donald Trump took 51% of the vote in Ohio in 2016 and 53% in 2020. (Z)

State Joe Biden Donald Trump Start End Pollster
Ohio 41% 48% Jun 03 Jun 06 Marist Coll.

Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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