Voters Display a Preference for Sanity

For the 2022 midterm elections virtually everyone was convinced that the country was in for a red wave. The only question was how big it would be. In the event while the vote counting is still continuing on at its glacial pace some things have become clear and some potentially powerful story lines are being developed that are almost devoid of empirical evidence.   

First, what is clear is that the Republicans lost, and lost badly. They missed the opportunity to gain control of the Senate; in fact on balance, they actually lost one Senate seat. That assumes that Warnock (D, GA) is re-elected on December 6 when he faces challenger Herschel Walker in a run-off brought about because neither crossed the 50% threshold on November 8. If the Republicans  capture the House, it will only be by the barest of majorities. 

This in spite of the fact that inflation, the economy in general, crime, parental rights and chaos on the Southern border were themes that (according to polls) were uppermost in the minds of voters. These are natural Republican issues that Republican candidates emphasized relentlessly. And they still lost. 

It seems clear, assuming that the polling was even close to accurate, that the public thought that Republicans were the better party for dealing with inflation, crime, the economy and the Southern border. But they lost, and lost badly anyway. What explains why the public’s major concerns were the ones where the Republicans had a clear advantage, and still explains why the Republicans lost so badly? 

Candidate quality. 

In its primaries the Republican Party nominated lots of cranks who lost winnable races. Consider that conventional, i.e., non-Trumpian Republican incumbent Governors, won easily in Florida, New Hampshire, Georgia, Texas and Ohio.  But except for Ohio, Trump selected Senatorial candidates went down to defeat, and even in Ohio the Republican Governor (DeWine) outperformed Trump endorsed Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance by around 15 points. Not only that, in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, Republican election deniers went down to defeat. And that leaves out Pennsylvania where Trumpkin Mastriano got crushed in the gubernatorial race and dragged the Senate race down with him. 

Second, the story line that is quickly becoming the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats performed so well because they relentlessly focused on abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. That argument has a certain surface plausibility, so it’s worth taking a look at the data we have so far to evaluate it. 

In electoral terms it is simply a fact that pro-life Republican Governors easily won their races when pitted against pro-choice Democratic rivals in Republican leaning states. Certainly this was the case in Georgia, Texas, Ohio and New Hampshire to name 4 states. But that result did not obtain with Trump backed Senatorial candidates.

In addition, the claim is made that young people, especially young women, turned out to vote in record numbers to support abortion rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision. The problem is that this theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny very well. For one thing, it assumes that the electorate in 2022 was substantially different from the pre-Dobbs electorate of 2018. 

But if exit polls are to be believed, the electorate didn’t change very much between 2018 and 2022, especially with respect to women and young people.  According to CNN’s exit polls, women made up about half the electorate both in 2018 and 2022. However, in 2022 the Democrats’ advantage among women actually shrank from 19 points to 8 points. Similarly the Democratic advantage among 18 to 29 year olds shrank 10 points from a 38 point advantage to a 28 point advantage from 4 years ago. The Democratic advantage among 30 to 44 year olds shrank as well, going from 19 points to 4 points. 

Meanwhile Republicans won over white women by 8 points compared to breaking even 4 years ago. Democrats also lost ground with every other racial / ethnic demographic group. So what explains how the Republicans could pick up relative support among all these groups and still lose so badly?

First, the electorate in 2022 wasn’t all that different from the electorate in 2018. The pre-pandemic 2018 electorate cost the Republicans about 40 seats. That result clearly reflected dissatisfaction with Trump’s performance, and perhaps a large dollop of buyer’s regret.  The evidence indicates that the same people showed up in 2022 as in 2018 and voted against Trump inspired candidates. Again.

In 2020 while Trump lost the Presidency the Republicans actually picked up 14 House seats. That was a straightforward repudiation of Trump—but not necessarily Republican policy, such as it was. So the same electorate that displayed little use for Trump in 2018 and 2020 showed up again in 2022 and emphasized the original message.  And keep in mind that it was the Republican Trump acolytes who lost in 2022. Republican Governors who defied Trump won their races—and by large margins. 

Second, it is arguably the case that exit polls reflect voter attitudes toward generic categories, in this case Republicans vs. Democrats. Clearly the public showed exasperation with progressive policies with respect to crime, inflation, the economy and the Southern border. Moreover exit polls indicated that, par for the course, both Republicans and Democrats blame each other for any threats to Democracy. 

It is therefore reasonable to conclude that while the voting public thinks that generic Republicans are more likely to deal with their most important policy concerns, they simply do not trust plenty  of the actual Republicans who captured their party’s nominations in the primaries. It is well to remember here that there is a world of difference between primary and general election voters. 

It stands to reason therefore that there is a large gulf between Republican primary voters and the general voting public. At the heart of the gulf is, naturally, Donald J Trump. It is clear that the public has had enough of his narcissism. And it is also clear that he is simply incapable of winning another election. While his brand of politics—incoherent as it is—improbably squeaked through in 2016 against one of the most despised women in America, it rode to defeat in 2018, 2020, 2021 and now 2022. 

It now appears that Trump is on his way to being shown the door by Republican elites. (Yes, I know we have been here before). But this time there are credible challengers to Trump’s power, and most Republican Party leaders know it. It is up to them to do what they can to avoid a repetition of Trump’s march down the escalator leading to the hostile take-over of the Republican Party.  It won’t be easy but they should work hard to put the Party of Lincoln back on the road to sanity. 

JFB

The Red Wave that Wasn’t

Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. In what should have been an easy rout of the opposition, Republicans are barely hanging on. The reason why is clear: Republican candidates lost eminently winnable races because they insisted on nominating delusional candidates joined at the hip to the most delusional of all—Donald J. Trump. 

Make no mistake, this was not the Republican establishment, whatever that is these days.  This was the handiwork of the rank and file who voted in the primaries for a bunch of crackpots with little understanding of how government works or is supposed to work.

There is no lack of evidence the Republicans got creamed because the rank and file recklessly chose candidates who were clearly unfit for office. Which is not to imply that the Democratic candidates were all that fit; they had plenty of clunkers too. 

Take Pennsylvania, for instance. 

The Republicans in Pennsylvania nominated a crackpot for Governor who insisted that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. For the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey, they nominated a Trumpy celebrity TV doctor, Mehmet Oz, whose speciality was hawking quack cures on his TV show. 

Despite a soaring crime rate in Philadelphia, the highest inflation rate in 40 years and chaos on the Southern border, both Republicans lost. And they lost because of poor candidate quality. Josh Shapiro, a relatively moderate Democrat, trounced Doug Mastriano, a full fledged Trump acolyte, by about 13 percentage points. 

In the process of losing the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, the Republicans managed to lose the Senate contest to a far-left Bernie Sanders type candidate. The winner, Lt Governor John Fetterman, had recently suffered a stroke and was sufficiently damaged that he could barely string words into a sentence when not haltingly reading from a script. No matter, Dr. Oz, a political neophyte endorsed by Trump, went down to defeat by about 2 points, with an assist from Mastriano’s rout. 

Or take Arizona. Kari Lake a TV news anchor ran as a Republican and aggressively asserted that the 2020 election was stolen, and that Trump was the legitimate winner. With her experience as a TV news anchor she was polished in front of the cameras, and a favorite in late polls. 

But she lost. As did her less polished fellow Republican neophyte and ticket mate Blake Masters. He began slithering away from his anti-abortion position by attempting a surreptitious change on his website after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. He also denied that Trump lost the 2020 presidential race, apparently a prerequisite for new Republican nominees. In the event, he too went down to defeat. 

Compare the wipeout of the Trump backed high profile candidates with other conventional Republicans. In Georgia Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican who stood up to Trump’s stolen election nonsense, easily beat Stacey Abrams who denied that she lost her 2018 race against Kemp. That said, his win (by about 7 points) may not be enough to drag Trump acolyte Herschel Walker over the finish line. 

Then consider Ohio. The Republican incumbent, governor Mike DeWine who avoided Trump like the plague, is mopping up the floor with his Democratic rival Nan Whaley. When it’s over, he will have won by over 30 percentage points. That was probably enough to drag the Trump backed author, J.D. Vance, over the finish line. 

Now let’s consider New Hampshire. The incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan was generally considered to be one of the weakest Democratic Senatorial candidates, and a top target of the Republicans. Until the primary that is. In the primary Trump backed retired General Don Bolduc secured the nomination and then proceeded to lose the Senate race in the general election by about 10 points. On the other hand the Republican incumbent Governor Chris Sununu, no friend of Trump’s, is handily winning his race by about 10 points.  

It should also be noted that the Trump candidates received virtually no financial support from the former president even though he raised a boatload of money for his MAGA PAC. Mitch McConnell had to pony up the dough from his Senate Leadership PAC to keep them in the game. 

In the end the midterm elections produced one very big loser and one big winner. The very big loser is none other than Donald J. Trump. His candidates were a drag on the party even though conditions for the opposition could not have been better. 

Americans are facing soaring inflation, a deteriorating economy, chaos on the border, increasing rates of violent crime, rising interest rates and trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. And that’s not counting developing energy shortages, a presidential approval rate in the low 40s and a foreign policy devoid of articulated goals.

Still, the Republicans still managed to lose. It is reminiscent of the time in 1962 when Casey Stengel, the newly appointed manager of the NY Mets asked “Can’t anyone here play this game?”

The bright spot is that in addition to Trump’s being a big loser, there was a big winner named Ron DeSantis. He won his race for re-election as Florida’s Governor by a huge margin, somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 to 20 percentage points. That win is decisive enough to put him in a position to credibly challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.  

So Republicans have a choice. They can continue to act like spoiled children having a collective temper tantrum in which case they will continue to lose. Or they can act like adults, recapture a sensible governing philosophy and stitch together a winning coalition that emphasizes the benefits of subsidiarity and free markets over central planning.  

The choice is theirs. Will they make the right one? We’ll have to wait and see.

JFB

The Hysterical Phase

We have entered the final, hysterical phase of the Midterms. During this phase the side that is about to get shellacked makes increasingly hysterical claims in a last desperate bid to stave off the inevitable. This year it’s the Democrats and the outlandish over-the-top claim is that if the Republicans were to win, Democracy would likely perish. 

In the hotly contested sweepstakes to utter the silliest thing possible we have two well known personalities that are neck-in-neck for the lead. They are historian Michael Beschloss and film maker Rob Reiner. Their comments are worth quoting in full because they are a  marvel of idiocy.

Here is Michael Beschloss, an academic historian, speaking to the faithful on the Chris Hayes show: 

“six nights from now, we could all be discussing violence all over this country,” and “we could be six days away from losing our rule of law, and losing a situation where we have elections that we all can rely on.  You know, those are the foundation stones of a democracy.” 

He continued with this gem: “if historians are allowed to write in this country … will say what was at stake tonight and this week was the fact — whether we will be a democracy in the future, whether our children will be arrested and conceivably killed. We are on the edge of a brutal authoritarian system, and it could be a week away.”

Film Director Rob Reiner went full crackpot in his comments on Joy Reid’s TV show “The ReidOut”. Here is what Reiner said:

“Because the other side reality does not mean anything. They are only interested in power. They are only interested, and they will do anything to get the power. And they are willing to kill, literally kill, to get the power. You can’t have a conversation with them. The only thing we can do is try to hold on to the House and a couple of Senate seats. It will be very hard. If we do not do that, this might be the last election we have in a democracy.”

Add to this the long list of Democratic leaders, among them Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, who risibly insist that Democracy-Is-On-The-Ballot. 

This sort of baloney is not just the idle musings of a few lunatics. It is part of a larger strategy. That strategy, as representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA) acknowledged in a conversation with political reporter John Heilemann is to “scare the crap out of [voters] and get them to come out.”

Let’s make sure to acknowledge that Democrats are not the only ones who do this. Republicans do it too. It’s just that this time it’s the Democrats who are going to get clobbered and consequently have resorted to an attempt to scare the party faithful into coming out to pull the lever for Democrats.

That said, it seems to be fairly obvious that the Democratic Party leadership is not so foolish that it actually believes its own rhetoric. After all, they have spent millions of dollars promoting a slew of MAGA friendly candidates in GOP primaries. If they really believed all this stuff about threats to Democracy then why would they have done this? Because they thought the MAGA candidates would be the easiest to beat in the general election. And now they are faced with the very real prospect of being hoisted on their own petard. 

And speaking of Democracy and lawlessness, why is it that returning the question of abortion regulation to the political branches (i.e., state legislatures) anti-democratic? And if Michael Beschloss is so concerned that “our children will be conceivably killed” then why is he such an abortion rights fanatic?

And if bodily autonomy is so highly valued, why is it that Democrats were all in on vaccine mandates, even when the evidence was crystal clear that vaccines do not affect COVID – 19 transmissibility?

We should also ask why it is that Democrats were so willing to void lockdown orders to accommodate BLM protests, but shut down religious services in church parking lots. And why Democratic Mayors and Governors insisted on keeping schools shut when the evidence was indisputable that threat of COVID-19 to children was virtually non-existent. Or why Joe Biden’s obviously unconstitutional student loan forgiveness plan should not be debated in a Congress where Democrats control both Houses. 

We should also ask how it is possible for Democrats to insist that women are discriminated against when they are incapable of recognizing what a woman is, without pace Ketanji Brown Jackson, being a biologist. Or how it is possible to be in favor of equality before the law, without fear or favor, and still be enthralled by affirmative action. 

The simple answer is that the progressive ideology that reigns supreme in the party does not recognize the primacy of, or give deference to individuals, voluntary action, the nuclear family or the Burkean little platoons of civil society. 

Instead, progressives are all about power and control. They recognize the supremacy of voting blocs, defer to subject matter experts who agree with them, and seek to rule through Command-and-Control using the iron fist of an unaccountable bureaucracy. 

Still, the fear mongers may be half right about one thing. There may be violence after election day. But that would be if Republicans win. It is possible—although anyone reasonable hopes not—that we will see rioting by “mostly peaceful protesters” in major cities. If so what we will hear from progressives is crickets.

JFB

The Midterms are Just About Here

Well here we are 4 days away from the Midterms and the insanity that typically comes with electioneering has, by now, reached its normal fever pitch, and hopefully its zenith. The pieties which are recited endlessly and with increasing fervor by the combatants tend to be the same baloney they serve up every election season. And while the contestants may have convinced themselves that they are uniquely on the side of truth and justice, they are serving up baloney nonetheless. 

Consider some typical offerings designed to rally voters. “This is the most important, consequential, (pick your adjective)  election in your lifetime.” Well, no it isn’t. On the Wednesday after election day despite the hysteria ginned up over the elections, the sun will still rise, the sky won’t fall and the day will look a lot like every other day. 

How about this one, a remark typically intoned by candidates who are resigned to their fate: “The only poll that matters is the one on election day.”  Of course that isn’t even close to being true. Leaving aside that election day has become election week,  it is undeniably true that politicians are polling addicts. Not only do they consult poll data when considering what position to take on a given issue; campaign strategy is also highly dependent on polling. 

What is particularly interesting about this election season is wide variability in polling results across different organizations. What remains to be seen is whether any polling organization has consistently produced more accurate forecasts when compared with actual outcomes. 

Georgia on My Mind

Which brings up the two major races in Georgia; the Governor’s race and the Senate race. Georgia’s contests are a mirror image of Pennsylvania’s. In Georgia’s Gubernatorial race the Republican seeking re-election is Brian Kemp. He is facing a rematch with Stacey Abrams whom he beat by 50,000 votes in 2018.  Governor Kemp earned the enmity of Donald J Trump for his refusal in 2020 to subvert Georgia’s election laws in favor of Trump.

Stacey Abrams, perhaps a precursor to Trump in 2020, refused to acknowledge her defeat in 2018. She accused Kemp of fraud, without evidence, as the NY Times likes to say. She acted pretty much like sore loser Trump acted when he refused to admit defeat in 2020. The best you can say about Abrams relative to Trump is that she didn’t set off any riots in Atlanta.  

That said, Abrams (like Trump) has taken to making wildly implausible claims. For instance, when she finally got around to acknowledging an inflation problem, she attributed it in part to too many women having children instead of aborting them. 

Abrams thus joins the Republican nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania in tin-foil hat territory. And like the Republican Pennsylvania nominee Doug Mastriano, she is solidly behind in the polls. (Those polls that supposedly don’t matter). She, like Mastriano is behind enough that she, like Mastriano may drag down the Party’s Senate nominee to defeat. 

Interestingly, the Republican Senate nominees, both in Pennsylvania and in Georgia, were pushed by Donald Trump. Both Republicans are deeply flawed candidates, and at least one (Hershel Walker) is obviously incompetent. The other (Dr. Oz) is a snake-oil salesman. 

The Georgia Republican candidates also share two other factors in common. The first is that they are both running against incompetent buffoons. The second is that the polling in both races indicates that the contests are very toss-ups. Since Georgia election laws require the victor to have 50% plus 1, and there are minor party candidates running,  it may require a run-off on December 6, 2022 to finally arrive at a result. 

Other Thoughts

There is a lot of talk about the possibility of a “wave” election with Republicans gaining a substantial majority in the House and maybe a 2 or 3 seat pickup in the Senate.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind though. The first is that the incumbent President’s party almost invariably loses House seats in the Midterms during his first term in office. Since the Democrats have only a tiny majority (220 vs 212 with 3 absent) normally it would be expected that they will lose the majority. It is the margin that matters. 

Second, in the 2020 presidential election the Republicans picked up 14 House seats. It is extremely unusual for a party to pick up House seats while losing a presidential election when the party is the incumbent in the White House. But that is what the Republicans did and it was clearly a personal repudiation of Donald Trump, not Republicans generally. 

But that leaves open the question of how to define a Republican “wave”. In two prior off-year wave elections (1994 and 2010) the Republicans picked up 54 and 63 seats respectively. The average off-year gain for the party out of power is around 28 – 30 seats. But since the Republicans picked up 14 seats in 2020, a gain of about 35 – 40 seats would probably constitute a wave and result in a gain in the Senate of as many as 4 or 5 seats.

There will be surprises. The Republicans are poised to pick up Gubernatorial seats, perhaps in unlikely places like Oregon, Minnesota and New York. Some Senate seats that looked to be safe suddenly look vulnerable, specifically Michale Bennet in Colorado and Patty Murray in Washington State. 

Regardless, a Republican wave, if it comes, should not be viewed as any kind of mandate. It should be seen as a rebuke to the Democrats, and most particularly, the progressives. It is not a vote for any kind of Republican governing philosophy because there isn’t one anywhere in sight. 

The public is sick and tired of woke politics. They are fed up with the disaster in the public schools, with rising violent crime in the cities, with too-high inflation, with chaos on the Southern border, with identity politics, with the obsession with transactivism and with cancel culture in general. Which ever party figures out how to deal with these issues will be well positioned for the 2024 Presidential race. 

Most importantly, family and friends are more important than your vote. In the grand scheme of things, politics is not all that important. That’s worth keeping in mind when the discussion gets heated. Or overheated. 

JFB

The Midterms

All the signs are beginning to point to a big midterm rebuke of Biden Administration polices—and may be more. Much more. One election cycle is not the be all and end all. But this one may set the stage in 2024 for a full scale rejection of the radicalism that has taken over the Democratic Party. 

That will depend on Republicans acting like adults assuming they take power. That is always a shaky bet. And speaking of acting like adults, it assumes that ex President Donald J. Trump remains ex President Trump; that he does not run for the Republican presidential nomination, and if he does so he fails to get it. Otherwise, all bets are off.

It is fairly routine for the party that controls the White House to lose seats although not necessarily the control of the House in midterm elections. Over the last 100 years, the president’s party loses about 28 contests in the House and 4 in the Senate.  Over the last 100 years, the president’s party has picked up House seats only 3 times; in the Senate 6 times. Only twice has the president’s party picked up seats in both Houses of Congress.

In 2020 the Republicans gained a net of 12 seats even while losing the White House. That was a clear rejection of Donald J Trump’s conduct as President. Partly as a result of Republican pickups in 2020 and partly because of Democratic Congressmen taking jobs in the Biden Administration, the Democrats now have only about a 5 seat margin in the House. It is therefore a virtual certainty that the Republicans will hold the Speaker’s gavel in the next Congress.

The Republicans seem to have developed momentum over the last few days. The issues that favor them—crime, inflation and the border are at the top of voter’s minds. The issues that favor Democrats—abortion rights and climate change—are slipping rapidly down the priority scale. Plus, parents are hopping mad about the state of public schools and are in the mood to punish Democrats who side with teachers unions versus Republicans who have emphasized parental rights. 

Put it all together and there is the real possibility of a red tsunami on November 8. Expect the Republicans to pick up 30 to 40 seats in the House.  

The Senate is a bit trickier. The Republicans are poised to pick up 3 Senate seats and maybe 5—even with some relatively low quality candidates. Speaking of which, Herschel Walker is beginning to pull ahead in the polls even though he has no political experience, various (plausible) allegations of scandal have been leveled against him, and his son, a conservative activist, has denounced him. 

It is starting to look like Adam Laxalt (R) is beginning to pull away from incumbent Catherine Cortez (D)  in Nevada.  The polls have also tightened considerably in Arizona and New Hampshire.  The contest between incumbent Mark Kelly (D; AZ) and challenger Blake Masters is separated by 1 or 2 percentage points—well within the margin of error. 

After having a comfortable lead of 8 to 11 points in September, the incumbent Democrat from New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan is up only 3.4 points in the average of published polls in October. She is running against retired General Don Bolduc (R), a Trump style candidate whom the DNC backed in the primary on the theory he would be easy to beat. 

There are a couple of potential surprises lurking out there. In Colorado the DNC is working overtime to label Republican Joe O’Dea a Trump acolyte even though Trump has denounced O’Dea because of his refusal to kiss the ring. For instance he has called O’Dea a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Referring to O’Dea he said  “MAGA doesn’t vote for people with big mouths”. 

So why are Colorado Democrats trying to tie Trump around O’Dea’s neck? The only reasonable conclusion is that they believe the Democratic incumbent Michael Bennett is more vulnerable than he seems.  Similarly there have been one or two polling scares for Democratic incumbent Patty Murray in Washington State. 

Then there is Pennsylvania where the Democratic candidate John Fetterman imploded on the debate stage Tuesday night. He is obviously struggling to recover from the stroke he suffered from just before he won his primary. While any decent human being wishes him well and hopes for a full recovery, the fact remains that the debate ripped away the shield that the press protectively wrapped around him.  That is worth thinking about. 

The mainstream press was well aware of Fetterman’s condition. And they covered it up. They did so deliberately in order to influence the election. That much is obvious. It is pretty much what they did with the Hunter Biden laptop story. And so the real take-away from the Pennsylvania election is this question: what else is the press lying about? 

The press has consistently downplayed the surge in crime, especially in big cities run by Democrats. They have played footsie with the CDC and its ever changing policy dictates concerning COVID-19. They have pretended that shutting the schools down at the behest of the teachers’ unions was a costless exercise. And of course, every time there is a change in the weather they ring climate change alarm bells.   

The net of it is that in all probability the Republicans are going to win somewhere in the vicinity of 30 to 40 House seats and 2 or 3 Senate seats. Surprises will be in the upside for Republicans. That won’t mean that the voting public has signed onto Republican orthodoxy, primarily because there isn’t one. But, at least temporarily,  there is the possibility that it will put a halt on the ongoing public policy fiasco that is the Biden Administration. 

JFB

Ukraine and the Coming Progressive Revolt

Apparently random events may not be random at all. A look under the surface may reveal a pattern that points to a larger truth.  That is especially true in politics. The politics of the Russo-Ukraine war, combined with climate hysteria in the West, speaks volumes about the sorry state of US politics and the internal contradictions of progressivism. 

Consider Russia’s war against Ukraine, the US response to it and how it is characterized by the mainstream stenographers who call themselves journalists. They are covering it like a basketball game with almost no serious thought about the geopolitical ramifications of the war and its conduct.

To recount: In February of 2022, six months after America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine after massing Russian troops on the border.  In response, the Biden Administration issued threats of sanctions against Russia and its leaders that would take effect if Russia actually launched an invasion. 

All the while President Biden kept (1) assuring Putin that the US wouldn’t present a serious military challenge to Russia, while (2) simultaneously supplying Ukraine with military hardware, which the US gradually escalated in its reach and lethality. 

In the event Russia launched its invasion and to the surprise of “experts” Ukraine did not fold in a few days. Instead it fought back aggressively to the point where those same experts are now saying that Ukraine has the upper hand. Meanwhile the Biden Administration refuses to articulate American goals for the effort that are not immediately walked backed by White House staffers. 

Remember Biden’s ruminating about the difference between a small incursion vs an invasion? Or perhaps Biden calling Putin a war criminal (which he undoubtedly is); or how about Biden announcing on March 26, 2022 that Putin “cannot remain in power” in the Kremlin, only to have the White House announce a day later that Biden was not seeking regime change in Russia. 

Putin, who has presumably taken his measure of Biden, has doubled down on his war aims and has taken to renewing his nuclear saber-rattling.  In turn,  Biden, who routinely blurts out whatever is on his mind, offhandedly referred to the possibility of nuclear Armageddon at a Democratic Party fund raising cocktail party. Publicly (and privately if he is to be believed) Biden has warned of “serious consequences” if Putin were to order the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. 

The problem is that nobody on planet earth really believes that Biden would respond in kind were Putin to deploy tactical nukes in Ukraine. After all, Biden routinely folds when confronted by the slightest progressive pressure. What are the chances that he would seriously consider trading the destruction of New York for Kiev? To ask the question is to answer it.

It may very well be the case that the stakes in the conflict for Russia are large while the stakes for the United States are small. That raises several possibilities, some of them quite  unpleasant. First, as a result of differing perceptions of costs and benefits, there is the real possibility of miscalculation leading to the catastrophe of a nuclear exchange. 

Second, the presumed unwillingness of the US to risk a nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine may result in a frozen conflict that is locked in place for years to come. Third, the prospect of a long drawn out proxy war with Russia exposes the folly of the West’s war on fossil fuels. Fourth, the US political commitment to Ukraine is unsustainable over the long run given the current environment. 

The commitment to Ukraine is unsustainable because its underlying rationale is in direct conflict with the dominant strains of policy making in the US. Those strains are isolationism and progressivism. JD Vance, Republican candidate for Ohio’s open Senate seat epitomizes the isolationist right. He has said “I gotta be honest with you. I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.” That pretty much sums up the isolationist position.

The progressive position is even more problematic, for 2 reasons. First, progressive ideology posits the United States as being irredeemably racist, sexist, borderline fascist, a threat to democracy, and worst of all, capitalist. The progressive mindset is utterly incapable of seeing beyond its own delusional rhetoric and is therefore unable to support a defense of Western liberalism in general and the United States in particular. 

Secondly, progressive policymaking is so dominated by climate hysteria that progressives are unswayed by the very real prospect of a cold dark winter in Europe as Russia shuts down its gas deliveries to the West. One likely consequence of a European continent facing a severe power shortage is a revolt by angry citizens who would be perfectly happy to drop their opposition to Russia in return for light and heat.  Another  likely consequence is a rupture between the US and continental Europe leading to a weakening or a breakup of NATO. That is a goal long sought by Putin.

A third possibility is a total collapse of Neo-liberalism which leads to a strengthening of autocracies around the world. Western liberalism is now under assault by China, Russia, Iran, their various minions, and useful idiots in academia.  And yet, the Biden Administration continues to use Russia as a go-between in negotiations with Iran, not to mention begging Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to increase oil production while  suppressing production of fossil fuels in the United States. 

The underlying problem is that progressive ideology is trumping reason, as it usually does. And as surely as night follows day, the progressive caucus has begun to voice its lack of support for Ukraine. It did so by releasing (and then un-releasing) a letter suggesting that Biden negotiate with Putin, over Ukraine’s head, to end the war. 

The progressive position in one sense is entirely consistent. The only way it makes sense for the US to support Ukraine is a whole hearted embrace (or re-embrace) of Neo-liberalism and the commitment of the resources needed for the job. That implies a large scaling up of the US Defense budget. It also implies abandoning climate alarmism, utopian income redistribution schemes, while shoring up international free-trade agreements and defense alliances like NATO. 

These policy changes are all anathema to the progressive left; some are despised by the Neo-isolationists on the right. But they are nevertheless necessary if the West is to remain free and prosperous. 

JFB

Financial Market Fragility

The recent meltdown in the British Gilt market that provided the rationale for the Bank of England to intervene in the markets by buying government bonds has raised the question now being asked rather uneasily by policy makers: could the same thing happen in the US ? 

Of course it can. In fact it’s a virtual certainty unless steps are taken to reform both US fiscal policy, financial regulations and US financial infrastructure. 

A dreary recitation of the numbers that describe the state of the public fisc has a tendency to fall on deaf ears, probably because various warnings have been issued for decades but disaster hasn’t arrived yet, or has been averted in the short term. But that is only on the surface. Putting off reform now just disguises the real cost of our fiscal folly and ultimately makes it more costly than it needs to be. 

The truth is we have a structural deficit that will not be ameliorated by mere tactics. Under the current policy regime unsustainable growth in debt and deficits are baked into the cake for the foreseeable future.  The deficit and accumulated debt will retard economic growth and make solving the problem more difficult. 

Consider the current state of affairs and projections for the future absent significant policy changes. According to the Treasury  Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) accumulated Treasury debt has doubled since 2015 and, according to the CBO is projected to reach 180% of GDP by 2050. This will require increasing ownership of Treasury securities by the private sector reaching about 25% by 2030. (See the graphs below). 

By definition that means that funds that would ordinarily go to the private sector, where they could fund investment, are going to the public sector where they mostly finance income transfer. These income transfer programs discourage savings and therefore investment needed to finance economic growth. 

The biggest liabilities are in Social Security and Medicare. They contain unfunded promises to pay benefits of $60 and $100  trillion respectively, expressed in terms of present value. Those numbers, which dwarf accumulated Treasury debt of about $30 trillion, are off balance sheet. But off balance sheet or no, the Treasury needs cash to pay beneficiaries.  

That’s one reason why the increasing fragility of financial markets   is becoming problematic. With the rise in inflation to 40 year highs, the Fed has been aggressively raising interest rates.  They have already raised overnight rates about 3 percentage points and before the end of the year those rates will probably be around another 1 % higher. Intermediate and longer rates have also risen about 3.5 percentage points in anticipation of additional Fed tightening. 

But while rates have risen along with Treasury financing requirements, bond dealers have pulled in their horns. According to the Treasury Advisory Borrowing Committee, bank capital has fallen sharply as a percentage of Treasury market size.  

In November of 2008 during the cataclysmic events leading to the Great Recession, bank capital was about 22% of publicly held Treasury debt. Now it’s a shade under 5%. Similarly, over the same time period, primary dealer transactions in Treasuries fell from about 14% to 2% of outstanding Treasury securities. (See the accompanying graphs.)

At the same time, there has been a substantial pick up in Treasury market volatility and diminished market liquidity.  Data from JP Morgan, shown in the graphs below, illustrate a rapid rise in Treasury market volatility and corresponding fall off in market depth. 

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Theorists can argue all day long about what type of stress the market can handle. As a practical matter though, Treasury needs to sell securities to finance all the spending that Congress has ordered. And someone has to buy those very same securities. Standing between those buyers and sellers is the dealer community. 

There are 25 primary dealers in government securities. Primary dealers are authorized to trade with the Fed. They also serve as market makers and make underwriting bids at Treasury auctions. According to data published by the Federal Reserve of New York, the top quintile of dealers—5 in total—account for about 50% of dealer transactions in Treasuries. The top 10—which includes the 1st and 2nd quintiles—account for about 75% of the volume. 

The current weighted average maturity (WAM) of outstanding Treasury debt is about 74 months. The weighted average duration (WAD) of the debt is about 5 years. The CBO projects yearly deficits north of $1 trillion for years to come. If we take into consideration rolling over the existing debt along with financing deficits of $1 trillion plus for the foreseeable future, then we are talking about something in the neighborhood of $6 trillion worth of Treasury securities being sold through the dealer community every year for a very long time. 

Remember there are only 25 dealers and 5 of them account for about half the trading volume. That means there will be about $500 billion worth of Treasuries every month being marketed by a very small number of players. And keep in mind that bank capital as a percentage of outstanding Treasury debt has been dropping like a stone. Also keep in mind that primary dealer transactions in Treasuries now constitute a mere 2% of outstanding Treasury debt, down from 14% a little over a decade ago. Combine that with a sharp rise in volatility and with shrinking market depth and we have the recipe for a financial calamity. 

Could a meltdown like the one in Britain happen here? Sure it can. The elements that could touch it off are present. All it needs is a spark. The wise course would be to begin to reform our budgeting processes and strengthen our financial infrastructure before there is a spark. Which means that substantial policy reforms are due now, before it’s too late. 

JFB

The Midterms come to PA

We are about 3 weeks away from the midterm elections and to date there has been very little by way of substantive discussion of policy by the candidates. On the other hand, there has been extensive posturing, sloganeering and bad argumentation, heavily influenced by insights gleaned from analysis of focus groups.  

So let’s talk about Pennsylvania. The results from the Keystone State will be particularly interesting, but not because control of the Senate rests with Pennsylvania voters. It doesn’t. The results will be interesting because there are two elections in Pennsylvania that couldn’t be more different. The gubernatorial race pits a genuinely moderate Democrat (Josh Shapiro) against a tin-foil hat Trumpkin Republican (Doug Mastriano) who insists that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen.  

For example, Mr. Shapiro has come out in favor of a private-school choice bill that passed the Republican controlled Pennsylvania state house with only 1 Democratic vote. He is in favor of lowering corporate taxes and spending more money on police. He also disavowed at least some of outgoing governor Tom Wolf’s restrictive Covid policies. 

But Shapiro is not exactly an Eagle Scout. He and his allies spent something like $840,000 on ads designed to help Mastriano secure the Republican nomination, the theory being that Mastriano would be a relatively easy opponent to beat in the general election. Leaving aside the ethics of this, it does make all the rhetoric about the supposed threat to democracy more than a little bit suspect. 

On the other hand Mr. Mastriano appears to be a true believer. He is all-in on the laughable Trump claim that the 2020 election was stolen. This is where we get into tin-foil hat territory: Mastriano appears to actually believes this nonsense. It isn’t just posturing. At the very least this indicates that his prudential judgement is deeply flawed—and that is being charitable. If he really believes this baloney he certainly doesn’t belong in the Governor’s chair.  

Mastriano’s policy positions tend to be on the rightward cultural edge of conventional Republican politics. But his rhetoric tends toward the inflammatory; you might say Trumpian. And his rhetoric suggests that at the very least he is a bit off. One writer from the Atlantic referred to him as “a nutjob”. 

It is hard to really pin Mastriano down because he avoids direct contact with the press; his campaign is full of innuendo, and the press, which obviously favors Shapiro, interprets Mastriano’s pronouncements in the least favorable light.  So it is difficult to tell what he is really all about. That said, the available evidence suggests the Atlantic writer is probably correct: Mastriano is  nuts. 

Compare the gubernatorial race with the Senate race. Like the gubernatorial election there is no incumbent. That’s pretty much where the similarity ends. In the gubernatorial race the vacating governor is a Democrat; in the Senate race, the retiring Senator is a Republican. 

The Democratic nominee, lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, clobbered his moderate rival, Connor Lamb, in the Democratic primary. He has staked out positions on the far left of the progressive wing of the party. You might say that he is firmly in the AOC camp. 

He is, for instance, in favor of a $15 minimum wage; he is opposed to fracking, although he is trying to soft-pedal earlier remarks. According to his website he is going to hold Washington “accountable” through his 5 point “plan” which is quoted below.

Mr. Fetterman’s plan includes this gem: “All across Pennsylvania we’re seeing soaring prices, hollowed out communities, getting ripped off by corporate greed.” 

Here is his 5 point plan to fix things:

  • Make more sh*t in America (This is a direct quote including the spelling).
  • Cut taxes for working people
  • Ban Congress from trading stocks
  • Slash “out of pocket” health care costs
  • End immoral price gouging

We have come to expect politicians to say stupid things. And John Fetterman has jumped into the stupid sweepstakes with gusto. 

Fetterman’s positions are so extreme or pointless or both that he and his handlers have decided to make the campaign about abortion and identity politics. He has taken to wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a “John Fetterwoman” Logo that is supposed to emphasize his support for abortion rights. 

Funny thing though, in the end abortion regulation is going to be decided by 50 state legislatures, not the Feds so if he is really all that interested in furthering abortion rights he would be attempting to do so at the state, rather than federal level. But he isn’t. 

Why?

Because on top of being a buffoon (see the 5 point plan above)  he is also a hypocrite. He makes a big deal about his working class sympathies, spent years as Mayor of a small working class town and best of all he routinely outfits himself in a pair of shorts and a hoodie. As the stenographers that make up the political press put it: He wears this outfit Even in winter! Well, Holy Smoke: How’s that for street cred?

So let’s talk about the publicity machine that Fetterman built over the years as a way to create a persona that bears little resemblance to the actual person. Start with the working class bit, and grant the log cabin routine is a perennial in American politics. 

John Fetterman earned his first paycheck—other than the $150 per month he earned as Mayor—when he was 49 years old. That paycheck came from his job as Lieutenant Governor. Until then he  was supported by an allowance funded by his wealthy family. Like most working class people he earned his bachelors degree from Albright College; his MBA from the University of Connecticut and his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. 

After his sojourn at the Kennedy School he ran for Mayor of Braddock, PA and won. There he stayed from January 2006 until January 2019 when he became Lt. Governor of PA. 

After his election as Mayor of Braddock, Fetterman launched what Wikipedia calls “a failed campaign to attract new residents to the area from the artistic and creative communities.” He also initiated other revitalization efforts. They failed as well. 

Today Braddock looks pretty much the same as it looked when Fetterman was Mayor. It has a tiny population of about 2,000 people. Median household income is about $18,500; per capita income is only about $13,100 according to US Census data. Some 35% pf the population lives below the poverty line including 54% of those under 18 years old. 

On top of all this, Fetterman suffered a stroke a few days before the primary. His campaign covered up the extent of the damage for as long as it could, but eventually the details began to emerge as they almost always do. It turns out that as a result of his stroke, Fetterman has problems processing spoken words and so he insists on using a closed captioning aid when he has the rare interview. 

NBC News reporter Dasha Burns quizzed Fetterman the other day about the state of his health now and noted that Fetterman had not released his medical records relating to the stroke. She also reported that it”…wasn’t clear [Fetterman]was understanding the part of their conversation when he didn’t have the aid of a captioning device.”

As social justice warriors are wont to do, the Fetterman campaign immediately went on the attack in an effort to intimidate anyone who would dare to question the bona fides of the candidate. They wheeled out his wife, Gisele Fetterman, who announced the interview left her “in a rage”; accused the reporter of doing a disservice to journalism for the “appalling” report which was, she maintained appalling to the entire disability community. Then for the coup de grace she urged that there be “consequences” for the reporter. 

Note that the argument quickly went from “nothing to see here; all is fine” to an argument that questions about the candidate’s health status are all of a sudden off-bounds.

That about sums it up. Candidate Fetterman is a fraud as well as being a failed Mayor, a policy buffoon and hostile to the first amendment. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he is running against—Dr Mehmet Oz.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is a celebrity celebrity doctor and political neophyte endorsed by Donald J Trump. In the Republican primary Dr. Oz beat David McCormack, a hedge fund manager, by about 1,000 votes. 

Unlike Fetterman, Oz doesn’t try to hide either his wealth or background. Disclosure forms indicate his wealth is over $100 million, and could be multiples of that. He was born in Turkey (he holds dual citizenship), went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree and the University of Pennsylvania for both his MBA and MD degrees. 

Much has been made about his wealth, largely a function of the money he makes as a reality talk show host, and his upper class tastes. The Fetterman camp, for instance, has made a big deal about Oz referring to crudités, insisting that “real” Pennsylvanians use terms like veggie platter. Why that should matter, other than a crude appeal to envy, is beyond me.  

That aside, Oz has descended into promoting medical quackery. An article published by McGill University’s Office for Science and Society documents Oz’s fall from respected surgeon to circus barker. For example, Oz has championed “energy medicine” for which he won the Pigasus Award. It is an award that, as McGill puts it, recognizes achievements in pseudoscience. 

He has hyped diet pills without any evidence they actually work. He has apparently lent credence to the idea of talking to the dead. And he has relentlessly hyped his “Dr. Oz’s homeopathic starter kit” which is based on using non-existent molecules  to treat real diseases. 

Among other things, Oz has suggested that there are dangerous levels of arsenic in apple juice (there are not); that green coffee is a miracle cure for obesity (it isn’t) and has hinted that genetically modified  foods are cancer causing (they are not). 

Lest anyone think these are mere political hits, reeking of bias, the AMA Journal of Ethics took him to task for the coffee and obesity claims back in 2017 when Oz was playing at being “America’s Doctor”. That was  well before Donald Trump—or anybody else—came up with the idea of Oz  running for the Senate.

So there you have it. Pennsylvania has a pair of wealthy frauds running for its open Senate seat; in its gubernatorial race a moderate Democrat is facing off against a Trumpian election denier. What to make of it?

My guess is that Shapiro, the moderate Democrat will convincingly trounce the election denier Republican Mastriano, for the Governor’s office. On the other hand, Oz will narrowly defeat Fetterman. If Oz wins the contest, the spread between the vote totals of Shapiro and Fetterman will capture the attention of analysts. 

To the extent that Shapiro wins convincingly and Fetterman loses (or perhaps just squeaks by) the conclusion will be that a moderate Democrat can be formidable in a blue-collar swing state. At the same time a defeat for a far-left Senatorial candidate would suggest that voters in the Keystone state are looking for moderation in their politics. 

There is a certain irony in all this. To the extent that Democrats have focused their attention on abortion, the race that matters most to them is (ore should be) the race for the statehouse. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion regulation will be decided at the state level, not the national level, absent a Constitutional amendment. The Governor’s race is therefore more important in that respect. 

The Democrat’s focus on nationalizing abortion regulation has also left them extremely vulnerable. While 2 months ago abortion concerns were among the top priorities for voters, now those concerns have fallen to about 4th or 5th place, behind, inflation, crime and the economy in general. 

If, instead of running on local issues, the Democrats lose their bet on nationalizing abortion regulation, what is left for them to run on? Abortion will have lost some of its salience in the national debate and the Democratic Party infrastructure will be left in tatters. 

One last note. In some ways, the Georgia Gubernatorial and Senatorial elections are a mirror image of Pennsylvania. More on that in a future post.

JFB

On to the Midterms

The Democrats have built an impressive suicide machine which, by all accounts, they intend to deploy for the midterm elections. This theory contradicts the conventional wisdom—a conventional wisdom that was horribly wrong in 2016 and 2020. Horribly wrong in that Donald Trump won in 2016 despite prognostications of a Hillary Clinton landslide. Horribly wrong in 2020 in that Republicans generally outperformed the polls while President Biden underperformed them and barely managed to squeak through to capture the White House. 

The way the 2022 midterms are shaping up, a repeat performance is distinctly possible. The Republicans may very well repeat their outperformance of conventional polls and recapture both the House and Senate. Such a result I might add, has little or nothing to do to do with any semblance of a coherent Republican strategy, which is largely non-existent. 

Consider for instance the abortion controversy. For about 50 years Republicans have argued that Roe v. Wade was (1) badly decided and (2) that abortion regulation was a matter for the states decide. Well, along comes the Supreme Court with the Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturning Roe on substantially the same grounds that the Republicans have argued for lo these 50 years. But in the wake of Dobbs, despite the fact that it was leaked months in advance, Republicans were caught flat-footed. 

They simply have no talking points.  As in the Obamacare debacle they have proved to be much better at running against something rather than actively positing a better way. In the abortion battles Republicans have gone into a defensive crouch. In so doing they have allowed Democrats to frame the issue, however incorrectly, to their political advantage.  

Democrats posit assertions that have only a passing connection, if any, to the truth. Things like assertions that the Court under the prodding of Clarence Thomas is setting the stage to overturn Loving v Virginia, a decision that found prohibitions against interracial marriages unconstitutional. Thomas, by the way is guilty of the unforgivable crime of being black and having a white wife. 

Then there is the risible assertion that birth control will be declared illegal. (Note here that some Republicans have urged that birth control pills be sold over the counter in the face of Democratic resistance.) Also consider the charge that some states will make it illegal to treat Ectopic pregnancies and other medical emergencies without the ability to legally perform an abortion.  Not so, as Alexandra DeSanctis points out in an exhaustive survey of abortion regulations in all 50 states. (See the article here.)

Most amazing of all is that Republicans have allow radical abortion rights activists to frame the Court’s decision as anti-democratic. This, even though the Supreme Court pointedly returned the issue of abortion regulation to the democratic process via state legislatures. It was in Roe that the Court cut out the political branches and short circuited the democratic process. And by the way, the Supreme Court was deliberately designed to be an anti-majoritarian institution whose remit is to interpret what the law is rather than to make it up as they go along.  The Supreme Court is thus supposed to serve as a bulwark against mob rule in order to protect liberty. 

One would think that a political party that possessed  organizational and political skills only slightly superior to the average Cub Scout pack would have been prepared for this sort of  onslaught. But not the Republicans. They were left staring at their shoes like the kid in the 6th grade who got called on in class when he didn’t do his homework. 

This is political malpractice on a grand scale. The Party spent 50 years inveighing against Roe and when the Supreme Court finally got around to agreeing with them, Republicans were left speechless. 

Not only that,  Republicans managed to nominate a whole lot of Trump backed candidates whose chief claim to fame is their willingness to kiss the Trump ring.  As it turns out, the Republicans did this did with substantial assistance from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which was busy lending backhanded support for these Trumpians on the theory that they would be easy to beat in a general election.  So much for the alleged “threat to our Democracy™ ”. That said, it is important to recognize the uncomfortable fact that Trumpian candidates won because Republican primary voters selected them as their champions. 

Nevertheless it is my opinion that the Republicans are likely to have a strong enough showing to recapture both Houses of Congress. The reasons are several. (1) The Democrats are fooling themselves if they actually believe the American people want the radical left wing agenda of the Party to be enacted. (2) The Democratic vote is highly concentrated whereas the Republican vote is more spread out. Consequently where the Democrats win, they will tend to do so with “excess votes” that would have served them better elsewhere. (3) Wide variations in state polling results indicate substantial  variation in polling methodology, but not necessarily voter opinion. 

As for point 1 (above): The overwhelming majority of polls give the Biden Administration very poor marks on inflation, crime, managing the economy and border control. Further Biden himself gets very low marks, ranging between 39% and 45% approval, on how he handles his job. It is hard to believe that voters are looking for more of the same. That is why Democrats continually attempt to change the subject. 

The potential fly in the ointment is (surprise, surprise) none other than Donald J Trump. The Democrats would love to keep him front and center.  Donald Trump would love to be front and center. If Trump and the Democrats manage to keep him as the center of attention, there is a reasonable chance of holding the Democratic majority in the Senate and possibly the House. It all depends on how destructive Trump will be. And since he is simply seeking revenge he could be quite destructive. Absent that, the Democrats are going to get buried. 

Let’s consider point 2 (above). It is true that polls pitting  generic Republicans and Democrats against each other are fairly tight with some momentum toward the Democrats, probably attributable to Dobbs. But take a look at the distribution of poll results. While the  overall results are tight, the distribution of the results tells a different story. 

In Congressional districts rated at least somewhat competitive by ABC’s FiveThirtyEight, registered voters preferred Republican candidates by a stunning 55% to 34% over Democratic candidates. However, in heavily Democratic districts Democrats are favored by 35 percentage points.  This suggests that (1) Democratic votes are very concentrated in districts where they are likely to win anyway,  but (2) they are losing the race by substantial margins in the competitive swing districts that will determine control of Congress.

Now let’s turn to the 3rd point above that references polling methodology. Most, but not all polls, seem to show improving Democratic chances after a dismal summer. For instance Patty Murray is generally thought to be the overwhelming favorite in Washington state. In mid September one poll had her up by 12 points.  But recently the Trafalgar group had her up only 2 points—within the margin of error.  In Arizona two polls had Kelly beating  Masters by 8 to 12 points. But the Trafalgar group has the spread at only 2 points—again within the margin of error. (The polls were conducted 5 days apart). 

Trafalgar points out what he considers important differences in methodology that skews results. First, state polls tend to have small sample sizes. However, Trafalgar uses sample sizes of at least 1,000. Second, other polls tend to be rather long. His are short. He argues that people who take the time to respond to a long questionnaire tend to be political junkies who are systematically different from most voters. 

Third, he contends that cancel culture and a routine demonization of Republicans has forced some underground. Consequently they are hesitant to respond to pollsters even when they are assured that their answers are confidential. They are concerned about being “outed” as conservative and are worried about both their jobs and standing in their communities. As a result Trafalgar contends, Republican votes are being systematically undercounted in polling results. 

If Trafalgar is correct, and I believe he is, then the Republicans are going to capture both Houses of Congress in the midterms absent a dramatic new development. 

JFB

Blowin’ in the Wind

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

And how many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

From “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

© 1962 Warner Brothers Inc; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

Note that the song was copyrighted in 1962, years before Command-and-Control became the dominant ethos of political elites. Back in 1962 Dylan could ask “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see”? He knew he was stirring some consciences while shaming others.

But since then, shame has gone out the window. As has the idea of telling or recognizing the truth. Now we have “My truth”. We have pregnant people and birthing people, not mothers. We have people “Who identify as…”. 

Remember the violence of the summer of 2020? That was when we had “mostly peaceful” protests. Or the violence of January 6, 2021? Republican wordsmiths quickly tried to re-characterize it into a patriotic rally that got a little too enthusiastic. Then there was the suppression of the Hunter Biden story shortly before the November 2020 elections, wherein the NY Times, the Washington Post, Google, Twitter and Facebook just pretended not to see.  

Then there was the breathless coverage (“the walls are closing in”) of the phony Steele dossier—a brazen lie that the Democrat—Media complex marketed for years as if it were gospel truth. Not to mention the adoring coverage Dr. Anthony Fauci received even though he is an admitted liar and his agency, the CDC, proved to be inept even on its best day.  

Add to all this the crime wave that is now engulfing the nations’ cities; a crime wave that is directly attributable to the campaign to defund the police along with the refusal by some big city prosecutors to enforce the law.  On the subject of refusing to enforce the law, let’s not forget the Biden Administration’s carte blanche refusal to enforce laws that regulate the border. 

And let’s not leave out the continuing collapse in public school enrollment coupled with a surge in homeschooling and private school enrollment. Add to that an inflation rate precipitated by out-of-control spending that has been financed in good measure by the Feds’ reckless expansion of its balance sheet. 

As if that were not enough, the Congress decided to spend even more on a green energy bill that is mostly corporate welfare. It will have a negligible effect, if any, on global warming but that was never the point.  The point was to Do Someting, no matter how stupid. Needless to say the bill passed on a straight Party line vote before heading off for Biden’s signature.  

But let’s not stop there. After deciding to hand out a minimum of $500 billion to a valued constituency (young upscale voters) via student loan forgiveness, which he had no authorization to do, a few days later Mr. Biden actually said “…me and my Democratic friends (sic) on the Hill are working to expand and protect [Social Security]”. Expand an insolvent program. Just what we need. Then before resting, he called the Republicans “semi-fascists” whatever that is supposed to mean.

Mr Biden has been busy in foreign policy too. After assuring Americans that a withdrawal from Afghanistan would not bring about a precipitous collapse in that country, the withdrawal did precisely that. The United States abandoned thousands of Green Card holders to their fate, al-Qaeda re-established itself there, and Taliban rule was re-instituted just as it was before. Mr. Biden called the evacuation an “extraordinary success”. 

In the meantime the Administration continues to be played by Iran as it seeks to re-open the nuclear deal abandoned by President Trump, originally negotiated by President Obama. For its part Iran has attempted to assassinate John Bolton on US soil, and has made it clear that it wants UN nuclear inspectors removed. And, oh yes, since Iran refuses to speak to the U.S. directly, the U.S. has to use a go-between for the negotiations. That go-between is none other than Russia.

That is the very same Russia that invaded Ukraine in February of 2022—6 months after we abandoned Afghanistan. As it now stands we have funneled over $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine. But nowhere have we heard a word about what our goals and objectives are; nor have we been told what would constitute success. We are just in the business of pouring money into Ukraine without defining what the end game is. Meanwhile, after the sanctions we placed on Russia, they are taking in substantially more energy revenue than ever before because of rising prices. 

The war appears to be frozen in place and Europe, dependent on Russia for energy, is beginning to feel the crunch which will only intensify as long as the war continues. This is a consequence of Europe’s strategic dependence on Moscow which is a direct result of its attempt to convert to a green energy economy. It is an attempt that is doomed to failure, and one that the US is foolishly trying to implement as well.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that roughly everywhere you look there is obvious policy failure. Crime is exploding, inflation is soaring, economic growth is beginning to stagnate, the schools are failing to educate. In foreign policy the US has attempted to placate rivals like Iran while leaving allies confused about our resolve. In Ukraine we allowed ourselves to be trapped in a no-win situation. And we have not yet even begun to have a serious conversation about the position of the US vis-a-vis China. 

And yet, despite the blindingly obvious failures of the progressive  policy regime, we continue to be bombarded with the same propaganda over and over again, without a hint of reflection, thoughtlessly delivered by the mainstream media. But the failures and are blatant and the defense of the indefensible gets more and more implausible, insistent and hysterical on a daily basis. 

These policy failures are all linked by a reliance on command-and-control, bureaucratic group-think and what is surely a vain attempt to rule from the top down rather than accept the reality of the impossibility of doing so successfully. All of which depends on the willful blindness of citizens who would rather conform to current fashion than to ask the hard questions.

Which sends us back to the question Bob Dylan asked back in 1962. “Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head, And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

That is a question that still needs an answer 60 years on. 

JFB