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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Political Sickos

Philip Bump at WP:
Over the weekend, a group using the name America First held a conference in Florida. Led by a notorious white nationalist named Nick Fuentes, the group explored the explicitly racist and toxic applications of the phrase. No one did so with more eagerness than Fuentes.

“Tonight I say: We are going to rule this country,” he told the cheering audience, largely made up of young White men. After pronouncing that “the United States government has become the evil empire in the world,” he pledged that he and they would “build and raise up a parallel economy” to avoid the constraints otherwise placed on overt racists.

Fuentes, who was at the far-right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, repurposed one of its nationalist catchphrases as he railed against his group's enemies.
“To every RINO, every lying journalist, every carjacker, gangbanger, illegal immigrant, every OnlyFans whore, every mobbed-up politician and pundit on the payroll of some Middle Eastern country, to the people that have looted our wealth, addicted our youth to drugs, thrown open our borders to invaders from all over the world, to the corrupt that have sold out our country and our people: we are coming for you. ... You think you can replace us? You’re wrong. We will replace you.”
This is not subtle, certainly, but Fuentes at another point was more explicit.

“Our secret sauce here? It's these young White men,” he said. The audience cheered. “That's what we call the secret ingredient. America and the world has forgotten about them, but not us.”



 Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers:

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Smearing Ukraine

 Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses foreign influence and Trump's attack on democracy.  Russia helped Trump through 2020.  As Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, Trump lavished praise on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

During his first impeachment, he falsely accused Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 election.

Trump interview on Fox and Friends, November 22, 2019:

A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine.

Brian Kilmeade: (06:00)
But Mr. President-

Donald Trump: (06:02)
It’s very interesting. They have the server, right, from the DNC, Democratic National Committee-

Brian Kilmeade: (06:07)
Who has the server?

Donald Trump: (06:09)
The FBI went in and they told them, “Get out of here. We’re not giving it to you.” They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. The FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company? Why-

Steve Doocy: (06:31)
Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?

Donald Trump: (06:35)
Well, that’s what the word is. That’s what I asked, actually, in my phone call if you know. I mean, I asked it very point blank because we’re looking for corruption. There’s tremendous corruption we’re looking for. Why should we be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to countries when there’s this kind of corruption? When you look at my call, I said corruption … I think he said it to me. He’s looking. He got elected on the basis of corruption. And I also, by the way, going back to that, why isn’t Germany putting up money? Why isn’t France putting up money? All the European nations, why aren’t they putting up? You have the European Union, and they’re benefited a lot more by the Ukraine than we are.

Trump's claims were completely bogus. 

Pompeo, of course, sided with Trump.

Pompeo was asked Tuesday whether the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate whether Ukraine, and not Russia, hacked the Democratic Party.

"Any time there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right, but a duty to make sure we chase that down," he said.

Seeming to downplay Russia's interference -- despite efforts by the intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller to document and publicize its extensiveness -- the former CIA director added, "There were many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy, our rule of law, the fundamental understandings we have here in the United States."

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Fifth Column, Continued

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses foreign influence and Trump's attack on democracy.  Russia helped Trump through 2020.  As Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, Trump lavished praise on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 


Friday, February 25, 2022

Foreign Policy and Midterm Elections

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses foreign influence and Trump's attack on democracy.  Russia helped Trump through 2020.  As Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, Trump lavished praise on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

At The Dispatch, Chris Stirewalt that midterm voters seldom vote directly on the basis of foreign policy.
I could show you lots of polls like this one from Gallup where foreign policy clocks in as the top concern for 1 percent of voters. Even if you add in national defense/security concerns and specific hotspots or issues like Afghanistan, Russia, and China and combine them, it’s still below concerns about the courts and the judiciary. But to prove how little the issue of world affairs matters to voters, especially when the president is not on the ballot, just ask yourself the last time you have ever seen a significant political expenditure on a foreign policy issue. But again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The American system and American voters—typically—defer to presidential prerogatives on international matters.

You wouldn’t want, for example, a former president going around and openly undermining his successor during an international crisis while simultaneously claiming that the successor’s authority is illegitimate. Never mind.

And one proviso about the proviso: Voters very much care about any consequences of international affairs, even if they shrug at the underlying cause. The 1974 drubbing that Republicans took was about Watergate and Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon two months before the election, but it was also about the Yom Kippur War. That was the pretext for the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries to institute an oil embargo that brutalized Americans already groaning under the weight of inflation. If you had asked swing voters whether control of the Golan Heights mattered to their vote, probably not. A 50 percent increase in the price of gasoline, if you could get it? You bet.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Fifth Column

  Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses foreign influence and Trump's attack on democracy.  Russia helped Trump through 2020As Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, Trump lavished praise on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Putin Invades Ukraine. Trump Praises Putin.

David Edwards at Raw Story:
Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Vladimir Putin a "genius" after the Russian president made moves to take over parts of Ukraine.

Trump made the remarks during an interview with conservative podcaster Buck Sexton.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius,'" Trump recalled. "Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine -- Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful."

"I said, 'How smart is that?'" the former U.S. president continued. "And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy."

Trump added: "But here’s a guy that says, you know, 'I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,' he used the word 'independent' and 'we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.' You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad." 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Rick Scott's Agenda

Burgess Everett at Politico:
Senate Republican leaders have no plans to release an alternative agenda as they try to win back the majority this fall. So Rick Scott is pursuing his own plan.

The Florida Republican senator is devising a conservative blueprint for Republicans to enact should they win Senate and House majorities this fall. Among Scott’s priorities: completing the border wall and naming it after former President Donald Trump, declaring “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms and limiting most federal government workers — including members of Congress — to 12 years of service.

It’s a bold move for the first-term senator and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair. But Scott said the 31-page GOP agenda he’s crafted is separate from his work chairing the party’s campaign arm, adding that it’s “important to tell people what we’re gonna do.” It’s a clear break from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has declined to release a GOP agenda heading into the midterms.

“Hopefully, by doing this, we’ll have more of a conversation about what Republicans are going to get done. Because when we get the majority, I want to get something done,” Scott said in an interview. “There’s things that people would rather not talk about. I’m willing to say exactly what I’m going to do. I think it’s fair to the voter.”

The 11-point plan is a mix of longtime Republican positions, such as enacting a national voter ID law and shrinking the federal government, combined with culture war politics that define many GOP voters in the pro-Trump wing of the party. Scott said no one should be surprised that he’s devising his own plans, given his past record.

From the plan: " All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax."

Scott would raise taxes on poor people, thus reversing one of President Reagan's greatest accomplishments.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Classified Docs in Mar-a-Lago

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. 

Destruction of government documents is a crime.  So is mishandling of classified material.

David Gregorian at NBC:

The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed on Friday that it found classified material among the boxes of White House documents that former President Donald Trump improperly took to Mar-a-Lago.

"NARA has identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes" that have been returned to the agency from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, Archivist David S. Ferriero acknowledged in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The agency has said that Trump returned 15 boxes of documents that were improperly taken from the White House. Earlier this month, the oversight committee opened an investigation into the records that were taken from the White House by the former president.

Asked by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the oversight committee, if the agency had reported Trump's actions to the U.S. Attorney General's office, Ferriero said: "Because NARA identified classified information in the boxes, NARA staff has been in communication with the Department of Justice."

In a letter to Ferriero, which was sent last week, Maloney said she was “deeply concerned” that the records had not been provided to the agency promptly at the end of the Trump administration. “They appear to have been removed from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA)," Maloney wrote.

The New York Times was first to report that some of the boxes contained classified information, and the Washington Post has reported they included documents marked at the "top secret" level.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Ukraine and Domestic Politics

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections  There are some favorable signs for Democrats in the 2022 midterms -- but energy and inflation are not currently among them.

The Ukraine crisis could add to their woes.

President Biden on Tuesday:

This is a cause that unites Republicans and Democrats.  And I want to thank the leaders and members of Congress of both parties who have forcefully spoken out in defense of our most basic, most bipartisan, most American principles.

I will not pretend this will be painless.  There could be impact on our energy prices, so we are taking active steps to alleviate the pressure on our own energy markets and offset rising prices.

We’re coordinating with major enersy [sic] — energy consumers and producers.  We’re prepared to deploy all the tools and authority at our disposal to provide relief at the gas pump. 

And I will work with Congress on additional measures to help protect consumers and address the impact of prices at the pump.

Josh Boak at AP:

Republicans most certainly won’t give Biden a pass due to tensions abroad. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell criticizes the president for higher energy and food prices, contending that “the Biden administration seems less interested in trying to solve this problem than in trying to persuade families the pain is just in their heads.”

In a December AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, most Americans -- 85% -- said they’d experienced higher than usual prices for both groceries and gas in recent months. And in an open-ended question about top issues for the government to be working on, 10% named gas prices and energy costs, a sign of the political challenge confronting Biden.

“Given the world that we’re in, any increase in prices of commodities, even if that is transitory, even if the Federal Reserve generally tries to look past obvious supply shocks in making its decisions, it adds to the policy conundrum,” said Gerard DiPippo, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It puts the White House in a bind.”


Trump's Bad Week

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses  Trump's record of scandal

Tierney Sneed at CNN:

Former President Donald Trump was 0-3 in three high-profile legal battles this week, with new rulings that boosted significant cases his opponents have brought against him.

Perhaps the most significant of all the courtroom defeats suffered recently by Trump was a judge’s refusal Friday to dismiss several civil lawsuits filed against him for his alleged role in the January 6 US Capitol attack.

In the 112-page opinion, US District Judge Amit Mehta said that Trump could face trial for his conduct around last year’s insurrection.

The ruling was a kicker to a week when attorneys general in Washington, DC, and New York secured victories in their efforts to gather evidence as to whether his businesses broke the law. While Trump continues to wield significant political loyalty and could well be the Republicans’ 2024 presidential nominee, the legal turmoil surrounding him shows no signs of slowing.

Trump’s case for his 2020 election rested on the image created around his supposed business savvy. Now his company is a major source of the legal problems facing the former President.

The week started with a DC Superior Court judge reinstating the Trump Organization as a defendant in DC Attorney General Karl Racine’s lawsuit alleging that funds for the 2017 inauguration were misused. After reversing on Monday a prior decision that had dismissed the company from the case, Judge Yvonne Williams also said on Thursday that Racine’s office could question the company’s ex-Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg in a limited deposition.

Racine alleges that inaugural funds were used to pay off a debt incurred by a hotel room block reserved for Trump Organization employees. He is seeking to recover the nearly $1.1 million that he claims was improperly spent during the inauguration, in violation of DC non-profit law.

As Williams was setting a September trial date in Racine’s case, a judge more than 200 miles away was hearing Trump’s arguments for why he should quash subpoenas in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices, arguments the judge would ultimately reject.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Deposing the Donald

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses  Trump's record of scandal

Josh Gerstein at Politico:

A state judge has ordered Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump to sit for depositions within three weeks in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing investigation of alleged financial improprieties at the Trump Organization.

In a ruling Thursday, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron roundly rejected bids by the Trumps to dodge giving testimony on grounds of James’ alleged bias and that her office is conducting parallel criminal and civil investigations.
Engoron said all three Trumps have the option of showing up for the depositions and refusing to answer the questions based on their constitutional right not to testify against themselves.

“They have an absolute right to refuse to answer questions that they claim may incriminate them,” the judge wrote in an eight-page order. “Indeed, respondent Eric Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions during his one-day deposition arising out of the instant proceeding.”

More from the order:

For OAG not to have investigated the original respondents, and not to have subpoenaed the new Trump respondents, would have been a blatant dereliction of duty (and would have broken an oft repeated campaign promise). Indeed, the impetus for the investigation was not personal animus, not racial or ethnic or other discrimination, not campaign promises, but was sworn congressional testimony by former Trump associate Michael Cohen that respondents were "cooking the books."


In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so.

Lloyd Greene at The Guardian:

Much as the Trump trio tried, they could not shut down James’s investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices, which could lead to a civil suit by James. Unlike a criminal prosecution, a civil action comes with a lower burden of proof for the government. At the same time, civil lawsuits can drag on – like right into 2024. Barring a stay, Trump and his two children have been ordered to appear at deposition within 21 days.

If they tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, who knows what liability may result? On the other hand, if they invoke their right to remain silent, they will probably be portrayed as criminals.

“You see, the mob takes the fifth,” Trump observed on the campaign trail in 2016. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the fifth amendment?”

Time sure flies. And if the Trump family refuses to appear at deposition or simply stays mum when grilled, they risk being charged with contempt, a distinction presently held by Steve Bannon, Trump’s White House counselor and 2016 campaign guru.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Democrats' Rural Decline

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.  

Steve Peoples at AP:
Barack Obama won 875 counties nationwide in his overwhelming 2008 victory. Twelve years later, Biden won only 527. The vast majority of those losses — 260 of the 348 counties — took place in rural counties, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

The worst losses were concentrated in the Midwest: 21 rural counties in Michigan flipped from Obama in 2008 to Trump in 2020; Democrats lost 28 rural counties in Minnesota, 32 in Wisconsin and a whopping 45 in Iowa. At the same time, recent Republican voter registration gains in swing states like Florida and North Carolina were fueled disproportionately by rural voters.

Biden overcame rural losses to beat Trump in 2020 because of gains in more populous Democratic counties. Perhaps because of his victory, some Democratic officials worry that party leaders do not appreciate the severity of the threat.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who recently announced he would not seek reelection to Congress this fall, warns that the party is facing extinction in small-town America.

“It’s hard to sink lower than we are right now. You’re almost automatically a pariah in rural areas if you have a D after your name,” Cooper told The Associated Press.

Even if Democrats continue to eke out victories by piling up urban and suburban votes, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota fears her party will have “unstable majorities” if they cannot stop the bleeding in rural areas.

“Democrats have the House, they have the Senate, the presidency, but it’s an unstable majority. By that, I mean, the narrowest kind, making it difficult to advance ideas and build coalitions,” said Heitkamp, who now heads the One Country Project, which is focused on engaging rural voters.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Poll: Culture War Hurts Dems

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections  There are some favorable signs for Democrats in the 2022 midterms -- but energy and inflation are not currently among them.  Neither is the culture war.

Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick at Politico:
Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

And the party’s House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP’s “alarmingly potent” culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is recommending a new strategy to endangered members and their teams, hoping to blunt the kinds of GOP attacks that nearly erased their majority last election and remain a huge risk ahead of November. In presentations over the past two weeks, party officials and operatives used polling and focus group findings to argue Democrats can’t simply ignore the attacks, particularly when they’re playing at a disadvantage. A generic ballot of swing districts from late January showed Democrats trailing Republicans by 4 points, according to the polling.

It wasn’t all bleak, though: The data showed that Democrats could mostly regain the ground lost to Republicans if they offered a strong rebuttal to the political hits. When faced with a “defund the police” attack, for instance, the presenters encouraged Democrats to reiterate their support for police. And on immigration, they said Democrats should deny support for “open borders or amnesty,” and talk about their efforts to keep the border safe.

If Democrats don’t answer Republican hits, the party operatives warned, the GOP’s lead on the generic ballot balloons to 14 points from 4 points — a dismal prediction for Democrats when the GOP only needs to win five seats to seize back the majority. But when voters heard a Democratic response to that hit, Republicans’ edge narrowed back down to 6 points, giving candidates more of a fighting chance, especially since those numbers don’t factor in Democrats going on the offensive

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Companies Support Election Objectors Through Lobbyists

Emily Birnbaum, Megan Wilson, and Hailey Fuchs at Politico:
In the weeks following last year’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, Amazon suspended all campaign donations to the 147 Republicans who objected to certifying the election that day, calling their behavior “unacceptable.”

Six months later, Amazon lobbyists began doling out thousands of dollars in personal donations to those very lawmakers.

Amazon lobbyists were hardly alone in sidestepping company bans on giving to Republicans who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. Throughout 2021, in-house government affairs staffers for at least 13 companies gave personal donations to Republicans who objected to the presidential election results, according to a POLITICO review of campaign finance filings from the Federal Election Commission.

That includes lobbyists for Microsoft, Google, Meta, Allstate, Toyota, Nike and Dow Chemical Company. The big tech companies were the largest group, highlighting Silicon Valley’s balancing act as it faces increasing scrutiny from both sides of the aisle.

The under-the-radar donations meant that even as the companies stuck to their Jan. 6 pledges, their lobbyists ingratiated themselves with the GOP lawmakers, some of whom are expected to take leadership roles in the House if Republicans take back control in the midterm elections. POLITICO identified more than $28,000 in donations from lobbyists to lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

“It clearly is a workaround,” said Craig Holman, a government ethics expert at progressive consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen. “If a company is serious about not giving a campaign contribution to insurrectionists, then they can’t allow people who are in senior executive positions who represent the company to make those same contributions. And that would include the CEO as well as the lobbyists of the company.”

Monday, February 14, 2022


Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie

At NYT, Ryan Mac and Lisa Lerer report on Peter Thiel:
Mr. Thiel, who became known in 2016 as one of the biggest donors to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, has re-emerged as a key financier of the Make America Great Again movement. After sitting out the 2020 presidential race, the venture capitalist this year is backing 16 Senate and House candidates, many of whom have embraced the lie that Mr. Trump won the election.

To get these candidates into office, Mr. Thiel has given more than $20.4 million. That essentially puts him and Kenneth Griffin, the chief executive of the hedge fund Citadel, in a tie as the largest individual donors to Republican politics this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.

Mr. Thiel has attracted the most attention for two $10 million donations to the Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Like Mr. Thiel, the men are tech investors with pedigrees from elite universities who cast themselves as antagonists to the establishment. They have also worked for the billionaire and been financially dependent on him. Mr. Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office, has promised to leave that job before Arizona’s August primary.

In one 2009 piece, Mr. Thiel, who called himself a libertarian, wrote that he had come to “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” arguing that American politics would always be hostile to free-market ideals, and that politics was about interfering with other people’s lives without their consent. Since then, he has hosted and attended events with white nationalists and alt-right figures.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Trumpian Christian Nationalism Is Invisible to the Elite

 In Divided We Stand, we discuss how the cultural divides that helped Trump in 2016 and almost brought down the government in 2021.

 David French:

While there may be some Christian nationalists in seminaries, or in the pews of big, highly-educated suburban churches, or in the leadership of America’s largest denominations, you’re far more likely to find the true believers in exactly the kind of nondenominational, independent, and often-charismatic churches that populate the list of ReAwaken America tour stops.

Pentecostal Christianity, despite its immense size, is about as far from elite American culture as Mercury is from Mars. And this means it’s quite distant from elite Evangelical culture as well. Right-wing blue-check theologians and pastors who speak disdainfully of warnings about Christian nationalism because it’s not something they see in their churches never darken the door of a Pentecostal church.

They’re almost wholly unfamiliar with the world of “prophets” and “apostles” who have helped fuel much of the fervor for Trump. It’s no coincidence that Paula White, a pentecostal pastor herself, was Trump’s spiritual adviser. Trumpism penetrated pentecostalism early. I do not mean to say that all pentecostals are Trump supporters, much less Christian nationalists. But you can’t understand the Trumpist Christian core without understanding its pentecostal connection.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Gasoline Prices

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections  There are some favorable signs for Democrats in the 2022 midterms -- but energy and inflation are not currently among them.

 Philip Bump at WP:

A quick note here to praise FRED, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis's online data tool. (FRED stands for “Federal Reserve Economic Data.”) If you've never played around with it, you are excused to do so now. Just scads of data and simple tools for combining and comparing information. An essential tool.

At last we get to the point. First, the “how to read” bit. Here, we also have two vertical axes. The color-coding indicates which curve fits which axis: orange at left from 40 to 50 percent and purple at right from $3 to $3.50. The curves themselves are labeled directly, avoiding some of the nerdy inscrutability of Bloomberg's.

As the graph shows, there's been a rough inverse correlation in recent months between gas prices and Biden's approval rating. In other words, as one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa. There's a way to measure the correlation of two data trends called the “correlation coefficient.” The closer the value is to 1, the stronger the two data series are directly correlated; the closer it is to -1, the stronger the inverse correlation.

The coefficient for the two lines above is -0.825.

This is where you jump up and down and say, “Hey, buffoon, correlation is not causation.” And I say, “Yeah, I know, and that's not nice and please don't unsubscribe.” There's a whole website showing two trends that appear to correlate even though they obviously have no actual real-world connection. (Like there's a strong correlation between the rate of divorce in Maine and national margarine consumption but those things seem discrete.)

If we expand the window outward here, you see that the correlation seems to break down: gas prices were rising for months as Biden's approval stayed steady.

Before September, the correlation was a more modest -0.61.

There is a connection between gas prices and presidential approval, I think it's safe to say. CNN's poll found a big drop in how people viewed Biden's handling of the economy, something that's linked to concern about inflation — which is felt perhaps most immediately for many Americans in the cost of a gallon of gas. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Senate Republicans Oppose a Gerrymander Ban

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections  

 Sahil Kapur at NBC:

Democrats are seizing opportunities in states like New York to draw friendly House districts aimed at knocking out Republican incumbents, making unexpected gains in the decennial practice that the GOP has dominated over the last 10 years.

Even so, Senate Republicans say they still have no interest in new federal legislation to ban partisan gerrymandering. And the recent Democratic gains haven't swayed them, even as the Cook Political Report found last week that Democrats are "on track to net two to three seats from new maps alone."

"That's just the way the game has always been played," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said with a shrug.

Asked whether he'd support federal legislation to limit partisan gerrymandering, he said: "Nah, just the courts can handle it."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he doesn't support new legislation to put guardrails on gerrymandering.

"I don't have any silver bullets for it," he said. "The main protection is the Voting Rights Act in minority voting districts. Other than that, it's pretty much the wild, Wild West."

The cycle isn’t over yet, and the balance of power could still change as battles play out in courtrooms and remaining states.

But regardless of which way it swings, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the GOP's Senate campaign arm, said in an interview that Congress should stay out of redistricting battles.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

More Trump Crimes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. 

Destruction of government documents is a crime.  So is mishandling of classified material.

 Mike Allen at Axios:

While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, "Confidence Man."

Why it matters: The revelation by Haberman, whose coverage as a New York Times White House correspondent was followed obsessively by Trump, adds a vivid new dimension to his lapses in preserving government documents. Axios was provided an exclusive first look at some of her reporting.

Haberman reports Trump has told people that since leaving office, he has remained in contact with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — whose "love letters," as Trump once called them, were among documents the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

Zoom out: The news of White House toilet-flushing comes as the National Archives has reportedly asked the Biden Justice Department to examine Trump's handling of White House records, amid the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
The Washington Post reports that National Archives officials "suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents." The National Archives later retrieved 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago, The Post reported.
Archives officials found possible classified material in the returned boxes, The New York Times learned.

While in office, the former president blithely flouted the Presidential Records Act, which required him to preserve written communications concerning his official duties.
Trump routinely tore up documents and after leaving office brought substantial written materials back to Mar-a-Lago.
A Trump spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment about the plumbing matter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Destruction Is Obstruction

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. 

Matt Zapotosky and colleagues at WP:
The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department, the people familiar with the matter said.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive request. The two people said the discussions about the matter remained preliminary, and it was not yet clear whether the Justice Department would investigate. The department also might be interested in merely reclaiming classified materials. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Gustaf Kilander at The Independent:
Ex-Trump White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has claimed that former President Donald Trump would sometimes chew on torn-up documents.

Mr Trump “loved to tear up those documents,” Ms Manigault Newman told MSNBC after The Washington Post reported that the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of documents that Mr Trump had wrongly had shipped to his Florida residence.

The former adviser said that there are “certainly things that I’m sure cannot be accounted for because Donald Trump became very, very aware that a lot of these sensitive documents would at some point be made public”.

“After [Trump fixer] Michael Cohen left the office and I walked into the Oval, Donald, in my view, was chewing what he had just torn up,” she told MSNBC. “It was very bizarre because he is a germophobe he never puts paper in his mouth.”