2022 Election, Andrus, Democracy

The Takeaways …

It wasn’t a “red wave,” more like, as conservative writer Mona Charen put it, “a small toxic spill” where “voters of Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Michigan, among other places, apparently weighed more than inflation in their calculations, and that gives a fighting chance to those who hope to right this listing ship.”

Democrats have little to crow about, particularly in some of the reddest of the red states – Idaho, Montana, South Dakota among others, but they didn’t get swamped nationally, which typically happens to the party in the White House in a midterm election.

The “red wave” that wasn’t …

Many, but certainly not all, election deniers lost, ensuring that the “big lie” will continue to float at the top of our national political septic tank. Idaho, to cite just one example, hasn’t yet copped, but soon enough will, to having elected a professional agitator (and election denier) as attorney general, a political opportunist who will cause a wholesale exodus from the state’s largest law firm. You heard it here: Raul Labrador, a Tea Partier who left a lot of wreckage in his wake while in Congress, wanted a new job in order to play politics with the law and then use that ruse to run for governor.

Montana voters looked past the scandals and carpetbagging of Ryan Zinke, their former congressman and our ethically challenged former Interior Secretary, to send Zinke back to Congress. He’ll fill a seat once occupied by the likes of Jeannette Rankin, Mike Mansfield, Lee Metcalf and Pat Williams. This is politically trading down on an epic scale, rather like swapping your new Bentley for a rusted out Edsel you can’t get started.

My old South Dakota stomping ground once had a Democratic Party. It doesn’t anymore. There a very Trumpy, made for TV governor, Kristi Noem, used her position of public trust to pressure a state agency to provide preferential treatment for her daughter, and spent most of her term flying around the country to raise her national profile. Noem won with 62% of the vote, proving that many – maybe most – red state conservatives are willing to tolerate a little garden variety corruption as long as their side wins.

There will more than enough time – too much time – for the extended postmortems and the already endless speculation about 2024, but this much seems fairly clear.

The ol’ US of A is profoundly divided, a country riven by one side’s willingness to embrace grievance, demonstrable lies and entertain authoritarianism, while the other side thrashes about to barely compete in a majority of states, often failing to supply a compelling narrative about the economy or the future.

Democrats in places like Idaho and South Dakota must make a choice. Continue the old practice of working from the top down, failing miserably in doing so – the Idaho gubernatorial candidate had the worst Democratic showing since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House – or embrace a bottom up strategy that begins with an all-out appeal to younger voters, many of whom haven’t been alive long enough to see how a two party system once worked.

The party must go both extremely local and determinedly old school, with a relentless focus on engaging voters where they are. It won’t be quick or immediately satisfying, but doing the same old thing isn’t either.

Where abortion was an issue, Democrats – again with the help of younger voters – prevailed. Pro-choice provisions succeeded in nominally Democratic Michigan and solidly Republican Kentucky.

Where abortion rights were on the ballot they prevailed

As University of Montana political scientist Rob Saldin and I observed immediately after May’s stunning Supreme Court decision overturning abortion protections, Idaho’s 1990 experience with the issue offers a big tell. That election, Cecil Andrus’s fourth term, marks the modern high water mark for Idaho Democrats, in no small part because the then-governor framed the anti-choice issue as one of vast Republican overreach.

“If the issue is framed correctly,” Saldin and I wrote for the Washington Post, “the sense of grievance surrounding abortion that has long propelled the right will shift, energizing voters looking to preserve access to abortion and catalyzing their support.” And it is happening.

One outcome of this wild midterm election would have passed without comment before 2020 – there was no rigged outcome. Elections from Pennsylvania to Arizona were run professionally and fairly. To believe otherwise is to live in a Trumpian la la land where a rigged election is the only way to explain why a twice impeached failed real estate developer who only won against the weakest Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis, lost in 2020.

Both parties are due a reckoning, as should happen after every election. Democrats need to commit to a kitchen table agenda and the kind of blunt language Harry Truman used so effectively. The party needs to compete aggressively in rural America, just as it does on the left coast. Democrats need more of Jon Tester, the blue collar farmer from Montana, and more like new senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, a tattooed exponent of no nonsense politics who beat a slick, quack TV doctor like a drum, and Fetterman won after suffering a stroke during the campaign.

The Republican reckoning will be vastly more unpleasant, as well as more important to the future of the country. Republicans seem sure to have a wafer-thin margin in the House of Representatives and the most radical right wingers in the party seem determined to display immediately why they shouldn’t be anywhere near political power. The crazy caucus already has the knives out for would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy, and like John Boehner and Paul Ryan before him McCarthy will likely be no match for fellow Republicans wielding pitchforks.

And Republicans will eventually have to deal – or not – with the insurrectionist wing of their party, a genuine problem in Idaho where militia leader Ammon Bundy pulled 17 percent of the vote.

And, of course, there is the ghost of Mar a Lago. What to do with the cancer growing on the Grand Old Party, what the Wall Street Journal – yes, that Wall Street Journal – termed “the Republican Party’s biggest loser?”

Sane and sober Republicans surely know Donald Trump would gladly burn the party to the ground if it served his malicious purposes. Better get the fire extinguishers ready.

The recent election wasn’t a diabolic mess for democracy, thank the lord, but rather a choice for more of the same. The party that does some soul-searching and recalibrating to find a new and better path forward for the country is the party to favor the next time we whip ourselves into a frenzy over an election.

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Additional Reading:

You may find something here of interest …

“Don’t Join the Book Burners”

In June of 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered the commencement speech at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. That old speech is strangely relevant again. This piece from a student who was there.

“I was not thinking of Sen. Joseph McCarthy as I watched Eisenhower rise to deliver what were expected to be his brief remarks. But Eisenhower decided to add something more substantive.

“‘Don’t join the book burners,” Ike said.'”

Here’s the link:


Is this the end of Britishness?

Ian Jack was a terrific British journalist and editor. Jack died recently and a lot of folks in the Mother Country are remembering his enormous body of work, including this piece written at the time Scotland was considering independence.

The pull of Scottish independence remains strong

The writing is superb. The history lesson valuable. The storytelling marvelous.

“Is it, as VS Naipaul once remarked of British culture, all over?

“During the past dozen years, the Scottish National party has worked an astonishing transformation, turning the tables so that unionism now looks sentimental – the home of exhausted tradition – while independence stands for energetic progress. Over that time, the death of Britishness has been predicted as often as the death of the novel, but it has managed to survive and even to grow.”

It’s a long and lovely read.


When bipartisanship really happened

I wrote a piece recently for a wonderful online publication – The Daily Montanan.

For the essay, I drew on the research I’ve done for a new book – coming in 2023. The book is the story of the political and personal relationship between Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield of Montana and minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois.

Everett Dirksen and Mike Mansfield: Giants in the Senate

The two men worked together, in a beautiful bipartisan way, to pass civil rights and voting rights legislation, create Medicare and ratify the first major nuclear arms control treaty, and they supported the president during a tense showdown over missiles in Cuba.

“When President John Kennedy had to confront the Kremlin’s nuclear threat in 1962, he enjoyed, indeed solicited, bipartisan congressional support for his strategy, even to the point of insisting that the Republican leader of the United States Senate suspend his re-election campaign in order to participate in urgent consultations at the White House. In our times of fractured partisanship when Republican and Democratic congressional leaders seem barely able to talk to one another let alone offer words of encouragement and support while reasoning through a crisis together with a president, the domestic political lessons of that long ago nuclear showdown bear remembering – and emulating.”

The book was great fun to work on. Here’s a sneak preview.


For those who are thinking democracy dodged a bullet this week – you’re right. There is much work to do. Be about it, friends. All the best.

2022 Election, GOP, Idaho Politics

It Wasn’t Inevitable …

The moral collapse of the American conservative movement has taken place with remarkable speed.

The movement that advanced a measured, careful, temple worthy LDS Church bishop, Mitt Romney, as its presidential candidate just a decade ago has morphed at warp speed into an election denying, white-centric party of grievance and bat crazy conspiracy.

The Republican Party that put forward Romney and then-Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as its candidates in 2012 was, measured in the long arc of conservative politics, pretty standard issue: tax cuts and controlling the size of government with a conservative commitment to national security and foreign policy. Romney’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as the world’s greatest geopolitical threat was widely dismissed a decade ago. Now with many in his party openly embracing the Butcher of Ukraine, Romney seems a genuine prophet

Mitt was criticized for carrying his dog on top of his car not for wanting to be an authoritarian

Romney was hardly a great presidential candidate. His private equity career was easily demonized, particularly after his campaign was roiled by a tin ear remark claiming that “47 percent” of the country were effectively deadbeats. Even then few of his partisan detractors could reasonably claim that Romney was going to take his party over an authoritarian cliff.   

Mitt didn’t traffic in hate. Didn’t demean his opponent. He didn’t accuse Barack Obama of being a dangerous Muslim and didn’t surround himself with a bottom feeding collection of conspiracists, grifters, law breakers and people most of us would cross the street to avoid.

Unlike the current leader of his party, Romney hasn’t spread lies about the recent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and he didn’t refuse to concede an election he clearly lost.

So, what happened to the Grand Old Party? Well, start with the fact that the nutjob fringe has long been lurking in the dark corners of a party that once celebrated Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and The Gipper. Goldwater gave the Birchers and the Klan a dog whistle in 1964, while opposing civil rights legislation and claiming “extremism” as a conservative virtue. Nixon went all “law and order” in 1968, while stoking fear and loathing among his “silent majority.” And Ronald Reagan was smart enough to know that cementing a solid, deeply race conscious American South for the GOP long-term was essential to winning the White House. Ronnie was also savvy, as Democrats were not, about courting middle class, blue collar white voters who had seen their small towns and factories wither and die.

But this represents only a partial answer to what happened. The rest of the story is the near total capitulation of elected Republican “elites” who have hunkered in office while many of their followers celebrate political violence and rally to Putin.

Only since Romney’s run has his party come to resemble – and emulate – the full-on authoritarianism of would-be rightwing dictators in places like Brazil and Hungary. The current leader of the party of Reagan doesn’t praise the western democratic alliance. He likes the “strength” of the new Chinese Mao or the “brilliance” of a 21st Century Stalin. And who counters him?

This is a party of moral rot and character perversion, a danger to the very idea of democratic pluralism.

Idaho is as good a petri dish as any to assess the wholesale abandonment of conservative principle in pursuit of political power, no matter the cost to democracy.

Next week Idaho’s very conservative Republican governor, Brad Little, will win re-election against a no-name Democratic challenger and the widely acknowledged leader of a West-wide militia movement, a law breaking radical named Ammon Bundy, who is running as an independent.

This race is a political weathervane indicating how far, far right the unhinged Idaho white nationalists are willing to go – people I respect worry that Bundy will win 20 percent of what would  normally be the GOP vote – as well as a missed opportunity for Little and other officeholding elites who might have used the contest to assert control of a party they have largely lost.

Ammon Bundy gets a free pass from Idaho’s GOP “elites”

Imagine had Little, knowing he could coast to re-election, made the election a referendum on a more sober, sane and serious type of conservatism. What if he had made Bundy and his violent ways an explicit example of what is wrong with the radical right? Yet, near as I can tell Little hasn’t uttered a word about Bundy, his antics or lawless past. And no debate and not much of a campaign.

I’ll just remind you that Bundy organized demonstrations outside elected officials homes aiming to intimidate during the worst of Covid times. He and some of his followers broke down a door in the state capitol building, a stunt ultimately earning Bundy and his big hat a jail term. The judge who sentenced Bundy after he blew off a requirement for community service told the radical had made a “mockery of the sentence you received.”

Bundy threatened state police officers with a promise that, “I’ll come after you, each one of you personally.” He is still embroiled in a lawsuit with a Boise hospital where he forced a shutdown. Bundy’s ridiculous 2016 takeover of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon where a protester died should have marked the end of his rise, but radical politicians in Idaho and elsewhere embraced him with little or no pushback from people like Brad Little. Now he’s on the ballot.

Bundy has been endorsed by the PAC connected to the radical Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), an anti-education, anti-government, anti-science lobby group that is no friend of Governor Little. Bundy also “enjoys” the endorsement of Roger Stone, the corrupt Trump advisor, Ron Paul, the crackpot former Texas congressman and Louisiana Klan leader David Duke.

If it’s true in politics that you are defined by your enemies these jokers would be worthy enemies.

Had Little the intestinal fortitude to cast the decency spotlight on this collection of radical right misfits he might have begun the process of leading the Idaho GOP back to sanity. That he has stayed quiet while Bundy peddled nonsense about schools, the state budget, the courts, Covid vaccines and more explains the ultimate moral rot that has eroded the foundations of legitimate conservative politics.

Little and other Republican elites know that Bundy – you could substitute the name Trump, as well – represents a real danger, long ago proving what he’s capable of doing. Rather than making him an example of what is wrong with the conspiracy mangled radical right, Little has ignored him hoping he’ll go away. He won’t.

At so many points in the remarkably swift descent of the modern GOP into a fun house arcade of conspiracy, mendacity and hate the Brad Little’s of the party could have – but did not – make an explicit stand for truth, decency, personal character and a better way. 

It’s really too bad history doesn’t offer us examples of what can happen when hate peddling demagogues given to violence are left unchecked by people who should know better.

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Additional Reading:

Some things I’ve found that you may find of interest …

Was Nixon’s Reelection Ted Kennedy’s Fault?

There is, for good reason, great anticipation about John A. Farrell’s new biography of Edward Kennedy. Farrell’s book about Richard Nixon is one of the great political biographies in recent memory. His Ted Kennedy book looks to be just as good.

John Farrell and the cover of his new book

This piece by Farrell appeared recently in Politico.

“Kennedy’s career has many might-have-beens. The most widely known occurred in 1991, when one of his investigators, Ricki Seidman, was the first Senate aide to speak to Anita Hill and hear her allegation that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her in the years before his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The piece goes on to explore Kennedy’s role in not investigating Watergate in 1972. Here is the link:


Reading Langston Hughes’s Wartime Reporting From the Spanish Civil War

Black Americans were some of the most powerful voices warning about the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s, including Langston Hughes’s warnings about Franco’s Spain.

“Hughes was not a bombastic speaker, but rather spoke in an even, assured tone. He could sometimes appear bored while reading his older poems for audiences, but when discussing contemporary events, his understated and direct speaking style conveyed passion and urgency. ‘Yes, we Negroes in America do not have to be told what Fascism is in action,’ he said. ‘We know. Its theories of Nordic supremacy and economic suppression have long been realities to us.'”

A fine piece by historian Matthew F. Delmont in Literary Hub.


Russians Used a US Firm to Funnel Funds to GOP in 2018

This story has flown under the political radar in the run up to the midterm election. It should be getting more play.

The story illustrates two huge problems: the toothless tiger of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the fact that vast sums of foreign money continue to pollute our politics.

“Anyone who follows campaign finance knows that the FEC has been toothless for years due to GOP commissioners’ opposition to any enforcement of laws designed to oversee money in politics. But Weintraub and Broussard suggest the agency hit a new low by letting the US firm, American Ethane, off with a deal in which it agreed to pay only a small civil fine.”

The FEC was created in the post-Watergate world and it’s never been particularly effective in policing money in federal politics. It’s a scandal. One of many, I fear. Here’s the story from Mother Jones.


That’s it. Vote for democracy.

2022 Election, GOP, Great Britain, Politics

So Goes The UK …

There is a particular type of American conceit, a persistent belief that our country is uniquely special in the world, indeed exceptional, a place that stands apart from other merely mortal nations with long traditions of democracy and respect for individual freedoms.

We are reluctant, perhaps even unable, thanks to this belief system, to see and absorb lessons unspooling in plain sight in other countries. It is in the nature of many Americans to think the rest of the world can’t really teach us much of anything.

We are in for a rude awakening.

Most Americans think we are in trouble, but act like it’s someone else’s problem

A recent New York Times/Siena College opinion survey contains this remarkable finding: “Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem.”

Furthermore, researchers who produced the study say, according to the Times: “doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.”

The Big Lie is, in other words, persisting and metastasizing. “So far,” say analysts at the Brookings Institute, “we have been able to identify 345 candidates who will be on the ballot in November who have expressed election denial beliefs—false claims that the presidential election in 2020 was flawed. All of them are running as Republicans. The most important group—governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general—consists of candidates for statewide offices who, if they are elected, will have a great deal to say about how elections in their state will be run in the future. A second group are members of Congress.”

All of this adds up, if you’re paying attention and particularly if you care more about American democracy than your partisan priors, to a real time crisis. The mid-term election in 18 days could be the tipping point.

If Republicans capture control of the House of Representatives, as history and gerrymandering indicate they will, they promise to spend the vast majority of their time ginning up more fear and loathing with investigations of everything from the laptop computer of the president’s son to the immigration policies of the secretary of Homeland Security.

Additionally would-be future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells Punchbowl news that a House GOP majority will place the American economy at risk by leveraging an increase in the debt ceiling to force cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other government programs. It could well prove to be an example of the old GOP fiscal hostage taking on steroids.

Commentator Jonathan V. Last puts a fine point on all this when he writes “Republicans have announced that their electoral case to voters is a promise to create economic instability.”

McCarthy also says his House majority will curtail U.S. aid to Ukraine, a signal to Vladimir Putin that he should carry on his brutal war of genocide because the political party the Russian dictator supports in the United States really has his back.

A House Republican majority will also repudiate the essential work of the January 6 committee and will surely install election deniers and conspiracy theorists in key committee positions. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the utterly reprehensible congresswoman from Georgia, is already saying McCarthy better give her lots of power or he will live to regret it.

A recent profile of the far-right radical correctly places Greene’s craziness at the center of the modern Republican Party. “Over the past two years,” reporter Robert Draper wrote, “Greene has gone from the far-right fringe of the G.O.P. ever closer to its establishment center without changing any of her own beliefs,” beliefs that include insurrection encouragement and embrace of Q-Anon nonsense.

Republicans still have a legitimate chance to retake control of the U.S. Senate, as well, and if they do it will be through the election of a weird assortment of election deniers, insurrection promoters, a fraud doctor, a former football player who seems to really believe he’s a law enforcement officer and doesn’t know how many children he’s fathered and a guy who is running with the endorsement of the former president who says he provided that endorsement only after J.D. Vance kissed his, well, ample backside.

Add to this toxic mix an almost certain indictment – or indictments – of one Donald J. Trump, who will be running for president in 2024 from a courtroom in Georgia, or Florida, or New York or Washington, D.C., or possibly all simultaneously.

But back to that peculiar American conceit – we are special, a place where political chaos, even a democratic meltdown isn’t really possible. The country has persisted for nearly 250 years, after all, this conceit goes. We’re exceptional.

Nah.

There are many examples in the chaotic modern world of democracies fraying, even coming apart. Italy has installed the farthest right government since Mussolini marched on Rome in 1922. Hungary is dominated by a right-wing zealot who daily stokes fear and fans outrage, while being a role model for white nationalist zealots like Tucker Carlson. Trump fawns over authoritarian strongmen like Turkey’s Erdogan, China’s Xi and, of course, the murdering Putin.

On Wednesday Liz Truss said she was a fighter, not a quitter. On Thursday she quit

But if you care to really see where American conservatism is headed consider what’s happened to the Conservative Party in the UK where a hopelessly incompetent prime minister has destroyed her political career (and maybe her party), while simultaneously seriously damaging the British economy.

Liz Truss’s demise connects directly to her embrace of just the kind of economic policy future speaker McCarty is planning to implement – austerity, slashes to the social safety net and tax cuts for the most well off. Truss embraced and then u-turned on policies that she admitted would cause vast disruption. Now her approval stands at 9% and conservatives say they long to reinstate the disgraced former prime minister Boris Johnson. Whew.

This is a level of chaos and dysfunction that Americans should brace against. It is all possible here and then some.

British journalist Tanya Gold wrote about this British mess recently. My version of her conclusion changes just a couple of names. It amounts to a forecast for the future of our conceit.

“In time, America may free itself of Mr. Trump’s spell and Mr. McCarthy’s unreason — and choose leaders who deal in facts, not fantasies, and think of the country, not themselves. We may say at last: Enough of post-truth and extremism and drinking the dregs of empire. Yet that horizon is still a way off.

“Right now, we know, Mr. Trump (and McCarthy) will fall.

“For the Republicans, it won’t bring renewal. And for the country, it won’t bring catharsis.”


Additional Reading:

Some additional reading if you are inclined …

WILL PUTIN’S WAR IN UKRAINE CONTINUE WITHOUT HIM?

Dictators don’t often die in bed. We can hope.

We can also hope the loathsome ex-KGB agent’s days are numbered, but it may not matter to the war in Ukraine is Putin stays or goes.

Any new leader who seeks to extricate Russia from Putin’s war likely will face tough domestic hurdles. Russia’s current domestic political environment, as characterized by an intense blame game pitting political versus military leadership, would be especially dangerous for Putin’s successor and disincentive any move to abandon Russia’s war aims in Ukraine and seek peace, at least in the short term. This holds even for a successor who opposed or did not openly support Putin’s war prior to taking office. Thus, Putin’s war may very well continue without Putin.”

Shawn T. Cochran writes at the website “War on the Rocks” about Ukraine, Putin and what happens if he goes.


A Brief History of One of the Most Powerful Families in New York City: The Morgenthaus

“The Morgenthaus were called the Jewish Kennedys, and remained, as the former mayor Ed Koch remarked, ‘the closest we’ve got to royalty in New York City.'”

Andrew Meier on a Gotham dynasty.


Arsenic and Old Lace: Madness in the Family

Film critic David Cairns on the Frank Capra classic with lots of Cary Grant for his fans, and who isn’t a fan of Cary Grant.

Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace

“Grant had been a freelancer since 1936 and would always remain one, enjoying his pick of projects from all the majors; Capra had recently ended his twelve-year alliance with Columbia—a studio he’d made respectable—and had tried his hand at independence with Meet John Doe (1941), but with war looming, he ducked back into the security of a studio project. He was drawn to the novelty of a movie without a message: during the thirties, he had become closely identified with a kind of populist social commentary. This time, he just wanted to have fun.”

This is a great piece if you like stories about the stories behind a movie.


WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

I’m pretty certain that if the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn I would be a fan. In LA, not so much. This is a good story about how the the “move West” changed baseball, among other things.

“During the first decades of the twentieth century, what passed for national culture was very much a product of the East, particularly New York City. By 1980 or so, that notion no longer held.

“The move by the Dodgers and Giants helped kill it. The baseball shift West sent the message that you didn’t have to make it in New York to make it anywhere. Anybody could leave and thrive.”

Lincoln Mitchell literally wrote the book on baseball moving West. Here’s his essay on the subject.


Thanks for reading. Be well. All the best.

2022 Election, GOP

It’s a Lie …

Faced with an ultra-conservative, reactionary opponent in 1964, Lyndon Johnson went for the political jugular – he attacked Barry Goldwater, the grandfather of today’s white nationalist, fear obsessed Republican Party, as a danger even to Republicans.  

Johnson’s campaign employed the services of what was then a brash, still developing New York advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), a collection of culturally aware ad makers that made names for themselves by introducing the Volkswagen to American car buyers and developing the “we try harder” campaign for Avis, the number two car rental agency behind Hertz.  

LBJ’s presidential campaign was the firm’s first foray into politics, and they debuted with a boom, literally, producing the famous – or to Goldwater Republicans infamous – “Daisy ad” featuring an adorable, freckle faced little girl counting to ten as she pulled the petals off a daisy. What was really happening in the ad was the countdown to a nuclear explosion. 

Perhaps the most famous political ad ever

“These are the stakes,” Johnson says as the screen fills with a mushroom cloud, “to make a world in which all of God’s children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.” 

White letters then fill the black screen – Vote for President Johnson on November 3 – as a male voice intones, “the stakes are too high for you to stay home.” 

Goldwater’s name was never mentioned. It didn’t need to be. The message was clear. The Republican candidate, with his reckless and casual talk about nuclear war, was too risky, even for Republicans. 

The ad aired only once in the middle of a network television broadcast of a movie, but the impact was as powerful as any political television spot ever made. A follow-up commercial featured another “deliciously beautiful little girl innocently licking an ice-cream cone,” while a gentle female voice explains the dangers of Srontium-90 in the atmosphere, making sure to mention that Goldwater had voted against ratification of a treaty to limit nuclear testing

The journalist Theodore White called the ad “as cruel a political film as has ever been show,” but effective. Goldwater scared people. The ads reminded them why. Another DDB ad simply showed the fingers of two hands tearing up a Social Security card and another featured “Confessions of a Republican.” That ad – a young, self-described GOP voter who had supported Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon speaking casually, if a little haltingly to the camera – defined the race. 

“But when we come to Senator Goldwater,” the voters says, “now it seems to me we are up against a very different kind of a man – this man scares me.” The best line in the “Confession of a Republican” was simply: “If you unite behind a man you don’t believe in – it’s a lie.” 

Teddy White, whose famous book “The Making of the President – 1964” became an instant classic, observed that Goldwater was forced to run against the fear that he himself had created, while pressed over and over to try and explain that he wasn’t a warmonger, a destroyer of Social Security or just flat out dangerous. Johnson, of course, won a historic landslide. Goldwater won only six states, five in the deep South where white voters rebelled against Johnson’s civil rights legislation that Goldwater opposed, and his own state of Arizona. 

There were predictions from serious people after the Goldwater debacle that the Republican Party, divided between ultra-conservative John Birch-types and moderately liberal northeasterners could not survive. The reports of the death of the party were greatly exaggerated, to say the least. The white nationalist party Goldwater led to defeat came roaring back, then as now home to plenty of cranks, adherents to the Klan and fear mongers who are obsessed by immigrants, minorities and socialists. 

While admitting there are no perfect analogies in politics – 1964 is not 2022 – there are increasing signs that a civil war is brewing inside the GOP, one not unlike the pushback against Barry Goldwater than Lyndon Johnson exposed nearly 60 years ago. The political weapon then, as now was fear of what a fringe Republican might do in elected office

Cases in point: 

Utah Republican senator Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential candidate, has refused to endorse fellow Republican Mike Lee, a schemer who advanced election denial claims in 2020 who now embraces the chief proponent of our “big lie.” Independent and former Republican Evan McMullinLee voted for him for president in 2016 – has made the race close, so close Lee was on Fox News this week literally begging Romney to help him survive. 

Utah Senator Mike Lee seems to need Mitt Romney more than the guy who has endorsed him

The Republican governor of New Hampshire, more a libertarian than a conservative, has refused to endorse the election-denying GOP candidate for the Senate in his state. Charlie Baker, the GOP governor of Massachusetts who is term limited, won’t endorse the Trump-back candidate who is trying to replace him. 

Marc Racicot, the former GOP governor of Montana and one-time national party chairman, has endorsed a Democrat over scandal-plagued former congressman and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. 

Fourteen family members of Trumpy Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt have endorsed his Democratic Senate opponent. 

Liz Cheney, the real conscience of the conservative movement, is supporting Democrats for governor and secretary of state in Arizona because the Republican candidates are lying about the last presidential election. This is but a partial list, not yet an avalanche of pushback to far out Republicans, but also more than trickle. 

A striking example of the GOP mainstream trying to rescue their party has emerged in always very conservative Idaho. More than 50 prominent Republicans, including Phil Batt, a venerated former governor, Lori Otter, the wife of another governor, Butch Otter, and an impressive collection of prominent former state legislators and elected officials have endorsed Tom Arkoosh, the Democrat candidate for attorney general. Arkoosh is an experienced non-politician lawyer, his opponent is a partisan radical who happens to have a law degree.

Long-time Idaho state senator Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican powerhouse for years, said Arkoosh is the “first candidate on the Democratic ticket I have supported in my 66 years of work with the Republican Party.” It’s impossible for Republican candidate Raul Labrador, a rabble-rousing, accomplishment-free Tea Party darling when he was in Congress, who is also an election denier to claim this collection of conservative luminaries is anything other than the heart and soul of the Idaho party, at least the party that once existed and might again. The clear message: many Republicans have real problems with the GOP candidate. They know of what they see. If only more had the courage to speak.  

The modern Republican Party finds itself in a truly awkward place, not unlike 1964. The party is dividing among practical, truth-telling conservatives who, despite the last few years of persistent lying and bad faith, still recognize a charlatan when they see one, and a faction that would rather burn the party – and the country – down in pursuit of a radical vision of conservatism. It all comes down to a choice.

After all, “If you unite behind a man you don’t believe in – it’s a lie.” 

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other stories that you may find of interest …

New FBI clues reveal more about the mysterious couple who had a stolen de Kooning painting

A really fascinating story about an art theft, a mysterious couple and a $100 million dollar painting found in a remote house in New Mexico.

“The theft was brazen and bewildering, the getaway swift, the trail of clues sparse and long-since dried up.  

“None of their relatives could explain how the painting, years later, ended up in their house. Could this pair of retirees in southwestern New Mexico have pulled off such a clean heist?  

“Suddenly, Rita and Jerry Alter were infamous.” Anne Ryman stitches together the story in the Arizona Republic.

The stolen painting and sketches of those who might have stolen it

Just Do It: How the iconic Nike tagline built a career for the late Dan Wieden

A NPR piece on the advertising legend and Oregonian Dan Wieden.

“Wieden was widely known for his innovative and hugely successful marketing campaigns for companies like Old Spice, Procter and Gamble, and Coca Cola.

“But his biggest claim to fame came in 1988, when he created a slogan for his newly formed advertising firm’s first client: Nike.”

Read the story – some great examples of his work included – right here.


Did JFK Really Eat the World’s Largest Tamale?

The Boston-Irish Kennedy and Mexican food don’t typically fit in the same sentence, but this story makes the connection because JFK received – maybe – one really big tamale from Texas in 1961.

“The political heft of the gift was clear. But then came a mystery: the tamale disappeared. Three days after its grand send-off from San Antonio, the Tampa Tribune declared the ‘Giant Tamale for Kennedy Has Gone Astray.’ On May 26—less than a month removed from the Bay of Pigs invasion, and one day after Kennedy announced plans to put a man on the moon—White House reporters pressed the administration for answers about the tamale’s whereabouts.”

From the Texas Tribune.


That’s it for me this week. Be well. Get that next booster, and thanks for reading.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Liz Lost, But Spineless Republicans Killed Their Party … 

Forty-eight years ago this month Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and House GOP leader John Rhodes, also an Arizonan, told President Richard Nixon the jig was up. Nixon had to resign. The president’s effort to obstruct justice related to the Watergate burglary was the last straw. If Nixon refused to quit he would surely be impeached and removed from office.

A few days earlier – August 6. 1974 – Goldwater, the party’s 1964 presidential nominee and among the most conservative men in American public life, let go at a meeting of his Republican colleagues. “There are only so many lies you can take,” Goldwater said of the president, “and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House – today!”

Barry Goldwater, center, flanked by Senate GOP leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and Representative John Rhodes after a historic meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House in August 1974.

Nixon resigned on August 9, pushed out of the White House with fellow Republicans holding the door.

That Republican Party is dead, buried and apparently not in the least mourned by the personality cult that is now prepared to “defund the FBI,” putting law enforcement officers at risk, while dismissing very real evidence that their cult leader committed serious crimes.

Ironically, the last shovel full of cultist dirt was thrown on the vanquished remains of the daughter of the man who served as presidential chief of staff to Republican Gerald Ford, the man who helped rescue the Grand Old Party from the stench of Richard Nixon’s corruption.

The vanquished Liz Cheney has done a favor for democracy by reminding us of what a stand on principle looks like, and her defeat at the hands of an outspoken defender of Donald Trump’s Big Lie should finally put the lie to idea that the modern Republican Party is anything more than a grave threat to the future of the country.

In the aftermath of Cheney’s thumping defeat in Wyoming earlier this week some delusional conservatives have argued that her defeat had little to do with Donald Trump, who endorsed her hack opponent and railed against Liz for months and was instead about Cheney failing to represent her constituents – “left them behind and stopped listening” as one revisionist historian put it on Twitter. 

Nonsense.

Cheney lost because she dared to point out the obvious shortcomings of the most corrupt man to ever consume a Big Mac in the Oval Office. Cheney won re-election two years ago with 73% of the Wyoming vote. Tuesday, she received barely 29%.

The difference between those two numbers is simply Trump. Trump and endless lies about the election he lost, about January 6 and about his efforts to corrupt our government, our military and intimidate election officials. A rational political party does not go immediately to the default position that a former president who carried away top secret documents and refused to return them is the victim of some “deep state” plot. You have to work hard at being that delusional.

Yet, that is the party that rendered its judgment in Wyoming this week and did so previously in Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere where embracing the Big Lie has become the only currency needed to stay in the good graces of “the base” and the cult leader.

There is an old saw in politics that holds that you “never blame the voters,” but enough of the cultists have grabbed the GOP steering wheel that you simply can’t explain their fascination with conspiracy and lies without also naming them the responsible parties.

The country didn’t reach the point it finds itself because Donald Trump took Putin’s side against his own government, ginned up fabrications about a fair election, summoned a mob to overturn his defeat and then squirreled away national secrets in a closet in Mar-a-Lago.

No, we are where we are because enough of our fellow citizens actively accepted this palpable nonsense, and even worse continue to encourage more of it.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Liz Cheney said of Trump and January 6. Uttering that uncomfortable truth doomed her, while nearly all her Republican colleagues in Congress either sat on their hands or openly celebrated her defeat.

There was a moment, admittedly in a land light years away from ours, that once-principled Republicans – people like Oklahoma’s Tom Cole and Idaho’s Mike Simpson – would have made a difference by making a stand in favor of genuine conservative principles, including telling the truth to their followers, rather than lending credence to the party leader’s grievance fueled claptrap. But that party is, sadly, as dead as Gerald Ford.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham ran against Donald Trump, called him unqualified, said the GOP would regret nominating him, criticized Trump after January 6 and today is among his biggest defenders

As Mark Leibovich wrote recently in The Atlantic: “Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party, a particularly pathetic one is the terror so many of Cheney’s colleagues appear to have about losing their jobs. Maybe they can’t bear the thought of forfeiting their congressional parking spaces or fancy pins, or maybe they simply lack the stomach to get called bad names by Donald Trump. So they do whatever it takes to pass their tribal loyalty tests and survive their next election. They’re so afraid of being called a ‘former member of Congress’ that they’ll never know what it feels like to be called ‘courageous.’”

The good news for Liz Cheney, unlike a Cole or a Simpson, is she won’t have to pretend to respect Kevin McCarthy, the reptilian House Speaker wannabe who can hardly take a breath without calculating how exhaling will play with Donald Trump. And it seems entirely possible that Cheney will emerge from defeat, unlike the spineess characters who survive to grovel again, stronger and even better positioned to call out the vast shortcomings of the cult leader

“Look, she’s going to go on into eternity, or as long as is necessary” to stop Trump, former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson told Leibovich. “She’s going to keep doing everything she can to bring down this oafish man, who’s filled with revenge and hatred and total disregard for the laws of the United States.”

Where would you rather be – defending democracy and truth or tolerating conspiracies, while sniffing the backside of the Prince of Mar-a-Lago?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some additional good reading suggestions …

How Bolivia’s ruthless tin baron saved thousands of Jewish refugees

There was more to a cutthroat South American mining titan than anyone knew. From The Guardian.

“In 2004, after five years of sorting through thousands of pages of correspondence with consulates, businesses and international Jewish organisations, the team revealed their astonishing discovery. The papers demonstrated that Moritz Hochschild had helped to rescue as many as 22,000 Jews from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe by bringing them to Bolivia between 1938 and 1940, at a time when much of the continent had shut its doors to fleeing Jews.”

Fascinating story.


Does Preserving Democracy Require Letting Trump Off?

Mona Charon answers that question.

“The world is upside down. It is the Republicans who are completely politicizing the rule of law by declaring that any accountability for their master is ipso facto illegitimate. Hardly a single Republican office holder suggested waiting to see what the evidence was before reaching a conclusion. If they’d investigated for five seconds, they could have learned that the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the Department of Justice engaged in lengthy negotiations with Trump and his representatives to get the stolen documents back.”

From The Bulwark.


No Great Stagnation in Guinness

A really great piece about the famous drink from Ireland.

It’s good for you …

“The key to Guinness’ robustness has been innovation. Through a series of key innovations, Guinness was able to stay on top despite (among other things) a famine, mass emigration, two World Wars, a civil war, and the changeover from British to sovereign rule. Guinness is responsible for changes in workplace relations, several foundational advances in the physics of brewing, and even the famous Student’s t-test in statistics. Indeed, Guinness has been one of the key drivers of innovation in Ireland.”

The author is Will O’Brien.


Why Major League Baseball Tried to Rein in Babe Ruth

“For all his wealth and popularity, Ruth remained an outsider, even in the sport he popularized. In this, he demonstrated the chasm between America’s stated ideals and its nastier realities. His poor background did not win him respect; instead, it made him suspect among baseball elites, who wanted less volatile stars who would mold the game into a middle-class institution.”

Here’s the link.


Thanks much for reading. Keep the faith.

2022 Election, Democracy, GOP

America’s Choice …

On Monday night, February 20, 1939, a huge crowd of nearly 30,000 Americans packed into Madison Square Garden in New York City. Another 20,000 milled around outside, The crowd was orderly, at least for a while, but eventually became resistive, particularly after the main speaker began calling them to action.

On the platform uniformed guards stood watch, while “storm troopers” in the crowd “wore overcoats to conceal their uniforms.” Red and black and white flags were displayed everywhere. A large portrait of George Washington was suspended from the ceiling.

Under the guise of “Americanization” American democracy was under attack.

Police – more than 1,500 officers were on hand – expected trouble and had the Garden under tight lock down. One counter demonstrator was beaten and arrested. Event organizers claimed the principle speaker, a uniform wearing rabble rouser named Fritz Kuhn, was the subject of an assassination plot.

Celebrated reporter William S. White described the scene in newspaper accounts that appeared across the country. “In a Nazi demonstration that filled vast Madison Square Garden leaders of the German-American bund stood last night under the sign of the swastika to denounce ‘international Jewry,’ some members of the Roosevelt cabinet, and any American alliance with European democracies.”

Headline from the New York Daily News, February 20, 1939

Reaction was mixed with many defending the rally on free speech grounds even as the pro-Nazi gathering came at a time when Germany had rearmed, annexed Austria, taken over Czechoslovakia and imprisoned thousands of its “undesirable” citizens, particularly Jews. Oregon Republican Senator Rufus C. Holman, stoking class and race division, actually proposed in response to the gathering an end to immigration “until we can assimilate the discordant elements already here.”

Buffalo Evening News, February 21, 1939

Holman, who had been an officer in the Oregon Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s, would later say during a Senate speech: “I have always deplored Hitler’s ambitions as a conqueror. But he broke the control of these internationalists over the common people of Germany. It would be a good idea if the control of the international bankers over the common people of England was broken, and good if it was broken over the wages and savings of the common people of the United States.”

I thought about Rufus Holman, Fritz Kuhn and “the common people of the United States” while reading about the big confab of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Dallas recently. CPAC once was a rather staid, establishment conservative outfit, with its annual meetings offering up servings of standard rightwing red meat for those Americans who still believe Barry Goldwater was a prophet and Gerald Ford a liberal squish.

Once at the fringe of the conservative movement, CPAC is now, as Texas Monthly described it, offering “a violent blueprint for seizing power.” This is now the conservative mainstream, a neo-fascist movement in thrall to violence and in support of coup plotter.

The principle CPAC speaker was, of course, the man who would be president again. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left socialist lunatic fascists,” Donald Trump declared to rapturous applause. “We have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.” 

With uniformed Proud Boys standing by and Hungarian dictator Viktor Orbán thrilling the radical right multitudes with his anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, pro-Christian nationalist rhetoric, Trump repeated for the ten-thousandth time the Big Lie about his election defeat. He lamented the poor insurrectionists facing jail time for attacking the U.S. Capitol. He pitied his vast legal exposure. The crowd went wild.

Donald Trump and Viktor Orban

“If somebody has doubts whether progressive liberals and communists are the same, just ask us Hungarians,” Orbán earlier told CPAC. “We fought them both, and I can tell you: they are the same.”

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at the non-profit group Right Wing Watch told The Guardian: “Rightwing leaders, and especially the religious right leaders in the US, love Viktor Orbán for the same reasons they love Vladimir Putin. This overt embrace of Christian nationalism, willingness to use strongman tactics and the power of the government to enforce so-called traditional values about family and sexuality.”

The cold civil war in America ratcheted up a big notch with the most prominent conservative conference in the country embracing a thug like Orbán and it went into overdrive when the FBI subsequently served a search warrant on Trump’s Florida compound.

To say we have entered uncharted territory is to understate the peril of the moment. The darkest forces on the fringe right are calling for war and the crowd that yesterday slammed Democrats for wanting to “defund the police” today wants to eliminate the FBI.

Perhaps only one thing seems perfectly clear – the GOP elite, every bit as much at the grassroots, is sticking with the party’s would-be Viktor Orbán.

As Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate: “Having witnessed the bulk of the party harden its commitment to protecting Trump at any cost after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, nobody should be shocked to learn that ranking Republicans – without any information about what was seized, or why – were willing to stake their political careers on the claim that it was a lawless, partisan ‘raid.’ The darkest versions of these claims called for doing away with federal law enforcement altogether.”

Or as David Frum noted in The Atlantic: “In the hours since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s freshest resentments have become the election manifesto of his party, whose leaders are one by one lining up to investigate and punish the Department of Justice for enforcing the law against Donald Trump. Usually, August of an election year is when a party shifts its message from red meat for the true believers to softer themes for the general electorate. Trump is trying to stop that pivot, and after the FBI’s visit, he may succeed.”

We can’t imagine what might happen next for the simple reason we have never been here before. Never before have we had a lawless former president, sponsor of an effort to overturn an election and mired in endless scandal, supported by the most radical elements of one of our major political parties and hoping to reclaim power.

After than big New York event in 1939, the vast majority of Americans rejected the forces of fear and division the rally represented and committed themselves to the preservation of a pluralistic, democratic country, eventually sending sons and daughters to defeat the forces of fascism in a great war that continues to define the modern world.

Today the forces of fascism are again on the march, but they do not march as our would-be dictator claims from the ranks of the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Biden. The pressing threat to American democracy comes from the opposite direction, those who would shred the rule of law, while dividing us at every turn with appeals to hatred and violence.

We haven’t seen the bottom with these deplorables because there is no bottom. There is only democracy if we care enough to save it.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

For your consideration my carefully curated weekly selections …

Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen

A stunning investigative piece by the Associated Press. The AP obtained thousands of documents related to allegations of child abuse in Arizona and West Virginia, cases where Mormon Church officials had knowledge of the abuse but did nothing.

“Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”

It’s difficult to read, but one hopes this kind of story leads to reform.


How the FBI knew what to search for at Mar-a-Lago 

Scene of the crime …

Interesting Q-A with an expert on presidential records.

Q. How do the archivists actually know what’s missing? Isn’t that hard to figure out?

A. The archivists probably have a really keen idea of what is and what isn’t missing, based upon things that they’ve gotten out of other offices, like the vice president’s office and things that got deposited from the secretary of state, for example. There are a lot of papers that are referenced and cross-referenced, multiple copies or multiple things going in and out of offices.

Read the entire interview:


The maddening coverage of the Mar-a-Lago search

I’ve been a fan of the Columbia Journalism Review for years. This piece dissects some of the early news coverage of the big story out of Florida and hits hard at some of the shortcomings.

“After facing criticism yesterday, the Post changed its initial headline – ‘Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI raided Trump’s safe’ – at least once. It now reads: ‘FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago lands Merrick Garland in a political firestorm’; on Google, it displays as: ‘For Garland, FBI search of Trump property makes it hard to avoid political fray.’ The updates constitute an improvement in that they don’t implicitly accuse Garland of politicizing the rule of law. But they’re far from perfect, resting on DC clichés—’political firestorm’; ‘political fray’—that are worn and passive, offering no insight into who might have started the fire or frayed democracy. This might seem pedantic, but headlines, and language more broadly, matter.”

Good reading to understand some of why the “media” is constantly under fire in the Age of Trump.


A sage for all seasons

From The Guardian archives a John Updike appreciation for Henry David Thoreau and Walden.

Henry David Thoreau

“Thoreau was 27 when he took up residence in the cabin by Walden Pond; he had graduated from Harvard 19th in his class, tried teaching, helped his father in the family pencil business, did local odd jobs for a dollar a day, lived with the Emersons for two years as handyman and gardener, left Long Island after a brief spell of tutoring and testing the literary market, and, despite Emerson’s sponsorship and a few poems and essays in the Transcendentalist quarterly The Dial, had made no mark. He emerged from the cabin in 1847 as essentially the Thoreau known to literary history.”

You’ll learn something and may be inspired to read the classic again. Here is the link.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

2022 Election, Abortion, Idaho Politics

Famous Litigation …

Bill Hall, the acerbic and very funny one-time editorial page editor of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, once got his dander up about the fact that southern Idaho’s most famous crop – the russet Burbank potato – had come to define the state’s image. For decades Idaho’s license plates have proclaimed the state home to “Famous Potatoes.”

The rest of the state, the mighty rivers, the massive lakes, the Swiss-like snowcapped peaks and waving wheat fields were ignored, while the state’s image became a baked spud smeared with butter. Why not, Bill Hall argued, “Famous Peas and Lentils,” a solid cash crop prevalent north of the Salmon River?

Needless to say, that never caught on. Still, it is time for a refresh of the state’s steadily eroding image. A new proposal: “Idaho: Famous Litigation.”

Idaho is back in the national news cycle with the U.S. Justice Department suing the state – an utterly predictable development – over one of the most misguided pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the country. Idaho finds itself, three decades after then-Governor Cecil Andrus prevented the Famous Potato state from becoming embroiled in high-profile, costly and likely futile litigation over abortion, smack in the middle of a needless, thoughtless fight.

Andrus vetoed a misguided piece of abortion legislation in 1990 that had as its sole purpose an effort to influence the national debate over Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision overturned earlier this year by six Christian nationalists on the current Court. Now, the state’s ultra-conservative leadership has teed up just the kind of fight that Andrus avoided. You’d think a state fighting an image as a haven for white supremacists, anti-Semites and education-hating radicals might have sought to avoid become known for imposing a government mandate denying health care to pregnant women.

But this is Idaho where no crazy idea goes unrealized.

The potato state has become a poster child for performative, shoddy, punishing lawmaking that ignores real-world realities and ends up costing millions to defend, most often unsuccessfully. You can tell how thin the state’s defenses are when it comes to its abortion law by reading the ridiculous statement issued by Governor Brad Little who termed the Justice Department’s action “Biden overreach” and “federal meddling.”

There was no attempt by state officials to counter the federal government contention that Idaho’s law conflicts with federal law and creates the very real prospect that a pregnant woman would be denied an abortion even if her life were in danger. This really happens in a variety of circumstances according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including when the woman is suffering infection or severe bleeding.  

The Idaho law also seeks to criminalize medical professionals, putting them in a legal vice between an oath requiring them to provide necessary care for a patient and the state’s mandate to prevent such care.

“The law places medical professionals in an impossible situation,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said of the Idaho lawsuit. “They must either withhold stabilizing treatment … or risk felony prosecution and license revocation. The law will chill providers’ willingness to perform abortions in emergency situations and will hurt patients by blocking access to medically necessary health care.”

The radical ideologues in Idaho’s rightwing party ignored these real-life consequences when they passed, and Little signed the law they must now try to defend.

The governor must have flinched on Tuesday night as the election results rolled in from ruby red Kansas. Voters there overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would almost certainly have led to abortion restrictions like those in Idaho. Democratic turnout surged in Kansas, Republican voters said enough and the measure failed in every congressional district, even the two most super-conservative districts.

This is the Kansas Donald Trump carried by nearly 15% in 2020.

New York Times graphic

As Bill Scher noted in Washington Monthly, radical Republicans in Kansas – just like their fellow travelers in Idaho – have made “two big miscalculations.” They assumed all Republicans want to ban abortions and they under-estimate the willingness of Democrats and independents to show up and defend a right that many, many Americans thought was secure but is now severely threatened in many states.

Many elected Republicans do not yet realize – or refuse to consider – that there is no constituency for forcing a woman facing death or severe injury to carry a pregnancy to term. Likewise, they don’t appreciate how odious most Americans feel about criminalizing medical practices. The party known for opposing “mandates” is now the party favoring mandates requiring death and prison for women and medical professionals who don’t have the luxury of viewing the world in stark absolutes.  

This type of reckless, blind ideology, however, has become the defining characteristic of the modern Republican Party. Every fevered notion ever harbored by the John Birchers, the Q-Anon conspiracists, the Trumpy election deniers and, yes, the “let’s outlaw abortion” crowd is now in the party platform. The elected elites of the Grand Old Party find themselves marginalized by a lunatic minority who have taken to manipulating the party’s rules and dominating the party’s primaries. 

The spud state is leading the way.

The Republican Party “elites” have responded to this crisis of legitimacy by cowering in fear of their own supporters. As the conservative writer Jonathan V. Last noted a while back, “If the institutions within the Republican party were strong, they would exert their will … [and] shape popular opinion. Instead, these institutions dare only to assert their will under the cover of darkness, out of sight from their voters.”

That, Last says, is “the definition of weakness.”

A Brad Little, given his weakness and fear of the most pyretic elements – even the clear minority elements – of his own party, can’t buck them, can’t reason with them and certainly can’t lead them any more than a Kevin McCarthy can embrace a real investigation into the crimes of January 6. The fever swamp won’t let them be responsible and they lack the guts to try to be.

Therefore, every defense becomes hackneyed laugh line. In the Idaho governor’s case, a pathetic attempt to label entirely legitimate concerns over critical health care for pregnant women and prison for doctors as “federal meddling” or, in McCarthy’s case, drumming a truth seeker like Liz Cheney from the party.

“A party that is afraid of its voters is not sustainable,” Jonathan Last writes. “Either the voters will leave or the party institutions will transform to their liking.” This is a party that is not sustainable.

Two outcomes seem possible for the one-time party of Lincoln. The GOP will continue to collapse, perhaps bringing the Republic down with it. Or the majority of Americans who reject the utter nonsense that has come to define the Republican Party, like voters this week in Kansas, will finally move on to the bright sunlit uplands of political sanity.

Meanwhile, see ya in court, Idaho.

—–0—–

Weekend Reading:

The Greatest – Bill Russell

The passing of a great Celtic and a great man.

President Obama presents Bill Russell with the Medal of Freedom

“This truth cannot be debated: Russell and the Celtics owned the NBA like no other team ever has or ever will. He cared only about winning and he did it better than anyone – in any team sport – ever has. He encountered 10 Game 7s and left each one with a victory. How improbable is that? The likelihood of flipping a coin the same way 10 times in a row is 0.098 percent. Russell’s teams were the NBA’s 1 percent. He has as many rings as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson combined. He won eight straight championships during one stretch.”

I grew up watching big number 6 and mourn his passing. This is a great piece on Russell.


Vin Scully Was Los Angeles

If Russell was the greatest winner ever in basketball, Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully was the greatest behind the mic talent in sports history.

The broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Vin Scully, is shown the pressbox of Dodger Stadium before the start of their baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“When Kirk Gibson smashed that home run against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for the Dodgers’ upset of Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully exclaimed: ‘In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!’

“For one minute and eight seconds, he remained silent, allowing the roaring Dodger Stadium crowd to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.”

I’m no Dodger fan, but I sure love Vin. Great piece Scott Miller piece in the New York Times.


The fundamental flaw in ‘Make America Great Again’

Historian Leonard Steinhorn has an excellent take on what is driving the effort to whitewash American history.

“Few Americans want to bring back the worst injustices and excesses of the 1950s. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who want to restore this bygone era — to ‘make America great again’ — would re-create a society that resurrects some version of them. Talk as they may about the prosperity, respect and values of the 1950s, it’s the impact of their policies today that have the potential to reopen the wounds and inequities we have spent the following decades healing.”

From Made by History, a regular feature of the Washington Post.


Keep after it. Citizenship is a full-time job. Thanks for reading.

2022 Election, GOP, Insurrection

The Insurrection Next Door …

“It was going to be an armed revolution. People died that day … There was a gallows that was set up … This could have been the spark that started a new civil war.”

So said Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, who testified under oath recently before the January 6 committee.

The Oath Keepers, for those keeping a domestic terrorist scorecard, claims tens of thousands of members, most of whom seem to be former military or law enforcement personnel. The group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, has been charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in allegedly attempting to stop the peaceful transfer of power during the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes is in jail awaiting trial later this year.

A new civil war. Crazy, right?

Trump insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6, 2021

Not so fast. Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently gathered opinions about political violence from a representative sample of 8,620 Americans. A top line result: one in five Americans believe, at least some of the time, that political violence is justified. Half of those surveyed believe an American civil war is coming and 40% admitted to believing that a strongman leader may be necessary to replace our clunky democracy.

“This is not a study that’s meant to shock,” Rachel Kleinfeld, a political violence expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Science magazine. “But it should be shocking.”

It should be shocking, and we must not ignore the conflict agitators festering in plain sight, some clearly hoping to ignite – and benefit by – the war they desire.

Gun violence has undergone a dramatic increase, with homicide rates in American cities rising 44% between 2019 and 2021. Every day – every hour – brings a new outrage fixed squarely on the ridiculously widespread availability of guns. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that angry people with a grievance see a gun as an answer.

Unhinged political characters are everywhere fanning flames. Dan Cox, an election denying, Trump-endorsed crackpot, was nominated by Maryland Republicans to be their gubernatorial candidate this week. The party previously supported moderately conservative Larry Hogan. Hogan, twice elected in a strong Democratic state, has called the Republican who wants to replace him a “conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job.”

All the major Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin have, as writer Bill Lueders noted recently, “staked out fervently regressive, delusional, and extreme positions.”

Blake Masters, the likely Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, has had to refute an anti-Semitic essay he wrote several years ago in which he both distorted American history and used a “particularly representative and poignant quotation” – his words – from, of all people, Hermann Goering, the second most powerful Nazi who committed suicide rather than face execution for his World War II crimes.

“People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,” Masters quoted Goering as saying, perhaps not realizing that even nitwits can stumble on a telling quote. “That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

And, of course, the 35-year-old venture capitalist has already said if he loses the Republican primary in August voter fraud will be the cause.

In Idaho, the most extreme Republicans, as the Idaho Statesman noted, engaged during their recent convention in a political orgy of “fear, control and cruelty.” The party elected a radical rightwing chair who openly espouses the lunatic theory that Donald Trump won the last election. Dorothy Moon, the new chair, meets the Republican definition of diversity. She’s an election denier, a John Bircher, a defender of anti-government extremists like Ammon Bundy and served as a character witness for a fellow Republican convicted of raping a legislative staffer.

Dorothy Moon came close to being elected Idaho’s secretary of state. She’s now chairing the Idaho GOP

Moon, being unhinged is her default position, told the Republican convention, after easily dispatching an old-line party functionary, “We have to make sure with the Democrats coming at us with full force that we have our barriers up, our guns loaded and ready to keep this state free.” 

She will, of course, say she was speaking metaphorically, but she wasn’t. The gun imagery pointed at a political opponent and tied to “freedom” is part and parcel of the wingnut playbook. Moon’s defenders will say the meaning of her threats have been distorted. She didn’t really mean anything by “our guns are loaded.” Just like her party’s Dear Leader didn’t really egg on his supporters to hang Mike Pence.

Welcome to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.

The writer and former Naval War College instructor Tom Nichols says he remains a conservative, but no longer considers himself a Republican because the GOP has fallen “to a bunch of kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists.” Nichols suggests a critical question.

Where are the conservative adults who possess the character and guts to stand athwart this degradation of decency and reality? No senior elected Idaho Republican, for example, has uttered a word about their party going over a cliff into la la land with a crank at the wheel.

The party elite stir themselves to go after Joe Biden on inflation or “the crisis at the border,” but they can’t bear to look into their own garbage strewn back yard.

What are they waiting for? The civil war?

The modern Republican Party – “kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists” – doesn’t really advocate public policy positions, it enables extremists, while making the party a clear and present danger to American democracy.

The investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol has revealed how close the violent events of that day were to ushering in our civil war moment. Sadly, the violent impulses of so-called “Christian nationalists” were barely tweaked by the real time reality of America turning on itself. If anything, the impulses have grown over the last year and a half. Many Americans believe the worst is yet to come.

It has never been more incumbent on any American who truly loves the country, values the Constitution and the rule of law and abhors violence to drop what they are doing and become urgently engaged in the work of saving our democracy from the radicals who aim to destroy it. Push back against this nonsense in your circle of friends and family. Defend the teachers, librarians, police officers and health care workers who are under assault. Preach the gospel that holds that while our democracy is far from perfect it is demonstrably better than a demagogue in a blue suit.

There are more people of good faith and common sense than there are wannabe insurrectionists. Don’t be complacent. Don’t give in. Celebrate democratic values. Vote the crackpots out. The country you save will be your own.  

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Additional Reading:

Some reading for the weekend …

“I said, Don, it’s time for you to reveal”: 50 years later, the truth behind American Pie

I’m old enough to remember seeing Don McLean perform while I was in college and his most famous song had just been released. Now a new documentary tells the story of that enduring tune.

He was younger then

“The first part of the film covers McLean’s early life, including his time as a paper boy in the suburb of New York City where he grew up. In an extensive interview for the film, McLean talks about delivering the paper that carried news of the crash, something he alludes to towards the start of the song’s lyrics. At the time, Buddy Holly was his musical idol. If his death instigated the song’s words, a more personal loss altered the course of McLean’s life.”

Here’s the link.


An Innocent at Rinkside

William Faulkner and hockey don’t go together … but they do.

The novelist saw his first hockey game in 1955 and wrote about it for Sports Illustrated.

“To the innocent, who had never seen it before, it seemed discorded and inconsequent, bizarre and paradoxical like the frantic darting of the weightless bugs which run on the surface of stagnant pools.”

The link to the S-I vault.


Where Was Kevin McCarthy?

Amanda Carpenter on the certifiably loathsome leader of the House Republicans.

The gentleman from Bakersfield

“Thousands of witnesses have voluntarily complied with the [January 6] committee’s requests for testimony; McCarthy is one of the few who have resisted. The committee asked him for a voluntary interview in January 2022, and after he declined, the committee issued a subpoena seeking his testimony. In response, McCarthy’s lawyer sent the committee an 11-page letter on Friday, questioning the committee’s legality and constitutionality and making other specious arguments previously rejected by the courts.”

Imagine what this guy will do as Speaker of the House.


Be well. See you again soon.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Character Test …

We all knew that the Age of Trump was going to end up being a character test for Republican officeholders.

Way back in 2015 – remember those simpler days – most of these politicians knew the guy who bankrupted casinos, swindled contractors and cheated on his several wives was devoid of that central element of personal and political leadership: character.

But they were tribal, they wanted to win, and, after all, their supporters wanted to send a big message to the libs and the elites, so the GOP’s own elites tucked their reservations in a vest pocket and got on the Trump Train.

When he attacked John McCain, a decorated war hero, as a loser they bit their tongues. He is crude and mean and boorish, but the base loves him. When he slandered a Hispanic judge or the Gold Star parents of a Muslim solider, they looked away. When he praised Putin, they decided no big deal. When he attempted to extort the Ukrainian president in order to manufacture dirt on his political opponent, they let it slide.

When Trump attacked McCain … it was mostly crickets from GOP politicians

When he surrounded himself with cranks and grifters and fellow con men, and when the few with any character left or were fired, it was just business as usual. They got a tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires, after all. When he pardoned the sloppy, seditious Steve Bannon and repugnant, reprehensible Roger Stone, as well as a host of others, ensuring their silence, the characterless were busy elsewhere.

When he began, without a scintilla of evidence, to sow doubt about the election, always suggesting that unless he won the whole deal was rigged, they took their own election victories in stride. They knew it was a joke. But, hey, nothing to see here.

When he summoned the mob, incited the mob and embraced the fiction of a stolen election many Republican officeholders actually helped advance the Big Lie. They are still lying. They know it, you know it, but in for a penny, in for a pound after all.

Impeach and disqualify him from ever polluting the White House again? Not on your life. It’s all just “politics.”

But there is a funny thing about squandering the notion that character in public life really does matter. The smell of it sticks like stink on you know what. And it really stinks when someone from your own ideological tribe exhibits real character.

We saw it this week in the form of a conservative Republican, a Mormon graduate of BYU, and the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Rusty Bowers might have been called from central casting for his role before the January 6 investigation, that is, before the Malice from Mar a Lago made character as completely fungible as a degree from Trump University.

“Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it,” Bowers told Rudy Giuliani, the shameless Trump lackey who was pressing a fellow Republican to create fake electors in order to pervert a presidential election.

“I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona,” Bowers told Rudy. “You’re asking me to do something against my oath. And I will not break my oath.”

The Republican speaker of the Arizona House told the truth about Trump

“What makes a conservative Republican resist Trump and his deranged and fact-free election conspiracies?” Walter Shapiro asked recently in The New Republic. “Where do political figures like Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger [another witness before the congressional committee] find their courage while the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham become spineless Trump toadies?”

The answer is character, and character is what you do when you care more about the country than your tribe, or the next election or your own power.

Donald Trump pressured Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, “to find 11,780 votes” to reverse the electoral will of the state’s voters. It was shakedown full of Mafia boss-like threats and bluster. Raffensperger refused. Since then he’s been subjected to death threats and some loser broke into the home of his widowed daughter-in-law apparently seeking to intimidate him. He resisted.

We are living through the greatest peril of American democracy since the Civil War. Like southern Democrats in 1860, most in today’s Republican Party are willing to tolerate the threats, intimidation and corruption because they have rejected the notion that character counts.

There was a massive Trump directed conspiracy to overturn the last presidential election. Only an American living in a Fox News bubble or trolling the dark corners of Facebook can deny what happened. Republican after Republican witness is telling us. The witnesses of character are speaking to both the threats we face and to our better angels.

“Obviously Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and the rest of the Kracken lunatics are incapable of shame,” writes Never Trump conservative Sarah Longwell. “As are some of the 147 Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 election. But I’ve got to believe that there are many Republicans who – despite claiming they’re not paying attention to the hearings—are watching the testimony of people like [Georgia election worker Shaye] Moss, Brad Raffensperger, and Rusty Bowers with a gnawing sense of dread. Aware, perhaps with renewed clarity, that by carrying water for Trump’s lies, they had a meaningful hand in unleashing devastation on many people’s lives. Including Rusty Bowers daughter, who, we learned yesterday, was dying of a terminal illness while her family was attacked because Bowers refused to betray his oath. I hope those realizations keep them up at night.”

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” said the conservative congresswoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, speaking to the boneless wonders of the modern GOP. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

That’s the thing about surrendering any principle and squandering any sense that character matters – you have to find a way to live with yourself.

That stain is permanent; the stink never goes away.

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Additional Reading:

A few more suggestions …

Watergate’s Ironic Legacy

Amidst the January 6 hearings, the fiftieth anniversary of Nixon’s scandal reminds us that it has only gotten harder to hold presidents accountable.

“On June 22, 1972, a few days after the Watergate break-in, President Nixon met with H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff. ‘It sounds like a comic opera,’ Nixon said, so poorly executed that no one would think ‘we could have done it.’ Haldeman agreed, picturing well-dressed men installing wiretaps with rubber gloves, ‘their hands up and shouting ‘Don’t shoot’ when the police come in.’ Yet the arrests raised concerns at the White House. With less than five months before Election Day, Nixon and his advisers worried that the FBI investigation of the break-in might reveal other illegal activities.”

A good piece by Stuart Streichler in Boston Review.


How to Decolonize the Capitol

Art historians, legislators, and activists have long decried themes of White supremacy in the art collection of the U.S. Capitol. Can this place be decolonized?

The U.S. Capitol rotunda: scene of insurrection and lots of art

“Ever since John Trumbull was commissioned to paint four monumental history paintings for the Rotunda in 1817, Congressmen have used the Capitol Art Collection to tell a simple and seductive story — indeed, given its location, the official story — about America. Like all forms of government propaganda, this artwork was designed to justify and to persuade, laundering ideological positions into ‘history.’ But as the federal government diversifies, this story will likely be challenged more forcefully than it has been in the past. Nearly a quarter of the 117th Congress, which came into office in 2022, comprises lawmakers who identify as racial and/or ethnic minorities, making this Congress the most diverse in history.”

You’ll find this piece on a terrific architecture, landscape and urban design website – Places. Check it out.


‘I changed kids’ perspectives’: Muggsy Bogues, the 5ft 3in star who broke NBA norms

A wonderful little story about the shortest player in NBA history.

“This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the most striking picks in the NBA draft’s long history. In 1987, the Washington Bullets picked Muggsy Bogues – all 5ft 3in of him – with the 12th overall pick.”

From The Guardian.


Thanks for following along. All the best. Stay safe.

2022 Election, Idaho Politics

The Crazy Continues …

Idaho avoided a full-on political catastrophe this week as the state’s Republicans largely decided who will hold public office. 

But by no means has Idaho shed the ongoing influence of an ultra-conservative, authoritarian Republican Party.

Idaho voted and Little will change

Pick your metaphor. The bullet was dodged, but the glass is half empty. Consider:

  • Brad Little, an incumbent Republican governor, riding a wave of economic expansion and sitting on massive budget surpluses, won renomination with, hum, less than 53% of the vote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from his party, particularly when you consider that the governor’s principal opponent is a serial embracer of the most odious positions floating around the alt right universe. At least take heart that there will not be Proud Boys providing security at the inauguration next January.
  • A competent, serious, civil secretary of state candidate, Phil McGrane – you should thank your lucky stars – was selected to oversee Idaho’s elections. McGrane’s two election denying opponents garnered 57% of the primary vote. Had this been a two-way race – a sane and sober conservative versus a Trumpified “stop the steal” clown – the clown would have won. This bullet was caught in the teeth.
  • A very conservative speaker of the house, the longest serving speaker in state history, received just over 51% in a contest for lieutenant governor against a candidate so loathsome her own colleagues censured her for misconduct in a rape case.
Incumbent governor Brad Little won his primary in underwhelming fashion
  • A mostly invisible state school superintendent lost to a much more competent challenger who received less than 40% of the vote in a race where the second-place finisher, a former Democrat turned alt right favorite, was cited in April by a Washington state judge for “contempt of court on four occasions related to the custody agreement with his ex-wife.” The ex-wife also accused him of child abuse.

And that was the good news. There is ample bad news.

The state legislature seems almost certain to be as radically right as it has been and depending on leadership elections and committee assignments a swing farther right seems entirely possible. While it is true that some of the most irresponsible right wingers lost in what was generally a blood bath for incumbents, and support for public education may – may – have been bolstered, the trend line of crazy stuff was hardly bent and certainly not broken.

Idaho will come to rue the day it handed over the attorney general’s office to a political provocateur who made his reputation, such as it is, by repeatedly battling his party’s leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Raul Labrador really doesn’t want to run state government’s law office, he wants to be governor and he will spend the next four years employing every scheme he can devise to make Governor Brad Little’s life miserable.

The state’s expensive penchant for quixotic but performative legal battles will now only increase. Labrador will surely move out many of the career lawyers who have made the office a largely non-partisan source of legal advice and representation. His chief argument against long-time incumbent Lawrence Wasden, who will be remembered as one of the most effective and least political AG’s in recent history, was that Wasden refused to sign on to the bogus legal challenge Texas mounted against the 2020 presidential election.

Labrador will enter office running for governor and he’ll bully and bluster his way to the front of that line. Few politicians in recent Idaho history have been so thoroughly disliked by his peers, but now he again has a platform. Watch him use it, use it to the determent of the state and its taxpayers.

So, what should a Brad Little do now to lead this troubled party and divided state ?

Well, he’s entitled to a few moments of satisfaction that he defeated an opponent who openly courted white supremist support, denied a deadly pandemic, did her part to destroy public education, brandished her Bible like a light saber and was endorsed by the malignant force from Mar a Lago, but then what?

Barring some remarkable and exceedingly unlikely outcome in November, Little will have four more years to make his mark on Idaho. What will he do? After all, there are only so many regulations you can eliminate, tax cuts for the wealthy you can engineer, or draconian abortion bills you can sign.

He might take his “mandate” as a call for a return to sanity in the state’s conservative world. He could use the presence of militant, government hater and independent gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy on the general election ballot to isolate Bundy and his type. Call them out for what they are – a threat to democracy. It’s past time for yet another reckoning of Idaho’s reputation for harboring dangerous nuts like Bundy. Little could lead the repudiation, and at no cost to his political future.

He could address, forcefully and candidly, the intolerance and ignorance that goes with banning books in school libraries, and he could shame the alt right efforts to intimidate educators and health care workers. He could speak out against the shameful targeting of trans kids.

He could disown the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its blatantly disruptive and dishonest agenda. They hate him. He should make them an example.

The governor could make an early trip to Coeur d’Alene to meet with the new board of the venerable community college there that, momentarily at least, has been rescued from the clutches of the crazy wing of his own party.

A governor who cared about Idaho could appeal to the better angels that certainly must be lurking out there. If he wanted to, he could.

Like most of America, much of Idaho is crying out for real, principled political leadership – from the right and the left. Not slogans or appeals to the worst in us, but real substance about real things.

The Idaho primary settled nothing about the overall direction of the state’s politics, which will, barring real leadership, continue to wander, neck deep, in a swamp of conspiracy and grievance.

Rejoice for a moment that some of the absolute worst did not happen this week but take no comfort for little is likely to change.

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Additional Reading:

Other items that may be of interest …

No sea serpents, mobsters but Tahoe trash divers strike gold

“Cleanup organizers say one of the things locals ask most is whether they’ve found any gangsters’ remains near the north shore. That’s where Frank Sinatra lost his gaming license for allegedly fraternizing with organized crime bosses at his Cal-Neva hotel-casino in the 1960s.

The recovered debris mostly has consisted of things like bottles, tires, fishing gear and sunglasses.”

For a pretty pristine lake there is a lot of trash at the bottom of Lake Tahoe.


Forgetting the apocalypse: why our nuclear fears faded – and why that’s dangerous

Have we forgotten the danger?

“The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the whole world afraid of the atomic bomb – even those who might launch one. Today that fear has mostly passed out of living memory, and with it we may have lost a crucial safeguard.”

Daniel Immerwahr in The Guardian.


TEXAS’ WHITE GUY HISTORY PROJECT

“The 1836 Project will perpetuate stubborn 19th-century myths that will not die: Texas, for instance, has always stood on the side of freedom and liberty. Hard work alone inevitably leads to success. “Business-friendly” tax breaks make for a prosperous populace without the need for a robust social safety net and social services.

“In reality, thanks to its stingy government, Texas has the fourth-lowest literacy rate in the U.S., the highest rate of medically uninsured people nationwide, and ranks eighth in income inequality. The governor wants to stop teaching noncitizen children who attend public schools—an idea as cold-hearted as it is illogical and dumb. Forget our obesity epidemic, infrastructure failures, and militarized border.”

The Lone Star State experience with the cultural war over teaching history is both a joke and a warning. From Texas Monthly.


Being Gabe Kapler: Inside the mind of the San Francisco Giants’ nonconformist manager

Giants manager – and non-conformist – Gabe Kapler

Long-time readers know I’m a Giants fan, have been since Willie Mays was roaming centerfield at Candlestick Park. I’m biased, but the club by the Bay (with apologies to the A’s) is a fascinating collection of personalities and talents, and somehow under the leadership of the Zen-like manager Gabe Kapler – the Phil Jackson of baseball? – it works.

From Tim Kweon at ESPN.


Thanks for reading. Please share this posts with anyone you think might find them of interest. All the best.