Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Last Call For The Brawl For It All

The Republican Civil War begins in earnest this week, and while I expect Trump's coup attempt to fail, the Trumpies and the never Trump GOP are going to be at each other's throats, and the trick for the rest of us is not to be caught in the inevitable collateral damage.
In the coming days, that MAGA revenge complex could target everyone from low-level members of Congress to Vice President Mike Pence, as Congress meets on Jan. 6 to formally certify Biden’s victory. “Republicans,” Trump warned on Twitter, “NEVER FORGET!” speaking to lawmakers who have said they will not oppose Biden’s certification. And Trump allies are plotting to fund potential pro-MAGA primary challengers to oust those disloyal Republicans.

“We’ll put some money behind” trying to oust these Republicans, said Alex Bruesewitz, one of the organizers of Stop the Steal, an organization linked to high-profile MAGA personalities that is helping organize a major Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington.

The swift move to vengeance offers a preview of how Trump and his MAGA community plan to reshape the GOP in the coming months — creating Trump loyalty tests for Republicans, then working to evict anyone who doesn’t fall in line. The goal is to identify those who are most worthy of inheriting the MAGA base with Trump out of office. But the result may be that no one except Trump can rally the MAGA coalition.

“I think that Trump and his supporters in the base, or his supporters in the Republican Party, are going to continue to be a big part of the party for the foreseeable future, including in 2022,” said Alex Conant, a GOP political consultant and the former communications director for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. “Most congressmen don't wake up in the morning worried about their general election. They worry about their primary.”

At the moment, Trump is focused on eviscerating Raffensperger, who has rebuffed Trump’s attempts to subvert the Georgia election results — and so, too, is his base.

While Trump’s allies launched a normal fusillade of personal attacks against Raffensperger — former House Speaker and Trump ally Newt Gingrich called him “anti-Republican” — they also called for criminal charges. Some suggested it had been illegal for the call to be recorded, even though Georgia law only requires one party in a conversation to consent to an audio recording. Others went further.

“Traitors in our midst,” tweeted Chanel Rion, White House correspondent at the pro-Trump outlet OAN, along with the hashtag “#InvestigateRaffensperger.”

Next, MAGA attention will focus on Capitol Hill, where Congress will meet on Jan. 6 in a joint session to formally certify November’s presidential election. Pence will oversee the proceedings as vice president. Historically, the gathering is an afterthought, a noncontroversial rubber stamp on an already settled outcome.

But in the Trump era, the president, scores of Republicans and throngs of his supporters are insisting that lawmakers should refuse to sign off on the results, incorrectly arguing that the election was rigged.

Trump-supporting entities are trying to concoct novel constitutional powers that Pence could wield at the last minute from his largely ministerial perch, which mostly involves opening the envelopes with each state’s Electoral College votes, and then handing them to a secretary for recording. Alexander Macris, a video game writer who became known for his role in Gamergate, the online harassment campaign targeting women, suggested in a viral essay that Pence could re-interpret the 1877 Electoral Count Act in a way that would allow him to simply not count the votes.

Edward Foley, the director of the Election Law Project at Ohio State University, flatly rejected the interpretation.

“I mean, it was raised in the 19th century, but it’s never been accepted in the sense that the Supreme Court's never adopted it. It's never even prevailed at Congress,” he said.

That hasn’t stopped pro-Trump outlets like The Gateway Pundit from making tantalizing offers directed at Pence.“Pence can place himself in the history books alongside Thomas Jefferson or he can sign off on the destruction of the United States as we know it,” read an op-ed on the site.

Others have traded carrots for sticks: Prominent conspiratorial-minded figures, such as pro-Trump Georgia lawyer Lin Wood, claimed that Pence could be arrested, tried for treason and executed by firing squad if he did not act on Trump’s behalf. And out in the wilds of the QAnon conspiracy community, the process might not even matter: Pence, some argued, might be a body double, put in place by a Satanic cabal to further its plots.

Lawmakers in Congress, meanwhile, have different concerns on their hands: Many will soon seek reelection. And for a certain brand of politician, going MAGA is the safest bet.

“Most of these people that won during the [2020] primaries, they said, ‘I'm the most like Trump.’ And that's why most of them won their primaries,” said Breusewitz, the Stop the Steal organizer. “And so if they go back, the voters will hold them accountable.” 
Some 25 years ago, Newt Gingrich took over with his Contract With America. Ten years ago, it was the Tea Party and Birthers who displaced them. Now, the MAGA revenge complex, as Politico's Tina Nguyen puts it in the above article, is running the show. I expect the battle to be brief and bloody. Trump will still be ringmaster of the GOP circus after he's kicked out of the White House and the smoke clears.

The real problem, again, remains the potential for breathtaking violence over the next month.

Georgia On Everyone's Mind

Kyle Kondik of Sabato's Crystal Ball gives us the forecast for today's Georgia Senate runoffs, the question being whether the GOP can muster enough turnout today to break the Dems' early voting lead.

With Election Day voting underway in the crucial Senate runoffs in Georgia, we continue to see both races as Toss-ups. But after an early-voting period where Democrats may have performed better than they did in the lead-up to the November election, Republicans may need to follow suit with an impressive day-of-election performance to defend Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) against challengers Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D), respectively.

Georgians have cast roughly 3 million votes so far in the contest through early in-person and mail-in voting. Even without accounting for any Election Day votes, this is an impressive turnout, about 60% of the roughly 5 million votes cast in Georgia’s high-turnout November election.

The last time Georgia had a Senate runoff, in 2008, only 2.1 million votes were cast compared to 3.9 million votes cast for president in the general election. So a dozen years ago, turnout in the runoff was just a little more than half that of the general election, and then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) won the runoff by 15 points after leading in the November vote by just three points.

The turnout in these runoffs as a percentage of the general election vote is going to be markedly higher than in 2008. The key question is how much higher.

The votes cast before Election Day in these Senate runoffs may be more Democratic leaning than those cast before the November general election. Perhaps the most encouraging data point for Democrats is that the Black voter share of the pre-Election Day vote is up a few points from the pre-Election Day Black vote in the general election. Given that Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats, any increase in the Black share of the electorate is very important.

Democrats probably need a better electorate in the runoff than they got in November, because even though Biden narrowly won, Perdue ran a little under two points ahead of Ossoff in his election, and the combined Republican vote outpaced the combined Democratic vote in the jungle primary special election by about a point. In other words, if the two Senate elections held in November had been conventional contests with a single Democrat facing a single Republican with no runoff, Perdue would have been reelected and a Republican very well could have won the other race, too.

In the general election, about 80% of all votes were cast before Election Day. Joe Biden won this chunk of votes by about six points. Donald Trump won the Election Day votes by 23 points, which got him within a few tenths of a percentage point of winning, but he fell short. If Democrats have done better in the pre-Election Day vote this time, then Republicans either need to win the Election Day vote by more than Trump did, or have the Election Day electorate make up a bigger share of the total votes cast (and still vote heavily Republican).

Could this happen? Sure. It may be that some Republicans who voted before Election Day in the general election will switch to day-of voting this time, perhaps in response to President Trump’s endless and unfounded complaints about the integrity of the Georgia election — complaints he reiterated in an Election Eve Georgia rally last night. More broadly, the voting patterns and methods of a post-holiday runoff may be different than those of a general election.

This may be an oversimplification, but our sense is that if total turnout runs north of 4 million, and particularly if it’s clearly more than 4 million, the Republicans probably are getting a large enough Election Day turnout to win. If turnout runs south of 4 million, the Democrats may be in good shape given their likely advantage in the votes already cast, which constitute a healthy chunk of the eventual total. Our uncertainty about what the turnout ultimately will be is why we’ve decided to keep both races as Toss-ups.

Polling hasn’t provided much clarity beyond reinforcing a Toss-up rating: Democrats have led more often than Republicans, but often only by a little, with some polls showing a dead tie. Much has been made of how the president’s efforts to question the legitimacy of the election will affect the behavior of Republican voters in the runoff. Will his complaints motivate Republicans to show up on Election Day, powering Republicans to victory and saving the GOP Senate majority? Or will they depress Republican turnout, either because a crucial number of GOP voters will believe that their votes don’t matter or because the president’s outrageous behavior — as once again demonstrated in a weekend phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) — has turned off even some of his own electorate or pushed some cross-pressured voters to the Democrats. This, too, is a question mark, and it may have bearing on future Republican behavior. If Republicans lose the runoffs, and with them the Senate, it may push Republican leaders to distance themselves from the outgoing president and his rhetoric. If Republicans hold the seats and generate a high turnout, the lesson for Republicans may be that the president’s rage is a powerful electoral motivator even when he isn’t on the ballot himself.

Remember, Democrats need to sweep both races to forge a 50-50 Senate that they would control through Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ (D) tiebreaking vote. Holding just one of the seats would be good enough for Republicans to retain a 51-49 majority (or 52-48 if they hold both). We do expect both races to break toward the same party, although there could be a split decision if both races are very close.

I've already predicted wins by both Ossoff and Warnock last week, not because of wishful thinking, but because Mitch McConnell will block everything if he remains in power and openly continue to sabotage the country otherwise, and people know it.

I think Georgia will surprise the country today. 

Suddenly, Republicans Want Police Stopped

Washington, D.C.'s police chief said Monday he intends to reach out to GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert about her intention to carry a Glock handgun in the city, which has strict limits on carrying concealed firearms.

Chief Robert Contee III, when asked during a press conference about the newly elected Colorado lawmaker’s plan to carry a gun to the Capitol, said he wants to ensure that "she is aware of the what the laws of the District of Columbia are."

"That Congresswoman will be subjected to the same penalties as anyone else that’s caught on the D.C. streets carrying a firearm," Contee said.

Boebert has made no secret of her intent to bring a handgun to the Capitol complex, where lawmakers are exempt from otherwise strict prohibitions on firearms, so long as they're stored in the members' offices and transported safely and unloaded. Democrats considered a change to the rules that would have barred even members of Congress from bringing guns to the Capitol, but the rules package introduced by House leaders last week included no change to the policy.

The current guidelines for weapons in the Capitol is set by the Capitol Police Board, which includes the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate, the architect of the Capitol and the chief of the Capitol Police. Lawmakers have been exempted by the board from the restrictions for decades.

Boebert drew attention to her plans for carrying a weapon on Sunday, when she posted a video on social media declaring her intention to carry her gun in Congress.

"Government does NOT get to tell me or my constituents how we are allowed to keep our families safe," she said.
That's the problem with entirely performative politics, eventually you run across somebody who doesn't give a damn about the performance part and it collides with cold, hard reality.

Now if Boebert wants to spend a few months in jail, it's going to make it hard to vote, especially if she's charged with felonious possession of a firearm.

Should be fun to watch how quickly she backs down.


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