Psephology is hard to Spell

Welcome. I will not push too much preamble, except to say this site is the product of months of effort that continues today, borne of years of frustration at the relative inaccessibility of the very important data collected and arranged here. See below my long-form blog posts from substack. Feel free to click through to provide ENGAGEMENT. The menu bar at the top of the page will lead you to the site's meat and potatoes. Enjoy.

Wed, 14 Feb 2024 17:13:36 GMT

Sometime in the last couple elections, primary elections for Presidents were peeled off most state primaries, so while the nothingburger Presidential primaries will proceed in a rather timely manner between now and July to produce the same nominees as we had in 2020, the primaries for Congress will be spread out all the way into the fall. These will be my editorial focus in the coming months, and to assist with that, I put together a primary tracker that shows what states and seats will have primary elections over the course of the upcoming season.

The challenge, as you might have noticed if you clicked into the tracker without finishing reading my flowery prose, is that the first five primaries will take place on Super Tuesday, and they are doozies. Two competitive Senate seats in California and Texas, and a whopping 115 House seats— many many of which are competitive and/or newsworthy —in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas.

I will be talking about every Senate race, as there are only 34 of them, spread mercifully throughout the primary season, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to write individually about all 435 House races, and also sleep, eat, have a relationship with my family, and make a living.

So I will try to lift and separate the House races that are competitive, interesting, or are otherwise worthy of mention. I am certain I will miss some, but I promise you I will try.

The congressional primaries will start in just a few weeks, and they will be grisly.
Thu, 01 Feb 2024 23:13:26 GMT

I’ve been busy at the new job, but also with trying to get some features added to the site. While I still have a small backlog of minor fixes to apply, it was very important to me that the site get the features I’ll describe in detail... now.

Senate

After several months, I managed to work out a way to present the Senate in a way that’s reasonably consistent with how House districts are presented. The challenge— if you’re interested —came when I realized that no Senate seat has a hard classification or name or title, like with House districts. The only real distinction between one state’s seat and its other seat in the Senate is that one Senator is Junior and the other is Senior, based on a long list of factors that determine seniority. For example, Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were sworn in as Senators at the exact same moment, so their seniority is determined instead by the alphabetic order of their last names. ‘O’ comes before ‘W’ in the alphabet, so Ossoff is the senior Senator from Georgia.

That also highlights the fact that when a Senate seat is open for a given election, there is no reckoning as to which seat it is, in the context of “Senior” versus “Junior.” Seniority is determined by the set of factors above, not the seat itself. With that in mind, the URL scheme I set up for the Senate is “/s/GA/Warnock.” In any case, here’s the Senate. Enjoy that. You can also reach Senate data from the menu at the top of every page on the site.

FEC Data

I’ve also added the ability to see campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission, with the data distilled down to three points: Contributions, Disbursements, and Cash on Hand. This is the first of a number of features I want to add to the new election analysis pages that have been made for House and Senate races. Have a look at this one for the Laphonza Butler’s open Senate seat in California, or this one for Colorado’s 3rd District, recently abandoned by Lauren Boebert after her volatility changed the district from safe to competitive. You can see campaign finance summary data, and I encourage you to check back, as the data will be updated over time, as the election nears. The FEC requires quarterly filings from all candidates for federal office.

I have some more ideas, but the site is already in a place where I can just spend hours just diving into various races. I hope you enjoy this data and analysis as much as I do. I will keep working on it and writing about it.

Senate, FEC Numbers for both Senate and House
Thu, 25 Jan 2024 23:00:26 GMT

Trump cannot win in November without the independent and unaffiliated voters. Haley can't win without Trump's wackos.

Biden's campaign has no such material breach between such large groups of voters, and the bleeding of support that's being reported is being addressed, as the majority of his interaction with Israel has been in the pursuit of detente, not the genocidal aspirations of Netanyahu.

It's largely for this reason that I think Trump's path to victory is probably too narrow to be realistic, even now. And it's getting narrower over time. The greatest strength Trump's campaign has, ironically, is that most people don't really grasp yet that he'll be the GOP nominee. Haley obviously is not going to win the nomination, but let's say that for the sake of argument, she does.

It's not like Trump will quietly concede and go retire to peacefully defend himself in 37 courtrooms. He will take his wackos and start his own party-- or just threaten to do so --and the RNC will accede to his will. This will keep the wackos in the GOP column, but it will alienate even more nose-holding conservatives. The result of this is something that has been the case ever since Trump's post-coup comeback: Trump owns the Primaries, but can't win a general.

And you notice I haven't said anything at all about the more than half of Republicans who adamantly oppose a national abortion ban? Or how the number of Americans who consider climate change a "major concern" is up to 74% from 50% in 2020? Or how the Affordable Care Act enjoys 62% approval and Trump plans to gut it? Or literally anything about Project 2025?

And this consideration is all agnostic of Trump's criminality and almost certain impending convictions.

Trump's path to the White House is getting lost in the weeds.
Thu, 28 Dec 2023 21:19:29 GMT

Iowa has four congressional districts. All are currently represented by Republicans. Only one(IA04) has the numbers to be considered "safe" from the possibility of getting flipped to Democratic control, with the Cook Political Report assessing its partisan lean to a sixteen point advantage by the GOP, and its incumbent Randy Feenstra is running unopposed in the primary. Lightning does sometimes strike, but I would say that Randy Feenstra holding Iowa-04 is one of the safest bets you can make for 2024.

But the other three districts are assessed with Republican advantages of no greater than four points-- two at R+3 and one at R+4. Cook, Sabato, and Gonzales all rate these races with terms like, "Solid," "Likely," "Lean," and "Tilt" to all say they are relatively safe from the danger of a Democratic flip. Their 2024 elections are expected to be competitive, but with a decided Republican advantage.

But just like in 2022, I think the predictors are all missing the effect that a crucial element will have in Iowa.

Abortion.

Conservative lawmakers in the Hawkeye state are cooking up a ballot question with the extremely wordy name, "Iowa No State Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment," which will enshrine in the state's Constitution the explicit lack of a right to abortion by anyone in the state. The Iowa House passed the Amendment in 2021, and the state Senate passed it the next day. They will have to pass it again in a 2024 session for the question to appear on the ballot for Iowans to vote on it.

This is an active effort by Iowa Republican activists, despite well-documented opposition that predates the June 2022 Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court that formally overturned Roe v. Wade, by over a year. All I can think of to explain this effort to jump off a cliff together is some internal polling the GOP might have that says that posing this question to voters in Iowa would not be disastrous for them. Though that seems unlikely. I think it’s more realistic that the pressure from various groups whose support is critical to the GOP's ongoing campaign funding is so great that the state legislature simply can't turn from this path now.

But if they pass the Amendment in 2024, and the question is put to the voters, I predict the backlash will be severe enough that not only will the Amendment be defeated by a highly motivated turnout, but that GOP representatives Miller-Meeks, Hinson, and Nunn(all three of whom have demonstrated and telegraphed that they would vote in favor of a national abortion ban) would also lose their seats, along with enough Republicans in the state House and Senate to flip them to Democratic control. I think it would also cost Gov. Reynolds her office if her term was up in 2024, but we have to wait for 2026 for that.

The nationwide right to abortion was rescinded in 2022. That fall, the GOP was expected to win Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. They were expected to flip the House of Representatives by dozens of seats. It is not a coincidence that they failed to flip the Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, and even lost a seat in Pennsylvania. It's not a coincidence that the GOP's razor-thin House victory can be accounted only by redistricting that has since been undone or compensated. The Dobbs decision turned what was supposed to be a red wave into a bare House victory that would prove even more embarrassing for the GOP in the ensuing term, as the Party made a sport of stepping on rakes.

Every question about abortion that's been posed to voters since the Dobbs decision-- in red states and blue --has ended in victories for abortion rights advocates. Going into 2024, this momentum will only build, as more and more states put the question to their voters. Already New York and Maryland have put abortion questions on their 2024 ballots. Iowa is poised to do so as well, along with Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and potentially more states. It is not looking good for the Grand Old Party, and I plan on exploring this more deeply as we get closer to the elections in 2024.

And this is to say nothing of the effect that a Trump Republican nominee would have on the election.

Iowa's legislature is playing with fire, and they might not even be aware of it.
Fri, 20 Oct 2023 05:55:12 GMT

At 45, Nancy Mace(SC01) is only nine months older than me. As one of the youngest Republican voices in the House, she distinguished herself early in her first term by saying publicly and with enthusiasm that the Party had to move on from Donald Trump, and that she was working toward a party of moderates that cooperates with the opposition to make and pass legislation.

Trump won her district in 2016 by 14 points. That narrowed to 6 points in 2020, when Mace herself was elected, unseating incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham, who himself won his seat by his fingernails in the blue wave of 2018. South Carolina-One has been in play for some time, and has seen Katie Arrington, a Trump-endorsed candidate, fail to get across the finish line in both 2018 and 2022. Trump endorsed Mace in 2020, but appeared to sour on her after she spoke out against a GOP future in which he figured prominently.

I say this because SC01, from all indications, is far from a lock for any candidate, though its generic electoral makeup does appear to favor Republicans, usually by single-digits. They're just not overly fond of the former President, and in this district, his endorsement is not the golden ticket it is in many other districts.

Nancy Mace was elected as a moderate, in what appears to be a moderate district. But in recent months, she has executed a political about-face, embracing extremists like Jim Jordan(OH04), and finding herself allied with characters like Matt Gaetz(FL01) and Marjorie Taylor Greene(GA14). More recently, she's been positioning herself in a more and more exposed posture, appearing on the floor of the House in a made-for-TV ensemble: a t-shirt that leaves little to the imagination, with a large red letter "A" on it-- a misplaced reference to Hawthorne's Hester Prynne --explaining to the assembled media that she is on the side of the people, not the establishment, in response to a claim nobody made.

Mace does not as of now have a serious primary challenge, and it could be that the alliance with far-right extremists in the House could simply be a feint, to prevent a primary challenge from a Trump-enthusiast like Arrington again, and save herself money to face a much more serious challenge in the general election from businessman Michael Moore(no relation) or attorney Mac DeFord.

I personally think Mace is relying on the general tendency of MAGA voters to have the memory of a goldfish, pretending now to be working for them to avoid a primary challenge. After the June 11th primary, I think Nancy Mace will magically transform back into a moderate, and also try to bury her previous opposition to abortion rights.

As things are now, SC01 is going to be a district to watch in 2024. I will definitely revisit this district as the primary and general elections draw closer.

Nancy Mace got elected as a moderate but is dining with the Freedom Caucus now. Why?
Thu, 19 Oct 2023 04:46:59 GMT

Not to be outdone by the previous leading GOP hopeful for the office of the Speaker, Rep Jim Jordan(OH04) had his second straight humiliation on the House floor today, denying him the gavel. While Jordan held the gate open to let Victoria Spartz(IN05) and Doug LaMalfa(CA01) back in from their wayward votes in Round 1, Drew Ferguson(GA03), Mariannette Miller-Meeks(IA01), and Pete Stauber(MN08) ran out of the pen, leaving Jordan one vote lighter than he was in the first round, finishing up with 199 votes, losing 22 votes to 10 other GOP candidates, to Hakeem Jeffries’(NY08) 212 united, unanimous, unshakable Democratic votes.

I wanted to make a point of the fact that while Jim Jordan chases and bullies his majority caucus, the Democrats’ vote, through 17 votes in 2023, has been as solid as steel. 100% of the Democrats present for every vote, voted for Jeffries. No name has been said aloud more on the House floor in these votes than Hakeem Jeffries.

What I think this illustrates is the knowledge within the House Democratic Caucus, which is not yet in the minds of most 2024 voters: the next national election will be pivotal in our nation’s history. Most people who are going to vote aren’t fully aware that the nominees will almost certainly be Joe Biden and Donald Trump again. If they did, the polls would be much more one-sided than they are, as evidenced by the unified front the House Democrats are presenting. As the election draws closer, this will becom much more obvious.

House Republicans are putting on a brave face, telling America that everything is fine, and that Jim Jordan will come out of this with the gavel and the House can proceed on its business of impeaching the President without evidence, denying rights to gender-nonconforming Americans, serving Putin’s war agenda by denying aid to Ukraine, pushing for a nationwide abortion ban, and doing other irrational things to tap-dance for Trump’s deplorables.

But everyone can see this. The dysfunction of the GOP is on display for all. America is seeing what happens when they vote for each party. The House when controlled by Democrats passed laws that, if they made it to the President’s desk, executed impactful change, reflecting the positions of a majority of Americans. The House under Republican control has been marked by attempts at score-settling, name-calling, and performative political gamesmanship.

America is learning more every day what happens when they vote for the Party that Donald Trump consumed. TV. Not government.

Jordan lost by more than before. I think it means something.
Wed, 11 Oct 2023 15:42:18 GMT

I've been quiet on here lately. Sorry about that. But I want to assure you-- both of you --that I have not been idle. In fact I wanted to take this moment to tell you what's kept me busy since August. An ambitious project has occupied the majority of my free time as I wanted to give it the focus I believe an undertaking like it deserves. I've passed this around to a couple of people, and secured the blessing of the management team over at the Cook Political Report for the integration of their data in it. The feedback from everyone who's seen it has been positive, and I am happy with its current progress.

The Psephology Project by John Kelly

The word comes from the Greek word for "pebble," which refers to the means by which people voted in the earliest examples of Democracy. From the about page:

…there is a mountain of psephology data, and in that mountain, as with other agglomerations of data I have spent my career handling, there are messages. Messages that are going unnoticed and unheeded. This website is the most complete effort of mine, to date, to try to find, isolate, and cast a light on those messages.

Also:

…it is also my intention to provide a service to which most people do not have access, not being employed by large news organizations, political parties, campaigns, advocacy groups, corporate entities, educational institutions, or other well-resourced entities that are able to hire consultants and firms to aggregate and present this data to them. I believe very strongly that the public are entitled to public information, and indeed our societal outcomes are better when they have it.

Currently, the site only has information about the US House of Representatives, but in the coming weeks I will be adding information about the Senate, upcoming elections for both houses of Congress, and hopefully I can provide some valuable insight for the upcoming Presidential election.

In the meantime, I will be linking back to pages on the site in my posts here on Substack, and I encourage anyone who stumbles across this post to do the same. In addition, I have renamed this Substack from "I'm Still Hopeful"(and I definitely still am) to "Counting Pebbles," having repurposed the blog as an official editorial complement to the hard data in the Psephology Project.

Please let me know what you think of the project, and any ideas you may have for things that you’d like to see it do.

I haven't been idle. I got a new job too!
Sun, 06 Aug 2023 06:10:28 GMT

I love saying this.

I was right.

Russia poured the entirety of their power and legitimacy into the Ukraine invasion, and though the war is technically still happening, they lost, and now they have nothing. Want an example? There is a summit of over 30 countries in Jeddah right now, to discuss Ukraine's terms for peace. In attendance are the US, China, India, France, the UK, and of course Ukraine. Russia is not invited, and their position is not being considered.

The exclusion is a massive snub to Russia, but Putin's threats are hollow and the world knows it. His rule and Russia's primacy on the world stage are simply gone.

I was right.

This is the reason I started watching the war intently when Russia failed to achieve objectives as early as the first moments of the war. Because I knew that if Russia loses, as it appeared more than possible they would before those first 24 hours were over, Russia would break itself completely on the Ukrainian anvil, and the possibility of a world without the contaminating influence of Vladimir Putin was too exciting to consider.

But when Putin not only failed to take Kyiv in the early days, but failed in spectacular, humiliating fashion, laying bare the absolutely pitiful state of the Russian military, I knew this war would be his end, and that he would spend Russia's viability in the attempt. All for his own deluded vanity.

Now, Putin is unable to defend his own country, and put down rebellions within his own borders. His inner circle dwindles, and is now just a band of circling sharks, awaiting their moment to supplant him-- except that with Western sanctions and no military to speak of, there's not much for them to usurp.

Putin and Russia are finished. I was right.

His influence is gone, and we need only wait to reap the global benefits.
Thu, 27 Jul 2023 21:21:10 GMT

Zuckerberg-headed Meta released its new “Twitter killer” earlier this month, called Threads. As its userbase comes largely from Meta-owned Instagram with only a couple of taps on the screen of your favorite mobile device, the platform saw an explosion of growth in its first week, with over 100 million users signing up. I installed it and checked it out, and found it to be lacking in features, even compared to Twitter, but filled with optimistic posts about how this is the next big thing. It feels similar to how Google+ felt shortly after its slow-rolled release in 2011, or how Twitter felt, a few years earlier. Everyone’s excited, but there’s nothing to do. I wrote about it before I tried it, and now that I have tried it, I don’t have any particular interest in it. I actually just uninstalled the app after not having opened it at all since the day I tried it out.

The lack of features is being addressed over time by Meta’s developers, adding functionality presumably as they finish writing and testing it. So under these conditions, it seems more than possible that Threads will eventually replicate all of Twitter’s functionality. But that still just produces a product that works exactly like Twitter, which is less than exciting. More on that later.

On the web, Threads is only accessible in a read-only context. All meaningful interaction requires the use of the official mobile app. There is no public API, no access for anyone who doesn't consent to data collection, and as of now, no framework available for making third party apps. This means that all users of the platform are 100% subject to the whims of Meta. There’s no access available to anyone who doesn’t consent to data collection. There’s no view of the platform that Meta does not control.

Threads and other commercial entities are hellbent on eating up the market that Twitter/X is vomiting onto the table, but none seem to be aware that restricting access spells failure from the start.

Twitter became colossal because it was accessible to the world. There was a powerful API that they provided, out of which was born countless excellent third party apps, where all of the now-indispensable features originated: account tags, hashtags, likes, retweets, quote tweets, lists, following, and many more. From the innovation that third party developers loaded into the platform, Twitter became the first place where most news broke. It became a source of news in and of itself.

Twitter became enormously valuable because of the general interest it had, the size of the community it hosted, and critically, the access that was available to it. Twitter, Inc began to be able to assemble blocks of “big data” that they could sell. Interests and buying habits of large blocks of users. Engagement(likes, follows, retweets, replies, etc) became an element to be monetized.

Over time, the interests of Twitter’s two major interested parties— the community and the company —became so misaligned that the company started to introduce and promote toxicity for the sake of engagement, prompting many users to reduce or even eliminate their participation. Content posted by incendiary figures was identified and placed into people’s feeds in a deliberate attempt to enrage them, and get them to engage.

By the time entitled Dunning-Kruger billionaire Elon Musk made his catastrophic purchase of the platform, the “engagement through toxicity” approach was years underway, and Twitter usage was regarded as a bad habit. Twitter— both the company and the community —was in trouble, and though that trouble could only be quelled by increasing access, and taking the company’s finger off the scale to try to force engagement to happen, the company just could not help themselves, and the exodus continued.

But Musk thought he was special. He thought he would be able to encourage free speech— something he claimed the platform was lacking. He thought he could accomplish this while also making the platform less accessible. Of course, he was wrong. He killed off the free API, and locked out third party apps. He closed off the platform to anyone who is not logged in. He introduced limits on what users who haven't paid for a blue check can see. He eliminated Twitter's most valuable service- content moderation -chasing off the majority of the ad revenue.

Now, Twitter is in ruins, no matter what you call it. Threads is new, and has many users, but is not especially different from Twitter, in terms of access. And if Threads will operate like Twitter did, then I don’t see it gaining traction. If Meta’s plan is to sell data based on engagement, then I have no faith in their ability to keep their finger off the scale. I think it’s only a matter of time before Meta starts forcing optionless users to look at toxic content for the sake of engagement.

At best it will be a closed system like Truth Social serving some niche. At worst it will just taper off into oblivion like the Metaverse.

The new platform's only real advantage is that it's new, but it's poised to make all the same mistakes that cratered Twitter.
Thu, 06 Jul 2023 20:58:58 GMT

I just investigated instagram threads, and found that the platform is mobile-only, accessible only with its official app. That's a complete nonstarter for me. That means that Meta requires from the jump that anyone using the platform agrees to copious data collection and cookie farming, with no visibility of what is being collected, or when. If I can't participate at all from a real computer, and have some control over what background processes and data collection are taking place, then unless it's adopted on a massive scale, I see no value in it, and will not be using it.

I think this is a flawed approach from the start, and will be a failure on the scale of Zuckerberg’s Metaverse embarrassment. Accessibility and content moderation are what make a social media platform valuable. Restricting access to an official app with black-box operations is already a limiter on who will use the platform, and homogenizes the desired discourse by that much.

Twitter and Reddit have worked hard— whether deliberately or accidentally, it is hard to say —to chase away any users who want to just access the platform without installing data collection background processes, and it appears Meta wants in on the game without even knowing how it will(or won’t) work.

The result for Twitter has been a wholesale emptying of its engineering, content moderation, and ad sales staffs, which has resulted in frequent service degradation and outages, and disastrous public failures like the Desantis campaign announcement fiasco. Twitter is unable to keep the lights on. They just declined to pay for another hosting contract with Google, and seemingly as a result, they are now requiring a login for anyone to view any content. I say “as a result” because this move will naturally reduce access to the platform, and reduce the platform’s relevance.

Reddit is a couple days into their recent seismic change. They announced in April that they would start charging for access to their site data, particularly for maintainers of the dozens of outstanding mobile apps made by third parties, at untenable cost. Overnight, almost all of these apps, complete with extremely devoted followings of millions of users, have shuttered. These apps, like the 3rd party apps that Twitter banned with no warning a few months ago, shaped the platform, and made it a valuable online meeting place. A “town square,” if you will.

As a direct result, Reddit is losing most of its volunteer moderators, whose effort makes the platform welcoming to users(ie: valuable), a fact against which Reddit's corporate leadership are sticking their fingers in their ears and holding their eyes shut. The staff that have for years maintained the “ask me anything” feature that has helped define the platform, have announced that they will no longer contribute this valuable service, as Reddit’s leadership have completely ignored and berated criticisms of their seemingly willful destruction of reddit dot com.

I say all this because Meta appears to want to start their new platform from the same user-hostile position where Twitter and Reddit currently sit through their own incompetence, but Meta wants to do it deliberately. And Meta somehow expects it to succeed. I may eat my words on this. It may be that Reddit and Twitter’s failures since making their platforms less accessible and less moderated will somehow not apply to Meta, but I can’t see that right now.

Meta introduced
Fri, 30 Jun 2023 20:26:20 GMT

People I respect a lot have been talking on podcasts, news panels, and editorials about how there needs to be a solution to the sudden problem that’s arisen because of transgender children.

I cannot speak with authority on behalf of transgender people, as I am not myself transgender, and I do not know anyone who openly is. But I do know that transgender people are people, and in this country, people have rights. The most fundamental right anyone has is to be who they are. To live.

But there are people who object to certain people enjoying those rights. They believe that it's sinful not to accept the biological conditions that were present at your birth, citing Christian scripture as a basis, even though there is none. It seems to me that a number of opponents of the rights of LGBTQIA+ people claim that these classifications of gender, sexuality, and identity are taken by choice, and are therefore invalid, given that sex and gender are assigned at birth by examining the genital organs of the newborn.

Many, many people object to this line of reasoning, and claim instead that the the trans identity is something they were born with. This is valid, and probably true in many, most, or even all cases-- again, I'm a straight, white male without any strong connections to communities outside my own experience, so I simply cannot speak authoritatively on the thoughts and lived experiences of "nonconforming" people --but in my opinion, arguing in terms of whether identity is chosen or assigned at birth allows the oppressors to dictate the narrative, because it cedes the extremely flawed point that "chosen versus born this way" is a substantive question to resolve. It's not. It's simply logically unsound in a free society to grant or revoke fundamental rights, based on choice or assigned-at-birth conditions.

Whether someone is born a certain way or chooses a certain way is-- and this is very important --none of your damn business.

It's strategically fraught too, because I honestly have no idea why anybody ever thought the concept of identity choice was a reasonable basis for the belief that an identity can be invalid for someone. As Americans, we are taught and trained that our choices are what make us American. The operative word here is "freedom." Having a choice on one's personal identity is as fundamental of a right as any other right guaranteed in the Constitution.

If someone's choice to be trans is not harmful to anyone else, there is no reasonable basis for legally prohibiting it. With this in mind, the only "transgender issue" in our politics today is that the constituency of bigoted busybodies in the Republican electorate is large enough to prompt Republicans holding or seeking office to pass or support laws that explicitly oppress transgender people. The “issue” is that there are powerful people using cruelty to gain a political advantage. There is no net positive effect of these laws, which is probably why federal judges have been striking them down. It's safe to say there is no net positive effect of any law that takes away the rights of people to do unharmful things.

What these laws do accomplish though is the establishment of a standard and a dividing line. If you support these laws, you are automatically given credibility among America's Christian evangelists who find more in common with Vladimir Putin than with Joe Biden. If you support these laws, these people will vote for you. That's the bottom line. There are deplorables to dance for, so the GOP is all-in on performative oppression. The problem is that nobody seems to be calling it what it is: performative nonsense.

Even people who support transgender rights have been looking in the wrong direction.
Wed, 28 Jun 2023 16:55:12 GMT

Trump was swaggering around the table in an unsecured conference room(ie: definitely not a SCIF) at his golf resort in Bedminster, NJ. He was soaking up the fluffery offered by his sycophants, and running with the assertion by aide Margo Martin that his loss in 2020 was a “coup attempt” by several parties, including Joint Chiefs chairman General Mark Milley.

Trump said in the now-released recording that the existence of a plan for an invasion of Iran is incriminating to General Milley, making the ignorant but predictable claim that because the plan exists under Milley’s chairmanship, that the plan is evidence of Milley’s intent to invade, and that an invasion would have happened if not for the steady hand of Donald Trump.

This is nonsense.

First, Trump did order combat operations against Iranian citizens. That’s not a secret. At least one such operation was carried out at Trump’s explicit command. Milley was in the room when the decision was made, but it was made by the President, and the President famously did not inform any of our allies in advance of the attack, including Iraq, the country in which the attack took place.

Second, the Defense Department has a plan for invading Belgium. They have a plan for attacking the Turks and Caicos Islands. They have a plan for invading Fort Hood. They employ a staff of military experts whose entire job is to generate plans for any scenario, no matter how unlikely it may be, so that when any given scenario comes up as a real problem, the DoD has a plan they can immediately present to the President and/or our allies.

Third, the existence of such a plan does not indicate an intent by the Commander-in-Chief, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or anyone else in the defense hierarchy of the United States to actually carry out any of these invasions. It’s simply an example of the readiness that is demanded of our armed forces.

Not that it matters, but Donald Trump might even know all these things, though I doubt he does. But his charisma lies strongly in telling people what he thinks they want to hear, and in using that charisma to stir his supporters up to oppose any who might challenge his authority or bids for it. The bottom line in the case of this particular document is that Trump is a fool who thinks he can mobilize greater fools to his defense.

TFG wants you to believe that his opponents are hawks, because he's an idiot.
Tue, 27 Jun 2023 20:07:10 GMT

Democratic and otherwise anti-trump political analysts have been beside themselves with frustration lately about how TFG's indictments have not moved the needle in polling in any meaningful way. Trump remains the frontrunner for the GOP nomination by a colossal margin. He shed a couple percentage points, most of which were picked up by Chris Christie, while Ron DeSantis is still working out how to articulate the line, "greetings, fellow humans!" into relatable, believable language.

But the reason Trump's support has barely wavered is because the adoration he gets from his strongest supporters is absolutely unshakeable. He is a messianic figure to them, and they have been conditioned to believe strongly that any criticism of Trump is borne of a deep hatred for America, and is therefore not reliable.

The belief in a "deep state" among Trump's base protects him from all potential criticism, and reinforces his infallibility to them. So when an analyst says something like, "how can these people still stand by him?" I say, "because they don't believe any of the allegations, and never will."

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Trump's supporters aren't concerned about indictments, because everything is a conspiracy