Intermission 5: Crawling out of the Upside Down
Some Hot Takes so that I can get them out of my mind and do something productive this weekend...
One of the more memorable moments from this last week was when I watching CNN, and Jake Tapper was talking to Sanjay Gupta about Trump’s new COVID Whisperer Scott Atlas and made the following remarks:
GUPTA: Back in July, he was -- the president was retweeting, you know, these fire Fauci hashtag, tweets back then, even. And Francis Collins, who is the head of the NIH, and, really, Dr. Fauci's boss was even asked about this back in July and said, you know, we're dealing with a guy who's arguably the best guy on the planet right now to help navigate us through a pandemic. Why would we think about firing him is sort of his response?
Also, Jake, you know, you and I both know this but people may not realize that Doc -- we're used to seeing Dr. Fauci as someone who talks to the public about the pandemic but his job really as a scientific lead on therapeutics, on vaccines, all those other things. So, there's tangible work that he does that's, you know, behind the scenes as well that we all could benefit from.
So I think it's a terrible idea, obviously, and I think it's just an empty threat.
TAPPER: Yeah, but, I mean, we live in the upside down. He's against Fauci, but he's in favor of Scott Atlas who says a bunch of things that are so falsely -- Twitter even censors them about masks.
I laughed quite a bit at Tapper letting his Stranger Things fanboy shine through a bit, but the comment stuck with me all week that it’s been an apt analogy for the past few years. With Joe Biden being declared President-Elect by everyone except for the most Trump diehards (and those looking to grift from the Trumpists), like Will Byers, we’re finally making it out of this weird mirror universe we’ve been trapped within.
To commemorate the occaision, some Hot Takes from the Peanut Gallery over here. Deeper thoughts will come later after I have some more solid data to back up some of the points that I want to write about, especially on the battle between Leftist/Rightist identity politics versus good old fashioned individualist liberalism.
In no particular order:
One of the questions that fascinates me now whether Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States or the 47th. This question is based on the dumptrucks full of legal trouble that the Trump family finds themselves in, and to what extent a presidential pardon can mitigate those. If Trump is convinced that a self-pardon will not survive scrutiny, I fully expect our 46th President to be Indiana’s Michael Pence for a small amount of time (the morning of Jan. 20, perhaps?) to both pardon the Trumps as well as allow Trump to scuttle off to Mar a Lago and let Pence be the person writing the traditional presidential welcome letter to Joe Biden.
While I think it’s well and good that Joe Biden won the most votes cast ever for President (and Donald Trump winning the second-most votes at the same time), I’ve been arguing COVID statistics with folks long enough that the fact that these numbers are not weighted for population make me twitchy. I want to know on a per-capita basis whether more people voted for Biden in 2020 than Harding in 1920.
In terms of Mitch McConnell potentially holding onto the Senate, I’m not too perturbed by that. While we didn’t get the outright landslide-level repudiation of Trumpism that would make Republicans shove those folks off into the corner with the John Birchers, I’m content with a divided gov’t. This will prevent some of the progressive excesses from being enacted, and hopefully will result in more middle-of-the-road policy than we would see otherwise. I don’t think that McConnell has the same motivation to obstruct that he did during the first Obama term (the fact that Biden will be a one-term president is already baked into the cake), and I think he’ll have an interest in steering the GOP away from Trumpism to Mitch-ism, where the GOP needs to demonstrate that it can get things done that a sufficient number of Americans will approve of, given that 2022 is also scheduled to be a structurally tough year for re-electing GOP senators. (I also don’t think that Mitch has a lot left in the tank himself, so the calculus may change if a younger fellow with dreams of courting the Trump base takes over as Senate Majority Leader.)
Trumpism was not repudiated this election, but I’m hopeful that it can morph into a conservative populist movement that has some actual useful tenants at its core and can act as a check on this upcoming or future administrations from losing sight of American workers when it comes to creating international trade alliances. The biggest problem with Trumpism was Trump - since Trumpism was whatever Trump tweeted that morning, it was never allowed to mature into a proper governing philosophy. Hopefully, with Trump retired, we’ll see if there’s enough internal consistency to hold it together or whether it was all a popularity cult in the end.
In terms of Trump’s post-election fate, I expect him to continue stirring the shit from the sidelines. Given FOX News’ role in calling Arizona so early, I expect that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is out of consideration for future collaborations, and the Trump family will adopt OANN in some form. (A benefit for Trump is that there is also no shortage of young female fans unwilling to say “no” the old man over there, after Melania ceases to be interesting or relevant. Might be a way to make a quick $100+K bonus, if history is any indication.)
The office at the New York state prosecutor’s office will be jumping at 12:01pm on January 20th. Even if President Pence pardons Trump for federal offenses, that doesn’t cover sheninagans that New York state wants answers for. I imagine that there are more than a few ambitious prosecutors looking to super-charge their careers that way.
If you’re one of the Qatari investors who bailed out Jared Kushner at 666 N. 5th Ave., I wonder how good that investment is looking right now. Expect the House to convene some panels on that, as well as other questionable dealings during the last four years.
Starting now, Biden is on the job and while I’m glad he won, he’ll have to continue to earn my support from here on out. For all the crap that I have given the Trump folks over worsening trade deficits, worse outcomes in terms of immigration, COVID policy, etc. - the ball’s soon to be in Biden’s court and his hot potato to handle. There’s a lot of stuff to fix that the current administration screwed up, so I’m not going to have a lot of patience for cheap virtue signals that try to mask inactivity and failures to get the job done right.
I look forward to the GOP rediscovering their appetites for federalism, fiscal sanity, transparency, and legistative oversight of the executive branch. I will support them wholeheartedly to make those things a reality and ideally - enforceable laws. As Trump taught us, norms are for suckers.
Looking forward to more than a few Hatch Act prosecutions when the new administration comes into power. Either we enforce our laws about what good responsible gov’t looks like or we should strike them from the books.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. More substantive thoughts will be arriving in next week’s newsletter.