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Republicans Fly Their Freak Flag

Election Countdown Diary: Day 83.
August 13, 2020
Republicans Fly Their Freak Flag
(GettyImages / Shutterstock)

There comes a point in every campaign, or so I’ve been told, when political parties attempt to assure voters that they are not crazy. There is a shift toward moderation, and even sanity; a pause during which a presidential candidate can shrug off charges of extremism or lunacy by saying “there you go again”.

Wednesday was not that day for the GOP.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 82 days to go until the election; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day

The weird saga of Kanye West continues. In Wisconsin, Trump-affiliated lawyers for West argued that Democrats challenging signatures on his nomination papers should be required to prove that “Mickey Mouse” did not, in fact, sign the petition to put him on the ballot. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the mentally-troubled rapper met Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner last weekend in Colorado, so we know that the Real Men of Genius are on the case.

So far the Kanye ploy seems to be a flop. A new poll shows West getting only 2 percent of the vote—7 points behind “no opinion.” Biden’s 9-point national lead is unaffected by West’s appearance on the ballot.

Wednesday also saw an inflection in the GOP’s willingness to embrace crack-pottery. The morning after a racist QAnon believer won a congressional primary in Georgia, prominent Republicans rushed to distance themselves from the toxic nominee. No, wait. They didn’t.

Actually, reports CNN: “Top Republicans, including President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are embracing their party’s nominee for a House seat in Georgia, despite her history of racist and anti-Semitic remarks, and promotion of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.” Think: Steve King, but exponentially worse.

Trump led the way.

Max Boot writes:

And why shouldn’t Trump welcome this QAnon wing nut to his party? She fits right in. Media Matters for America found that 53 congressional candidates have promoted QAnon this year. Besides Greene, they include Lauren Boebert, who defeated a Republican incumbent in a congressional primary in Colorado, and Jo Rae Perkins, who won the Republican Senate primary in Oregon. NBC News wasn’t kidding when it suggested Congress could soon have a “QAnon caucus.”

Indeed, Green is a huge Trump fan, recently declaring that “there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.”

It gets worse. After one Republican congressman denounced the insanity of the Q conspiracy theories, the Trump campaign attacked him:

This may be a sideshow, but it says a good deal about the political hygiene of the GOP in 2020. As Mona Charen notes, at least 60 current or former congressional candidates have expressed interest in or support for the conspiracy. And they are being welcomed eagerly into the fold because the GOP’s immunity to insanity has apparently been destroyed.

Wednesday marked a major first in the campaign: a joint appearance by the Biden-Harris ticket. Both spoke; some of the networks carried it.

So it felt like the start of the actual campaign, but without crowds and without applause. It was a reminder that politics 2020 has a different feel to it.

The day after the first black woman was named to a presidential ticket, Trump tweeted: “The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!”

Why Corey Booker? Why not Chuck Schumer? Or Adam Schiff? Why not any other progressive elected official? Why would Trump think that suburban housewives would need to be protected from . . . the senate’s only black male Democratic senator?

Anti-anti-Trump columnist Tim Carney was moved to wonder: “What is the campaign strategy behind a tweet like this?”

Just spit-balling here, but maybe: Racism?

With 82 days to go until the election, this is what Trump thinks will work with suburban women: Calling them “housewives” and suggesting that he will protect them not just from radical leftists . . . but from radical leftist BLACK MEN.

The Trump campaign is trying to raise money off Biden’s VP pick with this email:

As tempting as it is to wonder what staffer with a sixth grade vocabulary wrote this execrable piece of prose, the fact is that it is basically a verbatim transcript of the president’s own words.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the president described Harris’s questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing as “extraordinarily nasty”—“nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing.” He also said she was “the meanest” and “the most horrible” in pressing Kavanaugh. And Trump said her debate stage attacks against Biden during the Democratic primaries were “very, very nasty.”

Trump, presumably wants to signal that he objects to anyone who would be “nasty” to Joe Biden. Or something.

The birthers are back.

John Eastman, a fellow at the Trumpy Claremont Institute, is just asking questions, right, when he writes in Newsweek: “Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility.”  Eastman writes:

Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

Apparently, Wednesday was a big a day for dog whistles. “I have no doubt that this significant challenge to Harris’ constitutional eligibility to the second-highest office in the land will be dismissed out of hand as so much antiquated constitutional tripe,” writes the Claremont fellow. “But the concerns about divided allegiance . . . .”

The argument is bullshit, of course, but expect it to be widely circulated in conservative media over the next few weeks.

The New York Times tells us today that the true death toll from the coronavirus is actually more than 200,000.

On Wednesday, more than 1,400 Americans died from the disease—roughly the equivalent of three 747 crashes—but it barely seemed to register in the news cycle. In Florida, which just set a daily record for COVID-19 deaths, a sheriff banned his deputies from wearing masks. The ban also applied to visitors.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods wrote in an email to his staff. “The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”

The Big 10 and Pac-12 cancelled their football seasons. The Big 12 (mainly based in red states) said they would go ahead and play despite the pandemic. Two Americas.

Frustrations are starting to show.  Radio host and Trump fluffer  Hugh Hewitt lashed out at Republican Senator Ron Johnson for not pushing  investigations of the FBI more aggressively. “You’re failing . . . you guys play softball,” he complained to Johnson, who has been obsessively pursuing the probes of the Bidens and other targets of Trump World.

Johnson complained that he’s being blocked by some unnamed Republicans (Mitt Romney?) who won’t let him go after villains like Jim Comey.

Trump World is trying out a new nickname for Biden, “Slow Joe.” As nicknames go, it’s pretty low energy, and we give it only a 2/10 rating.

Mark this down, too. Trump is admitting that he wants to obstruct mail-in voting (which is hardly a state secret). “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said this morning on Fox Business. “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting”

He’s not going to let them have the money.

The Democrats have their own problems. On Tuesday, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar easily won her own primary, despite a long record of anti-Semitic comments. While she’s tried to downplay her more incendiary comments, it seems the pattern has continued.

As Matthew Mainen writes:

In recent campaign literature, Omar went to town on her primary opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, for being “in the pocket of Wall Street” and “special interests.” When it came to naming individuals to whom Melton-Meaux is allegedly beholden, the only people identified by first and last name are Jewish: Stanley Weinstein, Jonathan Gray and Seth Klarman.

After last time, I swore I wouldn’t pay attention to these “probability” ratings, or God help me, those needles. But I fell off that wagon Wednesday, when the guys at 538 came out with their election “forecast.”

So while it’s clear that Biden is comfortably ahead of Trump right nownationally and in most battleground states—the forecast shows Trump with a meaningful chance of winning because there’s still plenty of time for the race to tighten.

But wait! Should you even trust the polls? Hillary Clinton led in the polls in 2016, right? Yes. But Clinton had only a small advantage in most surveys—Trump’s win was well within the range of normal polling error.

So, as of today, Biden has a 71 percent chance of winning. What the hell does that number actually mean? It means nobody knows.

And there are 82 days to go.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.