Saturday Soother – Midterms Edition, November 12, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Colorado River with the Fisher Towers and the La Sal mountains in background, UT – November 2022 photo by Benjamin Williamson Photography

Wrongo can admit to being anxious and a bit depressed during the two weeks leading up to the midterms. But it wasn’t the blowout that America’s BS pollsters and the slavish media had been predicting. So he’s feeling better.

While it’s still too early to know what the political landscape will be in 2023, we can be reasonably sure that the Republicans will control the House and the Dems the Senate.

If that happens, what should Biden’s strategy be? It’s likely that he will retool the White House into a more overtly political operation with a focus on 2024. Axios reports that Biden’s considering bringing on a business leader to improve Democratic relations with the business community. That becomes more important if the US is heading into a recession sometime before the 2024 presidential election.

The idea is for Biden to stay in front of any potential financial crises. His team wants to be sure he’s getting a 360-degree view of the economy, even if that means angering the Party’s progressive wing.

Biden also plans to sharpen the contrast between Democrats and Congressional Republicans. It’s certain that the GOP will at best, hold only a narrow margin in the House. Some Republican Congress Critters are already considering mounting a challenge to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House Speaker.

That’s likely to leave Republicans with an unwieldy and possibly chaotic majority, which should give Democrats an opening to be on offense. If Democrats keep their minimal Senate majority, Biden could promote his agenda in the Senate and then continually ask why House Republicans are stalling it.

And when it comes to House Republicans spending time investigating the Biden administration, Biden and his team should use similar delay and deflect tactics as the Trump administration did.

The MAGA fringe in the House will also try to hold the country hostage to increases in the debt ceiling. It’s logical that a Dem + responsible Republican faction will work on a bipartisan basis to stave off the MAGA effort to burn up America’s credit rating.

Wrongo would urge the Senate and the House to try to get two big things accomplished in the lame duck session. It MUST complete its reforms of the Electoral Count Act. Over the summer, a bipartisan group of senators reached a deal to make it harder to overturn a presidential election. The proposal still needs to be approved by both chambers. The Senate proposal has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House has passed a slightly different version, but if it doesn’t get done by January you can kiss these reforms goodbye.

Second, the Senate should attempt to use the budget reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling to preclude House Republicans from threatening default on the national debt as pretext for extracting concessions on Social Security, Medicare, and possibly, Veterans benefits.

If Biden can have success with working across the aisle on the Electoral Count Act along with the budget and debt ceiling, that will position Democrats (and Biden) as the adults in DC politics. To the extent that inflation continues to fall, and we avoid a deep recession, Biden can claim the Democrats are doing a good job on the economy.

Since it’s Saturday, welcome to our Saturday Soother. Wrongo invites all readers to pause for a few hours, (or more) to recharge after escaping the phantom red wave. It is imperative that we prevent burn out because there’s much more to do before the new Congress is sworn in, in January.

For Wrongo, that means going outside and doing yard work, or simply wandering around the fields of Wrong.

Wrongo and Ms. Right started this early on Friday by taking a walk in a nearby town park. The leaves on the park’s trees are down, but the grass and plants remain green and the air was warm. Despite being a national holiday the park was nearly empty, making for a delightful escape.

To help you pause, grab a seat by a south-facing window and watch and listen to Telemann’s “Sonata in D major, TWV 44:1” played here by the Bremer Barockorchester (Bremen Baroque Orchestra). It was performed at the Unser Lieben Frauen Church in Bremen in October 2021. It features a very interesting performance on a 3′ long natural trumpet, which is valveless. Julian Zimmermann is the great musician making this solo trumpet performance:

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More Midterm Hot Takes

The Daily Escape:

Sands of Remembrance” sand sculpture, Normandy, FR – made for D-Day, 2004 via

On Veterans Day, Wrongo salutes all who have served! Wrongo’s own service occurred during the Vietnam War. His father was a WWII veteran. His grandfather, a WWI vet. Did you notice that neither Party mentioned anything about caring for our veterans in their midterm campaigns?

Wrongo’s not a political analyst, just a retired CEO with a laptop, but he feels like he has more to say about the now almost-completed midterm elections.

Some overnight updates: In the House, Democrats continue to overperform, including Wrongo’s own district where Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes won a third term by a razor-thin margin. Dems still need to sweep the remaining toss-up House races in order to have a shot at a House majority.

Encouraging news from Nevada where Dem Sen. Cortez-Masto trails Adam Laxalt by about 16k votes. Jon Ralston the dean of Nevada political analysts tweeted this:

If Cortez-Masto pulls it out and Mark Kelly hangs on in Arizona, which seems probable, the Georgia Senate runoff won’t be for control of the Senate, but would deliver a 51st Dem seat in the Senate. With less at stake, it might mean a significant number of Georgia’s Right wingers will decide to stay home rather than waddle to the polls to vote for Walker.

But today let’s take a look at some decision making by the Democratic Party’s powers-that-be. Take Florida: Dem donors (and the Party) gave candidate Val Demings $72 million. She went on to lose to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio by 15 points. It was plausible early on to think that Demings had a chance, but it’s been clear for months that she would lose.

In Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes lost to the execrable Ron Johnson by ONE point. The Dem brain trust allowed Barnes to get swamped in the media in September and October due to lack of funding. Would Barnes have won if he had more money? Think about it: Biden carried the state in 2020 and Tony Evers, the current incumbent Dem governor just won again in 2022. Evers got 1,336.9 million votes while Barnes got 1,310,4 million. Could more money have picked up the 26.5k votes between Sen. Johnson and Barnes? Sure!

Shouldn’t Barnes have been a higher priority than Demmings’ longshot in Florida, a state with terribly expensive media markets? Wrongo understands that people want to give emotionally, and obvious villains like Rubio make good targets.

Compare the amount of attention Florida got vs. Wisconsin. Very few individual donors sit down and  systematically dig through all the races to decide where their money will give the most bang for the buck. Theoretically this is something the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) ought to do, and then everyone could just give them money. But why when their decision making seems flawed?

You can say that Wrongo shouldn’t complain, if we expand the Senate to 51 seats, but did we leave seats on the table in North Carolina and Wisconsin?

The money flowed inefficiently to Florida instead of to North Carolina and Wisconsin. North Carolina made much more sense as a “reach” target for the Democrats. It has a Democratic governor; a vacant Senate seat and Dems have won statewide before. Beasley lost in NC by 136k votes (3%).

The Party and individual donors need to be actively pursuing the best actual strategy. And going forward, donors should forget giving money to any entity except directly to the candidate’s campaign. Many Dem organizations are fundraising using a given candidate’s name, and then are splitting the money with the candidate and other races.

For example Wrongo has already received email and text requests for Warnock donations that included sharing the funds with Adam Schiff, with the Dem governors association and with the DSCC.

Warnock needs all of our money and it’s a travesty that other Democrats are raising money using his name.

Two final political thoughts: First, several states had ballot questions concerning whether slavery should be abolished in their state constitutions. SLAVERY! Tennessee and Vermont voted 90% for abolition, while in Oregon, 45% voted in favor of slavery. In Louisiana the vote was 61% to keep slavery in their constitution.

Second, back to veterans, it’s always been Democrats who have made the biggest effort to support the VA. Even though it is probable that the majority of enlisted and commissioned armed forces veterans remain Republicans.

It’s a paradox: when the Republican Party is in control, it makes a poor effort to support veterans; but they’re typically the ones sending our troops off to war.

Let’s close with a moving song that can honor veterans. Watch “Bring Him Home” from the play, Les Misérables. While not about veterans, the song packs a wallop. Here, its performed by Alfie Boe and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

 

Sample Lyric:

He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

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Midterm Hot Takes

The Daily Escape:

First snowfall, Snoqualmie, WA – November 2022 photo by Gary Hamburgh Photography

Here are Wrongo’s hot takes on the midterms, with the understanding that it will be days (weeks?) before we really know all that happened:

  • The polls overcorrected for previous mistakes by being biased in favor of the GOP this time. Democrats outperformed their poll numbers by about 1 point. The evidence was there all along that there were alternative outcomes that were at least as likely, and that the vote differential between max D and max R would be at most, 3 points.
  • Abortion rights and election denial were both on the ballot. Despite the polling, results confirm that a woman’s right to choose was popular while election denial is a fringe belief. In Pennsylvania, exit polls found that abortion was the number one issue, outpacing inflation 36% to 28%. Both core Republican positions were rejected by most Americans.
  • 2022 was as close to a perfect environment for a Red wave as we’ll likely see in the next few years. But as the Daily Beast says: “Republicans had hoped for a red wave. What they got looked more like purple rain.”
  • In every race where Democrats helped fund a MAGA candidate in a primary over a less crazy Republican, the MAGA Republican lost in the general election.
  • All the abortion rights state initiatives won. John Roberts is sitting at home, weeping bitter tears and saying to his fellow Justices: “I told you so”.
  • The Senate is looking like a 50/50 split again, assuming that Kelly wins in Arizona and Warnock defeats Walker in a runoff. Walker is the essence of the GOP experiment in candidate crapification: “Exactly how little can we offer you in a candidate and still have you vote for them?
  • You’re going to have to reopen your wallets for Rev. Warnock again in November.
  • There’s an outside chance that Nevada may return Cortez-Masto to the Senate, making the Dem’s potential ceiling 51-49.
  • We need to remember that 2024 is a much less favorable environment for Democrats. So by then, it may become impossible to confirm another Democratic SCOTUS nominee, possibly for as long as the rest of the decade. That requires Dems to kill the filibuster.
  • The House will most likely flip to the Republicans by a small margin. Democrats are overperforming, but they need to sweep the remaining toss-up races in order to keep the majority. Dozens of House races, including in NY and CA, are too close to call.
  • Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had predicted a 60-seat GOP surge. It will most likely be fewer than 10 seats. McCarthy’s going to spend the next two years trying to give a bath to a bagful of bobcats.
  • All of the House Republicans elected on Tuesday are committed to a decidedly different direction than that of Biden and the Democrats. There will be few opportunities for legislative consensus. And lots of opportunity for Republican grandstanding.
  • The governor races that Republicans had hoped to capture: New York, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maine, all stayed Blue.
  • Michigan Democrats are poised to win full control of state government by taking majorities in the legislature for the first time in 40 years, matching Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection victory.
  • Florida is no longer a battleground state. And Iowa and Ohio seem now to be completely out of reach for Democrats. Texas stayed solidly Red for at least another cycle. But it appears that Michigan and Pennsylvania may have slipped into the Blue camp.

Closing thoughts: Biden defied expectations. He was set up to take the blame for a large midterm loss in both the House and Senate. That might have led for calls from within the Party for Biden to stand down in 2024. Limiting the Party’s losses may not improve his favorability ratings, but it makes attacks from within the Party difficult.

Second, regardless of your viewpoint on the quality of the Dems’ messaging, pundits in the media will make opposing arguments (e.g., Dems should be more moderate, Dems should be more liberal) and there will be at least some data points to support their views.

Third, Republicans are pointing their fingers at Trump for the GOP’s failure to live up to expectations. This is the third straight election in which Trump has cost the Republican Party winnable seats. Whether that emboldens Florida’s DeSantis to battle Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination remains to be seen. The best possible outcome would be that DeSantis actually takes on Trump. Imagine if he beat Trump to the nomination. Would Trump run a third party campaign?

It’s fun to dream about, even if it’s an unlikely prospect. Then again, let’s hope that Trump is indicted by the DOJ long before the 2024 nominating process gets underway.

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What Was The Dems’ Closing Argument?

The Daily Escape:

Valley of Fire SP, NV – November 2022 photo by Carol Cox

It’s Election Day. Over the next few days, the mainstream media, and self-appointed pundits like Wrongo will try to make sense of what the vote tallies mean for America and for the two Parties. Regardless of the outcome, many things will be very different in 2023.

Here’s Sherrilyn Ifill with a great closing argument for voting rather than standing on the sidelines:

“Voting this year is not only political, it’s personal. To vote is to speak. To vote is to declare that you will not be written out of the definition of who can claim their right to this national identity. To vote is to fight. Voting is not the only way to fight, but it is one of our most powerful weapons. Wield it with power and determination. And leave no power on the table.”

The one overriding issue in this midterm election has been inflation. The media won’t let go of it, and the glare effect of inflation makes some voters think that the economy is also terrible. And it hangs over the closing arguments of all Democrats because the Republicans falsely say that the sole cause of inflation is that the Biden administration’s spending like crazy.

The truth is that about 54% of the current inflation rate is due to elevated corporate profits.

Prices are rising not just because of worker’s wages. The cost of labor is increasing at a slower rate than inflation. Raw materials are not the prime driver of increased inflation either. Companies are raising prices above and beyond costs because they can.

Unless companies can reduce their cost of bringing products to market, the only way to increase the firm’s markup is by increasing its selling price. Kevin Drum has helpfully taken a look at that for us:

The blue line represents the total cost of employing somebody, including all wages and benefits. Since 2020 it’s risen at less than the rate of inflation. The red line represents after-tax profits as a share of gross value added, (markup to economists). Before 2020 it rose roughly in line with inflation, but since 2020 it’s skyrocketed.

From Drum: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Corporations are increasing prices…and blaming it on inflation. But it’s not because of inflation. It’s a cause of inflation. Prices are rising….mainly because companies are raising prices above and beyond that for no special reason except that they can. And all of us are paying the price.”

Economist Robert Reich points out that corporations can jack up prices today without losing customers because we’ve allowed virtual monopolies to develop in many US industries. Since the 1980s, he says, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated. Some examples:

  • Foods: Four companies control 85% of all meat and poultry processing. Just one corporation sets the price for most of the nation’s seed corn. Just two giant firms dominate consumer staples.
  • Drugs and prescriptions: Big pharma consists of just five corporations.
  • Air travel:The airline industry has gone from 12 carriers in 1980 to just four today.
  • Banking: Wall Street has consolidated into five giant banks.
  • Broadband: It’s dominated by three cable companies.

The US House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy released an analysis last Friday that spells out how some corporations have enacted price hikes and are enjoying record profits. What’s worse, the CEOs of the big firms openly admit on earnings calls with investors that they use inflation as a cover to raise prices. Here’s what a few CEOs of major companies are saying:

Michael McGarry, CEO of PPG, in response to a question whether prices will go back down when input prices are lower:

“…we’re not going to be giving this pricing back….So we’re telling people, this is the new price. And if you don’t like it, please don’t place purchase orders.”

William C. Rhodes, CEO of Autozone:

“It is also notable that following periods of higher inflation, our industry has historically not reduced pricing to reflect lower ultimate cost.”

Jim Snee, CEO of Hormel:

“…our Grocery Products pricing is very sticky and so the pricing that we’ve taken and that we’re in the midst of executing the additional price increase, that pricing will by and large stay.”

The inflation we’re experiencing is not due to wage gains, it’s due to profit gains from corporate pricing power.

It would be nice if the media reported on what’s really causing the inflation. Many people are going to the polls today thinking this is Biden policy-caused inflation rather than the reality of a corporate drive for higher profits.

Too bad so few Democrats are talking about this when they get hammered about inflation by their Republican opponents.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Get Your Ass Out and Vote Edition, November 7, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME – November 2022 photo by Eric Storm Photography

We’re not going down without a fight. Both the Dem candidates and media outlets of all stripes are saying that the polls show fading hope for Democrats in the US House and Senate. But many of the polls, particularly those which present an average of other polls, have trouble accounting for a recent slew of Republican-aligned polls.

From The Economist: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…what if polls are underestimating support for the Democrats? Many surveys published in the closing weeks of this midterm campaign have come from firms that are either explicitly affiliated with Republican clients or simply publish numbers that are favorable to the party—what pollsters call a “house effect”. According to our poll-of-polls in New Hampshire’s senate race, for example, all seven polls released since October 1st were conducted by firms that we think are publishing numbers that are overly favorable to Republicans.”

The Economist looks at the history of the polling entities. They mention one in particular:

“One example is Emerson College, a prominent firm that releases surveys of races all around the country. In elections from 2000 through 2020, our model finds Emerson College’s polls overestimated support for Republican candidates for office by one percentage point…”

Steve Shepard of  Politico sees the same thing:

“How much of an influence are the Republican polls having? In New Hampshire, four of the last seven polls in the FiveThirtyEight average are from Republican firms. In Pennsylvania, it’s the three most recent polls, and six of the last nine. In Georgia, five of the last seven.”

Dan Pfeiffer says:

“…the math is clear – absent the partisan polls, the polling average looks a little better for Dems.”

More from Pfeiffer:

“…creating a false sense of momentum is a long-running Republican strategy. Many Republicans believe the best way to win elections is to convince voters that you are already winning. The strategy is loosely based on the idea of social proof – people want to be with the winners, not the losers. If the cause seems lost, voters will stay home.”

And the mainsteam media is reporting these polls uncritically. Why?

Republicans attempting to flood the zone with pro-GOP polls makes sense for another reason: They plan to contest any election they lose. And these scam polls showing Republicans ahead provide a sort of “proof” for challenging any election they fail to win.

The Democrats are cynically using the same Republican polls to raise money from their base. Do Dems really have to catastrophize in nearly every email and text message? Wrongo gets more than 20 emails and texts a day from Democrats asking for money by citing that they’re slipping in the polls.

Some slippage may be true, but the abuse of email/text by Democratic and Dem-aligned campaigns is something that absolutely must be addressed after this election. It’s become a disaster. Wrongo thinks the hysteria delivered in email and text may help achieve the Republican’s plan of suppressing turnout because when all we hear is gloom and doom from candidates we support, some of us will give up hope.

OTOH, maybe the negativity will inspire some people to stand in long lines to vote.

This doesn’t feel like a normal midterm election. Early voting so far shows a massive turnout. Traditionally, that’s an advantage for Democrats, but we have no way of knowing whether this big early vote means that large numbers of GOP voters have already voted. We’ll simply have to wait and see.

Regardless, the mainstream media have decided to frame the race as if Republicans already have it in the bag. Despite what we’ve learned about Republican-aligned polls flooding the zone, they’re taking races that are too close to call as a sign that the election is the GOP’s to lose.

That will set up a monumental Right-wing freakout if Democrats happen to pull off a win.

There’s less than 24 hours left before in-person voting begins. Wrongo is sharing the above so fewer people stay discouraged and subsequently stay home on Tuesday.

Time to wake up Democrats! Getting to the polls and getting your kids and friends to the polls may be more important in this election. The margins in many of these House and Senate elections look to be razor thin.

For the next few days we’ll all have to do something we hate: Live in uncertainty.

To help you wake up, watch, and listen to Jenifer Lewis, who plays the grandmother on Black-ish, sing “Get Your Ass Out And Vote” from 2016:

You know what to do, and you know how to do it.

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Saturday Soother – November 5, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Horsethief Canyon Wildlife Area, CO – October 2022 photo by Ray Mathis

(There will not be a Sunday Cartoons column tomorrow. Wrongo and Ms. Right are visiting with family.)

Despite not having Sunday cartoons, here’s one to focus your mind between now and Tuesday:

Regarding the midterms and what they might bring, we should do all that we can in these final hours to bring about the result we want. A fatal flaw would be losing control of the House and Senate because some people didn’t care enough to vote.

But as with most potentially game-changing events, we will have to wait for the votes to be tallied, all the while hoping we’ve done enough. It will make for an anxiety-provoking few days.

And Wrongo is worried by the thought that the Dems might lose. But we only truly lose when we cease to resist the autocratic forces on the Right who would tear down democracy. And what about if we win? There can’t be complacency with a win either.

As long as there are forces seeking to “tear it all down” there’s a need for continued work to energize Democrats. We may have political victories, but we can’t become complacent. Sorry to say, but democracy only sustains itself through the efforts of those who commit to its continued defense.

It’s also essential that we take the long view of what’s happening in our country. We are clearly in a battle between autocrats and (small d) democrats. The Democratic Party wants Americans to live in a democratic country that regulates capitalism and provides a social safety net. The autocrats do not.

This battle is going on throughout the world.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, after the election we will regroup and figure out how to go forward.

Here’s Wrongo’s wish that you have a calm weekend. That means he hopes that our Saturday Soother will help bring some calmness along with coffee.

Last Monday we returned to the Mansion of Wrong and saw evidence that wildlife are our neighbors. The flesh of the pumpkin by our front door was completely gone, and there were tracks in the remaining pumpkin mush that were consistent with that of a racoon, who are known to eat them. Also, a large animal (Bear?) tore open a big ground wasp nest on our lawn. Nothing remains but the new hole in the ground and a few broken honeycombs.

Not sure what message the animal kingdom is sending us. But Wrongo assumes it’s a reminder that we live in a large ecosystem that until the last century was dominated by wildlife.

Let’s start Saturday’s effort to not think about the midterms with a hot steaming mug of Kona Extra Fancy ($45/12oz.) from the Roberts family’s San Francisco-based San Francisco Bay Coffee. It seems expensive, but inflation is cruel to coffee drinkers. The roaster says that it has flavors of dark chocolate, persimmon, roasted almond butter, and magnolia. That probably explains the price.

Now, grab a seat in the sun (it will be 72° here today) and watch and listen to Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56 No. 2”. Here it is performed live in 2019, by a superstar trio of Anne-Sophie Mutter on violin, Daniel Barenboim conducting and on piano, and Yo-Yo Ma on cello, at Philharmonie, Berlin:

Yo-Yo Ma says:

“For me, in the Triple Concerto, it’s the constant invention that always takes me by surprise. You know what I love about the piece? It’s so celebratory, so positive.”

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The Media’s Obsession With Inflation

The Daily Escape:

Dixie National Forest, UT – October 2022 photo by Garrett Cottam

As the countdown to the midterms rolls on, the mainstream media are obsessed with two things: The latest polls and inflation. Let’s start with inflation. From the Editorial Board of The WaPo:

Congress and Biden have to help the Fed fight inflation

They’ve made inflation a bogeyman, and they’re saying this two weeks before the midterms. Moreover, they can’t write the word “inflation” without putting “Biden” or “Democrats” in the sentence. They’re implying that both are failing in America’s inflation fight. The WaPo and the rest pair the i-word with adjectives designed to scare us: “runaway,” “record-breaking,” or “crippling.”

In their editorial, the WaPo Board admits that the Biden administration has done a reasonable job on the economy, that they’ve played a bad hand fairly well. And that they can’t be faulted for the current spasm of inflation. They note that Republicans are “not offering much in the way of a concrete anti-inflation plan” — that’s an understatement, since they’re not offering anything at all.

Still, the WaPo is calling on Biden to use fiscal policy to “help the Fed.” Coherent fiscal policy will take more than the next two weeks to put in place. Let’s review the difference between monetary and fiscal policy.

Monetary policy is about the actions the Federal Reserve can take. The Fed can tinker with the money supply, or they can raise or lower interest rates. This allows the economy to adjust to changing conditions, like inflation. It is necessary, but not sufficient since adjustments to interest rates are hard to control. Even minor rate adjustments can sometimes have major consequences.

Raising rates too quickly or too high might slow inflation but also trigger a recession where many jobs are lost.

Fiscal policy is what the Congress can do. It’s using legislative action to heat up or cool down the economy. When there’s a slump, Congress can approve new public spending, like infrastructure, to inject money into the hands of businesses and consumers. When there’s a deficit, new tax legislation can dampen the effects of overspending.

The trouble with fiscal policy is that it presupposes a willingness by Congress to legislate. But today’s partisanship prevents any discussion of fiscal policy. The WaPo article makes a case for Congress engaging in fiscal policy legislation:

“Until inflation is defeated, fiscal policy should push in the same direction as the Fed, with no new major spending that isn’t fully or mostly paid for with higher taxes or reduced spending elsewhere in the budget.”

Get Wrongo whatever the WaPo is having! Higher taxes? What are they smoking?

Inflation isn’t the only story. It’s just the only story Republicans want to tell. They’re telling it dishonestly, and the mainstream media are helping them tell it. If democracy happens to die, sorry, that’s just collateral damage.

Let’s turn to reporting on the latest opinion polls. It’s tough to take the breathless polling coverage by the TV anchors. There’s still plenty of evidence to support either Party exceeding expectations in the upcoming midterms. But what has Wrongo worried is the general trend in reporting on the polling. Some polls are showing late movement, in large chunks, away from the Democrats. One such poll is by the WSJ:

“White suburban women, a key group of midterm voters, have significantly shifted their support from Democrats to Republicans in the closing days of midterm campaigning because of rising concerns over the economy and inflation…”

The WSJ found that they favor Republicans in Congressional races by 15 percentage points.

OTOH, that poll was of only 297 white women. And since it’s from the WSJ, it might be biased against the Dems. Nonetheless the PBS Newshour reported about it without mentioning how small the sample size was.

Polls that focus on likely voters seem to be consistently looking better for Republicans than the polls focused on registered voters. Likely voters are a proxy for voter enthusiasm, or which Party’s faithful are more likely to vote.

Also troubling, issue polling consistently shows that inflation is the biggest issue driving Party preference. More than abortion, democracy, or any other factor particularly among independents.

While control of both Houses of Congress might change next Tuesday, the recent polling seems so one-sided that it looks wrong to Wrongo. The meme that “just about everything is breaking in Republicans’ favor” doesn’t seem in context with what’s happening.

Regardless, most of the crucial Senate races look very tight, which means we could be seeing some late calls, some recounts and maybe a week or so before we know the final outcome.

As national issues go, inflation isn’t on a par with the deliberate demolition of democratic institutions, or the trashing of women’s reproductive rights, or the growing violence against politicians.

And yet, the so-called credible mainstream journalists feign an urgency about inflation, just to keep us all glued to their reporting on the political horse race.

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Thursday Before The Midterms

The Daily Escape:

Candlewood Lake, New Milford, CT – October 2022 photo by Julia Turk

Thoughts on the Thursday before the midterms:

  • Wrongo is hoping to give thanks for whatever November brings, but he’s increasingly concerned about the midterms.
  • Memes about hammers are making the rounds. Let’s start with whether Paul Pelosi’s attacker was a good or a bad guy with a hammer. Wrongo guesses that depends on your political viewpoint. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) retweeted this photo that mocks Paul Pelosi for having his head bashed in with a hammer by a MAGA radical:

Tenney won her seat in 2020 by around 100 votes. She took office a month after Jan. 6, so she didn’t vote on certifying the election results. She has now vacated her redistricted seat in the 22nd district to run in the neighboring 24th instead.

She is what Republicans have become. It’s true that victims of political violence can be found among both US political Parties, but as David Frum says in The Atlantic:

“…if both Republicans and Democrats, left and right, suffer political violence, the same cannot be said of those who celebrate political violence. That’s not a “both sides” affair in 2020s America.”

You don’t see Democratic candidates carrying assault rifles in their campaign ads. Republican candidates, on the other hand, are now more likely to pose with AR-15s than they are with their wives and kids. More from Frum:

“You don’t see Democratic House members wielding weapons in videos and threatening to shoot candidates who want to cut capital-gains taxes or slow the growth of Medicare. Democratic candidates for Senate do not post video fantasies of hunting and executing political rivals, or of using a firearm to discipline their children’s romantic partners. It’s not because of the Democratic members that Speaker Nancy Pelosi installed metal detectors to bar firearms from the floor of the House…”

Max Boot in the WaPo:

“The New America think tank found last year that, since Sept. 11, 2001, far-right terrorists had killed 122 people in the US, compared with only one killed by far-leftists. A study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists had been involved in 267 plots or attacks, compared with 66 for left-wing extremists. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey released in January found that 40% of Republicans said violence against the government can be justified, compared with only 23% of Democrats.”

Political violence in America is driven primarily by the far Right, not the far Left. And the far Right is now the mainstream of the Republican Party. It’s hard to see how this ends well. Maybe we should be calling them the Wrong Wing. You can’t call them the Right Wing because they are completely wrong on every issue.

With so few days to go until the midterms, Wrongo has closed his wallet for all candidates. On our local TV stations, the same ads run constantly, and seem to have little impact. Few of them are any good anyway. Most repeat some version of their national Party line.

It may be too little too late, but the esteemed Rachel Bitecofer who we’ve featured often, was participating on a podcast hosted by Jill Wine-Banks. Wine-Banks asked about better messaging for Democrats. And without hesitation, Bitecofer said:

“If Republicans win, you lose . . . .”

Doesn’t that ring true? “If Republicans win, you lose.” If that had been the Democrats’ slogan for the midterms, it would have led to some great talking points:

  • Who do you want in Congress — someone who doesn’t want to extend the child tax credit or someone who does?
  • Someone who doesn’t want to provide paid family and medical leave, or someone who does?
  • Someone who doesn’t want to protect Social Security and Medicare, or someone who does?
  • Someone who doesn’t want a $15 hourly minimum wage, or someone who does?
  • Someone who doesn’t want to deliver affordable, quality childcare, or someone who does?
  • Someone who’s against healthcare for all, or someone who’s for it?

If Republicans win, you lose” has been true in every election since 1932. So, it’s better late than never to use it as a messaging tool.

We haven’t posted cartoons in a while. Here are a couple to get you in the mood for voting:

Voting is like driving: If you want to go backwards, you select R. To go forward, you select D.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 31, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Monument Valley rainstorm – October, 2022 photo by Martine Hubscher

Wrongo and Ms. Right are heading home to the land of disputed elections after a very fine week in London. We hadn’t been to England since 2019, and it was at least a little sad to learn that some of the local places near our hotel had succumbed to the pandemic. On the bright side, our favorite Indian place was open and thriving.

We can’t start Monday without acknowledging the death of Jerry Lee Lewis. He was the last one standing of the founding generation of rock ‘n rollers. Wrongo knows all of you are saying “But, what about Elvis”?

Early Elvis changed the world, but he died young and was already long past his peak when he did. Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly all exited before the Killer. None had his longevity. And that along with his talent is why he’s a greater artist than almost anyone of that generation of the major early rock stars. Some might quibble and say what about Sam Cooke? Or Dion?

As for Jerry Lee’s personal life, you know the story and it wasn’t good. He may be the ultimate example of differentiating between the art and the artist.

One wonderful and overlooked part of the Killer’s early career was an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash made on December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. An article about the session was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title “Million Dollar Quartet”.

A recording of the session was released in Europe in 1981 as The Million Dollar Quartet with 17 tracks. Subsequently, it inspired a musical called the “Million Dollar Quartet” that played on Broadway and in the West End. Both are closed now, but it does occasionally travel in the US. Wrongo loved it when he saw it. See it if you can.

Regarding the hammering attack on Paul Pelosi by a Right Wing MAGA fellow traveler, it should be seen as an assassination attempt on the highest ranking Democrat in Congress and the woman who is second in line of succession to the presidency.

CNN is reporting that the man who attacked Pelosi had with him a bag that contained multiple zip ties.

This is all part of a pattern. First there was the assassination plot against the Governor of Michigan. Then there was a violent insurrection on Jan. 6, the attempted coup. These were followed by assassination threats/plots against multiple Democratic members of Congress and the members of the Jan. 6 Committee.

Now, on the verge of a very important midterm election, the Speaker of the House’s husband is beaten. From Brian Kass an Atlantic contributor and an associate professor at University College London:

“This week, 3 men were convicted of trying to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, a man pleaded guilty to threatening Rep. Eric Swalwell, a right wing conspiracy theorist tried to murder Speaker Pelosi, shortly after Bannon, who called to behead Fauci, was sentenced to prison. This isn’t random.”

More:

“There are dangerous people of all stripes. But Republicans, unlike Democrats, are actively encouraging violence, posing with guns in incendiary ads that speak of “hunting” opponents, or depict shooting actors who play Biden and Pelosi. Plus, there’s QAnon and the election lies.”

Still more: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“When a Supreme Court justice was threatened, Democrats didn’t just condemn it, they passed a law which Biden signed to give them more protection and security. This isn’t remotely a both sides thing. Which Biden adviser called to behead a public health official? Get real.”

Finally:

“Regardless, I fear that a) there will be assassinations; and b) political violence will be a routine feature of US political life, particularly around elections, for the foreseeable future. It’s a really dark place for our politics and it’s being caused, mostly, by Republicans.”

A Trump supporter attempted to assassinate a Congressional leader. That should be seismic political news. And yet, it’s just another news story. The growing awareness that we are no longer willing to settle policy disagreements with elections will dismantle the American experiment.

Time to wake up America! You only have a few days left to vote. You only have a few days to turn the tide on the MAGA movement. To help you wake up, listen to Jerry Lee do something you’ve probably haven’t heard.

Here’s “Me and Bobby McGee” a tune written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. It was originally performed by Roger Miller, but we all remember Janis Joplin’s cover of the song, recorded a few days before her death in October 1970.

In 1971, Jerry Lee took Kristofferson’s song and turned it into something only Jerry Lee could do:

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Saturday Soother, London Edition – October 29, 2022

The Daily Escape:

The Old Floral Hall, Covent Garden, Royal Opera House, London UK – October 2022 iPhone photo by Wrongo

We’re nearing the end of our week in London. Yesterday, we visited the Royal Opera House (ROH) in Covent Garden. We got to watch ballet rehearsals by the Royal Ballet Company which shares the ROH, and briefly listened in on a rehearsal by Lisette Oropesa who plays the title role in “Alcina” by Handel. Alcina turns her male lovers into plants, an idea that inspired much mirth from Ms. Right.

Wrongo saw Nureyev perform at the ROH in 1976, when he was working for the big American bank. That was ages before the remodel of the ROH which added a huge addition in 1997-1999. In the 1970s, the Old Floral Hall in the photo above was at street level. Now it has been refurbished, halved in size, and raised to the second floor inside the ROH addition. It is used as an event space and cocktail bar.

We heard over here about the good US economic news. And it wasn’t just about GDP growth. There was also good news on inflation. The Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price index, which the Fed watches closely, increased by 4.2%, down significantly from 7.3% last quarter. And the CPI for the last three months rose by 0.5%, equating to an annual rate of 2%. If it were to keep up for the next nine months, that’s at the Fed’s inflation target. Pity that the media aren’t talking about this, but mostly about how the economy is still slowing.

One thing that caught Wrongo’s eye from abroad was Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s release of its 44th youth poll: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“A national poll released today by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School indicates that 40% of 18-to-29-year-olds state that they will “definitely” vote in the November 8 midterm elections, on track to match or potentially exceed the record-breaking 2018 youth turnout in a midterm election. Young voters prefer Democratic control of Congress 57% to 31% (up five points for Democrats since spring), but 12% remain undecided.”

John Della Volpe, Kennedy School director, believes we will see a Gen Z wave in November:

“Youth today vote at levels that far exceed millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers when they were under 30.”

In the 2020 presidential election, voters 18-29 voted in even greater numbers than in 2018: closer to 50%. Yet, if turnout by younger voters is in the 40% range, that’s not something to celebrate. It means that younger voters are leaving a lot of political power on the table.

According to the US Census, people over 65 outvoted them by over 15 points in 2018. Political power is right there waiting for people to grab it. That only will happen if more people turn to vote.

Wrongo got an email from his Democratic Congressperson Jahana Hayes, saying that she was trailing by one point in the highly respected Emerson College poll which says:

“The economy is the most important issue for 46% of Connecticut 5th District voters, followed by abortion access (16%), and threats to democracy (14%).”

Hayes is a first-term Representative who was comfortably elected in 2020. While the results are within the ± 4.3% margin of error in the poll, this isn’t a seat the Dems thought was in play. This is more proof that the Dems are flailing with their messaging on inflation and the economy, despite the fact that inflation is falling and the economy is still growing.

But we also have to remember that if the GOP takes the House, they’ll have absolutely no incentive to even try to help make economic conditions any better.

In fact, they are actually incented to try to make it worse. Why? Because the Democrats will still control the White House and may also control the Senate for the next couple of years. It’s a safe bet that Republicans will do whatever they can to increase the chaos on the economic front, so that they can continue to blame Democrats when Trump runs again in 2024.

But we really have no idea which Party will control the House and Senate, and we may not know for sure until a week or two after November 8.

With Wrongo and Ms. Right in London, you’re on your own for how to relax on this Saturday. To help with that, watch and listen to Sinfonity TV Guitar’s incredible performance of Bach’s “Toccata & Fugue”, recorded live in Segovia, Spain. To watch 15 rock guitar musicians playing it in unison is astounding. Take your collective hats off to the musicians who play it:

Who says rock and classical music don’t mix?

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