Quick hits (part II)

1) I don’t know that I’ve ever watched the Raleigh Christmas Parade, but I had it on today since my son’s marching band was set to march in it.  And, damn, if a truck pulling a float didn’t have a brake failure and run over an 11-year old girl (I have one of those!), killing her.  Just awful. 

2) There was a lot about the value, or lack thereof, of SAT scores in college admissions these days, but I was disappointed in that I felt like the article never answered the headline, “What Does an SAT Score Mean Anymore?”

3) Matt Grossman interviews David Shor, “Does the 2022 election show how Democratic campaigns win?”

4) One of the interesting stories I have not seen addressed at all in national midterm coverage is how damn well Republicans did in NC, “Amidst a Red Ripple, North Carolina Republicans Swept to Victory”

5) Really nice graphical interactive from the Post on where the votes shifted most from 2020.  Worth the gift link for you to check out.

6) This is so good from Brian Beutler:

① The reason they midterms came as a big surprise is that Democrats outperformed “fundamentals”

② But what Democrats and data scientists think of as “the fundamentals” were defined before we passed through the looking glass of Donald Trump

③ If Trump swamps those fundamentals, Dems need to readjust to a political landscape where he looms large, at least until he and his political methods are vanquished..

But I think you can make a pretty good case in hindsight that, of every midterm since 2002, the one where the incumbent party had the best opportunity to defy “fundamentals” was 2018, not 2022. 

Unlike today, the economy of 2018 was perceived to be very good. Unlike today, the incumbent party in 2018 hadn’t made dramatic policy change. Yes, Republicans passed an unpopular corporate tax cut, and yes they tried to pass toxically unpopular legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw millions of people off of health insurance. But that effort failed, and—crucially—it failed a year and a half before the election. And yet Republicans lost their sizable majority in dramatic fashion, and lost the national popular vote for the House by an earthshaking margin.

Again, why did Trump Republicans in 2018, when unemployment was 3.8 percent, perform as badly as Barack Obama Democrats did in 2010, when unemployment was almost 10 percent? Many, many Democrats told themselves it was because they’d stopped the health-care repeal and then run health-care-centered campaigns in frontline districts. But that isn’t as tidy an explanation as it appears at a glance. It doesn’t account for why the swing to Dems was fairly uniform nationwide, even in places where the campaigns were not particularly health-care focused or competitive. It doesn’t account for the year-and-a-half lag between the failure of the repeal effort and the midterm. 

My personal sense has always been that voters mobilized to address a multifaceted emergency; the danger that Republicans would retain their trifecta and take another run at health care was part of the emergency, but all elements of it fit under a huge umbrella embroidered gaudily with the last name TRUMP.  

Which is to say, Trump, through malice and degeneracy, cost Republicans an opportunity to overperform the fundamentals in 2018, and provided Democrats an opportunity to do so last week. He overwhelms the fundamentals, or is a fundamental unto himself.

7) Greg Sargent, “How Marjorie Taylor Greene’s MAGA House will boost Trump”

But there’s a less obvious way that Republicans can wield House probes to political advantage. If they can confuse voters — and seduce the news media — into treating any and all congressional oversight as inevitably politically motivated, they will succeed in a whole different fashion.

This goal — which entails obfuscating the basic distinction between oversight conducted in good faith and in bad — will be within reach for Republicans, due to a peculiar situation. The House select committee examining Donald Trump’s coup attempt will release its report before the end of this year, and might make criminal referrals. Those findings will be debated well into next year, while Trump is running for president.

Which means that for House Republicans, the goal of next year’s investigations will not just be to let a thousand Hunter Biden probes bloom. It will also be to discredit revelations produced by Democrats about Trump…

Congressional oversight of the department serves a critical public function. We want law enforcement to feel constrained by oversight, which Republicans could theoretically do in good faith, in a valuable and revelatory way.

But Republicans have signaled something different. Greene describes Jan. 6 defendants as “political prisoners.” She and others have demanded the defunding of the FBI simply because it executed a lawfully approved search, which they describe as unchecked jackbooted lawlessness, of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Their position, then, is essentially that all investigative activity involving Jan. 6 and Trump is inherently illegitimate. So their oversight is likely to metastasize into an industrial-strength bad-faith effort to discredit all such activity, expressly to protect Trump from accountability, and to bury the Jan. 6 committee’s final report in a blizzard of propaganda. Republicans could even try to defund continuing law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.

8) These four scenarios for 2024 primaries strike me as about right.

Scenario 1: Trump Clears the Field

Scenario 2: A Crowded Field Splits the Anti-Trump Vote

Scenario 3: The DeSantis Hype Is Real

Scenario 4: A Moderate Candidate Threads the Needle

9) So tired of insane stories like this, “Suburban Mom Handcuffed, Jailed for Making 8-Year-Old Son Walk Half a Mile Home: Heather Wallace plead guilty to child endangerment and can no longer work with kids.”  Worst part?  Sounds like the cop who made this awful call is a Q Anon adherent:

As they stood on her porch, the officers told Wallace that her son could have been kidnapped and sex trafficked. “‘You don’t see much sex trafficking where you are, but where I patrol in downtown Waco, we do,'” said one of the cops, according to Wallace.

This statement struck her as odd.

“They were basically admitting that this is a safe neighborhood,” she says.

The officer then asked Wallace whether she would let her son walk home again, now that she knew about the sex trafficking.

“I still didn’t know it was illegal and I said, ‘I don’t know,'” says Wallace. “That’s when the cop replied, ‘Okay, I’m going to have to arrest you.'”

10) This is good. “Mark Kelly’s (Likely) Win Is an Indictment of Sinema’s Politics”  No way Sinema makes it out of a Democratic primary in two years. 

11) An interesting take on Trump’s announcement speech, “At long last, Trump gives his concession speech”

It was rambling. It was vain. At times, it was weird. What’s with that tale he keeps telling about giving Chancellor Angela Merkel a “white flag” to symbolize German surrender to dependence on Russian energy? There was a scary — if possibly unintended — evocation of Jan. 6, 2021: “The corridors of power” in Washington, he warned, “are our corridors and we are coming to take our corridors back.”

Still, Donald Trump’s hour-long speech Tuesday night should be remembered not just for the things he said, including his announcement that he will seek another presidential term in 2024. What mattered most was what he did not say: that Joe Biden and the Democrats thwarted his reelection in 2020 by fraud.

Trump has been repeating that outlandish lie endlessly for the past two years, including as he barnstormed the country on behalf of Republican candidates in the midterm elections.

And yet on Tuesday, with all eyes upon him and his political future on the line, he omitted it. Yes, there were allusions to the supposed need for an election revamp based on hand-counted paper ballots, which Trump called a “very personal job for me.” He floated innuendo about “a very active role” by China against him in our 2020 election.

At no time, however, did he repeat his false claim of massive cheating in 2020, nor did Trump say Biden holds office illegitimately; by repeatedly criticizing the current president’s record, he backhandedly implied the opposite. He even indirectly acknowledged the reality of the 2022 results by boasting that “by 2024,” when he intends to head the ticket, “the voting will be much different.”

12) Good thread from G. Elliott Morris on the good year for the polls.

13) This was quite interesting, “The Fading Art of Preserving the Dead: A dwindling group of professionals is tasked with navigating the often fraught passage from life to death.”

But the world he belongs to, the world of embalming, is increasingly losing its sway over the American way of death.

Data gathered by the National Funeral Directors Association shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans in 2021 were cremated after death, an increase from around 25 percent in 1999. More than 60 percent of people surveyed were interested in having so-called green burials, which are cheaper than traditional funerals and limit the chemicals allowed into the body for preservation. Embalmers are becoming more difficult to find; most funeral homes rely on contractors like Mr. Harvell, who may be the sole embalmers for a dozen funeral-home clients.

According to people in the industry, things have been trending away from embalming for decades. “Absolutely there’s a shift going on,” said Tim Collison, the chief operating officer of The Dodge Company, the largest embalming fluid manufacturer in the country. “There’s less demand — it’s not an expanding market.” Dr. Basil Eldadah, a physician with the National Institute on Aging, said, “We’re just in this place in our society where we’re questioning the way that things have always been done.”

14) You know I love me some first amendment and don’t like the heightened attacks from both right and left, “How America turned against the First Amendment: Moderation laws. Book bans. Courts that keep getting played. America’s politicians are tired of the First Amendment getting in their way, and no one seems to care.”

15) Almost done watching “All Quiet on the Western Front” on Netflix.  I think it’s terrific. 

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