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Not even vacation can keep me away from writing about politics!
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you received this email - or you are a free subscriber - and you’d like to subscribe: you can sign up below.
So I probably should have mentioned this last week … but I’m on vacation in Cape Cod! So that’s why you haven’t heard much from me over the past few days. However, in between dips in the ocean with my kids, epic games of miniature golf, and lots of lazing about, I’ve written a few things.
First, I did a piece last weekend on how cruelty has become the defining feature of the Republican policy agenda. Next, I wrote about how in a favorable political environment, Republicans are snatching political defeat from the jaws of victory.
On Tuesday night in Michigan and Arizona, it was more of the same: Republican voters selected nominees for the House, Senate and gubernatorial races, each bringing with them more baggage than a fully booked Boeing 747.
In Michigan, “Rep. Peter Meijer, one of a handful of House Republicans to vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump, was defeated in a Republican primary by former Trump official John Gibbs” “ a full-on 2020 election denier. The Cook Political Report has already moved the race from Toss-Up to Lean Democratic.
In the gubernatorial race, the GOP nominated Tudor Dixon, “who has said publicly that she believes a child who becomes pregnant from rape or incest should be forced to carry her baby to term.” I’m usually loathe to make predictions, but with Dixon at the top of the ticket, I’d be very surprised if Democrats in Michigan don’t run the table in November. Republicans have stabbed themselves in the foot, just as they’ve done in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Maryland, and elsewhere.
Then there is Arizona:
Republican candidate Blake Masters won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Masters has called for a national abortion ban, declared in a campaign ad that “Trump won” the 2020 election, and faced questions about writings in which he has approvingly quoted a Nazi war criminal. In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Kari Lake, who has fully embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, holds a slim lead.
Lake has fallen off the proverbial 2020 conspiracy tree and hit every branch on the way down. She refuses to acknowledge that Biden is the legitimately elected president; has said she would, as governor, not have certified the 2020 election; and has called for an end to the machine tabulation of votes and instead wants the state to conduct a hand count for all elections in the state.
Late last night, Lake was declared the winner. Both her and Masters are legitimately terrifying candidates. So is Mark Finchem, the GOP’s secretary of state nominee and another 2020 election denier. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the Arizona Republican Party has fallen off the crazy tree and hit every branch on the way down. As a result, the chances of Democrats winning a host of statewide races have significantly improved.
Finally, there is Kansas:
In a stunning result (in a ruby red state that Donald Trump won by nearly 15 points in 2020), the state’s voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have changed the state constitution and made it possible for legislators to enact abortion bans.
What should be of particular concern to Republicans is that Democratic turnout in the election was at a record high, which suggests that the abortion issue is strongly motivating Democratic voters.
I’ve said for a while that it’s still unclear how the abortion issue will play out in the midterm elections, but the little evidence we have so far suggests that it could prove decisive.
Indeed, one of the more interesting takeaways from Kansas is that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe had a direct and significant effect on voter registration in the state:
It's entirely possible that the Supreme Court has awoken a powerful political force, American women — and they have the potential to reshape American politics.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, Republicans continue to dig an even deeper hole for themselves.
Last week I wrote about why I’m not sold on Ron DeSantis, and I received some very interesting responses, both from newsletter readers and others offline.
One email asked why “there is no mention of Trumpolini's pending legal problems, particularly in Georgia, and how those issues could impact the GOP political landscape.”
I should have addressed this in the piece, but my overriding assumption is that Donald Trump will likely get indicted. It could happen in Georgia or via the Department of Justice, but I expect it to occur. From a political standpoint, I also expect it will be a considerable boon to … Donald Trump. Republicans will unite behind the former president. They will decry any indictment as politically motivated and part of a witchhunt against the former president — and that will include DeSantis and all the Republicans contemplating a 2024 run. So Trump will again suck up all the political oxygen within the Republican Party, making it exceptionally difficult for any other Republican to get traction in a primary fight against him. A criminal indictment might send Trump to jail (though I wouldn’t hold my breath), but it might be the best thing to happen to him politically.
Along the same lines, a friend raised the point that there is an unusual amount of uncertainty around the Republican nomination fight and Trump’s political future. There are Trump’s potential legal issues. There are health concerns. And there’s the question of how Republicans will react to a bunch of Trump-endorsed candidates potentially losing winnable races this Fall. Maybe the latter takes the bloom off Trump’s rose and convinces Republicans that the former president is more trouble than he’s worth. Color me skeptical about that happening, but to my mind, all these outstanding questions strengthen the case for Republican presidential aspirants to keep their mouths shut about running until these issues sort themselves out.
It’s why I find DeSantis’s maneuvering for the 2024 nomination so strange and counter-productive. He has needlessly incurred Trump’s wrath when he could have just said he’d support Trump if he runs (which almost every Republican aspirant has done). If, for whatever reason, Trump doesn’t or can’t run, DeSantis would still be a 2024 frontrunner — both because he’s governor of a crucially important state and for all the culture war legislation he’s enacted in Florida.
I suppose one could argue that DeSantis has gotten ahead of the pack, and if Trump doesn’t run, he’ll be in the catbird’s seat. But let’s say Trump does run in 2024. DeSantis is a) unlikely to beat him, b) if he wins, Trump will never forgive them and will do everything in his power to undermine their candidacy in a general election c) if he loses, then he hurts his chances in 2028 because he’s needlessly incurred Trump wrath. Then there is d) — for all of Biden’s current polling woes, he’s still an incumbent, and incumbents more often than not win reelection.
From a strategic political standpoint, I honestly don’t get why DeSantis is seemingly going out of his way to make an enemy out of a thin-skinned narcissist with the support of most Republican voters. It makes me seriously question his political acumen.
Now I Care
If there is one truism in GOP politics, it is that Republicans get around to acting courageously when they’ve got skin in the game. My favorite example is Senator Rob Portman, who publicly endorsed same-sex marriage … but only after his son announced that he was gay. Before then, he apparently could have cared less about the impact of marriage bans on gay Americans. Until they are personally affected, Republicans are more than happy to do the wrong and immoral thing.
In the latest example, here’s Dick Cheney, seven years after Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for president, finally castigating him in public and calling him a “coward.”
Why is Cheney speaking up now? Because his daughter Liz is about to lose a Republican primary to her Trump-endorsed opponent. Dick Cheney could have endorsed Joe Biden in 2020. Hell, he could have supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. He could have criticized any number of anti-democratic actions by Trump, but then he'd have to criticize a fellow Republican, and for Cheney, like his old boss George W. Bush, that’s a bridge too far. In all the years in which Trump despoiled the country, neither of the two men spoke up to criticize his actions.
The irony is that Cheney’s daughter is the exception to the truism above. You could say that the insurrection personally affected her, but I don’t get the sense that it’s her motivation. And her refusal to accept Donald Trump’s election lies — and the zeal with which she is pursuing the investigation against him — will almost certainly end her political career. Her behavior is heroic and worthy of praise. Her father, on the other hand, is as big a coward as the man he has finally gotten around to denouncing.
What’s Going On
The Manchin/Schumer spending bill will pass now that Kyrsten Sinema got wealthy hedge managers and private equity executives a tax break.
Cracker Barrel is trying to be slightly healthier with its food offerings, and conservatives are furious.
I used to think Alex Jones was one of the dumbest men alive … but then I found out that his lawyers accidentally sent two years of his text messages to the lawyers suing him for defamation and didn’t mention it to him for 12 days.
As a baseball fan, there were few things more enjoyable than listening to Vin Scully call a baseball game. So sit back and enjoy these highlights.