Full Speed Ahead
What I got wrong about the debt limit showdown; Ron DeSantis is bad; and why open and public homophobia is back.
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, ’ absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to become a paid subscriber, you can sign up here.
So for those wondering about a Zoom chat today, workers have been fixing the facade of the building for the past year, and this week, they are hitting the area around my apartment. Here’s my view.
It is honestly like having a jackhammer 20 feet away from your head. So no Zoom chat today. I’ll try again next week.
Late last night, the Senate passed legislation raising the debt limit and defusing a crisis that had the potential to plunge the US economy into the abyss. For months I expressed skepticism that House Republicans would ever make a deal with President Biden to raise the debt limit.
I was wrong.
My key mistake was assuming Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was unwilling to make a deal with Biden for fear that it would cost him the speakership. In retrospect, I should have questioned this assumption. While the Freedom Caucus is clearly a pain in the ass for McCarthy, as we saw in January when they tried and failed to prevent him from becoming Speaker, they don’t have a reasonable alternative who can garner the full support of the House GOP caucus. It should have been evident that McCarthy could handle their opposition if he made a deal with Biden (as he did). I always point out that political pundits need to spend more time questioning their assumptions and avoiding excess confidence in their analysis. I didn’t do it on the debt limit, and that’s a failure on my part. I will try to do better in the future.
Having said all this, I’m still unclear why McCarthy was so eager to make a deal with the White House. Was it that the majority of his caucus favored an agreement? Did he fear Biden would not go 14th amendment, thus causing a default and risking political blowback on House Republicans? Did he fear that Biden WOULD act unilaterally, thus leaving Republicans empty-handed? Or perhaps McCarthy wants to be seen as a serious player in Washington and someone who can cut a deal with Democrats rather than be held hostage by an extremist cabal of Republicans. I’m honestly not sure of the answer, but as one friend said to me, Republicans “don't actually care about any of this stuff - they just want to investigate Hunter Biden and harass trans people.”
As flippant as that might sound, I think there’s a lot of truth there. Republican calls to cut spending and reduce the deficit are never serious. As I noted earlier this year (in the one part of the debt limit issue that I got right), Republicans wanted a debt limit showdown far more than they wanted something in return (they publicly rejected most of the steps Congress would need to take to actually cut spending). When you’re a member of a party with no discernible policy agenda and overwhelming fealty to performative politics, the debt limit fight makes perfect sense. Republicans wanted to make it look like they were going to mano-a-mano with Biden and were genuinely focused on cutting spending. Achieving the latter result meant little to them, so they accepted a lousy budget deal that doesn’t guarantee a significant reduction in government outlays. It’s also why they agreed to a deal that doesn’t restrict a social safety net program but instead expands it (and also increases spending). But from a stylistic standpoint, McCarthy got a “win,” and the GOP’s jihadist caucus got to oppose it and look principled. If you don’t care about substance — and your voters don’t care about substance — then that’s a pretty good outcome.
Ron DeSantis Is Bad
Regular readers of Truth and Consequences know that I think Ron DeSantis is bad at politics. But I fear that I have not spent enough time clarifying that Ron DeSantis is also a bad person. Here are a few recent examples.
DeSantis’s War Room Twitter account criticized Donald Trump for praising vaccines that have saved millions of lives. I’ve written previously about DeSantis’s embrace of anti-vaxxers — and it’s increasingly clear he is going all-in with these folks.
DeSantis continues to attack Dr. Anthony Fauci and brag about his refusal to go along with public health measures to stop the spread of COVID … even though in the Spring of 2020, he praised Fauci and enacted some of the steps he now pillories. DeSantis’s decision to go full MAGA on COVID restrictions almost certainly cost lives. Not only does he not care, but DeSantis is now using that indifference to human suffering as his biggest selling point on the campaign trail.
Officials in the DeSantis administration in Florida are soliciting contributions for his presidential campaign. This is mind-bogglingly unethical.
DeSantis rejects global warming predictions by calling them the “politicization of the weather.”
I flagged this Mother Jones piece the other day, but as governor, he has used his power to target prosecutors, school board members, election supervisors, sheriffs, and multi-national corporations. He’s a bully and a wannabe authoritarian.
He eats babies
(Ok, I’m kidding about the last one).
While it’s easy to point out DeSantis’s malevolence, what makes it so particularly troubling is that it’s part of a well-calculated to appeal to Republican voters. DeSantis isn’t spit-balling here. He’s focusing on a specific set of divisive, nasty, and ludicrous policy positions because he knows they will appeal to the id of the modern Republican voter. He’s running a grievance-filled campaign for an electorate defined by its intense feelings of victimhood and desires for vengeance against perceived political and cultural opponents. DeSantis is a bad person, but it seems only bad people can win the support of Republican voters. In short, he’s the symptom of a malignant and diseased political party.
Stop That Train!
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