November 9, 2017: GOP Brand is ‘Dirt’ | Heroes Have Guns | Tax Reform Imperative


CORRECTION: In the original version of the newsletter, we made an error in the first item. Party of winner Va. Gov. election.

Happy Thursday to you. So Democrats are feeling a bit giddy after Tuesday night. Tons of ink are being spilled to analyze the results of the election. But before we dig in, we want to acknowledge the big takeaway: The suburbs are pissed! If 2016 was about rural voters, 2017 is about those who are ringing the cities. And although the economy is doing well, they sent a clear message to Washington. Virginia, to take the most prominent example, not only elected a Democrat governor by 9 points (a far higher margin than expected), it wiped out a 32-seat Republican advantage in the House of Delegate and (in our favorite race) the conservative climate-denier Robert Marshall lost his seat in the House of Delegates to Danica Roem, a transgender woman (and the vocalist of a heavy metal band), one of two openly transgender people elected to office. (The other was in Minnesota.) Of course, we expect Roem will eventually be a target of the conservative media. But, for now, we just say enjoy the moment. As always, if you have comments or questions please write us at

1. The Republican Brand Is “Dirt”

It was fascinating to watch the most Trump-loyal media sites in the wake of Tuesday’s elections, which handed the governorships of both Virginia and New Jersey to Democrats. They deflected and distracted. On Wednesday morning, Breitbart led with a long story reliving the “untold story” of election night 2016! While over at The Daily Caller, the front page was dominated by a completely unrelated  story -- of a cadet at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School who faked a racist note to himself.

But the traditional sites that have always maintained some skepticism about Trump, like National Review, were feeling very sober Wednesday morning about the future of the Republican party. Jim Geraghty of NR wrote:

Corey Stewart and the Trump-ified faction of the Virginia GOP will insist tonight’s dismal defeat stems from Gillespie’s alleged Establishment squishiness, while northern Virginia Republicans will argue it’s because Gillespie sounded Trump-like with his hard-edged focus and ads on illegal immigration and crime. They may both have a point, as Gillespie’s getting the worst of both worlds: The margins in red rural counties are about the same as 2016, but the turnout is “meh” and Republicans are just getting crushed in the suburbs. It’s not just the ones closest to Washington, D.C.; Northam is beating Gillespie by about a 20-point margin in Loudon and Prince William Counties.

But the key lesson of the night goes far beyond Gillespie. Right now, the Republican party’s brand in Virginia is dirt. Throw in the failure ed to make New Jersey even remotely competitive, and tonight is about as bad as it can get for the GOP – a sense of déjà vu from the results across the country 2006 and 2008.

Meanwhile, Caleb Howe at RedState warned that the GOP had better get off its duff and do something.:

Despite the protestations of Sean Hannity and other full-bore cultists, this does bode ill for 2018 midterms, and the GOP better wise up and pay attention. While imperfect, this is a lead indicator on more than one front.

Democratic voters could not be more wildly motivated. I would offer a metaphor but there isn’t one…....

Republicans, on the other hand, have had a disappointing year. We’re talking about normal voters, including Trump voters, but not about the devoted zombie army. The zombie army isn’t big enough or loud enough to offset the failures we saw with everything from Obamacare to immigration, to the fact that there is no wall. Not to mention the never-ending onslaught against Republicans in every form of media.

That onslaught has an even more pronounced effect on moderates, who already find Trump and his ways repellent. ……..

As for the GOP, there is something you can do. What you can do is do something. Victories are what motivate voters and especially Republican voters. There was a sense among millions in the GOP base that, when the historic Trump landslide happened, their day had finally come. …

They wanted big change. No, scratch that. BIG CHANGE. In all caps. That’s what the voters expected. And here, a year later, they are not much closer to getting it. A few small victories, a few executive orders, and not much else. Hardly historic.


What We’re Watching:

Before the election, we saw articles, like this one by Byron York in The Washington Examiner, that postulated that Republicans and independents very much liked Trump’s policies but were uncomfortable with his personal style. Or in other words, loved the message, hated the messenger. So they counseled embracing Trumpism without Trump. But Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ed Gillespie, a former Bush aide, did just that: He embraced Trump message (at least at the end of the campaign) but steered clear of the candidate. His loss has opened the Republican establishment to a whole new round of broadsides by Breitbart and the populist wing. The Swamp should brace.

Meanwhile, Chris Stirewalt of the Fox Halftime Report argued that no strategy -- whether harsher or softer -- would have made a difference.:

Republicans would like to take a lesson away from Tuesday that tells them how best to run in 2018. Trump shunning? Conservative policies with a Trumpy garnish? Full-bore embrace of Trump, the man and the message?

But the lesson from Tuesday is that it may not matter. Virginia Democrats were fired up and ready to go in ways we didn’t see in the Obama years, and the results from elsewhere in the nation suggest much the same.


Also Worth Noting:

Last newsletter, we mentioned the ad by the Latino Victory Fund that showed minority children being targeted by a truck driven by a white supremacist. The ad was condemned by both candidates and pulled after the shooting in Texas. But if stories on conservative media sites are any indication, the GOP fears this kind of targeting will continue -- and perhaps even be effective. Here is a take from The Daily Caller:

The Latino lobbying group responsible for the infamous anti-Ed Gillespie ad portraying the Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s supporters as neo-Nazis has announced it will double down on its radical advertisements after Gillespie’s Tuesday loss. The Latino Victory Fund aired the ad for nearly a week before the Virginia gubernatorial elections, which Gillespie lost to Democrat Ralph Northam on Tuesday.


The Peanut Gallery:

In the wake of the Republican loss, the Red Twittersphere had a lot of advice and warnings for the GOP. Here we offer just a small sampling:

Ann Coulter @AnnCoulter, with 1.76 million followers, warned:

If @realDonaldTrump doesn't keep his campaign promise to build a wall & deport illegals, what happened to VA will happen to the entire country.

Jack Posobiec  @JackPosobiec, with 223k followers, took this swipe at big GOP donors:

Koch Brothers spent $3 Million to lose Virginia

From RedditTITANUPMAN wrote this about the Northam victory:

As a lifelong Virginia Beach resident, it's nauseating that NoVA has Virginia perpetually locked into the blue. An area that is so far removed in nearly every aspect from the rest of the Commonwealth effectively determines our elections. The flood of Beltway locusts into NoVA has proven too much to overcome. It's a damn shame.

2. Texas Shooting: Heroes Have Guns.

Another month, another mass shooting. Devin Kelley’s massacre of churchgoers in Sutherland Springs brought gun control to center stage this week, but this time the conservative media was prepared with a “the-best-defense-is-a-great-offense” strategy.

They started by focusing a ton of praise and attention on the two men who tracked Kelley down vigilante style, calling them heroes. Here is Rich Lowry’s encomium to the two men -- Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff -- in The New York Post:

When Kelley got in an SUV and sped off, Willeford jumped in Johnnie Langendorff’s truck and told him to give chase. Langendorff, 27, didn’t ask any questions. He followed Kelley at 95 mph down the highway, until the perpetrator ran off the road into a ditch. Willeford jumped out of the truck and rested his rifle on top of Langendorff’s hood and shouted for Kelley to “get out.” The murderer apparently took his own life with a gun shot.

Willeford and Langendorff would have been justified in considering their work done when the shooter left the scene of his massacre. They would have been justified in considering it done when he crashed his vehicle. They instead were prepared for another gun fight in the cause of incapacitating him themselves. This showed an extraordinarily well-developed “sheepdog” instinct, to use the term from “American Sniper,” the movie about legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, also a Texan.

To reinforce the point, the conservative media joined the Texas attorney general Ken Paxton in resurrecting the argument that guns are the only real protection against guns. The Federalist took it one step further and explained away liberal objections to this argument -- namely that, statistically speaking, guns are more likely to cause an accidental death than to stop someone from committing a crime.:

First of all, we can’t quantify how many would-be mass shooters or random criminals avoid situations where they anticipate guns might be firing back at them. Some of these studies also conflate criminality with accidents. Once a man is menacing his neighbor with a gun, he is engaged in illegal behavior and his actions are no longer unintended. Many of these studies also conflate home gun accidents (sometimes even suicides) with concealed-carry holders — the people most likely to stop a shooter outside of the home. It is incredibly rare that those who conceal carry break the law or have accidents, so dealing with them separately undermines the storyline.

If we’re going to start making unscientific comparisons, though, then I would point out that I can’t find an example of a single example of an accidental fatality by a gun-owning parishioner during a service at a church (or temple or mosque). Perhaps someone can point one out to me. I can think of at least two incidents off the top of my head in which church parishioners likely stopped a massacre because they had guns.


What We’re Watching:

We couldn’t help but notice that Breitbart, always pushing the edge of the conservative argument, published a piece that ingeniously conflated into a single argument two storylines popular among its readers -- the irrational hatred of guns and sexual harassment in the Hollywood/liberal media complex. The thesis, as expressed below, is that liberal media bosses are such harassers that they naturally wouldn’t want women to be armed.:

High-powered men work(ed) for NBC News, ABC News, NPR, Vox, the New Republic, the New York Times. Mother Jones… all accused of various forms of misconduct towards women.

If these allegations are true, is it any wonder that the powerful men who guide these media outlets, who shape conventional wisdom within the media, would prefer an unarmed populace, would feel better knowing a woman cannot suddenly equalize a situation with a firearm?

[Mark] Halperin stands accused of masturbating in front of women, rubbing his clothed erection up against women, throwing women up against walls… If guilty, should we be surprised that such a man would be so hostile towards a female Second Amendment advocate, an apostle for the idea of women arming themselves? CNN’s Chris Cuomo believes 12 year-old girls should be exposed to a penis. Of course he is anti-gun. Alec Baldwin, an admitted sexist bully, is anti-gun.

Gee, I wonder why a monster addicted to bullying those weaker than him is opposed to an equalizer?

3. Tax Plan: It’s Great But Faces an Uphill Slog

Even before Tuesday night’s election, tax reform was seen as a crucial must-do for the Republican party, which has so far been batting zero on major legislation since Trump came to office. But now it has taken on new urgency. “Tax reform is never easy, but GOP majorities hang in the balance,” Newt Gingrich wrote in an opinion column for The Hill.

All week long, the conservative press defended the tax proposal from what it saw as unfair Democratic attacks painting it as pro-rich and pro-corporation. The Washington Examiner accused the Democrats of willfully sinking the corporate tax cut for political purposes even though they know it’s good for the economy.:

Obama proposed to cut the corporate tax rate and simplify the code not as a thank-you to corporate America, but because he knew it would juice the economy. And if we had to guess, that is exactly why Democrats oppose a rate cut and simplification today.

The U.S. currently has the highest corporate tax rate of any advanced economy, 35 percent. Very few companies pay anywhere near 35 percent of their earnings in taxes, however, because our complex tax code has so many dodges, shelters, and deferrals. This fact doesn’t acquit the corporate code. It indicts it all the more.

A high rate and a complex code are the worst formula. Many U.S. businesses really do pay 35 percent on their marginal dollar of profit, and that creates a great disincentive to expanding—or expanding in the U.S., at least.

Lowering the top rate will fix that, and will inspire many businesses to invest, expand, or even move here from elsewhere. ...

No matter how boorish or off-putting President Trump may be, no matter how unprepared or disorganized his administration looks, and no matter how much a stench of bigotry may stick to his White House, he will get re-elected if the economy continues to boom. And it’s already booming: The unemployment rate hit a 17-year low of 4.1 percent last month, the Dow keeps shattering records, and the economy is growing at a 3 percent clip.

If this keeps up for another year, or even accelerates, then Republicans have a good chance of keeping the House and the Senate.

The Democratic Party, already in shambles after Obama and Hillary Clinton, cannot afford that sort of prosperity.


Worth Noting:

While every other conservative media outlet seemed focused on defending the tax plan as not a giveaway to the super rich, Rush Limbaugh was marching to his own drummer. He had House Speaker Paul Ryan on the show and quizzedhis guest on whether the plan was really a big enough break for rich folk.:

The fact is that we’ve gotten to the point that 95% of all income tax revenue is paid for by the top 20% of wage earners. And yet I saw a poll out there — and I know this is what you’re up against — I saw a poll where something like 80% of the American people don’t think the rich are paying enough, and this is purely because of Democrat demagoguery. And yet this tax bill does not provide relief for the group of people that’s already paying 95% of all income tax revenue simply because: Are we afraid of Democrats, are we afraid of the media, or is it because the president’s insisting on this? What is it?


4. Rand Paul, Hate Crime Victim

In one of the odder stories, Senator Rand Paul was attacked by a neighbor in his gated community in Kentucky. The neighbor pummeled him, breaking six ribs. The attorney for the neighbor said it was a “regrettable” dispute about landscaping. No politics involved. But the conservative media was deeply skeptical. Here is The Washington Examiner:

The Bowling Green, Ky., neighbor who allegedly attacked Sen. Rand Paul last weekend, causing six broken ribs, was aggressively anti-Trump and anti-GOP in his social media, calling for the impeachment of the president and urging Russia investigator Robert Mueller to “fry Trump’s gonads.” Captured screen grabs of Rene Boucher’s Facebook page … also show that the anesthesiologist was a fan of the #NeverTrump clan.