A quick word before we move on from the midterms and Trump *

* Before we move on, though, don’t forget Georgia and the quest to make it a clean sweep against dangerously underqualified and undemocratic (small “d”) candidates. Donate to Raphael Warnock and send nonpartisan reminders to voters at Vote Forward. THEN we’re done.

Congratulations to the Democratic Party for … meeting low expectations.

The narrative changed several times, didn’t it? A few months ago, the Democrats were going to get pummeled as incumbent parties always do in midterms, particularly when the Afghanistan debacle and inflation condemned Biden to a Trumpian low-40s in approval polls. Then the abortion ruling energized everyone, the Republicans nominated a band of lunatics and madmen/madwomen, and FiveThirtyEight was telling us the Democrats would almost certainly hold the Senate. Then John Fetterman had a shaky debate performance, the stories of Herschel Walker paying for abortions actually strengthened my childhood sports hero’s campaign, and the Democrats were going to lose everything.

So when the Democrats didn’t lose everything, it was a miracle!

Media narratives are always overstated, but on the whole, the midterms brought this good news:

There’s a ceiling to authoritarian lunacy, especially when it relates to Donald Trump.

Here’s The Economist: “For a long time elected Republicans have behaved as if Mr Trump had some magic electoral power. His record shows a narrow win in 2016 after two terms of Barack Obama—an election, therefore, that a generic Republican candidate would have been expected to win. In 2018 Republicans did poorly in the midterms, losing 41 seats in the House. Then in 2020 Mr Trump lost to a rather elderly and verbose candidate never noted for his skill at campaigning. Mr Trump’s special power is over the berserker faction of the Republican Party, which has sway in primaries. But to the rest of the electorate he is becoming the thing he most derides: a loser.”

Here’s FiveThirtyEight, which noted that political newcomers who supported the Big Lie on the 2020 election were trounced: “Perhaps most meaningfully, voters almost universally rejected election deniers who ran for secretary of state, an office that is typically a state’s top election official and responsible for administering elections, enforcing election laws and certifying results.”

Here’s Reason, which might be reclaiming its libertarian mission after cozying up to non-libertarian Trump: “Without a hateable foil to run against, Trumpism doesn’t work as a campaign strategy. It’s time for Republicans to rediscover the value of actually having ideas.”

Reason also notes the rise of ranked-choice voting, which may eventually be a bulwark against extremist candidates. They cite a Nevada referendum mandating open primaries and ranked-choice voting, which did indeed pass.

So that brings me back to the most important thing on this site: A social contract (updated for 2022)

And to carry that forward, here are few important rules for 2023 for the Democrats and the media:

Dear Democrats: It’s the issues, stupid! We’ve been over this. You have the advantage on every issue. People want economic safety nets, not tax cuts for the rich. They want reproductive freedom. They want reasonable solutions to our gun problem and our immigration problem. (The first Reason piece above notes that Mitt Romney wants to expand immigration.) They care about climate change. They want gay rights. Even the Mormon Church came out (oops, maybe not the right word choice) and said they’d support measures to protect gay marriage legally as long as they could still argue against it theologically. So why are these elections even close?

Quit spending all your time, energy and money sending people like me frantic emails that you’re going to miss some fundraising deadline. Quit calling the same people over and over again. Quit using attack ads that worked on Boomers but fall flat with younger generations.

Dear media: It’s the issues, stupid! I don’t want to hear about Donald Trump in 2023 unless you’re reporting on his legal issues. The only Trump news that matters this week is that foreign governments spent $750,000 at his hotel, the latest evidence that Trump used the White House for personal gain and little else. Maybe start asking questions about why Merrick Garland is moving so slowly that I’m starting to wonder if he’s still working on impeachment papers for Warren G. Harding.

Smash the two-party system! It’s happening, folks. Support Unite America.

Finally, here’s a resolution for the rest of 2022 and at least the first 10 months or so of 2023 …


We’ve earned a break from horse-race and celebrity politics. Enjoy it.


Jan. 6: Forget polarization. Remember heroes and villains. Enablers and cowards.

Much of this is repurposed from a Twitter thread, but I wanted to post it here for posterity. It’s also easier to read.

I’m also going to lead with people who deserve our applause: the police. One year ago, roughly 140 were assaulted, some brutally. Five officers succumbed to the physical and mental trauma of that day.

Here’s the Twitter thread, with some editing …

One year ago today, right-wing extremists attacked the very foundation of the USA.

Some (though less than the media think – we’ll get to that) believe otherwise. This thread isn’t for you. If Rove and Cheney can’t convince you, neither can I.

This thread is for everyone else.

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journalism, philosophy, politics

What about whataboutism?

Like a lot of bullying tools, “whataboutism” is powerful because there’s a bit of logic to it, however twisted it may be.

In fact, on the meta level, it’s easy to use whataboutism to fight complaints about whataboutism. Most people use it in some form at some point.

The key difference to me is this: Are you using bringing up an opposing side because you’re making a decision between two things (say, candidates) or because you’re trying to deflect criticism instead of dealing with it?

In other words, if we’re talking about an election with only two viable candidates, and you tell me Candidate X embezzled money but I know Candidate Y murdered somebody, I’ll have to point that out. (I hope it never gets to that point!)

And in some cases, what appears to be “whataboutism” is actually making a case to give one entity the higher ground. For example — if a Trump voter criticizes the Clinton Foundation, it seems fair to point to the Trump Foundation, especially if you go on to note that the Clinton Foundation actually does some good.

Let’s say the Charlottesville situation had been reversed, and an “antifa” demonstrator had killed someone. Surely someone would use that incident to claim there’s no difference between the “left” and “right” in this situation. (Aside to media: Can you quit using “left” and “right” in describing this sort of thing? CBS did it for Boston, which was ridiculous — I’m sure a lot of registered Republicans were among the “left” crowd in this case and were quite offended by the assumption that the supremacists were the “right.”)

But the counterargument would be this:

  1. The majority of the counterprotesters were not violent.
  2. Most likely, the bulk of the nation’s lawmakers and thought leaders would denounce the killer without the equivocation Trump used in his half-hearted denunciation of a considerable chunk of the people who still support him.
  3. What’s the overall intent of the counterprotest? It’s to stand up against racism. What’s the overall intent of the original protest? To promote it. Not equivalent.

A Facebook friend made this sort of point in answering Trump’s “whatabout” on Washington and Jefferson owning slaves. Washington and Jefferson don’t have monuments because they supported racism. They have monuments for their actual accomplishments. Monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are for their service to an abhorrent cause.


Historical footnote — I did not know this:

In May 1985 the U.S. State Department funded a conference at the Madison Hotel on the fallacy of “moral equivalence,” a philosophical cousin of whataboutism. The goal was to tamp down comparisons of the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, among other instances. The actions may be comparable, the State Department implied, but the intentions were not.

Source: Whataboutism: The Cold War tactic, thawed by Putin, is brandished by Donald Trump – The Washington Post