2/22

I hope everyone enjoyed the once in a lifetime “2/22/22” day. While I’m not typically into this sort of thing, it’s so rare that I actually screen shotted my phone at 2:22pm on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022. How couldn’t I?

At least I didn’t get married though. Tons of other people did. I’m staying near the county’s marriage license office, so a ton of wedding chapels are all around me. Yesterday, they were jammed. When I got a bottle of wine last night at Walgreen’s, they asked if I was going to a wedding. Fortunately, no. I definitely don’t need to get married.

This morning the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new Congressional map. On my initial read, it does the following:

  • PA-2, 3, 4, 5, and 12 become safe Democratic seats, even though PA-4 definitely goes a bit more red. PA-6 and PA-17 are Dem leaning, with 17 being in play this year because of the environment and being open. PA-7 and 8 slightly Democratic, but really just competitive. My sense is that Rep. Cartwright can hold PA-8 under this map. PA-7 is going to be super competitive.
  • PA-9, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16 are safe Republican seats, though I’d keep a faint eye on 11 or 14 with the right candidate. PA-1 is a Democratic leaning seat, but Rep. Fitzpatrick has been winning in a very similar seat for years. PA-10 is really the only seat on the GOP side that is in play because of the map.
  • The addition of Carbon County to my home PA-7 is game changing. Obviously it pulls the district a bit right in general elections, but it also does so in primaries. This district is not cut for a far-left progressive to win at all. In fact, if one wins a primary, you can bet it’s a GOP year.

That’s my first read…

As the MLB lockout continues to drag on, too many pundits are doing lazy analysis- attendance and viewership are down, it must be the product. Yes, nobody hates the “spreadsheet warriors” running these front offices more than me, who have tried to convince baseball fans that there are only “three true outcomes,” and that up is in fact down now. With that said, the shit sandwich that is shifts, launch angle, and 8 relievers a game, while annoying, would not prohibit me watching baseball, or most people who spend a lot of their money on watching baseball. Everyone is missing that the core fans have already factored that into their decisions. Casual fans are not staying away over this either. They’re staying away because way too many teams stink.

If you’re a fan of Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Texas, Oakland, Arizona, Chicago (NL), Pittsburgh, and Washington I have bad news for you- this season is already over, and camp hasn’t even opened yet. That is nearly a third of the league. Of the other 21 teams, six haven’t seen the playoffs in over five years. That’s half the league where the fanbases are really skeptical that their organizations have any intention to contend this year, and I didn’t even count Minnesota, Colorado, or Miami in either of those counts, but they probably aren’t playoff teams. In other words, 60% of the league starts out with serious doubts that their teams are worth going to see, or watch on TV, before the first pitch is thrown. This is far more fundamental than whether you’re mad that teams aren’t bunting and stealing bases. If there’s no hope, what’s the point? This year’s Super Bowl featured a team that had the top pick two years ago in Cincinnati. Jacksonville is hot trash, but has last year’s number one pick and a Super Bowl winning coach now. The Eagles went from 4-11-1 to a 9-8 playoff team this past year. Unless you’re Detroit, you can start each offseason with some hope in the NFL (And I hope for them they can at least get to the Browns level soon and have some competitive seasons). Even in the NBA, garbage teams are fun as you hope to win the draft lottery and free up cap space for a superstar. In MLB? Having a top pick means “several years away,” and so many teams are now run by spreadsheet warriors that teams swing and miss on high picks. In short, it sucks to suck in baseball, and it’s kind of pointless to get excited for a large portion of the country.

The most important things for MLB to get done in this contract are:

  • A salary floor so that teams have to try and get some real players.
  • A draft lottery so teams aren’t assured of a reward for trying to lose.
  • An international draft that mirrors the current MLB draft rules.
  • Any other disincentives to losing.

If MLB doesn’t deal with these issues, I’m not sure any “pace of play” rule changes will do anything. Your core fans don’t care how long the game is, and your casual fans will come around if the team is winning, and therefore cool to watch.

Until tomorrow…

2/21 Happy Presidents Day

Well, that was a wild weekend. On Friday so much happened that I still can’t wrap my head around it. I took a ride to the California/Nevada border and crossed into California on the Mojave Freeway. I got off an exit, pulled over, and stepped foot into my 30th state, California, for the first time. Only 20 to go!

Friday night the craziness arrived. I took co-workers out to eat at Catch ARIA and it was outstanding. The drinks were strong and the food was great. The only thing I’d say is I’d like bigger portions, but I’d also like a pony. The food was so good I don’t even care. I had the crab tempura and some oysters. It was an A+. I was also amazed at the “hallway network” between the casinos. One could go out to eat at ARIA, play a hand or two at Bellagio, and go see a hockey game at T Mobile Arena without going outside.

As I said though, craziness. After getting back to the place, I went up to the wine deck for a night cap. When I walked back in after that, there was a naked woman, clearly a drug addict, putting rolls of toilet paper on the bathroom floor. After an insanely calm discussion I got security to come remove her. I suspect there was so much more terrible to this story, but frankly the whole thing was a shock in the moment. As I said, the craziness arrived.

Anyway…

Happy President’s Day, especially to our 46th and current President. In terms of Presidents in my lifetime, I’d roughly rank Joe Biden and George H.W. Bush in a tie for third, clearly ahead of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump, in that order. I’d rank Bill Clinton as the best, and Barack Obama as the clear second best, ahead of everyone else. Biden, like Bush the father, is suffering through a lot of inherited messes from an incompetent predecessor that is pulling down his approval ratings. Also like Bush 41 though, Biden is inheriting historic opportunities to change the world at the same time. Ultimately, his Presidency will be better than Bush 41’s because he is taking the opportunity to improve the lives of the people through historic investments. Once the infrastructure projects get rolling, some scaled down version of Build Back Better gets rolling, and he seats a historic Supreme Court justice, we will get a more full view of a President who inherited a complete and total mess from his predecessor, and did wonders with the rubble.

The elephant in the room right now is the potential for a Russia-Ukraine full scale war, that could come imminently. It’s important to understand this in a historical context- Russia has been trying to dominate the Ukraine for hundreds of years, mostly successfully. This is less about Putin’s personal ideology and more just Russian worldview. Russian Czars ruled the Ukrainian people for hundreds of years. Soviet Moscow absorbed the Ukrainians into the Soviet Union. Over the last 30 or so years Ukraine has been independent, but it has struggled at times economically and with maintaining serious democratic institutions. The Ukraine is an older society, distinct with its own institutions, culture, and religious practices, but Russia views it largely as their’s, and they have occupied parts for the last eight years now. The western powers have wanted to stand up these former Soviet Republics as independent nations for the past 30 years. For the past two decades, Putin has been pushing back. Western leaders may very well have days or hours to decide what this is worth to them, because I think we know what it’s worth to Putin.

There’s really not much to discuss in sports, other than how awesome this picture is. This Friday, James Harden is going to play for the 76’ers. This weekend though, they clearly welcomed him to the family. You can’t get more Philly than a picture with Allen Iverson.

Until tomorrow…

2/17 Functional

Yesterday was the least exciting day I’ve had out west. I slept a lot. I got a haircut. I got my gym membership straightened out. I did some work. There really wasn’t much to it. So I won’t write too much about yesterday. It was pleasant.

Today, New Jersey will approve their state legislative maps. You can read about it here. The cliff notes version- they were willing to put some veteran legislators against each other, and give the new assembly and senate Republicans marginally better seats. What this means is a few seats will open up in 2023 primaries, particularly on the senate side, but Democrats simply played to sure up their margins in the seats they need to continue holding a comfortable majority. No big news here.

Sunday is the NBA All-Star Game and the Daytona 500. I’m a bigger basketball fan, but Daytona is what I’ll watch.

The MLBPA and baseball’s owners met for a whole 20 minutes yesterday. MLB’s owners need to cave. They screwed the players last deal and then locked them out. Baseball has been making record breaking profits, other than 2020, and the players share has actually been in decline because of carve outs for the owners. Give the owners their expanded playoffs, give the players a better cut than they have, get back to playing. Baseball will be gravely harmed if games are missed for a second time in three years.

Until tomorrow…

2/16/22 Experiences

It took until day three, but I finally got to some “tourist traps,” and stepped foot in a new state. I was hesitant the first two days to go anywhere, at first because I was tired, then because there were lots of things I needed to get done to functionally live. On Wednesday, I finally got over that.

So I took a ride to Hoover Dam, and let me tell you about the rides there and back first. The desert is pretty amazing. Obviously, there are big mountains all around, and you’re ascending out of the valley. The area looks and feel isolated and desolated. This is really what most of the west is like, not Vegas, and it is pretty breathtaking. There is definitely life out there though, as was evidenced by the “ram crossing” signs I saw at a couple spots. You can also tell people are out there, by the backpacks and other human objects you see. I actually did see a young looking woman walking out in the desert at one point on the way back, which was sort of alarming to me. The whole ride experience was definitely something for someone from out East like me.

Of course there is the Hoover Dam itself, which I will share more pictures of in the coming days. It is a modern marvel. The United States, a global superpower as we are, once built massive public works projects like this, regularly. The dam itself is absolutely massive, and Lake Mead and the Colorado River almost seem small next to it. While heights aren’t typically my thing, I did walk across the bridge and enjoyed messing with my phone on the time change. In doing so, I stepped foot in Arizona and Mountain Time for the first time, crossing off another state from my list. I’ve now been to 29 states. It definitely was a cool experience to go see.

Last night I had my first four block walk up to “The Fremont Street Experience.” Wow! I’d best describe it as sensory overload, or as some would put it, “a huge acid trip.” Over top of you is a roof that is constantly showing you very colorful images of life. Last night there were bands like every block, so you had live music, and during their breaks there was loud music booming through. There were casino lights everywhere. There were bars, everywhere. There were mostly naked women (what they did wear was themed for their block) everywhere. It was crazy. I definitely can’t say there’s much like it at home.

So in sports news, the U.S. Men’s Hockey team lost a heartbreaker to Slovakia and aren’t going to win. If you care about the Olympics at all though, you’re probably talking about the 15 year old Russian figure skater that failed a drug test and was still allowed to skate. She’s just further discrediting the farce that is the IOC. As I recall, a black American female sprinter who would have contended at last Summer’s games was held out of the games for… marijuana. Not a performance enhancer, but marijuana. The double standard is ghastly. Either enforce the rules or don’t, but don’t give us this garbage. Russian athletes are literally competing under the label “ROC” because the IOC wants to acknowledge that they cheat so much, but not actually ban them from the games. Thankfully the girl crashed and burned in the finals and failed to medal, so we won’t have to hear about this nonsense for weeks on end, but how about the IOC be consistent? And don’t be too righteous, American sports press, on the subject of doping in sports- our baseball writers just elected David Ortiz, who failed a drug test, to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame, while keeping out other dopers they didn’t like as much (I’d have voted for them all). We are fine with double standards too. Consistency would be nice.

I get to see a good bit of polling in politics, which can really inform your perspective on the world if you understand what you’re reading and don’t just see a bunch of numbers on a page. I saw a lot last year, and am starting to see a bit this year. There are some clear themes out there that seem to inform at least my view of how Americans feel about things, and how they plan to vote in 2022:

  • Joe Biden’s numbers kind of suck, and he would probably lose a rematch of the 2020 election right now, which would be bad if we were having it. Bill Clinton would have lost though in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2010, so don’t over analyze that. If the White House and Congressional Democrats did something to bring down inflation and get the country truly back open from Covid, Biden and the party would recover quite a bit. As is, if we’re debating inflation and Covid the bloodbath this Fall is far less painful than if…
  • … we’re debating culture wars. Democrats could suffer a historic beating in November if the election is a debate about defunding the police, the border, lockdowns, critical race theory, parental control, and crime. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, factually on these topics. It’s a matter that their very debate, the framing they set, and who actually listens and cares about them are *all* bad for Democrats. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a chance Republicans wildly overreach at the Supreme Court on hot button issues like Roe v. Wade and affirmative action, and actually help us this summer. That’s a chance though, and one they probably understand. The point is we *are* losing on these cultural fights, and we need to get off of them. This could be the difference between a mild to normal midterm and historical realignment beating that changes everything.

Alright, talk more tomorrow…

2/15/22 Welcome to the Wild, Wild West

Well, I survived day two in Vegas. It was a highly productive day, as we got a bunch done for work, and got the living situation all sorted out. None of that was the highlight though. The highlight of the day was a close battle between my first In N’ Out Burger experience and getting up to my building’s “Vino Deck” at 9pm and looking out at the strip with a bottle of Chardonnay. Both were heavenly in their own ways.

First, I have to give a big shoutout to my buddy Nick and the lady who wrote this blog post about In N’ Out for teaching me what “animal style” is. I got a #1 “animal style” and it was delicious. Unlike most fast food places, the burger wasn’t over cooked, and it tasted fresh, which isn’t always a given. The fries probably wouldn’t have been special if I hadn’t asked for “animal style,” but they were awesome with the added toppings. I could have been full all day from that one meal.

Then there’s the vino deck. Sure, it was “only” like 60 out there, and very windy, but who cares? The view is amazing. In a very weird way, Vegas reminds me of Chicago, in that from above it looks like it goes on forever. As you look out in any direction across the valley, you just see lights forever. Yes, way off in the distance you see mountains, more so in the daytime, but that too is amazing. I sat up there last night and just listened to music, had some wine, and enjoyed. It was amazing.

Ok, so the rest of the world… where to begin… how about the Harden-Simmons trade? Yesterday both did their introductory press conferences in their new cities, and neither said much that was surprising. The national press (basically, ESPN) took their gratuitous shots at Philly fans by insinuating they caused Ben Simmons mental health issues, which was predictable from the press corps that spent his whole career picking at Simmons game. Some analysts have taken turns at critiquing the trade and trying to find the winner. It’s been fun reading for me, and I’m almost sad I’m not in Philly for the fun. But here comes my take.

  • The Sixers won the trade. This is a simple fact. They had very low odds of winning the Eastern Conference, let alone the NBA Championship before they got James Harden. They have much better odds now. Brooklyn probably made the best trade they possibly could under the circumstances, but they are not better after. Their big three with Harden was simply much better than with the offensively inferior Simmons. Yes, Curry and Drummond are really good playoff rotational players, which is why Brooklyn is still a contender this season, but they are still role players. Given that neither draft choice moving is going to be super high, and that the Sixers got a rotational piece back for their playoffs in Millsap, it’s clear to me that whatever advantage Brooklyn got back in the rest of the trade is not equal to the gap between Harden and Simmons in a star driven league.
  • We will never know if Ben Simmons has mental health issues. Sure, the first we heard of it was when he started getting fined for not showing up to camp, and sure he refused to share any details with his team or meet with the team doctor, and sure he miraculously got back to basketball after being traded. You’ll still never know, so there’s no point calling him a liar. I do know this though- whether he had them or not, his decision to essentially only bring it up when facing fines, which mental health issues can negate under the CBA, was weaponization of a deadly serious issue. If he has these issues, I hope he gets help and sees improvement in his life. The reality of Ben Simmons the player though is that he is always going to leave you unsatisfied. He’s an elite defensive player, sure. He’s a good distributor, though not nearly as good as Harden (the difference between Harden this year and the last Ben we saw play is around two assists a game). The reality though is that his refusal to develop literally any kind of shot at all, or even to just become a good foul shooter, leaves your team playing 4 on 5 ball in the half court, which is where the playoffs are played. You can’t win four NBA playoff series that way. The Sixers never did with him, rather predictably. Perhaps as a third option in Brooklyn his flaws can be covered. Let’s be honest though, if you were Kevin Durant, how excited would you be about having to worry about Ben’s offense and Kyrie Irving just deciding he doesn’t feel like playing?
  • Philadelphia fans did nothing but cheer Ben on for years. No one turned on him until he literally blew a playoff series last year, AND demanded a trade. ESPN has hosts insinuating the fans had a part in this, when they ran skits mocking the guy on their shows and even in their awards show. Just stop. James Harden called Philly fans “ride or die” in his press conference. It’s too early to know, but he seems to “get” us, much like a Brian Dawkins or Bryce Harper do. I’m really excited to see how he does here.

I don’t have much political news for you today, from anywhere. Out here the hot races appear to be North Las Vegas Mayor and Sheriff, but I know nothing about either yet, I just saw big signs for those. I have learned that Nevada has super strict campaign finance laws limiting the “hard side” (candidates) and not the “soft side” (outside money), so not as much gets spent on local races here. That empowers power brokers, like the local party. Of course, Nevada does have major races for U.S. Senator, Governor, Congress, and the state legislature, so money will get spent here. I guess I’ll write more when I learn more.

More tomorrow…

2/14/2022 Travel Across America

Yesterday I took the longest flight of my life- 5 hours from Philadelphia to Las Vegas. This is my first time in the west, and the flight mostly didn’t disappoint. It marked the furthest point west I’ve ever reached, and I saw a lot of things for the first time. no matter how many times I fly over the Midwest, it’ll still be cool to me to look over the farms for as far as the eye can see. Then we finally hit Colorado, and I was legitimately disappointed- until we actually hit the Rockies. Looking down at those mountains was officially one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen in my life. Utah and Nevada’s mix of desert and mountains were pretty breathtaking too. The only real mistake I made was doing leg day at the gym the day before a long flight. 6’1” people don’t have legs made to be crunched in like that.

So then there’s Vegas itself, which is definitely the most unique place I’ve been to. Basically when you fly in, you’re in the desert, then you see a little water, then a couple minutes later you leave the desert and are immediately landing in a city. It’s not like Chicago or Philadelphia, where you start seeing suburbs below you, then a city in the distance, then you are there. This was just middle-of-nowhere nothing to city, no in-between. That’s only the beginning of the uniqueness though. As I left the car rental place, the first thing I saw was an anti-circumcision billboard. I got to my place, in a neighborhood packed with bailbonds and marriage chapel places (I’m near the courthouse)- and of course it’s Valentine’s Day, so you can imagine how that was. Finally I took a walk and found a restaurant, Dona Maria Tamales. I had the carnitas taco, a crab enchilada, a seafood enchilada, two Modelo’s, and the whole chips and salsa. It’s a 10/10, I highly recommend it. I was asleep by 8:30 pm local time, after an 18.5 hour day. It was good because I was up early this morning.

My initial thoughts on the Super Bowl? Halftime show great, game weak. Having Dr. Dre and his stable of rap legends play the Super Bowl was the equivalent for hip hop of when Paul McCartney or the Stones played. The show was great, Snoop Dogg is the coolest man in America, and I thought everyone was good. As for the game, of course the refs threw two weak flags at the end that helped LA. Sean McVey has been pushed on us as a genius since he was hired, he needed a win to legitimize that. The game was in LA, the halftime show was a tribute to LA, and the game had to go to LA. Was it rigged? No, if Cincy had killed them, the refs wouldn’t have done anything about it. It was close though, and it went how the NFL wanted it to go. Maybe the fans will sit through the banner ceremony? Doubt it.

Political news? There’s not a whole lot. Back home in Pennsylvania, the redistricting maps all seem bound for court, with the Congressional maps already in front of the PA Supreme Court. This isn’t stopping candidates locally from entering state legislative contests. There appears to be a State Senate primary brewing over in the Allentown-based Senate District 14 for the Democrats. Some party leaders seem to want one in the 137th House District as well, but so far there’s only one candidate. Also keep an eye on House District 22 for a Democratic Primary as well. But for the moment, things are quiet (mostly), because the process is not done.

That’s all for now. It’s a breezy 61 in Las Vegas this morning. Time to get some stuff done.

The Rise of White Conservatism and Death of Big Government

One of the most fascinating things to me in American history is the shift in American politics between 1960 and 1980. In 1960, JFK was elected President and won north of 90% of Catholic Americans, while winning the bulk of the white southern vote. In 1980, Reagan carried both of those groups with relative ease. To read most opinions on why this happened, you get a myriad of excuses- Vietnam, Carter, the sexual revolution, Watergate, etc. All feel like they leave a bit to be explained though. How did we get from LBJ obliterating Goldwater to Reagan and Bush’s landslides of the 80’s?

I think one can find the roots of change in LBJ’s Presidency. While it is true that LBJ passed a bunch of broadly popular programs- a tax cut, the Clean Air Act, and of course, Medicare- LBJ also oversaw an era of major social programs that changed racial politics in America. Most famously he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also ended a 40 year period of extremely restrictive immigration law. He launched a war on poverty, brought unprecedented equity to education funding (for that time), and of course addressed health care for the poor. The fruits of Johnson’s Presidency were not all centered in white suburbia, and that was a fairly new concept at the time.

While much is made of LBJ’s 1964 landslide in American politics, the 1966 midterms should receive at least as much academic attention. It marked the beginning of Republican gains among white blue collar workers, particularly in the South. That trend lead to Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” and 1968 and 1972 electoral victories. In fact, I found this passage from Wikipedia about the 1966 Elections to be particularly illuminating:

“The Republican Party had risked sliding into irrelevance after the disastrous 1964 elections, and the GOP’s victory in this election invigorated the party, strengthening the conservative coalition. The GOP made inroads into the South and among blue collar workers, foreshadowing Nixon’s Southern strategy and the rise of Reagan Democrats, respectively. Among the newly elected Republicans were future presidents Ronald Reagan (who soon became the leader of the right-wing of the Republican Party) as Governor of California and George H. W. Bush as a representative from Texas, and future vice president Spiro Agnew as Governor of Maryland. The election also helped establish former vice president Richard Nixon (who campaigned heavily for Republicans) as a front-runner for the 1968 Republican nomination. President Johnson was mostly unable to pass major expansions to the Great Society in the 90th Congress.[2]

1966 became the beginning of a political trend that catapulted the GOP to political dominance from 1968 to literally today. It produced their next generation of national leaders. It produced the demographic trends that eventually lead to Reagan’s blowouts, and the wave election of 1994, which since the GOP has held the House for 20 of 28 years. In fact, after 1968, the Democratic Party has only held unified control of the White House and both houses of Congress for 10 years out of 54. The 1966 Election marked the end of LBJ’s agenda and power- by 1968 a Democratic Senate refused to hear his Supreme Court pick, and neither house had any interest in his agenda. The Democratic Party never really regained his agenda ever since.

By 1980, Reagan was explicitly making “states rights” speeches in rural southern towns where some of the worst violence of the Civil Rights era had taken place. Less explicitly though, his message was very “us vs. them”- “we” don’t need the big government our grandparents needed when they got off the boat at Ellis Island. He argued rather persuasively that big government was not only no longer helpful, but in his inaugural address in 1981 he literally called it the enemy. His anti-government push had continued on the trends of 1966, as he ripped white southerners away from Carter, and continued to pull northern Catholics away from Democrats as well. He told them they didn’t need big government anymore. They clearly believed it.

This message clearly has worked well beyond Reagan’s Washington. In 1994, Gingrich used it in his “Contract with America” to take power from Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party. In 2000, while George W. Bush did envision some activism from his “Compassionate Conservatism,” the center piece of his economic package remained tax cuts and deregulation. The 2010 “Tea Party” Republican revolution that swept John Boehner and later Paul Ryan to power centered on an attack on the supposed “socialism” of Barack Obama’s early successes. Indeed, the rise of Trumpism and the 2022 GOP strategy against President Biden have largely centered around “us vs. them” rhetoric and an attack on government tax and spend policies under the Democrats. Polling suggests it’s working right now.

It would be foolish to cast this entire argument in racial terms, particularly in light of Democratic declines in polling among black men, Latinos, and even Asians. The post-Reagan Democratic Party has largely centered competency, justice, and equality, more so than big tax, big government solutions. In many ways the debate that started in 1966 has basically ended. Americans, increasingly regardless of race, don’t really want to pay more taxes for a government program that they don’t think benefits them. This has played out in a politically lethal way for Democrats during policy fights over Build Back Better and Obamacare in recent years. Even so, there are those on the left who insist the pathway back to political dominance for Democrats is to propose bigger, more bold leftist programs, like some European governments have popularly enacted. They mistakenly believe that Americans not voting for Democrats want that.

What these critics miss is that the “small government” message has largely worked against Democrats. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden largely have won by standing out from public perceptions of the party. While many inside the party believe that Democrats would simply win more if more people voted, and feel vindicated by record 2020 turnout for Biden’s victory, they can’t quite explain the down ballot losses Democrats took in the same election, or Trump’s 2016 victory in a record turnout election. People miss that most non-voting population members don’t believe government really works for them either, hence their lack of interest. Frankly, they’re fertile ground for conservatism in an age of anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories.

Democrats aren’t going to win sustained power by proposing “free stuff” and big, bold legislative action. That’s been true for over 50 years. It’s true now. Too much libertarian ideology is baked into people. Smaller, more directly impactful victories on matters of tangible significance will go so much further than large ideological war.

So now, about those insulin prices…

The People You Will Meet…

I’ve been doing political campaigns for 20 years. I’ve found several basic types drawn to politics in that time.

  1. People that want to be important- this is self explanatory, it’s all about egos. They love hearing themselves talk. They’re pretty sure they could do every job in government better than everybody else, despite no special expertise. They want to be in the news at all times. God sent them to lead. They’re gasbags.
  2. Edgelords- everybody in the government always sucks, and they’re going to come along and overthrow the whole system, because they’re bold. They’ve been here for 5 minutes and they’re telling you how you could do your job better. And how that thing you did that was really awesome, it actually sucks. You don’t know what you’re doing, follow them and you’ll see how to fix all the world’s problems faster than “90 Day Fiancé.”
  3. Saviors- they’re going to save the world, just ask them. Because, you know, the last folks who came along planning to do this didn’t “try hard enough,” or something. They’ve got a plan for everything, just ask them. The Messiah has arrived!
  4. Legit elites- Do you know where my degree is from? Do you know what member of Congress I worked for? Bro, do you know who I am? Seriously though, in almost every case their parents paid for their Capitol Hill apartment, which explains how they took a $35k a year job in DC.
  5. Trolls and Insurrectionists- I’m not going to talk about these people, because they almost certainly have a gun and will kill me. I’m not as about that life as I was in 2016.
  6. Neckbeards- The dude in the Center City coffee shop that’s really caught up in philosophy. Like, really…

There’s plenty of good and competent people around too. They take their time, learn how to navigate the system to get things done. They’re smart. Maybe they’re a little less inspiring to you, but they do a basically good job. To be honest, you may never even notice them. They may have started as one or more of the first six types. We don’t thank these folks enough…

Biden’s First Year and the “Boring” Presidency

A friend who voted for Joe Biden but is extremely skeptical of his performance recently asked me how I think he is doing at the end of his first year. My answer was a quick “pretty good,” and that shocked them. They asked how I could possibly say that? Am I not watching inflation? Covid? Russia? Are my just that partisan?

The truth is that I’ve had this same conversation with people to my left and right, and the generally less ideological types like this person. In virtually all of their cases, they’ve bought into a media narrative that Biden hasn’t done very much, spends lots of time battling moderate Democratic Senators, and is overwhelmed. The news does sound like that some days. There’s not a lot of truth to that though.

Let’s step back and take an outcome based view of the first year though. Unemployment is at an all-time low and the market at an all-time high. At this time, 77.7% of eligible Americans (anyone 5+) have been jabbed at least once with the Covid vaccine, totaling over 205 million people to date. President Biden signed a multi-trillion dollar Covid recovery bill that saved and kept countless small businesses open and literally saved millions of jobs, while getting critical aid to states, counties, towns, and hospitals on the front lines fighting Covid. He also signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill of over $1 trillion that represents the largest singular investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway System into law. The child tax credit and other measures in the Covid recovery bill are cutting child poverty in half in our nation. President Biden has also appointed and seated 40 federal judges in his first year, blowing away any predecessor in recent times. The booming economy and historic vaccine distribution alone should get him high marks. Ending America’s longest running war ever, which after 20 years had been bipartisanly called for by our last two Presidents, is a vastly under appreciated achievement. While I love them, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would kill for his first year, legislatively. He’s done all of this, by the way, with a historic Vice-President who is redefining what American power looks like, and who has access to it. That the totality of this first year record is not the story being carried in the American press and inside the Beltway is a sign of failure both by the press and those tasked with defending him. President Biden just had the best, and most consequential year of any President since LBJ’s opening 13 months.

With all of that said, there have been failings, miscalculations, and mistakes that deserve criticism. Inflation was inevitable in an economy coming out of a year lockout, with people back at work and flush with cash again, but the White House seemed to be caught flat footed and without a message on the matter. Leaving Afghanistan was inevitably going to be ugly and disappointing, as any withdrawal from a failed state is, but the scenes of chaos from Kabul were dispiriting even for supporters. Russia is sitting at the Ukraine border ready to invade an ally we’ve sworn to defend. The decision to tie Build Back Better to the infrastructure bill nearly sank a very popular bill. Allowing the Build Back Better plan to start out as an impossibly large grab bag of unrelated policies, then to allow Senators Manchin and Sinema to spend months not defining their terms while holding a veto over the bill has made BBB sap the President’s popularity in the same way initially popular, large pieces of legislation damaged Presidents Clinton and Obama going into their first midterm. Allowing Democratic Senators to behave helplessly while blaming the White House on student loan debt forgiveness, when the White House should be directly calling on them by name to write a damn bill, has allowed a false narrative on the issue to set in. And yes, the anonymous “insider” attacks on the Vice-President are a disgrace. Absolutely everything I’ve cited here is a cosmetic mistake, and doesn’t change the reality of his consequential first year in office at all, yet. They don’t change my view of him at all, but I follow this stuff closer than 99% of America. These unforced errors have allowed lazy, stupid narratives to exist.

When someone wearing a “Let’s go Brandon” shirt complains about Biden, my general rule is to dismiss the attacks. Most of them are still dealing with the hurt feelings of their leader suffering the worst defeat of an incumbent in 40 years. Biden’s drop in approval amongst everyone else is concerning. This is a guy who flew above the Democratic brand in 2020, a guy who was viewed differently by the public even a year ago. We knew the brand has problems. We had no reason to think Joe Biden did. On the one hand, he’s been squeezed by those to his left trying to bring him around to their primary policy positions from 2020. This was probably inevitable, as these folks bit the bullet and voted for him, but really thought 2020 was their chance for bigger, progressive changes, and they’re not ready to let the dream die. Biden was also squeezed by the DC professional class and the large “outside” progressive groups in year one, who spent a lot of money to get him elected and now want their policies enacted. Really though, the most alarming drop has been among the less ideological former supporters who gave him his margin in 2020. If nothing about Joe changed, then what did?

Here’s the President’s main problem: he’s boring as ****. Yes, he does have charisma beyond the average Senator, but let’s be honest- he’s not tweeting threats at random Senators and world leaders from his toilet at 1am, he’s not mesmerizing like the Obamas, he’s not a wartime President like Dubya, and he’s neither as cool or as flawed as Bill Clinton. There’s not talk of Russia controlling him. There’s no talk of paying off adult film stars. No playing the saxophone. No first black President. No “strategery” or “human and fish can coexist” talk. No speeches about mushroom clouds. The Biden Presidency is the most boring in 30 years. Just policy pronouncements. His marriage is functional and loving. No hiring his moron kids, no refusal to divest from his companies. Just boring, old government.

I’m going to be honest- I enjoy it, it’s refreshing. Just put an adult in the White House and govern. Sure, Obama and Clinton were fun because they were interesting and competent. After Trump though, please bore me to sleep. Tell me the President is sleeping at 1am. I do get that it’s bad for the media, the lack of ratings and clicks is driving them to cover what press assistant left the VP’s office. They can’t function like this- and for that, I say good.

The problem is, and I’ll be honest again here- I’m not sure this is going to work anymore. Can a boring Presidency work in a nation with a 24/7 news cycle/echo chamber on their television/computer/phone? Polling suggests maybe not. If this ends in anything but a re-election speech, it may be the last time we see it tried.

F*** Your Feelings, AND Your Insurrection

On the morning of January 6th, a few thousand losers descended on the National Mall to rally with a President who had just lost his re-election by over 7 million votes, the largest margin in a national election in 12 years. The legitimately defeated President egged on his supporters and lead them to commit the worst terrorist act on American soil since at least 9/11. They weren’t tourists visiting the capitol. The people who stormed the Capitol were not patriots. They were domestic terrorists who defied and physically beat police officers, while stating they wanted to hang the Vice-President and others. They were the equivalent of toddlers throwing a hissy fit because they didn’t get their way. Those who attacked our Capitol were nothing short of criminal thugs, and should be treated as such.

Is my description of January 6th a little bit harsh? No, actually. It’s accurate. What I don’t understand is why this has grown more and more controversial by the day since it happened. Why members of Congress, GOP leaders, and even common Republican voters, almost all of which are good and decent people with whom I happen to disagree with on politics, are defending actions they themselves knew were wrong enough that they didn’t take part in themselves. One can oppose Joe Biden, dislike the way the election was carried out in the pandemic, think Trump was mistreated by Democrats and the media, and hold conservative views, but still know right and wrong enough to avoid taking part in an insurrection. 99.9% of Republicans did. One can be a staunch conservative and recognize that anyone involved in that nonsense should be held accountable, criminally where appropriate. There’s no reason to defend bad behavior that you yourself would not participate in. You’re not responsible for it. Republicans at the time understood this. Cabinet members, White House staffers, and Republican members of Congress denounced these violent thugs that day, some even resigned over it. Now they are almost universally defending these bums, all for cynical, political calculations.

There are lots of things wrong with a Democratic Party that is struggling to pass popular infrastructure legislation despite majorities in both houses. One can largely reject the policy and political failings of that party, but still recognize the rot at the core of the current GOP. Had the GOP rejected the insurrectionists and criminals of January 6th as a whole, they would deserve to be able to leave the terrible events of that day in the past. Instead, we are seeing them run these thugs for office (such as the GOP County Executive nominee here in Northampton County PA) and embrace their lies at a national level. We cannot allow a party willing to do that back into power. This was not a minor event. It was a very serious one. We should treat it as such.