Good Friday Morning, especially to Johnson & Johnson, whose COVID-19 was finally approved by the FDA for emergency use. Johnson & Johnson says they can delivery 30 million doses of the vaccine to the United States by the end of March. Remember, this vaccine is a single-shot, so 30 million doses is 30 million people vaccinated. After that, they plan to deliver 100 million doses by June.
Bloomberg’s health reporters, crunching the numbers between Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, think the United States could get enough doses to vaccinate 130 million people, double doses included, by the end of March. That’s on top of the 68.3 million doses already administered. By the end of July, we’re talking north of 400 million doses, more than needed to vaccinate everyone in America.
I said on the podcast this week that the winter surge is over. I stand by that, the numbers continue to reflect the end of the winter surge. I also stand by the prediction that if you want a vaccine, regardless of age/health status, you’ll be able to get one by late March or April. We’re also much closer to herd immunity than the government is letting on. If you take the median model expectation that approximately 30% of the country has had COVID-19 (symptomatic or not) and combine it with the percentage of people with at least one vaccine dose, then approximately 40-45% of the country has some level of immunity, and that’s growing every day.
Threshold herd immunity is typically in the 60% range, and for a highly transmissible virus like this, we probably need closer to 75%. But as Youyang Gu explains, we might not need to worry about herd immunity, because the percentage of the population who is highly susceptible to COVID-19 is dropping dramatically too.
It’s all good news on the pandemic front, contrary to the Biden administration and national media’s coverage. This week, I’m focusing in on the return of Trump to the political scene, why the second impeachment helped him, and what I think the political landscape will be moving forward.
Where you can find me this week
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Rush Limbaugh reigned with a golden microphone – The Conservative Institute.
The national media’s latest hit job on DeSantis and Florida – The Conservative Institute.
Trump’s Return and Biden’s Folly
It’s nice when you sit down to write, and a story drops right as you’re getting ready that gives you a great topic. The story is this, it comes from Fox News and Bret Baier. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was interviewed by Baier and one of the topics was 2024. The exchange that came out:
After Mitch McConnell said a number of senators are likely to run in 2024, BretBaier asked what he would do if Trump was the nominee.
Baier: “If the President was the party’s nominee [in 2024], would you support him?”
McConnell: “The nominee of the party? Absolutely.”
McConnell’s statement kicked off predictable outcry on certain parts of the right, particularly the segment opposed to Trump. Allahpundit of HotAir said, “The McConnell view: Coup attempts are bad, but certainly not disqualifying for the highest office in the land.” Stephen Hayes added, “Really bad day for sane conservatism. Today, Mitch McConnell said he’d support Trump as the GOP nominee in 2024. Two weeks ago, McConnell blamed Trump for the Capitol assault. And Chip Roy condemned Liz Cheney for saying what she’s said all along – and what he said last month.”
There were others. And on some level, I get it. They’re incredulous because Trump is effectively going to walk away from the 2020 election, and the events of January 6, 2021, mostly scott-free. And not only does it appear like that day won’t have any impact on Trump, the radioactive effects I thought would have lingering implications for the Republican Party and politics, in general, have largely subsided.
Here’s what I wrote the day after January 6:
Politics have dramatically shifted for Republicans. The impacts of this event will have a radioactive afterglow for a while. If Trump resigns or gets impeached, it will linger for far longer, and I’d expect it to hit the 2022 midterm elections.
Here’s why. Initially, I thought coming out of the election that Trump had a clear path towards winning re-election in 2024. Biden would flounder with a tight Congress. Republicans could win control of both chambers in 2022 and set up 2024 as the chance to retake everything. Biden would have to run with a record instead of being the figment of people’s imaginations.
But that’s gone now. That’s not happening. Everything I wrote pre-election about the Democratic Party still holds, for the most part. Biden has the unenviable task of holding together a coalition of Democrats that hate each other after 2020. Republicans, though, as Karl Rove writes in WSJ, are in disarray.
For starters, the results of Trump’s loss could depress his base. If his voters stop voting, Republicans will have to assemble a new coalition for 2022 and 2024. If they lack that in 2022, it could make things harder to win across the board. Convincing people the election wasn’t stolen requires hard work. People have to believe in the system. Restoring trust is imperative.
So what changed? Two things I didn’t anticipate. First, Donald Trump’s entire social media presence got nuked overnight. His capacity to harm himself through dumb tweets was gone. Second, Democrats thoroughly FUBAR’d the impeachment. The second Democratic effort to impeach Donald Trump went so bad politically that they ended up helping Trump.
There was absolutely enough political pressure to impeach Donald Trump among Republicans. If Nancy Pelosi was good at her job, she would have whipped Republican votes and had Republican Representatives and Senators making the argument to impeach Trump. She could have effectively destroyed the Republican Party if she made impeachment a bipartisan process.
The problem is that Nancy Pelosi is not good at her job. She has precisely one political tool at her disposal: ram something through on partisan party lines. Combine her fumbling (twice!) of impeachment and the epic disaster that was the House impeachment managers, and you get Trump walking away (again) from an impeachment mostly unscathed. Impeachment likely ended up helping Trump, restoring him nearly to where he was before January 6. It was a self-own of epic proportions by Democrats.
Trump wasn’t a political loser.
So here we sit with McConnell saying he’ll support the Republican nominee, even if it’s Trump in 2024. This fact should be unsurprising to anyone familiar with what happened in the November election.
On the anti-Trump right, this narrative developed that Trump left the 2020 election a political loser. I blame David French at The Dispatch and Time Magazine for this awful talking point. He keeps referring to Trump as a political Herbert Hoover. He had a Time column that began:
As the second impeachment trial opens for Donald Trump, it’s worth asking a question—why does one of modern America’s greatest political losers still seem to have a tight grip on the Republican Party? After all, Trump achieved a level of presidential political failure not seen since Herbert Hoover. In his single presidential term, he lost the House, the Senate, and the presidency. He entered the Oval Office with his party ascendant. He left the Oval Office with his party shut out of electoral power.
This argument has all the compelling power of cow excrement. French entered the election wanting to call Trump a loser no matter what the outcome. He’s sought to continue that thought post-election.
When Herbert Hoover lost his race in 1932, Republicans got wiped out by FDR and the New Deal coalition with the Great Depression impacting every single part of society. Of the then-48 US states, FDR won 42 of them. Democrats had massive, historic majorities in the House and Senate. FDR could do whatever he wanted with majorities that big. Republicans got wiped out, and Hoover (unfairly) got blamed for the Depression and the fallout.
Donald Trump didn’t experience anything like that. It was quite the opposite. Republicans won seats in the House and held the Senate to 50-50 (Republicans should have won at least one of the GA Senate races, Trump cost Republicans those Senate seats for sure). And much like 2016, 2020 was decided on thin margins. Here’s how thin:
Aaron Blake calculates that Republicans came within 90,000 votes — 43,000 votes for president, 32,000 votes for the House and 14,000 votes for the Senate — from controlling all of Washington.
And Trump did that in the middle of a pandemic complete with a summer of race riots. Trump did better in the crazy political environment than Hoover. For a losing President, he left his party in the perfect position to retake the House and Senate in 2022 and likely be in a prime position to dominate both chambers for the rest of the decade.
So when pundits or reporters ask, “How is it possible for Trump to lose and continue to maintain such a hold over the Republican Party!?” The answer is simple: 90,000 votes. That’s the margin from losing and taking everything. Republicans have four years to find and flip 90,000 votes. There’s a lot of politicians who are looking at those results thinking, “we should just run this whole thing back.” Election data backs those politicians up.
The Turnout Issue for the GOP.
And the issue is that Republicans face a complicated problem: how do you turn Trump voters back out? That Georgia Senate race looms large in all their heads. People who believed the election was stolen didn’t vote in Georgia. Republicans have to figure out how to get those people to turn out while finding or flipping 90k voters in a few states. If you kick Trump out of the party, you risk alienating that voting base and rebuilding from scratch, a tall ordeal.
The only way the GOP moves beyond Trump is when Trump decides he’s done with politics or can’t run again. That’s when the post-Trump era begins. Any person or group holding a panel on what happens “post-Trump” has put the cart before the horse.
The x-factor for the next four years, in both the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election, is this: can Republicans turn voters out who believe the election was stolen and build on the Trump coalition? If yes, then Republicans have an electoral edge in the next decade. If not, then Republicans had better win over another group of voters to replace the election truthers. Other than that, I’ve returned to my view of politics before the election, which I laid out in a long piece here:
If Trump loses, his political impact will lessen only insofar that he won’t hold political office and the cultural power that holds. It won’t be a dramatic drop-off. Modern American presidents continue to have an impact on politics long after they leave the office. Both Bush Presidents are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. After he lost in 1932, Herbert Hoover spent the next 32 years attacking and criticizing every administration. Richard Nixon wrote multiple best-selling books and presidents and politicians sought his input and advice. Jimmy Carter has never been shy about calling George W. Bush’s presidency the “the worst in US history,” or saying Trump is “illegitimate.” George H. W. Bush lost his race in 1992, and his sons, Jeb and George W., both became governors of Florida and Texas only a few years later.
The point is this: the belief that Trump will go away — win or lose — ignores the political reality that no President has “gone away” except by choice. Nixon is instructive here — if not even Watergate can end the political power of a former president, then what proof is there a Trump election loss would do the same? It would be remarkably easy to blame a Trump loss on COVID-19, the media, riots, or more — all of which conservatives of various stripes would believe. Future presidential candidates will seek out Trump’s advice and approval on winning the primaries. Trump won’t reject that attention. And there’s not a shred of evidence Trump will take the Bush path of leaving the public eye.
This point is true even of the last few presidential and even vice-presidential candidates in the Republican Party. John McCain lost his race and continued his legacy in shaping the Senate, including stopping the repeal of ACA. Mitt Romney is in the Senate and is currently the only Senator to vote to impeach his party’s president. It’s an open question over whether Romney has any real political power, though. Both McCain and Romney families are involved in politics at a national level at various capacities. Sarah Palin, for all the talk about how she sunk the McCain ticket, was for a time one of the biggest proponents of the Tea Party, helping raise money, speaking at events, and touring the country to build support.
The 2020 election finds the Republican Party with a slogan of Make America Great Again or Keep America Great, but without a unifying ideology that explains what is great or needs conserving. Various ideologies are fighting over pole position to define that question, and Trump’s win or loss will impact those groups. It likely won’t impact the degree to which Trump has an impact himself. In a way, Trump represents the perfect distillation of the modern Republican Party, he doesn’t have a governing ideology, and neither does the party. A convention without a party platform is the perfect distillation of that point. And if you’re one of these factions vying for future power, no platform is the best news of all. That means the future is truly up for grabs.
The other thing that’s going to happen: Biden will struggle to have an effective Presidency. It’s instructive that he’s signing all these executive orders. That’s a sign from the White House that they don’t believe they’ll get many or any legislative victories, and they’re not planning on it. COVID-19 relief will happen, as will some budget deals. But otherwise, it’s all up to executive orders.
Biden won’t fulfill many or any of his campaign promises. That’s going to impact his popularity and support, which was never strong. Biden was a compromise candidate. But his mouth cut a lot of checks he’s not going to be able to cash in the coming years.
I’m going to end with this point. There’s an “is/ought” problem in all this discourse surrounding Trump. Trump ought to be punished for what happened on January 6. Is he going to be pushed? Unlikely. That day was a disgrace. But it doesn’t appear Trump will face any consequences. That’s the reality of this. Long term, that’s not a good thing because it tells future politicians they can attack the American political system with impunity if they lose.
That’s a bad precedence to set. Unfortunately, we’re going to encounter that bridge again later on. Politics is cyclical, and the things one party does can reverberate back on them with the other side doing the same thing. If a Democrat took Trump’s actions, many right-leaning people would have called for impeachment too.
Links of the week
U.S. Airstrikes in Syria Target Iran-Backed Militias That Rocketed American Troops in Iraq: President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes against the militias whose attacks in Erbil this month killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member. – NYT
Sasse Blasts Becerra: ‘Hell of a Lot More Dangerous Than Tanden’ – National Review
The Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power – The New Yorker
Hunter Biden was living with his brother Beau’s widow Hallie while sending raunchy texts and FaceTiming in the shower with her married SISTER as they declared their love and she called him her ‘prince’ – The Daily Mail
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Biden Clarifies That Stimulus Checks Are ‘Just An Idea’ – Babylon Bee
Google Translate Adds Biden Option – Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!