DeMarco: Democrats and Independents: The Time to Stop Trump is Feb. 24

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Rarely does a state have an opportunity to make history the way we do on Feb. 24 in the Republican presidential primary election.

South Carolina may be Nikki Haley’s last chance to derail Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. It will be hard for Haley to justify remaining in the race until Super Tuesday without a strong showing here.

I won’t rehearse all the reasons Trump is bad for America, just two quick points. First, Republicans could get all they say they want – conservative policies, family values, and respect for the Constitution – from Mike Pence and several other prominent Republicans. Yet they are drawn to Trump’s scorched-earth approach, despite the Sisyphean rock of baggage he bears.

Second, Trump has proven he is dangerously unpredictable. Almost no one on Jan. 5, 2021 would have predicted what happened the next day: a sitting president encouraged his VP to overturn the will of the people, exhorted the gathered crowd to march on the Capitol, and then watched passively for three hours as they ransacked it. When he finally sent out a Twitter video asking the crowd to disperse, his message to the rioters included “We love you; you’re very special.”

S.C. Democrats and Independents propelled Biden to the nomination in 2020. Our task in 2024 will be less comfortable and potentially riskier. Like me, you may prefer Biden over Haley and have deep policy disagreements with her. But this election is less about the candidates than about America herself. Both Biden and Haley will try to leave America better than they found her. Trump has no such desire.

If you are like many in this state and nation, you have had Trump’s number since he first announced for president in 2015. You recognized what a small, soulless human being he was. You understood his drive to be revered and his dearth of compassion and loyalty. Over the past eight years, you have endured his fountain of lies, from the claim that Obama was not a citizen to his claim that he won in 2020. You’ve asked yourself again and again, is this is the best the Republicans can do?

This is your moment. The turnout in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 3 was predictably low, since Biden had only token opposition. Only about 131,000 voters participated (about 4 percent of the state’s more than 3 million registered voters). In 2020, when the outcome was not a foregone conclusion, about 540,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. That means more than 400,000 voters who turned out in 2020 stayed home this year.

So if you’re a Democrat or Independent who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote on Feb. 3, you can make history. If we leave the election to usual Republican primary voters, the latest polls predict Trump will win by 65 percent to 35 percent. If there is healthy turnout, say 700,000 votes, then the final tally will be roughly Trump 455,000, Haley 245,000, a difference of 210,000 votes.

The 400,000 of you who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary but not in the 2024 primary can swing this election. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of others who didn’t vote in the 2020 primaries who could vote this time around. Everyone, yes everyone, except the 131,000 who voted on Feb. 3, is eligible to vote in the Republican primary (South Carolina has an open primary system, so you can vote in one primary or the other, but not both).

There are two ways to use this power. One is cynically, by trying to elect the weakest opponent for the other side so your candidate can beat them in the general. The better way is to help elect the strongest candidate for the other side, so that America will have the best choice possible. If Haley wins and then goes on to beat Biden in the general, I will disagree with some of her policies, but the country will be in sane, stable hands.

Imagine you have an infant child or grandchildren. How will you explain your vote for Trump to them in 15 years, when they are old enough to understand politics? I suspect many South Carolinians regret their vote for Strom Thurmond as candidate for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 (more than 70% of SC voters chose him) or for George Wallace in 1968 (over 30% of SC voters). How an evangelical Christian will explain his or her vote for Trump in 15 years to intense questioning from a skeptical teenager, I have no idea (although I would pay to watch it).

I am hoping South Carolina plays the role Iowa did in January 2008 in its first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucus. In a state with challenging demographics, Barack Obama won and was propelled to a general election victory over John McCain. Whether or not you agree with Obama on policy, his respect for the office was clear. He adhered to essential presidential norms and left the fundamentals of American democracy as strong as he found them. Needless to say, if someone with McCain’s integrity was the Republican front-runner in 2024, this column would never have been written.

On Feb. 24, we can make a statement similar to the one our countrymen and -women in Iowa made 16 years ago. We can signal the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s political career by voting for Nikki Haley.

A version of this column appeared in the Feb. 14 edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

Lindsey Graham throws away his very last excuse

Graham speaking about the vote in question.

Ever since Lindsey Graham apparently went stark, raving mad in 2016, a person inclined to make excuses for him might have said, “Well, he’s just getting close to the madman in order to be close enough to hold him in check.” Particularly on national security issues, because the madman is particularly dangerous there. (Did you notice him once again attacking NATO and defending Putin the other day?)

That would be the last excuse that anyone could possibly offer for Lindsey constantly licking Trump’s shoes. And occasionally, he has in the past given indications of this, as when he strongly protested Trump’s outrageous abandonment of U.S. allies in Syria in 2019:

“This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I’m an ISIS fighter I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated you will soon see,” Graham said during an interview on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.”

“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view,” the South Carolina Republican added….

Yeah, you did. That time.

But look at what he did this week. When Mitch McConnell was trying to pass a deal to send Ukraine the aid it desperately needs, this happened:

This was something that McConnell obviously cared about. You heard him there. But for the senators more closely aligned with Donald Trump’s anti-alliance, America-first wing, this is just not the kind of foreign commitment that makes sense. Let’s focus on South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham for a second. He’s long been emblematic of this kind of pro-military intervention, pro-military aid, robust leader of the free world Republican mindset. But he’s also grown close to Donald Trump, right? Last night, in a statement, he announced his opposition to this deal and called for changes to the bill in the House when it gets to the House that Trump had suggested. In some ways, that’s a surprise coming from him, given his policy legacy. But it’s also just kind of part and parcel of the fact that this Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, John McCain era of the Republican Party is basically at a close…

That’s it, Lindsey. You’ve thrown away your last excuse…

The most interesting SC legislative contest of 2024 (so far)

Ott leaving the scene of his announcement today…

So far, at least. I just started paying attention. But it won’t surprise me if this remains the most interesting.

I didn’t take an interest in this one until I saw Sen. Dick Harpootlian lashing out at Rep Russell Ott last week, and realized these two very different Democrats would be facing each other in a primary in June.

It wasn’t until today that I finally realized that this is the Senate district I live in! I mean, I knew Nikki Setzler, whose sign I’ve been proud to post in my yard in recent years, would no longer be my senator. But I didn’t realize this was who would be running — on the Democratic side — to replace him.

My Neanderthal mind was already boggled a bit by the fact that somehow these two guys were in the same district. Dick, who lives in — well, I’m not sure of his address, but it’s in the Democratic part of Columbia. Russell lives on Ott Farm Trail in St. Matthews, which is way down the road from Shandon, Wales Garden and environs.

So imagine how much more surprising — what a “Duh!” moment it was for me — it was to learn that this guy from way over in suburban Columbia and this guy from quite a bit down the road toward Charleston were running to represent me, over in Quail Hollow.

But it’s true. I think. I’m still a bit confused. (Which I guess makes me more like most citizens, who couldn’t tell you who represents them to save their lives.)

So… this being my district, I’ve got a decision to make between two serious candidates — assuming I vote in the Democratic state primary this time (meaning I pass up on having a say in local Lexington County elections), which I’m likely to do simply because of this race.

I’ve been really impressed by the job Dick has done since entering the Senate. And as you know, past performance counts for a lot with me. Once, he was the guy journalists loved because he was a quote machine — of the edgy, to-hell-with-what-people-think, Fritz Hollings variety. Now, this wise guy is something of an elder statesman, after his own fashion.

However, the less provocational Russell Ott has made a good impression in the House ever since he succeeded his Dad, Harry, in the seat back in 2013. And I got to work with him a bit during the Smith campaign in 2018 (although we never did quite pull together that presser I wanted to do out in the middle of a farm field, to talk about how Henry’s hero Trump’s embargo was hurting farmers). And as you know, he’s possibly the only pro-life Democrat (or one of very few) in the Legislature, as I wrote back here.

That’s a plus for me, and probably plays better out in the country where Russell lives than it it does in Dick’s stomping grounds. It won’t win him all that many friends among the residents of Shandon, where one of his House colleagues won two years ago by hard-selling her Democratic orthodoxy in the wake of Dobbs.

In fact, I first heard about this contest from a tweet Dick posted last week pounding Russell on this point of party heresy. Thereby causing me to immediately sympathize with Russell — although of course Dick, the former state party chairman, knows that part of the electorate. Which is why Democrats seldom listen to my advice on this matter.

Dick made his announcement last month. Although it was odd that he said he was “running for re-election” when this is his first time running in this district. Still, I’ve give him the edge right now. But we’ll see.

As a voter, I’ve got a lot of studying to do. That’s why I ran downtown today to try to catch Russell’s announcement. But I headed out way too late to deal with the parking challenges. I missed the whole announcement — but the candidate and some supporters were still there, so I got the picture above.

Watch this space. I’ll try to do better as we go along…

From Dick’s Twitter page…

I’m more of a Neanderthal than you are…

Well, probably. Statistically speaking…

Yes, I got my results back from 23andMe today! And that’s one of the headlines: “Hey Brad!
You have more Neanderthal DNA than 61% of other customers.”

And I’m not a bit insulted, as I will explain. In fact, on receiving the news, I played a bit to the stereotype of my people, taking my phone over to my wife (who gave me the new DNA kit for Christmas) and saying “Uhn!” Then pointing clumsily to the screen with my prehistoric finger, and elaborating, “Errg, uhn, uhn!

But they were grunts of pride.

You see, the Neanderthal thing is one of the reasons I wanted 23andMe — Ancestry doesn’t give you that.

I will of course in the coming days bore you no end with details as I find them, but for today, here are the top three highlights:

  1. The Neanderthal thing. Actually, less than 2 percent of my DNA comes from this human species that went extinct 40,000 years ago. That’s why 23andMe leads with the 61 percent comparison. More impressive. But let me get started on defending my peaceful people, who were minding their own business, comfortably wrapped in furs in Northern Europe after the last Ice Age, when you people came sweeping up from down South and wiped us all out — after a slight bit of, well, socializing, which led to that little bit of DNA that remains. Anyway, something you should know: You call yourselves “sapiens.” But Neanderthals had bigger brains. Look it up.
  2. The breaking of the Great White Wall. Not the smashing of it, I suppose, but at least a crack or two. You know how Ancestry has been telling me for years and years that I’m the whitest white boy at Bypass High? Well, while 23andMe agrees that I’m 99.8 percent Northwestern European, I have finally found a bit of variety in my heritage. And not just, say, Italian. To find out what I am, I have to click on the “Trace Ancestry” button, which tells me I’m… a tenth of a percent Somali! Which is way cool. No, I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince people to consider me a “person of color,” and they’re still going to hold me responsible for that my Viking and Norman and English and white American ancestors did. And it gives me little in common with most African-Americans, who tend to be from West Africa. But hey, it’s something…
  3. No answer on the Scottish Question. As you know, I’ve been marveling at the way Ancestry keeps recalculating my ethnicity, and for whatever reason deciding I’m more and more Scottish. Which has puzzled me no end — although I have been noticing more and more ancestors who are indeed of the Caledonian persuasion (such as the lady accused, quite unfairly I might add, of being a witch). So I was hoping my second DNA test might shed a little light on the matter from a different perspective. Alas, the perspective was too different. This service slices the pie so differently that I can’t make a clear comparison. Ancestry says I’m 27 percent English and Northwestern European, 8 percent Irish, 7 percent Welsh, and a whopping 47 percent Scottish. 23andMe says I’m 92.3 percent “British and Irish,” and doesn’t seem to breakdowns of that big number in a way that I can compare. Oh, well.

Of course, the main thing to me is the DNA matches to real people. I got into this years ago to help with building my family tree, so that’s what I’ll mostly be concentrating on as I study these results. Some of my relatives (such as my mother and brother) have done Ancestry DNA. Some others (such as three of my kids and two of my grandchildren) have gone the 23andMe route. I’m going to enjoy cross-referencing all those cousins and such to fill out and understand my tree better. That’s the main point.

So far, I haven’t looked much at the health or traits stuff. I figure at my age, if I’m going to get something because of my genes, I’ve probably got it already…

Great, but Jimmy Carter’s the one I’d really love to meet

I may have mentioned that I finally got fed up with the fundraising texts from Sherrod Brown, which sometimes came multiple times in a day. So I said STOP, and they stopped — except for once or twice, when I assume the algorithm was referring to the wrong list.

So now I mostly only get them from Joe, and that’s fine. I’m happy to keep them coming, and once of these days I’m actually going to send him tiny amount of money — which I know won’t have any effect, and certainly won’t stop the texts, but it will make me happy to do something for Joe.

I got this one today for I think the second time. It has the above image and says:

Biden HQ: Brad, we have an exciting announcement 

We just launched a sweepstakes to give supporters like you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet President Biden, President Obama, AND President Clinton all together.

We’ll cover the flight and hotel costs — all you have to do is chip in $20 now to support the Biden-Harris reelection campaign and Democrats nationwide:
https://m.joebiden.com/vaokewi0

STOP2quit

Again, at some point I’ll give the $20. But I don’t need the sweepstakes thing. I mean, I’ve had the chance to talk at length with Joe several times, and with Obama a couple of times. And I’ve at least been at an event where Bill spoke once, here in Columbia — in ’92, I think.

And I’d be fine seeing all of them again — especially Joe, just to thank him for running (I haven’t seen him since 2018) and to tell him to hang in there with all the gratuitous garbage thrown at him — but it bugs me that someone would be missing.

You know who I’ve love to chat with? Jimmy Carter. I met him once at an event in Memphis, when he was first running in 1976. Which was awesome. I was there to cover a speaking event, and there was this small reception afterward — I guess for donors and such, but somehow I had arranged to get in. And I’m pretty sure I shook hands with him. But since I’m not sure that I did, and I was such a Jimmy fan that it seems I’d remember it, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I was young and priggish as a journalist about acting like a normal person by getting friendly with the newsmaker. But it would have been really rude not to at least shake hand, since I was just there in the small group and not segregated off with media. So I think I did, and I hope so.

But to settle the matter, he’s the one I’d like to meet — among living former presidents who would be likely to support Joe. And I know he’s in hospice, and probably not up to seeing visitors. But I still wish I could. I’d give more than $20, and drive there on my own dime, if y’all could swing that. You three guys could come, too.

That would be something…

Our great national tragedy: No Leo McGarry

I’ve been re-watching “The West Wing” lately, which can make a guy wistful, if he loves his country.

Most recently, I watched a scene in which Toby presides over a “let’s get serious” meeting with a group of congressmen, including the Republicans who are blocking the Bartlet administration’s effort to allow sampling in the census.

That was a realistic scene, when it was first aired. Such a meeting today would be impossible. The Republicans in the room were raising thoughtful, serious objections to sampling (which even Toby admits privately, after the meeting). Things like that don’t happen anymore. Certainly not with House members.

Anyway, Trey Walker and I haven’t communicated directly in awhile, at least since I was on the opposite side in the 2018 election. But then last night he tweeted:

Well, I had started responding to him before I even saw his followup tweet:

We would live in such a better world if Leo, and of course, John Spencer, were among us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve discussed Leo here before, of course. And Bryan posted this transcript of one of his best scenes. I tried and tried to find video of it to include here, but the best I could find was this murky still image. Which reminds us of The West Wing’s one flaw — the White House wasn’t that DARK. Nor are congressional hearing rooms…

What happened to Apollo Creed?

Hey, he looked fit to ME…

You may start seeing more of this kind of post, now that I’m over 70.

But my concern here grows out of something that’s bothered me for decades.

When Carl Weathers died several days ago, The New York Times reported:

His family said in a statement that he “died peacefully in his sleep.” The statement did not give a cause or say where he died.

Come on, people! How did he die?

This kind of thing has bothered me since my earliest days in the newspaper racket. When somebody dies, the cause of death should be right there in the lede. Especially in news stories, but also in obits. This is particularly the case in people who die young.

I see a person who looks about 20 in a photo with an obit, and the first thing I think is, “Maybe it’s an old picture.” Then, when I see it isn’t, I think, “What happened?”

I mean, don’t you? But too often, you’re told nothing. Or maybe, just maybe, the family will request donations to a fund that fights a deadly disease, and at least you have a hint.

And yeah, sometimes I can understand people not wanting to say, if there’s something about the cause — say, suicide or a drug overdose — that makes an excruciating tragedy even worse, and loved ones don’t want to see it in print. But I gather that lots of people simply don’t want to say, whatever the cause is. It has to do with a notion of privacy which I don’t understand.

In fact, I’ve long wished newspapers would refuse to run obits unless the cause of death is stated. That’s never going to happen, since obits are now ads, and organizations as desperate for revenue as our beleaguered newspapers aren’t going to give up a stream of revenue. And back when newsrooms handled them, it still didn’t happen because editors saw obits as a basic public service — you had to reported who had died in the community. But if you ask me, telling readers what’s killing the people around them is a pretty fundamental kind of public service.

But it didn’t bother me so much when people were old. And back when I first cared about obits, I would have seen 76 as old. Of course, I’m wiser than that now (that’s only six years older than I am!), but it still wouldn’t have occurred to me to wonder in this case, until I saw this story this morning in The Boston Globe.

It was about the fact that a Super Bowl ad featuring Weathers is still going to run during the game. Which makes me think, hey: He was healthy enough to shoot a commercial recently, so… he wasn’t wasting away with a fatal disease — that anyone knew, anyway.

Maybe it was a stroke. I know from personal experience how those can sneak up on you (although I was very lucky with mine).

But I’d still like to know. I mean, the guy was only 76…

Glad to be on Bluesky, although it’s not yet all it needs to be

 

 

So I read this morning in The Washington Post that Bluesky is now open to us plebeians who didn’t get invited to join the new Twitter replacement (that’s the way I’m viewing it, anyway) previously.

About time.

You know about Bluesky. It’s the latest brainstorm of Jack Dorsey, the guy who created Twitter long before the barbarians knocked down the gates and started destroying it.

So of course, I immediately signed up and started looking about.

And it looks great. The interface is SO much like Twitter of old that I immediately hope that the new platform doesn’t get sued by Attila et al. Very comfortable. And I’ve tweeted (or whatever we’re supposed to call the action) a couple of times, and gotten a few likes, and it feels like old times.

Of course, a lot of stuff will have to happen before it can be what Twitter was. For instance, more people I’m used to following need to sign up and get busy. And that includes a lot of the media sites I follow, not just individual people.

There were some old friends already there, which prompted that petulant first post from me, which went like this:

Now that I’m finally in here, I see that SOME of my friends were invited long ago. Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

I’m sure there will be a lot more people on board tomorrow, and the day after, and so on. I’m very hopeful. But aside from way more accounts, the site will need a few other things to live up to my hopes:

  • Embed codes. Note that I simply quoted my post, rather than embedding. Maybe there’s a way to do that, but it’s not yet readily apparent. I just get a “copy link.”
  • Speaking of embedding… When I’m reading something on one of my newspaper apps on my iPad, and want to say something about it on Bluesky, and click on the “share” thingy, I see all sorts of icons, but not one for Bluesky. I’m not sure whose responsibility it will be to fix this — will each newspaper have to make changes in the app, or is it up to Apple? Anyway, I hope they soon get on the stick.
  • A few publications I’m used to following don’t even have accounts on Bluesky. Are they aware it exists? When will they jump in?
  • Even those who DO have accounts — such as The Washington Post — are only putting a small amount of their content on the platform. Weirdly, they’re posting links to some stories — such as the one about Bluesky itself, and one about Taylor Swift — multiple times. But I couldn’t find one to this story, and together with the lack of a direct link from the newspaper app, I had to do a sort of double workaround to post about it. It worked fine, but it should be way easier. And I’m hoping it will be, soon.

Enough griping. Let me say that even though I had to do some manual stuff to post about that story, when I entered the link, I was immediately asked if I wanted the headline and artwork to automatically appear in the post — the way it used to be on Twitter. There wasn’t a “hell, yeah” option, so I just said yes.

And I’m sure, now that I’ve put this post on the platform, some of those long-time members will respond that I’m an idiot, and all these things are already there, but I haven’t found them yet. Fine. Maybe they’ll help me.

Anyway, I hope to see some of y’all there…

OK, I voted for Joe, but it wasn’t easy…

I mean, it was easy in terms of not having to wait in a line, and the weather was nice, and the pollworkers were all helpful and professional. And I was unconflicted about it — despite my Hamlet routine the last few days — because I love to vote for Joe.

But in other senses…

I showed up at my usual voting place — for the Quail Hollow precinct — and was greeted by the sign you see at the end of the post. Which made me wonder, WTH, but when I got to Gray Collegiate, one of the pollworkers — who normally works the Saluda River site — explained to me that the party, trying to save money, had asked for the reduction in polling places, to save money.

The arrows were helpful, since I’d never been here before…

OK that made sense, since I and everyone else knew the turnout today would be next to nothing, with Joe having no actual competition. (The weird thing, though, is what I heard later from another pollworker who works at another site across the county — she said the voting places are reduced for the Republican primary on the 24th as well. If that’s correct, THAT is going to be a mess, with all the Trumpistas out to crush Nikki’s bones to make their bread, and 90 percent of Democrats turning out to vote for Nikki. Yeah, I made up the 90 percent, but it feels like that.)

Almost everyone else in the place normally works my precinct, since they’re my neighbors. Everyone addressed me as Brad. And there was no point being cagey about what I was there to do, since all these folks knew me and are used to seeing my yardsigns and bumper stickers. So of course, I wasn’t. Cagey, I mean. Not that I ever am. In fact, I probably blathered more about it than was quite right, but it’s not like I was tying up busy people. I only noticed one other voter the whole time I was there.

I had no line to wait in, which was sweet. I went to my little minikiosk thingy (still haven’t learned a term for those things that are not booths), inserted the paper ballot, pressed the screen to vote for Joe, pressed again to check my vote, and pressed once more to print out the results.

Which is when everything went haywire. There were all these distorted images flashing on my screen, and eventually the screen went white. And there were no sounds of printing going on. So one of the workers had to open the machine and make sure nothing had printed, dig out the unmarked ballot, and give it to me to take to another machine.

So I got to vote twice! Of course, it only counted once, but I had the pleasure of doing it twice. Which was nice.

I didn’t remember to take a selfie with my sticker until I got home. It’s at the top. See my hat? I think Michelle Norris gave me that hat when she interviewed me in 2008. Seemed appropriate — as you know by my recent posts, I do consider all things. Rather obsessively…

Then, on the other hand…

All that said, let me tell you about something weird that came up just a little while ago…

Another smart friend, not one of those I had called earlier in the day, texted me this evening to say:

“_____ is writing an op Ed urging women to go out and vote for Nikki. She is with me and ______ on Dems skipping their primary and voting for Nikki.”

(Yes, I blanked out the names of two people I haven’t spoken with.)

Another county heard from. I told this friend I was still voting for Joe. And we went back and forth on that for a moment.

Then, the same friend sent me something just received by text a moment earlier (at 7:58 p.m.):

I wrote back to say I had just received the same message (or so I thought for a moment). And I hadn’t finished sending my reply when I got a text from one of the people I had called earlier to talk about this. He had just received the same text.

I was thinking that these had to be from someone supporting Nikki — maybe not her campaign, but a PAC backing her. Maybe that Koch group.

But then I looked back at the one I had received, and saw the wording was different. Instead of the flat, noncommittal statement, “Biden is winning by more than 50 points,” mine said:

President Biden will win a strong victory for his pro-democracy agenda.

Huh. It went on to say:

In the Republican primary on February 24, democracy itself is on the ballot. Former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is running against Trump, a proud election denier. Make your vote count by protecting our democracy.

All straight from Biden campaign talking points. Which were not present in the other two texts. Those were quite neutral.

I called the second of those two friends, the one I had spoken to earlier in the day. This friend was an old newspaper colleague, and the different wordings perplexed us. This friend votes more in Democratic primaries than I do, and yet I had received the “Democrat” version.

Maybe because I was in James Smith’s campaign? That got me on some lists other than the ones based on primary voting.

I don’t know who’s doing this. Are my friends on the Biden campaign or a related group saying, “Look, Brad, we know you love Joe, but he’s got this. Go help Nikki be a thorn in Trump’s side.”

I don’t know. I don’t think so, based on past experience, and knowledge of these people. But I’ve never seen an election like this, and neither have these people, and maybe they’re doing something I wouldn’t expect them to do.

If so, they should call me on the phone and say it straight to me. I’m going to vote for Joe.

At least, I think so…

 

I’m the only Biden supporter who plans to vote for him tomorrow

How could I vote for anyone else? (2018 file photo)

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. It just sort of feels like that, after the conversations I’ve been having in recent days. Especially today.

In response to Paul’s announcement that he’s going to skip Saturday’s Democratic primary and vote for Nikki Haley three weeks later, I said that Paul makes very valuable points, but “I’m not going to do what Paul’s going to do.” Joe’s my boy. I’m proud of him and the job he’s done, and deeply grateful to him for running. And I’m going vote FOR somebody — especially someone I like so much — rather than against someone.

And ever since I said that, I’ve been questioning myself. That reasoning is fine under most circumstances — such as when I voted in the Democratic primary in 2010 because I wanted to express approval for Vincent Sheheen rather than try to stop the worst of the Republican candidates. I felt good about that.

But this time, we’re facing an unprecedented threat to the country, and to the world. And if you doubt the “and to the world” part, go ask the people of Ukraine what they think. Or read this column by Max Boot: “If Trump wins, he will destroy the American-led world order.” It’s a good basic explanation of global realities, and I went away from it depressed that Max felt the need to explain such things. But he’s right. We don’t live in, say, Reagan’s America. Reagan supporters understood those things. But now, far too many of their descendants, on the left and right, come closer to the isolationism of Lindbergh’s “America First” movement.

Joe Biden is running for president at the age of 81, when he richly deserves retirement, because he’s the only qualified person who has a realistic chance of standing in the way of the madness of millions of voters who would instead vote for a malevolent ignoramus who — when he actually WAS president for four years — had to be impeached twice (something he richly deserved both times), who tried to throw out the results of the election that removed him from office, and is currently facing 91 criminal charges in a variety of legal jurisdictions. A guy who daily demonstrates to the world that he is more unhinged and vengefully hostile than ever.

As I say, unique situation. So each day this week, I’ve asked myself, “Don’t I help Joe, and my country, better by voting against Trump than by voting for the good guy?” I was doubting my course enough today that when I went on my regular walk around the neighborhood, I called several people who fit these two criteria:

  1. They are people whose judgment I greatly respect from over the years, to the extent that they might have the power to persuade me to change course. Which is not something you can say about everyone.
  2. They are also people who I’m almost 100 percent sure will vote for Joe in the fall.

They said different things, but they all had one commonality — not one was planning to vote for Joe tomorrow. And they made damned good arguments for what they were doing. But so far (I could still change my mind by tomorrow morning), I’m still planning to vote for Joe.

Here’s the way I see it, in chunks as bite-sized as I can make them:

  • I started making those calls because I was listening to today’s “The Daily” podcast from the NYT. It was headlined, “On the Ballot in South Carolina: Biden’s Pitch to Black Voters.” During the introduction, host Michael Barbaro said, “The question is not who will win, but whether President Biden can fix his growing problem with black voters.” Which kind of set me off on a “Here we go again!” trajectory. A premise that suggests that if Joe doesn’t have a decent turnout in South Carolina — which there’s no reason for him to have, since we all know he will win — I’ll end up reading political analyses to the effect that the poor turnout in the South Carolina is yet another datum demonstrating how the Democratic electorate is unenthusiastic about him.
  • Yes, that would be a profoundly stupid thing to say, as all my friends who are planning to vote for Nikki keep telling me. They’re rational people, and they insist no rational person would expect a big turnout in the Democratic primary when we all know who the nominee will be. And they’re completely right. Unfortunately, rational people make up a distressingly small portion of the American electorate in this moment of collective madness in our country. Every day, we all see idiotic memes take hold around us, and stick.
  • Worse, the current political press isn’t much better. This was demonstrated over and over in 2020. We had 25 or so people seeking the Democratic nomination, but as I kept saying, only one of them exhibited these three qualities: a) he was qualified, as one could amply tell not only from his resume, but by his record and performance over the years; b), he had the skills, bipartisan sincerity and credibility to appeal across a broad-enough political spectrum to win over the moderates who are essential to victory in a country so evenly split; and c) voters knew him. I kept saying that over and over in this venue. And yet what did we keep hearing and reading — not from the drunk at the end of the bar, but from paid professional journalists? Joe’s past it. Today’s Democrats want a new face that represents new concerns — such as, say, culture war battles of identity politics, rather than say, an understanding of international affairs (ho-hum!). How deep did that rot go? Well, I mentioned the NYT above, and as much as I still respect the Gray Lady, its editorial board was in the midst of some sort of psychotic episode in 2020. They didn’t even consider endorsing Joe, the one candidate who clearly could both win and then do the job. Instead, they embarrassed themselves with a “split decision,” endorsing both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. This seemed to reflect a generational split on the board — Klobuchar for the grownups (she’s who I wanted for Joe’s running mate), and Warren for the kids. This was widely and justly mocked. Vanity Fair said “The New York Times Splits Their Endorsement, Pleasing No One and Inspiring Twitter Bonanza.” Amen.
  • Of course, the good Democratic primary voters of South Carolina schooled those journalists on Feb. 29, 2020. And they all changed their tunes, immediately, as Joe’s Democratic opponents started hastening to line up behind him. Still, just watch — some people, and not just folks on Fox, will be saying “Obviously, Biden’s South Carolina support isn’t as strong as it was in 2020.” There’s a great deal of foolishness out there.
  • No, my one vote for Joe won’t do anything to stop stupid interpretations of the turnout. But my vote for Nikki won’t put her over the top against Trump, either. And here’s where we get to the deep, gut reason I have to vote tomorrow instead of on the 24th: I’ve imagined myself doing that, and I recoil at the image of me, Brad Warthen, voting for Nikki Haley to be president of the United States. Because I know how abysmally unqualified she is (and how wonderfully qualified Joe is).
  • Yes, as unqualified as Nikki is, and as poor a president as she would be, she’s still a normal human being, and having Trump become president again would be infinitely worse. It could well mean the end of this wonderful liberal democracy we have been so privileged to live in since 1789. Got it. I agree completely. But…
  • If somehow all these votes for Nikki that my friends are planning enable her to defy expectations in this open primary enough that she weakens Trump, thereby causing him to slip and her to catch up and overtake him — all unlikely, but possible — then my man Joe would be facing someone I think would have a better chance of beating him than Trump does. Why? Because she’s a normal, very personable candidate (unlike Trump) who has a talent for winning people over to her. Also, that silly “vote for somebody younger” shtick of hers has more resonance than it deserves. Millions of people would vote for her purely on that point, despite her lack of qualification.
  • If she were better qualified — say, if she were as good a candidate as John McCain, or Mitt Romney, or for the sake of you identity politics people, as Hillary Clinton — then I could with a clear conscience wait and vote for her on the 24th, even as much as I like Joe. But she isn’t.
  • And if she weren’t trying to beat such a national catastrophe as Trump, I wouldn’t even be debating myself on this. But she is, and I am, hence this lengthy soliloquy. Maybe I should wait and vote for her. But…
  • We used to have these long debates on the editorial board… Someone would suggest it might be strategically smart to endorse this or that candidate or issue, even though we really didn’t want that outcome. (This post is already way too long for me to go off on a tangent about why that might happen, but such arguments did come up sometimes.) But then someone would say something like “Never endorse an outcome that you don’t want to see happen.” The vote is too sacred and precious to play such games. And I would nod, and agree. And it is especially risky to attempt such a gambit when we’re talking about presidential elections. Anyone who gets the nomination of one of the two major parties has a 50-50 chance of becoming president, regardless of who it is, or who his or her opponent is. That’s how delicately split our country is. We no longer have elections like the ones in 1964 and 1984.

So I’m voting for the guy I actually want to be president, and who has demonstrated how good at the job he is over these last four years.

Of course, I’m still confused at the moment, as the following post will indicate…

South Carolina is everywhere!

No, it’s not perfect. But let’s see you do better, driving over asphalt with rubber tires.

At least, it’s cropping up everywhere you look in national media right now. For fairly obvious reasons.

That will end soon enough. But I will continue to see it everywhere I look. I always have.

Do you? I’m curious whether this is a South Carolina native thing, or just a South Carolina resident thing. Or (and this seems less likely), do folks from other parts see the same shape?

This tendency is embedded pretty deep in me. My first memories of doing this are from my birthplace, Bennettsville. Behind my grandparents’ home, at the foot of the back steps, were some white flagstones. They gave an impression of being marble because of the color, but had a sort of hexagonal design. Not that they were shaped like hexagons like so many such stones you see. I mean there were these black lines etched across the surface in a honeycomb pattern, with each hexagon a little more than a square inch in size.

The overall shape of each stone was random, like the pieces of some larger slab that someone had broken up with a sledgehammer.

But one of them looked exactly like South Carolina. As a child, there was nothing random about that to me — of course it was shaped like that, I thought. I spent most of my school years elsewhere — in Virginia, New Jersey, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii and South America. But that house was the one place I always returned to. It was home, or the closest thing I had to a home growing up. And the fact that one of the features of this house was this stone that was “randomly” shaped like South Carolina seemed to be something of cosmic significance.

I’d show you a picture of it, if I could go there and take one. But you can’t see it now. Decades ago, my uncle — who has lived in that house his entire life (he’s the opposite of me in that respect) — built a deck at the back door. I can’t remember whether the stone is just hidden away, or gone. Anyway, it’s no longer in evidence.

But still, since that one perception early in life, I’ve seen the shape everywhere else. In a stone, or a pancake that was carelessly (or extremely carefully) poured into the pan, or a torn piece of a roofing shingle. I’m not just talking about triangles. I’m talking about triangles that manage to imitate the less regular border with North Carolina. Triangles that look intentional.

And it always seems significant to me, in a fundamental, subrational way. Like someone has put it there as a message or something.

I don’t always take pictures when I see one. But the other day on one of my walks around the neighborhood, I saw the road cracks you see above. I don’t know why I’d never noticed the pattern before. Maybe the cracks were new. Anyway, this time, I shot a picture.

Do you see thing like that, too?

Open Thread for Wednesday, January 31, 2024

It’s been awhile since one of these. Let’s dig in…

  1. House GOP advances impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — This happened a bit after midnight last night, on a completely partisan vote, of course. I heard an account of it on a podcast from the NYT while I was out walking earlier today. I kept expecting the voice to say, “And the GOP committee members followed that up by attempting to cram themselves into a Smart car, to the even greater delight of the crowd…”
  2. Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce and a MAGA Meltdown — And if you think that last item was weird, check this out. Did you know that “around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting?” Her mission? Get Joe Biden re-elected. And do you realize that Taylor Swift (net worth, about $1.1 billion) is only hanging with this Kelce guy (net worth, about $30 million) because she wants his money? Did you know the NFL is “rigged” to spread Democratic propaganda?  If you don’t know these things, you’re just not keeping up with your MAGA conspiracy theories. Try harder.
  3. Is the Future of Medicine Hidden in Ancient DNA? — Sorry to throw another NYT at you if you’re a nonsubscriber, but this was the subject of today’s “The Daily” podcast, and it was very cool. It seems science has gotten so good at reading DNA in prehistoric bones that we can now track what people died of, and the respective evolutions of both microbes and human immunity. Which could have great medical implications going forward. I hope you can hear this, because this is way more interesting than the DNA stuff I’ve been writing about…
  4. Mark Zuckerberg among tech CEOs grilled for failing to protect kids — Speaking of the negative effects of social media… I assume you’ve also seen this awful story closer to home. I don’t know how much the courts can help with the problem, but we need to find ways to stop these things from happening.
  5. Members hope to save 35-year-old Capital City Club — I had no idea my old club — I was a member for more than two decades, as y’all probably know — had fallen on such hard times. I left during COVID. Others must have done the same. I’m sorry to see it. It was a great club, established for good reasons.

DeMarco: Why I’m voting for Haley, then Biden

The Op-Ed Page

12/20/10 Columbia, SC: Gov. Nikki Haley official portrait.
Photos by Renee Ittner-McManus/rimphotography.com

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Nikki Haley faces stiff head winds as she tries to become the Republican nominee for president. If only the Republican base participates in state Republican primaries, Trump wins going away. Her only path to the nomination is for independents and centrist Democrats to back her.

The majority of Americans recognize the unique threat Trump poses to democracy. Even his supporters are known to call him a “disrupter” or a “wrecking ball.” For them, his positives outweigh his innumerable negatives. They are willing to roll the dice on a second Trump presidency. I am not so sanguine. Trump is too unpredictable, too big a risk.

Our crucial national task in the primaries is to ensure that Trump is defeated. Almost anyone alive would be a better option than Trump. Surrounded with intelligent, capable advisors, any thoughtful, humble American would be superior. I know some teenagers to whom I would gladly hand over the reins of this country if it were them or Trump.

Biden is old and fails to excite. He has numerous policy positions that can be legitimately opposed. But he will not wreck the ship of state. If he loses in 2024, he will not spend his lame duck period trying to subvert the will of the people and remain in office, nor when he leaves office use the next four years to lie about the result.

The risk in my strategy is that Haley becomes the Republican nominee and beats Biden in the general. According to polls about a head-to-head contest with Biden, she is a stronger candidate than Trump. But I am willing to accept a Biden loss to ensure that Trump has no chance to be president again.

Haley, of course, has her own set of drawbacks about which I will write if she is the nominee. But she was a capable governor and has expressed dismay over January 6th, calling it a “terrible day.” She is willing to state the obvious truth that Trump lost in 2020, which leads me to believe that she would not engage in Trump’s corrosive brand of election denialism if she loses.

Here’s my plan. The SC Democratic presidential primary is February 3rd. The only candidates on the ballot beside Joe Biden are Dean Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota, and Marianne Williamson, neither of whom have a chance. Although I usually vote for the Democrat and voted for Biden in 2020, I will sit this primary out. Instead, I will wait until February 24 and vote in the Republican primary for Haley (remember a voter can only vote in one party’s primary).

Partisans on both sides will object to this. I employed the same approach in the 2022 US House 7th District Republican primary between incumbent Tom Rice and several challengers, including the eventually winner, Russell Fry. Since there were no pivotal races on the Democratic side, I voted in the Republican primary for Rice. Despite having major philosophical differences with Rice, I felt he had served my district well. He was one of the few Republicans brave enough to vote to impeach Trump for his part in January 6th.

I wrote a column titled, “Democrats, Let’s Elect Tom Rice,” to which Drew McKissick, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party wrote a rebuttal, arguing that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to meddle in the Republican primary and renewing the call that the Legislature pass a law forcing voters to register as Republicans or Democrats and be confined to that primary.

Folks like Mr. McKissick seem to view party affiliation as a deeply imprinted, immutable characteristic. One must be fully baptized into Republicanism and conform religiously to every tenet. If you fail to do so, you are consigned to the purgatory of RINOism. There are, of course, mirror images of McKissick on the Democratic side.

This strict ideological view defies the shifting moods and desires of the body politic. First of all, most voters hold their party affiliation loosely and are willing to vote for an inspirational candidate of their second-choice party – the Reagan Democrats were a prime example of this.

Second, the modern political parties have shifted seismically in the last 75 years. The Democrats were the party of white segregationists until the 1960s when Strom Thurmond and Richard Nixon attracted them to the Republicans. For decades after FDR’s New Deal, the Democrats were considered the party of the worker. Until recently, Republicans were hawks and Democrats were doves. But all that has been scrambled. Many now see the Democrats as the party of the rich, dominated by economic, academic, and cultural elites who are blind to the everyday reality of working people. Meanwhile, it’s the Democrats who support the war in Ukraine while a significant fraction of Republicans have retreated into isolationism.

So I invite you to consider voting for your country rather than your party. Whether Haley or Biden wins in 2024 is less important than Trump never being allowed to wield again the enormous power of the presidency. Neither Haley or Biden will threaten the democratic foundation on which our country rests. Trump’s most enduring legacy will be the lesson that our system is fragile and must be guarded from politicians who care more about their own power than honoring democratic principles. We don’t need a second kick from that mule.

A version of this column appeared in the January 17tt edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

Triangulating my DNA

You know how I sent off a tube full of spit to Ancestry several years ago, and ever since then, they’ve been making unlikely changes to my “ethnicity estimate” at least once a year, if not more often?

Of course you do. I bore you with it all the time. (Oh, and just in case you’re keeping score, they’ve changed the “estimate” a couple of times since I last mentioned it, and currently I’m 47 percent Scottish. Which I know will change yet again.)

Most of you have heard enough about it. Well, brace yourselves.

Soon, I will triple the amount of personal DNA information at my fingertips. Well, maybe not the amount, but at least triple the number of sources.

I had put the word out before Christmas that I’d like to have my DNA done by 23andMe. Several people in my family have done that, but their data are of little use to me in building my family tree (which now has 9,829 people on it, and continues to grow, so you may be wondering why I need more data, but never mind), since I’m on a different platform. I wanted to see what I could find running my saliva through that filter. Not so much for the ethnicity stuff, but to make connections with folks for the tree.

And so my wife gave me a kit for Christmas, and a few days later I sent the tube off, and ever since then have been as impatient as a kid who has sent sent off a bunch of box tops for a secret decoder ring.

But wait, there’s more! Have you heard about the In Our DNA SC project? It’s run by MUSC, and it’s purpose is… hang on, let me look:

In Our DNA SC is a large-scale community research project investigating how DNA impacts health, with a broader goal of learning how to offer more personalized health care to our patients and community.

I had to look it up because I forgot what it was about. I had seen a flier about it maybe a year ago, and sent off for a DNA kit so I could participate in it. I did this even though, as you will see in the quote above and elsewhere on the website, they are inordinately fond of using “impact” as a verb.

I suppose I read about it initially and got the impression it was a sort of public-spirited, communitarian kind of thing to do. So they sent me the kit, and I congratulated myself on being a volunteer… and it sat about the house for months.

Finally, somebody called me from the project and asked me to get on the stick and send my kit in. I didn’t know where the kit was, so they sent me another one, several months back. It was still sitting on a shelf here in my home office when I got the 23andMe kit. Thus prompted yet again, I spit into that one, too, and sent them both off — on Jan. 6, I think. Seems a fitting way to celebrate such a date, don’t you think? Sending off some spit?

I don’t know if I’ll learn much from that one, since they must not have had an overwhelming response if they were willing to be that patient in waiting for me to send the thing in. (I have this sneaking suspicion that at this moment, someone at MUSC is ringing the bell and crying out, “We got one!“)

Anyway, while the young folks who still get paid to be journalists have been so suspensefully excited over what was happening in Iowa and New Hampshire, I’ve been breathlessly awaiting this.

Different priorities. I’m triangulating my DNA. Maybe that will help pin it down for sure. Which, to me, is way cooler than a decoder ring…

After today, no more hearing about New Hampshire!

Or at least, that’s what I hope, being a hopeful kind of guy. Eight days ago, I tweeted this:

Yeah, I was sounding a bit desperate there, wasn’t I? Well, I was, after suffering through all that hyperventilation over a meaningless contest. But so much for that. After today, it will be over, right? Wrong. After today, I will be tormented by the hellishly long general election campaign, which journalists everywhere will write about as though a normal election was going on, and a serious decision to be made.

When there won’t be. The only “decision” will be whether to turn out and vote for Joe, or vote for (and not voting would be a vote for this) the utter destruction of the country, an outcome that will make the disgrace of America in the four years after 2016 look like a picnic.

So, no decision to be made, not for anyone who cares at all about the country. You either step up and vote for Joe, or become part of the problem. You know what I will do… enthusiastically.

Of course, there’s another way to look at New Hampshire today — as the last chance for Nikki Haley to save the Republican Party from itself. It’s a longshot, but it would be nice to see her win there. Of course, it remains to be seen whether that would give her enough of a boost to win here at home. But it would be nice to see such an expression of sanity happen up north today — and it remains remotely possible, since N.H. has an open primary. (Of course, so do we, but that hasn’t done much good on the GOP side lately, has it?)

Notice I said this was Nikki’s last chance to save her party. I did not say “to save the country.” That was for a couple of reasons. One, the country doesn’t need saving, since we’ve got Joe, and as expected, he has done a fine job. Of course, there’s always the horrible chance that — since doing a fine job doesn’t get you much in our recent social-media elections in Rabbit Hole, post-reality America — Joe could lose to whoever the GOP nominee is.

And as I’ve said in the past Nikki would be exponentially better — or rather, exponentially less bad — than you-know-who by almost any measure you choose. But… she’s not qualified to be president of the United States. Not by a very long shot.

I say that for a lot of reasons, which you’ve seen me state over the years. Frankly, I’ve forgotten some of them — things that offered ample proof of her unreadiness over the years, and fed into my overall impression. The Boston Globe reminded me of this the other day when they ran this item from The New York Times about things we all knew here in South Carolina back in the day:

But that old news is far from being a significant reason to see her as unqualified. Those of us who have known her for what — 20 years now — have a sackful of reasons, from her immature craziness on Facebook while governor, to her failure to denounce Trump and run squarely against him, for which Chris Christie criticized her so aptly before he bowed out. (And yes, we all know why she didn’t. But what good to the country is a presidential nominee who won’t do that?)

So, despite the ongoing breathlessness from national media, I’m not in any kind of great suspense today.

How about you?

 

 

Apparently, ‘tactical’ now means ‘I wanna play soldier!”

WARNING: Clicking on the links in this post might cause the mentioned ads to show up every day on your browser as well.

I made the mistake last summer of ordering a birthday present for my wife from a Chinese company that I suppose rhymes with “emu.” Note that I’m avoiding the name because I’m already getting way, way too many of their ads (although, I suppose I’m being less clever by linking to the site below — oh, well). Today, I see, they’re pushing a “yoga top” that will make you look like this. Namaste, y’all.

But I rise to speak about another thing they’re promoting today — the “Men’s Nylon Woven Tactical Belt.” See the image above. It’s a sort of variation on the belts my Dad wore with his everyday khaki uniforms, only with the buckle jazzed up. The only “tactical” purpose they serve, to my knowledge, is keeping your pants up. Of course, that’s nothing to sneeze at. An officer who habitually appears on the bridge with his britches around his ankles could go on report in a way that might affect his whole career. So you might even say such a belt is of “strategic” importance.

It seems like you’d only call them “tactical” if they hold up your “tactical” pants that a similar ad coaxed you into buying. You may or may not recall that I mentioned those before, in a post headlined, “‘Tactical pants?’ How stupid do they think men are?” The answer to that question, by the way, would appear to be “Stupid enough to buy any ridiculous thing that we call ‘tactical.'”

And clicking on it will also open you up to lots of other things appealing to similar tastes, such as the vest pictured below. I’m not going to buy one of those, and not just because it would make me look like one of those loonies who wore things like that to assault our nation’s Capitol three years ago. I’m not gonna buy it because I’m a guy, and they didn’t say “tactical” in the name — even though it has holsters! They called it “Men’s Training Vest With Detachable Belt, Subcompact/Compat/Standard Holster.” Apparently, someone was asleep in the marketing department. Hey, I don’t wanna train! I want action! I want to put this stuff on and parade around in public and make folks think I’m a soldier!

But to be more serious…

Y’all know how much I respect soldiers, sailors, Marines, and anyone who legitimately wears our country’s uniforms. But that respect does not extend to the posers who run around pretending to be soldiers. That’s something I did when I was about 8 years old, running about with other boys that age engaging in extensive debates that consisted of such arguments as “You’re dead! No I’m not! I ducked!” We did that with plastic guns. These guys do it with AR-15s. Why? To complete the imagined illusion that they are soldiers, men of courage and honor.

I would say that these guys should go see a recruiter — but these are the kinds of people we don’t want in the service. We need those who don the uniform for their country, not to address their own feelings of inadequacy.

It occurs to me that we didn’t have this phenomenon back when we had a draft. Guys of all sorts got drafted, went in, performed their service, got the urge to wear “tactical” things all out of their systems, and went on to live the rest of their lives as grownups.

Of course, some of these guys — a few, but not few enough — just can’t hold themselves back any more, and they use their toys to commit mass murder. Which means it’s not funny at all. But it’s certainly ridiculous…

Do you think Trump is the whole problem? Well, don’t…

I’ve made this point a bunch of times, but having been reminded of it the last two or three days, I thought I’d share it again once or twice.

Over the weekend, my friend Steve Millies in Chicago tweeted this:

What got me going was those last few words, “We should be capable of recognizing him as what he is, never voting for him.” Well, indeed. Anyone who walks into a voting booth should find the idea of voting for him unthinkable. But the problem is, there’s a big difference between should and the way things are. So I responded:

And there you have placed your finger upon the problem with America. Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are actually people who will vote for him. Millions of them. And frankly, I don’t know how we solve that problem…

As regular readers will have noted, I’ve been trying to sort that out since 2016, when something happened that had never even come close to happening in our history. For the first time, American voters were willing to vote for someone as low, crude and grossly unqualified as Trump — enough of them to actually elect him.

Trump had been embarrassing himself on a public stage since sometime in the 1980s. But now, there were all these millions of people who thought he was a great choice to become the most powerful man in the world.

And those same people would do it again.

Anyway, this morning while working out, I got around to listening to Friday’s Matter of Opinion podcast, which was dedicated to the question, “Should Trump Be on the Ballot?” It was provoked, obviously, by the Supreme Court deciding to take up the question after recent developments in Colorado and Maine.

At some point, conservative Catholic columnist Ross Douthat said the following:

A deeper question here is just, do you think that the challenge to American democracy is just all about Donald Trump himself alone, this one guy, this distinctive figure, this reality TV show, proto-fascist, billionaire, whatever. And if we can just make him go away, things will go back to normal.

Do you think that? Because if you think that, then I can see how you start to talk yourself into the idea that this is a good idea, and you say to yourself, look, I’m sure that a majority of the Republicans on the Supreme Court do not want Donald Trump to be president again. So why shouldn’t they just wave a magic wand and get rid of him? Nikki Haley can run the table or maybe DeSantis could make a comeback. One of them will beat Donald Trump. Everything will go back to normal.

And that’s sort of a view that I had for the first year or so of the Trump phenomenon. And I guess, I don’t understand how at this point, with everything we’ve seen in Europe, in North America, around the world, that you could think of Trump as just sort of a force that you can just make go away, and everything will go back to normal. But clearly, there are people who think that. So that’s what I’m interested in, I guess, again, having thought that once myself…

Which brings us again to the question: If Trump goes away, does the problem go away?

I don’t think so. The problem is bigger and more complicated than that. If you want to paint a picture of it, it’s not going to be a portrait of this one weird guy. It’s going to be more like a Bosch painting. Good luck making sense of it…

You couldn’t do this if you tried

Here’s how it looked, up on the lift at the muffler place.

Or at least, I couldn’t. I certainly wasn’t trying to when I did.

Last week, when we were hurrying about to go to the beach for a few days, I noticed that my old truck’s bed had a lot of water standing in it. I generally park it off to the side of our driveway under some trees, and the way the pine-needle-covered surface slopes, the water couldn’t escape.

So I backed it out to let it drain onto the driveway, which slopes the other way.

Then I had a bright idea (watch out for these, by the way). I decided to back the truck into its usual position, so if it rained, the water would drain out.

The idea was simple enough, but delicate to execute, because it involves slightly tricky maneuvering to avoid backing into a couple of trees and not running over some azalea bushes. But I was careful, very careful, with most of my attention focused on the trees.

Suddenly, I heard this grinding, wrenching sound that I didn’t understand — I was still a foot and a half from the nearest tree. Whatever it was, I couldn’t back up any further. I decided I would pull forward away from it before changing my angle and backing up again.

But I couldn’t pull forward, either. It was like some giant, supernatural hand had a grip on the truck. And each careful attempt to move either way produced slight noises that suggested I would hear huge noises again soon if I gave it more gas.

So I turned off the truck, got out, and peered under the bed from the rear. I saw the tailpipe you see in the photo above, bent almost double. I had backed over a stump of a pine we had removed sometime back.

This stump had not figured into my calculations, because it rose only about four inches above the ground immediately surrounding it. I should have cleared it easily, and would have on a level surface. But back here in the trees, there was sort of a dip in the ground, and my rear tires were in that dip. So the stump had easily bent the pipe into the shape you see.

But that’s not the really genius, amazing part of what I did. With its new shape — which I would describe as a sort of fishhook, or maybe grappling hook — my tailpipe had dug into the stump to a surprisingly firm degree, which was why the truck was going nowhere.

Nothing I could do right then. So I drove away to the beach — in a different vehicle, of course — with a troubled mind. I had a plan, but I couldn’t execute it right then.

Several days later, when we were back and both my sons were at the house, I got them to lift up on the bed slightly — a millimeter or two would do — and I drove off the stump easily.

The next day I drove off to buy a tailpipe and a new muffler, since the old one had suffered damage in the incident. Cost me a little over two hundred bucks. Happy New Year.

Anyway, I’m still sort of marveling at what I did.

Today, I was going to work on that stump with chainsaw and ax and see how close I can get it down to ground level. But it’s raining today. And I suppose the truck bed is filling back up…

See how low that stump is? You can hardly see it for the pine straw. I was worried about the TREE behind it…

Christie pretty much nailed it on Nikki’s gaffe

Last week while I was at the beach, I got a call from an old friend who is among the few who are still employed at one of South Carolina’s metropolitan newspapers. He was working on a piece about Nikki Haley’s Civil War gaffe, and had a technical question about how she and the Legislature brought down the Army of Northern Virginia flag in 2015.

He should have called someone with a way better memory for specifics regarding legislative procedure. I was unable to help. But we discussed the matter for a few minutes, and I intended at the time to write about Nikki’s self-inflicted problem, but I didn’t get to it until now.

There had so many things to say, that I had trouble finding the time. Just briefly:

  • First, it’s not a huge deal unless you’re among the many Americans who are not South Carolinians. Around here, we’re used to seeing Republicans dodge that simple question, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” Even my hero John McCain, having been burned by telling the truth initially regarding the flag, started reading something akin to what Nikki said in response to questions. But at least he had the character to be ashamed of himself. He made a big show of unfolding the paper and reading it each time he was asked, so everyone would know he had been bludgeoned into it by his advisers. Nikki had a lighter approach, in keeping with her superpower of making positive impressions (which usually involves not offending any potential GOP voter). But she ran into a buzz saw because the press was present. And millions of unprepared nonSouth Carolinians were shocked, shocked to hear someone who won’t even condemn Donald Trump answer in such a weaselly manner.
  • You want to be shocked? Go back and watch her meek answers to the questions of actual, real-life neoConfederates. Here’s the video. As I’ve said before, at least she has the character to look like she’s responding under duress. But she still goes along with the program.
  • It’s ironic — not that she doesn’t deserve it — that unlike most South Carolinians who identify themselves as white on their driver licenses, this is one Republican who has NO ancestors who owned slaves, or fought for the Confederacy, or any of that stuff. She just sounds like a Lost Cause defender because she’s so used to telling these South Carolina Republicans what they want to hear — or at least, not telling them things they don’t want to hear. She’s used to politely brushing such questions aside and moving on to something she’d much rather talk about. If you can call it up, you might enjoy reading Alexandra Petri’s column mocking her on that point.
  • At least Nikki managed to demonstrate in one respect that in this benighted MAGA age, at least she retains some values of the Reagan era, or at least one: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, either. She blamed the asker of the fateful question thusly: “It was definitely a Democrat plant.” Well, I suppose it could have been. Certainly it was posed by someone who did not wish her well. When you’re running for the nomination of the White Man’s Party, and in the age of the MAGA White Man, there’s no way you answer that question — whatever you say — that doesn’t get you into trouble with somebody. Either you — the one who stuck her neck out to finally get that flag down — get yourself in hot water with those Trump voters you’re trying to lure away with the simple answer, “Slavery. Duh.” Or you draw the “shocked, shocked” opprobrium of the rest of the country, by doing a little dance around it. But here’s the thing, Nikki — lots of people would want to back you into a corner with such a question, and a lot of them are Republicans. But of course, you don’t blame them, do you? You want every one of them, including the creeps, to love you.

I could have taken any of those courses (and those aren’t all the potential courses), and rattled on all day along any of them. But I was at the beach, so I didn’t.

But a couple of days ago, I resolved to take the subject up anyway. That’s when I ran across this tweet:

Nice one there, Chris. You nailed it. “She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth.”

And, as he continued, that demonstrates her lack of fitness for the office she seeks.

No doubt about it. Looks like Chris is running hard to regain the dubious distinction of being my Least Awful Republican Candidate. Nikki had stolen it from him, and he’s anxious to grab it back.

In keeping with his goal of regaining my “favor,” such as it is, his campaign started sending me press releases yesterday, and one of them told me he’s continuing the charge against the South Carolina darling. The release begins, “Chris Christie calls Haley’s commitment to pardon Trump part of a pattern where she tries to be everything to everyone.”

This remark goes even more deeply to the truth of why Nikki is not fit for the highest office in the world.

As I said, the no-mention-of-slavery thing was no big deal, if you know what to expect from Republican candidates who came up in South Carolina.

But this was a deal-killer.

“I would pardon Trump if he is found guilty,” Nikki said last Thursday.

You know, I could have forgiven her if she had said, very carefully, that she might consider pardoning him — say, with regard to a poorly-handled conviction on one of the weaker of the many charge he faces. After all, I’ve never been mad at Gerald Ford for pardoning Nixon (not that it’s fair to compare Dick to Trump; by comparison, Nixon was a paragon).

But she didn’t hedge or qualify, from what I’ve read. She didn’t say she’d do it, under certain conditions. She just said she’d do it. And anyone who has that little respect for the Rule of Law has no business holding the lowest office in the land, much less the highest.

So thanks for reminding us of that one, Chris…