Meme for Republicans: Mene, tekel upharsin!
(Hint: Biblical handwriting is on the wall for you.)
Before leaving us--I won't say abandoning us--for a month-long hiatus in the middle of this fall's campaign, comedian Bill Maher gave us a command: we must keep as our priority the defeat of Donald Trump. He used that argument in his "New Rules" closing segment as the reason he would relent on his efforts to ridicule those who would impede bathroom access for transgender people.
I suppose that one can wait; the embarrassment the North Carolina law to that effect is having on the re-election campaign of its Governor McCrory is its own deserved reward. With regard to Mr. Trump, though, the Drumpfite policy of Assured Self-Destruction seems to be taking care of that concern on its own--though we should never resist the openings to slag him when they present themselves. This week, we can see that Drumpf has adopted his Apprentice TV strategy ("you're fired") in managing his campaign efforts, and I have no doubt that the latest stooge, the one of Breitbart heritage, will be the next scapegoat for the campaign's continued failures. At this point, Trump's single hope is what I have called the "David Duke Effect", the possibility that the poll numbers conceal a large number of bigots who will vote for Trump on Election Day but won't own up to it beforehand, either out of ethical guilt or fear of being ridiculous. Those people, to the extent they exist and are registered to vote, will find a reason to justify this cowardly behavior when the time comes.
Instead, we can expand our objectives beyond the mere Electoral College defeat of Trump; as we discussed last time, Trump's chances boil down to winning all of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio (along with North Carolina), and they equate to those of winning Pennsylvania (or if not PA, then sweeping New Hampshire, Nevada, and Iowa), where Clinton is winning now by about 10 points in polls. Meanwhile, Clinton is imperiling Trump's chances in such "automatic" red states as Georiga, Arizona, and even Missouri and Utah.
The number one priority, then, if Trump's campaign (which so far is amateurish and poorly focused) does not turn things around, will be to utilize his poor performance and inferior candidacy at the top of the ticket to degrade the Republicans' status across the country. Again, most of the best opportunities in Senate races coincide with the most important state races for the Presidency, so organizing efforts should focus naturally on those seven states. In addition, though, there are seats which can and should be gained in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana--the latter, now that Evan Bayh has entered the race, moves from a possibility to a highly promising target. Besides those three, New Hampshire appears to be the most likely candidate as the fourth Senate pick-up, the minimum requirement to gain control of the Senate. Beyond that, PA, OH, and now, NC, are 50-50 chances, with additional targets worth pursuing in AZ, MO, FL, and IA. A fifth pick-up out of all these is more than desirable; one state's Senate seat currently held by a Democrat, Nevada, is endangered--Catherine Cortez Musto is currently slightly behind in the polling.
The House picture is more complex and, in general, less hopeful. A landslide victory at the top of the ticket is the best--probably the only--possibility to enable the Democrats to make up the 30 seat gain needed, as the number of districts held currently by Republicans in which political affiliations and the strength of candidates would favor a pick-up is considerably smaller than that. I am deluged by emails from prospective Democratic House candidates and Democratic Representatives in close races; most or all of those appeals are coming from legitimately contested races, but I cannot distinguish among them (at least, not yet), so I am just giving to the DCCC (headed by my Congressman, the estimable Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico), trusting that group will do the critical analysis to identify how to allocate their resources to maximize the result.
I have my eyes on the long-term prize, the destruction of the Republican party. This year's campaign is all that I could hope for, in terms of highlighting the split between the Cruzian hard-core conservatives and the Drumpfist backward-looking bigots. No doubt they will do their best to pretend they can cooperate, both as Election Day nears and then after the debacle that seems likely that day, but I'm not buying it. 2018 will be a head fake in the big picture, as the midyear political dynamics will favor the Republicans, as will the number and type of Senate seats the Democrats will have to defend; however, there will be a number of state races, for governor and state legislatures, that will be critical for control of redistricting after the 2020 census. 2020 will be the key year in determining whether the Republicans can recover the momentum they have lost since 2004 or whether their trend remains unmistakably downward: I think either the Cruz Lizard at the top of the ticket or a toned-down Drumpfist (a contradiction in terms?) would be a disaster; only a more moderate, diversity-welcoming candidate can reverse their decline.
Clinton vs. Trump shows more clearly than ever that the Democrats have now become the natural governing party; the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress is equally evident, and it will be the future humiliation of Paul Ryan by his party that will make that clear to all. I anticipate fireworks with regard to a battle for control of the Supreme Court, but if the Democrats have control of the Senate and of the White House, the outcome can only be delayed, not prevented, by dubious filibuster.
The Olympics in the Side-View Mirror
I have to admit that I was somewhat wrong in a couple of aspects of my preview: the NBC coverage on TV has not been as good as I had hoped, and the welcome of Rio's Cariocas to the world's visitors has been better than feared, while the beauty of the setting is as advertised.
With regard to NBC, the cynicism of the programming and advertising is all too typical. The prime-time network telecasts are all-American, heavy on the personal profiles, setting up long ad breaks, and light on the variety of sports being presented. Their auxiliary channels have not adequately compensated for the weakness on the network telecast. I would cite as highlights the volleyball, men's and women's, indoor and beach, and, of course, the track and field (more track than field) . The soccer was OK--at least they carried the final between Brazil and Germany live on one of the other channels--that was probably the second highlight of the games (after Usain Bolt) in the eyes of the world. The coverage of the return to the Olympics of golf on NBC-owned Golf Channel was surprisingly not as sleep-inducing as golf on TV usually is. After that, I have little good to say about the coverage: I get it that NBC has to recoup the billions they paid for the rights and deliver the ratings they promised to their corporate bosses and in their ad sales, but the other channels did not have those limitations--and broadening the range of coverage could extend their ratings. For example, where was table tennis? Millions of Chinese-Americans would like to know; what I heard was that their attempts to plug into Chinese TV were most difficult. Field hockey? Badminton? Kayaking? Cycling (if there were no Americans or Brits in the final)? You may think I'm kidding; I'm not.
The multiple-channel viewing of the "NBC Olympic Experience" was disappointing; the channels to choose from didn't have Olympics half the time, and the interface was slow and clumsy. I tried the
"live streaming of all events" as always with live streaming (at least for me), was a rabbit hole (what is userID and PIN for your cable service? I don't have one). Well, maybe they can get it right in four years.
Finally, the prediction of dominance of the American women's team was accurate (except for the surprise upset in the quarterfinals of UNWNT, the US women's soccer team, which actually adds to the interest level for future women's soccer competition). The operative comparison for US medal levels is not recent summer Olympics but 1984, when the Soviet Union boycotted "our" Los Angeles Olympics to get revenge for our (Afghanistan-inspired) boycott of Moscow's 1980 one. I'll note the final total comparison in a comment in a day or two when the dust settles.
The two TV personal profiles that did turn my head somewhat were both focused on Brazilians: the original "Girl from Ipanema" from the song--there is a specific one, she is in her 70's, still very attractive--and the story of Vanderlei di Lima, the marathon runner who was leading in 2004's race in Athens when he was attacked by a deranged spectator. Vanderlei's mojo was disturbed by the incident (once they pulled off the intruder), but he pulled it together and won the bronze medal. For the opening ceremony in Rio, he was selected as the national hero who lit the Olympic flame in the Stadium.
I apologize for publishing the first draft yesterday, filled with errors. I was in a hurry to leave on a car trip and -yes--distracted by the Olympics.