Editors’ Blog

A Friendly Reminder

We recently asked if you’d help us out by answering some survey questions. First of all, thank you to everyone who did. These are massively helpful in terms of helping us decide how to improve TPM and better serve all of you.

There’s one particular piece of feedback I saw going through the thousands of results that I thought I’d address here. Several people asked if we’d bring back free or reduced-rate memberships for senior citizens and/or students. So here’s the good news: We still have free memberships for seniors and students. In fact, anyone who can’t afford a membership can apply for a community-sponsored membership here.

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What Can the US Do To Bring the Israel-Hamas War to An End? Prime Badge
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In my post yesterday, I said Israel’s campaign in Gaza has reached a point of diminishing returns, even on its own terms, and that the U.S. needs to help Israel, even in spite of itself or at least in spite of the current government, to bring it to a halt. A friend of mine got in touch with me and asked basically, how precisely can the U.S. do that? He meant this not in a challenging way but literally, what power does the U.S. have to make this happen? This led to an interchange that helped me think through why the U.S. has been doing what it has been doing, what it can do and what it can’t.

First, why is the U.S. sending arms and munitions to Israel at all? Israel has an incredibly powerful military and huge stockpiles of weapons of all sorts. Set aside the policy or moral questions. Why is it even necessary? At the very beginning of the conflict the U.S. provided fulsome support and arms in part simply to signal support, that the U.S. was backing Israel to the hilt after October 7th. But beneath that messaging and symbolism there was something much more concrete.

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Scenes from the Israel-Hamas War: A Dismal Miscellany

On Tuesday in the Michigan primary we had a protest vote that was nominally about forcing President Biden either to demand or actually force a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip. I’ve written a lot about the pros and cons of this both on the ground in Israel-Palestine and within U.S. domestic politics. That dynamic however shouldn’t obscure a greater and more immediate reality, which is that even on its own terms, the current Israeli operation in Gaza has largely reached a point of diminishing returns. It is Israel which desperately needs the U.S. to put an end to it.

This isn’t to say that there are not still legitimate military goals Israel has. The Hamas leadership is still holed up in Rafah. The hostages, imprisoned for four months, are still held captive there. Hamas as a military force is clobbered but not yet broken. But as is always the case, military action is a tool to accomplish political ends. Military action which makes sense on its own terms can be revealed as folly when viewed through a broader and more consequential political prism. Tom Friedman covered a lot of this in his most recent column from a couple days ago.

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Listen To This: Bye Mitch

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh talk about Mitch McConnell’s big announcement and the primaries in South Carolina and Michigan.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Mitch McConnell: Some Thoughts on Mastery, Destruction and Minority Rule Prime Badge
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Mitch McConnell is one of those perhaps historic figures for whom the greatness of his skill and impact are matched only in inverse by the malignity of his impact on our politics. To put it more brashly, McConnell was great at doing political evil. There is now a kind of rearguard effort to remake McConnell as an institutionalist, a last vestige of the pre-Trumpian GOP. And on that last point, being a vestige, there’s some truth. On being an institutionalist, not at all.

Mitch McConnell’s great legacy is the thorough institutionalization of minority rule in U.S. politics, especially at the federal level. The first and most obvious part of that is that McConnell, more than anyone else, is the man who broke the United States Senate, largely by domesticating the filibuster. No more a wild bull kept out in the stockade for ugly moments but now living within the household, almost a family member, though no less dangerous and wild.

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Trump, Tears in His Eyes, Says ‘Sir’ to Judge Prime Badge
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Admittedly it was without those delicious atmospherics. But the substance was pretty close. Donald Trump now owes the state of New York $454 million. To appeal the verdict and to pause the state’s efforts to collect the judgment during that appeal, Trump has to post a $454 million bond. Today Trump’s lawyers went into court and asked the judge to accept a $100 million bond in lieu of the $454 million. They said that $100 million was as much as Trump could come up with. If the judge rejected the plea, “properties would likely need to be sold to raise capital under exigent circumstances.” In other words, Trump would have to sell off property at fire-sale prices and suffer harm that could not be undone if he gets the judgment thrown out on appeal.

Associate Justice Anil Singh denied Trump’s request.

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‘IVF Sad’ Movement Takes Off Among Capitol Hill GOPs
A tale of womps unfolding in the nation's capital.

Here’s a good HuffPost piece from TPM alum Igor Bobic. They went to what we might call “IVF Sad” Republicans and asked them about passing a federal law to protect IVF from extremists like those on the Alabama Supreme Court. “IVF Sad” Republicans are Republicans who are discomfited by having to ban IVF or at least don’t want to get caught supporting banning IVF but also have to admit that they agree with the judge who banned it.

Marco Rubio, a senator who is an emerging leader in the movement says: “Unfortunately, you have to create multiple embryos [with IVF], and some of those are not used, then you’re now in a quandary.”

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Some Election Day/Mail Vote Surprises

This doesn’t significantly change the picture from what I noted before. But something I at least hadn’t figured on is showing up in the numbers. There’s a significant difference between the breakdown of the primary day and the early/mail vote. The gist is that the primary day vote is significantly better for “uncommitted” and the early/mail vote better for Biden. The net effect of this is that Biden seems to be adding to his margins now since the primary day vote was in most cases getting counted first. So for instance, Dearborn (which is the heart of the state’s Arab-American community) had been like 75% for uncommitted. But now it’s at roughly 55% to 41% as the early votes get counted.

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All Over But the Benchmarking

The actual vote totals and percentages are coming into focus. So there’s a lot of pivoting to what they mean. As of this moment President Biden has about 80% of the vote and uncommitted has 14%. That’s been pretty consistent for a while. But there are major differences by county and towns and cities here. So the results might be bouncier than normal as more votes come in. I noted one numbers guy I follow closely who pointed to 17% as a threshold based on historical comparisons for “uncommitted.” As the results have come in there’s been a lot of shifting among “uncommitted” supporters from percentages to raw vote totals. The raw numbers are high. But overall turnout is really high too. So you can kind of play this either way you want. Raw votes go up with turnout. That’s elementary. Percentages are the key metric. Or you can say that raw votes matter since raw votes will be the margin in the general. The truth is that you simply can’t make linear comparisons like that.

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Michigan Results

8:37 p.m.: We’re still seeing just the first results out of Michigan. Too early to draw any real conclusions. But some benchmarks are helpful. In 2012, 2016 and 2020, “uncommitted” got around 20,000 votes. In 2012 that was 11% of the votes. That’s a helpful benchmark since that was the last time an incumbent Democratic President was on the ballot.

One of the numbers crunchers I follow points to 17% for uncommitted as a threshold below which you could say the Gaza/uncommitted push has failed vs over that and it has some success. The best hints I’m seeing have it right about there and maybe a point or two higher. So modest success but some success. But again, that’s tentative so far. It’s difficult to model this since there aren’t obvious baselines from earlier elections.

We’ll know more soon.

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