Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TPM.

Taking Stock of JD Vance Prime Badge
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I’ve heard various takes and reactions to Trump’s JD Vance decision. I’ve thought of it as a choice that shows Trump thinks he’s in the driver’s seat and doesn’t have to appeal to any groups for support. I’ve heard others say that this is to nail down Blue Wall states in the Midwest, in part on the basis of people who remember the Vance of Hillbilly Elegy. It’s quite possible that the biggest thing is the more mundane and human fact that Vance did the best at cozying up with Don Jr. over the last year. But the most substantive and real thing is that this creates a deeply and coherently authoritarian ticket: big into Trumpian executive power, very anti-abortion right down to unleashing red states to surveil women’s travel and reproductive health services, deeply anti-U.S. alliances, the whole package.

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On Not Being Pathetic

Jon Chait has a new article up at New York Magazine in his series of articles about Joe Biden and the need for him to end his candidacy to make way for a younger, more viable candidate. His main issue now is that the people in the Democratic Party who were pushing hardest to get Biden to step aside have, he says, simply given up and accepted losing the presidency. He then analogizes this move to the atmosphere after 9/11 in which Democrats rallied around George W. Bush as an act of national unity. He finds this perverse because there’s nothing about national unity that makes you suddenly accept the ascension of the primary driver of political violence and national chaos simply because that person became the target of violence.

I find myself disagreeing with most of these particular claims but agreeing with the overriding one: I recoil at the center of my being from Democrats’ tendency to just fold at the first, second and third sign of difficulty.

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Vance It Is

If there was any question about what the rest of this campaign is going to be like, I think we got the answer with the selection of JD Vance. Vance is no dummy and he is probably the most revanchist nationalist choice Trump could have made. He’s definitely an anti-U.S. alliances person, isolationist in a very Trumpy way, but more coherently so. He was out aggressively over the weekend blaming Democrats for the attempted assassination of Donald Trump. I expect that to be the theme of this week’s convention, whatever the early claims about national unity. He’s one of those guys who initially found Trump disreputable and beyond the pale and then did a full makeover to embrace the man and his politics after Trump took over the GOP. Notably Vance comes out of the Peter Thiel world in Silicon Valley. So he likely brings a significant amount of money with him, which won’t hurt. It’s the kind of choice you make if you’re pretty confident you’re going to win because this takes you from 100% Trumpy to more like 130% Trumpy. It’s a fateful choice. We’ll see if that prediction is right.

Still Looking for More Information on This

Here’s something I’ve been confused about. In the first moments of a major news story like the attempted assassination of a former president, there is a chaos to the reporting. Initial reports turn out not to be true. They turn out to have been based on misunderstandings or false assumptions. A lot of that happened in the first minutes and hours after the shooting Saturday afternoon in Butler, Pennsylvania. But there are gaps in the public reporting about just how Donald Trump was injured that have confused me, specifically whether the injury to his ear was caused by a grazing wound from a bullet or whether one of the bullets shot by Thomas Crooks struck his teleprompter and then shards of that plexiglass material struck the former president. In the biggest sense it doesn’t matter: Crooks tried to shoot Trump and in the process Trump was injured. Whether it was the bullet itself or shards of plexiglass, the bullet struck is a matter of kinetics rather than guilt or innocence or the reality that Trump could have been killed. One spectator was killed, and two others injured. The bullet that almost killed Ronald Reagan, if I’m remembering correctly, was actually a ricochet rather than a direct impact. But it’s still something that’s worth having some clear answer to.

Here’s why I’m still looking for more information on this.

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The School Shooter Profile

From TPM Reader PB

As someone who has worked in gun violence prevention for a long time, I was very much struck by how much Trump’s would-be assassin fit the school shooter profile — young, male, alienated and gun-obsessed — much more than any identifiable political or ideological profile. 

I realize this won’t stop Republicans from claiming he was a crazed leftist on the basis of a $15 donation to a voter registration PAC, but outside the right-wing echo chamber, as Bill Clinton would say, “that dog won’t hunt.” 

I have no idea why this guy decided to target Trump, and we likely never will get a clear motive. It certainly had something to do with the fact that he was swimming in the toxic stew of gun culture. Over the past twenty to thirty years, gun clubs have transformed from gathering places for hunting enthusiasts to hotbeds of white supremacist and anti-government sentiment and activity. They are also powerful forces at the state government level, serving as an often successful organizing force against gun reform laws. 

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Buck Up

Yesterday Axios reported that a “senior House Democrat” said, “We’ve all resigned ourselves to a second Trump presidency.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on Twitter to say that if this is someone’s attitude then the first thing they should do is resign from Congress. My sentiments exactly. The first thing to say about this is that we see many blind quotes in publications like this and they often trigger rounds of recriminations among Democrats when it’s unclear what if anything was actually said. I’m not saying they are fabricated. I’m sure they are real in the narrow sense. But you don’t know the context of these remarks or the identity of the speaker. So it’s a really bad idea to jump to some general diagnosis of the situation based on them. These asides are meant to spark drama and attention.

With that said, though, it’s also very clear that Democrats are caught in a wild moment of demoralization and pessimism and that it is to a real degree characterological. And a lot of that is among Democratic electeds in Washington, DC, the kind who talk a lot to the newsletters. We’ve seen a lot of it on-the-record during the Biden drama.

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Oh Boy

I don’t usually flag an Axios column for your perusal. But this one may be an exception, if only to absorb the full fluffery and myth-making that places like Axios are now doing. We hear that Trump will now be like Reagan who after his attempted assassination, they quote David Broder here, became “mythic” and “politically untouchable.” Trump is no Reagan. But then neither was Reagan. I don’t know what Broder was smoking when he wrote that but after a couple-month poll bump Reagan’s public support actually went back to where it had been and then got super low for the 1982 midterms in which Republicans got walloped. He rose again after the 1982 recession in time for his 1984 blowout. In any case, the Axios piece just keeps rollin’ from there. Trump will now be able to unite America, writes CEO Jim VandeHei. Prince Hal-like, we’re told, the real Trump is a very different man in private and will now shed his public Trumpy ways and become a new man. If there’s any question Trump’s a new man post-shooting, well, they quote Tucker Carlson telling us so.

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‘We Did Nothing’

TPM Reader KO sent me this lede from an AP piece from February of this year.

 Former President Donald Trump told thousands of members of the National Rifle Association that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he returns to the White House, and bragged that during his time as president he “did nothing” to curb guns.

“During my four years nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield,” he said as he addressed the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Friday evening.

Harrisburg of all places.

The Contagion of School Shootings

From TPM Reader GS, the email that I referred to in the previous post up earlier this evening …

We still know very little about the shooter – but perhaps he has more in common with the way too common mass shooters rather than Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan. 

There is the young age and apparent social rejection/isolation, and also the obv suicidal nature of trying to kill a heavily guarded former President from an exposed and visible position. 

We do not know that at this point, but if that turns out to be the case, then that is a completely different social context. Then it is not yet another case of political violence but yet another case of the epidemic of mass shootings, usually by young men. 

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Reflections on Those Horrifying Moments Prime Badge
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Let me share some reactions to Saturday’s surreal and horrifying attempted assassination of Donald Trump. The first is that so much about Trump and the whole world he has brought into being is bombast and fakery. So much about Trump’s world is carried over from the world of professional wrestling, the bombast and taunts, histrionic and willfully over-the-top presentation, the play-acting. Friends become enemies and then friends again. There is high-tension falling out and then making back up. And at it’s core the whole thing is fake. It’s all one big reality show.

But this was not fake. This was as real and grave as it gets. A deranged kid — it really seems to me this guy may not have had any recognizable politics, though we might find that he did — came within an inch of assassinating Trump on live TV. Beyond the personal tragedy and the grave wound to our whole political system, it is difficult and terrifying to imagine what that act would have unleashed. And by the merest luck it didn’t happen.

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