We’re all in the final stretch of the big contest. But I wanted to flag your attention to a column in the Post about some new peer-reviewed research about Facebook and its effect on political polarization. Unsurprisingly the more time someone spends on Facebook the more polarized their beliefs become. But it’s five times more polarizing for conservatives than for liberals. And that’s not the most telling data.
This debate went like how I expected the first debate to go: Biden better on the merits but both guys playing to their preferred ways of speaking to the public, their core audiences. Trump wasn’t out of control like he was in the first debate. I thought he might be just as feral; but he wasn’t. I got that wrong.
But that’s a crazy standard. In the first debate Trump showed his absolutely worst self, someone who simply has no business being President. It pushed him from clearly losing to landslide defeat territory. Trump held it together for the first twenty minutes before sliding into conspiracy theories and nonsense. But he never got near the fusillade of petulance and predation we saw three weeks ago. He was better here. But so was Biden.
Biden was sharper in this debate than three weeks ago. I’m not sure whether that’s because he was barely allowed to speak and constantly interrupted last time. But he was better.
9:31 PM: Still claiming he’s under audit.
9:25 PM: For the first fifteen minutes Trump did a pretty good job being relatively normal and non-feral. But then after about 15 minutes in the feral-o-meter started to tick up minute by minute.
9:24 PM: Trump on Fauci: “I think he’s a Democrat but that’s okay.”
8:58 PM: I realize that I look forward to this debate with a sense of dread. That’s not because I think it will go badly necessarily – badly in the sense of making a bad election result more likely. But I recognize that is one more big opportunity for this predatory degenerate to inflict more harm on the country.
Ever since the debacle of the first presidential debate we’ve been hearing that President Trump has to be nicer in the next face off and let Joe Biden (or even just the moderator) talk. Numerous articles in recent days purport to quote top Trump advisors saying this, demanding this. I have no doubt they’re saying this and may even believe it. But it seems basically a certainty that in tonight’s final debate – likely the last chance to change the dynamic of the race – President Trump will be every bit as aggressive, feral and rage-soaked as he was three weeks ago.
Indeed, we should expect it to be worse.
Two points on the latest polls. The first is that President Trump does appear to have regained a small measure of support in recent days – very small and it still leaves him in landslide loss territory but it seems to show up as some real movement. At the same time, I keep seeing polls in which the “likely voter” screen shows a slightly better result than the “registered voter” screen. Most of you know that that inverts the rule of thumb in which Republicans – who tend to be older, wealthier, more fixed in communities – do better on likely voter screens. This suggests a non-trivial turnout advantage.
We are rightly focusing on President Trump last night telling rally goers he’d never be in their dump of a town if the election weren’t going so badly for him. But let’s not miss the more important and lasting part of this message. President Trump is already previewing one explanation and justification for his defeat: COVID. He was cruising toward reelection, he claims, when COVID struck. For him, there’s the added feature that it was the handiwork of his purported arch-enemy China.
I do not think that impeachment was a mistake, as TPM Reader JR does. But as a factual matter I think he is right that there is no question that seeing all but one Republican Senator exonerate him in the face of indisputable evidence of the most egregious crimes radically emboldened Trump and made him feel he could get away with anything.
It’s been a while since I have thanked you for all fo the great coverage and analysis. TPM has been indispensable these last four years, and I am more likely to share TPM stories on FB than stories from any other source.
Two thoughts on your editorial this morning:
Here we are. Two weeks out from election day. All signs point to a Biden victory and a likely Democratic control of the Senate. But of course polls can be wrong and because of the electoral college two to four points of a Democratic popular vote margin is just what secures an electoral college win. Of course, the stakes are so high that no sinew of capacity or iota of effort can be spared even if a Trump defeat seems more likely than not. What is important to maintain clearly in mind is that everything has come down to this critical moment. The country has been at this four long years. We’ve seen protests, political organizing, investigations, mid-term elections, an endless series of efforts to come to grips with and battle the scourge of a lawless, damaging presidency. But this is the moment that counts, the moment for which all of these efforts and strivings must have been preparatory.
The Great Moonwalking, long foretold, is beginning in advance of President leaving office or even losing office. We are now hearing that even some of President Trump’s most committed lickspittles and toadies were in fact anti-Trump all along, just working secretly, operating from the inside. To borrow the Catholic hierarchy’s usage, they were in pectore members of the resistance.
Last week we had Ben Sasse detailing all the President’s many transgressions in a campaign call he was sure would rapidly make it into the papers. Yesterday John Cornyn, one of the President’s most loyal Senate soldiers, announced that contrary to all appearances he has not in fact loyally supported the President at every turn. In fact he has opposed almost all of his major policy initiatives – just secretly. Cornyn cast himself as an abused wife who has only latterly realized there’s no changing Trump. “Maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.”
Immediately after I started saying that Democrats should expand the number of Justices on the Court in response to Republican court packing, I heard from a couple people telling me that the coteries around Pelosi and Biden were saying, no way. Not happening. (Interestingly, I heard a pretty different message from within the Senate caucus leadership – which is and should be the real locus of decision-making.)
But things are changing. Last week Joe Biden shifted his public statements to explicitly connecting his decision on expanding the Court to the outcome of the Barrett confirmation process. Her confirmation is of course a foregone conclusion. But clarifying the cause and effect, the order of events is critical: Democrats are reacting to and trying to repair the damage caused by Republican court-packing and corruption. If Republicans are upset by the prospect of all their hard work and corrupt acts going up in smoke with a simple majority vote they can take the opportunity to rethink their next actions.