Warning Sign: West Virginia

The second Trumpiest state in America is flashing red for Republicans.

1. West Virginia

The last time West Virginia went for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1996, when Bill Clinton carried the state. Since then, WV has been:

2000: Bush +6

2004: Bush +13

2008: McCain +12

2012: Romney +27

2016: Trump +42

This is the baseline for understanding what has been happening in West Virginia over the last 20 years. Looking at the state you can almost see the old Democratic coalition falling apart and white non-college voters shifting to the GOP.

For totally mysterious reasons that no one could possibly understand, that shift accelerated following the election of Barack Obama, with Republicans pulling in an extra net 15 points in each of the next two cycles.

I’m interested in West Virginia because if the national Biden-Trump numbers are real, then we ought to see some reflection of them even in West Virginia, because Biden’s lead is due, in part, to his re-capturing of parts of the old Democratic coalition and better performance with white working-class voters.

And sure enough:

I am not saying that West Virginia is in play.

But I am here to tell you that if Trump is really only +23 in West Virginia right now, then November 3 is going to be an absolute bloodbath for Republicans. Because it means that all of the demographic trends we’re seeing in the national numbers—Biden’s strength with seniors, Biden’s strength with non-college white women, Biden’s strength with all college-educated voters—are so real that they’re cutting 45 percent out of Trump’s margin in a homogenous state where neither side is playing.

There is a reason that the 538 model now has the single most likely outcome as Biden winning more than 400 electoral votes.

2. Afghanistan

If you stop to think about the last four weeks, the pace of events is staggering.

  • Death of RBG

  • Republican decision to push through a SCOTUS nominee

  • NYT tax return story

  • Trump debate meltdown / white supremacy dodge

  • Trump tests positive for COVID

  • The weird balcony Evita moment

  • VP debate

  • Trump backs out of second debate

That’s a lot of stuff packed into not very many days. And lost in the shuffle was probably the most important development: President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would be pulling out of Afghanistan.

So here is the question: Was this just “Trump tweeting”? Was it a campaign stunt that we’re all supposed to know isn’t real, like the promise that Mexico was paying for The Wall or that the national debt would be eliminated?

Or was it the announcement of actual United States policy that just happened to have surprised the entire military and national security and foreign policy apparatus because it sprang from the president’s thumbs while he was bored during a commercial?

Are Afghans on the ground supposed to take the president of the United States seriously, or literally?

On Sunday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff began to distance themselves from the statements of their commander-in-chief.

On the one hand, civilian control of the military is of paramount importance.

On the other hand, what is the military supposed to do when the civilian in control is mentally unfit for command?

I suspect the answer is that the Joint Chiefs are supposed to push back and stonewall to whatever extent bureaucratic rules allow. And after that, they’re supposed to resign en masse.

But don’t worry. Ross Douthat says that Donald Trump is just a clown and anybody who sees him as a potentially serious threat to our system of governance is an alarmist paranoiac.

3. Watch Talk

This hits all of my pleasure centers:

To call him simply a watchmaker would be too narrow a term: A watchmaker assembles the parts of a watch. “Eric is what we call a constructor,” said Alexandre Ghotbi, head of watches for continental Europe and the Middle East at Phillips, “he can develop and create a movement and then build it.”

For more than three decades, Mr. Coudray has worked behind the scenes for, and partnered with, some of the most well-respected and exclusive watch brands, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, MB&F and Purnell. He pioneered the multiaxis tourbillon, designing Jaeger-LeCoultre’s spherical dual-axis Master Gyrotourbillon in 2004. Then, in 2019, he created the vertically oriented Spherion triple-axis tourbillon for MB&F’s Legacy Machine Thunderdome and a double Spherion duo of triple-axis tourbillons for Purnell’s Escape II.

“Actually, I don’t like watches,” a grinning, bare-wristed Mr. Coudray, 55, said during a Zoom call from his home, a decommissioned windmill in Foncine-le-Haut, in eastern France. “I love the mechanics and working on the mechanics, but the watch itself as an object, it doesn’t really touch me.” . . .

A tourbillon — a French word meaning “to whirl around” — is a revolving mechanism that neutralizes the effects of gravity on a timepiece, so it tells time more accurately. Patented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, tourbillons initially operated on a single axis as they were designed to regulate pocket watches, usually stored upright in a coat or vest pocket. For wristwatches, the escapement and balance wheel of its regulating system were mounted in a rotating cage that revolves on its own axis.

The result of Mr. Coudray’s work was a spherical wonder that can operate on as many as three separate axes.

“Here’s this big guy with a beard and long hair,” Mr. Ghotbi said, “halfway between a heavy metal guitarist and a mad scientist, who literally reinvented the wheel with the Gyrotourbillon and created a new way of thinking about watches and the way movement is perceived.”

Read the whole thing.