Before we get started: Shortly after I finished writing today’s newsletter, Josh Hawley announced that he is going to buck Mitch McConnell and join House Republicans to force a roll-call vote on whether or not to accept the Electoral College votes.
This was completely predictable—I’ve literally been telling anyone who would listen that this was where we were headed since forking October. And Hawley coming out this far in advance makes it likely that he’ll be joined in his objection by at least Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz and probably a few others.
Which only sets up the next loyalty test: Actually voting to reject the Electoral College votes.
That, my friends, is the future of the Republican party. Loyalty tests, all the way down. And while you can probably be a senator from a “safe” state and get along by mumbling about how “we have to move on” or “we’ll never really know who won 2020,” to have any future in national Republican politics, you will have to have voted to overturn the election on January 6.
Think about that: The price of admission for advancement in Republican politics is now participating in an attempt to overthrow a free and fair election.
Donald Trump was defeated but the danger has not passed. Stand up to Josh Hawley. Stand up for America.
1. Death and Money
Mitch McConnell has taken it upon himself to kill the bill that would up the $600 stimulus payments to $2,000. Because Republicans are very concerned about fiscal responsibility again.
The good-faith argument against $2,000 checks is that it’s a blunt instrument for a more surgical problem. There are tens of millions of households which desperately need that stimulus through no fault of their own. The federal government mismanaged this pandemic from the start, and the consequences of its failures have been mass death and devastation for many segments of the economy.
But sending $2,000 to everyone is an inefficient way to address the problem because a lot of that money will go to people who don’t need it.
And that’s true. It is inefficient.
You know who put this inefficiency in motion? Mitch McConnell and the rest of the federal government.
As far back as March, people who pay attention to this stuff were ringing alarm bells, warning that the government was trying to do the economic component of the pandemic on the cheap. This approach would inevitably result in us having to revisit the idea of stimulus again and again, each time at the point of emergency. Here’s what I wrote back then:
This is not a $2 trillion problem we are facing. It's probably not even a $5 trillion problem. The entire American economy, more or less, needs to be backstopped because we cannot begin an economic recovery until the pandemic is at a place where it can be managed. And we are not yet close to that point.
So here's the real problem with both the Democratic and Republican plans: We're going to be back here doing this again, soon.
Mitch McConnell and Republican senators could have gone big early. With a pool of money in reserve, they could have used the next nine months to find ways to target relief funding in the most efficient manner possible.
Instead, we’ve veered from crisis point to crisis point, where complex decisions have to be made quickly and the only tools available are inefficient ones.
The Republican party did this. Populist my ass.
Here’s another thing the Republican party did: From the December 4 Triad,
Well, we have had 3.4 MM new cases in the 21 days since 12 November. If Trevor's 1.6% CFR still holds, you end up with 54,000 deaths over the next 21 days. Merry Christmas.
Our reported death total for that 21 day span from December 3 to December 24 was 52,584.
Pretty close to the pin.
We got that projection by using a Case Fatality Rate of 1.6 percent and applying it to the new case count of the preceding three weeks.
Now do the math looking three weeks out from here: Over the last 21 days we’ve had 4.38 million new cases. So we should expect roughly 70,000 more deaths between now and January 20.
But don’t worry. Mitch McConnell is on the job.
2. Insanity: A Play in Three Acts
You may recall that just the other day the polling firm Rasmussen was helpfully suggesting that Republicans follow advice from Joseph Stalin.
Well now the polling firm is back for more non-data-based analysis. Here’s what happened:
Just the president of the United States claiming that a political enemy (who is actually one of his supporters) is committing a crime because he’s doing the bidding of his fake brother’s Chinese paymasters.
It would be funny. Ha-ha. Look at the crazy man. He sends out some crazy tweets. Let’s all laugh about it and not be so gauche as to take him seriously, or literally, or whatever.
Except that by the time this man leaves office his insanity will have killed 400,000 Americans.
So it’s not funny. Not at all. It makes me sick. And it ought to make you sick, too.
This year has been a Frankenstein’s monster of stupidity, tragedy, and villainy. We are now facing a task on which the future of our country depends: Reconstructing the American political order in the wake of defeating a would-be strongman.
And even “defeat” might be putting it too generously. Donald Trump will leave office, but he will continue in public life. He will almost certainly position himself to run again. And the Republican party itself is an authoritarian apparatus. Just go ask the distinguished gentleman from Missouri.
But we’re going to try to make this work because we have no other option. I say this all the time because I believe it, in my bones: We’re all in this together.
So join us. Help us rebuild political life. It’s time to ride or die.
3. Black Sea Vegas
I don’t know why, but this 2015 piece about the attempt to build a tourist trap on the Black Sea fascinated me:
And so the chacha fountain is dry. The Alphabetic Tower is structurally unstable, leased for the equivalent of 40 cents a year to a Spanish company that has promised to take over its upkeep. Nobody knows exactly what happened to Trump Tower, only that no ground was ever broken. On midnight on a Saturday at the tail end of the summer high season, waiters in the cafés at the “Piazza”—a newly built square designed as an imitation of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor—are already putting away the tables. There was meant to be an open-air concert, I later learn from Kikliashvili, but the local authorities who invited the musicians down from Tbilisi forgot to coordinate with the venue or technicians. The musicians arrived, were paid, and were promptly sent away.
“Typical,” Noe says.
In the shadow of the Radisson Hotel sits a seven-star Kempinski hotel franchise that, almost a decade after the papers were signed, is still a skeleton. (Rumor on the street, Kikilashvili says, is that they’re desperate to sell it off as quickly as possible.) For every erected hotel, there is a derelict site, or one whose posted computer-renderings change abruptly and without warning (until a few weeks ago, Kikilashvili tells me, the “Crowne Plaza” was supposed to be a Holiday Inn).
But that doesn’t stop Batumi. The city’s energy, like that of its onetime champion, is relentless.
Along the waterfront boulevard, a neon-illuminated fountain jolts up water in time with pre-recorded music (on this Saturday night, a techno cover of Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man”). Lime-green Batumvélo bike rental stations are interspersed with minimalist-chic rotating statues of famed fictional lovers Ali and Nino. Batumi has a Hilton, a Sheraton. The Radisson is a crooked “S” of glass with a terrace swimming pool overlooking the newly paved boulevard. It has a Europe Square—anticipatorily renamed—where the tragic child-killer Medea is immortalized on a golden column in front of a new stained-glass façade. (The Radisson Hotel’s café, too, is called “Medea’s Pizza.”)