July 13, 2020
The Briefing, Vol. VIII, issue 27 – This week:
- Trump at Rushmore: a patriotic Rorschach test
- Susan Collins, canary in the coalmine?
- Tipton surprisingly bites the dust
Trump’s speech: He stood before Mount Rushmore and thanked South Dakota officials before launching into a speech celebrating Independence Day.
“Today, we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated. These heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
Trump’s Rushmore speech, delivered even as mobs were tearing down and vandalizing statues of George Washington and other founders, Ulysses Grant, black union soldiers, Abe Lincoln, and basically anyone else they came across, was perfectly tuned to the moment.
The media’s reaction was both shocking and unhinged. They accused him — falsely — of defending Confederate monuments. He did not mention the Confederacy or any monuments to it or its military personnel. Because of his purely patriotic speech, they accused him of trying to stoke white resentment.
It could just be that they are all living in the fictional world where CHAZ and the violent arsons, looting, beatings and murders in places like Seattle, Madison, and Minneapolis actually have anything to do with the police killing of George Floyd. It’s a small world of delusion, but many liberal journalists are living there even now.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said. This isn’t an opinion at a moment when prominent abolitionists’ statues are being decapitated and middle-aged Democratic legislators beaten up by left-wing fanatics.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing. They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive. But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them.
”One of their political weapons is ‘Cancel Culture’ — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America. This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly. We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life.
“In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us.”
Depending on who you were, and what you wanted to see, this simple patriotic speech was either an accurate and well-written statement of today’s reality, or a Hitlerian expression of “white resentment” calling for a restoration of the Confederacy. But the latter view depended upon a widespread belief, expressed repeatedly in the major media, that Trump had said things he just plan didn’t say in this speech.
For example, the allegation that he defended Confederate monuments, repeated by one sitting U.S. senator and also parroted by CNN and other media (some newspapers were at least ashamed enough to remove or soften such lies), was simply a lie. There is no mention of the Confederacy or the South in this speech, and the only generals Trump mentioned in it were George Washington and George Patton — not Robert E. Lee or any other Confederate.
The speech at least gives an idea of what sort of campaign Trump will be running in 2020. He is running against a lawless leftist mob. He is running against “Cancel Culture.” He is running to restore freedom of thought and to turn back the toxic tidal wave of intersectionality and identity politics that has beset the nation from its college campuses.
It is an enticing and potentially unifying message. It might be just what Republicans need in an election year which, at this moment, shows every sign of slipping away from them. But is it enough, considering how polarizing Trump has become? And can the media — which, again, simply lied about the content of this excellent Rushmore speech — run sufficient interference to prevent him from connecting with voters?
Colorado: Former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s win in Colorado’s primary probably puts an end to former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, whose career simply failed to launch after a meteoric rise in the Centennial State’s increasingly progressive political milieu.
In the meantime, it sets Hickenlooper on a collision course with Sen. Cory Gardner, R, who is definitely the underdog in this race.
Maine: It isn’t that anyone has to believe the Democrats’ poll showing their candidate, state House Speaker Sara Gideon leading Susan Collins. But this just adds to the heap of evidence that this race will be incredibly competitive. Collins has always been safe and relatively popular across the spectrum. She may be the canary in the coal mine for 2020. Her struggles are a sign that Republicans need a major boost before this fall.
Michigan: Sen. Gary Peters, D, has Joe Biden’s strong polling in his state at his back. But that isn’t stopping 2018 nominee John James, R, from outraising him. James, a businessman and Iraq War veteran helicopter pilot, raised $6.4 million to Peters’ $5.2 million in the second quarter of the year. James, in fact, has been consistently outraising Peters for a year now — this is the fourth consecutive quarter in which he has done so. His next challenge will be to show some muscle in a poll, which he has basically failed to do so far.
Montana: Democratic donors are very serious about Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s Senate run, seeing a chance to pick up a seat on the cheap. But maybe it won’t be so cheap after all. It cost over $20 million for Montana’s senior senator, Jon Tester, D, to hold on to his seat in 2018. Bullock raised $7.7 million in the second quarter — more than Tester’s Republican challenger, Matt Rosendale, spent on his entire race in 2018.
Then again, Republican Sen. Steve Daines’ personal wealth and President Trump’s likely overperformance in Montana might make such prodigious fundraising necessary.
Texas: It’s a bit odd to see Sen. John Cornyn, R, taking early aim at Democrats in their own primary runoff, but this has become an increasingly common strategy for incumbents in recent cycles.
Democrats Harry Reid (in 2010) and Claire McCaskill (in 2012) both intervened to the extent they could in order to get a preferred opponent in their last successful races. The strategy got mixed results. In McCaskill’s case, it made her job easy. In Reid’s case, the benefits were far less clear. His campaign blasted the purportedly stronger Republican to face Sharron Angle, and then he spent staggering sums early in an effort to nip her candidacy in the bud. She managed to keep her race competitive until the end, going almost toe-to-toe with him on ad spending until election day. He won, but it was rather unpleasant.
Cornyn, who probably should not be in trouble this year, is not quite doing that — rather, he is attempting to soften up the likely winner of the July 14 Democratic runoff. His new ad against state Sen. Royce West, D attacks him as a gun-grabbing, tax-hiking supporter of abortion. Cornyn wants to make sure he has his base engaged — as well he should, considering that Texas is a state where President Trump underperformed the average Republican presidential candidate, winning by nine points where Mitt Romney had won by 16 in 2012.
Colorado-3: President Trump’s endorsement matters to the base, but it is not necessarily dispositive. This has been evident ever since Trump’s preferred candidate, Sen. Luther Strange, R, lost his primary in the 2017 Alabama special election to Roy Moore.
Rep. Scott Tipton’s loss in his primary June 30 came as a shock to pretty much everyone. The former state party chairman’s ten years in office had been mostly inoffensive, and Trump even made a point of endorsing him. But the Republican voters on the ground had other ideas, and chose Lauren Boebert, a political neophyte and gun-rights activist.
Already, the media and Democrats are attempting to tar her as a QAnon conspiracy nut based on some vague comments on a podcast — she talked about how her mother, who is “a little fringe,” believes in the conspiracy theory.
Boebert will face former Democratic legislator Diane Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton in 2018 by only eight points.
State offices 2020
Indiana: The defeat of Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill for renomination at the weekend’s state convention cuts short — at least for now — the career of a politician who was once a rising black conservative.
Hill found himself in trouble when four women accused him of touching them inappropriately at a party. Former Secretary of State and Congressman Todd Rokita, R, was victorious in the convention over the weekend and should have no problem defeating the Democratic nominee, Jonathan Weinzapfel, the former two-term mayor of Evansville.
Indiana, a state where the legend of NAFTA and the lost jobs is widespread, is one of those states where President Trump did exceptionally well, and the current governor, Eric Holcomb, is quite popular.