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Band of Brothers
This is the time to stand and fight.
1. Once More Unto the Breach
Yesterday morning I wrote about how the polling data are all lined up in a way that makes logical and numerical sense. I painted the picture of a race where the range of outcomes runs from Biden landslide to narrow Trump win.
But by late afternoon, I saw two pieces of data that changed my mind and I have now settled into a view that, barring some unforeseen event—such as a terrorist attack, or a candidate death—the election is over. You can read my reasoning here; it mostly has to do with the level of turnout that we’re seeing.
(Tl; dr A Trump victory would mean that there was a giant polling error and such errors are more common in low-turnout scenarios. The higher the turnout, the more accurate polls tend to be, because math.)
A lot of readers were uncomfortable with this analysis and worried that I was taking a victory lap prematurely.
So allow me to reassure you that this was not my intent. Let me explain.
Over the last two weeks we published two extraordinary pieces at The Bulwark. One was from James Carville, one of the great political minds of his generation in Democratic politics. The other from Stuart Stevens, who is the same, but from the GOP.
I cannot tell you how proud I am to be associated with an institution where these two men—each brilliant, but each having spent their careers opposing the other—could publicly link arms. This is, literally, what it means to put country over party.
I want to quote each of them to you, as a way to explain why I thought it was important to say—now, out loud—why Trump is finished.
In just a short time, America will go from its darkest hour to its finest hour.
Very seldom in American history have there been periods when people can nobly wage a crusade to create real and lasting change. But when these crusades do occur, when those moments arrive, what we do to vanquish the threat to freedom builds something everlasting into the framework of our society. . . .
We find ourselves again at such a turning point. Donald Trump’s authoritarian presence behind the Resolute Desk is amongst the gravest threats America has ever faced from within. And Americans have risen to meet this threat. . . .
I can say with certainty that in all my years, joining in this crusade to take America back from the brink of destruction is the greatest thing I have ever been a part of in my life.
This crusade is something noble.
I sense a strange lack of confidence with Democrats, as if they have been juggling eggs for most of a marathon and can’t believe they actually might cross the finish in first place.
In these last two weeks, I would plead with Democrats to change that mindset and banish the timidity. If I ran the Democratic party, here’s what I’d be telling my troops:
We are going to crush Donald Trump and the sickness he represents. There are more of us than there are of them. We are right. They are wrong. This is our moment. This is our destiny. Walk with confidence. Do not falter. Victory will be ours.
Let us go forward in this final stretch with the confidence that our mission is vital and our opponent is weak.
Do not hesitate to swagger. These last two weeks belong to you. Years from now you will look back on these last days as some of the best in your lives. An evil was unleashed in the country you love and you rose to smite it. You will slay this dragon. . . .
Now is when you turn a victory into a rout. We are all tired, but the other side isn’t just tired. They are frightened and confused. As they should be. Because they are losing the fight for the soul of this country. And they know it.
If you’d permit me to put aside my professional detachment for a moment, I agree with both of these good and honorable men. Completely.
Which is why I thought it was important to say what I thought, out loud, rather than hedging and weaseling and positioning.
He’s going to lose.
2. St. Crispin Day
I spent 19 years in this business before Donald Trump took over American politics. His ascendence was dispiriting, on many levels, because it destroyed a number of my youthful illusions.
A large swath of the country fell under the thrall of a demagogue.
One of our two great political parties gave itself over to authoritarianism.
The institutional guardrails we revered turned out to be dependent on the good character of men and women, which suddenly went in short supply.
A number of people I had once respected rallied—either abjectly or gleefully—to the banner of a man they knew to be dangerous.
Others tried to maintain their political viability by focusing on the flaws of the those who opposed this would-be tyrant.
Still others walked away from the most important fight of their lives, high-mindedly insisting that while Trump might be bad, he was too clownish to be a real threat.
Or that instead of joining the fight, they intended to be umpires, standing above the grubby back-and-forth, calling balls and strikes.
This coming Sunday, October 25, is the feast of St. Crispin. And I cannot think of better lines for this moment in American history.
What's he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmorland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester—
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
3. Cannonball Run
During the pandemic someone did a Cannonball Run. But for real:
Fred Ashmore was just outside Needles, California, in the parched low desert where the jagged southern point of Nevada meets the Arizona-California border, when he felt it wash over him. A kind of confusion melting into panic. He was exhausted, which he knew was making everything worse. It was about 1 a.m., and he'd been at the wheel for almost 24 hours now, rocketing west at speeds well over 100 miles per hour. For lucky stretches, when the road opened up and Ashmore punched the throttle, he could get his silver Ford Mustang GT up to 159 mph—the car's top speed, he'd discovered. . . .
On the outside, his Mustang looked pretty much like any other car on the road. Inside was another story. Splayed across Ashmore's dashboard was an array of devices, including a CB radio, a mounted tablet operating Waze and Google Maps, and an iPhone running a timer. Stuck to the inside of the windshield was a radar detector; on the front grille and back bumper were the sensors for a laser jammer. Even more conspicuously, strapped beside and behind Ashmore, where the front and rear passenger seats should have been, huge fuel tanks sloshed with gasoline. A series of hoses connected them—along with another enormous tank, this one in the trunk—to the car's main fuel tank. . . .
[I]t was a vehicle customized for a single purpose: to complete the “Cannonball Run,” one of the great underground feats in American car culture—and to do it faster than anyone in history. Unofficial, unsanctioned, and spectacularly illegal, the Cannonball had been a staple of automotive lore for almost a half century before Ashmore's attempt late last spring. The rules are simple: Drivers start in Manhattan, at the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street, and finish at the Portofino, a hotel in Redondo Beach, California. What happens in between is up to them. Not surprisingly, the race requires an almost astonishing—and endlessly creative—disregard for traffic laws.
Over the decades, teams had been chipping away at the time needed to cover the 2,800 miles—cutting the record by nearly 10 hours since 1971, until it rested at 27 hours and 25 minutes. But among the clique of Cannonball devotees who kept tabs on the sport, a refrain of conventional wisdom had set in: The record could hardly fall much lower. There were simply too many cars on the road, and every innovation in engineering and technology—better fuel economy, more horsepower, the advent of digital navigation—seemed only to increase the problem. The Cannonball was bumping up against the limits of what was humanly possible.
Read the whole thing. It is awesome.