During our podcast discussion today, Bill Kristol reminded me of the phrase “Boob Bait for the Bubbas,” which was colorful shorthand for “tough-sounding rhetoric designed to placate conservative voters.”
As near as I can tell, the expression became part of our political Lexicon courtesy of he late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who deployed it in his critique of his fellow Democrat, Bill Clinton.
Speaking at an editorial board meeting at The New York Post, the Senator said the White House was using welfare reform, a popular campaign issue, as "boob bait for the Bubbas."
He said President Clinton raised the subject of welfare reform to appease the public "whenever he gets in trouble."
Interestingly enough, the National Review’s Rich Lowry used it to flay President George Bush, who he said, was “offering his own ‘boob bait’ in the form of speechifying at the border about a crackdown on illegal immigration.” But that was back in 2005, before Trump and the Wall, and the return of that other tired trope: “America First.”
But all things old seem again.
Kristol brought it up to describe the aggressive agenda of GOP state legislatures, who seem to be caught up in aggressive competition of performative demagoguery. At the state level, the GOP is at ramming speed on issues ranging from vaccinations and elections, to yoga, critical race theory, and guns.
Much of that legislation seems designed to signal cultural allegiances rather than deal with actual problems, and so raises this question: Is it the GOP who is overreaching right now?
That seems contrarian, because the conventional wisdom is that the Biden Administration and Democrats in Washington are overplaying their hand. That charge is not without merit, but let’s look at what’s happening at the state level.
In Ohio, Republican legislators are pushing a genuinely insane assault on vaccinations.
Republicans in the state General Assembly, meanwhile, are pushing sweeping legislation to weaken Ohio’s vaccination laws — for all vaccines, not just COVID-19….
The legislation would ban vaccine requirements on customers, employees or students from businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, K-12 schools, colleges, daycares, or others. It would also prevent governments, insurers, or businesses from offering incentives for people to get vaccinated, or even requesting that people get vaccinated.
In Texas, Republicans are about to legalize carrying handguns without a license, permit, training, or background check of any kind. As the Texas Tribune notes “Under current state law, Texans must generally be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test.” That’s all gone now and that’s nuts.
In Florida, the GOP just enacted a new social media law that is both unconstitutional and a cynical attack on free speech. As David French noted: “One of the incredibly bizarre developments of this dysfunctional modern time is the extent to which a faction of the Republican Party is now rejecting the crown achievements of the conservative legal movement.
“Increasingly, the GOP is looking at remarkable legal advances in the fight against speech codes, against government regulation of corporate speech, and against government-mandated viewpoint discrimination—and declaring that it prefers power over liberty. It wants more government control over speech. It wants speech codes.”
In Alabama (as I mentioned in an earlier newsletter), Republicans continue to regulate yoga in the schools, while banning the use of any Sanskrit words such as “Namaste.”
In West Virginia (and a slew of other states), GOP legislators have rushed to pass bans on transgender athletes. When pressed, the WV governor, Jim Justice, was unable to cite a single example to justify the measure.
Across the country, GOP legislators are passing bills that ban “critical race theory,” even though it’s likely that only a handful have any idea was the academic term actually means. Not that precision matters. A reminder here:
In Arizona, GOP legislators have not only launched a farcical “audit” of voting in Maricopa County, but then stripped the State’s Secretary of state of her authority over elections after she criticized the “Cyber Ninja” fiasco.
Arizona, of course, is only one of the many states where GOP legislatures are pushing legislation to make it harder to vote and increasingly partisan control over the election process.
The contagion of crazy is spreading quickly.
In Wisconsin, the state’s top GOP legislator “is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory.”
And we haven’t even gotten into the festival of crazy going on in GOP primaries around the country. (Check out Missouri, where the senate race may pit the disgraced former governor against a guy famous for pointing a loaded gun at BLM protestors.)
Back in DC, Republicans are still in heads-up-their ass mode about how to not deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene. Our colleague Amanda Carpenter writes:
Make no mistake: At this moment, the power in the GOP is with Trump and anyone who can keep his voters pulling the lever for Republicans in 2022. That’s why MTG is untouchable.
MTG isn’t chastened by verbal slaps on the wrists. She’s emboldened…
Greene knows where she stands. As long as she has Trump’s support and keeps his voters in the GOP tent, she’s calling the shots. Not McCarthy.
Exit take: The conventional wisdom is that the GOP won’t pay a price for this in the mid-terms.
The conventional wisdom may be wrong.
Let’s stipulate that the Quinnipiac poll had a shaky run in 2020. But, even so, the latest poll has some interesting numbers. Most analysts are focusing on the Trumpification of the GOP; 66% of Republicans say they want Trump to run for president in 2024.
"The numbers fly in the face of any predictions that Donald Trump's political future is in decline. By a substantial majority, Republicans: (1) believe the election was stolen from him, (2) want Trump to run again, and (3), if they can't vote for Trump, prefer someone who agrees with him," said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.
Take a step back from the GOP navel-gazing. “Overall, two-thirds of Americans (66 - 30 percent) say they do not want to see him run.” And check out these approval ratings:
Donald Trump: 37 percent favorable, 57 percent unfavorable, and 3 percent haven't heard enough;
Kevin McCarthy: 12 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable, and 54 percent haven't heard enough;
Mitch McConnell: 15 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable, and 26 percent haven't heard enough.
Exit take: As Trump’s grip on the GOP grows tighter, the party’s tent continues to shrink.
Back the blue? Via Politico:
The mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick is requesting meetings with GOP senators to push them to support a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which Republicans are poised to block as soon as Thursday….
“Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day,” Gladys Sicknick said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward.”
“Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do,” she added.
Ryan Redux. Via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Paul Ryan to speak on future of Republican Party and conservative movement at Reagan Library.”
“Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads," Ryan will say, according to excerpts of the speech he's expected to give Thursday night.
Without naming Trump, Ryan will add: "And here’s one reality we have to face. If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere. Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle."
Exit take: No they don’t.
Make sure you read Cathy Young’s latest piece: "Cancel Culture," Hypocrisy, and Double Standards. She writes that two controversies--over Nikole Hannah-Jones's teaching post at UNC and Emily Wilder's firing by the AP--raise questions about attacks on free speech from the right.
1. Inflation and Crime Are Democrats’ Biggest Dangers
Mona Charen writes in today’s Bulwark that if Democrats can’t figure out how to confront both issues, voters will punish them.
Both Desmond Lachman and Lawrence Summers have warned that the economy is in real danger of overheating. The only tool to fight inflation in policymakers’ arsenal is extremely unpleasant (to say nothing of politically perilous)—hiking interest rates, which often initiates a recession. The Democrats can avoid this trap if they cancel or delay some of their unnecessary spending plans.
The other huge danger for Democrats is the rising crime rate. Last year homicides spiked by 33 percent across the country, the largest annual increase in 50 years. Atlanta’s murder rate increased by 38 percent, apparently contributing to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s decision to forego a reelection bid. New York City (43 percent) and Chicago (55 percent) also saw large jumps in homicides.
2. The Culture War Comes for Military Recruitment
Shay Khatiri writes that Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson are abusing national security policy to fit their own demagogic ends.
Both men seem to be under the impression that the United States military exists to prove some half-coherent point about manliness or “wokeness” or airborne fashion, rather than to protect the country from foreign threats.
3. The Labor Market Needs the ‘Soft’ Skills Older Workers Have
The increasing demand for decision-making skills has several causes, including especially technologically driven reductions in the number of occupations that involve routine tasks and a corresponding rise in the premium for those who can lead and manage workplaces with ever-higher levels of automation. One of the main qualifications for such jobs appears to be the ability to absorb, integrate, and learn from the massive troves of data the modern economy creates.