1. JVL Is Always Right
That’s the joke we have around the office and it’s less about my Inherent Genius than about how my inclination is to take the most pessimistic view of every situation and how the pessimistic view turns out to be correct most of the time.
But I want to talk about something I was very wrong about: the future of the Republican party.
My working assumption for the last four years was that Trumpism could be an extinction-level event for Republicans and that in Trump’s wreckage the GOP would be reduced to a rump party with great regional strength, but very much a permanent minority. Like the California GOP after Pete Wilson.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I mean, not entirely wrong: The Republican party will be, for the foreseeable future, a minority party. The GOP will not win a popular vote plurality any time soon. And this permanent minority status is basically unheard of in American politics.
Think about this: Starting in 1860, before the start of the Civil War, Republicans won the popular vote in six consecutive elections.
So it’s fair to say that the Civil War turned the Democrats into a permanent minority party at the national level, yes?
Since 1988, the Democrats have won the national popular vote in 7 of 8 presidential elections. With no end in sight.
Meaning that, as a matter of national popularity, the Republicans are in a deeper hole today than Democrats were after the Civil War.
It’s time to ride or die. Become part of Bulwark+.
But here’s what I was wrong about: The only thing keeping the Republican party viable are the institutional designs of the Senate and the Electoral College.
And because of them, Trumpism is probably the best path forward for the GOP.
Which is to say that Republicans have faced a choice over the last generation:
Change the nature of their racial demographic appeal; or
Change the nature of their educational demographic appeal.
They chose the latter, which meant driving up their margins among non-college educated rural white voters.
At this point, the GOP is pot-committed to this strategy. They couldn’t change direction even if they wanted to.
And it’s going to work out for them. Look how closely Senate election results now line up with presidential election results at the state level.
By maxing out with non-college rural whites, Republicans have given up the suburbs and metro areas—which is where the population growth is.
But this shift has also pressed their geographic advantage and allowed them to remain competitive in the Electoral College and at an advantage in the Senate.
So no, Trump didn’t kill the Republican party. He formalized its transformation and solidified it as the party of rural, non-college educated whites. And this base will be enough to make the party highly competitive as a national power in the near term, even as its total vote share in the population shrinks.
2. Thanksgiving Precautions
Zeynep Tufecki has some thoughts on how to slant the epidemiological odds in your favor this week:
Remember that all mitigations layer and add up. I love virologist Ian Mackay’s conceptualization of the swiss cheese defense against the pandemic. . . .
Whenever you plan to meet others, quarantine beforehand is the single best risk reduction step you can take. While the longer the better, any amount of quarantine is better than none. . . .
If you must travel in a manner that includes being around other people: consider wearing an N95 or KN95 mask whenever you’re around other people—you don’t need to purchase many. . . . But if you have such a mask, do wear it around other people, especially in places like crowded airport terminals, taxi rides or on planes. Don’t take it off if you don’t absolutely need to. It will make you safer from others, and them safer from you.
If you only have cloth masks, remember that their particular fit and layers matter.
Once you have arrived at your destination, remember: ventilation and distance reduce the risk related to Covid-19. . . . Sit outside as much as possible. Hang out around a fire pit. Open windows as much as possible. Use a HEPA filter and run it at its highest setting. . . .
Finally, give the best masks to high-risk people: the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, and the immuno-compromised.
Please take this stuff to heart.
Dealing with COVID does not mean locking yourself in a bubble for forever. It’s Thanksgiving. I get it. We all want to live a little! But there are smarter and safer ways to do it.
Cutting the number of contacts down helps. Wearing a mask—or better yet, an N95 or KN95—helps. Ventilation helps.
We are in the COVID endgame. Do your part to keep people from becoming the last ones to die for a mistake.
3. Tech Fail
It’s like the WeWork of gaming:
When her new boss started hitting on her, Ronnie* wondered if she might be able to take advantage of the situation. She was 23, and by now she’d figured out that when she raised the pitch of her voice and dressed like an anime fantasy girl, switching her hair from purple to green to pink every few weeks, it drove certain guys wild. Guys like the CEO of this startup, a serial entrepreneur named Michael Williams. She examined him from her desk: he was 49 and seemed rich but painfully nerdy and obsessed with Magic: The Gathering. Maybe if she acted all bubbly and let him stare, she could get a raise or a promotion. His crush was her opportunity.
“I could tell he just wanted to hang out with a cute girl,” she tells me. . . .
By the summer of 2018, 18 months after Williams took Ronnie to the arcade, Oomba would be over, with Williams facing internal accusations of financial mismanagement and inappropriate sexual relationships. But first, after squeezing the same investors for years, and though Oomba had zero revenue, it seems the company raised about $35 million from Chicago firm ExWorks Capital and blew through all of it in about a year. Where did the money go? No one is quite sure. There was a seven-figure splurge on a Las Vegas extravaganza featuring Big Bang Theory star Wil Wheaton that was so over budgetthe company didn’t fully pay the venue, according to a former member of management. There were chic offices, where Williams fell hundreds of thousands of dollars behind in rent. And there were a whole lot of sex workers.