All politics is national | ticker VIEWS
The legendary Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill, was fond of saying, “All politics is local”
That was the key to his leading his members of the House: to understand them and win their vote, you had to understand their home base, and shape your objectives to meet their politics.
It worked for Tip in delivering bills for President Jimmy Carter and holding Democrats to curb the worst excesses of President Ronald Reagan.
But a new era is upon us: In the US, all politics is national.
Multi-channel 24/7 cable news, multi-platform social media, Facetime/Zoom and the dark web: they feed a homogenised bath of politics, rhetoric, cultural hot buttons and reference points.
Everyone is playing with race, crime immigration, abortion, guns and voting rights in the same sandbox.
There were two elections for governor last week:
Virginia in the south and New Jersey in the north – but the trends were virtually identical.
Biden carried those states a year ago by 10 and 16 points, respectively.
Virginia saw a swing to the Republican winner of 12 points; in New Jersey it was 14 – but the Democrat barely held on. In both states, last year’s anti-Trump suburban and independent voters shifted back to the Republicans.
What happened to Biden and the Democrats?
He had an excellent start in January. Relief that Trump was gone, a big initial economic recovery program, and unleashing the vaccine campaign.
But as a former Ohio Republican congressman said, “You’ve had the debacle in Afghanistan, inflation, product shortages, and as a proxy for all of that, the fact that gas prices have skyrocketed.” And Delta staggered a return to normal.
Last week Biden was at 42% approval (he had been as high as 55%) and over 50% disapproval. A near-record 70% of the country felt that America was on the wrong track.
No president can win for himself or his party from that position.
The whole Biden agenda was adrift too. Weeks without progress. Nothing was getting done. EJ Dionne of Brookings wrote:
“The warning signs were there for months. Democrats buried a series of popular initiatives under a debate over how big the program should be. They bickered and dawdled while the president’s approval ratings burned, obsessing about adversaries within while ignoring the partisan enemy outside the gates,
“Is it any wonder that so many among the party’s supporters failed to show up on Tuesday?”
As your Political Note outlined last week, the message of the Democratic setbacks was crystal clear:
“Democrats! You damn fools! If you cannot govern you cannot win elections! How many times do we have to learn this lesson? You didn’t pass Obamacare early and lost the House in 2010. So let’s pass these bills! And nothing on voting rights! If you have any hope of holding the House, what the hell are you waiting for?”
And guess what: Biden got it. At his day-after press conference, Biden understood: “People want us to get things done… we should produce for the American people… people need a little breathing room… we have to produce results for them.”
And he underscored this yesterday in the White House:
“The American people have made clear one overwhelming thing, I think — and I really mean it — all the talk about the elections and what do they mean and everything: They want us to deliver. They want us to deliver,
Democrats, they want us to deliver. Last night, we proved we can.
On one big item, we delivered … But I think the one message that came across was: Get something done. It’s time to get something done. Stop — you all stop talking. Get something done.”
And that is why the infrastructure bill had to pass. If the exquisite differences in ideological positioning among the Democrats had prevailed, and that bill had gone down, the Biden presidency would have been over. The Democrats in the House finally got that too.
But winning that battle does not mean the war is won. Hardly.
The $2 trillion social programs and climate bill is up next. There will be zero Republican votes for it. Republicans want to keep the benefits of that huge package – universal pre-k, expanded health care, senior care, clean energy and climate programs, child and earned income tax credits, affordable housing – from reaching voters.
If Democrats fail to unite and pass it, they are eminently beatable next November, and the Republicans can take back control of Congress, and then work to get the White House back in 2024.
Biden’s most consequential battles are still ahead.
And all politics is national.
Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and the war of the Republicans
A fortnight ago, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump, was the first to jump into Trump’s pool for the presidency
This week, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is making waves in the pool. Several others, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, and another South Carolinian of color, Sen. Tim Scott, are dipping their toes in the water.
Someone had to go first, and Haley is it.
The others know that Trump wants to tear them to pieces — he has already given DeSantis an ugly nickname, “Ron DeSanctimonius” — and they did not want to be first in the firing line.
Haley may be crazy brave. She is already taking incoming from the Make America Great Again (MAGA) crowd for shying away from highlighting her courageous stand as governor on taking the Confederate flag down from the state capitol.
But Haley has done something very important as the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination gets underway: She has opened the door to take Trump down.
Haley’s announcements — first on Twitter with her launch video, and then at the rally itself — were loaded with unmistakable criticisms of Trump and his viability to lead the Republican Party back into the White House.
There was this:
“We’re ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.”
“We won’t win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.”
“Mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
And then the Trump-killing argument that Trump is a loser:
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change.”
Yes, Haley is also targeting Joe Biden on the age issue and the baggage of politicians from the 20th century.
But these are direct hits on Trump.
DeSantis is staking out his vision – of himself as the true grandmaster of culture war politics. What he has done in Florida he wants to nationalize in the 2024 presidential campaign: DeSantis pushes the anti-woke buttons on immigration, on abortion, on gay and transgender people, on parental control of schools, of radical left racial books that are in libraries. He punishes bureaucrats who stand in the way of his agenda, and uses state power to wreak economic harm on companies, like Disney, who speak out against the DeSantis program.
DeSantis has shown moxie and cunning in these first steps of his long march to the White House. First, to gather 100 heavy Republican players and funders in a strategy meeting just 5 miles from Trump’s lair at Mar-a-Lago. Then, to launch his new book on the DeSantis story and vison – an instant best-seller. Then to be featured at a gathering of the Club for Growth, conservative corporates and investors who believe in limited government and economic opportunity – and they have refused to support Trump. Haley, Scott and Sununu will also address the Club.
While they meet, Trump will be just outside Washington, addressing CPAC, the largest group of conservative activists in the country. For the past seven years, Trump has been their king and has given the clarion call to his movement.
As of today, in the latest Fox News poll, Trump leads DeSantis 43%-27%.
What will be closely watched is how much DeSantis and the others attack Trump, and how much Trump directly attacks those who are circling.
What must be understood is this:
Those seeking the Republican presidential nomination have to take it from Trump.
He is not going to cede it or walk away from it. The only way to beat Trump is for another Republican to take him down — to defeat him in the upcoming Republican primaries next year. And the Republican who does take him down will be using Nikki Haley’s arguments that Trump should not, must not, be the Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
There is no way around it. Nikki Haley has opened the door for the war of the Republicans.
Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances
Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield.
The experts panned it.
A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.
And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016. Trump never concedes. Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.
The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser.
That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms. As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.
Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.
“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”
The anger is palpable. The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow. Immigration is his lead-off weapon.
Then promises of energy independence and oil forever. Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore. No transgender women in sports. No way they are tolerated. A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards. Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.
Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money. We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.
Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.
Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend. And that’s how Trump intends to win.
Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message. “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone. I did it before and I will do it again. And we will be respected in the world once again.”
Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.
Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport
Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury
Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.
It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.
Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.
Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.
Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.
Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.
He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.
Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.
In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.
There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.
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