Sep 16, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Good Sunday morning ... 51 days to midterms.

  • 💰 This afternoon is the debut of Felix Salmon's Axios Edge, a lookahead on business and markets. I've enjoyed reading the tests — witty text and fascinating graphics. You'll love (or love to hate) Felix's "Building of the week." Sign up free here.
1 big thing: Epic political malpractice — at scale
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

By all measures of American politics, this should be the moment Republicans cement an unstoppable governing majority:

  • They have a booming economy ... a Senate map you fantasize about (10 Democrats up for re-election in Trump country) ... House districts carved to their advantage ... and tons of rich donors. 
  • Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report emails me: "From the presidency, to Congress, governors and state legislatures, Republicans hold more offices than any time since the 1920s. ... This is the most favorable Senate map that either party has had in modern history, maybe ever. ... Things don’t get much better."

Instead, Republicans are blowing it — often in mind-boggling ways, officials tell Axios CEO Jim VandeHei and me:

  • In a record number of House races, they're being outraised by Democrats who control nothing.
  • They're suffering retirements at record rates — putting very winnable House seats like Speaker Paul Ryan’s at far greater risk.
  • They look unlikely to win more than one or two — if any — of the Senate seats held by Democrats in states Trump won in 2016.
  • There's a 40% chance they blow the entire majority, based on our conversations with GOP leaders. 
  • They seem unlikely to reap much of the benefits from economic indicators that should be gold to run on. Think about it: They delivered huge tax cuts; unemployment is, remarkably, below 4%; wages are rising; economic optimism is surging.
  • They're sucking wind in campaign after campaign.
  • And they're alienating women — prompting a record number to run and vote. Remember: More women vote in presidential elections than men. 

A Republican official deeply involved in midterm campaigns told me: "If there was any way to reduce the noise (unlikely!!), we could survive. [There's] so much noise [that it doesn't] allow people to realize economy/life is good."

Be smart: This election could echo long from now. Republicans seem certain to end this election even more defined as the party of white men, a group slowly but surely shrinking in power.

  • There's a reason that the party’s autopsy after the 2012 election called for an urgent push for inclusion: Demographics don’t lie. 
2. Danger sign for Sanders, Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren rallies in Cambridge, Mass., on Sept. 9. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

"HUGE lesson for Dems in 2020 from the primary results," Josh Kraushaar, National Journal's politics editor, tweets this morning:

  • There's a "limited audience for a white progressive (like Warren/Sanders) outside of a narrow ideologically-driven base ... huge opportunity for someone like Kamala Harris to build multi-racial coalition."

Josh elaborates on this dynamic in his "Against the Grain" column, "Identity, Not Ideology, Driving the Democratic Party":

"White progressives badly underachieved in Democratic primaries for governor. African-American progressives dominated."
"Warren ... faces similar obstacles as her like-minded white progressive counterparts in the states. There’s a long history in Democratic presidential primaries of the so-called 'wine-track' candidates — Howard Dean, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart among them — generating early hype but underachieving because they failed to win support from non-white voters. Bernie Sanders had a similar problem in 2016."
3. Henry Kissinger is worried
Kissinger speaks at Senator McCain's memorial service (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Henry Kissinger says we're failing to reckon with the consequences of the AI revolution — and that when he "organized a number of informal dialogues on the subject" (it's great to be Henry Kissinger), his concerns grew.

Kissinger, 95, wrote in the June issue of The Atlantic that "[p]hilosophically, intellectually  —  in every way  —  human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence." The Atlantic has resurfaced the piece on Medium:

  • The key paragraph: "If AI learns exponentially faster than humans, we must expect it to accelerate, also exponentially, the trial-and-error process by which human decisions are generally made: to make mistakes faster and of greater magnitude than humans do."
  • "It may be impossible to temper those mistakes, as researchers in AI often suggest, by including in a program caveats requiring 'ethical' or 'reasonable' outcomes. Entire academic disciplines have arisen out of humanity’s inability to agree upon how to define these terms. Should AI therefore become their arbiter?"

"Ultimately, the term artificial intelligence may be a misnomer," Kissinger writes:

  • "Rather, it is unprecedented memorization and computation."
  • "AI is likely to win any game assigned to it. But for our purposes as humans, the games are not only about winning; they are about thinking."
  • "By treating a mathematical process as if it were a thought process, ... we are in danger of losing the capacity that has been the essence of human cognition."

Obviously worthy of your time.

Bonus: This item may save your life

Why stress can kill ... "[M]ore and more, the field of medicine is coming to understand that the connection between the heart and the emotions is an intimate one," cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar writes in the N.Y. Times "Sunday Review" section (adapted from his book, "Heart: A History," out Tuesday):

  • "The heart may not be the origin of our feelings, but it is highly affected by them. ... [F]ear and grief can cause serious cardiac injury. During emotional distress, the nerves that control the heartbeat can set off a maladaptive 'fight or flight' response that causes blood vessels to constrict, the heart to gallop and blood pressure to rise, resulting in damage to the body."

Why it matters: "[O]ur hearts are sensitive to our emotional system — to the metaphorical heart, if you will. "

4. Fearsome new stage

Historic rainfall continues to wreak havoc in the Carolinas, where all-time rainfall records have already been broken, Axios science editor Andrew Freedman writes:

  • A swath of land between Wilmington and New Bern, N.C., is closing in on 40 inches of rainfall, as the heaviest rains begin to shift into a new, treacherous area: The Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • The storm has killed at least 14 people so far, and this number is likely to rise.

Early this week, flooding is likely to spread from the Carolinas to the Appalachians, northwest Mid-Atlantic (possibly including parts of the Washington area), and on north into New England.


Two deadly storms — Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut in Asia — "roared ashore on the same day, half a world apart," AP's Seth Borenstein writes:

  • "Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable. ... [T]he Philippines is much poorer than the southeastern United States, which means houses tend to be less sturdy and first responders less well equipped."
  • "Mangkhut may well end up being the deadlier storm."
  • "But Florence's watery insured damage total [may] eventually be higher."
5. Do you agree with Steve Bannon?
Mary Altaffer/AP

Steve Bannon says he thinks Time's Up, started in Hollywood and aimed at protecting women against sexual harassment in all workplaces, is "the single most powerful potential political movement in the world," per AP.

  • Bannon spoke yesterday in New York during The Economist's inaugural Open Future Festival.
  • Asked about Time's Up, Bannon said: "I'm quite shocked that the #MeToo movement hasn't cut through corporate America with a bigger scythe, because I think there's a lot of potential there."
6. 1 fun thing: "Not-So-Little Leagues"
St. John's Cadets celebrate championship win on penalty kicks over Paul VI Panthers in November in Germantown, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

"The Youth Sports Megacomplex Comes to Town, Hoping Teams Will Follow": Youth sports have turned into big business as small towns lure both teams and tournaments, by N.Y. Times' Joe Drape:

  • "[F]ed by the growth of traveling teams and regional and national events, the industry has doubled in size over the past decade — to more than $15 billion a year, according to one company that tracks its growth — as tournament organizers, property developers and a handful of small towns target parents who share their young athletes’ dreams of glory and have the money to pursue them."
  • "As families travel more miles so their children can play more games and be seen by more college recruiters, sprawling complexes like The Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and LakePoint have fine-tuned both their facilities and their programs to attract millions of visitors every year."

Lingo: "[A]s they have succeeded, these megacomplexes — and other hybrid sports/vacation destinations like them — have become staples of yet another growing youth sports phenomenon: the tourna-cation circuit."