Nov 4, 2018

The GOP’s bad barbed wire bet of 2018

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

At a rally in Montana yesterday, President Trump said when he turned to the fear-the-caravans part of his speech: "We have our military, now, on the border. [Cheers.] And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. ... Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight." Trump repeated his ode to barbed wire during a rally in the Florida Panhandle last night.

Why it matters: This is a fitting coda to a barbed strategy of choice, not circumstance. Imagine if Trump had done the unthinkable — chucked the fear and loathing bit and crusaded across the country thundering about promises made, promises kept and an American economy on fire. 

Imagine if his speeches echoed the top of this column by the NY Times' Bret Stephens:

  • "The night Donald Trump was elected was supposed to be, for most liberals and a few conservatives, the beginning of the end of the world. The economy would surely implode. The U.S. would probably blunder into a catastrophic war. The new American president would be blackmailed into conducting foreign policy as Putin’s poodle."
  • "None of that has happened — not yet, at any rate. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported the fastest rate of annual wage hikes in almost a decade, depriving Democrats of one of their few strong arguments about the true state of the economy. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since Vince Lombardi coached his last game in December 1969. The North American Free Trade Agreement has been saved with minor modifications and a new name."
  • "Oh, and: The Islamic State is largely defeated. Tehran has not restarted its nuclear programs despite America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. U.S. sanctions on Russia are still in place. Democrats badly damaged their chances of taking the Senate with their over-reaching and polarizing crusade to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court."

Instead, it’s caravans ("Four others ... are forming," he warned yesterday), enemies of the people, Pocahontas, fake news, plagues and diseases.

  • And it's contagious: GOP officials and candidates around the country "have concluded that their best shot at victory is embracing the Trump political playbook of demonization" — including the caravans, now playing in an attack ad near you, the NY Times' Jeremy Peters reports.

This might work to save the Senate, but surely will cost the GOP House seats and probably the whole House. 

  • And, here’s the dirty little secret among Republicans: All they really needed was the Kavanaugh fireworks to electrify their base and exploit one of the most favorable Senate maps imaginable.

Truth is, bragging about accomplishments and the economy could have helped grow the Senate and keep the House. It might have helped the elections from turning into the boys against the girls. 

  • To the dismay of many Republicans too fearful to challenge Trump, they will never know.

Go deeper

Trump forces fateful choices on Twitter and Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's war with Twitter is confronting social media platforms with a hard dilemma: whether to take fuller responsibility for what people say on their services, or to step back and assume a more quasi-governmental role.

The big picture: Facebook is trying to be more like a government committing to impartiality and protecting free speech and building mechanisms for arbitration. Twitter, pushed by Trump's inflammatory messages, is opting to more aggressively enforce conduct rules on its private property, like a mall owner enforcing rules inside the gates.

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 5,851,494 — Total deaths: 362,238 — Total recoveries — 2,445,181Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,729,185 — Total deaths: 101,706 — Total recoveries: 399,991 — Total tested: 15,646,041Map.
  3. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  4. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March —How the U.S. might distribute a vaccine.
  5. Transportation: National mobility keeps rising as more states reopen economies.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Saying goodbye to U.S. megacities.

Obama on George Floyd's death: "This shouldn't be 'normal'"

Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Former President Obama said in a statement Friday that the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, "shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America."

What he's saying: "[W]e have to remember that for millions of Americans being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal' — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or watching birds in a park."