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So Much for Moving On
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So Much for Moving On

January 6 will cast a shadow over at least one more election.

Mike Johnson looks toward colleagues after being nominated Republican speaker of the House of Representatives on October 24, 2023.(Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

We’re thinking a lot about 9/11 these days as we consider the implications of the Hamas terror attacks on innocent Israeli civilians earlier this month. Whatever the parallels will be for the Middle East and Israel, we can also reflect on how the 2001 attacks did and did not change life for Americans. Politically, the direct consequences were profound and lasting, but not permanent.

National security and the response to the 9/11 attacks dominated three federal election cycles: 2002, 2004, and 2006. First, the incumbent party was advantaged by national unity and a desire for decisive action. Then, dissatisfaction with the way that action was carried out redounded to the disadvantage of the “in” party. 

Both parties prepared for the 2008 election with the expectation that national security would again be the dominant issue, one choosing for its presidential nominee a hawkish war hero and the other selecting a dovish newcomer who rose to fame as an opponent of the administration’s response.

Then the economy went belly up. A financial panic triggered a recession that not only dominated that year’s election, but helped drive a populist revolt among the middle-aged and older voters most badly hurt by the collapse of financial and housing markets that would shape the contests of 2010, 2014, and 2016.

Then came a plague.

The 2020 election was certainly about the exhausting, nutty, and lawless conduct of the incumbent president, but really was dominated by the national response to the coronavirus pandemic. Even with the incumbent’s poor character, it’s easy to see how he would have otherwise remained in power.

In 2022, we were set for another election dominated by the pandemic, with voters seemingly poised to punish the new party in power for its mishandling of the national emergency and the inflation driven in substantial part by the bipartisan spending spree in response to the crisis. But a new, destructive force had been unleashed on politics after 2020: The January 6 attack on the Capitol and the efforts by the defeated party to steal power despite its electoral loss.

Most members of the “out” party were eager to move on from the embarrassment of the actions that caused the riot and the president who urged on its participants. A backlash election was very much in the interest of the minority party, and for those who rightly saw the 2020-2021 misconduct as a liability, it was something to be forgotten as quickly and thoroughly as possible. 

But along the way, false claims about the 2020 election had become the defining division inside the “out” party. The former president wielded his considerable influence to punish members of his party who did not adhere to his fictive account of his own defeat. While some successfully stood their ground, most who defied the former president were defeated. Most in the minority party, though, tried to be lukewarm, mouthing platitudes about election security in hopes of escaping the former president’s ire and that of his supporters, but not poisoning their chances with the general electorate. 

The net effect was that the former president had his way and put his indelible mark on the party just as it was trying to focus voters’ minds on matters of coronavirus aftermath. A referendum on the party in power turned into a choice between an unsatisfactory status quo and a dangerous alternative. The foretold wave broke up on the rocks. 

As the minority party began its presidential nominating contest in the resulting ripples, a logical conclusion for its members to make would have been to reject kookism and not allow voters to be distracted again from their disenchantment with the party in power. But as the former president began to face criminal charges for offenses, including those related to his efforts to steal a second term, the matter of the 2020 election increased, rather than decreased, in importance in the minds of party members. 

Standing with their embattled leader became a paramount consideration, and that required abetting his claims of election fraud and defense of the motives—if not necessarily the means—of the angry mob he sent to the Capitol in 2021. Rather than expelling the poison, the party drank it down to its core.

Just how deeply it had been ingested was revealed this week when the party chose as the leader of its narrow majority in the House a relatively unknown lawmaker whose only notoriety arose from his enthusiastic efforts on behalf of the then-president’s failed coup attempt. Supporters of the former president set and enforced a litmus test that excluded any candidates for House speaker who had failed to join the effort to subvert the 2020 election, but also those who were deemed part of the lukewarm faction that had tried to placate but mostly ignore the coup plotters and enthusiasts.

When the nominee to become the next speaker met the press after his selection, a question arose from the gaggle about the new leader’s role in trying to disrupt the 2020 election. One of the members of his party yelled at the reporter to “Shut up! Shut up!” and another barked out “2024!” 

But the “out” party’s main problem here is not the press’ obvious fixation on the attempted election theft and ensuing riot, nor will it really be the billion dollars worth of attack ads that the party in power will rain down on its opponents next year. In reality, the ones most damaging to the party’s chances who will not “Shut up! Shut up!” are the former president and his enforcers in the party. 

We had three “post-9/11” elections, four shaped by the panic of 2008, and one dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, we had the first election in the wake of January 6. From the looks of the House, it doesn’t seem like it will be the last. 

In that strange alchemy of ego by which shame without atonement turns into pride, members of the party out of power are not yet ready to lay down their burden.  


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT

Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 40.0%
Average disapproval: 55.2%
Net score: –15.2 points 

Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.4 points                        
Change from one month ago: ↓ 3.4 points

[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve-56% disapprove; Emerson: 42% approve-50% disapprove; Quinnipiac: 38% approve-56% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 41% approve-54% disapprove; Marquette: 39% approve-61% disapprove]

Polling Roulette


TIME OUT: FANCY A GAME OF CALVINBALL?

New Yorker: “‘Nothing is permanent. Everything changes. That’s the one thing we know for sure in this world,’ Calvin says to Hobbes in the first panel of a two-panel strip that ran in more than two thousand newspapers on Monday, July 17, 1995. … Outside the world of the cartoon, it’s less than half a year before Bill Watterson, thirty-seven at the time, will retire from producing his wildly beloved work. … Some of the silliest and most untethered of the strips have stayed with me the most: one in which Hobbes repeats the word ‘smock’ again and again, just happy to say it; another in which Calvin writes down, ‘How many boards would the Mongol hoard, if the Mongol hordes got bored?’—then crumples up the paper. … Watterson has written, ‘Whenever the strip got ponderous, I put Calvin and Hobbes in their wagon and send them over a cliff. It had a nice way of undercutting the serious subjects.’”


HALEY, DESANTIS ESCALATE FIGHT FOR SECOND

Politico: “The super PAC supporting [Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis] is going up with a new ad portraying [former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley] as flip-flopping over aid to Palestinians in Gaza. … The ad wars punctuate a week of intensifying conflict between the GOP presidential candidates, who are drawing closer in early-state polls. For months, DeSantis held steady in second place, trailing Donald Trump but comfortably ahead of his other rivals. But following a strong debate performance in August, Haley has inched up in the polls; she now leads DeSantis in New Hampshire and South Carolina, while he is ahead of her in Iowa. … The ad hitting Haley came after the pro-Haley SFA Fund Inc. released a video Friday morning challenging DeSantis’ ongoing criticisms of the former South Carolina governor.” 

Scott zeroes in on Iowa as cash dwindles: Des Moines Register: “As his campaign sputters nationally, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is aggressively shifting resources into Iowa this week — doubling campaign staff and pledging to go ‘all in’ on campaigning in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. … The campaign will also shift planned television ad buys from New Hampshire into Iowa. And, beginning after the Nov. 8 GOP presidential debate in Miami, Scott will plan to campaign in Iowa every week until the Jan. 15 caucuses. … The news of Scott’s Iowa shift comes amid concerning signs for his campaign. … His ‘all-in’ strategy also comes as other candidates are doubling down on the state as the caucus cycle enters its final months and polling remains stubbornly steady. … All of them are banking on caucus history that shows candidates surging in the final months and weeks of the campaign cycle. Five of the past six winners of the Iowa Caucuses didn’t lead a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll until November or later…” 

Christie qualifies for November debate: Politico: “Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, has now surpassed the Republican National Committee’s 70,000 unique donor requirement, his campaign confirmed exclusively to POLITICO. He had previously met the RNC’s polling requirement of reaching 4 percent support in multiple qualifying surveys … Christie becomes just the fifth candidate so far to qualify for the Nov. 8 debate in Miami, though fewer than that could be on stage. Former President Donald Trump is holding his own rally during the event, and Vivek Ramaswamy, the biotech entrepreneur who has also met the RNC’s criteria, said he is considering skipping the debate. … Christie’s donor support appears largely organic, as he is spending less money than any other major candidate in the primary — bringing in $3.8 million in the third fundraising quarter while spending just $1.5 million.” 

TESTER LOOKS FOR NATIVE SUPPORT 

Wall Street Journal: “This state’s rightward shift will make it difficult for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester to win a fourth term next year. … Yet residents share a bipartisan frustration that may be Tester’s best hope for clinching another term. They are fed up with monied outsiders streaming into the state and blame them for driving up prices, taking land and eroding Montana’s rugged culture. Tester, 67, who has narrowly won three elections and votes most of the time with Democrats in Washington, is centering his re-election bid on his identity as a third-generation Montanan. He still farms wheat, peas, barley and hay on land that his grandparents homesteaded in 1912, near Big Sandy, which has less than 600 people. … Tester’s appeal as a native Montanan speaks to the wave of pandemic migration that has helped Montana’s growth outpace the rest of the U.S. … National and state Democrats say they plan to paint Tester’s most likely opponents as outsiders because they aren’t originally from Montana.” 

Ohio Senate primary grows contentious as Moreno gathers endorsements: New York Times: “Early polls suggest a tight race, but Bernie Moreno, a businessman making his second bid for the Senate, has started to compile the kind of political prizes that belie his status as a relative newcomer to electoral politics. Since opening his campaign in April, Mr. Moreno has raised nearly $3.5 million. … Mr. Moreno, known for his chain of car dealerships in the state, has pocketed endorsements from some high-profile Republicans, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich … Mr. Moreno has won support from Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Charlie Kirk … The Republican Senate campaigns of his two rivals — Matt Dolan, a state senator, and Frank LaRose, the Ohio secretary of state — discounted the significance of Mr. Gingrich’s endorsement. … The three Ohio Republicans have increasingly taken aim at one another as the primary approaches.” 

Dems push cash into Texas and Florida: NBC News: “Senate Democrats’ campaign arm is expanding its investments in staff to include Florida and Texas, two states where Republicans are on defense next year. … A DSCC aide said the investment announced Monday is the largest the committee has made at this point in an election cycle. The DSCC’s investment in Texas and Florida, where GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rick Scott are running for re-election, is a sign that the party is looking to go on offense even as it defends its slim majority next year.”

Alsobrooks looks like a lock for safe Dem Senate seat in Maryland: Baltimore Sun: “Gov. Wes Moore is backing Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in next year’s U.S. Senate race in Maryland, providing her a key endorsement that could give her significant fundraising and organizational support ahead of the Democratic primary. … She has received other coveted endorsements from U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, as well as U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and state Senate President Bill Ferguson, both from Baltimore, and state House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones of Baltimore County. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Baltimore, a Democrat whose retirement from the seat after three six-year terms created the open position, has not endorsed a candidate in the May 14 primary.”

PHILLIPS TAKES A SHOT 

Rolling Stone: “Dean Phillips — liquor heir, gelato prince, step-grandson of the advice columnist Dear Abby, and Democratic congressman from Minnesota — is challenging Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president. Phillips filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday night. … To call his candidacy a longshot is an understatement, but Phillips has a good shot of winning the Democratic primary in New Hampshire — because Biden will not appear on the ballot. The Democratic National Committee stripped New Hampshire of its delegates for its refusal to abide by the party’s order to move its primary later in the year. … But … it could mean quite a lot in terms of the attention lavished on Phillips’ campaign. It’s a gamble, and behind that gamble is a somewhat surprising figure: former Republican operative Steve Schmidt. … Schmidt did stints at MSNBC and Showtime’s The Circus, was also a co-founder, with other disaffected Republican strategists, of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.”

THE GENERATIONAL SHIFT IN POLITICS, VISUALIZED

Wall Street Journal: “One of the most durable forces shaping the U.S. electorate is that voters tend to lean more Republican as they age. … This rightward shift is likely to affect who wins elections in 2024 and the years beyond. One in six Americans is age 65 or over, up from one in eight a decade prior … On its face, the shift bodes well for Republicans. Yet its effects have been muted by the size and liberal bent of millennials now approaching middle age … Each generation enters the electorate with a particular partisan stamp, one shaped by national events and the political ethos that prevailed during their upbringing. If you became politically cognizant during a moment of successful government intervention, you may tend to lean left. If you started paying attention to the news in the age of a dynamic Republican president, you might lean right.”

BRIEFLY

District judge tosses out Georgia redistricting maps for racial packing—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson, redistricted out of seat, will run for North Carolina attorney general—Charlotte Observer

2022 Arizona Senate flop Blake Masters launches House bid to replace retiring Lesko—The Arizona Republic

Virginia GOP searches for a way to blunt abortion attacks—New York Times

WITHIN EARSHOT: SO LONG, HINGE

“I’d just like to know if there are any job openings in Senator Grassley’s office?”—Senator Cory Booker looks for love after Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley revealed there have been 20 marriages between staffers during his more than 42 years representing the Hawkeye State.


MAILBAG

“I do have a suggestion for Congress: Lock them in chambers—all of them. Feed them and allow for potty breaks and give them a pillow and a blanket. For two parties to be so polarized and for the Republican party (of which I am a loyal member) to be so idiotic is just not for the country or for our kids to witness. These people are drawing a lovely salary; they have nice pensions; they fly back and forth to home at our expense. They need to do their job! All of them! The Democrats from purple states could vote present if a person they could live with were nominated as speaker. (I do understand how they could not live with Jim Jordan). Chris Pappas from New Hampshire (my home state) is one of those. Yet they won’t … perhaps because the Republicans would not if the shoe were on the other foot. And [Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz] and his ilk should not be rewarded for incredibly bad performance. The Democrats could come out smelling like a rose if they were to do this. They would be taking the high ground in their purple states. Good luck! And prayers for our country!”—Sue Bowen, Portsmouth, New HampshireI don’t know how much you’re kidding about locking up the members of Congress until they do their jobs, Ms. Bowen, but I can tell you there’s a widely circulated and very appealing idea that’s kind of a version of that: A congressional dormitory. Rather than providing a housing allowance for members, build them a comfortable, well-appointed but utilitarian place to live. Not only would it keep them safe and avoid ethical problems, it might foster a greater sense of unity. Lots of members already bunk in their offices, which invites other problems, but by eliminating the housing allowance and providing an appropriate place for them to bunk when they’re in session, it might put members on a more equal footing and see each other as humans, rather than enemies. On the other hand, imagine the fights over the menu!   


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the inquisitive Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!

CUTLINE CONTEST: THAT’S A NO FOR ME, DOG

Rep. Jim Jordan speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C, on October 20, 2023.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/ Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Jordan speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C, on October 20, 2023. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/ Getty Images)

There may never be a perfect Cutline Contest photo, but this one was as close as you people are ever likely to receive. It’s not a funny picture, per se, but in context is an absolute joke bag. The funny part is the juxtaposition between Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s famous 1796 Lansdowne portrait of George Washington in the background. The life-size painting of Washington, commissioned by William Petty, the former British prime minister and first marquess of Lansdowne, commemorates the treaty between the U.S. and Britain the year before, which Petty had secured with Washington’s support. The original painting, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, came from a single sitting in Philadelphia and was the basis for several other works, including the Stuart portrait that has hung in the White House, with one notable absence, for 223 years. It is a portrait of Washington the statesman, his left hand on a sheathed sword, his right hand outstretched, inviting the viewer to the peace table. Or, in the case of Jordan, a simpler message:

“Next.”—Frank Virnelli Jr., West Hartford, Connecticut

Winner, Took the Under Division:

“‘Pay up,’ George said to the eagle as Jordan announced he would not attempt a fourth vote.”—David Porter, Tampa, Florida

Winner, Alien and Sedition Acts Division:

“Seriously? This guy’s worse than John Adams!”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia

Winner, Back to Ohio Division:

“… American Cincinnatus? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”—Donnie Bishop, New Castle, Virginia

Winner, Read the Room Division:

“There’s a vibe here of ‘I can’t tell a lie.’ Maybe I should answer these Trump questions somewhere else.”—Richard Basuk, New York, New York

Winner, Betsy Ross Division:

“I am going to continue standing here as a candidate as long as it takes. Each time I lose a floor vote, I’m going to add another flag behind me. That’s how much I love this country!”—Bob Culwell, Englewood, Colorado

Winner, ‘Stros Is Spoken Here Division:

“Guys I said ‘Yordan Bomb’ not ‘Jordan Bomb’!”—William Stivers, Houston, Texas

Winner, Unity Ticket Division:

“I’ve been in touch with the right people and am in negotiations to run for president on the No Labels ticket. Questions?”—Richard Kennedy, Ferndale, Michigan

Winner, Callback Division:

“Once again, after his third defeat, Jim Jordan performs Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ for House Republican Conference.”—Chip Watkins, Arlington, Virginia

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


CHRIS GAINES BOX SET IS IN THE BAIT SECTION 

Yahoo News: “Garth Brooks has announced a new album, with a catch: You need to go to the Bass Pro Shops to get it. On November 7, Brooks will release Time Traveler — his 14th studio album, and first since 2020’s Fun — as part of a 7-CD box set… ‘There are a lot of different eras on this album, thus the name,’ Brooks said of the album title… However, The Limited Series is limited exclusively to Bass Pro Shops, the sporting goods store that specializes in fishing gear and the outdoors. As the company says, ‘In 2022, Garth came to the Midwest to celebrate the opening of the Bass Pro Shops Thunder Ridge Arena … Building on this special relationship, we’re honored to help Garth’s biggest fans …’ This isn’t the first time Brooks has teamed with big box stores to bundle new albums in box sets: The second Limited Series collection was released in 2005 exclusively through Walmart. Billboard reports that there are no plans to release Time Traveler separately.” 

Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt's Headshot

Chris Stirewalt

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.