The actual election

November 3 was just a warm-up; for policy wonks tomorrow is the election that decides the fate of our government (in policy terms).

I recent weeks, I’ve thought it best if tomorrow results in a split decision, although I actually root for the GOP to lose both races. Why do I think a split decision would be best? Reason magazine explains better than I could:

If Republicans emerge from this run-off election with a 51–49 majority, that would still allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) to act as a needed roadblock. . . .

A split decision Tuesday, pairing a single Republican victory with a single Republican loss, might do more to break the party’s Trump fever than a wipeout loss would. A slim Republican Senate majority would maximize the leverage of moderate Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Mitt Romney (R–Utah)—who happen to be some of the senators least corrupted by Trumpism.

Being in the minority, on the other hand, would elevate a different set of Republican senators. Rather than feeling like they’ve narrowly survived a bout with Trumpism, the party might sink further into that morass under the weight of Trump’s grievances and (in his hardcore supporters’ eyes) political martyrdom.

It’s tempting to wish for Republicans to get swept on Tuesday. It’s what they probably deserve after the past two months, to say nothing of the past four years. But for reasons centered in politics and policy, I’ll spend Tuesday rooting—as usual—for both parties to lose.

Why do I root for the GOP to lose both races, even though it’s best if there is a split decision? Well, since when do all 10 former Defense secretaries need to state the obvious:

Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld are the 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense.

As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. . . .

As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.

Not if Trump wins! He’s just pardoned a bunch of corrupt government officials and campaign operatives, not to mention war criminals and murderers from the military. Trump’s not going to prosecute any official that helps him seize power in a coup.

In all the noise about the recent Georgia phone call, let’s not overlook the fact that it was taped precisely because Lindsey Graham had previously pressured the Georgia Secretary of State to fix the election in Trump’s favor, and then lied about doing so. (By the way, is anyone surprised to learn that Lindsey Graham is a liar; I feel like I need to take a shower every time I see him speak.)

After 18 futile attempts to get through, Trump finally connected with the Georgia election officials. Having been burned by Graham, they decided to tape the call. Trump did not know the call was taped, and of course he immediately lied about the contents of the call. And of course his supporters won’t believe he lied, even though anyone can listen to the call. There is literally no piece of information that would convince Trumpistas that Trump is anything less than the second coming of God.

He also sounded like a complete moron, which I’ve been telling you guys for 5 years. Next time, please listen to me.

Meanwhile, Trump has started claiming the Covid-19 fatality figures are fake news, even as a 41-year old and healthy GOP member of Congress dies from Covid.

I said it would be a bad interregnum if Trump lost. If ignoring Covid-19 just as the UK variant is exploding, pardoning corrupt government officials and war criminals, and trying to subvert the Constitution in a coup attempt don’t qualify as a bad last two months in office, please explain to me what would.

I’m not even sure all this helps his own party. Do Trump’s recent actions help the GOP hold the Senate? Does Trump even want the GOP to hold the Senate? Or is Trump like some un-named central European dictator who doesn’t care if his own country is destroyed once it becomes clear that his hair-brained scheme for world domination didn’t work?

Update: On the other hand, given that so many people now vote by mail, this stuff may be too late to impact the Georgia race.

PS. I don’t know if the President can do anything about the vaccine roll out fiasco, but it would sort of be nice to see him at least try.

PPS. Think about a US president trying to call a GOP official 18 times before getting through. Eighteen! I’ve never tried to call anyone more than 5 times in my entire life. OK, maybe that girlfriend that dumped me. . . .



29 Responses to “The actual election”

  1. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    4. January 2021 at 18:52

    I agree with this post, with the proviso that Casey Mulligan has penned a piece in which Trump Administration pushed the FDA to a faster acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.

    Mulligan is a Chicago prof and chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Trump Administration from September 2018 to August 2019 and, in general, seems highly regarded.

    Trump is a nut, and good riddance. Biden as a personality/character will be more tolerable (well, anybody would be).

    On policy, is Biden an improvement? Remains to be seen, but not promising.

    Let the record show Trump pushed vaccines and changed the global dialogue (to good effect) on the Communist Party of China.

    One nice thing is if the Donks win in Georgia we will likely see the $2,000 stimulus checks sent out (which are trimmed back at $75,000 and above, AFAIK).

    I doubt the economy will overheat, so the checks make sense. The vaccines (the economy’s cavalry) are yet months out to the level they start to generate herd immunity and we can go back to normal.

    There are about 112 million personal income tax filers in the US. A $2,000 check to each one amounts to $224 billion, in a $20 trillion-plus economy. Since the $2,000 is pared back when the filer makes more than $75,000, the total amount could be less.

    Once again, the macroeconomics profession appears to place concerns about inflation—even mere concerns, not actual inflation—above economic prosperity.

    And if the US does get fleeting 3% inflation? Horrors!

  2. Gravatar of xu xu
    4. January 2021 at 20:22

    If you actually listen to the tape, you’ll notice that he was talking about the irregularities, and the need for Brad “CCP” Raffensberger to actually investigate these irregularities instead of “pretending” to do so.

    The legal team has asked for “evidence” from the secretary of state he claims to have investigated but provides no details), yet he continues to thwart transparency.

    A call for transparent elections is the very opposite of trying to steal an election.

    “Not if Trump wins! He’s just pardoned a bunch of corrupt government officials and campaign operatives, not to mention war criminals and murderers from the military. Trump’s not going to prosecute any official that helps him seize power in a coup.”

    None of that is true. Roger Stone was a campaign manager looking for “dirt”, as every campaign does. If Sumner ran for office against Biden, then he would find himself being attacked relentlessly by people like Roger Stone whose job it is to find character flaws. That is not corruption. It’s called “politics”. Welcome to the Arena!

    Gen Flynn’s case was a travesty. Even Dershowitz, a diehard democrat, admits the case was politically motivated.

    None of the charges brought against Manafort were related to the Russian collusion. There is no doubt he broke the tax code, but to throw him in jail for the rest of his life because democratic lawyers were on 30M dollar “Great Russia Witch Hunt” is an unjust ruling. He had nothing to do with Russia, and neither did Trump.

    I doubt the economy will overheat, so the checks make sense. The vaccines (the economy’s cavalry) are yet months out to the level they start to generate herd immunity and we can go back to normal.

    It doesn’t matter. Once again, this is clearly written by someone who has no values and fails to grasp what inalienable actually means. You are forcing future generations to pay back debt that YOU accrued with bad policy, and you are lowering the value of the currency. That is THEFT.

    The economy is struggling because apparatchiks are wielding the dictatorial pen. The best stimulus is to remove oppressive mandates that force mom and pop to go out of business, not to print money.

  3. Gravatar of bob bob
    4. January 2021 at 20:27

    He’s coming for guns. He’s coming for our families.
    He’s on a mission to destroy the dollar with debt.


    JANUARY 6th is 1776.

  4. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    4. January 2021 at 20:37

    Nah, bob.

    He’s coming for YOU.

  5. Gravatar of LC LC
    4. January 2021 at 20:48


    I recommend “Make Russia Great Again” by Christopher Buckley for a humorous take on the Trump administration. The idea of “Ever Trumpers” who have a target on their shirt so Trump can shoot them on Fifth Ave is hilarious.

  6. Gravatar of Russ Abbott Russ Abbott
    4. January 2021 at 20:53

    If given the chance McConnell will do whatever he can to harm the US on the grounds that Republicans can then blame Democrats for that failure.

    That’s just not good politics. It’s party over country, again, which is what I hope we can start moving away from. Why do you want to continue that approach to politics?

    Please don’t join the destroy-the-country-in-order-to-save-it crowd, which is what would happen with McConnell as Majority Leader. It makes sense to argue against specific policies. It doesn’t make sense to destroy the country in order to save it. I hope the Democrats sweep Georgia tomorrow.

  7. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    4. January 2021 at 21:11

    Betting markets have the Republicans chances plunging Monday, which may be a major cause of the stock selloff.

    It’s now almost even odds. Trump may cost Republicans the Senate!

  8. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    4. January 2021 at 22:32

    And actually, Warnock is now heavily favored.

  9. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    4. January 2021 at 23:35

    Michael Sandifer:

    Given the pending Donk victory in the Peach State, how do you plan to spend your $2,000 stimulus check?

    That is, unless the Donks, in gaining power, then start listening to Larry Summers and the hopelessly outdated austerity wing of Wall Street/academia.

  10. Gravatar of sarah sarah
    5. January 2021 at 00:06

    Sumner now falls into the category of the deranged.
    He is beyond reason. Or perhaps he really is paid to write nonsense.

    We’ve gone from the rational apparoach of admitting there are many irregularites, to Lindsey Graham ( a senator from S.C.) somehow rigging the election in Georgia for Trump.

    I mean…


  11. Gravatar of henry henry
    5. January 2021 at 00:17

    You have one party that sings songs. And another party that burns down buildings. Sumner is part of the latter.

    This country is officially brain dead. We have a third rate economist who taught at Bentley – a garbage school – rambling incoherently about Lindsey Graham stealing a Georgia election from South Carolina.

    Please do share the evidence. We are waiting with bated breath.

    Or maybe we can try reverse psychology.

    Yes, Lindsey Graham is secretly the devil. He’s traversing back and forth, in the dead of night, with big red horns bursting through his baseball cap. He’s going to have a water pipe burst on election night. Then, he’s going to tell everyone to leave, pull bags out from the under the table, and feed them through the machines three times. Then, he’s going to refuse to allow anyone in Georgia to verify signatures on mail in ballots. This is a grand devilish scheme and Lindsey Graham is surely the devil.

    Oh wait…..

    Hmm…this strategy sounds familiar.

  12. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    5. January 2021 at 00:29

    It seems that both Democrats and Republicans want a cold civil war. What difference do Trump’s actions make? The two parties both care much more about “winning” than about what is good for the US. Biden and his administration will conform more to professional norms than Trump and his administration, but it is highly doubtful that means that US institutions will be more trustworthy or more capable. How often have the FDA and the CDC shown their incompetence during this pandemic? What about the recent Solarwinds hack? Or the OMB hack under Obama? Were the CIA or the Armed Forces capable and honest at any point in time this century? Or how about the response of politicians to China’s rise?

    I dislike the anti-Trumper position because the problems of the US are so much deeper and comprehensive than Trump, and opposing Trump is a convenient way for liberals to absolve themselves of responsibility for anything wrong in the US.

  13. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    5. January 2021 at 01:29

    Not sure why people seem to bash you here yet post on your blog. That being said you’ve clearly developed TDS.

    The “resistance” from the 2016 election has left deep scars on America. If the Russian story from 2016 is largely a hoax which seems to backed by the leftist weirdos – like Yves Smith, Taibbi, and Greenwald. Then the fear is quite simple of the democrats. You end up in a situation of choosing between authoritarians with skill and resources versus a largely incompetent authoritarian like Trump. The Russian hoax from 2016 gives a lot of the gop the cover to consider disputing elections as simply the new rules of the game of American politics.

    Ideally we would vote on desired good outcomes. In American politics it’s not about keeping bad people out.

    Inflation break evens look encouraging to me. That means McConnell obstruction is correct and giving him better ammunition to oppose stimulus is good policy.

  14. Gravatar of nick nick
    5. January 2021 at 04:24

    Sumner says Graham is difficult to look at.
    I wonder if Sumner has looked in the mirror in the last 60 years.
    Are you sure the vomit had nothing to do with your reflection?

  15. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    5. January 2021 at 04:35

    “A slim Republican Senate majority would maximize the leverage of moderate Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Mitt Romney (R–Utah)—who happen to be some of the senators least corrupted by Trumpism.”

    A slim Republican majority would mean McConnell would continue to be majority leader, with the power to block legislation from coming to the floor. Something might pass if it was voted on, but he can stop it from getting a vote.

    Also, consider how many times Collins and Romney have actually voted against the party line.

  16. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    5. January 2021 at 05:33

    Hey “henry”, what prestigious institution did you graduate from?

  17. Gravatar of derek derek
    5. January 2021 at 06:16

    @BenCole, the vaccines for Moderna, at least, were famously created in February. The US approved them at basically the same time as Europe, in December. What did Trump do here? If we had approved in August or September, or if we had wisely pre-produced dozens of millions of doses and scheduled that many appointments scheduled for December, I might be impressed, but I don’t see anything happening except that the vaccines turned out to be pretty easy to create quickly, the FDA continuing to do a bad job, and the overall administration of OWS to be consistent with incompetence and mismanagement (declining to purchase that extra 100 million of Pfizer pre-production, the slow transformation of doses shipped into shots given, etc.).

  18. Gravatar of bb bb
    5. January 2021 at 06:40

    I’m not totally sold, but I do like the reasoning. Dems with a 50-50 majority won’t be able to do anything other that cabinet appointments. If they think they hate susan collins, they’re going to love Joe Manchin- lol. Biden might be better off working with Romney and a few others than working with Manchin, who is a good man, but represents conservative voters.
    McConnel is truly terrible, but you are right that he might be more marginalized if he needs to work with Romney.
    Either way, anyone concerned about turning socialist is delusional. Republicans’ will be able to block any significant progressive plans for at least the next ten years.
    Side note, we will have national guard troops deployed to the nation’s capital tomorrow to protect against right wing domestic terrorists. So much for the law and order crowd.

  19. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    5. January 2021 at 07:49

    The split-ticket take is one of those too-clever-by-half schemes to usher in a new age of reason and goodness. We already had the split-ticket election, back in November. When so many Americans looked at Trump’s corruption, cruelty, and apathy in the face of mass death over the past four years and said, “yeah, that looks good to me.” This corrupt interregnum is exactly because the GOP didn’t receive the drubbing that it deserves, even after their boot-licking and passing the buck on impeachment. “We refuse to see any evidence, so we haven’t seen any evidence of Trump’s corruption”.

    A 50/50 senate is necessary just for our federal government to function for the next few years.

  20. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    5. January 2021 at 08:14

    Douthat favors a Democratic sweep in Georgia to clear the Republican Party of the charlatans, lizard people, and plain old panderers.

  21. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    5. January 2021 at 08:32

    Interesting argument, but I still want a Republican sweep. The best way to empower moderates is to divide government not to give one party complete control. Furthermore there are plenty of authoritarians in the Democratic Party too. In fact one of them is about to become Vice President. Also, the best way to fire up the Trump base is to have four years of Democrat overreach.

  22. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    5. January 2021 at 09:08

    I am rooting for a Democratic sweep because Loeffler and Perdue are the worst kind of globalists that only care about stock prices and don’t care about the wreckage left behind. So for anyone interested in architecture Google “Kress stores” and contrast those stores with Dollar General stores that Perdue built while CEO. So Kress sold cheap stuff but the goal of Kress was clearly to increase quality of life for all Americans whereas Perdue and Dollar General seem to be in a race to the bottom.

    Btw, Denmark is offering zero interest 20 year home mortgages. That is what I support except the loan needs to be capped at around $150k and the person must actually live in the home both of which would end up putting downward pressure on home prices due to the disparity in home values nationwide.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2021 at 09:19

    Russ, That’s why it’s best if the Dems pick up at least one seat. McConnell’s scope for action becomes much smaller, as he can’t lose a single moderate vote (say Susan Collins), or a single ethical vote (Mitt Romney).

    Foosian, McConnell also has to worry about Collins changing parties. That sort of thing has happened before. Trust me, his scope for control would be much smaller.

    bb, They won’t be able to do anything radical at 50/50, but they can do modest things like a corporate tax increase or a $2000/person stimulus.

    And don’t forget that Trump built part of the Wall after Congress turned down his request for funding.

    Bob, I agree.

    Rayward, That’s why I’m rooting for a sweep.

    Carl, You should want the Dems to pick up at least one seat.

  24. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    5. January 2021 at 09:57

    I’d rather be ruled by Susan Collins and Mitt Romney than ruled by Susan Collins alone.

  25. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    5. January 2021 at 10:49

    If the Republicans lose both then guess who’s in the driver’s seat? Joe Manchin. That’s the extreme right of the Democratic party. Nothing to worry about it you’re a centrist.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2021 at 12:16

    Carl, I’d prefer Collins or Romney to McConnell.

    Tom, Yes, but he’s centrist on the wrong issues.

  27. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    5. January 2021 at 14:28

    –“A slim Republican majority would mean McConnell would continue to be majority leader, with the power to block legislation from coming to the floor. Something might pass if it was voted on, but he can stop it from getting a vote.”–

    This is exactly why I’d prefer a slim Republican majority. A lone Republican or even Joe Manchin might be pressured to go along with something a bit crazy.

    Even dividend government isn’t perfect. Last year’s dividend government managed to pass something like 4x the amount of stimulus than a united Democratic government was able to push through back in 2009. I worry that unified Democratic government in 2021 sees the replacement of $1 trillion stimulus bills with $3 trillion stimulus bills. The federal budget is basically just organized looting at this point, anything that can minimize it is optimal.

  28. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    6. January 2021 at 04:09

    Looks like the betting markets were correct about Warnock winning. Prediction markets broke for Warnock after the latest Trump scandal was revealed.

    I think many of his supporters in this comment section will fail to realize that Trump cost Republicans this race, and possibly control of the Senate. The other race is still too close to call, but Ossoff has a slight lead.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. January 2021 at 13:47

    Michael, Ossoff will win, and Trump definitely cost McConnell the Senate.

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