Banana Republicans

Banana Boulevardier

Democracy, the rule of law, and the competition of ideas were all once at the core of the belief system of people who called themselves Republicans and conservatives. There may still be some conservatives holding on to these concepts, but it is no longer a required — or even desired — dogma to be a Republican at any level.

It has been coming for a number of years, but after the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP has accelerated its anti-democratic, authoritarian tendencies to Ludicrous Speed. The voter suppression and hyper-gerrymandering practiced by Republicans in the 21st Century has now given way to an utter disregard of the electoral process.

In North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris has resorted to outright election fraud to steal the election by stealing ballots. Of course, NC also provided the playbook for other state Republican parties when they lost the governorship to a Democrat and changed laws to limit his power before the Democrat took office. In both Wisconsin and Michigan, the GOP is working overtime to make sure newly elected Democrats will not be able to take actions they campaigned on, with regard to health care, for example..

In Wisconsin, this power grab comes amid aggressive gerrymandering that saw Democrats receive 54% of votes for the state assembly, but only get 37% of the seats.

This disregard for the will of the people can also be seen in Washington, where very clear signs the President* has committed crimes — potentially including treason — are dismissed by Republicans in Congress. They simply don’t care.

Republicans have gone bananas, doing anything to hold on to power, satisfy their greed, and deliver for their patrons (Trump or Putin or both?), turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic.

As you try to navigate the streets of the crazytown our politics has become, have a Banana Boulevardier cocktail. Then we can get about making sure to return Democracy to the USA.

I got this surprisingly tasty drink via Frederic Yarm @cocktailvirgin. The Banana Boulevardier is a variation on one of my favorite cocktails, the Boulevardier, essentially a Negroni with whiskey. It is:

1 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass (or a rocks glass with a large ice cube). Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

Real Fake News

Obit

Since election night on November 6, the media has been coming up with narratives about how the midterm results are negative for Democrats. With the vote counting now essentially complete, it is clear these narratives keep proving false.

A few weeks ago, election night began with the story that the Blue Wave™ failed to materialize. While that storyline was reversed relatively early, some high-profile defeats helped that sense of Democratic underachievement to linger.

It turns out that the expected dramatic crashing wave of Democratic victories was actually more of a tsunami — a relentless flow of victories that has brought Democrats into power in the House, and beyond. Democrats picked up 39 seats in the House, needing 23 to gain control of the chamber.

Beyond the number of seats, Democrats saw one of their biggest victories in the House since Watergate, with vote totals giving them a 53% to 45% edge over Republicans, representing an 8.6 million vote margin with a presidential-election year type of turnout.

A telling example of the wave is in Orange County California, the heart of Reagan country, where all seven of the Representatives are now Democrats.

The Democratic wave was not limited to Washington, D.C., either. They flipped seven governorships, control 13 states now compared to seven, and broke Republican supermajorities in three states. These wins will be important moving into a census year to fight against Republican gerrymandering efforts, as well as thwart voter suppression activities in those states.

Perhaps one of the bigger fake news stories to emerge from the midterms was how the Democrats continued to lose rural America. The first piece to debunk this came from Daniel Block at Washington Monthly just a few days after the election. Using election data, Block looked at how rural votes impacted races in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Montana.

“On the whole, Democrats performed better in rural areas during these midterms than in 2016, which helped the party win some of its most consequential victories,” he wrote.

In The New York Times, pollster Stanley Greenberg also picked up on the false rural voter narrative. Greenberg notes that the biggest increase in Democratic votes came not in the suburbs (which saw a substantial increase that brought a number of House victories), but in rural areas. “That was the shocker,” he said.

“Democrats cut the Republicans’ margin in rural areas by 13 points, according to the Edison exit poll and by seven points in one by Catalist. Democrats still lost rural America by somewhere between 14 and 18 points so that left Democrats in a pickle there. That had implications for the Senate, but it shouldn’t conceal the fact that Democrats actually made progress in rural areas.”

As more and more analysis of the 2018 midterm elections is done, those early narratives of doom for Democrats is proving to be just so much fake news. Like Mark Twain, reports of Democrats’ death are greatly exaggerated.

As you savor the the Blue Wave — despite the reports — you can also savor an Obituary Cocktail.

From Robert Simonson’s excellent book 3-Ingredient Cocktails, the Obituary Cocktail is:

2 oz gin

.25 oz dry vermouth

.25 oz absinthe

Stir over ice for 30 seconds, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with a lemon twist

Cheers!

Panic at the Congress

Panic

President Very Stable Genius is not the only one who is, like, really smart. Republican members of Congress realize they can use the Michael Wolff book, its Trump v. Bannon storyline, and the President’s full-Fredo response as cover for their actions.

The last several days have seen Congressional Republicans across the board step up their assault on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of co-conspirators in the Trump campaign. The GOP now stands for the Grand Obstruction Party according to Brian Beutler.

House speaker Ryan has backed Devin Nunes’ attempts to further cover up Trump’s actions and denigrate investigators and the FBI. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has recommended that the only investigation into potential criminal activity should focus on Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who provided evidence of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign.

Paul Krugman has a theory for this action, that Republicans have made a deal with the devil, and now they’re stuck and can’t back out.

More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.

Krugman has a point, and it may be the reason many Republicans are willing to go with the flow right now, but there seems to be something more at work. To watch the turnaround in Sen. Lindsey Graham, in the way he spoke about Trump until recently, really raises the question of whether he has been compromised in some way. No one knows, but stories of Russian oligarch money sloshing through our political system in the wake of Citizens United clearly raises the possibility of kompromat on any number of GOP officials.

Whether because of their deal with the devil or kompromat, Republicans certainly look to be putting party over country a lot lately. Krugman made another very true point about Republican complicity in Trump’s crimes: “Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.”

This is not lost on the, like, really smart Republicans. They have sounded the alarm about this trap and their actions from now until November to hold onto power are likely to be as un-American as anything we have seen. Trump may have a big nuclear button on his desk, but we are seeing that congressional Republicans are already pressing the panic button over the next elections.

In a rare moment of sympathy with the GOP, I suggest we all reach for the Panic Button tonight. This cocktail from the Dewberry Hotel in Charleston via Imbibe (that I found via Kindred Cocktails) contains:

1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Cheery Heering liqueur
.25 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass over a large ice ball (the button), express and discard lemon peel.

Cheers!