On Tanking and Other Random April Notions

A few disparate impressions as we move further into spring:

“Tanking is the art of creating a purposefully bad team with the intention of losing games to gain high draft picks. … Tanking aims to … ultimately win a championship with the core constructed while tanking.”

  • What Are The Odds: A Statistical Analysis of Tanking in The NBA; towardsdatascience.com; Brayden Gerrard, March 11, 2019

If there was a Mr. Republican who controlled the party’s national strategy – and if there were such a being, he would, being a Republican, obviously be a white male 😉 – he might well be thinking that having former President Donald Trump as the party’s 2024 nominee would be in the best long term interests of the party:  “Let Trump and [FOX News Commentator Tucker] Carlson take the party over the edge to what is currently looking like it will be a general election shellacking.  After winning the culture war for years with many moderate Americans who are alienated by what they perceive as progressives’ obsession on Americans’ gender, ethnic, religious, and sexual preference identities and disregard for traditional American values and hallmarks, now it is we who are on the wrong side of the American middle with our positions on abortion, health care, book banning, guns and climate; we even seem poised to put ourselves on the wrong side of the American majority on the debt ceiling and perhaps Ukraine.”  Mr. Republican might reason:  “The GOP can’t win in 2024 without the MAGAs, but Trump can’t win without the traditional Republicans; let’s tank and concede a Biden re-election.  We still have the majority of Americans with us on many issues such as immigration and crime [note that at the same time Wisconsinites were providing liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz an 11-point victory this past April on the strength of abortion rights, they were voting in higher percentages for referenda in favor of tightening state welfare eligibility and keeping criminal defendants in jail before trial].  A Trump debacle will give us years to develop and test positions in areas in which we are now considered too extreme, and we’ll have a great chance to win in 2028 when Americans will be ready for a change, with a fresh candidate against a Democrat almost certainly more progressive than Biden.”

(Is there a Republican master strategist?  Nah.  Are MAGA diehards such as U.S. OH Rep. Jim Jordan seeking to prop up Mr. Trump as part of some long term Republican strategy?  Nah; I know, I know.  They’re just blackguards.)

Next:  There are obviously all different types of smarts.  Since FL Gov. Ron DeSantis went to Yale, and is widely reported to study issues, he seemingly has what might be called, “academic smarts.”  That said, Mr. DeSantis appears to be too politically dumb to be president.  Turning hard to the right on abortion in the face of recent nationwide polls and electoral results is inept enough for a candidate who will need to win swing states to win the general presidential election; but his fight with The Walt Disney Company, the signature employer in his state, over culture issues is so egregiously politically stupid for a Republican that it makes one blink.  Say what you will about Mr. Trump and former WI Gov. Scott Walker [and I’ve said plenty 😉 ]; these men, while campaigning as populists, were politically savvy enough to cultivate and maintain great relationships with the business community.  For Mr. DeSantis to seek to use his office to punish the Disney organization over culture issues is akin to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown over the last couple of years on mighty Chinese conglomerates perceived by Mr. Xi as being too powerful.  I am confident that many major American CEOs are calculating that if Mr. DeSantis is using his gubernatorial power to go after Disney today, he could use presidential power to go after them for perceived slights tomorrow.  Since I consider Mr. DeSantis every bit as dangerous to America as Mr. Trump, I’m happy to see that he seems to be as politically obtuse as he is boring.

Next:  Unless U.S. CA Sen. Dianne Feinstein can return to Washington by the end of April, she should resign.  There have been plenty of credible reports to indicate that Sen. Feinstein, 89, is no longer physically able to fulfill the duties of her office.  I consider the claims that the calls for her resignation are gender-based – i.e., if she was a man, no one would be calling for her to resign – a progressive spasm irrelevant to the main point:  getting President Joe Biden’s judicial appointments confirmed.  [I would understand the reluctance to pressure Ms. Feinstein if California had a Republican governor; but I’d make the same call for resignation if it involved U.S. MD Sen. Ben Cardin (to be 80 this year, representing a state with a Democratic governor), if it was obvious that Mr. Cardin could no longer serve and his continuance in the Senate was blocking the President’s judicial appointments.]  Someone Ms. Feinstein trusts should go to the Senator and advise her to step down.  Democratic CA Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Ms. Feinstein’s successor, and given the already-hotly contested 2024 California Democratic primary battle for Ms. Feinstein’s seat, the appointee should be a “caretaker.”

Two final notes, arguably more significant: 

First, those chortling – and there is a fair amount of chortling in this note – about the Republicans’ seemingly dimming prospects to win the White House in 2024 with Mr. Trump as their nominee, need to keep one thing in mind:  Mr. Biden’s health.  If he appears hale all the way to Election Day in a race against Mr. Trump, I think he wins.  If he has a significant health reversal in the last few weeks before the election – the worst kind of “October Surprise” (recall that U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just couldn’t quite make it to Inauguration Day, 2021, and the havoc her truly untimely death has caused) – Mr. Trump can win.  Those who believe in democracy should hold their breaths that the octogenarian Mr. Biden remains healthy at least until Wednesday, November 6, 2024.  (I doubt U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ readiness for the presidency, but even if my estimation is correct, we will muddle through; Mr. Trump’s illiberalism is an existential threat to our way of life.)

Finally, the debt ceiling.  There is no substantive issue – Ukraine, race, abortion, guns, Social Security/Medicare, climate, election reform, or anything else – I consider as important as maintaining the full faith and credit of the United States.  For us to be able to continue to pay our debts, Congress must pass a law raising the debt ceiling by sometime this summer.  U.S. House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are posturing (as they always do when a Democrat is president) about budget restrictions they will require in order to vote to raise the debt ceiling.  Safeguarding America’s democracy from provocateurs is existential, more important than any substantive issue, including maintaining its full faith and credit.  If counseling the President, I’d recommend that he get this blunt message to Mr. McCarthy  (if he hasn’t already):  “Kevin, I’m not compromising with you.  I’m not going to accept any budget limitations in order to get your votes on the debt ceiling.  I’m going to sit here and talk about Social Security, Medicare, and our need to protect our troops and our veterans.  There are enough votes in both houses to pass an unrestricted debt ceiling.  If we default, Americans won’t blame me; they’ll blame you and your extremists for the fallout.  In 2025, any Kwik Trip will be big enough to hold the entire Republican House Caucus; and you won’t be there.  You know it.  I know it.  Have a nice day.”

Mr. McCarthy has shown himself to be a gutless hypocrite; I think he’ll cave.  Whether he does or not, and although I am deeply concerned about a U.S. default today and the effect that the mounting U.S. debt will have on our children and grandchildren tomorrow, one cannot appease political terrorists.

More than long enough.  (Could have cut the paragraph on Mr. DeSantis, which added nothing you haven’t already seen, heard, or thought; but just couldn’t resist piling on 🙂 ).  Have a good week.

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