THE FIRST STEP IS ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM

This is bad:
Echelon Insights is out with yet another poll showing Republican Glenn Youngkin ahead of Terry McAuliffe in the hotly contested race for the governor’s mansion.

In a sample of 611 likely voters, 49 percent supported Youngkin and 46 percent preferred McAuliffe....

The same survey showed Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares — the GOP’s candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively — ahead of their Democratic opponents. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans, Youngkin’s lead is entirely attributable to his 17 point advantage with independents.
And this is bad:
A majority of Americans now disapprove of President Joe Biden's job performance, while half give him low marks for competence and uniting the country, according to results from the latest national NBC News poll.

What's more, the survey finds that 7 in 10 adults, including almost half of Democrats, believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction....

In the poll, 42 percent of adults say they approve of Biden’s overall job as president — a decline of 7 points since August, with much of the attrition coming from key parts of the Democratic base.

That’s compared to 54 percent who say they disapprove of the president’s job, which is up 6 points since August.
And if you think all this will magically turn around if Democrats in Congress manage to pass the reconciliation and infrastructure bills, there's this, which is also bad:
... a new ABC News/Ipsos poll out Sunday finds Democrats are failing to sell the legislation to the public, who are broadly unaware of what is in the spending packages or skeptical they would help people like themselves, or the economy, if signed into law.

... Although a majority (55%) of the public is following news about the negotiations at least somewhat closely, about 7 in 10 (69%) Americans said they know just some or little to nothing about what's in both bills. Fewer than half (31%) said they know a great deal or good amount.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll ... found that a plurality (32%) of Americans think the bills would hurt people like them if they became law, while fewer (25%) think it would help them. Nearly 2 in 10 (18%) think the bills would make no difference, and 24% said they didn't know.

Even among Democrats alone, fewer than half (47%) think the two bills would help people like them. A quarter of Democrats think the bills would make no difference for people like them and about 2 in 10 (22%) don't know how they would impact their lives.
A CBS poll reported similar results three weeks ago -- and yet Democrats seem to have done nothing to educate the public about what's in the bills, or to pressure or persuade the media to do more reporting on the content of the legislation. Yes, this is a media failure first and foremost, but Republicans work the refs every day, often successfully. Democrats don't.

The last two Democratic presidents also found themselves in the weeds in their first two years in office. Both watched their parties suffer bloodbaths in their first midterms. But both presidents won reelection, right? So we're not doomed, are we?

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were immensely talented politicians at the top of their game. They were young, vigorous, and charismatic. They were great speakers.

Joe Biden is ... Joe Biden. He's not vigorous, charismatic, or a great speaker. If he's losing the confidence of Americans, does he have the ability to persuade them that he's a steady hand who can steer the country out of trouble?

And does he understand that he should start trying to do that soon?

This moment is reminding me of the fall of 1988, when Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee, blew a 17-point post-convention lead in the polls under relentless attacks from the GOP. Dukakis lost that race because he didn't punch back and he didn't find a way to change the subject when the GOP attacks dominated the news cycle. Joe Biden doesn't seem to know how to make news in a way that helps him. Vice President Harris doesn't seem to have that skill either, or she's not trying because it's believed that she shouldn't upstage the president, or it's been decided that she should keep a low profile because she's not sufficiently well liked, although maybe she'd be liked if some effort were made to change the way the public sees her. Or maybe everyone in the Democratic Party thinks things are going as well as they possibly could.

I don't believed we're doomed -- but we're doomed if Democrats keep doing what they're doing while expecting change to just happen. Democrats need to fight back. They need to fight as hard to win news cycles as Republicans do -- no, harder, because the right-wing media will always amplify Republican propaganda, and the mainstream media prefers right-wing messaging whenever Democrats are actually trying to govern. Democrats have to understand that they're in a more difficult struggle than they were during the Trump years, because the press likes Democrats when they're out of power and Republicans have clearly failed, but the press despises Democrats when they're in power. That sucks, but it's reality, and Democrats need to start acting as if they recognize reality.

THE GANG THAT COULDN’T RATFUCK STRAIGHT

Well, this is embarrassing:
Five people dressed like the white supremacists who caused the violent “Unite the Right” riots in Charlottesville four years ago showed up outside of Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin’s event in the town on Friday.

But instead of actual “Unite the Right” supporters, it turns out that it was a half-baked stunt from the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who oppose President Trump—and Youngkin.


... The Lincoln Project acknowledged they were behind the stunt after VICE News identified one of the people dressed in the photo in front of Youngkin’s campaign bus as a low-level Democratic operative....
The optics of this are awful -- and while I understand that you might hate the word "optics," a stunt like this, by definition, is all optics. Either it conveys the impression it's meant to convey or it fails.

The real Charlottesville racists were menacing. They came in large numbers and threatened violence, then they killed a counterprotester. Five sad-looking guys in the rain aren't the least bit menacing. Maybe this could have worked if there were twenty-five or fifty of them and they seemed genuinely intimidating at a suburban campaign stop where Youngkin and his fleece vest were trying to reassure the crowd that he'll be harmless if he's elected.

Or, alternately, young men dressed like this could have shown up at Youngkin rallies and never pretended to be anything but actors. Maybe they'd show up every time and eventually get under the candidate's skin, like someone in a chicken suit who follows around a candidate trying to dodge a debate. I don't know how this would work or what these guys would say or do, but it would clearly be theater, and at least you wouldn't get the big, embarrassing reveal as soon as you deployed them --oops, those are Democratic operatives.

Or maybe you shouldn't even attempt this sort of thing unless you have the personality of a Roger Stone, with deep reservoirs of contempt and sadism. Ratfucking is a skill, and clearly it's a skill the Lincoln Project lacks.

SIX DEGREES OF VIKTOR ORBAN (updated)

The Fox News Channel wants you to know that it isn't airing Tucker Carlson's new "documentary," Patriot Purge.
In [Patriot Purge, Carlson] drops real truths like: Americans are being held in Guantanamo Bay for their participation in the riot (not true); that a new “war on terror” has been launched against right-wingers (not true); and that it was a false flag attack (ehhh…. probably not true)....

You must pay and subscribe to Fox Nation to watch the documentary, because Fox News will not be airing it.
Fox Nation is a streaming service that features Fox News on-air talent and is promoted on the Fox News site every day, but is totally not Fox News.

The Daily Beast's Will Sommer has the scoop on the director of the film:
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Scooter Downey will likely reach his biggest stage yet on Monday, when Fox Nation plans to air the first part of Carlson’s three-part Patriot Purge movie.

Downey and Carlson share writing credit for the documentary series, according to a screenshot the filmmaker posted on Twitter. It’s not clear whether Downey also directed Patriot Purge, but he has retweeted messages from other right-wing figures suggesting he played a lead role in the series’ creation....

Prior to Patriot Purge, Downey was perhaps best known on the right as co-director of Hoaxed, a 2019 documentary from far-right figure Mike Cernovich about alleged media bias against the MAGA movement. Cernovich rose to prominence on the far-right by promoting the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which held that Hillary Clinton operated a pedophile sex dungeon out of a D.C. pizzeria....

Downey also directed Rebel’s Run, an upcoming live-action based on a right-wing comic book from blogger Theodore Robert Beale, who goes by the name “Vox Day” online.
Rebel’s Run stars a superhero named “Rebel,” whose outfit is modeled on the Confederate flag....

Beale, who has called himself an “alt right nationalist,” is perhaps better known for his attacks on women and support for white nationalism. In a 2016 blog post, for example, Beale wrote that “Western civilization” rests on “white tribalism, white separatism, and especially white Christian masculine rule.”
In a 2016 blog post defending the alt-right, Day wrote:
The Alt Right believes Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its three foundational pillars: Christianity, the European nations, and the Graeco-Roman legacy....

The Alt Right believes we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children....

The Alt Right is a Western ideology that believes in science, history, reality, and the right of a genetic nation to exist and govern itself in its own interests.
And here's a fun fact about Downey, from a now-deleted tweet:


What's with these folks and the Orthodox Church? Viktor Orban bootlicker Rod Dreher converted to the Orthodox Church fifteen years ago; Carlson is a fellow Orban fan. (Downey retweeted a Dreher piece just yesterday.) Do Dreher and Downey think the Orthodox Church is purer? Whiter? And what's the link to Orban (and Putin, who's tried to rebrand himself as a great defender of traditional religion and has tried to use the Orthodox Church to help him amass power)?

So that's Carlson's collaborator. Maybe he'll work directly with Vox Day next.

*****

UPDATE: Thanks to djchefron in comments for directing my attention to this 2017 Religion Dispatches piece by Katherine Kelaidis about white nationalists and neo-Nazis who've been drawn to the Orthodox Church, among them Matthew Heimbach, a prominent figure at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally that year. An earlier piece by Kelaidis notes that Heimbach had been photographed in 2014 wielding an Orthodox cross during a physical altercation with an anti-racist demonstrator.

TERRY McAULIFFE IS LOSING TO THE NARRATIVE

This is bad news:
Republican Glenn Youngkin has moved ahead of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, less than a week before the election.

McAuliffe receives 45 percent to Youngkin’s 53 percent in a new Fox News survey of Virginia likely voters. Youngkin’s eight-point advantage is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error.

That’s a big shift from two weeks ago, when McAuliffe was ahead by five, 51-46 percent.
Yes, it's a Fox News poll, "under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R)." Fox is awful, but Fox polls aren't part of the channel's propaganda -- FiveThirtyEight gives Fox/Beacon/Shaw an A rating and says it actually has a Democratic lean of 1.8 points. (Its late-October poll of the 2020 presidential race had Joe Biden up by 8, overestimating Biden's eventual win of the popular vote by 4.5.)

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report doubts the race will be an 8-point Youngkin win, but reminds us that these things happen in Virginia governor's races, which always take place the year after the presidential race.


To me this feels like Scott Brown in 2010 all over again -- a state seen as solid blue despite its history of electing Republicans (Virginia was purple until very recently; Massachusetts is much bluer but elects Republican governors more often than it elects Democrats). In both races, Democrats were in denial about the effect of a long, highly public struggle over a major piece of legislation on the popularity of the president and his party. In both cases, the conventional wisdom for most of the race was the Republican is doing surprisingly well, but he can't possibly win, until he burst into the lead. In both cases, Republicans and Fox News treated the race like a zeitgeist-changing presidential contest. In both cases, Republicans said to one another, If we win this one, we crush the libs -- Brown's campaign website featured the slogan "Red Invades Blue" -- while the swing voters who gravitated to both Republicans appeared to ignore the voices of the most feral and ideological Republicans, while identifying the GOP candidate himself as a genial moderate.

If McAuliffe loses, analysts will identify specific mistakes he made, particularly the moement when he said, "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." (No one would question him if he said something like this about brain surgeons or airline pilots, but school curricula are seen as a job for amateurs, I guess.)

We'll also be told that McAuliffe tried too hard to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump. That might be a mistake. But McAuliffe has done this because he's stuck within our dominant political narrative.

According to this narrative -- which is sustained and regularly reinforced by the mainstream press and most Democratic politicians -- Trump is a civilization-threatening monster, but the Republican Party aside from Trump is a group of well-meaning public servants who can be trusted with power even though we might not agree with them on every issue. The press reinforces this message whenever it demands bipartisanship of Democrats (but not Republicans), and when it fixates on the objections of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to popular proposals in the Biden agenda without ever asking Republicans why they uniformly oppose those proposals.

Over the years, right-wing media and Republican politicians have carefully cultivated a grotesque caricature of every Democrat: supportive of reckless spending, believers in gender anarchy and unpatrolled borders, sustainers of an unaffordable welfare state, believers in showy displays of concern for minorities and the environment, irrationally fearful of guns, haters of America and lovers of socialism ... you know the drill. Republican candidates don't have to work hard to persuade their voters that they shouldn't even consider voting for a Democrat -- in their narrative, a generic Democrat is one of history's greatest monsters.

In the narrative of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, a generic Republican is ... a potential governing partner and a person who'd be reasonable if he weren't trying to please that awful Trump fellow. Glenn Youngkin resembles that stereotype, so how does Terry McAuliffe run against him as a person who might ban all abortions, champion draconian voter suppression laws, blockade attempts to address climate change, attack the LGBT community, increase the flow of guns, and make the rich richer and the poor poorer -- even though that's the agenda he's likely to pursue if he becomes governor?

Democrats need to start pushing back against the negative stereotype of their party while working hard to build a negative stereotype of the other guys. For the most part, they just have to base their work on facts -- Democratic policies really are popular, and Republicans really are awful. But they don't even try, and here we are.

*****

ALSO: Democrats need to take the "Kick Me" sign off their own backs -- when they're not begging Republicans to cooperate with them, they're begging members of their own caucus, very publicly. Deal with intraparty disputes privately -- every moment of triumph by right-wing Democrats this year has made the party look weak. And Democrats need some swagger. Presidents Clinton and Obama could summon it even after a defeat. If President Biden can't, Democrats need to find someone who can. Republicans have swagger even in their worst moments.

NEW YORK CRANK, REST IN PEACE

Yesterday I learned from Yastreblyansky that Peter Hochstein passed away in April. Until shortly before his death, he blogged wittily and grumpily as the New York Crank, and he brought his smarts and disgruntlement here as a regular guest blogger. (He also commented as Etaoin Shrdlu, an allusion to the lost age of Linotype typesetting.) Peter wrote for the pre-Murdoch New York Post and worked for many years in advertising; he published several books under his own name and was the ghostwriter or pseudonymous authors of many others. I'm sorry I've never read his memoir (Heiress Strangled in Molten Chocolate at Nazi Sex Orgy! -- and I'm sorry we won't have him around as everything deteriorates further.

More from Yastreblyansky, and a moving sendoff from Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast, who knew Peter in his later years. We'll miss you, Crank.