Monday, February 22, 2021

BTRTN: The Lone Star-ving State... Was This The Week Texas Turned Blue?

Are the people in Texas not suffering enough without having to tolerate the endless incompetence, hypocrisy, and tone-deaf human depravity of their Republican leaders? Steve thinks it is time that Texas turns blue… Beto late than never.


It was one of those days of stunning juxtapositions that leave you slack-jawed at the agony and the ecstasy.

The day I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I felt a sense of genuine awe and wonder that in the span of one year, scientists had identified and understood  the virus, developed a vaccine, rigorously tested it, gained regulatory approvals, and then a supply chain had been built to manufacture it, distribute it, and get it into my arm. What a country!

Then I turned on the tv, and watched in horror as CNN flashed video of freezing, desperate people in Houston, Texas burning furniture to survive.

It was all too much… after four years of denial, deceit, political calculation, misinformation, polarization, hypocrisy, corruption, cruelty, racism, inequity, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance, violence, and insurrection, I sat numb as our nation neared its 500,000th COVID-19 death and our second largest state writhed in agony, operating under Dickensian conditions.

What a country.

What happened – and continues to happen -- in Texas is terrifying. Appalling. The week began with power outages and loss of heat in freezing conditions, with thermostats inside homes showing temperatures below 40 degrees. And yet the crisis managed to grow worse as the freezing temperatures refused to budge and the agony of frigid weather was exacerbated by food shortages and a dearth of potable water. Millions of Texans were forced to spend a week in utter misery that could only be relieved by rising temperatures.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the suffering inflicted by the weather was the behavior of the Republican leaders in Texas.

At the peak of the crisis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was on Fox News, saying “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.”

Somehow, I truly doubt that the freezing and infirm 86 year old grandmother in Big Spring leaned forward in her chair and said, “You tell’em, Sonny Boy! I am so glad that you are focused on getting the word out that A.O.C. and all those liberal commies will exacerbate the Federal deficit with their crazy schemes about saving the planet! Now excuse me while I burn my rocking chair.”

It would be one thing if Abbott was exploiting the suffering of his citizens to make an honest point about the perils of over-reliance on clean energy.  It rapidly surfaced, however, that the far, far bigger problem was that the weather impacted the flow of natural gas. Then it came out that Texas had made a decision to not invest in wind technology that could withstand freezing temperatures. Which is to say: had Texas invested in the proper equipment, the wind turbines would have continued to generate electricity where gas failed.

As the days passed and the stories emerged about what actually caused the massive chain of failures in the Texas power grid, we learned that the state’s famous aversion of Federal government interference and government regulation in general played a key role. The “privatized” power system is run by the “Electric Reliability Council of Texas,” which was specifically formed to ensure that electricity generated in Texas would not be transported across state lines, and therefore would not be subject to Federal jurisdiction or interference. The result? Texas is an electricity island, unconnected to any other states, and therefore unable to tap into national power resources at times of need.  

Regulations that would have required energy providers to winterize their equipment were “optional.” The next time someone asks you to give you an example of an oxymoron and you are tired of saying “jumbo shrimp,“ may I suggest “optional regulation?”

As so often happens, we are shocked by the devastation caused by a horrific “natural” disaster, only to learn that the far greater disaster was the human failure to anticipate problems and act pro-actively to prevent them. In fact, the storm in Texas was hardly unprecedented: prolonged freezing conditions in both 1989 and 2011 had resulted in widespread outages and recommendations that investments be made to winterize equipment. While some parts of Texas – notably El Paso -- heeded this advice, most did not.

It would be unfair to offload the full blame for the actions and inactions that led to last week’s acute misery on one party. Indeed, the decision to operate the Texas power grid independently dates back to 1935.  A state that prides itself on small government, minimal regulation, and no state income taxes may have been allowing the seeds of this calamity to take root for a very long time.  

But this much is fact: Texas has had Republican governors since 1995, when Ann Richards was defeated by one George W. Bush. Bush was succeeded by two-term Republican Rick Perry and the current incumbent Republican Abbott.   The last Democratic Senator from Texas left office in 1993.

Now we all know that deep in the Texan soul is a notion of personal responsibility. No hand-outs. Frontier character. So if there is going to be responsibility for the decisions about failing to winterize equipment or keeping the energy grid separate… well let’s just say that it would be colossally nuts to blame things on the Democrats.

Which is why Abbott’s attempt to foist his responsibility off on the “Green New Deal” is so appalling.

And it is not just Abbott. We had to endure the bloviation of the state’s Republican icons.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry used this week to fiercely defend the state’s frontier spirit of independence: “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Gee, Rick, you really might want to do a quick Rasmussen poll on that one, because I traded texts with the daughter of the aforementioned 86 year old grandmother, and she was worried sick about her freezing, Lone Star-ving relatives, and I am pretty sure that she wasn’t ready to sign her mom up for three more days of misery.

This, of course, is the same Rick Perry who has on several occasions coyly postured about seceding from the Union.  In 2009, he was caught on tape saying “when we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.” It was not the only time. At a Tea Party rally in the same time frame, Perry said that if the Federal government “continues to thumb their nose at the American people … who knows what might come out of that.” Rick Perry loved playing the role of Texan rogue spirit incarnate, but I don’t recall him discouraging FEMA from bringing billions in aide after Hurricane Harvey clobbered Houston, and we suspect that Texas is going to need a heaping serving of Federal disaster relief after last week. What were you saying about no hand-outs?

Perry is not the only Texan Republican leader to float the idea that the citizens of Texas would rather defiantly suffer rather than tolerate the involvement of the Federal government. At the outbreak of the coronavirus, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went considerably further, insisting that Texas seniors would rather sacrifice their lives to the coronavirus than risk the health of the economy in a lockdown. “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?  And if that's the exchange, I'm all in."

And, of course, Texas was one of the four Southern states – all led by Republican governors -- that last spring invited utterly disastrous coronavirus outbreaks by re-opening their states for commerce far too quickly in order to demonstrate proper fealty to Donald Trump. Governor Abbott watched calamity unfold in Texas until finally back-pedaling and issuing a statewide mask mandate.

Yeah, you knew we were saving the best for last: that punctually unctuous blizzard of bloviation, the passenger-side gas bag of the Republican Party, Ted Cruz. The Senator chose this particular moment to fly to Cancun, Mexico, alleging that he was responsibly filling his obligation to be a great Dad by flying to a posh, warm vacation spot as the citizens who elected him froze, suffered, and, yes, died.  Cruz cruelly abandoned ship, jumping on the plane to a warm, dry Ritz Carlton hotel while Texans suffered unbearable misery. Personal responsibility? Cruz attempted to offload his epic dereliction of duty onto his ten and twelve year old daughters, who apparently “wanted a vacation.” I have to think that hiding behind the skirt of your ten year old daughter does not sit well in Marlboro Country.

The very best part? Watching the videos that ordinary citizens took of Cruz striding thought the airport and casually sipping his latte in one of those upscale airport lounges. You can see him become increasingly aware that his day is about to turn into the ninth circle of Instagram, and yet all he can do is carry on. He would later claim that he realized his little junket was an error “as soon as he sat down on the plane,” which is essentially saying that he regretted the error of his ways when he realized that he was not simply trending, he was keeping up with the Kardashians. This is of course functionally identical to feeling no remorse for sleeping with your best friend’s wife, but feeling deep, burning regret for getting caught.

Oh, Ted: when will you learn? Within hours The New York Times had the full text trail of Heidi Cruz’s game plan for a rager in Cancun, presumably having checked to make sure that the citizens of Texas had plenty of cake before downloading her boarding pass. (P.S. – Heidi makes no reference to her daughters’ need for a vacation).

Even if this had been the first and only lapse in ethical judgment in an otherwise sterling career of public service, it’s hard to imagine any politician weathering this agonizing storm. But this is Ted Cruz. Donald Trump mocked this guy’s wife’s physical appearance, threatened to “spill the beans” about her – we still don’t know what that means -- and then accused his father of participating in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

What does Cruz do in return? On January 6, Cruz was one of two U.S. Senators who endorsed Trump’s assertions of voter fraud which, in turn, emboldened the insurrectionists. One of the most nauseating moments in the video of the attack on the Capitol was when two thugs came upon Ted Cruz’s desk in the U.S Senate, and, in rifling through his papers, were pleased to conclude that Cruz was on their side.

Everything is indeed big in Texas, but unfortunately that extends to the Republican leadership’s 4-H Club of hyperbole, hypocrisy, hubris, and hostility.

You see, the big lie in Texas is that for all of the alleged streak of independence and Republican chafing at Federal “interference,” Texas is actually one of those states that takes more money from Washington than it sends in. No, it’s not wildly out of proportion, but that is a fact. Indeed, my humble little state of Connecticut pays proportionally far more to the Federal government in taxes than we get back.

So it is mathematically accurate to say that Connecticut, in some real measure, subsidizes Texas. That’s a better kept secret down in Plano than who shot J.R.

It has been a horrific week for our fellow citizens in the state of Texas.

Please know that for all our raging criticism of your Republican leaders, we ache with sadness as we watch the suffering of millions of hard working and good-hearted citizens. We feel deeply for the children and the grandmothers. You deserve so much better than the pompous, deceitful Republican gas bags that hold so many of your statewide and Federal offices.

Please consider the many brilliant Democratic stars you have to choose from.

For starters, the guy who did not get elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas – Beto O’Rourke – spent last week doing a whole helluva lot more for Texas than Cruz, the guy who was. While Cruz was packing the Coppertone, O’Rourke led a volunteer crusade that resulted in 784,000 “wellness calls” to Texas senior citizens, according to reports in The New York Times.

Texas, you will have a chance to undo the absolutely terrible decision you made to re-elect one of the most despicable human beings in government when you could have elected O’Rourke. Oh well, Beto late than never.

Among the many House Managers who argued brilliantly that Donald Trump deserved to be convicted in the impeachment trial, your Congressman Joaquin Castro was particularly sharp, measured, and brilliant on his feet in the Q and A section.

His brother, Julián Castro, was elected mayor of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S., at the age of 35. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he was the youngest member of Barack Obama’s cabinet. And as the field of Democratic candidates for President in 2020, Castro was one of the final ten to stand at a podium in the debates.

Please, Castro brothers, run for Governor. Run for the U.S. Senate. Run all of these smug Republican cowards, blamers, and utterly heartless jerks out of Dodge.

The Democratic Convention named two Texans among its “17 Rising Stars” who shared the keynote responsibility, State Representative Victoria Neave and Congressman Colin Allred.

Texas, there are many terrific female Democratic stars on the rise that each deserve your attention… women such as M.J. Hegar, Candace Valenzuela, Sima Ladjevardian, and Gina Ortiz Jones. Worthy of note: in addition to the fact that every Texas Governor since the mid-nineties has been a Republican, they have also all been male. Just sayin.’

There has been much talk about the changing demography of Texas, and the seeming inevitability that it will morph to swing state and then blue state. Indeed, in 2018, Beto O’Rourke nearly toppled the incumbent Cruz, losing by only 214,921 votes out of 8,306,185 cast.

Perhaps the horror of last week will accelerate the process by which Texans evaluate whether all that macho talk about going it alone, small government, and supposed self-reliance gives way to a more modern understanding of the roles and responsibilities of government.

Or, perhaps it simply causes Texans to conclude that they don’t need any more heartless leaders deep in the heart of Texas.

Come on, Texas. Give your Democratic leaders a chance.

Right now, all you have is an Abbott without the Costello, a Perry who isn’t even a Cuomo, and Cruz without the control.

Hook ‘em, Horns. Give them all the hook.

Vote Blue, Texas. You know… the color on your state flag where the Lone Star sits.


If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at


Sunday, February 14, 2021

BTRTN: The Long View on Acquittal... Bad for Republicans, Good for Democrats, and a New Meaning of "Common Ground"

Sure, it is infuriating that Trump was acquitted. But Steve thinks that when historians look back, they may well conclude that this acquittal was the moment the Republican Party hit the iceberg.


Many Democrats felt nausea, fever, exhaustion, and worry when Patrick Leahy, president pro tempore of the Senate, announced that Donald Trump had not been convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Don’t worry – that’s the normal reaction after the first dose.

Lie down, rest, and take a measure of comfort in the knowledge that the Republican Party’s decision to not excise the stain of Donald Trump when it had the chance may have devastating implications for its candidates through the next Presidential election cycle and beyond.

The most important implication of the “not guilty” verdict is that Donald Trump is not only a viable candidate for the 2024 Presidential Republican nomination… he has to be considered the front runner. Had Republicans voted to convict Trump, and then allowed a strict party lines majority vote to forbid Trump from holding Federal office in the future, the process of defining the party’s post-cult identity could have begun in earnest.  

That process would have surely taken time, as the viability of right wing Trump-cult wanna-bees like Hawley and Cruz would be tested in battles with conservative traditional politicians like Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney. The Republican candidate who could actually forge a new bridge between the ascendant right wing extremists and the traditional conservatives would have a chance of leading a Republican victory in 2024.

But Donald Trump in 2024? Right now, the toxicity levels of such a candidacy could only be measured with Chernobyl-grade meters. The unreality star is no longer “The Apprentice,” he is now the tenured host of “The Biggest Loser,” a man who is wholly capable of destroying the Republican incumbents who voted against him in the impeachment, but is now also a far less effective launch pad for the Trump cult candidates, Q-apologists, and Cruz missiles who would hope to succeed them. 

The same Republicans who gleefully tried to damage the Democratic Party by associating it exclusively with is most extreme elements (Bernie, AOC) somehow fail to grasp that their unwillingness to convict Trump results in a Party defined by its own extremists … Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley.

Kudos to Jamie Raskin and the team of House Managers who demonstrated not simply a command of the legal issues and the facts of the case, but who were, to a person, powerful and compelling communicators, able to pitch their messages simultaneously to the many lawyers in the Senate Chamber as well as the audience of millions of ordinary Americans in front of television sets.

The best part of their devastating prosecution of the case against Trump? That was when they paused to showcase the bravery of Republicans who stood against Trump, committing real-time revisionist history in naming Mike Pence a profile in courage. Repeatedly pointing out that Donald Trump had essentially urged his bloodthirsty mob to assassinate the Vice President, the House Managers at once shamed and yet simultaneously terrified Republican Senators about the risk of fealty to Donald Trump.  So you think it’s a good idea to be loyal to Donald Trump, huh? Take a look at the reward Mike Pence gets for four years of total subservience: a hangman’s noose in front of the Capitol.

BTW: do we have a call for volunteers to be VP on Trump’s ticket in 2024? Better write into the pre-nup that Trump promises he will not have you killed.

However, a demerit on the overall House Managers’ scorecard was the questionable flip-flop on the issue of witnesses. It had appeared that the Democrats had suddenly gained traction as they shifted their focus to Trump’s failure to act as the riot raged out of control. Evidence of a phone call between Trump and McCarthy appeared to be a possible smoking gun that simultaneously proved that Trump did nothing to quell the riots after being told emphatically of the raging violence, and also demonstrated Trump’s greater sympathy for the insurrectionists than for the government employees who were being terrorized. It appeared that bringing witnesses into the Senate chamber could have introduced definitive proof of Trump's dereliction of duty and continued incitement.

But just as quickly as the Senate voted to approve the calling of witnesses, the Democrats withdrew the request, leading to speculation that the White House did not want the trial to drag on, given the virtually certain outcome. Additionally, it appeared to be just at this time that Mitch McConnell announced his intention to vote for acquittal. Perhaps McConnell was simply sending the definitive message to the Democrats: don’t bother to call witnesses, don’t overplay your hand… I just told my team to vote against conviction. Game over.

Look, Democrats, I get it: it seems to defy logic that there is anything good in this acquittal. We witnessed brilliant House Managers lay out an open-and-shut case while the hapless lawyers representing the former president toggled between ignorant incoherence and pompous irrelevant bloviation, all in a case focused on the most blatant example of a “high crime and misdemeanor” that we can imagine short of a President actually having his Vice President murdered. Which, we hasten to remind, Donald Trump also tried to do.

But we have to look at the long game. The Republican Party now sits in a position analogous to where the Democrats stood in 1980: its one-term incumbent President soundly beaten, its opposition party united, and its identity defined by those at its ideological edge.  In the decade that followed, progressive Democrats Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis would be crushed by Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. It was not until Bill Clinton redefined the party away from ideology and infused it with a more centrist notion of practical governance that the White House was recaptured. It is an under-appreciated fact that from the day Clinton set that course, Democratic candidates have won the popular vote in seven of the eight Presidential elections.

Democrats should go into 2022 and 2024 in a strong position.

The Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House. It is reasonable to believe that by 2022, America will largely have tamed the coronavirus, though memories of Trump’s failure to deal with it -- and the Democrats' aggressive actions to solve it -- will be fresh. Americans will likely be enjoying an economic resurgence as it emerges from the pandemic. As Republicans continue their internal blood-letting and gravitate toward more Trump-cult candidates, it is plausible that the Democrats could outperform norms for the incumbent party in the 2022 mid-terms, and be well positioned in 2024.

But the Republicans?

In America, all it takes is a few cycles out of the White House to make political parties refocus on winning coalitions rather than inflexible ideology… particularly losing ideology.

Sure, 2024 is a lifetime away, but if Trump does run, the odds have to be high that he will be beaten again. It defies logic to believe that a man whose approval rating never reached 50% as President, lost decisively in his bid for re-election, and then incited a murderous rampage on the Capital resulting in his second impeachment would enjoy the type of rehabilitation required to put forth a serious candidacy in 2024. But hey, go for it, Republicans. Be my guest. If at first, you don’t secede, try, try again.

But in order to secure that nomination, Trump would have to navigate an ever-growing cyclone of legal cases and the likelihood that ever more devastating evidence of his role in the January 6 insurrection will emerge. If he chooses to not run again, he will still be in a position of influence to anoint the 2024 candidate, denying the Republican Party its opportunity to forge a new identity. It did not go unnoticed that Nikki Haley broke sharply with Trump on Friday, saying of his prospects for 2024, "I don't think he's going to be in the picture. I don't think he can. He's fallen so far." Good luck in 2024, Nikki.

Perhaps by 2028 some Bill Clinton of the Right will talk sense into the Republicans by focusing on pragmatism and policy rather than cult worship.

The absolute worst thing that Republicans could have done is derail and postpone the process of finding a new winning formula. And that is exactly what they did by failing to convict Donald Trump.

Now that we close the chapter of Donald Trump’s second impeachment and his Presidency, we do need to look ourselves in the mirror as a nation.

We have many great challenges facing our nation today: the pandemic, the economy, endemic racism, income and wealth inequality, cyberwarfare, domestic and global terrorism are all simply among the most visible in a list that could go on for paragraphs.

And yet somehow it seems than we will forever be handicapped from actually triumphing in these battles as long as we fail to have a common understanding of reality itself.

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump put the "Reality Gap" in stark relief. Cowardly Republican Senators leaned on an imaginary notion that the impeachment proceedings were unconstitutional to avoid confronting the reality of what actually happened in the two months leading up to and culminating in January 6.  

America, we get to vote on our leaders, and, in turn, our leaders get to vote on legislation and, yes, impeachments.

But we do not get to vote on reality.

No, Kellyanne Conway, there are no alternative facts.

No, Republican Senators, you don’t get to hide your moral cowardice behind the fantasy that the second impeachment of Donald Trump was “unconstitutional.” The Senate makes its own rules on impeachment trials, and it determined that it had the power to put Donald Trump on trial.  If you say that is why you voted to acquit, you are a coward. No one in Nuremberg said, “hey, what are we doing here? World War II is over!”

No, Mitch, you don’t fool anyone anymore. It used to be that your explosions of hypocrisy were muffled by time intervals… it was four years between your epic flip flop on the legitimacy of Supreme Court nominations in a President’s final year in office. But it was all of 45 minutes between your vote to acquit and your self-righteous condemnation of Trump at the after-party. We stopped listening to what you say a long time ago. We only watch what you do. We call it “reality.”

No, private citizen Trump, the pandemic did not magically disappear by April, Mexico did not pay for the wall you did not build, there are not good people on both sides, and there was no voter fraud. The only steal that needed to be stopped was your attempt to violently overthrow American democracy. Your verdict in the impeachment trial may have been “not guilty,” but history will hand you a different verdict: that you were the worst President America has ever had.

No, Fox News, Facebook, and all media outlets that profit from the dissemination of deceit, you do not get to hide behind some perverted pretzel of posturing about the First Amendment. You may think you are not responsible for the fact that a member of the U.S House of Representatives believes in “Jewish Space Lasers,” but the fact that she does, and the fact that she is now in Congress, is your unique contribution to American society. Own it. Do something about it.  

One week ago, many people found a soothing message in Bruce Springsteen’s television commercial for Jeep that appeared on the Superbowl. I love Bruce as much as anybody, but I found his message uncompelling, naïve, and, indeed, inaccurate. In the 21st Century, the definition of “common ground” is not the dirt beneath our feet.  It is not some photogenic farmland in Kansas.

Our new definition of common ground must be a common understanding of reality.

The Founding Fathers of our country did not think that they had to write a preface to our Constitution that said, “Hey, before we start, let’s make sure that we are all on the same page on one thing: we all hereby agree that there is such thing as objective reality, right? Because if we can’t agree on that, the rest of this document has no meaning.”

Global pandemics do not magically disappear.

There is generational, deeply etched racism that permeates every corner of life in the United States. 

Votes can be counted. 

There is such thing as a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

There is such a thing as a "fact."

This Senate impeachment trial was, in the end, nothing more nor less than the perfect metaphor for a polarized country in which one group of citizens is capable of seeing reality and dealing with it, while the other side refuses to see objective truth, pretends that it can deny reality, and spins ever greater fantasy rather than accept the responsibilities that objective reality places on human beings.

Trump should have been convicted. But Republican Senators once again voted against reality. They closed their eyes to the truth, and hid behind utterly disingenuous notions about the “constitutionality” of the proceedings so that did not have to face their responsibilities.

The fact that Trump was not convicted is a telling and grave comment about the current state of the United States of America.

Before we can reclaim democracy from those who would steal it, we must reclaim the notion of objective reality from those who obscure it, invert it, and pervert it.  

If you race against truth, you never win.

The long view on this acquittal is yet to be written, but this much seems certain: the lukewarm celebration Republicans may take in this failure to convict is certain to be short-lived.


If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

BTRTN: Was January a “Once-In-a-Century” Month? Actually, Even Rarer

Tom with the BTRTN January 2021 Month in Review. 

One of the phrases that has entered our lexicon is “once-in-a-century.”  Perhaps it came into vogue with Hurricane Katrina, and has come to be a definer of various climate-change induced calamities that have struck since, including tsunamis, fires and floods.  The pandemic has brought new life to the term, a particularly apt usage since COVID-19 arrived almost exactly a century after the 1918 flu pandemic, the last of its general scale.

But in the political realm, even “once-in-a-century” is not an adequate appellation for what happened in January, 2021.  Three successive Wednesdays in the month brought epochal events, none of which occurred in the last century or the one before that; indeed, they were unprecedented in our Republic’s history.  Each was a marker of the cataclysmic end of the Trump Administration.  But they also represented the beginning of a new, wildly uncertain era in American politics, and for America itself.

When history books are written, well, a century from now, disproportionate attention will be placed on those three events of January, 2021.  The first was the bloody insurrection of the Capitol -- the first time Americans attacked the People’s House – directed by the sitting President of the United States, Donald Trump, in his most brazen, but hardly first attempt to reverse the free and fair election of his successor.  The second was the impeachment of Trump for his incitement of the mob, and the events leading up to it – the first time a President had been impeached twice.  And the third was the inauguration of an unlikely pair of leaders, and while Joe Biden was hardly a rarity (though he is the oldest President to take office), his Vice President, Kamala Harris, was a precedent shatterer in so many ways -- the first woman, the first Black and the first of Asian descent to hold her office. 

The overarching saga, of course, has been Trump’s quest to overturn his election loss to Biden, now known as “The Big Lie.”  The facts remains clear:  Biden won the election fairly, albeit in unusual fashion, catapulted to victory by COVID-inspired early mail-in votes that were the last to be counted.  Trump (and anyone reading anything about the election) understood this dynamic, and he used the pacing of the counting as, in his warped view, prima facie evidence of fraud.  There was no actual evidence of fraud, as was demonstrated time and again by state recounts and audits, and a multitude of judicial challenges (over 60).  But Trump latched on to almost every conspiracy theory being peddled in the dark corners of the Internet, espoused by fringe extremists and an ever-narrowing and increasingly radicalized and unhinged group of advisors.  And thus he continued to challenge the twin pillars of our democracy – our electoral process and the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump refused to concede the election on November 7 when it was “called” by all the various media outlets, including the venerable AP.  But there were still many markers to come when he might have thrown in the towel – notably when the states formally certified their outcomes on December 8, and when the electors voted in accordance with those results on December 14.  With these events, former supporters -- and powerful enablers such as Mitch McConnell and William Barr – broke with Trump, the former recognizing Biden and the latter declaring that the DOJ had found no evidence of fraud. 

But Trump simply barreled on, working on a secret plot to change the Georgia results, orchestrated with a DOJ underling sympathetic to the Big Lie.  Once that effort was stopped by the threat of mass resignations by the DOJ leadership, Trump turned his attention to Congress’ certification process, a heretofore little-noticed formality scheduled for the fateful day of January 6.

Trump did everything he could to undermine this process.  All along he had been making calls and holding White House meetings with state election officials to browbeat them into changing their outcomes in his favor.  One such call, to Georgia State Attorney General Brad Raffensperger, was recorded (and then released to the press and public) by the beleaguered but resourceful AG, on Saturday, January 2.  The tape revealed Trump in full mafia-Don shakedown mode, complete with blunt threats and a demand to “find 11,780 votes” (the margin plus one of his loss to Biden).  Trump also cajoled Vice President Mike Pence, who would preside over the certification session, to use powers in that role that simply do not exist to overturn the certification.  Pence, a loyal soldier up to then, declined, choosing the Constitution over Trump, finding, finally, his own bright line.

Ultimately, Trump encouraged a rally among his followers in Washington, DC on January 6, which resulted in thousands of his strongest supporters meeting at the Ellipse on that fateful day.  Trump came to the rally and exhorted the semi-crazed mob to march to the Capitol, where both houses of Congress were in session for the certification.  He called on them to “fight like hell” and be “strong,” and other variations on that theme, many times.  And he was not alone, with personal attorney Rudy Giuliani calling for “trial by combat” and others using inciting language as well.  We all saw what happened next: a now fully-crazed and enraged mob storming the Capitol, overwhelming the shamefully inadequate defenses put up by Capitol and DC police, striding through the halls of Congress while our representatives fled to safety.  The mob threatened death to Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (with a grisly noose set up outside for that purpose), trashed venerated spaces and offices in the People’s House, and, before it was all over, inflicted enough violence to result in the deaths of five people.  Just hours after the Capitol was finally cleared, Congress reconvened again and went about their business of certifying Biden.

Thus January 6, 2021 became another day in infamy, to stand alongside December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001, in our Republic’s own circle of Hell.  The images of the Capitol being attacked by our own citizens will last forever.  But beyond the attack itself stood the stark reality that the violence had been incited by none other than the sitting U.S. President, the latest and bloodiest move in an orchestrated campaign to subvert our democracy.  After a bit of searching on how to best define the event, the right word was finally found: insurrection.

Almost immediately, talk turned to impeachment.  Trump had not only incited the mob, but he watched their assault on the Capitol with approval.  He expressed no horror that his words might have been misunderstood, made no effort to call the mob off once their murderous intent was clear, appeared supportive of their efforts, and made no attempt to determine the safety of either the members of Congress or his own Vice President, Mike Pence.  (Pence, of course, was now viewed by Trump and the mob as disloyal and weak).  And the impeachment talk was not simply confined to Trump’s actions on January 6.  That was viewed as merely the latest act in a 60-day drama to overturn the election, with the whole sorry saga – inclusive of the DOJ shenanigans and the Raffensperger call -- being worthy of impeachment.

But the condemnation was far from universal and the calls for impeachment were, incredibly, largely partisan.  Trump’s hold on the GOP was so strong that 139 GOP representatives and 8 GOP Senators actually voted against Biden’s certification, even after the attacks.  The impeachment, swiftly conducted a week later on Wednesday, January 13, was even more partisan, with only 10 GOP representatives joining the united Democrats to pass the one article of impeachment.  Trump thus became the first President to be impeached twice, a level of infamy that now sets him apart and alone in the annals of vilified presidents.

The Senate trial timing became its own mini-drama.  To set the context, we must recall another momentous early January event, when Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock defeated Georgia Senate GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively, in runoffs elections, each by very narrow margins.  The two not only flipped two Senate seats from red to blue, but the entire Senate as well.  With their election, the Democratic caucus numbers 50, equal to that of the GOP, and thus Senate control tipped to the Democrats with Vice President Harris presiding over the Senate and able to cast tiebreaker votes.

Mitch McConnell, in his waning days as Senate Majority Leader, punted the Senate trial past the Inaugural, which not only put it under the direction of new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but also set up the fig leaf some Republicans might use come the trial – that trying a former president is unconstitutional (widely viewed by Constitutional scholars as untrue, particularly given the pesky precedent of the Senate trial of former Secretary of War William W. Belknap in 1876).

Beyond the politics, there was an avalanche of responses to January 6.  Perhaps of greatest significance was the banning of Trump from most forms of social media, including not only his beloved Twitter, but also Facebook, YouTube and many others.  This had an immediate effect, as Trump struggled to be heard without a social media platform.  Also of note was the corporate response, as CEO’s suddenly became the standard bearers of “mainstream” Republican values, not only condemning Trump but promising to withhold campaign donations to Trump supporters.

Come January 20, the focus shifted, abruptly and markedly, to the Biden Administration.  It was an Inaugural unlike any other, given the presence of COVID restrictions and the absence of his predecessor (another once-a-century event, Trump was the first to skip his successor’s Inaugural since Andrew Johnson missed Ulysses S. Grant’s in 1869).  But the Biden team pulled off a stunning slew of events and activities, full of somber pageantry, powerful symbolism and calls to better angels.  There was a beautiful lighted memorial by the reflecting pool to honor the 400,000+ Americans killed by COVID; Lady Gaga singing a heartrending version of The Star Spangled Banner; a stunning poem by Young Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, several stirring versions of “Amazing Grace” and, at night, Bruce Springsteen alone on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing his American anthem, “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

Biden himself delivered a remarkable address that found the moment, touching on themes of remembrance and compassion (for the COVID victims), resolve (in the fight to tame the virus and revive the economy), and, perhaps above all, a call for unity.  Perhaps we were all willing to suspend disbelief in such a goal at a time when far too many Republicans – citizens and politicians – were supporting Trump, the Big Lie and even the insurrection.  But Biden seems stubbornly committed to the notion that we can find our way back from this abyss to common purpose and action.

Not since FDR has an incoming president been handed so much.  Apart from the radical disharmony found in the politics, lives and identities of America’s factions, there was COVID, surging anew, killing a record 98,000 Americans in January, forcing businesses to scurry back into semi-hiding, resulting in the loss of 140,000 jobs in December, a reversal from seven months of job growth following the initial downturn of some 18 million jobs.  The Biden team, playing catch-up from a Trump-opposed transition that saw mixed levels of cooperation across various government departments, discovered that there was, essentially, no master plan for vaccine distribution.  This was perhaps not surprising, since the Trump Administration fell remarkably short of its December goals of having 20 million American vaccinated.

Biden plunged right in, signing 17 executive actions in the late afternoon of his Inaugural, a surge of its own sandwiched between a visit to Arlington with Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, and settling in to enjoy Tom Hanks, Springsteen and other performers.  Many were simply to put an abrupt end to Trump policies – stopping any “Wall” construction and the travel ban from Muslim countries, rejoining the Paris Accords and the World Health Organization.  Others were to jumpstart the COVID effort, naming a coordinator for vaccine distribution and instituting a mask mandate on Federal property.  And in the ensuing days, the 17 actions ballooned to 42, as Biden tackled various daily “themes” such as immigration, the environment and economic relief.  Hardly a facet of American life went untouched.

But executive actions might only last until the next Republican Administration.  The more aggressive steps, those built to last, require legislation, and the centerpiece of the Biden Administration’s action plan rests with the COVID relief bill, a $1.9 trillion proposal that includes stimulus checks, aid for the unemployed and renters, money for states and small business, and for vaccine distribution and testing.  The “American Rescue Plan” could be passed without GOP support in Congress, given the House and Senate majorities, and the Senate “reconciliation” process which require only majority votes for certain economic measures.  But Biden is first attempting to win some level of bipartisan support, and he has to keep his own centrist wing (Manchin of West Virginia, and Synema and Kelly of Arizona) on board as well.  This is old-fashioned American politics, but it remains to be seen if Biden still has what it takes to form meaningful compromises across the aisle, or whether, indeed, that game is still being played.

At months end over 25 million Americans had received their first dose of a vaccine, and about 6 million had also received the second.  At 8% and 2% of the population, respectively, there is a long way to go.  Help is on the way with new vaccines from Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca nearing the approval stage, but major challenges remain.  Distribution is still riddled with bottlenecks, inequities and doubt, and the virus is mutating into new strands that show somewhat more resistance to the current vaccines (though the vaccines are still effective against them).  There is cause for optimism, but success is not assured, particularly in the short term.  We will see tens of thousands more die in the coming months, and the vaccination process will continue at a pace such that vaccinations will likely continue throughout the summer, at least.

But one can say with some degree of confidence that COVID will be tamed at some point, and perhaps life will return to normal towards the end of 2021.  The same cannot be said for the Republican Party. 

America has functioned with a two-party system since 1854, with the rise of the Republican Party from the ashes of the Whigs and Free Soilers.  While there have been third parties and independent challenges of note since then, and several elections (notably in 1860 and 1948) when four parties legitimately vied for electoral votes, the two-party system has prevailed.  But the Republicans are now facing the most serious split within a major party in the two-party era.  Up until the 2020 election, and even in the early days that followed, mainstream Republicans could cling to the fantasy that Trump, once defeated, might not exactly disappear, but could be marginalized and, ultimately, left behind.  The GOP is notably more conservative than even in Ronald Reagan’s days – even George W. Bush’s days – but the hope was that they could find a tent big enough to contain both of its wings.

But that myth has been shattered, and the data is revealing.  In a CNN poll released after the insurrection and impeachment, 48% of GOP respondents wanted the party to move away from Trump, while 47% recognized and welcomed Trump as the party leader.  This split has been given a very public face in the actions of the two most powerful active Republicans right now, the minority leaders of the Senate and the House, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. To be clear, both have been Trump enablers throughout both his presidency and in the aftermath of the election.  It was only after the electors voted on December 14 that McConnell began his break with Trump, publicly recognizing Joe Biden as the President-Elect for the first time.  While this timing was shamefully late, at least McConnell had his limits.  Such was not the case for McCarthy, who supported Trump by espousing the Big Lie, refusing to recognize Biden, and voting against Biden’s certification.

These two men are politicians to the core.  Nothing they do is done irrationally – immorally, at times, to be sure – but not irrationally.   Their responses reflect different calculus, in part based on the character of the different minorities they lead.  McCarthy has to deal with the crazies, exemplified by Marjorie Taylor Greene, the new QAnon-infused, Space-Laser representative from Georgia, essentially a whole slew of GOP representatives who are utterly lashed to Trump, representing districts who do the same.  Many of these representatives simply buy into Trump hook, line and sinker, while others know that one false step and they will be primaried in a heartbeat.  McConnell’s Senate colleagues are a different sort.  A private poll would indicate that almost every Senator, in both parties, thinks that Trump is foolish, underqualified and dangerous.  But the Senators – even the Josh Hawley’s and Ted Cruz’s -- are more measured in their approaches than their House counterparts, and more respectful of McConnell.

Both McConnell and McCarthy are focused on the 2022 midterms, and what it will take for the GOP to regain control and make them, in McCarthy’s case, Speaker of the House, and in McConnell’s, a return gig as Majority Leader.  McConnell believes a break from Trump is necessary.  He sees that, in Trump’s short four years, Trump managed to lose the House, the Senate and the White House, and he holds Trump personally accountable for those failures.  He sees that Trump put little effort into Georgia, and put both GOP Senators in a poor position there, unable to run on a “we are the check against Biden” platform that would have served them well.  And he personally despises Trump and does not want to see him back in 2024.  McCarthy, however, faces intense pressure from his caucus’ crazies every day.   They want to throw out Liz Cheney, the #3 GOP leader who supported impeachment, and stand firm with Trump.  McCarthy’s own leadership would be in jeopardy if he broke with Trump, and he knows it. 

McConnell has been quite firm in his position; he supported the House’s call for impeachment, made it clear he believed Trump had committed impeachable acts, and has not lobbied Senators to support Trump in the trial as he did in 2019.  Ever the calculator, he has limits, too, in how far he will stray – he supported the motion put forward by Rand Paul to cancel the Senate trial on the grounds of unconstitutionality.  But while McConnell’s vote was a backslide toward Trump, that vote does not necessarily mean he is opposed to conviction.

Clearly, the future of the GOP is at stake.  Some, like Paul, believe that a conviction will result in at least a third of the party exiting, perhaps following Trump if he creates a new “Patriot” Party, an idea he has floated.  McCarthy and most GOP representatives and Senators recognize that it is still Trump’s party, and to think otherwise is foolish.  But even if the Senate acquits Trump, there are deeper issues.

A significant portion of the GOP has gone down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, fed by QAnon, Newsmax, OAN and many dark spaces on the Internet.  Even if mainstream social media self-polices these threats aggressively, there are plenty of outlets for them to fester.  If the GOP leadership does not stand as one and denounce, first and foremost, the Big Lie, then essentially they sanction all of these theories.  This is the fundamental problem of the Republican Party – the failure to confront false narratives.

Keep in mind that there is another whole wing of the party that behaves like traditional Republicans.  These are people like Mitt Romney and John Kasich who care about America as the leader of the free world, mistrust Russia, support free trade, fear huge deficits that lead to mountains of debt, and support “traditional family values.”  These are traditional Republican canons.  The mainstream GOP has not lost sight of the facts, as Romney and Kasich demonstrate.  They are horrified by Trump.  And while this wing of the party has been subordinated, they still have significant membership and, as the CEO’s have demonstrated, they have some clout.  The GOP needs their votes, too.

No tent can bridge gaps this wide on both the facts to believe and the policies to pursue.  The Democrats, for all of their own rifts, differ neither in fact base nor philosophy, simply in matters of degree and the breath of tactics.  There is no comparison between the two parties.

There will be a reckoning, because the GOP cannot win back anything – not the House, not the Senate, not the White House – in this current state.  Trump, with his actions over the last three months, has fully ripped the party apart.  It was Lincoln himself who said, in another context, that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Now it is the party of Lincoln that must conduct its own civil war.


What is madness, when it seems like a sizable portion of the nation has succumbed to it 24/7? 

But two moments stand out, both from January 6.

An article from the Daily Mail sums up the Trump real-time reaction to the protesters as follows, based on sources who were with him as the insurrection unfolded.

Yet it was not the mayhem and violence that caused Trump to roar in fury...Trump was ‘apoplectic’ in embarrassment because the ‘white trash’ mob on screen made him look bad.  ‘He was angry, not at the appalling crimes they were committing, but because he felt embarrassed,’ said the source. ‘When they first stormed the Capitol he was enjoying it. These were “his people”.  But when he saw pictures of the half-naked guy in the fur hat he started complaining they looked “cheap and poor.”

‘Even at one of the worst moments in American history he was thinking about his image. He didn’t grasp the scale of the disaster.’  Fuelled by hamburgers and endless cans of Coca-Cola, Trump ignored calls from his closest political advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, who begged him to make a televised address and call off the mob.  ‘He was shouting: “Why should I? These people are my supporters”.’

In the early evening, after the horror was abundantly clear, after Trump had issued a far-too-late video telling the rioters to “go home” (while also saying that he “loved” them), but before the Congress reconvened to resume the Biden certification process, Trump and Guiliani each made a phone call.  They called brand new Senator Tommy Tuberville to exhort him to vote against certifying even more states, to delay the process (each state challenge would require separate debate) even further, into the next day, so that they would have more time to browbeat local swing state election officials.

This was bad enough, but there was one other problem so typical of the Trump/Giuliani tandem: they had called, both times, Senator Mike Lee of Utah – who actually supported the Biden certification – by mistake.



Joe Biden began his presidency with a higher rating than that ever achieved by Donald Trump:  55%.  And with only 34% disapproval, Biden sports a +21 net approval, quite impressive in these polarized times.



Jan 2021








Trump, on the other hand, ended his presidency with a 39% approval rating for January, his lowest since December, 2017.  This broke a stretch of 36 consecutive month that Trump’s approval rating fell in the 40-45% range.  Not once did Trump ever achieve a monthly (or weekly) approval rating of 50% of higher.  His highest month was 46% in the infancy of his presidency, in February, 2017.  His lowest, 38%, was in August of 2017.  This high/low range of only 8 percentage points is the lowest of any president since approval ratings have been tracked, in Truman’s presidency.



















































With Biden’s inauguration, we now christen the Bidenometer.  This measure is designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  We reset the Bidenometer to zero, to better demonstrate whether the economy performs better or worse under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

In the past 30 years, the economy has thrived under Clinton and Obama, and soured under Bush and Trump.  While this is widely recognized, the “Econometer” gives a tidy “one number” summary of the trends.  This exclusive BTRTN measure is comprised of five indicative data points:  the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP.  The measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from one period to another.

Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, you can see from the chart below that under Clinton the measure ended at 55.  It declined from 55 to 8 under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then rose from 8 to 33 under Obama’s recovery.  Under Trump, it fell again, from 33 to 0, driven by COVID-19.  Now we will see how it does under Biden.

Thus far, we are 11 days in, which has seen only modest changes in all the measures.  The slight downturn in the Dow has resulted in a -1 for Biden thus far.  Obviously, more time will have to pass before we can take the measure seriously as a determinant of the economy’s performance under Biden’s stewardship.







Clinton ends  Bush begins

Bush ends    Obama begins

Obama ends Trump begins

Trump ends Biden begins

In progress







Unemployment Rate (last month)






Consumer Confidence (last month)






Price of Gas (end of last month)






Dow-Jones (end of last month)






GDP (last 12 months)






Avg. % difference versus Jan 30, 2021







If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.