TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2022
Also, Maggie Hassan beat Bolduc: In some ways, this is a day for blue tribe celebration.
A political bullet has been dodged. In this morning's New York Times, Bret Stephens and Gail Collins breathe a sigh of relief:
Bret Stephens: Gail, remember the old Rolaids ad that asked, “How do you spell ‘relief’?” I think the answer is “m-i-d-t-e-r-m-s.”
Your thoughts about last week’s results?
Gail Collins: Feeling pretty chipper, Bret. The House breakdown looks like nobody’s going to be able to get anything much done, but that’s definitely not the worst possibility...
Bret: If Herschel Walker loses the runoff in Georgia, I’ll be ecstatic. Simply the fact that every election denier who ran to become the top election official in a battleground state lost is a cause to uncork the champagne.
No one's going to get anything done! To a certain established class, that may seem like a decent outcome. Meanwhile, Stephens is hoping we can beat Herschel Walker!
More on Bret and Gail's assessment below. For now, we'll direct you to the following fact:
Early in this year's college football season, TCU beat Tarleton State, 59-17.
A few words of explanation:
TCU (Texas Christian) runs a big-time football program. In the current Associated Press poll, they're rated as the fourth best team in the nation.
On the other hand, there's a fairly good chance that you've never heard of (the estimable) Tarleton State. Almost surely, you've never heard of the Tarleton State football program.
A bit of information:
The state involved in the name "Tarleton State" is the well-known state of Texas. The leading authority on the school offers this thumbnail sketch:
Tarleton State University is a public university with its main campus in Stephenville, Texas. It is a founding member of the Texas A&M University System and enrolled over 14,000 students in the fall of 2020.
John Tarleton Agricultural College was founded in 1899 with an endowment from settler John Tarleton. The college became a member of the Texas A&M University system in 1917. In 1949 it was renamed Tarleton State College then became a four-year degree-granting institution in 1959. Tarleton gained status as a university in 1973, adopting its current name.
We're willing to say there's a reasonable chance that you've never heard of Stephenville, Texas. Again, the authority speaks:
Stephenville is a city in and the county seat of Erath County, Texas...As of the 2020 census, the city's population was 20,847, and it is the principal city in the Stephenville Micropolitan Statistical Area. Stephenville is among several communities that call themselves the "Cowboy Capital of the World."
For the record, Stephenville is a bit less than two hours southwest of Dallas.
Warning! Within our tribe, we tend to roll our eyes at communities with nicknames like Stephenville's. If you stick with us a moment, that will lead us to Kevin Drum's List.
Tarleton State has been around a long time. If you've never heard of the (estimable) school, that may be because, to its former credit, it never had a big-time football program.
Recently, Tarleton State decided to change. The relevant history follows:
Tarleton State University athletics currently competes at the NCAA Division I level in the Western Athletic Conference. They were admitted into the WAC on July 1, 2020, therefore ending their 26-year stint at the Division II level with the Lone Star Conference...
Tarleton left the LSC and Division II in July 2020 to join the Division I Western Athletic Conference. Because the WAC does not sponsor football, Tarleton football will play as a Division I FCS independent.
Tarleton State has had a Division I football program for just the past two years. Who else has Tarleton State played this year?
They've also played Eastern New Mexico, Southwest Baptist, Southern Utah and Utah Tech. TCU played them this year because it would be easy to produce a very large victory margin.
That's part of the way college football works. That brings us to some of the victories Democrats won this year.
Especially on the Senate level, some of those victories were achieved at the expense of highly beatable opposition. In some widely reported instances, the Democratic Party actually spent money supporting those Trumpist candidates during the Republican primaries, assuming that they'd be easy to beat.
Now that those candidates have been defeated, our blue tribe can indeed breathe a sigh of relief. That said, riddle us this:
In a possibly post-Trump future, will our candidates be able to defeat more electable Republican nominees? We would be strongly inclined to call that a known unknown. Consider:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep—but the crackpot candidate Don Bolduc received 45% of the vote as he lost the New Hampshire Senate race to the estimable Maggie Hassan.
On the gubernatorial level, the baldly disordered Kari Lake has been defeated in Arizona—but she has been defeated by less than one percent of the vote.
Gail Collins is "feeling pretty chipper" about living in a world where "nobody’s going to be able to get anything much done," but that is very much a first-world, upper-end attitude. We've been living in that world for decades now, and our politics—and our national discourse—have been relentless clown shows.
Our blue tribe is feeling triumphant about the fact that we beat Don Bolduc! In effect, that was a win over Tarleton State. It doesn't tell us if we can compete on a higher level in the years to come.
Whether we know it or not, our blue tribe politics is a repulsive mess. On the intellectual and moral levels, our massively self-impressed tribe has long been a miserable joke, especially in the face of a world full of Sarah Cuauros.
On occasion, people in Stephenville notice such facts. In large numbers, they vote for Republicans. Are there things our tribe could do to start peeling such voters away, perhaps making Texas winnable?
In this year's elections, Donald J. Trump's massive disorder gave us a bunch of opponents we could defeat. But if the GOP moves beyond the disorder Trump, how will our game be then?
At least for now, the massive disorder of Donald J. Trump has rearranged the basic blocking and tackling of American election-year politics. How ridiculous has it become? Here's Bret Stephens' assessment of the candidates we managed to beat this year:
Bret: [T]he main takeaway from the election comes down to a line in E.E. Cummings’s poem “i sing of Olaf glad and big,” about a conscientious objector during World War I.
Gail: OK, an E.E. Cummings reference wins you the round, even before I hear it.
Bret: In the poem, Olaf says, “there is some stuff I will not eat,” although the actual word he uses is a bit more pungent than “stuff.” And what Americans said last week is that—however else they feel about inflation or crime or the overall direction of the country—they aren’t about to eat stuff when it comes to reproductive rights, election denialism and Republican candidates who have the intelligence of turnips and the personalities of tapeworms.
Tarleton State is an estimable school with a nascent football program. By way of contrast, our blue tribe has now shown that we can beat "Republican candidates who have the intelligence of turnips and the personalities of tapeworms."
If the GOP moves beyond the disorder of Trump, will we be able to beat stronger candidates? The answer strikes us as highly unclear.
That returns us to the intriguing, seven-point list Kevin Drum assembled last week. Are there things our tribe could do to improve its overall game?
Tomorrow: Pathways to defeat