Gay Republican who won NY congressional seat appears to be a giant fake

The 2022 congressional mid-terms race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District was billed as the first U.S. House general election to feature two gay men — one a Republican, one a Democrat.

The Republican, George Santos, won in a bit of an upset that saw Republicans in NY state make notable gains that helped the GOP take control of the lower chamber of Congress.

The problem is that much of Santos’ biography now appears to be fake:

George Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last month helped Republicans clinch a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, built his candidacy on the notion that he was the “full embodiment of the American dream” and was running to safeguard it for others.

His campaign biography amplified his storybook journey: He is the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent. By his account, he catapulted himself from a New York City public college to become a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” with a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties and an animal rescue charity that saved more than 2,500 dogs and cats.

But a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail, calls into question key parts of the résumé that he sold to voters.

Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the marquee Wall Street firms on Mr. Santos’s campaign biography, told The Times they had no record of his ever working there. Officials at Baruch College, which Mr. Santos has said he graduated from in 2010, could find no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year.

There was also little evidence that his animal rescue group, Friends of Pets United, was, as Mr. Santos claimed, a tax-exempt organization: The Internal Revenue Service could locate no record of a registered charity with that name.

His financial disclosure forms suggest a life of some wealth. He lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election, has donated thousands of dollars to other candidates in the last two years and reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Yet the firm, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is something of a mystery. On a campaign website, Mr. Santos once described Devolder as his “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets. On his congressional financial disclosure, he described it as a capital introduction consulting company, a type of boutique firm that serves as a liaison between investment funds and deep-pocketed investors. But Mr. Santos’s disclosures did not reveal any clients, an omission three election law experts said could be problematic if such clients exist.

And while Mr. Santos has described a family fortune in real estate, he has not disclosed, nor could The Times find, records of his properties.

The defeated gay Democrat, on the other hand, has an admirable and easily verifiable CV:

Zimmerman received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and a master’s in business administration for Fordham University. In 1988, Zimmerman co-founded a marketing communications company. He served on the John F. Kennedy Center’s Presidential Commission on the Arts and the National Council on the Humanities, nominated by Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D), respectively. As of 2022, Zimmerman was a Democratic National Committee member.

Was nobody in the Zimmerman campaign doing research on his opponent?

Or, for that matter, did nobody in the mainstream press bother to do even the most cursory check of the candidates?

Weird. So, so weird.

What Ga. and Pa. teach us is that middle-of-the-road wins elections for Democrats in swing states

Matt Yglesias has a good column up about lessons learned from the 2022 midterms and one of his chief arguments is a familiar one for anybody who follows him: Democrats are not going to win elections in conservative or conservative-leaning states by magically mobilizing some unseen progressive base that sits elections out.

Democrats are going to win in states with lots of conservative voters when Democrats are willing to very intentionally go after the votes of moderate Republican voters. And he starts by looking at Stacey Abrams’ blowout loss in Georgia — despite having an enviable get-out-the-vote machine — and how her loss can be explained in light of the fact that Warnock won (again) by appealing to middle-of-the-road voters who voted for Kemp but switched over to vote for Warnock:

I don’t think Abrams’ loss reflects poorly on her — I don’t see how any Democrat using any set of tactics could have beaten Brian Kemp in this midterm. It looked early in the cycle like a MAGA primary challenger might beat Kemp, in which case Abrams would have had a fighting chance and we could critique her choices.

But the fact that she lost badly is relevant context for Warnock’s win: he scored the plurality in the original election and won the runoff because a lot of Kemp voters voted for him. And if you look at how the down-ballot races went in Georgia, it’s clear that these aren’t just Brian Kemp superfans or people who have some huge problem with Stacy Abrams. The whole GOP ticket won, and the party controls both houses of the state legislature. As in all elections, a majority of Warnock’s voters were hardcore Democrats and a majority of Republicans voted for Herschel Walker, but the reason Warnock won is that a sliver of people who are otherwise party-line GOP voters backed him.

[Washington Post columnist] Perry Bacon, Jr. looked at these results and concluded that “Stacey Abrams didn’t win. But her ideas did.”

He then lists a bunch of Abrams-associated ideas that really were vindicated by the race, and it’s absolutely true that she was right to say in the wake of 2016 that Democrats had better odds of growing in Georgia than of winning back Ohio and Iowa. But I think it’s also indisputably true that along with the ideas Bacon attributes to her, Abrams is associated with the idea that Democrats could organize their way to victory. And that’s just not what happened.

There’s also not some huge mystery as to how Warnock’s campaign persuaded crossover voters. Especially in the runoff, his allies made direct appeals to Kemp voters urging them to vote for Warnock.

And obviously this worked in large part because Walker had a lot of serious flaws as a candidate. But Warnock’s campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, describes their deliberate efforts to court these voters.

“There could have been other campaign operatives or another campaign that could have said, ‘OK, Herschel Walker has all this baggage, so we’re just going to run to the left and just try to turn out as many of our voters and just let Republicans eat their own,” he told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. “We didn’t do that.”

This idea of deliberately courting crossover voters is so banal that it hardly seems worth analyzing. But it really did go out of style in the wake of liberals’ shock and horror at the idea that anyone would vote for Donald Trump. Normally, when you lose an election, the first order of business is to figure out how to convince some of the people who voted for the other guy to change their minds next time. But lots of progressives found Trump so appalling that the idea of trying to do outreach to his voters was beyond the pale. Even though Hillary Clinton’s infamous analysis put only half of them in the basket of deplorables, there was very little interest in even trying to reach the other half. But there just isn’t some other way of doing politics.

I agree with much of what Yglesias says in this piece.

I am as blue as blue can be, and I think the life I lived mostly in Boston has inoculated me against even the idea of trying to appeal to any Republican voters. Especially in the Trump era.

But Georgia, Pennsylvania and other states are proving that fielding middle-of-the-road candidates, not offering up far left candidates who might magically get more liberal voters to the polls, is the way to win in statewide races in places where Democrats otherwise get creamed at the polls.

The ways that a Warnock win in Ga. will help Democrats

I’ve followed politics my entire life and had no idea that, in a U.S. Senate split 50-50, committees (including Judiciary) are also split 50-50, but if the Dems are up by one, that all changes:

Under President Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell was venerated — or denounced — for his efficient and cutthroat approach to ramming through Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court picks and confirming federal judges.

In four years, Mr. McConnell’s Senate majority confirmed three right-wing justices and 234 new judges overall, many of them youthful conservatives rubber-stamped by the Federalist Society. These Trump appointees can serve for the rest of their lives; it is plausible that some of them will still be remaking federal law 30 or 40 years from now. Most of these judges are avowed originalists, fiercely opposed to the “living Constitution” school that dominates liberal jurisprudence and allowed for all sorts of social progress that is now being turned back. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is the exemplar.

Since Democrats retook the Senate majority in 2021, Mr. Biden has undertaken his own successful counteroffensive, in tandem with Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader. Mr. Schumer’s Senate has actually confirmed federal judges at a faster rate than Mr. McConnell’s at the time of the first midterm election. So far, over 85 judges appointed by Mr. Biden have been confirmed, including a new Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. The judges, overall, are traditional liberals, many of them younger and nonwhite. Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer were willing to elevate judges who were former public defenders, an unlikely prospect in the law-and-order 20th century.

If Mr. Warnock wins, the Senate can move more rapidly and seek judges who are perhaps more progressive in their worldviews — the sort who could hit a snag if someone like Joe Manchin, the centrist from West Virginia, or Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is the deciding vote.

Democrats must evenly split committee members in the 50-50 Senate, giving Republicans the power to delay votes on judges. A 51-49 majority would be much more dominant: Committees like the judiciary would be stacked with Democrats, greatly speeding up the confirmation process. There are about 75 vacancies on U.S. District Courts and nine at the appellate level. That number is bound to grow as more judges retire in the next two years.

The more you know!

Iowans getting whiny about losing first-primary status

When I was in my teens and 20s I dreamed of the day when I got out of Lincoln, Nebraska, the least interesting (and least progressive) big college town in America. And I finally did, going eventually to Omaha, Denver, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago, before moving back here for personal reasons a few years ago.

Now that I live here again, I can say without hesitation that Omaha is not the cow town it used to be when the south of the city literally used to smell of cow shit because of all the stockyards.

The cows are gone, there’s a nascient progressive music scene, and there exists a couple of neighborhoods/areas that are actually cool in ways that big-city cool neighborhoods attract young people.

When I was a teenager I would have LOLed if someone said any neighborhoods were progressive here. Nonetheless, Omaha and its blue voters are the reasons that Nebraska is one of the only states that splits its electoral votes between Republicans and Democrats.

Still, it’s going to be a while before Nebraska (or, rather, Omaha) gets the respect it deserves, as witnessed by this New York Times article about Iowa losing its status as the first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential nominating contest:

Iowa’s dethronement, which was not unexpected, has inspired a rush of emotions in the state — mourning, regret, nostalgia, reflections on Democrats’ weakening grip on the Midwest and a kind of who-are-we-now bit of soul searching.

“We’ve always joked, If Iowa doesn’t have the caucuses, are we Nebraska?” said Mike Draper, the owner of Ray Gun, a quirky T-shirt store in Des Moines frequently visited by candidates and their staffs. His description of the caucuses was not quite political, yet fairly apt: “It’s like the dork Olympics.”

“Every four years, it really is one of the most exciting things,” he added. “You so rarely see Iowa on the news. It’s surreal to be here, where nobody ever notices.”

A T-shirt in the store read “Just Trying to Get Some Ranch,” a deep inside-Iowa political reference to a viral video of a young woman who in 2019 pushed past Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York campaigning in an Iowa bar, all in pursuit of salad dressing. Mr. Draper said the store paid the young woman “licensing checks every quarter” for years.

This much is true: Iowa thinks it is cooler than Nebraska, and Nebraska thinks it is cooler than Iowa. The truth is that, based just on Des Moines and Omaha, Des Moines probably comes out just ahead of Omaha as to the “cool” factor. But Omaha is nipping at Des Moines’ heels.

But neither place will ever be confused with Minneapolis or Kansas City.

Quoteable

I do want to restate that every political journalist had a pre-write sitting in the CMS about how, as usual, Democrats Were Out Of Touch With Real Americans, what with loving crime and having kids shit in litterboxes and treating trans people as human beings. No one really cares about democracy, why won’t Joey shut about that?  And then they just… couldn’t run them.  

Their intended narrative wasn’t based on polls, just vibes. “Dems keeping the Senate” was a perfectly reasonable prediction given polling and the House is always a bit of a guess. With redistricting there was reason for pessimism, but again that’s just guessing. There are never enough good polls. Again, I am not claiming a victory for full communism, but all the stuff the Right spent screeching about for the last several months, which journalists always echo, didn’t work for them.

Atrios, in a post-election post on his blog.

It doesn’t matter that Rupert Murdoch and Mike Pompeo have had enough of Trump

Some sycophants formerly stuck in Trump’s orbit are starting to turn on him, which has some of the never-Trumpers (Lincoln Project, etc.) excited that the tide may be turning against Trump ahead of what looks to be (at this point, anyway) his planned Tuesday announcement about a 2024 presidential candidacy.

However, The Atlantic‘s David A. Graham has a good piece up which says everyone should just cool their jets because Trump will not be out of the game until a substantial portion of his base turns on, or tires of, him. And that has not happened any previous time the GOP mainstream (or what passes for it these days) thought they could push Trump out:

One theory about the Republican Party and Trump is that if enough of its movers and shakers had turned on him simultaneously, they could have cast him out. But going back to the 2016 GOP primary, members of the establishment never liked or wanted him. They worried he couldn’t win, and they worried he didn’t agree with their core beliefs on issues such as trade and foreign policy. The problem was that voters did like Trump—although only a plurality in the primary—and didn’t like his rivals. One reason the establishment couldn’t effectively rally around one of his opponents is that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and the rest all had weaknesses that a unified media front couldn’t erase.

They tried, though. The high-water mark was the January 2016 “Against Trump” issue of National Review, the flagship movement magazine, which gathered a host of writers from across the right to try to stall the inevitable. It didn’t work. (Some of the contributors remained Never Trumpers, others embraced him, and a third group settled on anti-anti-Trumpism as a compromise.)

The collective-action theory got another test in October 2016, when The Washington Post published a recording of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. Many Republicans and conservative pundits abandoned him, but once it became clear that there was no alternative and that GOP voters were still on board, many of them quietly slunk back too.

This pattern has held over and over. After the white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017; after the 2018 Helsinki summit; after the attempted extortion of Ukraine; after Trump lost the 2020 election; and then again after the January 6 insurrection, swaths of conservatives prepared to make a dramatic break and then either changed their mind or held back when they realized that voters were still with Trump. After the election loss, Murdoch’s properties briefly soured on Trump, but when their competitors started to gain market share, Fox and friends had second thoughts.

I’m with the people who think Trump is going to announce he will run because that is the only possible way he has left to try and slow down all the investigations against him, his family and enablers.

Whether enough of his base has tired of him — the only metric that matters — will be a mystery until the first GOP presidential primaries.

Incidentally, Michael Tomasky of The New Republic has a piece up that says many of the same things the Atlantic piece says. You can find it here.

Christ Christie. left, may have finally had enough of Donald Trump, but that won’t matter until Trump starts losing primaries.

GOP candidate who impersonated a black, gay man loses his state senate race in PA

You may recall that Pennsylvania “social and fiscal conservative Christian” Dan Browning was running as a Republican for a PA state senate seat.

You might also recall that Browning, a straight white guy, sent the following tweet under his real name when he meant to tweet it under a fake account:

“I’m a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me, my life only changed a little bit and it was for the worse. Everything is so much better under Trump though. I feel respected – which I never do when democrats are involved.”

People noticed. A lot of people noticed.

Browning tried to delete the tweet but it was too late.

Then he tried to explain it away by saying he was quoting a black, gay friend and Browning just failed to make that clear in his tweet in which he claimed to be black and gay.

Anyway, the good news is that Browning lost to a progressive Democrat.

The bad news is that, even after being exposed as a major fraud and liar, Browning still got 46.7% of the vote.

There is simply does not exist a non-Jesus-like behavior that MAGA politicians can engage in which will cost them support with the MAGA faithful.

Lie, cheat, steal, beat your wife and kids, and as long as you say you hate liberals and Hillary Clinton, you’re as good as gold with those people. It’s crazy that we’ve reached a point where the loudest alleged Christians are the least like Jesus these days.

You, too, could be a Washington Post columnist

It is a source of never-ending amusement to me that virtually anyone can, apparently, be a Washington Post columnist. I could be a Washington Post columnist. You could be a Washington Post columnist. The guy who screams at cars at the bus stop down the street could be a Washington Post columnist.

Because wisdom and genuine insight are apparently not the overriding qualifications to be a Washington Post columnist, as Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle proves once again in her first post-midterms column:

During the Republican primary season, Democrats took a big risk: They boosted Trumpist, election-denying candidates over their more moderate opponents. From the perspective of a coldly calculating Democratic strategist, this might have looked like a safe bet. These further-right candidates tended to be inexperienced and undisciplined, and their close association with former president Donald Trump’s various outrages would make them easier to beat outside of the Republican base.

But politics can’t all be reckless cynicism — that’s how you get Trump. As I and other critics pointed out at the time, screaming that Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy falls rather flat if you’re also helping Trumpist candidates get closer to positions of power, where they might be able to subvert our electoral processes.

Democrats were not taking the ordinary political risk of installing a bad candidate or two; they were wagering our country’s future to marginally improve their own electoral chances. It was a feckless and unconscionable gamble.

I am therefore quite distressed to report that, at least at the level of cold political calculation, it seems to have worked.

Sure, the cynical move paid off in a bunch of races and might have had knock-on effects down the ticket by discouraging moderate Republican voters — early Wednesday morning, Republican control of the Pennsylvania state house was imperiled. But there are two grave dangers in this kind of cynicism.

The first is that the cynicism will stop being a political tool, a necessary concession to human realities, and start being the primary modus operandi of campaigns that no longer have any real principles except “Give me power.” But the second is that pure cynicism will, ironically, not be quite cynical enough.

Poor Megan. She’s spent the last few weeks boosting Republicans with her predictions of a red tsunami, and hectoring Democrats about all the ways she thinks they botched the mid-terms.

Now that she’s been proven to be utterly wrong (a habit, with her) she’s bound to be a bit addled to the point of being unable to come up with anything mildly insightful to write in a pinch, except to lecture Democrats by saying, “Your tactics turned out to be spot on, but here’s why you should not have relied upon your winning strategies.”

This is, of course, the grand bargain that so-called centrists in the press expect Democrats to agree upon: Republicans can play as cynically and dirty as they’d like, and everyone just rolls their eyes and says, “Oh, that’s just how Republicans do things.” But if Democrats do the same thing it’s unseemly and beneath them. It’s also always a danger to the republic — as if responding to proto-fascism with a heavy dose of realpolitik is somehow a moral failing.

(And, by the way, since WHEN has politics ever been not cynical? Has McArdle ever sat through an American or French or British political history course?)

You see? Anyone can be a WaPo columnist. You don’t really ever have to be correct or insightful. You just have to be able to scribble bloviating hot takes and to never, ever, admit you were wrong save for saying you are “distressed to report” that you have no earthly idea what you’ve been writing about all this time.

Libertarian columnist Megan McArdle, whose chief skill appears to involve being wrong most of the time.

The Fetterman family in hoodies and shorts at his victory party in PA is giving Republicans the vapors

It’s an amusing thing that the rich people of the Republican Party — the talking heads and columnists and Fox analysts and Claremont think-tankers — are getting all snobby about the Fetterman family showing up in hoodies and shorts on-stage at his PA victory party Tuesday night after he knocked off medical charlatan Mehmet Oz.

I mean, the Trumpiest base of the GOP is primarily people with broken down cars and washing machines in the front yards of their double-wides, and the GOP’s millionaire spokespeople are approaching fainting spells over some gym shorts.

Quotable

Republicans just appeal to their own horrible weirdos who would vote for them anyway, and the “normie” swing voters find it all a bit confusing. That 40% of the country are assholes is probably true, but it’s still only 40%.

The Republican extended universe is actually quite weird. Because of the way political journalism is, it all sounds “normal” but actually [MAGA] are the weirdos! Enough people are like “what the fucking fuck” when you claim kids are shitting in litterboxes in schools because of pronouns.

Atrios at Eschaton blog, on why the GOP did historically bad in the mid-term elections