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The anti-Trump campaign I'm surprised I don't see
Even if his lies about the 2020 election were true, it would still be very unflattering story for him. Will Ron DeSantis say so? Plus: A worthwhile housing initiative.
Welcome to the second week of Very Serious! I want to thank everyone who’s subscribed (we are now at 1,200 paying subscribers) and everyone who’s written in with questions and feedback about both the newsletter and the podcast.
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Here are some of the things I’m thinking about today:
GOP 2024: Donald Trump is mad at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, it seems, because DeSantis won’t rule out running against him for the Republican nomination in 2024.
I’m not sure Trump will actually run again, nor am I sure DeSantis will run against him if he does. For one thing, DeSantis has time to decide. The political environment could look very different in a year, and he might as well keep his options open and wait to see whether a run would plausibly lead to victory or be a suicide mission. You don’t want to end up like Chris Christie, having waited one cycle too long to run.
But if they do face off, DeSantis will face the extreme version of the trouble any underdog candidate faces in a primary: You have to answer not just “why me?” but “why not him?” And he would have to answer that for a primary electorate where the average voter views Trump with great favor and doesn’t believe he lost the last election legitimately.
There’s one thing I find odd about Trump’s ability to use election-theft lies to lock down the Republican base: What if the lies were true? Don’t they still make Trump look like an incompetent failure? And doesn’t that provide an opening for a challenger like DeSantis?
Trump’s story about 2020, such as it is, is that he won by a “landslide” but a bipartisan cadre of election officials stole the race from him. He complained a lot about election rule changes like expanded mail-in voting but didn’t stop them. He found shitty lawyers who filed idiotically argued lawsuits too late to matter. He didn’t get the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security to do anything about the alleged conspiracy against him. And people he himself hired didn’t do the things he asked of them to “stop the steal,” going all the way up to Mike Pence.
If you take Trump at his word, it’s not simply that the election was stolen — it’s that the election was stolen and he failed at every turn to stop it, even as he held the powers of the presidency. It’s that all sorts of people he entrusted with power betrayed him and he let them all get away with it. And as a result, Republicans lost control of the government.
How on earth is that a message that says “nominate me again”?
It seems to me that pointing this out could be a powerful argument in a primary: “Yes, the media is very unfair. Yes, technology companies don’t want to let you say what you believe. No, I don’t trust the way Democrats run elections. These are things conservatives have always had to contend with. It’s not enough to fight. You have to protect yourself at every turn, fight, and win. You have to hire people you can trust to fight with you. And unfortunately, Donald Trump wasn’t disciplined enough to do that. I will be.”
I am not thrilled about the prospect of a Republican primary fought on these terms — where an opponent neither accepts nor contests the “steal” narrative but tries to bracket it — but to take Trump on with this electorate, it seems like the argument a candidate would need to make. And since there are a lot of ambitious Republicans who would like to be president, I’ll be surprised if none of them gives it a shot, if Trump runs again.
Apartments are not a crime: As Streetsblog describes, Massachusetts is preparing to implement a law passed last year that will require municipalities in the Boston suburbs to permit transit-accessible multifamily housing — sometimes, quite a large amount of multifamily housing relative to their existing populations.
Towns that contain or are located within a half-mile of a subway or light rail stop will be required to create a compact zoning district close to transit with capacity for a number of multifamily units equal to 25% of the town’s existing housing stock. Some of these towns have little existing stock of apartments — under the law, Wellesley (pop. 30,000) will have to permit approximately 2,300 multifamily units in such a district, while Weston1 (pop. 12,000) will have to permit about 1,000.
Even towns with access to bus routes and commuter rail lines will have to permit additional apartments, though not as many as those near the subway or light rail.
I will be interested to see how the law works in practice — it’s one thing to tell towns to create a zoning district and it’s another thing to actually make it feasible for developers to use the zoning — but this is exactly the sort of state-level approach that’s needed to fight housing shortages.
Localities have strong incentives to push out housing: Existing residents fear noise and traffic; apartments produce less property tax revenue per resident than houses; and constraining the supply of new homes can push up the value of existing ones. In Weston, some residents have been losing their minds over a plan to build a 200-unit complex authorized under an older state law that overrides local zoning in towns with few affordable homes. (Opponents have taken to calling it the “Weston Whopper.”)
When lots of towns resist expansion of housing capacity, they create a region-wide barrier to affordability and to economic and job growth. This is a key economic problem especially in blue states. So it’s good to see state governments looking for ways to override localities and force housing down their throats. California has also taken useful steps in this direction. If the Massachusetts model works, it will be one more states should adopt.
David Zahniser has an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the shifting politics of homelessness in that city and the feuds emerging between homeless activists and even left-wing members of the city council.
I share Ross Douthat’s puzzlement at exactly what Joe Biden thinks he’s up to with his legislative strategy of late.
I encourage you to read Jeff Maurer on why Democrats need to get a grip regarding voting issues and generally be less exhausting and annoying.
And of course, please send in your questions for the Mayonnaise Clinic!
Until tomorrow, and with seriousness,
Where I grew up.