ESG and the Road to Fiscal Hell

Over at The American Conservative, Kevin Stocklin has a disturbing piece on state pension fund managers investing workers' pensions in progressive ideological projects under the guise of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). That's the hot trend in money management, wherein money is invested based on supposedly "ethical" criteria, rather than solely on profitability projections. In other words, the ethical evaluations of the elitist liberals working in finance are being funded in part with the hard earned money of police officers, firemen, bus drivers, garbage men, and other city employees, and all without their consent. Of course, environmentalism is a key consideration for these E.S.G. enthusiasts. Here's Stocklin:

State pension fund managers who have declared that they will include environmental and social justice goals in their investment decisions collectively control more than $3 trillion in retirement assets and include the five largest public pension plans in the U.S.... Perhaps their most high-profile success came in June 2021, when CalSTRS, CalPERS, and NY State Common Retirement Fund joined three of the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, in voting to elect clean-energy advocates to the board of Exxon and divert its investments away from oil and gas and toward alternative fuels. All of these pension fund and money managers except Vanguard are members of Climate Action 100+, an initiative dedicated to making fossil fuel companies “take necessary action on climate change.”

As big as that $3 trillion figure sounds, it is just the tip of the iceberg:

Many state pension funds outsource asset management to firms like BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard, which are among the 236 asset managers who signed on to the Net Zero Asset Management Initiative. These signatories, which collectively control $57 trillion in assetspledged to achieve “emissions reductions” and to cast shareholder votes that are “consistent with our ambition for all assets under management to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.” Signatories also pledged to “create investment products aligned with net zero emissions.” True to their word, they created a lucrative industry of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment funds, ESG rating agencies, and ESG consultants.

That's a lot of scratch backing green energy projects that already have the financial and regulatory might of the federal government in their corner. You'd think that that might give them the ability to successfully compete with oil and gas, but that is not the case. Not by a long shot. The biggest problem with this, from an investment point of view, is that these ESG funds haven't done particularly well relative to the market:

A study by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research in October 2020 found that for state pensions, ESG investing reduced pensioners’ returns by 0.70 to 0.90 percent per year.... In addition, an April 2021 report by researchers at Columbia University and London School of Economics found that... that “ESG funds appear to underperform financially, relative to other funds within the same asset manager and year, and charge higher fees.”

Moreover, the Columbia/L.S.E. study also concludes that "ESG funds have 'worse track records for compliance with labor and environmental laws, relative to portfolio firms held by non-ESG funds managed by the same financial institutions.' So much for ethics.

These are big problems, especially as the states are in the midst of an unfunded pension liability crisis, a slowly unfolding disaster. To remain solvent, the states need these funds to grow. Consequently, some states, like Florida, have been working hard to impose rules which "clarify the state’s expectation that all fund managers should act solely in the financial interest of the state’s funds," in the words of Governor Ron DeSantis. Hopefully others follow suit.

Luckily for us non-public workers, Congress passed the Employee Retirement Investment Security Act (ERISA) in 1974, which banned exactly this type of misappropriation of private pension funds. However, says Stocklin, while some lawmakers have called for ERISA to be extended to public funds, the Biden administration has announced that it will cease the enforcement of ERISA rules on managers who use private pension funds towards, "environmental and social goals."

Which is to say, we're screwed.

THE COLUMN: The Shadow President

Under the British parliamentary system there is something known as the Shadow Cabinet, which consists of the leadership of the Out party, whichever it may be. Right now, with Boris Johnson having hung onto his prime ministership despite ample reason for the Tories to have dumped him when they had the chance, and should have, the shadow PM is Keir Starmer, the former editor of a radical Trotskyite magazine Socialist Alternatives, although he seems to have modified his fire-breathing leftism since his college days and is now considered "soft Left." As such, Starmer is Leader of the Opposition, and stands at the head of an entire replacement cabinet; should the current government fall or be voted out at the next scheduled election in May of 2024, the British public already knows who's going to be in charge and what they're going to get.

Here in the U.S., the picture is far less clear. Our cumbersome presidential election system, which now begins the day after the midterms and drags on for nearly two years of jockeying and primaries and media flaps and get-out-the-vote shenanigans, and even then doesn't end on Election Day, produces nothing but a single candidate by the spring of the election year. Then more mystery: who will be the running mate? Which rivals or friends or party hacks might wind up in the prospective cabinet? Nobody knows for sure until the announcements are made, the veep before the vote and the others afterward if the ticket is successful. Even then, there is still a nearly three-month "transition" phase before any of this can legally take effect; by the time Inauguration Day rolls around, half the country is already heartily sick of the new guys and the media is openly wondering who'll be running four years later.

The clock is ticking, Joe.

This cycle, things are a bit different. With the Biden administration visibly failing—the hero's welcome given to former president Barack Obama recently spoke volumes about where the real power in Washington lies these days—and speculation rife about whether or even how quickly a senescent, feeble president can be replaced and by whom, the time has never been riper for the Republicans to have a shadow president of their own. As it happens, they have two. 

First, of course, is Donald Trump, the recent president, who appears to be determined to get his old Oval Office back, running on a campaign of I-wuz-robbed grievance. The final three months of the Trump administration were an epic mess, beginning on Election Night when the nation went to bed with Trump comfortably ahead in all the swing states he needed to win to put him over the top, and waking up to one of the most extraordinary reversal of fortunes in our history. 

The mishegoss continued with the flurry of rejected lawsuits seeking in effect to overturn the posted results, including the Supreme Court's disgraceful refusal to hear the one constitutionally based suit, brought by the state of Texas contesting the results in four battleground states (Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin), they were absolutely obligated to hear. But the Roberts Court dodged the issue, saying that Texas "lacked standing" to bring the case.

The icing on the cake was the Jan. 6 demonstration during which Trump said: "We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." And the rest, as they say, is ongoing history. Trump may feel he is "owed" support because of his loss or his endorsement of various candidates, but as they say in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. 

I wuz robbed.

The other is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a former Congressman who won a squeaker election against, in retrospect, a manifestly unsuitable Democrat candidate in Andrew Gillum, whom DeSantis beat by half a percentage point. Following the election, "Gillum was found inebriated and with a man, who had identified himself on websites as an escort, who was treated on scene for a possible overdose. Crystal meth also was reportedly found at the scene." Florida thus dodged a bullet, DeSantis got a leg up on the other politicians of his generation (he's 43, Trump is 75), and in just a couple of years has transformed himself into a national figure. How did he do it?

As the old saying goes, it's better to be lucky than good, but DeSantis has been both. Practically since he took office, events have broken his way, starting with the unnecessary hysteria over Covid-19 that, in the final analysis, was the thing that destroyed the Trump administration. After briefly flirting with lockdowns, DeSantis reversed course, bit the bullet, ignored media flapdoodle over "cases," and made Florida the free-state alternative to such draconian fascist entities as New York and California. Florida boomed as its rivals faded, hemorrhaging population and losing economic and political clout while the Sunshine State and also Texas happily welcomed the refugees.

DeSantis has been lucky in his enemies as well. Incredibly, the now-"woke" Walt Disney Company—the embodiment of family friendly entertainment since its founding in 1923 through its founder's death in 1966 and up until recently—has decided that the Florida Parental Rights in Education bill (which DeSantis enthusiastically signed) preventing state teachers from discussing human sexuality, sexual orientation and "gender identity" with children in kindergarten through third grade is the hill the company wants to die on

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

Disney’s public opposition to the law follows an employee walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek’s mishandling of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Don't say it. Don't even think it.

Disney, however, is a private company operating under an extremely generous sweetheart deal with the state of Florida regarding its theme park and environs in Orlando, so you'd think its corporate executives like Chapek wouldn't want to poke the alligator that protects them. But Woke is just another name for Stupid, so naturally Disney blundered right into the governor's wheelhouse.

An escalating fight between Disney and Florida over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill has pushed state lawmakers to threaten to strip the company of special privileges that essentially give it the sovereignty to act as its own government. Backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, some Republican lawmakers have called for the repeal of a 1967 law permitting the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The legislation affords Disney the authority to act as its own county with the ability to impose taxes, adopt ordinances and provide emergency services on land that’s home to its sprawling theme park resort, among other powers of self-government.

“As a matter of first principle, I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful,” DeSantis said March 31 at a news conference. “They’ve lost a lot of the pull that they used to have, and honestly, I think that’s a good thing for our state. You should not have one organization that is able to dictate policy in all these different realms, and they have done that for many, many years. If that stops now, which it should, that would be a good thing for Florida.”

That's not all. For years, Disney has been given super-duper-special treatment in Congress over its copyrighted characters like Mickey Mouse, which should have reverted to the public domain as long ago as 1984, but have been steadily extended through 2024 as an act of favoritism to Disney. Now Congress is taking another look

A number of Republican lawmakers have signalled they may block Disney from renewing copyright on an iconic Mickey Mouse cartoon as punishment for the company’s stance on Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Rep Jim Banks, chair of the Republican Study Committee, is circulating a letter among the GOP caucus in which he tells Disney CEO Bob Chapek of his intention to oppose any future extension of Disney copyrights, National Review reports. Disney’s rights to its Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse, first seen in a 1928 short film, are due to expire on 1 January 2024, although more recent depictions will remain protected by separate copyrights.

No matter how agitated Disney's woke workforce is, this is a fight Disney can only lose and DeSantis can only win. Disney and other work corporations exist in a fantasy-fueled Twitterverse in which nothing is more important than extending the Left's fetish about sexual license unto the generations. That Disney's core audience—the suckers who shell out a fortune to partake of the dubious joys of Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida—is dead set against the sexualization of children is just another reason to do it. The usual suspects in the media, naturally, are overwhelmingly in favor of the law's repeal, as a glance at Google will readily confirm, and as can be seen by their insistence on siding with the Democrats and calling it the "Don't Say Gay" bill—three words that aren't in the bill and certainly not in the title.

With enemies like the company that bought Harvey Weinstein and the mainstream media, DeSantis doesn't need friends. Meanwhile, the governor has the wind at his back: more than a dozen states are considering similar bills, putting the Florida governor in the de facto driver's seat on the issue. From Covid to the Chinese suborning of America's institutions to the sitting daffy duck called Disney, DeSantis has staked out positions in direct opposition to the Biden Democrats—exactly what you'd expect from a Shadow President who's looking forward, not backward. 

Obama was 47 years old when he became president; DeSantis, should he run, and win, would be 46. Trump will be 78. You do the math. 

THE COLUMN: 'There is a Tide in the Affairs of Men'

While the country holds its breath awaiting the next Joe Biden disaster or the next supererogatory Donald Trump rally, or the next quixotic Mike Pence 2024 presidential campaign event, beneath the surface the political tides are running at Shakespearean levels. Seeking to enlist Cassius in his plot to assassinate Julius Caesar, Brutus says:

We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

From our current vantage point, it looks as though the 2024 election might come down to a rematch between Trump and whoever survives the coming Democrat bloodbath this fall. Can senile Joe Biden continue to impersonate a sentient being behind the Resolute desk for another three years? Or will the likely loss of both houses of Congress to the unworthy Republicans motivate the donkey party to find fresh-faced replacements for both Biden and his manifestly unsuitable vice president, Kamala Harris? As I noted last week, it's not impossible to replace both halves of a winning ticket in mid-stream: the Democrats pulled it off between 1972 (historic Nixon/Agnew landslide) and 1974 (Watergate) and saddled the GOP with two candidates it never wanted or even nominated, Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller. So if you think it can't be done, think again.

Lean and hungry looks all around.

The only question is whether the Democrats have the guts to do it to themselves. Back then, the Howard Baker Republicans labored under the impression that the Democrats wanted the same ends for the nation as they did; they were only arguing about means. They also believed that the media played things straight down the middle and, faithful to their constitutional role in a free Republic, didn't take sides, cut corners, or manufacture stories from whole cloth. In the end, the GOP bonzes even did the Dems' dirty work for them, sending a delegation of senior leadership to the White House to tell Tricky Dick the jig was up and it was time for him to go. From a 49-state, 520-electoral vote tsunami to the bum's rush in less than two years; the bloodless coup really was a remarkable achievement and a first in American history.

Should the Democrats wish, or be forced, to keelhaul Biden, however, such a decision will come with a hefty price tag. They'll have to explain to their black voters why Harris was discarded without ever being able to articulate the reason that dare not speak its name: she's simply too stupid to function:

Another problem is that the Democrats have no plausible replacements ready to step in should the need arise. So dedicated are they to the woke doctrines of their lunatic-Left base, they are saddled with the box-checking likes of Pete Buttigieg, Lloyd Austin, Xavier Becerra, Miguel Cardona, Alejandro Mayorkas, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and Anthony Blinken, none of whom belongs anywhere near a cabinet meeting unless it's held in a water closet. Further, the Democrats' program of crazy nostrums such as Modern Monetary Theory—just print money!—and Green Energy (free wind and solar!) have resulted almost overnight in rampant inflation, severe energy shortages and skyrocketing prices.

So it should be a simple matter for the Republicans to point out the manifest real-world flaws in the Leftist program, sit back, run a bunch of guys named Moe, and wait for the election returns in 2022 and '24. The only problem is the elephant party has its own elephant in the room in the form of Trump, who seems bound and determined to run again and avenge his tainted loss to Biden in 2020. To that end, he's already embarked on a campaign of waving the bloody shirt in anticipation of settling the score in '24.

The problem is, while Trump still has an enormous, if shrinking, following, the former president's candidacy could easily galvanize the Democrats to turn out at least as many votes against him as the GOP will get for him. This is not the place to debate the details of the "stolen election," which at the very least was held (right under the Republicans' noses) under highly irregular circumstances, including the unconstitutional changing of election law in several swing states and the mysterious hiatus in the wee hours of Election Night that screamed "hinky" at the top of its lungs.

For this, however, Trump and the Republicans are partly to blame. The Democrats took advantage of Trump's fatal credulity about the alleged dangers of Covid-19, as well as the Republicans' habitual indolence when it comes to poll-watching. If the election was indeed stolen the Tammany Party stole it fair and square, and all the GOP needs to do is look in the mirror to find the real culprits.

History is against the former president; only one man has come back from a re-election loss to win again the following cycle and that was a Democrat, Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was the first Democrat elected after the Civil War (in 1884), defeating James G. Blaine. He lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, but defeated Harrison in the rematch of 1892. The Republican who bears the closest resemblance to Cleveland is probably Nixon, the sitting vice present who lost the election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, spent some time in the wilderness (losing a California governor's race in the process), and then returned from the political graveyard to beat Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Despite the unfairness of his loss, Trump is not entitled to a second term simply because of it.

Talk about a trick shot.

Can Trump pull it off? Maybe, but unlikely. Outrage over the election-night shenanigans will fade, and Trump will be 78 years old in November 2024, just a year younger than the superannuated Biden is now. The White House is no country for old men, especially one who never forgets a grudge and will spend much of his time seething and seeking revenge. The most a Trump primary candidacy can do is block the path for younger, more viable candidates, some of whom will steer clear of him and thus pre-emptively tank their own prospects.

Further, even a senescent wreck like Joe Biden can still make trouble for the former president, wounding him again even before the presidential campaign season officially kicks off the day after the midterms. Biden is reportedly pushing his attorney general, Merrick Garland, to go after Trump because, well, when you have Irish Alzheimer's, you only remember the grudges.

Finally, even should Trump somehow get through the primaries (he won't be unopposed) and then win, who among us wants to relive 2016-2020? The endless witch hunts, the two impeachments, January 6... the Democrats will never give up their Nixonian pursuit of him, in part because he's just too easy a target. Throughout his term, every slight had to be answered, every dig repaid not in kind but in tweets that served no purpose other than to rally the base. Policies were announced, then abandoned. The Wall never got built; a massive wave of illegal immigration is about to wash over the southern "border" -- which for all practical purposes has ceased to exist. Meanwhile, his personnel choices were almost uniformly terrible (Rex Tillerson? John Bolton?), opportunities were squandered, and most of MAGA was gone before the end of the first year, including Steve Bannon, Rich Higgins, and Sebastian Gorka.

And don't even get me started on the colossal blunder that was Jan. 6, a stench that still lingers in the country's nostrils and which alone should doom a second Trump candidacy, and for which he has shown no remorse even as the poor fools who heeded his words languish in prison.

Sure, it felt great to watch Hillary Clinton and her flying media monkeys melt down on that stunning election night, but what good has come of it? After just a year of Joe Biden, the country is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and dissolution; would we have been any worse off under Hillary? The sorry truth is, probably not.

The awful truth is there's no time to waste, no time to fantasize about a Trump restoration with a potent vice president who could, in dreams, win two terms outright in the years 2028 and 2032. The country, bound in shallows and in miseries, simply doesn't have the time. The right man has made his entrance: why compel him to waste four years on the sidelines as Trump's veep and then be forced to run on Trump's record in 2028? It makes no sense.

On such a full sea are we now afloat. The decline has long since begun. So whom should the GOP nominate in 2024? I think we all know the answer to that. More on him next week.

THE COLUMN: The Specter That Haunts America

A specter is haunting America—the specter of the Democrat Party. Like an evil spirit that cannot be exorcised, the Democrats have been plaguing the United States since Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Ferociously pro-slavery, the Democrats divided the country practically from its inception, blocked the path to abolition and eventually took up arms against the nation after the election of the first Republican president, firing on Fort Sumter and seceding en masse from the Union. And, a week after they had lost that war, one of them assassinated Abraham Lincoln, elevating a Democrat from a Confederate state to the presidency, and plunging the country into more needless turmoil.

With a track record like this (read all about it) it's a wonder the party is even still legal. And yet, after the bloodiest war in our history—and with a sizable component of "peace Democrats" in the North actively rooting and voting against Lincoln in the election of 1864 while supporting his opponent: the failed Union general George McClellan—they're still around to plague us. It wasn't until the arrival of Ulysses S. Grant as commander of all the Union armies in 1864 that Honest Abe found the right man for the job: someone who would mercilessly crush the life out of the Democrats and their armies, destroy slavery, and reunite the states.

Come back, Ulysses, your country needs you.

Then, as now, the media was the enemy of the Republicans. The southern newspapers were rabidly supportive of the rebel cause, but the northern press was rife with naysayers, crybabies, and bedwetters for whom no victory was good enough, and every defeat proof positive that Lincoln was an ape and Grant was a drunk. Nonetheless, Grant shook off fierce media criticism of his bloody but critical victory at Shiloh in 1862 and a few years later accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Va.

Who is our Grant today? Rather than being ashamed of their explicit anti-Americanism, the modern Democrats have doubled down on betting against the U.S.A. Their shambolic, cognitively crippled president shuffles through one executive order after another, signing anything his handlers in the exiled Obama administration up in Kalorama shove under his nose. The domestic energy industry has been at least temporarily hobbled, our woke armed forces are an international joke, career criminals like George Floyd are elevated to secular sainthood, and behavior that not long ago would have gotten you arrested for child abuse, such as "transgender"  hormone blockers for toddlers, or for contributing to the delinquency of a minor with explicit homosexual propaganda in grade school. Democrats hail these "advances" with their usual blather about "breaking barriers" and "pushing boundaries" but anyone with an ounce of common sense knows what they're really up to

The midterms are still eight months away but Real America is crying out for succor right now. Gasoline, home heating oil, electricity, natural gas—the prices continue to soar, already past the point of recent plausibility and heading into economic terra incognita. Millions of illegal aliens pour across the nearly erased southern border. A befuddled Joe Biden threatens to sleepwalk us into an armed conflict with the ghost of the old Soviet Union in the form of Vladimir Putin's Russia, and disinformation is rife on both sides of the conflict in the Ukraine. In a parliamentary system, Biden's government would have fallen right after the debacle in Afghanistan—but barring a miracle we've got another three years to suffer.

For just over a year, Americans have watched with admirable patience as their economy collapsed, their legal system was perverted to serve the interests of a few, their nation's military degraded, and their freedom of speech subverted via the government's fascistic and unconstitutional co-opting of the social media sites. Meanwhile, woke corporations and a thoroughly compromised media crack down on the commercial and personal privacy of anybody that runs afoul of the New Normal while manic Greens demand a return to the days of three-masted schooners and windmills. Such relentless cultural and economic sabotage would be considered an act of war if done by anyone else—but here it goes by the fellow-traveler names of "dissent," "patriotism," and "progressivism."

Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

For a time, it seemed as if Donald Trump might be the answer. Deeply flawed personally, Trump had everything break his way in 2016, including the good fortune of running against the most repellant figure in the Democrat Party at that time, Hillary Clinton. But with Covid-19 weaponized against him, first in a Chinese lab, then by the CDC and a bona fide madman named Anthony Fauci, Trump was unable to overcome his provoked overreaction to the phantom Covid menace, the unconstitutional changes made to swing state electoral systems, a senescent Biden, and his own inability to control his mouth, and shamefully lost in 2020.

As we learned in the back alleys of Berlin and Moscow during the Cold War, the way to fight shadows is with other shadows; America could do worse if we had some semblance of the British shadow-cabinet system. British election campaigns are short, and the transition time between governments brief, because the voters already know who would take over if and when the current government falls. Instead, we prolong our nominating processes for a year or eighteen months before getting to the endless campaign itself. After which we waste two months "transitioning" and then suffering through a honeymoon period (except in the case of Republicans) during which the new Man of the Hour can do no wrong, but much damage can be done to the nation. The first thing Biden did, for example, was trash the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil fields of Canada to refineries in and around the Texas Gulf Coast—which is one of the principal reasons gas is now pushing five bucks a gallon.

We don't have shadow cabinets, but we do have two shadow presidents. One is Trump, who is making noises about running again, largely on a platform of grievance and revenge for his loss in 2020. Whether this would be enough to boost him back into the White House is questionable; while he may have received more than 70 million votes, the fact still remains that even more people voted against him. He lost the 2020 election as he had won the 2016 election: narrowly. But Trump will be 78 years old in 2024, one year younger than the tottering Biden is now. 

The other is Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Smart, pugnacious, and unflappable, DeSantis has emerged as the chief thorn in Joe Biden and the Left's side. After his narrow win over a guy who was later found dead drunk in a Miami Beach hotel room he was sharing with a gay porn producer who had overdosed on crystal meth, DeSantis has cemented his hold on the former swing state, turning it solid red. Unlike Trump, who at the moment is powerless, the squeaky-clean DeSantis upstages Biden and the Democrats on a regular basis; his canny and unflappable handling of the "pandemic" has given rise to a new nickname for the Sunshine State: the Free State of Florida.

Message to China: up yours.

DeSantis, 43, can make no public noises about seeking the presidency at this point. He must get past his re-election for governor in the fall first and hope the voters rally to take back control of Congress from the narrowest-of-narrow Democrat majorities. With his wife, Casey, now seemingly recovered from a bout with cancer, he is sitting pretty.

It's widely thought that if Trump declares, DeSantis will wait his turn in 2028. But why should he spend four years on ice behind a lightning rod with no further political future? Polls already show him creeping up on Trump and a smashing re-election victory will only gain him more prominence. Lots can happen in three years, especially when his possible primary opponent is getting on in years. After Biden, will America want another geriatric president? Or will the voters prefer a guy 32 years younger, with nothing but upside?

The chances of Biden's running again are next to nil. If the Democrats could figure out a way to get rid of him without elevating the albatross known as Kamala in his place, they'd have already done it. Further, there's no apparent successor to Biden on the donkeys' side; should Biden somehow stumble toward a second term, a Biden-DeSantis matchup would be worth putting on pay-per-view. We could retire the national debt on the debates alone.

Meanwhile the shadows cast by DeSantis are lengthening, the clock is ticking, and all he has to do is wait. Now, a specter is haunting the Democrats. It's about time.

Listen to the author speak about this article and other things at the CutJib Newsletter podcast with CBD and JJ Sefton from Ace of Spades.

About Time: O'Toole Gets the Boot

By a vote of 73 to 45, Erin O'Toole has been ousted as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He had served only seventeen months in the position. Rumors of an anti-O'Toole revolt have been going around for days, along with whispers that O'Toole was working frantically behind the scenes to convince (some would say "bully") members of his caucus to sign loyalty pledges in the hopes of warding off the impending challenge. But to no avail.

The definitive vote was forced by 35 MPs unhappy with O’Toole’s leadership after last year’s disappointing election results. But the root of the anger goes back much further. O’Toole won the leadership claiming to be a “True Blue” conservative — a contrast with Peter MacKay, who despite holding senior cabinet roles in Stephen Harper’s government, was labelled by the O’Toole campaign as a red Tory.

Yet once the leadership was secured, O’Toole took the party in a much different direction. After pledging to scrap the Liberals’ carbon levy, O’Toole promised a version of his own — which he steadfastly denied was a “tax,” despite it applying a surcharge on purchases like gas.

A look back on all of The Pipeline's coverage of O'Toole, from before he was elected leader until today will point you in the right direction. As we wrote in our final piece before last September's federal election (entitled "But is O'Toole Any Better?"), O'Toole had won the "race for Conservative leader running as 'True Blue O'Toole,' a patriotic military man who was going to take the fight to Justin Trudeau. But ever since, he's gone out of his way to remake the CPC in his own Red Tory image." He'd softened his party's position on abortion, guns, conscience protections for healthcare workers, and environmentalism, and generally adopted the characteristic views of the Laurentian Elite, views that were already well-represented in parliament, specifically in the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party.

Erin, we hardly knew ye.

His flip-flopping on these points were egregious, and on environmentalism most of all. While running for leadership O'Toole had signed a pledge saying:

I, Erin O’Toole, promise that, if elected Prime Minister of Canada, I will: Immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax; and, reject any future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.

But when it came time to for him to actually run for prime minister, he put forward his own carbon tax in all but name, part of a jam-packed, all-in, environmentalist plan that included an electric vehicle mandate, a net-zero by 2050 pledge, and which "finalized and improved" the Trudeau government's Clean Fuel Standard (also known as the second carbon tax). This was a particular own-goal for the leader of a party whose base of support is located in the areas of the country that are most dependent upon the oil and gas industry.

And if it didn't win O'Toole much support among his base, it downright frosted his colleagues in Parliament, most of whom found out about it from the press. They weren't even briefed on this massive change in party policy. It's a good bet that all these months later, a large number of MPs who voted against O'Toole had that fact in mind.

In the end, however, he lost the election, largely because he failed to give Canadians anything to vote for. Especially since he wasn't all that against the Trudeau policies regarding energy and the environment in the first place.

Indeed, throughout his tenure as party leader, O'Toole struggled to find any kind of a footing that would enable him to resist Trudeau's agenda. His feeble response to the Freedom Convoy has encapsulated his problems these past several months, at once desperate to hold onto power and terrified of offending the sensibilities of, well, Liberal voters. For the first time since he became leader, there was energy on his side of the ideological spectrum, and Trudeau's Liberals were off balance. But O'Toole was anxious about being too supportive of what you might call the wrong sort of Canadians, eventually agreeing to meet with some of the truckers, but not the organizers of the protest, which Carson Jerima rightly points out was "a transparent attempt to get credit for supporting the rally and also credit for not supporting it." Of course, no one was fooled.

Au revoir, O'Toole.

As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, O'Toole has richly deserved his fate:

Mr. O’Toole’s chief mistake was gambling the September 2021 election on an opportunistic shift leftward. He lost anyway, spoiling the best chance to toss Mr. Trudeau from office. Post-defeat, Conservative Party fundraising crashed...Mr. O’Toole has met with truckers but warned late Monday night that his Conservative critics, some of whom have embraced the protest, offer a “dead-end” and are “angry, negative, and extreme.”

Canada needs a better opposition. The Liberals, long considered Canada’s “natural governing party,” won’t be defeated by mimicry. Unseating them typically requires a formidable Conservative leader. So far, Mr. O’Toole hasn’t shown the right stuff.

Before the vote John Robson wrote:

[O'Toole] stands for nothing but office. And his caucus has had enough because it’s bad being an unprincipled winner, but pathetic being an unprincipled loser.

That's as good a summation of his leadership and its end as anyone could come up with.

What comes next for the Conservatives? John Williamson of New Brunswick has announced his intention to stand for interim leader. He seems like a solid choice. Then there will be a race for a permanent leader, and The Pipeline will be all over it. With Justin on the ropes, now was precisely the right time for the CPC to depose its ineffectual leader. Canada is reeling from fascism disguised as Covid mitigation, and its critical energy industries are suffering from elite contempt and malign regulation; a new strong, forceful, and patriotic leader is precisely what's needed now.

The various aspirants who emerge should take a page from Florida governor Ron DeSantis' book and effectively and immediately form a kind of shadow cabinet or even a government-in-exile against the fleabagging Trudeau to give traditional Canadians something to rally 'round besides the Maple Leaf flag. Hopefully they will have learned from the Erin O'Toole experience, though I wouldn't put it past them to get into office and make all the same mistakes all over again.