The Perfect Enemy | Don’t Worry, Congress Darling
September 25, 2022

Don’t Worry, Congress Darling

Don’t Worry, Congress Darling – POLITICO  POLITICO

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THE DRAMA ISN’T THE DRAW — The Extremely Online recently worked themselves into a froth of excitement over the travails of “Don’t Worry Darling,” a thriller starring Oscar nominee Florence Pugh and pop star Harry Styles that’s been beset by reported private feuds spilling into public view. Things got weirder at the movie’s Venice Film Festival premiere, which inspired a torrent of jokes as its cast sought to project calm.

“Everyone went into the movie with the best intentions,” an anonymous source told People about the production, calling the resulting furor “tough to navigate.”

Which brings up a valuable point about the 117th Congress: the relative power of drama. As Washington winds down a legislative session that featured a violent siege by Donald Trump supporters on its third full day, a “Don’t Worry Darling”-level amount of tension is lingering within both parties’ ranks.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her octogenarian lieutenants are staying mum on their futures even as many Democrats presume a loss of the House majority this fall will send them toward retirement. Across the Capitol, Joe Manchin’s outsized influence in the 50-50 Senate is still high and still polarizing on the left.

And within the GOP, there’s still a question over how big of a majority Kevin McCarthy needs to safely swipe Pelosi’s gavel next year — not to mention the specter of Trump’s barely masked plans to run again in 2024. Senate Republicans are watching their own periodic power play between the minority leader and the campaign arm’s chief.

But the vast majority of people who followed every twist of Pugh’s apparent souring on her own director, and that director’s shaky story about a departed cast member … and the video that online commenters seemed to say shows Styles spitting on a co-star … won’t actually show up to see “Don’t Worry Darling” in theaters. If they did, the movie would net “Top Gun: Maverick”-style returns at the box office.

The people who do buy a ticket will see “Don’t Worry Darling” because they’re Styles superfans, or because they want to support a woman in the director’s chair and an Instagram-famous young female star … or because they’re simply seeking to distract themselves with a little entertainment. What may prove most toxic to the film’s receipts isn’t the drama — it’s the middling-to-bad reviews pouring in.

And there’s the lesson for Democrats and Republicans alike as the midterms draw ever closer: Most voters won’t make their choices based on the theatrical skirmishes that have dominated this Congress, from Manchin vs. progressives to Mitch McConnell vs. Rick Scott. What will matter more than anything else is straightforward views of the party in power’s agenda, and how much that party can sell itself as better than the alternative.

Some voters may just show up seeking to respond to the economic conditions at the time, seeing a connection between government help and their everyday lives. With the exception of races where candidate misdeeds truly break through, drama sparks more online interest than it does votes.

So, even as our Sarah Ferris reports that Democrats are vowing this fall to avoid unforced errors and what one lawmaker called “tumult” — and as our Senate reporters catalogue the GOP’s attempts to cool its own internal squabble — lawmakers on both sides can reassure themselves that little of it will resonate outside the Beltway.

Maybe they can relax and take in a movie. “Don’t Worry Darling” opens Sept. 23.

Welcome to POLITICO Nightly. Reach out with news, tips and ideas at [email protected]. Or contact tonight’s author at [email protected] or on Twitter @eschor.

What’d I Miss?

— West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signs abortion ban into law: Republican Gov. Jim Justice today signed into law a ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy, making West Virginia the second state to enact a law prohibiting the procedure since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning its constitutional protection. The bill will go into effect immediately, except for the criminal penalties, which will go into effect in 90 days, he said. Justice described the legislation on Twitter as “a bill that protects life.”

— Migrants who arrived in Marthas Vineyard to be moved to Cape Cod: The roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Wednesday were transported to Cape Cod today, where they will have access to food, shelter and emergency services, a statement from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s office said. The migrants will be brought to an emergency shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which served as an alternative medical care site during the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a shelter for displaced Louisiana residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

AROUND THE WORLD

DIRE STRAIT — The Pentagon has made administrative changes in how it handles Taiwan policy, a shift that lawmakers and former officials say sends the wrong signal to Beijing as the Chinese military steps up drills around the self-ruled island, writes Lara Seligman.

The move — which involves placing the Taiwan portfolio under the office responsible for China policy — could provide a new line of attack among President Joe Biden’s opponents who claim he is weak on China.

The changes come as officials are increasingly worried about Beijing’s aggression toward Taiwan, particularly after a crisis erupted in the Taiwan Strait in August after China launched unprecedented military exercises, including sending missiles over the island, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.

“Anything that dilutes America’s focus on helping Taiwan to defend itself is a really bad idea,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told POLITICO. “Pulling Taiwan back into a portfolio dominated by China sends the wrong signal to Beijing”

The Defense Department says the move is a bureaucratic change designed to increase internal efficiency within the agency’s policy shop.

Nightly Number

Radar Sweep

Welcome to ‘Radar Sweep,’ a new section from POLITICO Nightly that will track down notions from corners of the internet that might not make daily headlines. 

GAMBIT ACCEPTEDCompetitive chess is being rocked by a larger scandal than its seen in decades. World chess champion Magnus Carlsen, the sport’s most famous player, lost a match under strange circumstances, withdrew from a tournament in St. Louis and then implied his opponent — a 19-year old popular on Twitch named Hans Moke Niemann — may have cheated. Now, the whole chess world is getting petty on both sides, and old drama among the insular community is coming back up. Nitish Pahwa has you covered with everything you need to know about the sordid scandal at Slate.

Parting Words

‘REAL-LIFE WAKANDA’There has never in the history of the United States of America been anything like South Fulton, Georgia. On the southwest outskirts of Atlanta, it is a mostly suburban municipality with a population of some 108,000 in which nine of every 10 of the residents are Black. Of places of its size, it is statistically the Blackest by far.

A hundred or so years after hundreds of thousands of rural Black people began to alter the contours of national politics by migrating toward better jobs and lives in cities, then suburbs, across the country, the existence and the autonomy of this five-year-old city would seem like a welcome culmination of a long evolution from powerlessness to power.

But South Fulton is tearing itself apart.

Its mayor, khalid kamau — a gay, Christian, socialist, self-described “Black nationalist,” a former film student, flight attendant, bus driver, Black Lives Matter organizer — says that he wants to create a “real-life Wakanda,” a city that’s “Black on purpose.” But he’s brushed up against the incremental, integrationist, typically more moderate politics of Atlanta’s Black elite shared by much of the rest of South Fulton’s local government. And now, he’s accusing the city of hiding public records. He’s attempted to fire the city attorney. He’s reiterated his request to hire a therapist for the city.

Michael Kruse, Brittany Gibson and Delece Smith-Barrow went to this strange, singular capital for our latest installment of “The Next Great Migration” where they began to hear whispers of a next Next Great Migration. Because while South Fulton’s leaders debate issues of identity, most of its residents are wondering if they should stay in a city that promised economic prosperity and security but is instead delivering political strife.

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