How Tom Cotton won 2020

Members of the staff of the New York Times, who hadn’t raised a word of protest when the paper published direct op-eds from the Taliban, Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, or Hamas, were so enraged that not only did they accuse their employers of literally putting black people in danger by publishing Cotton’s opinion, but they also succeeded in upending the entire editorial structure of the opinion page and chasing respected editor James Bennet from the building.

Cotton wound up raising $200,000 in the week after his column was published, which he spent on ads in the New York Times railing against Joe Biden. (Cotton, who unseated a Democratic incumbent in 2014, went on to beat his Libertarian challenger in 2020 by 33 points, as no Democrat ran in the race.)

For Cotton’s final act of the year (which really doesn’t end until after Tuesday’s Georgia runoff elections and Wednesday’s increasingly stupid war of certifying the presidential election), the decorated war veteran decided to buck supposed fellow populists Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who are also surely using election theatrics as a platform to kick off their own 2024 runs. Despite fury from Trump and his allies, Cotton’s deal is already proving as wise as Hawley and Cruz’s is proving Faustian. Should Republicans lose the Senate, Cotton won’t be lumped in with the Republicans who inadvertently convinced would-be voters for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue that the election was too rigged to be worth voting in. Meanwhile, Cotton will never suffer the smear of having attempted to rob the Electoral College of its lawful vote.