Posts Tagged ‘Election 2020’

A Constitutional crisis in the making

September 26, 2020

I think this prediction by economist Jack Rasmus is all too possible.

CNN poll shows 66% of Trump supporters will vote in person on Nov. 3 but only 22% of Biden supporters vote in person. (53% Biden supports to vote by mail). Trump will appear to win on Nov. 3 based on direct in person voting. He’ll declare victory and then move quickly to have Barr and the Justice Dept. stop the counting of mail in ballots in key swing states.

His lawyers are already fanning out and filing motions for injunctions against mail in voting. They will flood swing-blue states mail in ballot vote counting to delay the counting still further. States where Republican governors (and State secretaries of state who manage those states’ vote counting) will meanwhile throw out millions of mail in ballots based on technicalities like signatures failing to dot i’s or cross t’s to ensure Trump ‘red’ states turn in pro-Trump decisions.

Examples of US post office chaos & claims of lost vote ballots, etc. will be used by Trump lawyers to make legal argument that mail in ballots cannot be used to determine the final vote count. Injunctions will be filed to require states to disregard mail ballots. Further delays in mail in ballot counting will occur.

Disputes and legal action by Dems in response will be quickly sent up by Trump federal district judges (appointed by hundreds under McConnell since 2013) to the Supreme Court, now 6-3 in Trump’s pocket. Trump’s Supreme Court will repeat its Florida 2000 decision stopping the vote count––this time counting original votes not a recount. Only swing and blue states will be targeted, not red states already pro-Trump.

Street protests will erupt after Nov. 3 protesting the legal coup d’etat in progress. Trump has already called protestors “insurrectionists” and identified all protests as ‘antifa’ or ‘communist’. His attorney general, Barr, has also already pre-labeled protestors as “treasonous” and traitors who should be forcibly repressed and jailed

The US executive branch since 2002 now has its own executive police force called the Dept. Homeland Security (DHS), with de facto military swat teams who’ve been doing ‘dry runs’ in Seattle, Chicago, Portland and elsewhere. They will be used to suppress protests, aided by pro-Trump local police departments (e.g. New York City, etc.) and perhaps even welcoming right wing radical supporters as provocateurs to attack protestors and thus allow DHS-Police to declare protests riots and directly quash protests.

Source: Jack Rasmus

When Donald Trump was elected, I scoffed at those who called him a potential dictator.  I thought he was too erratic and ignorant to be a dictator.  I thought his significance was as a kind of proof-of-concept of how someone more intelligent and purposeful might become dictator.  Maybe I underestimated him.

This potential crisis is not Trump’s doing alone.  The Republicans–and it is mainly the Republicans–have been chipping away at the integrity of the voting system for 20 years.  In 2000, the election did not go to George W. Bush merely because the Florida recount was halted.  It was because thousands of black voters were disqualified based on false claims they had been  convicted of felonies in other states.

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How real is the danger of a Trump coup?

September 25, 2020

How real is the danger that Republican state governments could set aside the results of the Presidential vote and simply appoint Trump electors?

The President is chosen by members of the Electoral College, and although the Electors are chosen by the voters in all states, this is not a Constitutional requirement.  The Constitution states  that “each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature shall direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress……”

Theoretically, any state could change its election law between now and Nov. 3 so as to allow the state legislature to name the electors.  Such a law would have to be passed by both houses of a state legislature and signed by the governor.

Of the states in which the outcome is in doubt, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have Democratic governors and Republican legislatures.  The governor would be sure to veto any bill changing the election law.

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Texas have Republican governors and legislatures both.  But how likely is it that the governor and legislators, who all have to stand for re-election, would openly thwart the expressed will of a majority of the voters?

Anything is possible, I guess.  You never know what people are capable of.

But I’d be more worried about the Postal Service not delivering all the mailed ballots on time, a declaration of a winner before all the ballots are counted, throwing ballots out for arbitrary and trivial reasons, etc., than this particular scenario.

LINKS

Could Republicans ignore the popular vote and choose their own pro-Trump electors? by Sam Levine for The Guardian.

Sanders issues stark warning on Trump and calls for election commission by David Smith for The Guatdian.

The Election That Could Break America by Jason Kottke for kottke.org. [Added Later]

Poorly Protected Postal Workers Are Catching COVID-19 by the Thousands.  It’s One More Threat to Voting by Mail by Maryam Jameel and Ryan McCarthy for ProPublica. [Added Later]

How Trump could win by cheating

September 24, 2020

A lot is being written about what happens if Trump refuses to concede defeat.  This is a bogus question.  He wins or loses when the Electoral College meets.  Whether or not he admits defeat is neither here nor there.

The big question is what happens between Nov, 3, which is Election Day, and Jan. 6, when the Electoral College announces the results.

My previous post was about what happens if Trump wins fair and square, more or less, and whether Democrats could live with it.. This post is about how Trump could cheat.

I don’t have direct access to The Atlantic, but Eric Lutz of  Vanity Fair summed up the high points:

The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman reports that the Trump campaign has been discussing “contingency plans to bypass the election results and appoint local electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.” Citing the president’s baseless claims of fraud, Team Trump could ask GOP-controlled state governments to choose electors, completely ignoring an unfavorable or uncertain popular vote, state and national Republican sources told Gellman.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power,’” a Trump campaign legal adviser explained to the Atlantic. “‘We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.’”

Does completely ignoring the will of the voters seem anti-democratic? Unconstitutional? Impossible? One would think. But as Gellman points out, however authoritarian this kind of end-around may seem, the Constitution doesn’t forbid such a move, and it’s something the Trump campaign could pull off. Indeed, state Republican leaders have already casually indicated that they’d be all too happy to enable this kind of power grab.

“I’ve mentioned it to them, and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, one of the swing states on which the 2020 race could hinge, told Gellman. “It is one of the available legal options set forth in the constitution.”

Disturbing as the prospect of bypassing the popular vote in GOP-controlled battlegrounds may be, it’s but one of several vulnerabilities in the electoral system Trump and his flunkies are trying to exploit this fall, ranging from complex legal fights to declaring absentee ballots fraudulent before they’ve even been processed to the possibility — likelihood? — that the president will simply pronounce himself the winner before all votes are tallied.

While Joe Biden …… retains a strong lead over his counterpart nationally, polls suggest the two are locked in tight races in several key states like Georgia, Iowa, Florida, and Arizona. The idea that typically deep-red states like Texas and Georgia are in play for Biden would seem to reflect the president’s challenging reelection prospects—but those states all are controlled by Republican-majority legislatures, creating just the opening Trump needs to call the votes bogus and appoint electors that will decide in his favor.

Source: Vanity Fair

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Trump’s weak record is hurting him

September 15, 2020

‘I Keep My Promises,’ Trump said – Let’s Check by Nicholas Kristof for the New York Times.

Keeping Score – Trump’s Broken Promises by Hedrick Smith for Reclaim the American Dream [Added 9/16/2020]

How Trump Is Losing His Base by Stanley B. Greenberg for The American Prospect.

Majority of voters don’t see either Trump or Biden as mentally fit to be president by Tal Axelrod for The Hill.

The passing scene: Links & chart 9/8/2020

September 8, 2020

The Left Secretly Preps for MAGA Violence After Election Day by Sam Stein for The Daily Beast.

Matt Taibbi on the origins of the Russiagate hoax, an interview for Antiwar.com.

America and Russia in the 1990s: This is what real meddling looks like by Yasha Levine for Immigrants as a Weapon.

Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Cancel Culture by John McWhorter for The Atlantic.

The Trouble With Disparity by Adolph Reed Jr. and Walter Benn Michaels for nonsite.org.

Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice by Michael J. Sandel for the New York Times.

Joe Biden and the George Floyd riots

September 1, 2020

Strong and wrong beats weak and right.  [Attributed to Bill Clinton]

A month or two ago, I thought that the Presidential election would be a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and that Trump would probably lose.

Now it is shaping up as a referendum on the George Floyd protests, which will work against the Democrats.

The American public may support peaceful protests for just causes.  Looting and revolutionary violence are a different matter.

Reports of major violence are in cities with Democratic mayors and states with Democratic governors—Washington, D.C.; New York City; Chicago; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Minneapolis; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no breakdown in civil order in cities with Republican mayors in states with Republican governors.  And I don’t think this is because white people are more racist in states like Minnesota than we are in states like Texas.

It is ironic and unfair that Joe Biden should get the blame for this.  He has been pro-police and in favor of harsh penalties for crime throughout his political career, as has Kamala Harris.

On the other hand, the Trump administration and right-wing street fighters, some working with the official police, have been adding fuel to the fire.

Some news accounts tell of police attacking peaceful protesters, which I am sure happens.  Other news accounts tell of vandals and looters destroying small businesses, which I am sure also happens.

There is almost no overlap between the two types of reports.  I don’t know what weight to give to each.

Joe Biden upholds the right to peacefully protest, while condemning vandalism, looting and mob violence.

I completely agree with him on that.  But I don’t think either side will accept an even-handed approach that equates themselves with the opposition.  Unfortunately.

LINKS

The Trap the Democrats Walked Right Into by Andrew Sullivan for The Weekly Dish.

One Author’s Argument ‘In Defense of Looting’, an interview of Vicky Osterweil for National Public Radio.

When Violence Is Justified to Defend Civil Society by Tony Woodlief for The American Conservative.

You Know In Your Heart the Day of Real Resistance Is Coming by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests by Michael Tracey for Unherd.

White Vigilantes Have Always Had a Friend in Police by Christopher Matthias for HuffPost.

Joe Biden Whispers the Riot Act, Sort Of by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Obstacles to a new New Deal

August 31, 2020

The USA is heading into an economic crisis with evictions, foreclosures, small-business failures and unemployment rates like those of the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, made worse by the pandemic and catastrophic climate change.

But Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist whose specialty is money and politics, said that a second Great Depression will not necessarily result in a second New Deal.

The Great Depression was touched off with a crash in the financial markets.  Banks closed.  Business profits fell.  This weakened both the credibility and political power of big business.

No such situation exists today, Ferguson noted.  The Federal Reserve is propping up the banks and the financial markets.  The super-rich are actually richer and more powerful than ever.

President Roosevelt’s first response to the crisis was the National Recovery Act, a kind of democratic corporate state.  It was only when big business turned against him that the New Deal as we remember it emerged. with Social Security, the Wagner Act and so on.

The impetus for the true New Deal came from the new labor movement organized by John L. Lewis and the CIO.

Conditions today are different. Ferguson said.  Big business is entrenched in both parties and is able to block popular and necessary reforms such as Medicare for all.

There are wildcat strikes and a few militant unions, but nothing as yet like the labor movement of the 1930s.

Ferguson saw some long-range hope in the insurgent movement in the Democratic Party as represented by the Justice Democrats and other factions.  But in the long run, as someone said, we are all dead.  The crisis is not going to put itself on hold until 2022 or 2024.

LINKS

Biden Blurring Almost Everything, an interview of Thomas Ferguson for theAnalysis.com.

Joe Biden’s Platform for 2020: Anti-Populism by Bill Scher for POLITICO.

The Non-Voter by Chris Arnade for American Compass.

What the Republican Party stands for now

August 27, 2020

The Platform the GOP Is Too Scared to Publish by David Frum for The Atlantic.

The Real Republican Platform by Ian Welsh.  Comment on Frum’s article.

The Lost Republicans by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative

The swamp wasn’t drained—-it expanded by Albert Hunt for The Hill.

Are bread riots coming to America? by Ryan Cooper for The Hill.

The political scene: Links & comments 8/20/2020

August 20, 2020

What kind of a President would Joe Biden be?

Andrew Bacevich, a political scientist and retired career Army officer, outlined what Biden could do to turn the country around in a constructive way.  Bacevich’s article would be a good benchmark with which to measure Biden’s actual policies—assuming he is elected, that is, which is far from certain.

Biden Wins, Then What? by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Biden would do what Bacevich recommends, or at least some of it, but I would be surprised if he did. Maybe Bacevich would, too.  Unlikely isn’t the same as impossible, but I think the pessimistic view of David Sirota, editor-at-large of Jacobin magazine, is more realistic.

He says the Democrats’ choice of Biden over Bernie Sanders is an explicit endorsement of the pre-Trump status quo over progressive change.  It means that, no matter who wins, we Americans will not have Presidential leadership equal to the coming crisis.

Did Americans Want a Revolution? by David Sirota for Too Much Information.

When Donald Trump ran in 2016, he expressed reservations about the U.S. forever wars, but did not do anything concrete to end them.  Even so, both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have attacked him as an appeaser.

The continuing wars at best will spread more pointless death, destruction and misery through the world, and at worst will create military confrontations leading to use of nuclear weapons.  For the next four years, the only hope of winding down the wars is in Congress.

A Bold Foreign Policy Platform for the New Wave of Left Lawmakers by Phyllis Bennis for In These Times.

Thomas Frank’s new book, The People, No, is about the history of populism and the anti-democracy backlash against it. He gave a good interview with Lewis Lapham, in which he discussed some material not in the book.  Matt Taibbi wrote a good review of the book.

The World in Time: Thomas Frank, a broadcast interview for Lapham’s Quarterly.

The People, No, a review on Reporting by Matt Taibbi.

The Postal Service and its last-minute defenders

August 19, 2020

Click to enlarge.

Democratic leaders are rightly angry because the U.S. Postal service might not be able to deliver mailed-in ballots in time to be counted in the 2020 election.

Postmaster-General Louis DeJoy has cut overtime pay and taken mail sorting machines out of service, even though he acknowledges this will delay mail deliveries.

This is supposedly an economy measure, but a Monmouth University poll says 72 percent of Democrats say they might vote by mail, while only 22 percent of Republicans say so.  DeJoy’s policy just might change the outcome of the 2020 elections.

The reason the U.S. Postal Service is in dire straits in the first place is that Congressional leaders, both Democratic and Republican, have deliberately made it so.

The only reason Democratic leaders are concerned now is their perception that Postal Service failure will affect their chances of winning this year’s elections.

Don’t get me wrong.  All their outrage is fully justified.  But if they hadn’t been willing to put the Postal Service on the slide to privatization in the first place, while selling off its prime real estate at bargain prices, there wouldn’t be a problem now.

Here’s the back story, as reported by the great Matt Taibbi.

During the Bush years, the U.S.P.S. was put on the “high risk” list by the General Accounting Office, headed at the time by a future Pete Peterson foundation CEO named David Walker who would later come out in favor of privatizing the post office. The GAO recommended cuts and other measures to address the “rapidly deteriorating” financial situation of the U.S.P.S.

But when an analysis by the Office of Personnel Management was released in November, 2002, it turned out the U.S.P.S. had a “more positive picture” than was believed. The U.S.P.S. was massively over-paying into its retirement fund, headed for a $70 billion surplus.

Then in 2003 the Postal Pension Funding Reform Act was passed, which among other things forced the U.S.P.S. to pay the pension obligations of employees who had prior military service.

A few years after that, in 2006, the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” passed with overwhelming support in both houses, forcing a series of incredible changes, the biggest being a requirement that the U.S.P.S. fully fund 75 years worth of benefits for its employees.

The provision cost $5.5 billion per year and was unique among government agencies. “No one prefunds at more than 30%,” said Anthony Vegliante, the service’s executive vice president, at the time.

The bill also prevented the post office from offering “nonpostal services” as a way to compete financially. This barred it from establishing a postal banking service, but also nixed creative ideas like Internet cafes, copy services, notaries, even allowing postal workers to offer to wrap Christmas presents.

Coupled with the pre-funding benefit mandate and other pension changes, this paralyzed the post office financially, making it look ripe for reform.

By 2012, there were calls for the U.S.P.S. to eliminate 3,700 post offices (a first step toward eventually closing as many as 15,000) and 250 mail processing centers. [Senator Bernie] Sanders, along with other Senators with large rural constituencies like Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill, managed to change the bill and save a lot of the mail processing centers.

The Senate that year also cut the amount of required pre-funding for benefits and began refunding the U.S.P.S. for about $11 billion in overpayment for retirement costs.

A few years after that, in 2015, the Post Office Inspector General issued a blistering report about CBRE, the company that had served as sole real estate broker to the U.S.P.S. from 2011 on.

The report found that CBRE had been selling and/or leasing post office properties at below-market prices, often to clients of CBRE – a company chaired by Richard Blum, the husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

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President Kamala Harris?

August 13, 2020

Joe Biden’s political record consists of support for banking and finance and support for the police.  Kamala Harris’s record is the same.  I don’t see any reason to think they would change while in office.

I can’t see any reason for voting for them except the belief that virtually anyone would be better than Donald Trump or Mike Pence.  Or the symbolic value of electing someone who is a woman, a person of color and the descendant of Jamaican and south Asian immigrants.

As for myself, I don’t intend to vote for either a Democratic or Republican presidential candidate unless they give me a positive reason for doing so.

The United States faces multiple crises—a pandemic, catastrophic climate change and an economic crisis comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s—and it faces with a government that is locked into perpetual war and serving the interests of the financial elite.

No matter which candidate wins, he is likely to be remembered as the Herbert Hoover of the 2020s.  Recall that Hoover’s Vice President Charles Curtis, a hard-line right-wing Republican, was partly of American Indian ancestry and spent part of his childhood on a reservation.  That is an indication of how much and how little a public official’s ancestry matters.

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How Trump could win: (2) by election rigging

July 31, 2020

The stability of a democracy rests on losers of an election accepting the fact that they lost fair and square and that they will have another chance to win next time.  But what if that isn’t true?  What if the system is rigged?

Greg Palast, an outstanding investigative reporter, thinks the system is rigged.  He has been devoting himself exclusively to this topic for years.

He reported his latest findings in his new book, HOW TRUMP STOLE 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanished Voters by Greg Palast with comics by Ted Rall. The book is highly readable, but if you don’t have time to read the whole book, Ted Rall’s cartoons sum up the story.  If you can’t get the book, check out Palast’s home page.

Palast found that, in the 2016 presidential election, 5.87 million votes were cast and never counted.  These included 3.03 mail-in ballots rejected or lost.  In addition, 1.98 million voters were blocked from casting votes.

This did not happen at random.  The 7.85 million Americans who lost their vote were disproportionately African-American, other people of color and younger citizens—all Democratic constituencies.  This probably gave Donald Trump his margin of victory over Hillary Clinton.

In Michigan, for example, 75,355 votes were not counted because ballot scanners in Detroit broke down, even though they could have been counted by hand.  Trump won Michigan by just 10,700 votes.  There are similar stories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Since 2016, 16.7 million American voter registrations have been canceled, and they are disproportionately minorities.  The Democratic politicians are not the victims here.  The victims are American citizens who have a right to expect fair elections.

Voter suppression and election rigging at this moment in American history is done mainly by Republicans.  That’s not to say that Democrats are angels.  But, according to Palast, what election rigging they do is mainly in primaries.

In the past, ballot-stuffing by Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political machine in Chicago may have give President John F. Kennedy his margin of victory.  The word “gerrymander” comes from Elbridge Gerry, a 19th century Democratic governor of Massachusetts.

Present-day Democrats are strangely indifferent to this issue, as is much of the press.  One exception is Stacey Abrams, a Georgia state legislator who fought against voter suppression even before she ran for governor in 2018.

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams. Photo: CNN

Her opponent was Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, who purged 500,000 voter registrations on the grounds that they supposedly had left the state.  One of them was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 92-year-old cousin, who was turned away when she tried to vote.

Palast put together a team that checked out every name.  They found that 340,134 of the purged voters had never moved.

Kemp also refused to accept registrations of some 40,000 new minority voters and threatened to arrest Korean-American voter registration volunteers.  His margin of victory over Abrams was just under 55,000 votes.

This is something that has been building up for a long time.

In 2000, George W. Bush’s margin of victory over Al Gore in Florida was 537 votes.  Florida’s vote gave Bush a majority in the Electoral College.

Palast discovered that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris canceled 94,000 voter registrations, mostly of black voters, on the grounds that they’d committed felonies in other states.    Palast got the list and found that exactly zero were illegal voters.

This was just the beginning.  Just in the past two years, 16.7 million voters have had their registrations canceled.  Among those who’ve turned up on purge lists are Sequanna Taylor, a Milwaukee County supervisor, who, coincidentally or not, is African-American

Palast said his investigators found that, in certain states, one in seven African-American votes and one in eight Hispanic and Asian-American voters were purged.

I refer you to Greg Palast’s book and web site for details about the Crosscheck system, voter caging, voter ID laws, removal of voting machines from key districts, voting machines with verification and anti-hacking features turned off.

Instead I’ll concentrate on the main threat to the integrity of the 2020 elections, which is problems with mail-in ballots and rejection of mail-in ballots.

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How Trump could win: (1) with political strategy

July 27, 2020

The Electoral Map as some pollsters see it. Source: Naked Capitalism

I don’t expect Donald Trump to be re-elected.  I expect him to self-destruct.  But that’s what I expected in 2016.  The election campaign isn’t over until it’s over and, even then, it may not be over.

The thing to remember about Trump’s strategy, and the strategy of Republicans in general, is that it is not to win over voters from the opposing party.  It is to hold onto core supporters and to try to reduce the Democratic vote by fair means and foul.

This is done by two means.  One is by manipulating the election process.  This includes gerrymandering, eliminating likely Democrats from voter registration lists, making voting difficult in predominantly Democratic districts and, possibly, tampering with electronic voting machines.

The great investigative reporter, Greg Palast, has been working on this issue for years, and he summed up his findings in his new book, HOW TRUMP STOLE 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanished VotersI’ll review his book in a follow-up post.

The other is by persuading core Democratic constituencies that it isn’t worthwhile to vote.  This was the strategy of Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager.  He used social media to target African-Americans, women and college students and convince them that it wasn’t worthwhile to vote for Hillary Clinton.

In 2016, Trump received a slightly smaller percentage of votes than Mitt Romney in 2012.  What brought him within reach of victory was a long-term decline in the Democratic vote, which began after the 2008 election.  The big question is whether this decline can be reversed.

Harper’s magazine earlier this year sent a reporter to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a formerly prosperous manufacturing town with strong labor unions, that has been emptied of its industry.

The reporter expected to find people full of despair and anger.  Instead he found that most had come to accept industrial decline as a fact of life, and were trying to make the best of things as they were.

Some were indignant about workers in local Amazon workhouses being put at risk of coronavirus infection.  Nobody outside knew what the health risks were because Amazon simply refused to allow the county government to make inspections.

Most of them took it for granted that both political parties and the national government were under control of elites who cared nothing for people like them.  The administrations of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump himself had killed any audacity of hope.

Joe Biden is not someone to reawaken hope.  The two main themes of his political history are support for the financial industry and support for the police.  He told his big-money financial backers that nothing is going to change and he’s not going to propose any legislation that will harm their interests.

He supported NAFTA and other pro-corporate trade treaties.  He is even more of a war hawk than Donald Trump; he has accused Trump of appeasing China.

All these things are politically significant because they dampen enthusiasm for Biden, and as possible points for targeted social media by the Trump campaign, the same as in 2016.

But Biden has one big advantage.  He is not Donald Trump.  In 2020, this is no small thing.

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Joe Biden and the limits of NYRB liberalism

May 13, 2020

I get e-mails from a long-time friend in south Texas in which he shares his thoughts about politics and the passing scene.  With his permission, here is one of them.  I’ve added a couple of illustrations and a link.

The New York Review of Books was launched in 1963, during a newspaper strike (remember unions?) that temporarily shut down the anodyne New York Times Book Review, a feature of the Sunday Times.  

In high school, I read the electrifying first issue of the NYRB in my hometown public library.  It featured in-your-face, hyper-literate take-no-prisoners review-essays two or three thousand words long, written by the best writers in New York.  

One early review of a biography of Patton used the word “fuckings-up.”  A letter to the editor in the next issue pointed out that the correct plural is “fuck-ups.”  I was hooked.

It’s now more than half a century later, and I’m still reading the NYRB—after a lot of twists and turns, on their part, and on mine.

Their NYRB editor before this one, Ian Buruma—who got bumped after a couple of issues for printing something by some Canadian guy with #MeToo trouble—promised “a wider range” of authors.  I took this to mean: more conservative authors, more often—and I think I was right.

But the word “conservative” here needs a gloss.  NYRB authors are never hard-shell conservatives—like some of the reviewers (e.g., Edward Luttwak) who turn up occasionally in the Times Literary Supplement to give readers a bracing glimpse of how things look from the other side.

No, NYRB essayists are conservative only in the sense of wanting to get back (in the WayBack Machine?) to where we were on the Monday afternoon before Election Day 2016.  Let me explain:

The current issue, for instance, features an article on “rebranding” the Democratic Party by one Joseph O’Neill, a novelist who teaches at Bard College, an upstate-New-York haven for rich hippie-kids. (Bard art majors are provided with their own studios.)

O’Neill’s thesis is that the Republicans and Democrats are like Coke and Pepsi, or Bud Lite and Miller Lite–which makes sense to me.  But O’Neill DOESN’T MEAN, as I would, that they’re two essentially identical products.  (Have you actually looked at the stuff Joe Biden has supported—and opposed—during his long career?)

No, O’Neill means instead that Pepsi can gain market share only by getting Coke drinkers to switch, and vice versa.  So, according to O’Neill, what the Democrats need to do is REBRAND themselves (he quotes legendary Mad Man David Ogilvy from the 50s, a candid, entertaining writer) so as to pull over low-info, “ideologically squishy” swing voters. It’s all a question of PR.

O’Neill goes into the tall grass here, talking in considerable detail about how the Democrats need to devalue the GOP “brand,” with its connotations of strength and patriotism, rather than just attacking Trump.  

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How the 2020 election is already being rigged

April 28, 2020

Greg Palast is an outstanding investigative reporter.  For the past few years, he’s been working on voter suppression and election rigging.  He says the 2020 election is already being rigged in favor of the Republicans.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of us Americans will vote by mail instead of risking in-person voting.  But under present rules, Palast noted, mail voting is easy to tamper with.

Historically, 22 percent of mail ballots are thrown away and never counted.  This doesn’t happen at random, Palast said.  The ballots that are thrown away are disproportionately black and Hispanic voters.

Mail ballots are not secret.  The person counting your ballot knows who you are and how you voted.  If he or she says the ballot isn’t filled out correctly, they are not going to be questioned.

Voters don’t automatically get mail-in ballots.  In many states, the state sends postcards—postcards that look like junk mail—asking if you want a mail-in ballot.  Not every citizen gets one.  If some states, if you haven’t voted in the last few elections, you’re considered “inactive” and are stricken from the mailing list.

Then there are technical requirements for filling out the ballot correctly.  In some states, voters have to include copies of their photo IDs.  Try doing that if you don’t have a copier at home.  Kinkos and other copying companies are closed during the pandemic.

Eight states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina, require mail-in votes to be signed by a witness, Palast wrote. Three states, including Missouri, require the signature on the mail-in ballot to be notarized, he said.  Alabama requires a notary and two other witnesses.

All but six states, he wrote, check your signature on the mail-in ballot against your signature on the voter registration rolls.  Whether or not it matches is a subjective decision by a possibly partisan election official.

I’m not saying Democratic leaders are not inherently more honest than Republicans.  The Democratic Party has a long history of voter suppression and election rigging, especially to disenfranchise black voters in the South.

But at this moment in history, it is the Republicans whose power depends on manipulating the election process.

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Could Bernie Sanders have won? (2) Probably not

April 21, 2020

Some Comments on the Sanders Campaign by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

Bernie Sanders Campaign: How He Lost the White Working Class by Dan McLaughlin for National Review.  [Added 4/15/2020]  From March.  Lots of interesting polling data.

Bernie Sanders Offered Us the Future | Why Did He Fail—and What Did We Forfeit? by Moshik Temkin for Newsweek [Added 4/15/2020]

#DemExit Now: How the Democratic Party Cheated Bernie Sanders Out of the Nomination by Anis Shivani for Medium [Added 4/18/2020]

Reflections on the Bernie Campaign by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs [Added 4/21/2020]

Bernie’s Campaign Strategy Wasn’t the Problem by Paul Headman and Hadas Thier for Jacobin [Added 4/23/2020]

Joe Biden’s newest problem

April 13, 2020

Krystal Ball First On-Camera Interview With Tara Reade On Joe Biden Sexual Assault Allegation.

Evaluating Tara Reade’s Allegation Against Joe Biden by Nathan Robinson for Current Affairs.

Time’s Up Declines to Fund Joe Biden #MeToo Allegation by Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

Bernie Sanders: a politician who never sold out

April 10, 2020

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Denver. Via Common Dreams

Bernie Sanders is a rare example of a politician who cared more about the people he represented than his personal ambitions.  He compromised, but he never sold out.

While Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden spend their early years in climbing the American political success ladder, Sanders spent his youth in apparently doomed campaigns against established power.

It was only at age 47 that he won a narrow victory as mayor of Burlington, Vermont.  Against the opposition of the City Council and many city employees, he was able to rally the public and impose reform on the city government.

I don’t know whether he could have done the same with the government in Washington.  The corruption and dysfunction runs much more deeply there.  But it would have been interesting to see him try.

He was respected for his honesty and sincerity even by his political opponents, whereas somebody like Newt Gingrich or Karl Rove is mistrusted even by his political allies.

I remember an article about Sanders in the 2016 campaign that I thought showed what he was all about.  I searched for on the Internet, but was unable to find it.

A reporter traveling with Sanders had hoped to rise with the campaign staff from the airport to the hotel where they all were staying.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t room in the vehicle for all, and it seemed as if the reporter was going to have to find his own transportation.

Sanders noticed what was going on, and started trying to figure out a way to rearrange the luggage so there would be room for the reporter.  He was surprised at Sanders’ concern, because he hadn’t been especially friendly on the flight.  He decided it was a reflection of a sense of justice that encompassed everybody.

If you were going on an ocean cruise, the reporter said, Sanders wouldn’t be a particularly congenial companion.  But he would be the one who noticed if you fell overboard.

I think one reason Sanders ended his campaign when he did, instead of going all the way to the convention the way Hillary Clinton did in 2008, is that he didn’t want to expose his supporters and other voters to the risks of voting in person.

I never would have dreamed, in 2015, that somebody like Sanders could come as close to winning the presidency as he did.  But, as somebody said, “close” only counts when you’re playing horseshoes.

The question for the future is whether Sanders was unique or whether others can follow, building on what he achieved.  His campaign was always as much about building a movement—maybe more about building a movement—than it was about winning office.  I hope his campaign is a beginning and not an end.

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Could Bernie Sanders have won?

April 9, 2020

I was disappointed, but not surprised, that Bernie Sanders conceded defeat in the Democratic presidential primary.

To have won the Democratic nomination, he would have had to have gotten an absolute majority of the delegates to the nominating convention, and he never got an absolute majority in any state.

Many Sanders’ supporters blame him for running too gentlemanly and restrained a campaign.  I myself would have like to see him be more aggressive, but I don’t think that would have brought him victory..

The system was rigged against him.  I think it is remarkable that he got as far as he did.  But there were two political dilemmas that he failed to resolve, and that nobody may have been able to resolve.

One was how to win the votes of loyal Democrats while appealing to independents and non-voters who were disgusted with the leadership of both parties.

The other was how to win the votes of both the old-time New Deal liberals and the “woke” progressives.  I haven’t seen much written about this, so I’ll go into this aspect a little more.

The first group are populists.  They side with the struggling majority who are being exploited by the financial and corporate elite.  The second group is suspicious of populism.  They side with minorities who are being oppressed by the dominant majority, which is defined by race, gender and sexual orientation.  For this group, a poor and unemployed straight white male can still be an oppressor.

These two perspectives aren’t necessarily in opposition.  You can be opposed to monopoly business and opposed to discrimination against black people or gay people.  The question is the balance between the two .

An example of the problem was the controversy over Sanders’ accepting the endorsement of Joe Rogan, the popular on-line talk show host.

Rogan appeals to a mass audience who don’t necessarily follow politics closely, so his endorsement was golden.  But to some Democrats, he was unacceptable because he opposes transgendered women who are biological males competing in women’s sports, especially mixed martial arts, and he opposes puberty blockers for gender-confused children.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opposed Sanders’ accepting Rogan’s endorsement  She reportedly dialed back her support for the Sanders campaign for that reason.  If this is so, it is not an attitude that wins elections.

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The mysterious appeal of Joe Biden

March 23, 2020

Why is Joe Biden apparently the last man standing among the Democratic candidates?

He did virtually no campaigning and he wasn’t even able to raise enough money to carry on a major campaign until Super Tuesday.  His public image has always been that of a good-natured bumbler.

Joe Biden

Yet he led in public opinion polls all through the campaign.  Bernie Sanders never quite caught up to him.

More than any politician since the late Robert F. Kennedy, Biden got the votes of both African-Americans and white blue-collar workers—despite never having been a strong supporter of either civil rights or organized labor.

I think most people who voted for him would have a hard time identifying any major achievement of his or any cause that he stood for.

Part of Biden’s appeal is that he appears to be a genuinely nice person.  He was nice to Bernie Sanders, nice to Barack Obama and, in an earlier era, nice to the white supremacist Strom Thurmond.

He is nice to elevator operators and to the Amtrak workers he meets in his shuttles from Washington, D.C., to his home in Delaware and back.  He’s also friendly with the corporate lobbyists, particularly for the credit card industry, which is concentrated in his state.

Everybody likes him.  Unlike with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, nobody is passionately loyal to him, but nobody hates him and nobody fears him.

In the 2008 vice-presidential debates, the worst thing that Dick Cheney could find to say against him was that he couldn’t understand why he was running on the same ticket as Barack Obama.

Nobody smoothed his way for him.  He was in the bottom half of his classes at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University Law School.  He had to overcome a stutter.

He has not taken on the attitudes and speech habits of the cultural and financial elite, even though he is defends their interests.  He never went to Harvard or Yale.  I can’t imagine him using the expression “those people.”

He is what white Southerners used to call a “good old boy.”  A good old boy is good-hearted, extroverted and masculine, and able to get along with almost anyone.  He is somebody you can go to if you need a favor.  A good old boy doesn’t rock the boat.  He accepts the world as he finds it and makes his way in it as best he can.

He is everyman.  After 20 years of upheaval and disappointed hopes, he offers the promise of stability, safety and healing.  That’s what Dwight D. Eisenhower offered in 1952; it’s also what Warren G. Harding offered in 1920.

Will this be enough to get him elected?  Maybe not.  Aside from Biden’s lack of cruelty and vindictiveness, there are few bright-line distinctions between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

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Voter suppression in the Democratic primary

March 11, 2020

The line to vote in the Democratic presidential primary at 9:25 p.m. March 3 at Texas Southern University. Photo: Texas Observer

I don’t blame voter suppression for Bernie Sanders’ losses in the Democratic primary.  Not entirely.  There were a lot of reasons he lost and Joe Biden won.

Sanders appealed to young, first-time voters, and registering to vote for the first time can be complicated and time-consuming, even under normal conditions.

Voter registration is especially difficult for renters, because you have to re-register every time you move to a new district.  Young people, poor people and minorities are disproportionately renters.

In most states, you have to register by a certain deadline.  Michigan had same-day registration, but there were long lines of would-be new voters yesterday several hours after the polls closed.

Some state governments have closed polling stations in places where there are high concentrations of college students, minorities and poor people.  This is mainly a result of a Republican effort to discourage voting by core Democratic constituencies, but it worked against Sanders.

Also, voting in most places is done with electronic voting machines that can be tampered with.  I’ve been writing about this for years.  There are suspicious discrepancies between exit polls and the actual vote.

The only way to guarantee this won’t happen is with paper ballots counted by hand in public.  In New York state, where I vote, there are paper ballots scanned by machines.

In principle, these ballots could by hand-counted if there was a question as to whether they were scanned correctly.  But in practice, the verification would almost certainly be done in a second scanning by a different machine.

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Joe Biden’s other problem

March 6, 2020

Stop Calling It a Stutter — Here Are Dozens of Examples of Biden’s Dementia Symptoms by Caitlin Johnstone.

Democratic primary: It’s not over until it’s over

March 4, 2020

Click to enlarge.  Source: CNBC.

The Super-Tuesday primary results were a disappointment to the Bernie Sanders campaign, but the primary campaign is far from over.

We won’t know the full results until the votes in California and Maine are counted, but Vox news service reports that Joe Biden only got 60 more delegates than Sanders in Tuesday’s primary vote, and only has 57 more pledged delegates than Sanders overall. Other news services count differently.   I’ll post the full delegate count when the full results are in.

Biden will undoubtedly get the 26 delegates pledged to Pete Buttigieg and the seven pledged to Amy Klobuchar, and probably will get the 44 pledged to Mike Bloomberg.  And if no candidate gets a clear majority on the first convention ballot, he’ll undoubtedly get the 771 superdelegates who are chosen by the Democratic party establishment.

There’s no denying his advantage.  But it’s early times yet.  The Democrats have chosen 1,344 convention delegates, but there are 2,635 yet to go.

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Michael Bloomberg as a presidential candidate

February 7, 2020

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg’s emergence as a major Democratic presidential candidate reminds me of a saying attributed to Harry Truman.

If you run a Republican against a Republican, the [real] Republican will win every time.

LINKS

Michael Bloomberg Wikipedia page.

A Republican Plutocrat Tries to Buy the Democratic Nomination by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs [Added 2/9/2020]  This says it all.

Michael Bloomberg’s Right-Wing Views on Foreign Policy by Mehdi Hasan for The Intercept.

Mike Bloomberg’s $ymbiotic Relationship With NY’s GOP: ‘We Agreed With Him on So Many Issues’ by Ross Barkan for Gothamist.

Bloomberg Has a History of Donating to Republicans—Including in 2018 by Bobby Cuza for Spectrum News NY1

Iowa caucus mess: maybe it’s more than stupidity

February 6, 2020

The Myth of Incompetence: DNC Scandals Are a Feature, Not a Bug by Caitlin Johnstone.