Archive for August, 2020

65 days to go

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Sixty-three days, actually. The Republican national convention has come and gone, with Democrats—including many friends and family—wringing their hands, wetting their beds, and otherwise flipping out over a modest Trump “bounce” in two post-convention polls, plus dreadly fearing that masses of white people across the heartland will flee into his arms following the unrest in Kenosha, a smallish city that the vast majority of Americans outside the state of Wisconsin and maybe northern Illinois had never heard of ten days ago.

First, the RNC, which I watched some of the speeches of, mainly the first two nights (though not Trump; that’s asking too much). Richard North Patterson, writing in The Bulwark on the RNC’s “[f]our days of staggering cynicism and deceit,” thus began his take:

Though Donald Trump preens like an ersatz Mussolini, to compare his convention to fascist theater from the 1930s would be to stretch responsible historical analogy. But they share a depressingly familiar fusion of lies, anger, paranoia, erasures of reality, toxic insularity, and blind fervor for a nihilistic leader who brooks no dissent.

Over four evenings, we witnessed a cult of personality rooted in mythologizing a mendacious pseudo-populist so irretrievably self-obsessed that he is redefining our democracy by inflaming the basest instincts of his followers.

To get an idea of the “basest instincts.” just watch Kimberly Guilfoyle’s screamfest, followed shortly after by that of her boyfriend, Donald Trump Jr, who IMHO should work on his delivery if he’s going to succeed his father as GOP caudillo (ex-GOPer Rick Wilson, remarking that “cocaine” was trending on Twitter during Don Jr’s speech, observed that he does indeed give the impression of having had “too much blow”). Then there was the gun-toting McCloskey couple from St. Louis, whose address to the convention is a must-see in order to fully grasp the Zeitgeist of today’s Republican Party. The Le Pens—père, fille, and petite-fille—would certainly find the McCloskey’s prestation a little on the extreme side.  And to get an idea of the R party’s future, check out the speech by Angry Young Male Charlie Kirk (who, oy vey, is almost exactly the same age as my daughter), whom many liberals and progressives have likely never heard of but is a mega-star in the MAGA world.

In a commentary in The Bulwark, “Who was Trump talking to? Hint: Probably not you,” #NeverTrump Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen submitted:

The Republican convention featured mostly Donald Trump, his family members, and his most obsequious aiders and abettors—Mike Pompeo, Kellyanne Conway, Matt Gaetz. The RNC had no interest in reaching Democrats, independents, or anyone who might be persuadable. The rhetoric was so over the top that they weren’t even trying to reach Trump-skeptical Republicans.

So whom were they speaking to? Exactly the same 28 percent to 32 percent of the country who live in the Trump-Fox-Bannon-Limbaugh flywheel of doom. That’s it. Trump has literally no interest beyond those who follow him unconditionally. Anyone else, to his gangster’s mind, is not worthy of his attention. Just ask blue state residents.

It was, in fact, not precisely the case that the Republican convention was addressing the sole MAGA world, witness the numerous speakers of color the first two nights, beginning with the high-profile South Carolinians Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, who talked like mainstream Republicans from twenty years ago. And then there were Afro-Americans Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting D state rep from Georgia (who’s somewhat controversial down his way, as one learns here); Kim Klacik, the sacrificial R candidate in Maryland’s 7th CD (but whose critique of the way the Democrats have governed cities was not without merit, so argued TNR’s progressive staff writer Osita Nwanevu); 1980s-90s football star Herschel Walker, who spoke of his 37-year friendship with Trump, who, he reliably informed us, does not only not have a racist bone in his body but downright likes black people (who knew?); and convicted bank robber Jon Ponder, who found God and Jesus and became a Good Man—and whom Trump pardoned live during the convention (one wonders if Ponder would have been invited to speak to the RNC—and received his presidential pardon—had he taken his righteous path but in finding Allah and Muhammad instead). As far as publicity stunts go, the Ponder pardon was pretty shameless, as was the immigrant naturalization ceremony at the White House (the immigrants not knowing they were going to be RNC props). But while the Republicans’ diversity mise en scène may have been “all tip and no iceberg,” as a TDB piece by commentator-author Sophia A. Nelson headlined, it was likely effective with at least some of its target audience, which was suburban Republican women who had drifted away from Trump, particularly over his management of the pandemic and then George Floyd and BLM, and are looking to “come home,” but with assurances that he is not a racist. So if there’s a post-convention Trump bounce, this is where it’s coming from. To this one may add the small, but not negligible, number of black men who have been giving Trump favorable ratings, more so than they normally would a Republican.

There was much comment on the Republicans, for the first time ever for any party, not publishing a platform at their convention. But it is, in fact, not the case that they do not have a platform or program, as David Frum explained in The Atlantic. They very much do; they’re just afraid to make it public and to have to defend it, as they know full well that even many of their own voters don’t agree with it, not to mention potential swing voters.

One of the best analyses I’ve read of the RNC, published after its second day, is by the excellent Eric Levitz in New York magazine, “The RNC has made a compelling case for America’s imminent collapse.”

On Dems shitting bricks (direct quote from a friend, who says she’s doing just that) over a perceived tightening of the race and Kenosha rebounding to Trump’s favor, there have been urgent entreaties from all sorts of people that Biden must speak out forcefully against violence by rioters, that he needs to have a “Sister Souljah moment,” if not a “Sister Souljah month,” even while Trump continues to pour gasoline on the fire and cheer on armed vigilante militias, otherwise Slow Joe will lose. The mythical white backlash (which we haven’t actually seen in 50+ years). The fact is, Biden has been speaking out against violence—on all sides—and will continue to do so, but if he were to look like he’s focusing particular attention on rioters—who naturally need to be deplored—and not on where it belongs—on the police and MAGA militias—then he will risk alienating part of his own base, which he can hardly afford to do—but without impressing hypothetical panicky white folks fleeing to Trump. As Jean-Marie Le Pen used to usefully remind us, voters will always prefer the original to the copy.

A reminder: protestors and looters/arsonists are not the same people. And there is, so far as I’ve read, nothing to suggest that Kenosha is an exception. But there is a big problem in Kenosha—and countless other municipalities across America—with law enforcement, witness the police chief there, not to mention the county sheriff (see this video by John Oliver from 9:50, though the whole thing is worth watching), who is—and I weigh my words carefully—an outright Nazi. This cannot last.

À propos, see the column just posted in NY magazine by the liberal, not-left-wing Jonathan Chait, “How Trump brought Nazis into Republican politics.”

In conclusion—for the moment—here’s a tweet by The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

Any Dem who hand-wrings to the media about how violence will help Trump is him/herself helping Trump. You’re feeding the storyline that violence is good for him, ie that voters will see him as “strong,” and not as part of the problem, w/o doing a damn thing that’s constructive.

Here’s a better idea, hand-wringers. Draw more attention to the fact that a top strategist for Trump openly and explicitly declared that violence is “better” for him politically, and to the fact that Trump is a *total failure* on safety and law and order.

À suivre.

UPDATE: Joe Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh yesterday (Aug. 31st) was excellent (watch here). He said exactly what needed to be said.

See the spot-on opinion piece in The Washington Post (Sep. 1st) by the Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, “No, Wisconsin won’t make Democrats lose.”

Ex-GOPers Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, in their WaPo columns (here and here), also tell it like it is.

2nd UPDATE: Joshua Shanes, who is associate professor of Jewish studies and director of the Center for Israel Studies at the College of Charleston, has an essay in Slate (Aug. 28th) that is well worth the read, “This was the week American fascism reached a tipping point.”

3rd UPDATE: The Brennan Center for Justice has report (Aug. 27th) by its Liberty & National Security fellow Michael German, “Hidden in plain sight: Racism, white supremacy, and far-right militancy in law enforcement.”

4th UPDATE: A friend has asked what I think of Andrew Sullivan’s August 28th blog post “The trap the Democrats walked right into: If law and order are what this election is about, they will lose it.” Sullivan, pour mémoire, is famous for his “Henny-Penny, the sky is falling!” reactions to fast-moving political events (e.g. one recalls his despairing that Barack Obama had thrown away his re-election prospects in 2012 after his counter-performance in the first debate with Mitt Romney). In this latest piece, he positively flips out. E.g. he offers this:

All this reassurance played out against a backdrop of Kenosha, which was burning, and Minneapolis, where a suicide led to a bout of opportunistic looting, and Washington DC, where mobs of wokesters went through the city chanting obscenities, invading others’ spaces, demanding bystanders raise fists in solidarity, with occasional spasms of violence. These despicable fanatics, like it or not, are now in part the face of the Democrats [emphasis added]: a snarling bunch of self-righteous, entitled bigots, chanting slogans rooted in pseudo-Marxist claptrap, erecting guillotines — guillotines! — in the streets as emblems of their agenda. They are not arguing; they are attempting to coerce. And liberals, from the Biden campaign to the New York Times, are too cowardly and intimidated to call out these bullies and expel them from the ranks [emphasis added].

To call Sullivan’s words here wildly over-the-top would be an understatement. What he says is simply bonkers. If Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Co. want to present looters, arsonists, and smashers—who, FYI, do not have known political views, let alone any that can be characterized as “left-wing”—as a face of the Democratic Party, then that is what they will do. There’s not much one can do about it. And the last thing the Biden campaign needs to do is to run a fool’s errand and try to refute the right’s charge. Talk about an exercise in futility.

A fundamental rule of politics, and particularly of electoral campaigns: Do not play your opponents’ game or wade onto their terrain; do not let them dictate your agenda or seize the initiative; do not respond to their demagogic questions; do not let them lead you around by the nose.

This also applies, by the way, to unsolicited advice from media and other pundits.

As for rowdy 20-year-old “wokesters” who importune restaurant patrons in Adams-Morgan, they have, until proof to the contrary, nothing whatever to do with the Democratic Party, so there are no ranks to expel them from.

The guillotine street theater stunt: I found that amusing.

Further down in Sullivan’s jeremiad is this morsel:

And let’s be frank about this and call this by its name: this is very Weimar. The center has collapsed. Armed street gangs of far right and far left are at war on the streets.

That there are armed street gangs of the far right—militias—is an empirical fact. But on the left? Did the protestors and partiers in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland—or Kenosha—parade around with AR-15s and other such long guns? (As for the 48-year-old wanker in Portland who shot the Patriot Prayer militiaman, he looks to be an outlier with some personal issues). Sullivan’s both-sidesism not only makes no sense but is unacceptable.

The bed-wetting pundit concludes:

But Biden, let’s face it, is weak and a party man to his core, and has surrendered to the far left at almost every single turn — from abortion to immigration to race. You’d be a fool I think, to believe he could resist their fanaticism in office, or that if he does, he won’t be toast in a struggle to succeed him. He remains the only choice in this election. But on the central question of civil order, he blew it last week and so did the Dems. Biden needs a gesture of real Sister Souljah clarity to put daylight between him and the violent left. He has indeed condemned the riots, with caveats. But at some point, the caveats have to go. And the sooner the better.

Sullivan’s characterization of Biden is, to put it charitably, wide of the mark. As I’ve written on the Democratic nominee more than once on AWAV, I don’t need to do so again here. And to speak of a fanaticized left inside the Democratic Party—and to whom Biden will be unable to resist—is so unhinged and disconnected from actual reality that I will not dignify the assertion with a refutation.

On “a gesture of real Sister Souljah clarity,” please read the post on the Wonkette website by Stephen Robinson, “No, white people, Joe Biden doesn’t need a ‘Sister Souljah moment’.” And do take the time to watch the video at the very end.

An impressive woman she was Sister Souljah. Unfortunate that she was cancelled three decades back.

At the present moment (Sep. 2nd), there is no indication that Kenosha is rebounding in Trump’s favor. Au contraire. See, e.g., David A. Graham in The Atlantic, “Kenosha could cost Trump the election: The president thinks that inflaming racial tension and provoking violence will aid his campaign. The numbers suggest otherwise.”

Also see the “Letter from Wisconsin” in Politico by JR Ross, “Trump claims he saved Kenosha. Wisconsin voters aren’t buying it: Wisconsinites might be souring on protests, but so far, they aren’t embracing Trump.”

5th UPDATE: Washington resident Lauren Victor has an op-ed in WaPo (Sep. 4th) that is worth the read: “I was the woman surrounded by BLM protesters at a D.C. restaurant. Here’s why I didn’t raise my fist.” Somehow I doubt that her experience with the wokesters will cause her to vote for Trump.

As to the cris d’orfraie of certain conservatives who have been shocked—shocked I tell you!—at the wokester guillotine stunts, right-leaning libertarian Cathy Young has gone so far as to commit a lengthy blog post, “Guillotine Chic: The new fad on the far left is not cool or funny. Here’s the real story of what it celebrates,” in which she offers up a history of the French Revolution during its momentous 1793-94 period (Young, who grew up in the Soviet Union, says she’s been a “French Revolution nerd since the age of 14,” which I can see, as while I teach the subject as part of survey courses—devoting some 6 to 8 hours to it—she is clearly more intimate with the nitty-gritty details than am I).

While nerd Young must have enjoyed writing her history—it’s always fun to go to town on things we’re passionate about—if her target audience was wokesters or other guillotine apologists, I think she was wasting her time, as (a) it is unlikely that any will have seen and read it (or, if they did, would at all be impressed or rethink their attitude), and (b) the history of France in the 1790s is quite simply irrelevant to anything happening today (and particularly in the USA). As for “la veuve,” given that capital punishment was universal across the world back in those days (though Robespierre was personally opposed, as I imagine just about everyone reading this is), the guillotine was, so I tell my students (American undergrads), invented as a humane way to execute people. It’s swift and does the job 100% of the time. There have, to my knowledge, never been any screw-ups (e.g. of the blade only partially sectioning the neck). Seriously, I ask my students, if you had to be judicially killed, what method would you prefer: the hangman, firing squad, electric chair, gas chamber, chemical injection, or the guillotine? If I had to bite the bullet, as it were, and choose, I think I’d go with “la veuve.” And you, dear reader?

Another thing about the guillotine stunt. Young and other conservatives are taking it literally but for the wokesters, I do think it was, to use a French expression, second degré.

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70 days to go

This is a couple of days late, as usual. Last week was the Democratic National Convention, as one is likely aware. Had it not been for the goddamned pandemic, I would have been there, in Milwaukee in mid-July, staying with my childhood best friend in Shorewood. And I surely would have been able to obtain a pass to access the convention floor (as a journalist/blogger or in some other capacity). I was planning on and looking forward to it, particularly as it’s been 19 years since I was last there. It was alas not to be. I grew up in Milwaukee, living there from K through 6th grade, though visiting many times after moving away. I have tender feelings for that city, which I loved as a boy. It is also where I came of age politically, in 1964. I was with my parents when they voted that November 3rd (long paper ballots), at the Hartford Avenue School polling station, which is also where I went to school that year (3rd grade). I recall my indignation overhearing two boys in my class, named Ted and James, saying they (i.e. their parents) were for Goldwater, and being disappointed (following my parents, obviously) at the loss of John Reynolds (D) to Warren Knowles (R) in the Wisconsin gubernatorial election.

And then there was 1968. We were naturally for Eugene McCarthy, for whom I passed out leaflets on at least one occasion (at the UWM campus, where my parents taught; I was in the 6th grade at Campus Elementary School). Lots of vivid political memories of that year: the Tet offensive, LBJ’s address to the nation withdrawing his candidacy for reelection, the King and RFK assassinations, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the DNC in Chicago, which we had on TV while my father was packing us up to move (to Ankara, Turkey).

Voilà a trip down memory lane. In the here and now, I managed to watch some of last week’s convention en différé, which I thought the Democrats pulled off very well in view of the circumstances. Taking the speeches in order (the ones I watched), I thought Bernie Sanders was absolutely excellent, underscoring the authoritarian danger posed by Trump and reiterating his full-throttled support of Joe Biden. He said exactly what needed to be said (if one didn’t see it, watch here). I find the genuine bond between these two elderly men—their manifest appreciation for one another—almost moving. Following Bernie on Monday was Michelle Obama, whose speech (here) was, as everyone knows, rightly praised to the high heavens. If she’s game for it, she’ll be Biden’s logical pick to succeed RBG on the SCOTUS. It will be tough for the Senate Repubs to try to block that one.

On Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got her one minute (96 seconds, in fact), to second Bernie Sanders’ pro forma nomination (required by DNC rules), which she was asked to do (and she was typically tops). Lots of lefties were indignant and upset that the D party establishment looked to be giving her the short shrift—dissing her, in effect—but, while I love AOC, I think the role she played was the right one. There were clearly political considerations, with AOC being a lightning rod for Fox News and the US social media réacosphère; as one pundit put it, the Democrats’ convention spectacle was targeted at the median voter, not the median Democratic Party voter. Given AOC’s star power, a longer speech by her would have drowned out the others and distracted from them. And she is, after all, only finishing her second year in the House. She’ll play a bigger role in 2024 and beyond.

John Kerry, focusing on America and the world (here), was fine, and Bill Clinton was finer (here). There was some objection to the latter even speaking at all, with #MeToo, Jeffrey Epstein, and whatever. Come on, he was a two-term Democratic President of the United States, for crying out loud. And he’s frigging Bill Clinton! GMAB. It was nice to hear from Jimmy and Roselynn Carter (he America’s best former president), now in their mid 90s. But the real star on Tuesday, for me at least, was Jill Biden (here). First time I’ve seen her. She was so impressive. I loved her. What a wonderful teacher she must be. She’ll be a terrific First Lady. As for comparisons with the present one, no comment.

Wednesday’s power lineup included Elizabeth Warren (here), who never disappoints; Nancy Pelosi (here), who was fine; and Hillary Clinton (here), whom various pundits and others dumped on but who I thought was good, as she invariably is. Hillary-bashing continues unabated on the right, center, and left, but which I will never partake in. As for Kamala Harris’s speech (here), I thought she aced it, though there was evidently not unanimity on this. E.g. John Judis, writing on his Facebook page, panned Harris, calling her speech “abysmal” and “cliched,” which even made him “wince.” His thumbs down review of Harris attracted over a hundred comments, with many—including well-known journalists and other names—agreeing with him (though The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, echoing a thought I had, observed that almost all of those who were dumping on Ms. Harris happened to be men). None of the criticisms caused me to rethink my assessment one iota. I like Kamala Harris and was happy that Biden picked her as his running mate—and his putative successor—as she had been my n°1 choice for V-P since it became clear that Biden would be the nominee. Pour mémoire, I wrote about Harris on July 4, 2019, in my post on the Democrats’ first debate. Money quote:

There is a near-total consensus that she was the breakout star of the debate, via her now-famous exchange with Joe Biden but also supremely self-confident, in-charge demeanor. She showed herself to be the prosecutor that she once was. In a debate with Trump, she’ll cut him into little pieces. Some think that her attack on Biden was too calculated—as if politicians on the campaign trail don’t calculate—or overly aggressive (a charge that would likely not be leveled if she were male). (…) As for her positioning within the D party, she’s somewhere between the progressive and establishment/centrist wings. She’s waffled on issues or quickly adapted her position (e.g. on health care). The left is wary of her on account of her record as San Francisco DA and California Attorney General, with a NYT op-ed from January by law professor Lara Bazelon slamming that record—as not progressive—being widely circulated by lefties on social media (also here and here). Harris will need to respond to the critiques. I assume, or at least hope, that she acquits herself well and quels the left. It will not be good if her candidacy hits a wall, because if Warren doesn’t make it, we must have Harris.

After posting the above, I came across a couple of pieces that further increased my esteem for Harris, one by Jocelyn Sears on her personal history, “13 trailblazing facts about Kamala Harris,” the other by Courtney Swanson defending her record as prosecutor, “‘The research on her record: Why Kamala’s time as a prosecutor and Attorney General are a damn good thing’.” There was also the enquête by Ben Terris, “Who is Kamala Harris, really? Ask her sister Maya.”

There have obviously been a slew of articles on Harris since Biden announced his pick two weeks ago. The one in The Washington Post by Dan Morain, a well-known journalist in California, is worth the read: “America is about to see what smart Republicans saw in Kamala Harris years ago.” And the post, which has gone viral, “Kamala Harris’ impression of her Jewish mother-in-law is worthy of an Oscar,” is a must.

I like what TNR’s Walter Shapiro had to say in his “The unlikely bond between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris: She’s a natural talent at American politicking, just like he is.” He begins:

What many forget about Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign was that, for the most part, she was a happy warrior. Sure, her slash-and-burn attack on Joe Biden over busing in their first debate last June has become seared in our brains through constant repetition on cable TV.

But that was the exception.

What I remember is a different and more upbeat candidate on the campaign trail, a senator who gleefully laughed at her own jokes. In a speech to a largely Black audience in Florence, South Carolina, in early July of last year, Harris talked about how everyone was “going through individual and group therapy,” trying to grasp what Donald Trump was doing to America.

Instead of rage, Harris offered her own version of hope: “We’re going to be fine.” She harked back to the Founding Fathers and their concept of checks and balances as she stressed, “This is a nation that was founded anticipating a moment just like this.” And her dramatic example was the late John McCain casting a crucial Senate vote to break with Trump and Republican orthodoxy to save the Affordable Care Act.

This is a view of politics that Biden shares. They believe that not all Republicans are beyond salvation—and that our democracy and our values can be saved through individual acts of courage like McCain’s.

Many volumes will be written about why Biden chose Harris. But the truest bond between them may be the simplest: They are both politicians in the best sense of the word. They understand elections, Capitol Hill, and how to be tough without losing your sense of humor.

Could one possibly say such a thing about any Republican today?

Historians Thomas Meaney and Samuel Moyn have a piece in The Guardian, “Kamala Harris is Obama’s natural heir: another moderate child of radical parents.”

And Barack Obama. What to say about his speech on Wednesday? Any number of speeches he’s given over the past sixteen years have been said to be his best ever, and which more than a few are saying about this one. It is indeed possible, as he said what he felt he needed to say, in his trademark understated tone, about the stakes in this election and the grave threat to American democracy in the unthinkable event of a Trump reelection. I am not nostalgic for Obama’s presidency—there were too many frustrations and we needed to move on—but when it comes to gravitas, no American politician in my lifetime rises above him.

On the last day, Thursday, I went straight to the main event, which was, of course, Joe Biden’s acceptance speech. The reviews were unanimous, which is that he hit it out of the park. He couldn’t have been better. I was, as AWAV readers know, opposed to his candidacy until Warren dropped out, on account of his age, having been around too long, and lacking a rationale. But Mr. Biden proved me wrong. He is indeed, at this present moment, l’homme qu’il faut. He has achieved the singular feat of uniting his party behind him. There are no unhappy Democrats right now. Joe Biden is, as I’ve been saying to everyone, a good person (emphasis added). In this, among many other things, he is the utter antithesis of the current resident of the White House. And politically speaking, he is exactly where the Democratic Party needs to be as the general election campaign kicks off.

A note on Tuesday’s roll call vote (here), which I thought came off very well (funner to watch than at a real convention): of the 70-odd persons who spoke from the 57 state and other delegations, around 25 by my count were “white,” which is to say, close to two-thirds were what in America are called “persons of color.” As for the gender ratio, it was 50-50. Just an observation.

As for a platform, the Democrats do indeed have one. They do have policy policy positions. I’ll address that later. in the meantime, see the piece from last May by Vox’s Matthew Yglesias on Joe Biden’s “transformative” policy agenda.

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95 days to go

The fire devil. A president sets fire to his country.

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Ninety-four days actually, until we vote the orange-haired idiot out of office and send him to the proverbial trash heap of history. Everyone knows the polls, which all have Biden winning haut la main, though cautious people naturally caution that things could change over the coming three months, the Electoral College remains skewed in the idiot’s favor, and it ain’t over till it’s over. Sure. But as I’ve been insisting for over two years now—and repeat when asked, which is more than once a week—if every registered voter in the USA—including those who seek to register in good faith before their state’s registration deadline—who wishes to vote on November 3rd—in person or by mail—and is able to do so, and whose ballot is properly tabulated, Biden will win and Trump will lose. Period. It won’t even be close. I say this not based on wishful thinking but on polling data that has been consistent over Trump’s entire term, which has had the idiot’s pre-pandemic job approval rating at 41-43% (according to FiveThirtyEight.com) and has since fallen to 40-41% (and with his disapproval now at 55-56%). There is simply no way an incumbent presidential candidate can win reelection with these poll numbers—and, moreover, with his opponent at a steady 8-9% lead at this stage in the race and hovering at 50-51% (and please don’t bring up Michael Dukakis’s ephemeral post-DNC bounce in July ’88). C’est du jamais vu.

This presupposes, of course, that the election is fair, i.e. that the Republicans do not succeed in their manifold efforts at voter suppression in swing states. This is a risk, though I have been doubtful that they’ll get away with it, as, among other things, the Democrats, whose activist army will be mobilized to the hilt and which is flush with financial resources, will not let that happen. But now there are alarming reports of a real danger to the integrity of the election, involving manipulating the US Postal Service—presently headed by a Trump crony (America really is in Banana Republic territory now)—with the aim of invalidating mail-in ballots (see here and here). Again, I have a hard time imagining that the Republicans will be able to pull this off if it comes to that—la ficelle est une peu grosse and the Democrats will be ready for it—but the danger is there. Trump and the Republican plutocracy will pull out all the stops to stave off defeat, one may be sure of that. What a country the USA has turned out to be.

In lieu of going on with my own thoughts, which would mainly involve repeating what I’ve already said about the orange-haired idiot over the past four years, I will link to two articles in The Atlantic. One is by James Fallows—who has long been one of America’s best longform journalists—”The 3 weeks that changed everything: Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.” I had missed it when it was posted on June 29th but then my friend Claire Berlinski tweeted it earlier this week, with this comment:

[I]n my view this is the best article that’s so far been published about the Trump era…If I were an American history teacher in the year 2120, and if I had to choose one and only one article from the Trump era to introduce the period to my students, I’d pick this one.

The piece is long but well worth the read.

The other, by Anne Applebaum, is dated July 23rd, “Trump is putting on a show in Portland: The president is deploying the kind of performative authoritarianism that Vladimir Putin pioneered.” It may seem passé now that Trump has beat a retreat—the “big loser of the ‘battle’ of Portland,” as Le Monde put it—but is useful in understanding what he was up to in sending federal paramilitaries in their ridiculous jungle fatigues to confront his Blue America enemies.

If one is not familiar with it, I want to highly recommend the Never Trumper webzine The Bulwark, which was founded in 2018 after the demise of The Weekly Standard and whose singular mission is destroying Trump and the Trumpized Republican Party—a party with which almost all of its writers long identified. These folks are not my ideological comrades-in-arms but we are presently objective allies. I receive The Bulwark’s email newsletter two or three times a day and, unlike so many other newsletters that clutter my inbox, I always open this one and read it. I have to hand it to these conservative polemicists—notably Jonathan V. Last, Charlie Sykes, and Tim Miller—they’re terrific writers, have a sense of humor, and, like the Lincoln Project, they have Trump’s number. They know the Republican beast in the way that ex-Communists in the 1950s and ’60s knew theirs. I just hope they’re moving to the center in their views on welfare state issues (e.g. as laid out here by Geoffrey Kabaservice). We’ll see after next January 20th, inshallah.

UPDATE: Watch this 4½-minute ABC News interview (August 4th) with John Thompson, former US Census Bureau chief, on the possible consequences of the Trump regime’s moving up by one month the deadline for completing the 2020 census.

2nd UPDATE: Yale University law and history professor Samuel Moyn has a review essay in The New Republic (August 4th) on how “The Never Trumpers have already won.” The lede: “They’re not trying to save the GOP from a demagogue. They’re infiltrating the Democratic Party.” The book he reviews is Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites, by Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles (Oxford University Press, 2020).

3rd UPDATE: The NYT has an enquête (August 6th) by David Leonhardt and Lauren Leatherby on “The unique U.S. failure to control the virus.” The lede: “Slowing the coronavirus has been especially difficult for the United States because of its tradition of prioritizing individualism and missteps by the Trump administration.”

4th UPDATE: If one has the stomach for it, read the bone-chilling explanation in The Bulwark (August 6th) by Dmitri Mehlhorn—an attorney, investor, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Investing in US—on “How to steal an election: Four ways Trump can still win, 89 days out.”

See likewise the report in TNR (August 3rd) by journalists Matthew Phelan and Jesse Hicks, “Inside the Project Veritas plan to steal the election.” The lede: “James O’Keefe’s group is part of a sprawling campaign to delegitimize mail-in balloting in the fall—a campaign being led by the White House.”

5th UPDATE: Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles—who teach political science at the University of Montana and Johns Hopkins, respectively—respond in TNR (August 7th) to Samuel Moyn’s above-mentioned review essay: “Don’t blame Never Trumpers for the left’s defeat.” The lede: “Anti-Trump conservatives didn’t bring down Bernie Sanders. There are other forces pulling the Democratic Party to the center.”

6th UPDATE: William Saletan’s story in Slate (August 9th), “The Trump pandemic: A blow-by-blow account of how the president killed thousands of Americans,” is being praised across the board on social media.

And this by science writer Ed Yong, in the September issue of The Atlantic: “How the pandemic defeated America: A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.”

7th UPDATE: With 85 days to go (August 10th), Richard North Patterson, writing in The Bulwark, cogently evaluates “The ravings of Mad King Trump: On the pandemic, the economy, health care, and his 2020 opponent, he is utterly detached from reality.”

8th UPDATE: If one hasn’t already, do read the lengthy article in the May 11th New Yorker by Evan Osnos, “How Greenwich Republicans learned to love Trump: To understand the President’s path to the 2020 election, look at what he has provided the country’s executive class.” This is one of the most important reports on the Trump electorate to date: of a significant portion of it, of well-to-do, heretofore moderate Republicans who have lurched right.

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