Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Filling the Hot Seat

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death last night was announced as many were beginning the long chain of feasts and fasts called the Jewish High Holidays. It made for a bittersweet experience, normally reserved for Passover.  At dinner, there was a couple about to marry, a hostess who has been indomitable through all the difficulties life has flung at her, and a senior couple who have weathered the storms of distance and intimacy over the long span of their lives, yet remain standing.

The grim news started popping on unsilenced iPhones. Several people experienced the stomach-tightening dread  of 2016.  The dinner proceeded under that pall, as thick in its way as the skies of the West Coast, now shrouded by the ash and smoke of uncontrollable wild fires. The celebrants shared memories and plans, and repeatedly circled back to the loss of RBG, at times only in silent reflection.

The dark cloud now enveloping our nation’s skies may yet give way to sunlight. Sadness gave way to anger and defiance. Moscow Mitch McConnell laced his statement of condolence with the assurance that he will force a vote for the still-warm seat of the deceased jurist, to be filled with an ass of Donald Trump’s choosing. McConnell is too besotted with his power to resist a chance to turn the High Court into an extended MAGA rally.

There is a good chance, though, that enough GOP senators (four is the minimum necessary) will fend off a vote that would carry a nomination.  The potential failure probably won’t deter Trump from trying to bludgeon his way to a clear conservative majority on the Court. On the other hand, McConnell may have a tougher choice to make, and he has shown the ability to take controversial steps if they are politically opportune. It’s unclear so far if his opportunism and Trump’s run on parallel tracks.

Trump thinks only about Trump and McConnell about McConnell, but their agendas may not overlap. Trump has nothing to lose by going full bore, but McConnell has some risk for himself and his Senate majority.  Several Senate races – in Arizona, Colorado, his own Kentucky seat, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. – are up for grabs.  Both parties have reason to believe that the battle over the Supreme Court will energize their voters.  It’s not clear if any of the vulnerable Senate incumbents fear that  by deferring to McConnell, they will hurt their individual chances in November.  For that matter, it’s clear that some voters don’t understand what’s going on.  For example, on learning of Ginsburg’s death one  Gen Z college graduate was overhead saying, “She was like a congressman, right?”

As the hours rolled on, the defiance began waxing and the sadness waning. A 6-3 right-wing majority in the Supreme Court will guarantee national regression on the federal protection on women’s reproductive rights. It would lock in a safe haven for unlimited, anonymous campaign investment, The restoration of the voting rights protections lifted by the Court in 2006 would be a nonstarter.

There is no time for grieving. Hand-wringing or defiance – the Democrats have to choose if they will fight as viciously as their Republican opponents.  A lackluster fight will cause a knee on the Democratic body politic to buckle.

The Democrats are a shaky coalition of progressives,, moderates and overlapping racial, sexual and regional interests, whose simmering conflicts have been subdued momentarily in favor of a united effort to win the White House — with the understanding that their intramural brawl will resume promptly afterward.

© Revolted Colonies 2020

“Russia, are your listening?”

Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah!

If the Constitution had established an office of National Cheerleader, Donald Trump would have been given pom poms. Instead, he was given the power of the chief executive,  about which he is clueless.  Trump only knows how to be a booster —  to sell. Well – lie and sell. He doesn’t know how to plan, manage, oversee, or guide. What’s more, he lacks the wisdom or vision to set a course for subsequent generations. Worse still, he doesn’t give a damn.

He’s transactional, nothing more. Every piece of official business he has proposed has been tied to his personal interests: hotel revenues, campaign contributions, help from foreign governments. He is nothing other than a fast-talking salesman.  He promises first, then he brutalizes his production team to deliver on the crazy promise. When the team can’t deliver, he feigns ignorance and blames them. But he’s the President, not a salesman, and he is responsible for all of it. Beyond any doubt,  he has failed the American people, including the minority that elected him.

Today’s news carried two stories depicting his failures. In taped interviews conducted by Bob Woodward concerning his handling of Covid-19, Trump states that he knew as early as January how deadly the virus was and being airborne, how easily it is spread. During the critical month of February, he dithered.  He should have been calling for masks and other personal protection equipment, telling all that the gear helps to contain the airborne virus. Instead,  Trump spent February taking a star turn.  He played golf and crowed about beating back the House impeachment. Finally, he took revenge against those who testified against him. When infrequently he spoke of the virus in February, he was vague. He insisted that the country was “in great shape.” Later that month, Trump falsely assured Americans that things were under control — the virus soon would disappear.

By March, Trump began backtracking.  He convened a group of CEOs, an infomercial for investors.  He puffed and built up each of the companies, explained why they were there and how they would save us all from the suddenly horrific plague.   At the same time, he has ignored expert advisers. He previously had gutted the CDC, dismantling the pandemic response team established under Obama’s administration. He has attempted to cow the FDA.  At the Ides of March, he pledged that the country would “reopen” by Easter, only two weeks away.  All the while he blamed China, the World Health Organization, Obama, and even millennials.

Trump told Woodward in early March that he intentionally downplayed the seriousness of the virus and withheld critical information from Americans. He wanted to avoid a panic, he said, oblivious about the people relying on him, who went without masks and refused to maintain social distance. And the poor soul from Kansas who drank disinfectant on Trump’s recommendation.

He was counting no doubt on the Blue coastal states to absorb the brunt of the damage.  He encouraged his followers to rebel against the mask-wearing Democratic elite. He browbeat some of the Republican governors to reopen prematurely, causing widespread harm in several states, some of them swing states that hold the key to the upcoming election.

Today’s other noteworthy story revealed that the Department of Homeland Security received orders from the White House to understate its intelligence reports of Russian election interference and overstate the presence of ANTIFA and “anarchists” at Black Lives Matter protests.  DHS altered its statements to fit Trump’s campaign and ginned-up law and order crisis.  This may also explain why intelligence officials were barred from giving any more oral reports to Congress last week.

In “Disloyal,” Michael Cohen’s forthcoming book,  the former fixer writes that Trump never wanted to be president. He saw it as a “branding opportunity.”  This explains Trump’s ashen appearance following his post-election Oval Office meeting with Barack Obama.  Obama told him about the most critical situations he would face. He also told him not to hire Michael Flynn; advice which, if followed, would have spared him two years of grief.   It appeared that Trump first realized at that meeting what he had gotten himself into.  In a couple of months, he would become the nation’s first-string quarterback. Unfortunately, he only wanted to be a cheerleader.

There’s one more story.  Benjamin  Ginsberg, a top GOP election lawyer, published an opinion piece in today’s Washington Post.  Perhaps Ginsberg was moved to speak out by Trump’s direction to his North Carolina supporters to vote twice – once by mail and once in person.  Ginsberg wrote:

The president, who has been arguing that our elections are “rigged” and “fraudulent,” last week instructed voters to act in a way that would fulfill that prophecy. On Wednesday in North Carolina, he urged supporters to double vote, casting ballots at the polls even if they have already mailed in absentee ballots. A tweet claiming he meant only for people to check that their ballots had been received and counted sounded fine — until Trump renewed his original push on Thursday evening in Pennsylvania and again Friday at a telerally.

The president’s actions — urging his followers to commit an illegal act and seeking to undermine confidence in the credibility of election results — are doubly wrong….

Ginsberg then addressed Trump’s strategy of claiming the election to be rigged or the results unreliable.

The president has said that “the only way we can lose … is if cheating goes on.” He has asserted that mail-in voting is “very dangerous” and that “there is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.”

The lack of evidence renders these claims unsustainable. The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

The instruments of federal power have been slow to line up against Trump. They now are assembling as a powerful array: retired generals, past presidents, cabinet officers, judges — even a former GOP lawyer —  to say that Trump’s election-rigging argument is bunk. All but his acolytes and the feckless Republican members of the House and Senate, who have quaked in terror for the last four years.

 

© Revolted Colonies 2020

Russia, are you listening?

 

Louis the Liquidator

Just who is this businessman cum Republican Party hack now running (or ruining) the United States Postal Service?  Louis DeJoy is the retired CEO of New Breed Logistics. New Breed was sold to XPO Logistics, which now does business with the Postal Service. A lot of business: $57 million alone in 2017.  DeJoy remains a multi-million dollar stockholder of XPO. The USPS ethics panel didn’t seem to have a problem with his obvious conflict.

New Breed describes itself as follows:

New Breed Logistics transforms the way organizations do business by building intelligent supply chains and providing comprehensive solutions. New Breed manages millions of square feet of ISO-quality warehouse space across more than 70 distribution centers and employs more than 7,000 people worldwide. Services range from distribution center operations and transportation management to highly sophisticated, technology-enabled solutions for product assembly, reverse logistics and repair, lean manufacturing support, materials management, procurement, and aftermarket services.

It is said that DeJoy has no USPS experience, but that’s baloney.  For more than 25 years, New Breed was a contractor to the Postal Service, “supplying the organization with logistics support.” XPO succeeded New Breed in going postal.  In other words, DeJoy knows where the mail carriers are and how to bury them.

Besides, DeJoy being a Fox-in-the-Henhouse Postmaster is only part of the problem. Shortly after his appointment, DeJoy asked for $25 billion to modernize the Postal Service. What New Breed,  XPO, and now, the Postal Service call modernization mean robotics and layoffs.  DeJoy is a 21st-century version of Larry the Liquidator, the fictional corporate takeover king in “Other People’s Money,” who bought traditional companies,  then gutted them of employees and in many cases dismantled them.

Never mind that the USPS is a major employer whose workers are part of the steadily diminished working class. The Postal Service is mandated by the Constitution. This has not stopped fiscal conservatives from gaggling over the cost of operations and making previous attempts to break it. During Bush II’s Compassionate Conservativism, Congress passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act, requiring the Postal Service to fund 75 years of retirement benefits in a ten-year period.  The PAEA is one of the reasons that the Postal Service is always in the red.  The Postal Service is supposedly non-profit – a service – but then it is judged as if it were a business and excoriated for “losing money.”  One has to wonder how many businesses would be pushed into collapse if the same funding rules applied to them.

Enter Louis the Liquidator to downsize the post office, make it look “profitable,” and then push the government to privatize it; sell it to some appropriate company – XPO Logistics – at a bargain price. DeJoy’s removal of mail sorting machines and mailboxes meshes with Trump’s plan to make voting by mail more difficult and unreliable. Due to public outcry, DeJoy was forced to stop the dismantling until Election Day.  Now, that’s a neatly delivered package.

Trump isn’t doing this just to save the government money.  He is trying to kill postal services ahead of the 2020 election  The USPS became one of his bargaining chips in the Covid-19 relief funding battle.  He said that he will extend USPS funding (although it’s not certain that a Senate majority would) if the Democrats take some of their other relief demands off the table. Put another way, the Democrats can have mail-in voting but only on the backs of the unemployed and underemployed being deprived of needed relief during the pandemic. Put yet another way, we can choose to vote or to eat, but maybe we can’t choose to do both.

 

 

Don’t Just Mail It In

We can count on future ex-president Trump to make things up, but we can also count on him to dream things up.  Rule of thumb – what already has happened mostly is untrue, what has not yet happened – you never know. If you don’t want another four years of this administration, make up your mind to vote in-person.

Vote by Mail has been a Republican institution and for this very, unusual year, a Democratic rallying cry.   To all of those advocating a no-excuse vote by mail rule, be careful what you wish for.  Trump is predicting that vote by mail will be a disaster.  I believe he intends to make it one. The more votes that are thrown out, the better his chance to win.  His voters will go to the polls, even if they have to be delivered in hearses.

The pandemic continues to erupt in new places. Coastal states got battered on the front end. Now the Midwest, South, and Southwest can’t breathe.  It might be a health risk to stand in a line – socially distanced, I hope. Eventually, you will get to the front of the line. You will cast your ballot, and you will be heroic for doing so.

On the other hand, if you rely on the mail, it could take up to 2 weeks to get your ballot and two weeks to have it returned by the Post Office, currently under the control of a Trump appointee, whose mission will be to slow down the vote.  No ballots, no votes.  It’s like no tests, no infection, but a delayed test result still counts.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to dream up the ways for Trump to trash the election, just to wind up in court, now packed with his appointees. His numbers are sinking, and his prospects are dismal.  Why not roll the dice?

Democrats can encourage vote-by-mail for the old and disabled, but the dominant message should be, “Drag Your Sorry Ass to the Polls!”  Think about Wisconsin. The voters showed up, waited, and voted, and their candidate was elected.  Then think about New York, where the voting was delayed to June 23, and voting by mail was fully available.  The results are still being counted. Over a month later.

Imagine the Trump campaign filing a lawsuit in every battleground state. It isn’t hard to do. The litigation will be ongoing until the 2022 midterms. Even if Joe Biden is seated, the losing force will proclaim the election illegitimate. There will be no unity or healing, just a continuation of the rancor and divide of the last twenty-eight years.

I wouldn’t give my life for the “economy,” like the Texas Lt. Gov. pledged to do.  But I would stand in line to save democracy. It will take that and more to derail a corrupted, manipulated election process run by and for someone who feels he has to win whatever the cost.

Voters have to put on their masks and face shields,  and get to the polls, perhaps with a folding chair and a copy of the Mueller Report.  If this is your sole outing between now and November 3rd, it will be worth it.

 

The Brown Shirts are Leaving Portland

Trump’s troops will be removing their tear gas, batons, stun grenades, and themselves from Oregon. Their next stop is anybody’s guess.  It probably not Chicago,  Albuquerque, or any of Trump’s Indigo Blue election targets.

Oregon authorities have pledged to safeguard the federal courthouse, whose security was cited by A.G.  Bill “Dis” Barr as the reason Trump federales were sent to Portland. Contra Trump, who announced that he was sending troops because Black Lives Matter had gone too far and to “quell anarchy.”

In the future, protesters would be wise to pick non-federal venues for demonstrations. After all, racism is not exclusively a federal horror. Thoughtful protesters can find more apt state and municipal targets.  Legend has it that at one time, federal justice was a force against hatred. There is no reason to give an increasingly desperate incumbent the chance to lay waste cities that are proclaiming outrage over governmental malfeasance.

Removing the camouflaged paramilitary from the board deprives Trump of a weapon in his fascist arsenal. State sovereignty survives for now, and for now, it is a good thing. The Oregon governor has pushed back against an authoritarian trying to consolidate power by enfeebling the state government. Voting is a state function. Know what I’m saying?

This pushback may prevent Trump from using a similar pretext to go into swing districts of other cities in November. It may prevent him from seizing control of the election process, which is the ultimate danger. For now, the illegitimacy of the troops — anonymous troops — has been beaten back by an outraged citizenry.

The true identity of the troops in Portland remains a mystery. Administration officials, including Barr,  have said that they are compliance officers with ICE, DHS, and the Bureau of Prisons. Why would they not wear uniforms and badges then? After all,  they are supposedly acting as Special US Marshals.

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Systems

New York has always been two cities: those who have enough, those who do not.  It is densely populated, so at the onset of the Covid19 pandemic in the U.S., New York became the epicenter;  in effect, the nation’s petri dish.

At New York’s peak, the lab data roughed out a picture of disparity.  Manhattan did not sustain the number of infections and fatalities being registered in Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.  Manhattan is dominated by private hospitals, and the outer boroughs, particularly for indigent patients, are served by public hospitals.

Public and private hospitals are distinguished in part by the ratio of staff to patient.  Public hospitals are government-funded. The government cannot afford the staff size of private hospitals, funded by philanthropy, and capital  markets and other for-profit practices.

The New York Times recently published the results of its reporting on the pandemic in New York during March and April.  The report described the situation in a public hospital such as Elmhurst, one of those hit hardest .  There were more Covid19 patients than could be handled adequately by staffing.   A nursing ratio in a private hospital might by 4 patients to a nurse. In the public hospital, the ratio could be as high as 9 to 1.  Doctors, nurses and aides were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of patients.  It turned out that ventilators were not the answer. As understanding of the disease increased, patient monitoring and care became  crucial factors in treatment and life-saving measures.

The Big Apple has come a long way in its battle of Covid19.  For the moment, the infection rate in New York has dropped. The 11th of July was  the first day since March that no Covid-related deaths were reported in New York. At the same time, the virus is raging in the south and southwest, with infection rates and deaths topping records almost every day.  When the data is compiled, a similar story like will unfold.

A person’s chances of survival depend on the type of medical care received. Even under universal care, there is no expectation that care will be equal.  Power and wealth equate with better care, whatever the economic system.  Covid19 has cast a light on how precise are those differences  in care and how those differences can mean life or death.

No matter how much some of us may argue for equality of care, the better marker is adequacy of care. As a nation, we are building toward a consensus about universal care but it is meaningless without establishing a baseline. Overcrowded and understaffed hospitals may mean no care at all. New York has demonstrated exemplary public service in managing the rate of infection.  At the same time, the state and city have  failed a stress test on managing  shortfalls of public healthcare.

If the national government can break the gridlock on the healthcare debate, the establishment of meaningful benchmarks  must be part of the discussion. If we decide to accept public systems that cannot meet those benchmarks, then we must incorporate rational, temporary backup systems to carry us through, rather than down, in a crisis.

A New Birth of Fiefdom

A new batch of psychological profiles of Donald Trump, future ex-president of the United States, has been circulating. They cover familiar territory: amoral, narcissistic, misogynistic, a sociopath and pathological liar. It’s very likely that these are all correct, but it will not get him removed from office, as we have seen. They offer some new ones, such as the lack of an interior narrative.

It doesn’t matter why he is a miserable son of a bitch. The most obvious problems are all that anyone needs to know. He thinks he has absolute power, and he exercises it to intimidate and injure those who challenge or criticize him. He fawns over those who flatter him. He worships money and power, and the fact that one can give him the other. It doesn’t matter where this fits in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or if it appears there at all.

He’s destroying America, and he keeps finding new ways to do it. We are in the middle of the worst scourge in human memory, more than one hundred years from the Spanish Influenza of 1918. He is the chief executive of the nation, and yet he has favored some states and punished others because their governors, not their citizens, have sued him or criticized him.

California, New York, and Washington have been particularly aggressive in trying to fight unfair or illegal policies, as they have a right to do. He slow-walked meeting the needs of these places in the pandemic, much as he neglected Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria leveled it in 2017.

As Michigan is beginning to experience surging cases, Governor Gretchen Witmer has called on the federal government to step up to meet national needs. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said in an interview.

In his defense of withholding aid to Michiganders, he blamed Whitmer for not being “appreciative” of his efforts. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’ ” Trump said. “You know what I say. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump does not consider himself  a public servant. He views himself as a monarch, treating criticism as a personal insult, which he equates with treason. In response to pleas from governors for personal protection equipment and ventilators, he has told the states to get them themselves, at the same time telling vendors not to sell to them. His conduct is inhumane. He passed vengeful a couple of exits back.

New York has reported a little under 40,000 cases. Andrew Cuomo, its governor, called for 30,000 ventilators. To date, it has gotten 4,000. Trump said on Fox this past Friday, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

Cuomo, who has won praise for stalwart leadership during this crisis, responded, “I hope no one needs a ventilator. But — I don’t operate on what I hope or what I would like to see or what my expectation is. I operate on the data and on the numbers and on the science. And every projection I have, from multiple sources, and these are worldwide health experts, say that we have to be prepared for an apex of 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators.”

If it’s Trump’s belief against Cuomo’s data, the choice would be clear. Actually, Trump is giving Cuomo the back of the hand.  Whether he is exacting personal revenge or flaunting his power, it is an indifference to human suffering. He may believe that New Yorkers will turn on Cuomo and blame the Democratic party for Trump’s high-handed treatment. We don’t, and we won’t.

His truculence extends to critics in red states as well. Red Louisiana is crashing. According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus is widespread in Purple Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and in Red North Carolina and Utah. Red Texas is undetermined because it refuses to test. Three Republican governors, Baker of Massachusetts, DeWine of Ohio, and Hogan of Maryland, took action in conflict with White House policy against shutdowns. Voters won’t forget.

Until now, Trump’s followers have ignored his unprofessional behavior. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said that he was willing to die to save the economy, a thought explained and apparently seconded by former journalist Britt Hume. Patrick and other true believers may soon have an awakening when the daily dispatch of death notices hits closer to home.

Joe Biden’s Midterm Exam

Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders on a sub-super Tuesday, winning Michigan and three other primaries out of the six held. The day after, in a scheduled statement to the media, Sanders offered his candid view of the contest. Many expected a concession speech or campaign defiance. Instead, Sanders announced that this Sunday’s debate ahead of the Arizona primary actually would be a midterm exam on Biden’s progressive credentials. Biden’s grade will have an impact on whether Bernie’s brigade will follow him.

Sanders’ body language and subdued tone suggest that he is ready to retreat as a candidate but not as an advocate. Sanders conceded he has lost the electability argument but insists, with justification, that Democratic voters favor the many points of the progressive agenda. He announced his plan to confront Biden at the debate with questions about what a President Biden would do about climate change, renewable energy, universal healthcare, income inequality, and an incarceration policy rife with profiteering and systematic racism. Sanders will be testing Biden on his willingness to carry Sanders’ causes into the general election.

By comparison, in 2016, Sanders fought hard to get his policy positions on the DNC platform. He and Clinton never had a rapprochement. For that reason and several others, many Sanders voters stayed home, a critical constituency failing Clinton against Trump. The Democrats’ 2016 political blunders helped throw the election to Trump.

Sanders’ ploy is not for himself. Sanders won’t serve in a Biden cabinet unless America establishes an embassy in Havana, and he’s unlikely to be a Biden confidante. If Biden performs well enough, Sanders will have a much easier time moving his supporters to get out the vote in 2020 instead of sitting out another one. Sanders all but said that he would defer to the more electable Biden if Biden embraces some of the ideas Sanders has addressed:
• Income inequality
• Universal healthcare
• Access to education
• A boost for the working class
• Support for the impoverished and homeless

Bernie is serving up meatballs. He wants Biden to pass; he gave him all the questions in advance. Biden is taking an open-book exam on a pass/fail basis.  All he has to do is sign his name and fill in the blanks.  Biden doesn’t need an Elizabeth Warren-type plan to pass the test. He needs a few bullet points on each issue. Taking a cue from Obama and the Oval Office’s current squatter, Biden can suggest a few measures a president can undertake by executive order on Day One and vouch for undoing a lot of what Trump has done without overpromising or relying on an uncertain  Congress. He can offer administrative changes to manufacturing policy, healthcare regulation, and job training/retraining, without being drawn into legislative quicksand.

The only way Biden can fail this test is by not cramming. He can figure out a few anodyne responses, write them on his shirt cuff, and deliver them on cue.  Sanders can claim a triumph for the movement, and Biden will declare himself presumptive nominee. This will free the Democratic machinery to grind on to the general election.

Where’s My Andrew Yang?

Nearly 12 years ago, the housing bubble burst, taking the economy down with it. Bear Stearns was out, and the Bear Market was in. Lehman Brothers shattered, and Treasury Secretary Henry Poulson told Americans that our spacious skies were falling.

The presidential election campaign was in its autumnal swing, and the nominees were scheduled to hold their first debate.   John McCain, the self-qualified mathphobe, suspended his campaign. Barack Obama followed suit, and both Senators returned to Washington.

What they did when they got there sealed the election. Obama sat in on meetings with various groups trying to manage the Economic Meltdown.  He listened and took notes. The optics suggested that he knew what was needed. His campaign released statements saying that he had been in contact with the top economic policymakers throughout the spring and summer. McCain, on the other hand, ghosted. He turned up a day or two later, saying he was ready to resume his campaign. It was over, and he had to know it.

If there was any doubt before the seismic campaign occurrence, none remained. Obama appeared to be fit to lead in the financial debacle. More to the point, McCain seemed utterly lost.  It was this appearance of performance that swung the election, even more than McCain’s unfathomable choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Gosh, it seems so long ago and such simpler times. Obama and his administration were ready on Day One to present a stimulus package and to negotiate deals to prop up the faltering auto industry. Congress didn’t give him everything he wanted, but it gave him enough to plug the drain and stop the national death spiral.  The auto manufacturers survived, more or less, living to fail another day.

The global economy is in free fall again. World markets have crashed. Businesses, schools, cities, even countries are shutting down because of Covid-19, the spreading and dangerous coronavirus.   The Trump White House was not ready on Day One, when intelligence became aware of the catastrophe taking shape in Wuhan, China.  It wasn’t ready a month ago when public knowledge of this plague surfaced. Trump is still not prepared on Day 120, having fired and defunded America’s top scientific experts and diverted funds to his sandbox along the southern border.

The only thing Trump has offered so far on the economy is a decrease in payroll taxes.  He’s offering to put a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.  People are going to need payroll relief, not payroll tax relief. There’s no payroll tax if there’s no payroll.

Trump’s in Florida, cheating on the golf course and holding a fundraiser. He’s anti-science and anti-learning. The only thing he can think to do is to cut a business tax. Trump is Calvin Coolidge without the 30th president’s laconic charm.

But Trump is not the main point here.  Where are the Democrats? The two remaining viable candidates are in Michigan campaigning for today’s crucial primary. Biden and Sanders have announced that they are “heeding the advice of public officials.” In essence, handwashing instead of handshaking.

That’s it? Is nobody going to Washington?  Is nobody sitting down with top medical and economic experts, setting up meetings with teams from other countries? In essence, these two old white guys are sparring with each other. They should step out of campaign mode and go into governance mode.

Sanders especially. He is now trailing Biden and needs a game-changer to persuade voters to trust him with the government, particularly on economic policy.  Sanders could show everybody what democratic socialism looks like in crisis mode. He is not even talking about the disproportionate impact a crash will have on his followers, many of whom already are in financial jeopardy.

Nobody will care about the label of democratic socialist if Sanders actually can step into crisis and show that he can take control of a government in disarray. At least he should suggest the possibility that he can.  More than Biden and even more than Trump, Sanders is making a tactical error by failing to address the Virus Crisis.

If either one of these two hopefuls approached this crisis the way Obama did in 2008, he would take a decisive step toward the nomination and, at the same time,  get a leg up in the general election.

We didn’t know in 2008 if Barack Obama understood what he was hearing or could do anything about it. What we did know was that he was trying to wrap his arms around the worst economic downturn in the United States since 1929, and to learn what he needed to know to respond to it.

If the Democrats want to retake control of the government, they have to start looking like they know how to do it. Biden and Sanders should have teams of advisers holding meetings, and more importantly, they should let the public know that they’re doing it. The house is on fire, so too should be the House.  Senate Democrats should be in high gear. If nothing else, someone should enlist Andrew Yang.

We don’t know if Bernie Sanders would get any of his progressive agenda through Congress, and we don’t know if Joe Biden can handle the daily rigors of the presidency.  We need to know that they and their teams are on top of the Crash of 2020.

Front and Center

When was the last time Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel agreed on anything? On Sunday,  they each told George Stephanopoulos that the Democratic Party establishment is in panic mode over Bernie Sanders‘ ascendance to front-runner status for the 2020 nomination. For those of us who were around in 2016, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Christie gleefully explained how all of his Republican colleagues, including  Vladimir Putin, are licking their chops at the chance to run Trump against Sanders. Almost all: Trump feels hurt that BFF Putin has taken such a shine to the Vermont independent. Also, we have received scattered reports that, on learning of the Nevada returns, the corners of Mitch McConnell‘s mouth briefly turned upward.

Democrats worry about Sanders’ ability to bring the mainstream of the party along with him.   What does it profit a man to gain the White House but lose Congress? The 2018 House majority was built on mostly middle-of-the-road candidates, like Mikie Sherrill and Abigail Spanberger, who are not particularly comfortable with the Sanders paradigm shift. The Senate, needing to pick up four seats, may have to do it without the benefit of the candidates’ coattails, a tough act. There is a growing contingent in the progressive wing as well.

While the establishment knives are out to stop Sanders, no other aspirant has shown the ability to galvanize a broad swath of voters or, more critically, to get out the vote,  and none of them is ready to step aside for a single moderate to square off against him.   The Sanders victory in Nevada, followed by a rousing reception in Texas, is striking for the breadth of support. In Nevada, the Latinx community backed him. He also polled better with African-Americans than expected. He hasn’t found resonance with the OK Boomer crowd yet, but younger Americans must like his plans for their future.

Since the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010, the realignment of the major political parties has seemed inevitable. It looked like the Republicans were being ripped apart with its Freedom Caucus.  That all changed with Trump taking over the national party. The brutal divide between Sanders and Clinton in 2016 foreshadowed a divided Democratic Party, and to some extent, that is what we see.

What makes the non-Democrat Sanders campaign so interesting is that he doesn’t dwell on party labels. After his triumph in Nevada was announced, Sanders made a point of saying that he would not be derailed by the establishment of either party. Similar to the way he came to power in Burlington,  Vermont, Sanders has been going over, under and around party organizations to reach voters on a gut level.

More than anything, the withering of the Party has been Sanders’ central organizing principle of political success since his beginnings as the mayor of Burlington. For decades, we’ve asked why voters, especially working-class voters, align themselves with the Republican Party, which did almost nothing to promote their economic interests. Sanders confronts the question without attaching a party label to it. Assuming that Sanders continues to lead, the party elders will face the same choice imposed on Republicans in 2016: Follow or get out of the way.

Sanders is pulling from the disaffected left and Trump from the disaffected right. A head-to-head contest between two extremes. That is unless some spoiler decides to jump in and make it a three-way race.

 

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