Keep Your Foot on the Gas

The Daily Escape:

Landscape Arch, Arches NP, Moab UT – 2020 photo by wmartin2014

There are 48 days to go until the election, and nobody who wants Trump retired can relax. The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows Biden leading Trump in four swing states, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Wining them could guarantee a Biden victory.

But, there were scary findings for Biden in the survey: In those four states, a larger share of voters said “addressing law and order” was a more important campaign issue to them than “addressing the coronavirus pandemic”.

Biden is perceived by some to be weak on crime, despite his lifetime legislative record that says just the opposite. But, while he’s been clear about his stance on rioting and looting, he hasn’t said it often enough to penetrate the consciousness of many voters: A majority of poll respondents said Biden “hasn’t done enough to condemn violent rioting.” Even 27% of his supporters agreed with that answer.

We’ve talked about Biden needing to be simultaneously on both offense and defense. He needs to do better with the perception of weakness around protests, looting and violence, and the future of policing. He hasn’t talked about it often enough, and that’s one reason why the campaign hasn’t turned into a rout.

If Biden fails at this messaging, the 2020 election will turn out to be uncomfortably close.

Ed Kilgore wrote about the uncomfortably close election of 1876, just 11 years after the end of the civil war. It was the closest the country has come to war over a presidential election:

“Republican Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Democrat Samuel Tilden by a single electoral vote after a dispute that wasn’t resolved until the eve of Hayes’s inauguration in March of 1877.”

Legal battles broke out in three southern states over both the presidential contest, and about which party controlled the state governments. Both Parties sent competing slates of electors to Washington from all three. More from Kilgore:

“As the time neared in January 1877…tensions rose around the country and in Washington. Democrats were particularly motivated given their candidate’s apparent popular vote margin (ultimately judged to be three percent) and threatened “Tilden or War.”

A compromise was reached days before the end of Grant’s administration, under threat of violence. Republican Hayes pledged to withdraw the remaining Federal troops in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, effectively ending Reconstruction in the south. That allowed southern Democrats to agree to Hayes as president.

Funny how history works: The Dems in 1876 represented the old plantation owner’s class, pro-slavery, and later, the ‘black codes’. The Southern Dems hold on the Democratic Party ended with LBJ passing the voting rights and civil rights acts with Republican help in the 1960’s. Subsequently, Nixon’s Southern strategy made the south a Republican stronghold.

But we’ve also had close elections since then. Paul Campos says:

“Over the past 60 years, six of the fifteen presidential elections in the USA have been extremely close. These elections ended up being basically coin flips — if they had been held a few days earlier or later, or if the weather had been different on Election Day, etc., the result could easily have changed.”

Campos outlines six recent close elections:

Kennedy over Nixon: The first of three presidential elections in the 40 years prior to 2000, in which the winner almost lost the popular vote. Kennedy won by about 100,000 votes out of nearly 69 million cast.

Nixon over Humphrey: This was a three-way contest in which votes for George Wallace were almost enough to throw the presidential election into the House of Representatives. That would have elected Hubert Humphrey, since if Nixon hadn’t won California, he wouldn’t have commanded a majority vote in the Electoral College.

Carter over Ford: Ford made a huge comeback in the weeks immediately before the election, but lost Texas and Mississippi, which were extremely close, with the Electoral College going 297 for Carter and 240 for Ford. Reagan didn’t campaign for Ford, which probably cost the Republicans the presidency.

Bush over Gore. You know how this one came out. Gore said at the time that there was no intermediate step between the Supreme Court and armed rebellion.

Bush over Kerry: Bush won the popular vote by three million, and the Electoral College by 286 to 251. A few tens of thousands of votes in Ohio separated Kerry from winning.

Trump over Clinton: This one wasn’t as close as Campos says.

But, flipping any one of these elections would have had enormous consequences for subsequent US history.

This should keep us all up at night, working hard that to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in 2020. There were lots of optimists in 2016. We need to be more realistic this time around.

We need to register the unregistered, and get out the vote.


Consequences of Fear-Mongering: Bombs Sent To Dems

The Daily Escape:

Autumn in Maine -October 2018 photo by toph4er

The short version of Trump’s mid-term message is: “Be afraid”. Think about their messages: The Caravan. Terrorists crossing the southern border. Socialism. Democrat mobs. Soros.

The Daily Beast says why Republicans think the migrant caravan is a winner:

For Republicans, the sharp turn toward immigration fears, and those related to the caravan in particular, has been viewed a clear political winner, even as some acknowledge that the rhetoric from the president and others – including [that]….George Soros was funding the caravan – has been overblown.

The caravan is politically useful because it resonates with precisely the voters that the GOP needed to turnout in the next two weeks. The Republican worry has been turnout, and illegal immigrants motivate Trump’s base.

Trump supporters have seized on an image of Hondurans burning an American flag with a swastika drawn on it, calling them the “caravan protesters”, and implying that they were members of the caravan. In reality, those Hondurans were protesting in front of the US Embassy in Honduras.

For Democrats, the past few days have to be reminiscent of 2014. James Poniewozik in the NYT reviewed GOP scare tactics in the 2014 midterms:

In the fall of 2014, with the midterms approaching, Fox and other conservative media went in overdrive on the “border crisis” and ISIS — two issues that Republicans were using to suggest that the Obama administration was failing to protect America from teeming hordes.

According to the GOP, terrorist organizations were poised on the Mexican border to sneak into the US. Representative Duncan Hunter, (R-CA), claimed on Fox that 10 ISIS operatives had been apprehended crossing the border. On Oct. 8th 2014, Donald Trump amplified Hunter’s bogus claim, tweeting:

‘At least’ 10 ISIS have been caught crossing the Mexico border…

So, back to the future. We are weeks away from another midterm election, and immigration and terror are back in heavy rotation by the GOP. On Monday’s “Fox & Friends”, co-host Pete Hegseth said:

They caught over 100 ISIS fighters in Guatemala trying to use this caravan.

Hegseth was wrong. He mischaracterized a comment by president Morales of Guatemala about past terrorist apprehensions: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Morales told Guatemala’s Prensa Libre that his country had cooperated with the security forces of neighboring countries to halt the movement of terrorists. The individuals had been “intercepted, detained, processed and returned to their country of origin,” according to Guatemalan security officials. Some of these arrests, including the arrests of several Syrians, occurred in 2016.

Facts don’t support GOP fear-mongering on the border. From the NYT:

Of the more than 300,000 people apprehended at the southern border in the last fiscal year, 61, or 0.02 percent, were from countries the State Department deems the Middle East or Near East. Of those, 14 were citizens of the four Middle Eastern countries — Libya, Iran, Syria and Yemen — included in Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

What’s a political animal to do when you want to win, but you have very few ideas to sell? If you’re Trump, you sell what put you in the White House in 2016: Fear, lies, and apocalyptic visions of what America will become if Democrats win.

Selling fear is pathetic and morally vacant, but it works with casual news consumers. They simply hear “caravan” and “border” and “terrorism” and that creates a sense of looming danger.

Today, another fear-mongering Fox News segment about ‘left-wing mobs’ and ‘incivility’ toward Mitch McConnell was interrupted by breaking news coverage of a string of bombs sent to Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. A bomb treat was issued for the Time Warner building in NYC. An improvised explosive device was found at George Soros’s Westchester, NY home.

Other suspicious packages were sent to Sen. Kamala Harris’s state office, to Eric Holder, and to Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

There are consequences when the president and his party tout lies, embrace conspiracy theories, demonize political opponents, and applaud violence against reporters. They have been doing this since at least 2014.

We don’t know what impact these bomb threats will have on the mid-term election, who will be angered, and therefore more energized to turn out and vote.

We have no idea who is responsible for sending the bombs. Republicans will say it’s an attempt to make them look bad. But, it’s more likely that they were sent by someone who was radicalized by overheated right-wing rhetoric.

Rhetoric that has been pounded home by Trump.

Finally, we have no idea if there are any more bombs are out there. We can only hope that all will be intercepted.


Brexit: Better for the Pant Load or for the Pant Suit?

Around here, Monday means a wake-up tune. We should have Brexit breakup music, but instead of song, we need to watch this video by Mark Blythe, a Scottish political scientist, and a professor of international political economy at Brown University, about the logic behind voting for Brexit:

Blythe makes more sense in 5 minutes about the EU, why Brexit happened, and some implications for the US, than the entire journalistic class has said using millions of words over the past few days. At 4:01, he says, “As I like to say to my hedge fund friends, the Hamptons is not a defensible [military] position.”

Let’s take a quick look at a few conclusions of the Brexit vote:

  • Rust cities and towns largely voted to Leave
  • Wealthy cities favored Remain
  • Rural areas that have not seen much immigration had seen a lot of austerity
  • Older voters wanted to return to the prosperous 1970s-1980s, regardless of whether that is realistic

Demographically, the most striking difference in voting was between young people and older people. A YouGov poll showed:

18-24: 75% voted for Remain
25-49: 56% voted for Remain
50-64: 44% voted for Remain
65+:     39% voted for Remain

So younger voters wanted to keep the option to be citizens of a larger economic unit, where they might find more and better job opportunity, while older voters wanted out of the EU for a variety of fact-based and fear-based reasons. On either side of the Atlantic, it’s a mistake to think that people know all the facts before they decide. From Seth Godin:

There are two common causes of uninformed dissent…The second (quite common in a political situation), is the tribal imperative that people like us do things like this. No need to do the science, or understand the consequences or ask hard questions. Instead, focus on the emotional/cultural elements and think about the facts later.

Our first Brexit lesson is that America has a huge base that is angry, scared, and possibly, more than willing to jump into the abyss. Sober analysts warned Britons that pulling out of the EU would be an economic and security debacle. But, as Matthew d’Ancona of The Guardian observed:

They heard the warnings, listened to experts of every kind tell them that Brexit meant disaster, watched the prime minister as he urged them not to take a terrible risk…And their answer was: Get stuffed.

Our second Brexit lesson is that nativism, anti-immigration fervor, and elite-bashing are potent tools.

There was a definite scent of “Make Britain Great Again” running through the Leave campaign. The Leavers urged Britain to “take control” of its borders. While we point at Mexico, they pointed at Turkey, which they said would flood the UK with immigrants, even though Turkey may never be a member of the EU.

You can call it racism, you can blame it on the “market” or, you can blame it on the economic circumstances created by the political elites steering the ship.

This resonates in the US because foreigners are a source of marginal cheap labor that corporations use to bludgeon our working class. That anger is partly justified. However, it is misdirected, because people only believe what they want to believe, and because it’s easier for working people to blame foreigners than to blame themselves for repeatedly electing an economic elite that just keeps playing them over and over.

Brexit is an important wake-up for the US presidential election. Britain’s uprising against the European Union is the sort of populist victory over establishment politics that could easily happen here. As the NYT said on Sunday:

Mrs. Clinton shares more with the defeated “Remain” campaign than a similar slogan — her “Stronger Together” echoing its [Remain’s] “Stronger In.” Her fundamental argument, much akin to Prime Minister David Cameron’s against British withdrawal from the European Union, is that Americans should value stability and incremental change over the risks entailed in radical change and the possibility of chaos if Donald J. Trump wins the presidency.

Hillary urges potential voters to see the big picture, while promising to manage economic and immigration upheaval, just as Mr. Cameron did. She is also a pragmatist battling against nationalist anger, cautioning that the turmoil after the Brexit vote underscored a need for “calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House.”

But we are not the UK, and today, the ABC/WaPo poll has Hillary is up by 12 points, although we still have miles to go before 2016’s election night.

We will have future columns covering our neo-liberal policies, their impact on the American people, and their implications for 2016, over the coming days and weeks.