Hey, Joe! These Are Our Demands

HISTORY on Twitter:

            Progressives and other leftists promise/threaten to pressure/take to the streets to make demands of Joe Biden if/when he falls short of our expectations. We on the left don’t want to be one of those bad bosses who tell you your work isn’t good enough but never say what they expect from you in the first place, so you’re reduced to fumbling around in the dark.

            Because there isn’t a political party or other formation that can credibly speak for a broad base of the American left, and because the left is divided between work-from-inside AOC-Bernie types and street-level activists, no one has defined a clear metric to judge the Biden Administration’s personnel, policy and legislative actions. As we saw under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, vague demands foment the unaccountability that allows Democrats to wiggle away and take us for granted.

            We need a clear set of demands.

          I think our demands should look something like the following, and that if and when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris let us down, we should point out their sins of omission and commission, and protest immediately in the streets, on issues which have a rapidly-ticking clock attached to them; eventually, as the voting cycle dictates, the protests must continue in voting booths.

            Planet Comes First. No other issue matters if the earth and the people on it are dead or the climate crisis has prompted the collapse of human civilization. In any classic trade-off between short-term economic growth and longer-term environmental prosperity, reducing carbon emissions to net zero as close to overnight as possible (2030 is too long) and taking every possible step to reduce air, water and other kinds of pollution must become any responsible political leader’s top priority. Biden’s campaign literature called the Green New Deal a mere “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Screw that watered-down pablum. AOC’s Green New Deal should be expanded and broadened, with a radically shortened timeline, and signed into law on January 20, 2021.

            Immediate Relief for COVID’s Economic Victims. No one should suffer economic ruin due to government-ordered lockdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone evicted for nonpayment of rent or whose home was foreclosed upon after March 15, 2020 should be given housing of equal or at higher quality government expense, zero rent, for at least one year. All back rent currently outstanding should be forgiven. All overdue mortgage payments should be forgiven. Banks and landlords should be made whole by applying to a new federal program funded by reductions in the defense budget. Not only should the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefits that expired on June 30 be renewed, checks for that amount dating back to July 1 should be issued at once. Furthermore, any American who is currently underemployed or unemployed should qualify for those $600-per-week payments regardless of whether they previously used up their time-limited benefits. Going forward, there should be no time limit on collecting unemployment benefits.

            Fully Socialized Medicine. We tried for-profit medicine. It failed even before COVID. It’s time to join the modern world. Hospitals, labs, research centers and clinics should be nationalized into a fully socialized national healthcare system. Doctors and other healthcare workers should become federal employees. Health insurance companies, no longer needed, can shut down.

            Fully Socialized Higher Education. The college and university model no longer works. It doesn’t make sense to require young men and women to take on staggering student loan debt that entry-level salaries will never allow them to repay, much less settle down and buy a house. Private colleges and universities should be nationalized by the federal government, which also has the benefit of being a fair punishment for charging full tuition for virtual online education during COVID-19. State and local colleges and community colleges should be folded into a fully federalized system of higher education that is as free as primary and secondary public schools. After all, employers’ insistence on hypercredentialization has turned the bachelor of arts degree into the new high school diploma. Both should be cost-free.

            Restart the Police. It is painfully obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that American policing is an engine of oppression rather than protection. That means it needs to be reinvented from the ground up. Reform isn’t enough. Taking away military hardware and training recruits with a guardian rather than a warrior mentality are starts, but systematic racism and the fact that the police view us as threats rather than as employers require starting from scratch. Every policeman — local, state, federal, postal, transit, whatever — should be fired. They should not be allowed to reapply for their old jobs. The police should become like abortions: legal, safe and rare. We need fewer cops. Most should be unarmed. None should be in the business of issuing fines. No one should be rewarded simply because they arrest more people. We shouldn’t be recruiting cops out of the military. Cops should be peace officers, not an occupation force.

            Empty the Prisons. Many inmates represent no threat whatsoever to society. Prison causes deep-seated psychological problems for the prisoners themselves, their friends and families, and society in general. Close down jails and prisons.

            End the Wars. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and international law are clear: the only legitimate casus belli is in self-defense, either to an armed attack or the clear and imminent danger of such an attack, such as an army massing along another nation’s border. Any involvement in armed conflict that does not qualify as one of these must be discontinued. Drone assassinations are immoral and illegal, as are proxy wars like the U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen and wars of choice, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Throughout the campaign, centrist Democrats told progressives that they should vote for Joe Biden and then push him to the left after he won. They even said that they would march in the streets alongside leftists. Well, Biden won because progressives voted for him. Now it’s time for the centrists to make good on their promises. Pushing for these and other progressive goals would be a good start.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Why Democrats Lost and Will Keep Losing Elections

Ohio

            Why, Democrats have been asking, do so many poor white people vote for a Republican Party that doesn’t care about or do anything for them? The most common reply is: Democrats are snobby coastal elites who talk down to them. Classic example, courtesy of Obama: “They [voters in the Rust Belt] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

            Democrats know their arrogance pisses off the working-class whites they need to win national elections. Yet they persist.

Every day sees some op-ed Ivy-educated columnist opining that voting for Trump means you’re a Klansman and another DNC-fed talking head pontificating about the masklessness at the president’s rallies with the bloated tone of a Roman tribune announcing stunning news that no one had ever heard before.

            Now the Democrats are at it again, setting the stage for yet another surprise loss. Because, yes, they just lost again. When you expect a “blue wave,” when you’re running against a president who lost hundreds of thousands of citizens and tens of millions of jobs the year of the election, when you expected to pick up tons of seats in the House and take back the Senate, and none of that happens and you just barely win the presidency in a squeaker, you basically got your ass kicked.

            Humility is in order. But it’s not on the menu.

            “You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth … you ushered in a new day for America,” Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris told attendees at her victory party. And the 73 million Americans who voted for Trump? By inference they must have voted for hopelessness and division, indecency, superstition and, yes, lies.

            Biden had a similar message in his last pre-election closer. “This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the last four years behind us,” Biden said. “To choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction. I believe it’s time to unite the country, to come together as a nation.” Biden won. But 73 million people voted for those “dark, angry politics of the last four years.” Those voters thought Trump offered them more hope than Biden. They didn’t want to unify under the Democrats.

            We all have to live together in one country until there’s a second Civil War. We don’t have to think the same or look the same. But in order to function as a society we do have to understand one another. Liberals do not get Republicans or understand where they’re coming from. They don’t even care. Until that attitude changes, Democrats will keep losing elections they ought to have won and will find it impossible to achieve tolerance from half the populace, much less consensus.

            I’m a leftist. But I called the 2016 election for Trump early that year, not because I’m smart but because I’m from Dayton, Ohio. I watched my hometown devolve from an industrial powerhouse into a Rust Belt hellscape that eventually became Ground Zero for hopelessness and urban decay in the national opioid epidemic. International competition was inevitable. But deindustrialization powered by job-killing free trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO was federal policy dreamed up by Republicans and enacted into legislation by Democrats like Bill Clinton—and that’s how American politicians killed places like Dayton in the industrial Midwest and across the country.

            My blood boiled when Democrats admitted that NAFTA would kill American jobs but, hey, new jobs in Mexico would open new markets for American goods. Such an idiotic argument. After the factories closed in America, who would sell stuff to Mexico? China. But my rage paled next to those of men and women who lost six-figure salaries and wound up working as Walmart greeters—all because Democrats like Clinton were funded by contributions from corporations that wanted to sell to American consumers without hiring American workers in order to fatten their profits.

            Years passed. More factories shut down. The long-term unemployed went on disability. Those who could find jobs worked for tiny fractions of their previous pay. Tax revenues shrunk. Infrastructure crumbled. Cities entered their death spirals.

            No one cared except the people who lived there.

            Deindustrialization never became a political issue. Republicans and Democrats agreed that free trade was a good thing. The New York-based press ignored the rot and the misery in the country’s heartland. Only two politicians on the national scene acknowledged it: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. After the Democrats kneecapped Sanders, that left Trump as the only candidate who understood that the part of America that let working people send their kids to college had been pretty great but no longer was. He didn’t offer a credible reindustrialization policy. As president, he didn’t do much beyond provoke a trade war with China to address the issue. But he acknowledged the Rust Belt and for the people who lived there so long, ignored and dismissed and derided, that was enough.

            Democrats still don’t get it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Trump Tees Up a New Type of Coup: In Plain Sight

            Donald Trump revolutionized political campaigning. It was by accident. Because he was too lazy to prepare for or memorize a stump speech, he ad-libbed his rallies; TV networks gave him $2 billion worth of free airtime because something he said might prove newsworthy. Because he was cheap, he made appearances at any random dump that would have him for free; he used the money he saved on big data research that paid off handsomely.

            Now the president is attempting to revolutionize the art of the coup d’état.

            Leaders of broad-based movements who want to overthrow an existing government usually agitate for revolution in plain sight. The activism of a popular front attracts new recruits.

            A coup is the opposite of a revolution. Unlike revolutionaries, who need the masses to succeed, coup plotters require secrecy. A coup is usually carried out by a very small group of insiders. Coup schemers are not interested in, or have concluded that they cannot obtain popular support. They do not seek to transform society. They simply want power. It is an attempt by a minnow to swallow a whale.

Without the protection of millions of adherents and operating outside constitutional norms, politicians and/or military men who plot a coup must take over the government by surprise. Leaders of the outgoing regime have to be in prison or dead, and thus powerless, before their supporters realize that their nation has been seized by a small faction. A coup d’état is over before it begins in the event that some element of the conspiracy comes to light before the zero hour. The classic example of a failed coup is Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Nazi government of Germany by a group of military officers. The plot unraveled when Hitler survived a bomb attack and went on the radio.

Successful coups include the 2004 overthrow of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, whom the CIA kidnapped and spirited away to the Central African Republic, whose president Ange-Félix Patassé had himself been deposed in a coup a year earlier, the Taliban-supported takeover of Pakistan by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, and the bizarre 1993 self-coup by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who illegally shelled and dissolved parliament.

All of these events seemingly came out of nowhere. By contrast, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup attempt in plain sight.

Defying tradition, Trump is still refusing to concede the election since the Associated Press and other media organizations called the race in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, November 7th. Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has filed several lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.

Most top Republicans are supporting Trump, or remaining silent and refusing to congratulate Biden. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the U.S. Senate. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” said McConnell. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

Asked whether he planned to congratulate Biden, Ron Johnson (R-WI) replied: “Nothing to congratulate him about.” Even as world leaders called to acknowledge Biden’s win, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Roger Stone, the political adviser and loyalist pardoned by Trump, previewed the possibility of a post-election military takeover in September. If Trump lost, Stone said at the time, he ought to declare “martial law,” invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, nationalize state police forces and round up critics and political opponents including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “the Clintons,” and journalists because they’re involved in “seditious activities.” On November 2nd Stone said former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey and other ex-officials who offended Trump “must be tried and convicted of treason” and then “they must be hung by the neck until dead.” Stone is still tight with Trump: news just broke that the president had the IRS wipe away Stone’s bill for back taxes, which totaled $1.5 million.

Attorney General William Barr, following Stone’s recommendation, ordered the Department of Justice to investigate irregularities and improprieties in the election.

In order to enforce martial law Trump would need, and has, widespread support among the police. He would also need the military. Though inherently reactionary, active-duty troops have moved away from the president in recent months. So he is replacing top Pentagon brass with compliant loyalists likelier to follow his illegal and unconstitutional orders.

On November 9th Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who refused to deploy troops against Black Lives Matters protesters in June. “In my experience, there would only be a few reasons to fire a Secretary of Defense with 72 days left in an administration,” Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and an official in Obama’s Pentagon, said. “[One] would be because the President wants to take actions that he believes his Secretary of Defense would refuse to take, which would be alarming.”

 “Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election,” reported The New York Times.

In a major, unprecedented transition-period shakeup, policy chief James Anderson, intelligence boss Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart have also been fired from the Pentagon. Anderson’s replacement is retired Army General Anthony Tata, a nutty far-right white nationalist who called Obama a “terrorist leader,” said Islam was the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” and used a racist slur against CNN host Don Lemon. He will do whatever Trump wants.

What’s going on? Stupid impetuous drama? Or a real coup?

If it turns out to be a coup, it may well prove that teeing it up in plain sight improves its chances of success. Trump’s supporters, disproportionately prone to violence and more heavily armed, are watching and waiting. They can only pitch in as paramilitaries or freelance goons if, like the rest of us, they see the dark days ahead.

Then Trump’s coup becomes a counterrevolution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Both Parties Lost the Election. Now the Real Trouble Begins.

Five myths about lame-duck presidents - The Washington Post

            My liberal friends are relieved. I am terrified.

            Democratic voters got what they wanted last Saturday: the electoral defeat of Donald Trump.

By this time next year if not sooner, Joe Biden’s win will look like a Pyrrhic victory.

            Rather than pushing an affirmative platform of policy proposals, Biden’s entire campaign boiled down to opposition to Trump. This is the first time that a purely negative campaign has unseated an incumbent president.

            I was skeptical of Biden’s decision to target disaffected anti-Trump Republican swing voters rather than shore up the progressive base, but it worked. That’s why he won personally, yet didn’t have coattails in the House (where Dems lost seats), Senate or state races. Many Republican voters, tired of Trump’s tweets and disgusted by his COVID buffoonery, voted straight red except for crossing party lines for President-elect Biden.

            Going forward, there are several reasons to be scared.

            First: Trump isn’t gone. He isn’t the quiet type. Coupled with his refusal to concede the race, Trump’s silence and that of his MAGA supporters is spooky. As previously discussed in this space, Trump is a desperate man fighting for his freedom. On January 20th he loses executive immunity, becoming exposed to the New York prosecutors who are gunning for him on bank fraud, tax fraud and insurance fraud charges that will probably land him in prison for the rest of his life. He will do anything — wouldn’t you? — to avoid that fate.

            Trump’s Plan A, I believe, is his flurry of lawsuits related to supposed voter fraud and vote-counting irregularities. Trump doesn’t care about winning his cases. He wants to run out the clock by delaying ballot certifications past the December 14th electoral college deadline in enough states in order to trigger the 12th Amendment, which would grant him a second term via a vote in the new House of Representatives. Trump’s legal filings probably won’t prevail. But his odds are better than zero. This is why so few GOP politicians have broken rank — they know the SOB isn’t yet done for.

            Plan B, because there is no other option that leaves him in the White House and thus out of prison, is for Trump to declare some sort of “state of emergency” in response to a real or imagined crisis (Antifa, coronavirus, ISIS, just the election having been “stolen”). Martial law, tanks in the streets, stay in your homes or you will be shot. We’ll figure out the election later…much later…never.

            On-and-off Trump crony Roger Stone recently suggested that Trump invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, declare martial law, arrest Harry Reid, Mark Zuckerberg, the Clintons and journalists. Trump himself threatened to use it to crush the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer.

His armed redneck MAGA brigades may be deputized as the coup’s paramilitaries “to protect law and order.” He could pull it off; liberals are wimps and Trump has widespread support among local police forces and sizable support among the white nationalists and other reactionaries within the military. On the other hand, a presidential attack on democracy could unite the left and the mainstream right.

            There might not be a coup. Trump might slink off into the night or fly into Saudi exile. Point is, I won’t breathe easily until he’s gone on January 20th.

[Edit Added 11/10/20:]

Adding to the growing sense that a coup attempt may be in the works were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, and the fact that no Republican not previously identified anti-Trump has come out to urge Trump to accept defeat and concede the election to Biden. “President Trump is 100-percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said. Only one GOP senator, moderate Susan Collins of Maine, congratulated Biden on his win. While acknowledging that Biden won, Fox News continues to use weasel language like “if and when Biden takes the oath of office.”

Two other developments give cause for concern.

First, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Why would an outgoing administration fire a cabinet officer two months before the end of its term? Because it intends to remain in office. Esper was notable for refusing Trump’s order to deploy the military against BLM protesters in June. Trump will require a compliant defense secretary to stage a coup that cannot succeed without troops in the streets; he appears to have found such a figure in Esper’s acting replacement.  Second, Attorney General William Barr ordered the Department of Justice to investigate voter fraud in the recent election, providing a fig leaf for Trump’s allegations that he was cheated.

[/end of edit]

            If that happens, Joe Biden’s problems begin. And ours become immeasurably worse.

            Republicans will probably retain control of the Senate. Anyone remotely familiar with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows that it will be impossible to pass big-ticket Democratic legislation. The $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, public option for Obamacare, partial student loan forgiveness and anything that approaches a Green New Deal are all dead on arrival.

Biden hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet. But he is already the lamest of all lame ducks. Progressives will protest and attack Biden from the left, arguing that his centrist campaign failed to generate the Blue Wave necessary to get big things done. (They will be right.) Centrists, seeing that Biden’s presidency is doomed, that Bidenism never meant anything and will never accomplish more than to simply exist, will resign themselves to apathy.

The country will be in big trouble. It will have been over half a year since the last infusion of economic stimulus. Unemployment will be soaring, the long-term unemployed will face evictions and foreclosures, the sagging housing market will begin to collapse and securities markets, which have managed to teeter along through COVID, will start to feel the pain. And the coronavirus will be ravaging us through its second or third wave of death and disability, no vaccine yet available, in an insane for-profit healthcare system.

Biden and the Democrats will be in the worst possible position. The pandemic will be raging and the economy will be in depression. Democrats will be blamed for the mess left behind by Trump but they won’t be able to do anything to try to fix it. They’ll complain about McConnell but voters won’t listen.

Ordinary citizens will suffer the most. We need a huge stimulus package but we’re not going to get one. Gridlock will prevent the U.S. government from doing anything to save the planet, the economy or us.

Or itself.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Previewing a Biden Presidency: Dementia, Impotence, Collapse

If he had a fast-ball, it's gone': Critics ask if Joe Biden is sharp enough to win the presidency

            At this writing two days after the election, Joe Biden appears to be six electoral votes away from winning the presidency.

The Trump campaign has requested a recount in Wisconsin. Republicans are suing in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada to demand the right to observe vote counts and challenge absentee and COVID-related mail-in ballots.

Recounts rarely change the outcome of an election, and never do so when the margin is significant, which it is in Wisconsin. The filing is a doomed Hail Mary pass—a delaying tactic at best. Trump’s fading hopes remain, as I have written previously, with the obscure 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution. If legal challenges prevent another state from certifying its results to the electoral college by the December 14th deadline, the incoming House of Representatives votes by state delegation for the new president. Most states are Republican so Trump would win.

With Biden a single state away from legitimately declaring victory, however, the one to focus on appears to be Nevada. Of the states still in light-blue or light-red play, it’s the only one leaning toward Biden, by 0.6%. If Trump can reverse that trend, possibly by disqualifying Democratic votes, he may remain in the White House. But Trump’s legal challenges in Nevada, though technically still alive, face long odds.

So the wind is at Biden’s back, even if it feels more like a mild breeze. Which makes it a good time to consider what a Biden presidency could/will look like.

Few presidents in American history have entered the White House as politically impotent as Joe Biden. No Democrat since and including Andrew Jackson has ever been elected without Democratic control of both houses of Congress, as Biden will face GOP control of the Senate. (The most recent Republican to face congressional opposition on day one was Ronald Reagan in 1981.)

Biden’s inverse coattails made history: Democrats lost five seats in the House. They had expected to pick up 15.

After months of smugly predicting a blue wave landslide, Democrats can’t possibly argue that they enjoy a national mandate for significant change. This margin is too tight and too similar to the electoral college map four years ago. They are already arguing that Biden won more votes than any other candidate in history. But Republicans were energized too. Trump won the second highest. Could the Democratic Party’s endlessly fruitless search for anti-Republican Republican swing voters finally be finished?

Biden’s advisers have to be obsessing over the words of former House speaker John Boehner in 2010: “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.” “It” was President Obama’s agenda. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell added at the time: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell is even more of an obstructionist today. And now he’s the majority leader.

Even if Joe Biden were predisposed to a bold agenda, which progressives have a good reason to doubt, McConnell will block the crap out of it. Unlike Obama, who had a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, Biden will have a valid excuse to accomplish nothing. If I were him, I’d sleep in every day.

And that’s assuming that he is able to function in the first place. All the Democratic denials in the world can’t hide the possible president-elect’s worsening dementia. At a recent campaign event Biden introduced his granddaughter as if she were his dead son: “This is my son, Beau Biden, who a lot of you helped elect to the senate in Delaware.” Wrong gender, wrong generation, wrong sentience. He tried to correct himself. “This is my granddaughter, Natalie.”

Actually, Natalie is a different granddaughter. His son Beau died five years ago. Beau never even ran for the Senate. This is dementia, not “stuttering.” It’s sad. It’s also scary. As commander-in-chief, Biden can single-handedly launch a nuclear attack.

Biden’s defenders point to evidence that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s, but there was zero evidence of the disease when he took office in 1981. Woodrow Wilson suffered cognitive decline after a stroke, but that was toward the end of his second term. Biden will be the first president to begin his first term with clear signs of dementia.

An old joke goes: I want to die like my grandfather, in my sleep. Not screaming like the passengers in his car. Joe Biden is about to drive the country off a cliff and he may not even know it.

Impotence, dementia and gridlock. This is exactly the opposite of the strong leadership we require during a medical and economic crisis of staggering proportions. The best way to avoid collapse is for Biden to step down and hand the reins to Kamala Harris.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Next: a Recount Battle from Hell, Then the 12th Amendment?

As I predicted, the 2020 presidential election was much closer than the Biden landslide  anticipated by corporate media. Not only did former vice president Joe Biden underperform due to an enthusiasm gap the MSM pretended did not exist, he does not appear to have had any meaningful down-ballot coattails.

What happens next? Exactly what I predicted would happen.

As of this writing two key battleground states in the upper Midwest — Wisconsin and Michigan — plus Pennsylvania are still counting mail-in ballots.

With 95% of the vote in, Biden leads in Wisconsin by a razor-thin 49.6% to 48.9%.

With 94% of the vote in, Biden leads in Michigan by another thin margin, 49.4% to 49.1%.

Pennsylvania only has 64% of the vote in. Trump leads 54.8% of 44.7%.

I believe the uncounted mail ballots from the Detroit and Philadelphia metro areas will push Michigan and Pennsylvania into the Biden column—Michigan with a comfortable margin, Pennsylvania just barely. Under normal circumstances, any two of these three states would tip Biden over 270 electoral votes and hand him the White House.

These are not normal times.

As Greg Palast has written, mail-in ballots are subject to a 22% rejection rate on technicalities. In a close race where 50% of ballots were cast by mail, that will make an enormous difference. Republican attorneys are now going to swarm metro Detroit, Philadelphia, and courthouses in Harrisburg and Lansing to get as many of those votes as possible thrown out. In addition to getting votes thrown out, they are going to drag their feet in order to try to avoid allowing the states, as well as others, from certifying their electoral votes by the December 14 deadline.

GOP lawyers won’t get any help from the three states’ Democratic governors in terms of foot-dragging. That goes triple for Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer must still be sore under the collar for that plot to kidnap her, which was tacitly approved of by President Donald Trump. You can’t make this stuff up!

American courthouses are giant mechanisms of delay. Motions for continuances, requests for additional hearings, recount of recounts you name it, the Republicans are going to throw everything they can add to this challenge.

You saw last night that Donald Trump semi-declared victory. This is just the beginning of a long month or two in a major crisis of electoral democracy. The odds of the 12th Amendment scenario remain high. In that scenario, the House of Representatives will select the president. Since there wasn’t a blue wave, the incoming House of Representatives will have more than 26 Republican delegations, which means Donald Trump would win.

Election 2020 Minus 3 Days: This Race Is Much Closer Than It Looks

It may or may not be the most important election of our lifetime but the November 3rd  contest between incumbent president Donald J. Trump and former vice president Joseph R. Biden is surely one of the most hotly contested and greatly anticipated.

As I have said many times before, electoral politics is politics without politics and real change will only manifest from direct action by we the people in the streets.

That said, I’m pretty good at predicting these outcomes and it’s a fun parlor game to handicap the horse race. So here’s how things look on the Saturday before the election.

As you know, if you read me regularly, I believe there is a strong chance that legal challenges and recount battles all over the country will trigger a 12th Amendment scenario after December 14th, which will lead to the presidency being decided by the House of Representatives after January 3rd. But the way things are shaking out, despite polls that show Joe Biden about to win by a landslide, I’m guessing this will be a much closer race than mainstream pollsters expect – assuming all the votes are counted, which at this point seems doubtful.

The race is tightening. Just a few weeks ago, Joe Biden was leading the national average of polls by between 14 and 16 percentage points. Now it’s less than 8%.

The number that I’m looking at the most is the national Rasmussen poll. They were the only ones who got 2016 right or close to it, and they have Biden ahead by 3%. At this point in the race in 2016, they called it a dead heat between Clinton and Trump. The day before the election, Rasmussen had Clinton ahead by 2%. That turned out to be pretty much right.

Mail-ins will winnow away at Biden’s lead. If all things were equal, that is to say COVID-19 had never happened and voters were still casting votes the old-fashioned way, mostly in person, I would call the selection for Joe Biden right here and right now. Instead, at least 80 million votes will be cast by mail, compared to 6.9 million in 2016.

Let’s do some back of the envelope arithmetic.

According to my colleague and friend, national voter suppression expert and investigative reporter Greg Palast, 22% of mail-in ballots are never counted. There are a variety of reasons for this, including voter error and institutional corruption, but you can look elsewhere for the whys and wherefores. The point is, when you vote by mail, you’re not really voting. You’re really buying a raffle ticket that is like a chance at a vote.

Experts believe that roughly 40% of this year’s presidential ballots will be cast via mail by people who don’t want to brave long lines or risk contracting the coronavirus in person. Because Republicans aren’t as scared, those votes will be skewed by 2 to 1 in favor of Democrats.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in early real life voting. CNBC reports:

Democrats still lead Republicans in mail voting for states that report party data, but GOP voters have surpassed Democrats in ballots cast in person. Of the more than 26 million returned mail ballots tracked by the U.S. Elections Project, registered Democrats have sent in 51.3%, compared with 25.5% from Republicans. Of over 7.4 million in-person votes with party affiliation reported, Republicans lead with 41.7% over Democrats’ 36.9%.

Let’s assume those trends continue through election day. 60% of the vote will be cast in person, and Trump will carry those votes by a 41.7-to-36.9 margin. Trump gets 53% of votes cast in person. 53% of 60%, or just below 32% of the total vote. Biden gets 28%.

Now let’s look at the mail-ins.

If anything, Greg Palast’s numbers are low because this year’s voting will include inexperienced first-time absentee voters unfamiliar with the requirement to be extremely precise and to insert a privacy envelope inside an envelope, etc. To be conservative (in other words, favor Biden), however, we will take a 22% disposal number at face value and apply it here. We will further assume that votes will be discarded without consideration for whether they are cast by Democrats or Republicans.

Since 40% of the vote are mail-ins, and 22% of them will be tossed, that means 8.8% of the total vote will be gone. Of the remaining 31.2%, 1/3 will go to Trump and 2/3 will go to Biden. So it’s Trump just over 10% and Biden just under 21%.

Add these numbers to the votes cast in person, and that means Trump gets 42% and Biden gets 49%. Adjusted to 100%, Biden wins roughly 54% to 46%. It’s almost impossible to imagine how Trump can turn that into an electoral college victory.

Progressives are still angry.  Between 3 and 4 million Bernie Sanders voters sat on their hands on election day four years ago. This year, I think it will be closer to 1 million. Still, that’s going to be roughly 1% of the vote. So let’s make Biden’s lead really 53% to 47%.

The enthusiasm gap still favors Trump.  Biden is still running an anti-Trump campaign with minimal enthusiasm for his own agenda. Trump’s supporters adore him. The enthusiasm gap doesn’t change approval ratings but it does affect turnout. Millions of absentee ballots haven’t been returned despite being requested; no doubt, some of those voters decided to show up for in person early voting. But not all. And I’m going to guess that people who decided not to bother are mostly Democrats. I think that’s going to cost the Democrats about one percentage point. So really, we are looking at a 52% to 48% popular vote lead in favor of Joe Biden.

Which is basically where we were four years ago. Trump will certainly lose the popular vote. Whether he wins the presidency a second time will depend on whether he is able to cobble together another electoral college victory in key swing states, or run out the clock into a 12th Amendment scenario.

 

Election 2020: What Happens Next?

How the 2000 Election Results Came Down to a Supreme Court Decision - HISTORY

            Predictions are the third rail of punditry. Everyone hates a Cassandra who gets it right; the poor columnist never hears the end of a wrong call. Like a beautiful luna moth drawn to the flame, however, we can’t help ourselves.

We think we know what will happen next. People constantly demand our prognostications. We crave danger.

With the caveat that you’d probably have to go back to one of the two elections in which Abe Lincoln was a major party candidate to find a contest with more crisis-related variables than this one, here’s my guess for how this year’s presidential and congressional elections will play out.

            When: Don’t expect immediate results. For the first time ever a whopping 40% or more of the vote will come into boards of election by mail—about 13 times more than 2016. Some 42 states have laws (pushed through by Republicans) that prohibit counting to begin until after the polls close. Eight states, including the swing states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, don’t even allow election officials to begin processing—opening envelopes, verifying signatures and removing secrecy sleeves— mail-in ballots before the night of November 3rd. Even if the polls turn out to be correct and it’s a popular vote landslide for Joe Biden, I’ll be shocked if any broadcast network will be able to project a 270-electoral vote winner on Election Night.

            Who: If Biden wins, it won’t be by double digits. As usual at this stage, the presidential race is narrowing. A week ago, Biden was ahead by 14 points. Now it’s 8. If every vote, those cast in person as well as mail-ins, were counted (which is a mega big if, keep reading), Biden would probably win the (theoretically 100% counted) popular vote by a bigger, but not much bigger margin, than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Biden’s sizable lead in the polls will be shrunken by two factors.

First, the enthusiasm gap. Republican voters are wildly enthusiastic about Trump; Biden’s voters just want Trump gone. It is true that, as a CBS pollster notes, “an unenthusiastic vote, of course, counts just the same as an enthusiastic one.” The point is that anti-Trump Democrats are less likely to vote than fervent Trumpists.

Then there’s the progressive factor. Biden and the DNC have bent over backwards to insult, belittle and generally tell leftists they’re not welcome in what Biden calls “his” party. The same centrist tiny-tent approach, coupled with sucking up to imaginary swing voters, prompted between 3 and 4 million Bernie Sanders voters to stay home in 2016. If half as many progressives sit this one out too, Biden’s lead gets nibbled away more.

Unequal Votes: One person, one vote? Not when there are two classes of votes. Because they’re less worried about the coronavirus Republicans will tend to vote in-person. Democrats will disproportionately vote by mail, by a factor of at least 3-to-1.

Mail-in ballots often get thrown out. 1.2% of mail-in ballots got tossed in 2016. But many of those were cast by experienced absentee voters like business travelers. This year, because the vast majority of them will be sent in by voters who have never before been through this arcane process, I think it will be closer to 6% (the rejection rate in Philadelphia’s local election in 2019), meaning that Biden could see up to 2% or 3% of his popular vote total vanish.

The biggest reason mail-in ballots get thrown out is because the signature doesn’t match the one on file. People add or subtract a middle initial or they change the way that they sign their name. In states that require a witness signature, many voters blow off that requirement. People ditch the seemingly redundant security envelope. Poof!

Running Out the Clock: COVID-19 is President Trump’s ace in the hole. The 80 million expected mail-in ballots, three-quarters or more of them Democratic, will be targeted by the GOP’s team of thousands of attorneys all over the country for legal challenges. “Republicans are preparing prewritten legal pleadings that can be hurried to the courthouse the day after the election, as wrangling begins over close results and a crush of mail-in ballots,” Politico reported in late September.

The chaos in America’s COVID-choked court system will make Bush v. Gore look like a cakewalk.

Trump’s legal filings will have two goals: disqualifying Democratic mail-in ballots over technicalities and dragging out the vote count until December 14th. Trump’s lawyers may get help from partisan election officials in Republican states. State officials may take advantage of the fog of uncertainty of a recount war to order their electors to vote Republican whether or not their state’s actual voters agree. The chairman of the Pennsylvania state Republican Party told a magazine he had talked to the Trump campaign about subverting the popular will. (He later walked that back. Still.)

Running out the clock could tip the election to Trump. If the December 14th electoral college deadline for vote certification isn’t met by enough states to add up to 270 for Biden (or Trump), the dreaded 12th Amendment scenario kicks in. The new House of Representatives convenes, one state, one vote, and Trump almost certainly wins.

What are the chances of a prolonged recount battle triggering the 12th? At this point, in my view, slightly better than 50%: far from certain, but likely. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is alarmed and trying to win races that could be crucial in a House vote scenario.

If Trump wins: No president, not even George W. Bush or Rutherford B. Hayes, will ever have enjoyed less legitimacy or acceptance by voters. Democrats will control a bigger majority in the House and will probably retake the Senate, so Trump will be unable to govern beyond executive orders and his role as commander-in-chief. City streets will be roiled by liberal protests and counterprotests by the president’s reactionary supporters. Whether the U.S. recovers or collapses into a full-fledged depression will depend on whether Trump is willing to acquiesce to Democratic demands for a major economic stimulus package. If not, things will burn. And there will be a renewed cry to get rid of the Electoral College.

            If Biden wins: With his party controlling both houses of Congress a victorious Biden will be able to do anything he wants. Voters will expect quick, bold executive action to address the pandemic, fix the economy and reverse Trump’s noxious policy attacks against the environment and illegal immigrants. Americans will give him six months to turn the country around.

            If he doesn’t, things will burn.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

When a Country Reeling from Crisis Turns to an Aging Father Figure

Vichy/ Free France and Lead up

Not long ago, there was a country whose people were suffering a devastating moral, political and economic crisis. Before the crash they were certain of their place in the world; theirs was, even in the opinion of their adversaries, an exceptionally prosperous, powerful and politically vibrant civilization whose culture had disproportionate influence around the planet.

Then everything collapsed. Just like that, seemingly out of nowhere, they were laid low, lost, no hope in sight.

No one was sure why. But there was no shortage of scapegoats. The left blamed the right, the right blamed the left, and everyone wondered whether it was simply a meta case of nothing good lasts forever.

Before the collapse this nation had been a military and economic colossus, a superpower possessing one of the world’s biggest navies and one of its strongest armies. It controlled a vast empire. What had happened was unthinkable. Yet there it was.

This was France in 1940. In just six weeks, Germany—itself defeated and humiliated by France 20 years earlier—had invaded and subjugated this proudest of peoples. How, the French asked themselves, could they have been so unprepared? Why had their much-vaunted democracy, first in the West, failed?

In their time of need this desperate people turned to the leadership of a revered father figure, an elder statesman. His advanced age and halting manner worried some. (He was probably suffering from Alzheimer’s.) The leader “is good for three or four hours a day… but when he is tired, especially in the evening, you can get him to sign what you want without him realizing,” one of his ministers said at the time.

The old man’s politics included unwholesome dalliances with reactionaries. But he had a long record of service to the nation. His patriotism was unquestioned. He claimed not to have sought power; he had stepped up, he reassured the people, to protect and guide them through a terrible time. “I make France,” Marshal Philippe Pétain told the French after ordering the army to surrender, “the gift of my person.”

France should have returned that gift.

Some wondered whether, at age 84, Pétain was too old to understand that he was being used. Playing on his name, critics called him “maréchal péteux”—senile. The Marshal had certainly lost a lot of sharpness since World War I when he led the miraculous victory at the Battle of Verdun—“on les aura!” he had cried to his dispirited troops, deliberately echoing Joan of Arc—that many believed to have turned the tide of what had felt like a doomed war.

It is more likely that the Hero of Verdun, a vain and reactionary man who had always been stubbornly resistant to suggestions he might be on a wrong course, felt vindicated by the catastrophe. In his view, and he was hardly alone, louche liberalism had led France to a sorry fate. It was his fate to salvage the mess and keep the Germans at bay—and his opportunity to create a cult of personality under a pathetic sub-dictatorship.

As the rot of his brain proceeded, Pétain became apathetic and withdrawn, leaving the outright fascists in his puppet administration to collaborate with the Nazis enthusiastically. His government protected no one. It deported tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps, tortured and shot members of the communist-led Resistance and turned over so much cash and food to the Reich that France soon had the highest hunger rate in occupied Europe. Today Pétain’s name is synonymous with weakness and treason.

Unless Trumpian legal challenges to mail-in ballots don’t trigger a 12th Amendment scenario, polls indicate that desperate Americans are about to turn to a father figure with visibly diminished mental capacity to lead them out of a deep crisis whose causes and nature they have not yet internalized.

While it is undeniable that Donald Trump’s initial non-response to the COVID-19 pandemic and his bizarre refusal to embrace basic medical protocols increased the economic costs and killed more patients, the fundamental causes of the crisis were structural: predatory corporate capitalism that long predated his presidency, a for-profit healthcare system without a social safety net, poor diet and obesity, staggering disparity of wealth, previous administrations’ outsourcing the manufacture of vital supplies such as masks, too much power vested in local and state governments.

I do not expect President Joe Biden to sell us out to foreign enemies. He will not fill his cabinet with proto-fascists, as did Pétain. Like Pétain, however, he has neither the vigor nor the vision nor  the political orientation required to get us through the coronavirus crisis or to correct the systemic flaws that made a terrible problem unnecessarily worse. When he was called upon to defend Anita Hill and block the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court but enabled him instead, when he ought to have taken a stand for African-American men systemically condemned to draconian prison terms but joined the racist jail-them-all crowd, when he had doubts about the Obama Administration’s decisions to destroy Libya and Syria and remained silent—whenever he was required to stand tall and speak up—Biden failed the test of leadership. And that was when he was a more lucid, younger man.

Not unlike Pétain, Biden seems unable to work more than a few hours a day.

If Biden wins, only three things can save us from this crisis. If he dies or is incapacitated and President Kamala Harris turns out to listen to better angels she didn’t reveal as DA, we may have a shot at recovery. If Biden’s cabinet turns out to be a remarkable collection of Best and Brightest and he serves as their figurehead, we could muddle through. If the American people rise up and overthrow this corrupt and moribund government and replace it with one that serves our needs, and we somehow manage to avoid the despotism that often follows revolution, we might emerge better than ever.

I am not optimistic.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

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