Election 2020: What Happens Next?

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

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…
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After The Donald, The Deluge?

           Joe Biden enjoys a double-digit lead over the incumbent president because he promises a return to normalcy—not the platonic ideal of objective normalcy in a country that doesn’t torture or spy on its citizens or let them starve because their coding chops are a few years out of date. Americans desperately want to resume “normal” political life as Americans knew it before the last four years of manic presidential tweetstorms, authoritarian strongman antics and pandemic pandemonium. As Michigan voter Katybeth Davis told The Guardian, “I just want it [the Trump presidency] to be over with. I really do.”             Be careful what you wish for. Things could get even crazier under Biden.             Even though it’s only a few weeks away, I am hesitant to call the election. Biden has a huge lead in the polls but Trump has an ace in the hole: an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots due to the COVID pandemic, which will run predominantly…
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President Trump Neither Needs Nor Deserves Our Thoughts and Prayers

            I don’t give a damn if Donald Trump lives or dies. I don’t wish him well. I don’t send him thoughts or prayers. If COVID-19 or green men from Mars or liopleurodon take him to his despicable maker, so be it. Everyone dies. Being famous and or a billionaire and or President of the United States does not entitle you to universal goodwill.             Neither do I wish Trump ill. That’s how little I care.             Republicans, members of the self-proclaimed Party of Personal Responsibility, ought to acknowledge that this man has been asking for this. I’m not talking about karmic retribution for the 200,000+ Americans who died on his watch while he plainly didn’t much care. Trump has been cruising for COVID-19 spring, summer and fall, avoiding masks and social distancing the way he dodges the construction contractors he chisels out of pay. If you drink like a fish, you’re cruising for liver disease. If you like to…
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Joe Biden Will Be a Republican President

Past performance is no guarantee of future returns but there are few more reliable ways to predict what comes next than to examine the historical record because, most of the time, history really does repeat. What kind of president would Joe Biden be? His centrist supporters assure progressives that he will be one of them, pushing an aggressive legislative agenda reminiscent of FDR’s New Deal. His Republican opponents portray him as a socialist. But Biden hasn’t actually promised anything ambitious. The last two Democratic presidencies provide a good indication of what a Biden Administration would look like. Like Biden, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama hail from the centrist party establishment. If personnel is policy, the three men hang out with many of the same advisors, businesspeople and elected officials. They’re not identical: Clinton is a charismatic retail politician, Obama is aloof and professorial, and Biden is an LBJ-style buttonholer minus Johnson’s secret idealism. But they’re ideologically and temperamentally similar to…
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Mail-in Balloting, the 12th Amendment and Impending Doom

            More than 80 million Americans are expected to cast mail-in ballots this fall, representing a 16-fold increase over 2016.             This is probably going to cause a constitutional crisis of epic proportions.             The problem isn’t the possibility of fraud that Donald Trump has been going on about. Cases of possible double voting or voting on behalf of dead people Daley-machine-style are statistically insignificant, amounting to at most 0.0025% of mail-in votes.             The real issue is that the ballots may not be counted on time, triggering the insanity of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.             The date to remember is December 14th, when the delegations of the Electoral College meet in their respective states. That’s a hard deadline. Each delegation can only certify their state’s vote counts if they are 100% complete—machine votes cast in person at polling places on election day, early votes, absentee ballots, write-ins and, this year, COVID-19 mail-in ballots. If the state…
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If Biden Loses, This Will Be Why

It would be a stretch to say that Joe Biden is in trouble. He is ahead in the polls, including in states where Donald Trump won last time. Unlike Trump, who is nearly broke, Biden’s campaign is raking in corporate donations. Of course, Democrats couldn’t have asked for a weaker incumbent. Nearly 200,000 Americans dead of COVID-19 after the president downplayed the threat and failed to provide relief, tens of millions of people newly unemployed months away from the election, polls showing that a record number of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, supplemental unemployment benefits expired with no sign that they will ever be renewed. Almost any other candidate would be poised to trounce Trump by double-digit landslide of historical proportions. Not Biden. The two crazy old white men with bad hair are in a dead heat in key battleground states like Florida. As one would expect during a normal year—when the president had not…
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High Crimes against Journalism and Decency: Jeffrey Goldberg’s Insane “Trump Called Troops Suckers” Piece Is a New Low

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for The Atlantic that could harm Donald Trump’s chance to win re-election. Setting aside the controversial content of the remarks attributed to the president, it is important to note that this is an atrocious example of journalism. You could almost call it “fake news.” And corporate media is taking it at face value. You may think Trump is a turd—I do. You may want him to lose the election—I do. (I also want Biden to lose, but that’s another column.) You may believe that Trump probably said what Goldberg reports—I think there’s a good chance. But everyone who cares about journalism ought to be deeply disturbed by the nonexistent sourcing for this story and its widespread acceptance by media organizations that ought to know better. It’s easy to see why Democratic-leaning media corporations jumped all over Goldberg’s piece: it hurts the president and it reinforces militarism. But they’re degrading journalistic standards to manipulate an election.…
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Trump and Biden: Equally Awful

Front and center in the raging debate among liberals and progressives over whether they should support Joe Biden or opt out of the two-party trap by voting third-party or not at all is the assumption that Biden would do less harm both to the world and to American leftism than Trump. Even many hard-core Bernie-or-Busters accept the premise that Biden wouldn’t be as bad as Trump. They believe the additional damage that would result from a second Trump administration is an acceptable price for teaching the DNC a lesson and building a progressive movement. But it’s not true that Biden wins the harm mitigation sweepstakes. For every respect in which Biden would be better than Trump—or less awful—there is a compelling counterfactual that carries equal or greater weight. If Trump wins, for example, we can count on his uniquely toxic combination of anti-science propaganda and organizational ineptitude to unnecessarily prolong and increase the body count of COVID-19. The WHO says…
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The Only Wasted Vote Is a Vote Not for a Third Party

Jesus, Ted. All you ever do, some people tell me, is complain. We get it—you hate both the Republicans and the Democrats. We don’t like them either. But those are the only two parties that have a chance of winning an election. Stop telling us what not to do. Tell us what you think we should do instead. That criticism is fair. If you don’t like something, it stands to reason you think something else is better and you ought to say what it is. In my defense, people will never build a new political system until the old one is dead to them. Che Guevara said that the masses would not risk the violent upheaval of revolution as long as they still believed the old regime capable of addressing their needs and grievances to any significant degree. Although the elimination of the two-party duopoly in U.S. electoral politics does not necessitate violence, the same inertial principle applies: as long…
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