Although Joe Biden’s website hat-tips the Green New Deal, he is opposed to it. Instead, he wants to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The problem is, scientists project the end of human civilization by 2050. So it’s a moot point. The environment is pass-fail. Incrementalism is doomed.
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.
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 just killed a bunch of voters and made a bunch of others jobless—the race is tightening. Biden is still ahead by seven points nationally but that’s not significantly better than Hillary Clinton was doing at the same point in time. A worried Bernie Sanders has been advising Biden to nix his vague rightward pivot and articulate stronger stances on bread-and-butter issues.
More than any other single factor, I am focused on the enthusiasm gap. Anyone who counts yard signs and bumperstickers can see that Trump’s supporters are fired up while Biden’s are dutifully going through the motions, motivated primarily by their desire to unseat the incumbent.
Like most elections in recent years, 2020 isn’t about swaying swing voters on the fence. It’s a turnout game. Whoever gets more of their baked-in supporters to the polls wins. Not only are Biden’s supporters not all that into him, more of them are scared of the coronavirus than Trump’s people—and that could make all the difference when they decide whether or not to leave their homes on Election Day.
Then there’s the debates. Biden could exceed expectations. But those expectations are there for a reason. Biden has never been a good debater; he was awful during the primaries. He is well past his expiration date. He is easily rattled (“lying dog-faced pony soldier”) and Trump is a master rattler. Debates could destroy Biden.
Setting aside the almost inevitable constitutional crisis caused by the system’s inability to deliver and process an expected 80 million mail-in ballots, there is a real chance Donald Trump could straight out win.
At this point, there are still several things that Biden could do to maintain and even expand his lead over the president. If I were advising him, I would tell him to do the following:
Nail Down the Base. The progressive Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren during the primaries are not, contrary to statements by the old liberal centrists, “purity ponies” determined to punish the Democratic Party because their preferred candidate didn’t win. They are driven by policy—and so far the Biden campaign has refused to throw them any red meat. Democrats can truly unify the party in November by getting Biden to campaign on at least one major issue dear to progressives, like Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, or swearing off wars of choice. It would be smart to add in some minor promises with symbolic residence, like prosecuting CIA torturers, Closing Gitmo, eliminating drones, refusing to prosecute Julian Assange and allowing Edward Snowden to come home. Progressives don’t need the whole cow. But you do have to throw them a bone, or risk losing them the way Hillary did in 2016.
Weasel Out Of the Debate. If he followed this advice, I would be even more determined not to vote for him. Denying voters the right to watch candidates answer questions about themselves and their stances is profoundly undemocratic. Still, ethics aside, debating can only help Trump. If I were Biden, I’d refuse to prove to the country what every honest person who has been paying attention knows: he is suffering from dementia.
Announce an Agenda for the First 100 Days. Biden likes to compare himself to FDR. Like FDR, he should announce his agenda for his first 100 days in office. That way, should he win, Republicans won’t be able to argue that he didn’t earn a mandate for specific changes. During this time of medical and socioeconomic crisis, Americans crave specific solutions to their problems. While it is true that staying vague frustrates the writers of GOP attack ads, it also feeds the suspicion that Biden, like Obama, is all hat and no cattle when it comes to trying to legislate big changes.
Personnel Is Policy so Appoint Personnel Now. Progressives were let down in a big way by the choice of right-wing prosecutor Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice president. Biden supporters’ most frequently uttered talking point is that he would appoint better qualified cabinet members than Trump has, but keeping losers like Lawrence “Women Can’t Do Math” Summers among his closest advisors and compiling a foreign policy team so full of neoconservatives that only Dick Cheney is missing doesn’t inspire confidence. Writing a blank check doesn’t make sense anymore. Let’s see some of those cabinet appointments now, before we vote.
Campaign in Person. Last but not least and probably most controversially, Biden needs to hit the road like COVID-19 never happened. Elections are job interviews and Donald Trump seems to want the gig. Biden doesn’t. He needs to appear in public, distance socially, no mask, heavy schedule of in-person appearances. Most Americans venture out in public every single day these days and manage not to contract COVID-19. Surely Biden’s handlers can figure out how to do the same for their candidate.
(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.)
The corporate conservatives who control the Democratic Party are suffering from cheaters’ remorse.
The DNC and their media allies (NPR, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Vox, etc.) subverted the will of primary voters, undermining initial frontrunner Bernie Sanders in order to install the worst candidate of the 20 centrists in the campaign.
Now the power brokers are worried that the befuddled Biden, whom they touted as the Most Electable Against Donald Trump, will lose to him. Rather than take responsibility for their idiocy and force Biden to pull out of a race for which he is obviously physically and mentally unprepared, the corporatist sellouts are preemptively blaming the progressives who warned them about this exact scenario.
Sorry, right wingers. Biden is on you. You made him the presumptive nominee. If Trump wins again, it’s your fault.
Just as it was last time.
Establishment panic over Biden is most palpable in the pages of the official party organ of the Democratic Party, the Times. “While [Biden] has held consistent leads in most national and swing-state polls, they have not been altogether comfortable ones,” the paper noted on May 15th.
If Biden is to squeak by Trump in November, he requires a comfortable lead now. “A CNN poll released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading the president by five percentage points nationwide, but trailing by seven points among voters in crucial battleground states…for some Democrats, the results of the CNN poll again raised the specter that Mr. Biden could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both did.”
Historically, in May of a presidential election year Democrats need a lead of at least 10 points over their Republican rival in order to prevail in a general election. Republicans always close the gap during the last six months of a presidential race.
The Times is pushing Biden’s candidacy via two lines of argument. First, lesser-evilism. As columnist Frank Bruni wrote May 17th, he’ll “take Biden’s confusion over Trump’s corruption.” (Of course Biden is corrupt too.) Second, they claim, Biden should be acceptable. He isn’t Hillary Clinton. Due to the coronavirus crisis, Bidenites say, their man is willing to pivot to the left. (Never mind that progressive programs need to be in place before a crisis, not ramping up a year after it begins.)
The second argument is the easiest to shoot down. Biden has a decades-long track record of voting and governing to the right, including voting to invade Iraq for no good reason. Even now, as tens of millions of Americans lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, Biden refuses to join the rest of the industrialized world by endorsing single-payer healthcare. Progressives don’t trust Biden. They trust history. History proves Biden isn’t one of them.
Bruni’s argument involves magical thinking too. “At the end of the day, Biden can be trusted to do what Trump didn’t and won’t: stock his administration with qualified professionals. He could compensate for any supposed cognitive deficit with a surplus of talent,” Bruni says. There is no evidence, none, zero, zip, that this is true. Biden could validate that argument by announcing his cabinet nominations now. But he’s not.
Biden leaves progressive voters cold. That matters because the enthusiasm gap could decide the election. “Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm [in 2016],” reported CNN’s Harry Enten. “His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign. Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”
If anything, the enthusiasm gap might widen as billions of dollars of stimulus payment letters bearing Trump’s signature hit voters’ bank accounts and he wraps himself in the trappings of the presidency while Biden sits in his basement trying to figure out how to use his computer camera. If I were Trump, I’d be planning my second term.
Let’s not forget how we got here.
When Bernie Sanders announced he was running again, Democratic-aligned media outlets said he was too old. “Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern,” the Times said in its absurd editorial joint endorsement of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.
Then, when Bernie emerged as frontrunner for the nomination, corporate media presented him as an existential threat. Head-to-head polls showed he was at least as electable as his rivals, yet “journalistic” organizations stated, without evidence, that a left-wing Democrat couldn’t beat Trump. Headlines proliferated:
CNN even compared Sanders to the coronavirus.
Remember all those “Can Obama Be Stopped?” headlines from the 2008 primaries. Me neither. When it came to Bernie, pseudo-liberal media didn’t pretend to be objective.
The DNC went after him like crazy.
Bernie Sanders won the key Iowa caucus but Democratic vote-counting chicanery cheated him out of the PR for his win. Party insiders believe that Barack Obama personally arranged for Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to endorse Joe Biden the day before Super Tuesday. Speaking of which, Sanders won California, the biggest state—but the vote count mysteriously took days, denying him a big headline and an accurately optimistic delegate count in media coverage.
They’re still at it. At this writing party leaders are trying to prevent an embarrassing protest vote against Joe Biden in New York by fighting in court for the right to delete Bernie Sanders from the state’s mail-in primary ballots.
A Times headline from February 20th proved prescient: “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders.”
They got what they wanted.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Americans don’t expect much from their government. But even by the standards of a nation with one of the flimsiest social safety nets in the Western world, the inability and unwillingness of both major political parties to manage and solve the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is shocking.
President Trump’s lack of leadership is well documented elsewhere so I won’t go into detail here. Democrats aren’t blameless; the DNC-engineered pre-Super Tuesday soft coup against Bernie Sanders replaced a frontrunner whose prescient ideas were tailormade for this crisis with a babbling dolt without an original thought in his foggy brain.
Congress is squabbling over an economic stimulus package as if they had all the time in the world. My favorite part was Mitch McConnell letting the Senate take the weekend off. Hey, Japan, not cool about Pearl Harbor but we’ll get back to you about declaring war in a week or whatever. Meanwhile, experts predict that unemployment could go as high as 30%, significantly worse than the depth of the Great Depression.
But now is not the time to cast blame. The ship is sinking. We can make the captain walk the plank later. Right now we have to fix the problem.
First, we have to save lives.
Trump says he doesn’t want to “nationalize” American companies. Actually, no one’s suggesting that. But they should. This is still a spectacularly wealthy nation with incredible resources and brilliant entrepreneurs. Shortages of face masks, testing kits, ventilators, rubbing alcohol and so on are inexcusable. The federal government must immediately requisition factories, hire workers directly and place manufacturing of needed supplies on an emergency war footing. If a company is already set up to make something we need yet refuses to do so, it should be nationalized and put to work for the American people.
In the fight against COVID-19, the biggest danger to the privileged is the poor health of the underprivileged. You can hunker down in the Hamptons but your newly-purchased freezer full of hoarded steaks won’t protect you from infection as long as others are too vulnerable to protect themselves. Some of the 17 million vacant homes in the United States should be immediately seized to house America’s half a million homeless and other vulnerable populations. The vast majority of prisoners, many of whom are awaiting trial, convicted of minor offenses or convicted of serious crimes but safe to release, should be immediately released from facilities whose conditions create cesspools of contagion.
Healthcare must be free. Hospitals and doctors should send their bills to the government. That debate, along with the canard that we have the best healthcare system in the world, is obviously over.
Second, we have to save the economy.
I’m not normally one to agree with Thomas Friedman, but he’s right when he points out that economic collapse will kill people on a scale on par with COVID-19: “Either we let many of us get the coronavirus, recover and get back to work—while doing our utmost to protect those most vulnerable to being killed by it. Or, we shut down for months to try to save everyone everywhere from this virus—no matter their risk profile — and kill many people by other means, kill our economy and maybe kill our future.”
I don’t think we really need to “let” many of us get the coronavirus. That has already happened.
News coverage that emphasizes test results is an idiotic distraction. Roughly 1/10 of 1% of American citizens have been tested. We know nothing about the COVID-19 status of 99.9% of the population. We don’t call elections based on 0.1% of the poll results and we can’t draw real conclusions from the testing so far.
However, there is reason to believe that many, many people have already had it.
Roughly one out of five people who get the coronavirus will never know it because they are asymptomatic. COVID-19 was first identified in early December in Wuhan, China. Although the median incubation period is 5 days, it can be as long as 11 days. That means we are talking about a pandemic that dates back to late November 2019.
When did it arrive in the United States? Probably in a day or two, the amount of time it took for one asymptomatic and/or incubating carrier—people like this account for about 10% of new infections—to board a plane and fly across the Pacific Ocean. Roughly 10,000 people a day flew from China to the United States at that time.
This is not a new thing—and you should feel good about that.
Let me explain.
The number of new cases in the U.S. has been doubling about every three days. Get a calculator and start multiplying by two: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024. That’s 10 three-day periods, aka the month of December. Keep going. By the end of January you’re at over a million. By February, a billion. The U.S. population is about 330 million. So when New York governor Andrew Cuomo says that 40 to 60% of the population is going to get the coronavirus, he’s being conservative.
The rate of transmission will stop increasing exponentially at some point. Some patients will die. The virus will run out of new Americans to infect. But mostly, we are going to recover and emerge with full or partial immunity to COVID-19. Many, many Americans have already had coronavirus, recovered, and are now fine.
Must they stay at home too? Maybe not. The U.S. government must pull out all the stops to test everyone, not just for current infection, but for past infection. A team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has developed a promising test for acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that lets you know if you’ve ever had it. We don’t know if it’s possible to be reinfected by coronavirus or, if so, whether a second bout would be equally or less severe. But there are promising signs that the human immune response can tackle COVID-19.
If COVID-19 patients can emerge with total or near total immunity to the strain, they can help people who are sick. There’s no risk of them transmitting the infection or of contracting it. They are the key to restarting our economy. We can’t waste a moment finding those people and getting them back to work.
Third, we have to save people’s individual economies.
As we saw after the 2008-09 Great Recession, there’s not much point saving banks or corporations or the stock market without targeting individual American citizens for direct relief. Bernie Sanders has proposed that the United States Treasury pay out $2000 per person per month until the end of the coronavirus crisis. Sounds right.
Republicans want an absurd regressive form of means testing—the poorer are you are, the less you would receive. Saying they don’t want to subsidize millionaires, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi also want means testing but from the other direction.
Both are ridiculous. There’s no time for detailed analysis or a new government bureaucracy to determine who gets what. Checks and wire transfers need to go out yesterday. So what if Bill Gates gets one?
It’s time to act, not to blame. But if there’s no action or if the action is late and/or insufficient, there will be plenty of blame to go around. And there will be no limit to the rage of the survivors who are suffering against politicians who did not do what was needed to be done.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)