Tag Archives: 2020 presidential campaign

If Biden Loses, This Will Be Why

Can Biden Plan for a Pandemic Presidency? - The Atlantic

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 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.)

 

Mad about You

George W. Bush never would have been able to go to war against Iraq if Joe Biden hadn’t gathered the necessary Democratic votes to support him. Biden has never apologized. He simply makes excuses and would probably do the same exact thing again. Should we elect such a man to the presidency?

Now Let’s Find out If Nobody Can Become President

The best thing about America used to be that anyone could become president. And Donald Trump proved that to be true. Now Joe Biden is running. No platform, no public appearances. We are going to find out if no one can be elected president.

When Someone Says Biden Sucks, You Are Supposed to Have a Good Answer

At this point in the campaign, Democratic nominee Joe Biden still hasn’t articulated an affirmative case for why he should be president rather than Donald Trump. Instead, all he says is, I’m not Donald Trump. Is that enough?

This Virtual Campaign Is Even Less Exciting Than the Usual Virtual Campaign

Can Joe Biden win a presidential campaign from his basement on a small screen without anyone watching? We’re about to find out. Of course, it’s not like most people ever get to interact with the candidates anyway. It’s just that television seems more “real” than the Internet.

Highlights of the Biden Presidency

What will a Joe Biden presidency look like? We should probably assume that it will look a lot like his campaign: virtual, online, filed in remotely from his basement.

If Trump Wins, Don’t Blame Progressives. This Is on You, Centrists.

Biden denies he's 'hiding,' defends staying off campaign trail in ...

            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:

Can Bernie Be Stopped?”

Bernie Sanders Can Still Be Stopped.

The Stop Sanders Movement Has Gone Public.”

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.)

3 Things the Government Must Do to Avoid Economic and Social Collapse

Image result for coronavirus closed sign

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.)

A Premature Postmortem of the Bernie Sanders Campaign

Establishment media is ridiculing Bernie Sanders for stating some simple truths: establishment media was out to get him, the DNC was out to get him and young voters who support him haven’t been good about showing up at the polls.

But that doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders didn’t make mistakes. So let’s take a look at those.

No matter what happens between him and Joe Biden, and it isn’t over yet, Sanders deserves credit for some remarkable achievements. In the face of formidable establishmentarian opposition, Jewish, with a speaking manner that is anything but conventional in U.S. politics, relying only on small individual donations and promoting a political agenda many Americans would consider radical, Bernie Sanders currently controls 42% of the Democratic primary vote against a recent sitting vice president. Much of his agenda, including making college affordable, increasing the minimum wage, and improving the healthcare system, has become mainstream Democratic Party policy after many decades during which the party didn’t even pretend to give a damn about normal people. Bernie Sanders is running an issue-based campaign, not one based purely on personality. Even if he loses, historians will mark this election as evidence of the strength of progressive and left-leaning electoral politics.

But he’s not perfect. There are things that he could have/could still do better.

Politics is first and foremost about framing, and Sanders isn’t great at it. “Medicare for All” is meaningless to millions of Americans who have had no contact with Medicare and don’t know anything about it. “Free healthcare” would have been easier to understand and would not have turned off or confused union members who already have decent healthcare plans. “Free college tuition,” on the other hand, tells too little of the story. Sanders’ plan only helps low-income college students but many voters seem to still think that he wanted to use their taxes to help out children of wealthy people. The “Green New Deal” hasn’t been defined or well-publicized beyond the fact that it would be expensive.

Sanders’ plan for student loan forgiveness was also presented in a problematic fashion. Many Americans don’t have college degrees; they wondered, why should we pay for those who do? Many other Americans went to college, took out student loans and then paid them back. Why shouldn’t millennials do the same? There are good answers to those questions: millennial student debt is many factors higher than Generation X and Baby Boomer debt because tuition has skyrocketed at a rate much faster than inflation. Student loan forgiveness would stimulate the economy by freeing up young people to buy cars and homes. People who already paid their loans should have been added as beneficiaries of his plan so that they didn’t feel like suckers due to a simple accident of birthdate. Most importantly, Sanders should not have proposed student loan forgiveness without coupling it to a free college tuition program and/or job retraining program for people who are older and don’t have college degrees or need retraining in order to retool for the 21st century.

Speaking of costs, I found it endlessly frustrating that Bernie Sanders never seemed able to clearly answer the question of how he would pay for his proposals. Generally, he should simply have said: “I’ll take it out of the Pentagon budget.” Maybe this wasn’t true. If it wasn’t true, he should have made it true. Not only is the defense budget bloated, most Americans, including people who favor strong military, know about the $800 toilet seats. I’m not sure why he didn’t bash the military.

He also hasn’t been good about explaining Medicare for All. What he should have said was, everyone is going to pay less for healthcare, so much less, that even though your taxes will go up a bit, you’ll still come out way ahead.  And if you got hit by something catastrophic like cancer, it would all be covered. Instead, he talked about how European countries somehow managed to pay for national healthcare plans. He’s right about that, but Americans have been told that Europeans pay high taxes. He needed to explain in plain language that that would not happen here.

He ignored my advice to own and explain his self-described “democratic socialist” label. He probably assumed that it would be more of a problem in the general election against Donald Trump, but what he underestimated was the Democratic Party’s long history of red bashing as well as the well-established fact that other people will define you if you don’t do it yourself. He should have followed the example of JFK when he gave a speech assuring Americans that he would not take orders from the pope as a Roman Catholic. Sanders should have given a speech entirely about democratic socialism.

Some things, it’s hard to do anything about. A campaign has the candidate that it has with a personality that he or she comes with. Bernie Sanders has an underlying vulnerability and warmth that his tendency to bellow often covered up. The media had a field day portraying him as a guy who likes to yell a lot. This is where something like “The Man from Hope” video that the Bill Clinton for President campaign created would have come in handy. A biographical look at Bernie’s roots in Brooklyn, his childhood struggling in a working-class family and the premature death of his mother due to poor healthcare would have helped to humanize a very human person.

Images of him being manhandled by cops during his participation in the civil rights movement of the early 1960s couldn’t have hurt him with African-American voters who ended up turning out for Joe Biden.

Of course the biggest mistake Sanders made may not have been a mistake at all. He ran inside the Democratic Party. They were never going to let him have the nomination.

He had to know that.
(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.)