Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 31 through Friday, November 6, 2020 [Vol.2 No.16]
Election Week 2020
The Week’s Most Notable
Election 2020 – bottom line, so far: Trump is on his way out, repeat, he lost; but between now and the time when it’s official, let’s just say a lot can happen. The Democrats still control the House but unexpectedly lost seats. At the moment no party controls the Senate, but it looks like the Republicans will win in the end. The Republicans maintained control of most state legislatures, meaning that, among other things, reapportionment after the census is still in Republican hands. The most succinct summary: Trump was rejected but a large minority of 70 million Americans appeared to approve of the Trump-GOP agenda and, thanks to the Senate, in the U.S. the minority rules. At the federal level there will be gridlock on major legislation. There will be no spectacular “first 100 days” of the Biden administration, but it might be a good time for rebuilding the machinery of government, especially the dangerously corrupted federal departments and agencies. Caveat: The Senate must approve most major administrative appointments; don’t expect that to be “normal.” What was described above is from the 30,000-foot view of politics. Down on the ground we still have the second worst epidemic in U.S. history, a shaky economy, a simmering cauldron of racial unrest, more extreme weather events prompted by climate change, a restive and violence prone ultra-right-wing, and a damaged democracy badly in need of repair. These are very real issues and pressing emergencies, which will be difficult to manage with the kind of divided government configuration that resulted from the election. It’s hard not to be pessimistic, but it is also fair to say that in the parade of likely crises, present and future, there will also be opportunities. Biden’s going to need lots of help, but there are reasons for optimism. Let’s leave it as generalized as that.
Do not undervalue the importance of defeating Trump. The presidential race was about him. The Trump-Republican Party was about him. Most of the headlines of the last four years have been about him. He is the head of the cult, his base. The unanswered crises in this country were unaddressed by him. Removing him from the center of power, placing him on the sidelines where he can scream and yell without authority, changes many things. Trump will no longer be able to set the narrative, Biden can; this is a big deal. The country is deeply divided, the political dynamics still favor the GOP, the right-wing propaganda machine cranks on (though sounding wheezy). Without the daily recharge of rhetoric and scandal from the president of the United States, his followers may sustain less enthusiasm. Without the narcissist-in-chief, the forces within the Republican Party are centrifugal – pulling it apart. Maybe now other messages can get a word in edgewise with his millions of voters.
Saturday, October 31
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 9,433,209; Deaths – 236,525
[Coronavirus] Fauci Breaks with White House – Saying that the U.S. “could not be positioned more poorly” heading into the fall and winter flu season, he apparently meant that due to the by now semi-official “herd immunity” approach practiced by the administration, there would be no preparation for the out-of-control spread of the virus. In his remarks, Fauci put his finger on an issue that will be central to the 2020 general election: “Trump is more focused on reopening the economy.” Democrats, along with the medical community, understand that controlling the virus has to come first; Republicans, about 70 million of them, don’t believe that. For Fauci’s forthright comments, Trump vowed he would fire him and Steve Bannon suggested somebody cut off his head and put it on a spike in front of the White House.
[Elections – 2020] Biden Bus in Texas Surrounded by Trump Caravan – It was at least headline catching, a display of thoughtless political machismo as a fleet of pro-Trump trucks and cars attempted to push the Biden bus off the road. Trump thought it was great; the FBI’s investigating for criminal activity.
Sunday, November 1
[Elections – 2020] Some Polls Strongly Suggest a Biden Lead and Momentum – Although tightening somewhat in battleground states, all polls show most voters favor Biden beyond the margin of error. Nearly all Democrats and even Republicans feel that the momentum is strongly in Biden’s favor. Other polls, such as Reuters, show much closer races, particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona.
[Coronavirus] Trump’s Coronavirus Guru Does Interview for Russian Television – White House policy advisor Scott Atlas apologized for interviewing with RT, claiming he didn’t know they were registered as an agent of a foreign power.
Monday, November 2
[Coronavirus] Dr. Birx Comes Out Against White House Coronavirus Policy – After months of cautiously shadowing White House policy, top coronavirus advisor Deborah Birx warned that the administration must take “much more aggressive action.” She, like almost all other legitimate public health officials, recognizes that the new wave of COVID-19 is far worse than anything we’ve seen previously. Her stance is likely to cost her the job.
[Elections 2020] Early Voting Exceeds 100 Million –This is a record (more than 45% of all registered voters) due in part to the risk of COVID-19, but it also reflects the intensity of this election. .
[Elections – 2020] Federal Judge Rejects GOP Curbside Voting Challenge – “Drive-through voting” was a feature of Harris County in Texas and more than 127,000 people had used the service. The suit and its judicial rejection are representative of efforts by the GOP to limit access to voting throughout the country.
Tuesday, November 3
[Election – 2020] Trump Claims Victory but Biden Leads – As he predicted, Trump announced victory based on early, mainly same day voting. Most of the Democratic votes were coming in by mail and would not be fully processed until Tuesday night or the following days. Even so, Biden held the lead in the projected electoral college count. Early trends indicate the presidential election will be close – no landslide for Biden – and that overall, in the Senate, House, and local races the GOP was doing better than expected. As of Tuesday night, it appeared that the Democrats’ hugely expensive effort to flip the Senate was not going to work. Such high-profile senators as Graham, Collins, Daines, Cornyn, and Ernst, who were labeled as “threatened,” appear to have won reelection handily.
[Election – 2020] Judge Orders USPS to Find Missing Ballots – Among several federal judicial orders requiring the post office to rectify its efforts to hogtie mail delivery for the election, this one involved 300,000 ballots in Pennsylvania, which appeared to have gone missing while in post office custody. The USPS said it would not comply with the order, because there was no evidence that ballots actually went missing – a fact later verified by CNN. This was a fairly typical non-event concerning ballot handling during this election, which generally seems to have been remarkably efficient.
[Election – 2020] Weed Wins – New Jersey, Arizona, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Montana approved various forms of legalized marijuana. The toke vote advances.
Wednesday, November 4
[Election – 2020] Trump Launches New Campaign with 2 AM Speech – There were many ways to interpret the wild and unprecedented wee-hours of the morning press conference, but reading between the outrageous lies, there seems to be a calculated effort to set up a post-election campaign based on charges of election fraud (stolen election) that Trump can carry into his “retirement.” This approach was of a piece with the multitude of court challenges to various aspects of the election, none of which so far have shown the least legal validity, but make a good cover story saying “we’re doing all that we can to fight for this election.” The questions jump out: Will Trump still lead the Republican Party? Will he focus on starting a new media network? Will he be wearing an orange jumpsuit? Can he move to Moscow?
[Election – 2020] Swing States Swinging to Biden – As mail ballots continue to be counted, vital swing states Wisconsin and Michigan were declared for Biden. Florida went to Trump early on Tuesday, but Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona are still “too close to call.” As is typical in a close election, it will take several days to determine the presidential winner. Most other races have been determined – showing a moderate advantage for the Republicans.
Thursday, November 5
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 751,000 – Although 7,000 claims less than the previous week, the new figure essentially means no change. The number of claims is still historically very high. Overall, the unemployment rate dropped from 7.9% to 6.9% but indications are that a slowdown in services and the rising impact of COVID-19 cases is affecting the economy. The rate of recovery from the catastrophic drop in the spring has brought figures back to about one half of the original loss of 22 million jobs.
[Elections – 2020] Vote Counting Continues in Key Battleground States – As of the end of the day Thursday, Biden was leading in Nevada and Arizona, while closing in on a lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia. All states are counting the last 10% to 15% of votes, which this year is complicated by the large number of mail ballots. Trump continues to assert that he won the election, that there is massive voter fraud, and to file numerous court cases. The media continues to not report on his winning the election; Trump has offered zero evidence of voter fraud; and so far, all of the Trump cases have been rejected by the courts.
Friday, November 6
[Elections – 2020] Biden Takes Lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia – Pennsylvania remains the shortest route for a Biden victory and by all analytical counts he is on track for a lead of around 80,000 votes. His lead in Nevada is growing. Georgia is nearly complete and the lead is so small (about 6,000) that a recount will be legally required. The Biden lead in Arizona has dwindled to around 20,000, but most observers now feel it is relatively secure. North Carolina is still too close to call but leans heavily in Trump’s favor. The final call on just about any two of these states will put Biden into the official position of president elect.
[Elections – 2020] Close Contests in Georgia Mean Runoff for Two Senate Seats – Control of the Senate may come down to the January 5 runoff between Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R), and between incumbent David Purdue (R) and Democratic challenger Jon Ossof. Historically the two Republican candidates would be favored, but this is not the old Georgia – witness the flipping to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 30 years.
[Elections – 2020] Trump Invokes “Stolen Election” Meme to Incite Right Wing Demonstrations – His unfounded claim is so egregious that social media and some networks refuse to cover it. The fact is, all the rhetoric about stolen elections, etc., is an exercise in branding, a meme that Trump can use long after he has left office. The truth of the assertion is largely irrelevant to Trump and his followers.
[Coronavirus] Superspreader: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – Along with five aides, Meadows tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and told others not to disclose his condition. Meanwhile he continued with meetings and conferences.
[Election – 2020] Saturday Morning Update: Biden Wins
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 10,058,586; Deaths – 242,230
While the U.S. was preoccupied with the election, the country entered a COVID-19 crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before; for example, four straight days with more than 100,000 new cases per day, pushing total infections above ten million. Nevertheless, most Republican voters, tens of millions of people, continue to deny the significance of the COVID-19 crisis. They are inclined to put it into the “fake news” category, and on that piece of rationale find excuses to not wear masks, observe distancing, or avoid indoor crowds. Studies are being published that show a strong correlation between this identifiable Trump-GOP behavior and the higher incidence of coronavirus infection. Speculatively, it might’ve been better if COVID-19 had obvious symptoms like the pustules of bubonic plague; then people could not pretend it wasn’t happening. As it is, because such a high percentage of those infected do not show symptoms, and those that do are quickly whisked out of sight to home quarantine or to the hospital, it’s relatively easy to downplay the effect of the pandemic. Unless of course you know somebody, who got sick, really sick, or died. With more than 100,000 people a day getting sick, eventually most people will know somebody who had coronavirus. Meanwhile, hospital systems are about to max out; some medical supplies are becoming short; there is still no announced vaccine or treatment; and the economy is unprepared for up to half a million people a week dropping out of the work force.
Speaking of the economy, apparently for most Republican voters the health of the economy was more important than the health of the people, including themselves. Put another way, the Democrats failed to make this message stick: Controlling the pandemic makes true economic recovery possible. Trump and the right-wing media have been successful in separating the economy from the pandemic and in the process deflecting attention and criticism away from Trump’s handling of the pandemic to the moderate revival of the economy.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
Gone but not forgotten. In terms of tone and substance, removing Trump from the White House will have many effects, not the least of which will be the arduous task of “cleaning up” the detritus (policies and people) Trump left behind. Without the platform of the bully pulpit, it’s hard to say what Trump will be able to do from the sidelines; how much power will he still have? But it’s clear that quite a few Republicans will follow him, at least for a while. If the Democrats are lucky, there may be defections among the Republican senators from time to time, making it possible for some significant legislation to pass.
The 2022 midterm elections will be doozies. It’s not hard to imagine titanic efforts, huge amounts of money, and completely scrambled political coalitions fighting to flip House and Senate seats. The Republicans know that because of changing demographics, this could be the last election in which they have an electoral advantage. The Democrats will be in the midst of an internal struggle to get the progressive agenda in motion.
Trump-bits. Discontinued, thank goodness. (Yes, there are still nearly 3 months to go in his regime and doubtless scads of stupid, scurrilous, and sickening deeds and declarations; but fundamentally, irrelevant.)
Quote of the Week
At the moment, it seems likely that the Senate — which is wildly unrepresentative of the American people — will remain in the hands of an extremist party that will sabotage Biden in every way it can. . . . [And] six of nine [Supreme Court] justices were chosen by a party that has won the popular vote only once in the past eight elections.
Paul Krugman, “Is America Becoming a Failed State?”, The New York Times, 11/06/2020.
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