Don’t Bet Against the U.S. House

The United States is not finished deciding if it wants to continue striving to become a more perfect union or to descend into Trump’s self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘American carnage’ he spoke about unironically at his own inauguration.

We heard from US politicians and the media that this was the most important election of our lifetime – to determine whether we repair and advance our civil society or march towards a new menace – increasing authoritarianism with the support of fundamentalist Christians whose prosperity Gospel doesn’t afford the same opportunity to people who don’t look like them.

Then came the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff which was once again the most important decision we could make. And yet Democrats persisted.

In both instances even Moderate and Conservative voters in predominantly Republican states chose their nation’s ideals over partisanship and instead elected Democrats, if only once, to set us back on our aspirational path.

Progressives also got on board and joined a well-organized get out the vote effort that rivals any in US history including a massive surge of overseas votes which made the difference in some races, combined with an especially strong African-American turn out which made the difference in all of them.

As in physics, so it is in politics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In this case a tragic one.

The first Black president, a constitutional law scholar, a skilled but modest orator, filled with decency and a living embodiment of America’s diversity and promise for all people was followed in office by a man who, similar to his own cult-like followers whom he detests, broadcasted proudly his anti-intellectualism, violent speech, and sympathy with White supremacists. 

What followed the fair election of Joe Biden by a popular vote landslide and decisive Electoral College victory, along with a new Democratic Congress controlling the agenda in both chambers, was an insurrection for which Donald Trump has been impeached – an unprecedented second time.

We now know that panic buttons were removed from offices of people of color, that members of Congress gave tours to the traitors who stormed the capitol searching for public servants to kill or capture, and that even after all of this his loyalists remain steadfast in their support.

Although, some have gone silent. They won’t admit their mistake, but they don’t seem quite as eager to speak out. Some do of course, but the more reasonable ones who loved Trump’s brash unscripted communication style and perceived toughness are not even in for the ante.

It’s also apparent that these acts of sedition were planned much more than previously thought. There was a suspicious amount of chatter that didn’t result in elevated security, and through it all Trump was amused by the violent displays of fealty.

He gave lip service to promoting peaceful protests, but I don’t think they got the message. Or, maybe they know by now he has to pretend and rationalize it that way. The Q-anon crowd always finds a way to justify Trump’s actions as part of a larger story arc which they can use to prop up their would-be dictator.

We will be sorting out the facts of this event and discussing the implications for years to come. It will mark a generation in the same way as events like September 11th, the Challenger explosion or fall of the Berlin Wall, the shooting of JFK, or Pearl Harbor.

On January 20th at noon Eastern Time the United States will swear-in Joseph R. Biden as president with the protection of more than 20,000 troops during a global pandemic with no signs of slowing despite the introduction of viable vaccines, which are not nearly enough to provide for the needs of the people.

State capitols are likewise defended by soldiers. This is not the America I know. This isn’t how we do things. But, it’s necessary to ensure the peaceful transition of power which had always been our greatest achievement. Until now.

Biden’s first challenge won’t be the pandemic, economic hardship, the environment, children separated at the border, or the call for racial justice in the face of police brutality. It will be the Senate trial of Donald Trump.

Somehow, Biden will have to solve crisis after crisis once sworn in, but his success at handling all of these oversized issues will be affected by his ability to strike the right balance of righteous indignation at the horror of the Trump administration with all its crimes and corruption, while attempting to bring about unity for an American public (and world) that is exhausted.

If he looks the other way as Obama did when he took office after the illegal wars predicated on lies by the Bush administration, he will seem weak in everyone’s eyes – not just to Progressives, but also Conservatives who are accustomed to seeing Democrats fold at the slightest challenge. That’s one reason they can’t bring themselves to vote Blue despite an economic agenda that would benefit them more.

If he goes all-in on convicting Trump and making it impossible for him to hold office again, he may not find many Republican allies across the aisle, who he sorely needs to pass his agenda in a 50-50 Senate.

The good news for Biden is that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will go down in history for breaking the ultimate glass ceiling by becoming the first woman, Indian-American, and African-American to serve as VP, is that control of the Senate no longer belongs to Mitch McConnell whose obstruction and cynicism are well-documented.

At minimum, Democrats will be able to set the agenda and decide what the game is, even if their odds are just slightly better than even for getting it passed.

There is a wildcard though. What if the Senate, figuratively, treats Trump as the Roman Senate once did Julius Caesar, stabbing him, each getting in a jab or stab? What if his 2024 campaign ends this week at the hands of his would-be GOP primary contenders and Mitch McConnell who by now must recognize that they’ve already got all they could from Trump?

Afterall, he delivered them the Supreme Court and countless other judgeships, massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, rolled back environmental protections, to name a few on their wish list. They may decide to keep the spoils and lose the man.

I wouldn’t count on that though. None of them have the guts to play the role of Brutus.

By all accounts none of them have yet to grow a spine, to show the necessary courage to put aside self-interest and do their duty. Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz, Trump’s most high-profile Senate henchmen, are still out there spewing lies and rallying support for him.

So, Biden will need to try to have it both ways. He has to support the process without betting too much on it. He can’t even kibbitz in the game like a Bond girl. He has to play the role of the fair dealer who quietly hopes the house will win this time.

Re-Published in English with Permission from Zing News Vietnam

A Progressive Endorsement of Biden

By Chris Tharp

With the golden star of Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement, it’s clear that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, and I will be voting for him. While he may not be your first choice, he’s now our only bet to stop this slow motion bus plunge of the Trump era. And, anyone with a lick of sense can see that, when contrasted with our current Babbler-in-Chief, he is clearly the better choice. This, to me, is a self-evident truth.

I’ve been witnessing a lot of nasty attacks on Biden from Bernie supporters and various folks on the left of late, causing me to raise eyebrows and scratch my head. If only some of these people exerted the same amount of energy going after the real enemy, Donald Trump, we may be getting somewhere. But we wouldn’t be on the left if we weren’t in love with internecine warfare, now would we?

“Just the court issue alone warrants a vote for Joe, but he also represents a return to normalcy, and an end to the crazy.”

I’m not going to sputter and rant and slam my head against a virtual wall in an attempt to convince my Biden-despising friends to vote for him. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again — If you can’t vote for the man, then don’t. But, most Bernie supporters will come around, just as they did before, and even if some don’t, Biden will more than make up for lost ground among working class moderates. After all, most of those who spend time online ravaging Uncle Joe don’t vote anyway. His most vociferous opponents (on “our” side) tend to be youngish – the least committed sector of the electorate come voting day. And they wonder why the Democratic establishment largely ignores them.

I do however, have zero time for the “Biden and Trump are just the same” load of horseshit that is lamentably being repeated by too many in the echo-y halls of social media. Anyone who’s not high on glue or hasn’t been kicked in the head by a draft horse knows what a lazy, childish, bad faith argument this is. A Biden administration would be better than this hyper-corrupt, miasma of a regime by almost any metric. Yes, it will be another centrist government, but one run with competence. Biden’s not a narcissist, nor a pathological liar. He brings decades of experience, judgment, and knowledge. He will surround himself with experts, and defer to them on issues beyond his ken. He’ll repair the landmine wound that is the US’s relationship with our allies and invest in vital infrastructure. He’ll take steps forward to improve our health care and education systems, and most importantly, safeguard the Supreme Court. Do you really want a 7-2 arch-conservative supermajority for decades to come?

Just the court issue alone warrants a vote for Joe, but he also represents a return to normalcy, and an end to the crazy. Whatever your personal take may be, many people look back to the Obama years with nostalgia and admiration, and Biden will offer a continuation of this. A third term, really. Even Noam Chomsky recognizes this.

While unseating an incumbent president is always a challenge (hasn’t happened since ’92 and that was with a big third party spoiler), I really believe Biden can win this thing. The electoral map will likely break as it has for the past twenty years or so. Clinton lost in 2016 by taking the upper Midwest and Pennsylvania for granted, which narrowly went red as a result; Biden polls very well in this part of the country. He grew up in Pennsylvania and tends to connect with those working class voters who helped tip the scales in Trump’s direction last time around. Win back Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and that’s probably enough to hand him an EC victory. Trump can have Florida and Ohio.

“With a Biden presidency, there would be, if not a strongly sympathetic administration, at least one that can be reached, can be pressured. And that’s very important.”

— Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now, April 10, 2020

I think Joe Biden is greatly underestimated as a political powerhouse. Look no further than Super Tuesday to see what kind of resonance he holds with so many voters. Yes, there were other factors (party politics, fear of Sanders), but the bush league pundits were claiming to watch rigor mortis set into his campaign just days before.

The fact is Joe Biden carries very little or none of the baggage that followed around Hillary Clinton like an airborne toxic event. Rightly or wrongly, she was widely reviled, and still managed to win the popular vote by over three million votes. People tend to like Uncle Joe, and even if he doesn’t light a bonfire in the feels, he exudes a sense of empathy and a baseline of decency that resonates with much of the electorate. This is his secret weapon.

And look who he’s up against: an ignorant narcissist who lacks even trace elements of empathy or decency. This will offer up a stark choice, one that, after a four year hellmouth of lies and obscenity, could tilt Joe’s way.

The goal is to stop Trump. That’s it. Everything else is subservient to that simple directive: Stop Trump. The way we do this is by electing Joseph Biden as president come November.

Trump's Message on Public Health an Empty Sales Pitch

By Greg Dolezal

It’s too soon to know if the 38% or so Trump supporting Americans have any cognitive dissonance right now when it comes to trusting government, relying on experts, and adhering to draconian mandates restricting their behavior. More interesting will be observing how the Right wing media reacts after socialist solutions like sending cheques to everyone or increased unemployment insurance take effect – it’s more FDR than Reagan.

Americans, and indeed the world, are tuned into the news for information about COVID-19, the global pandemic that has already disrupted everything from the presidential primaries, large sporting and entertainment events, festivals, and holidays to school closings and working from home. This puts the spotlight on what constitutes a trusted source, which drives today’s culture war.

Apart from a few religious groups still holding worship services and those spring breakers in Florida, most people are adapting to the new reality reluctantly. If media reports are correct, social distancing and staying home are fast becoming the new normal.

Before the novel coronavirus came along it had been more than 300 days since the Trump administration held a press conference. Since large rallies are now out of the question, Trump needs more than just Twitter to do his campaign messaging. We see him daily, using his signature tone, selling the ‘winning and succeeding’ message, which is only slightly more popular than his ‘blame Obama for everything’ riff.

This kind of bluster and bombast on a campaign stop earns him laughs, likes, and votes. But, in a once in a lifetime public health emergency the only winners are the survivors.

That doesn’t stop DJT from doing it of course – especially when it comes to talking about remedies like vaccines, treatments, and much needed medical supplies and equipment. Although his own Surgeon General and the CDC both say a vaccine is a year or more away and that research into drug treatments is not verifiable, Trump overstates the positive and downplays the negative.

It’s desirable for a president to calm the populace and provide a hopeful vision, but upselling a false narrative has already had dire consequences.

Throughout January and February when other nations were already coping with the problem, the American president along with reliably Right wing Fox News, the highest rated news source in the US, were calling the virus a hoax to harm Trump’s chances at re-election. It was all about him and his brand, not about the public.

That never mattered to Trump devotees before when he was disgracing Gold Star parents, making perfect phone calls with Ukraine, or taking credit for Obama’s economic recovery, but does it now? Do they see his profane lack of curiosity and seriousness of purpose as a liability now that civilians – their own families – are in peril?

The only real measure of how MAGA survives this ‘wartime crisis’ will be in November, if that’s not postponed. Until then we can look at the polls which show a lopsided view of how the president is handling the crisis with highly concerned Democrats aligned with experts from government agencies and less concerned Republicans following the president’s assessment that everything is rosy, which are frequently at odds with health professionals and reality.

If Trump does keep his base in November it might be that enough people are buying his pitch. “No one could have predicted this” (his own agencies did back in October), “nothing like this has ever happened” (the 1919 Flu pandemic), “No one is doing a better job” (Korea, China, Vietnam), “We will have enough supplies and help is on the way” (there aren’t and it isn’t).

Information vital to our society about how to behave during a global pandemic is not something that can be spun. There are no competitors and the public are not consumers wandering around the car lot.

The way to inspire confidence is not using every PR and marketing gimmick in the book to make everything seem amazing. If Trump can’t stick to the facts this time there will be consequences whether he’s re-elected or not.

To the Sullen Sanders Supporters

By Greg Dolezal
Columnist & Publisher

For political Lefties of all stripes – liberals, progressives, and democratic socialists who are dismayed by the certainty of Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee, there is hope and a plan.

Elect like-minded candidates to Congress, state houses, local government, and even governorships.The Sanders campaign activated millions of supporters to policies like medicare for all, corporate accountability, and other civil society causes. It remains a grassroots success story even if it did not produce an electoral win for the candidate himself.

By not accepting PAC money or large corporate donors and relying on small dollar donations of everyday people, Sanders showed that however rare, a politician can be a representative of the people.

However, running for president every four to eight years and parachuting in from the top is deeply at odds with the long term viability of a grassroots movement.

To affect real change, a democratic socialist president would need allies at every level of government – local, state, and federal – in order to get an agenda passed.

There is plenty of disappointment to go around for those who ardently supported the likes of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders this time around, but the path forward is clear – keeping running… for everything.

In the meanwhile, a Biden presidency would ensure that the courts would not move further to the extreme Right. Take solace in that. And keep fighting.