Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Going (For) Broke

Trump was supposed to be the guy who had all the money.  Turns out his campaign is hurting.

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration — earlier than any other modern president — betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year.

It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.

Where did it go?

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, liked to call Mr. Trump’s re-election war machine an “unstoppable juggernaut.” But interviews with more than a dozen current and former campaign aides and Trump allies, and a review of thousands of items in federal campaign filings, show that the president’s campaign and the R.N.C. developed some profligate habits as they burned through hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Bill Stepien replaced Mr. Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget.

Under Mr. Parscale, more than $350 million — almost half of the $800 million spent — went to fund-raising operations, as no expense was spared in finding new donors online. The campaign assembled a big and well-paid staff and housed the team at a cavernous, well-appointed office in the Virginia suburbs; outsize legal bills were treated as campaign costs; and more than $100 million was spent on a television advertising blitz before the party convention, the point when most of the electorate historically begins to pay close attention to the race.

Way back in 1996, Sen. Phil Gramm (R) announced his run for the presidency, bragging that he had the biggest advantage over all the other GOP candidates: “Ready money.” That, however, didn’t help; neither did his prior investments in porn films (nowadays that would probably win him the GOP nomination) and he got run over by the Dole campaign. So even having a lot of money at the start doesn’t guarantee anything except a lot paperwork for the FEC.

It’s not how much you have, it’s how you spend it.

It’s also a part of the long con of conservative politics, according to Paul Campos at LGM:

Right wing politics in this country is basically just a series of elaborate con games, designed to separate frightened old white people from their money.

Yet it’s a sign of what an incredibly powerful force white supremacy remains in America that a malignant buffoon like Trump can spend his entire presidency stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot of stuff that is, and yet he still has a chance to actually get elected, despite openly turning the presidency into just another of his unending series of brazen grifts and rackets.

And while Trump and his enablers should all go to prison for the rest of their lives, it’s also true that everybody he is now ripping off absolutely deserves to get ripped off, given how utterly transparent his bottomless corruption has been for so very long.

Basically it comes down to the reason all those calls from “Microsoft” and “Apple” and the “extended warranty” keep ringing your phone: there’s always someone out there who will fall for it.

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Blowback From Kenosha

David A. Graham in The Atlantic says Kenosha and it’s aftermath may be the last straw.

Perhaps Kenosha will prove a turning point for this presidential campaign, but if it does, it’s far more likely to be because it has turned voters against Trump than because it has rallied them to his support.

There’s an intuitive logic to the idea that protests, rioting, and racial tension will benefit President Trump’s reelection effort. Trump seems to thrive on chaos, and his 2016 election was driven in large part by racial resentment and fear among white voters. Therefore, ginning up white racial resentment now might be one thing—perhaps the only thing—that can save the president’s foundering campaign. A parade of pundits, generally of the center-right or moderate, Trump-skeptical variety, emerged late last week to demand that Biden denounce violence forcefully (he had, and has again since) or deliver a “Sister Souljah moment” (however misleading that shorthand is) or else risk losing the election.

There isn’t much up-to-date polling to go on so far, and the story is still developing, but Trump’s decision to stoke racial tension earlier this summer has been the one thing that has managed to shake up an otherwise very stable presidential race. The president’s impeachment, the ravages of the coronavirus, a vast economic collapse—none of these has done much to change either the dynamics of the Biden-Trump race or the president’s approval rating. The one exception came in June, amid massive, nationwide protests that followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police. Trump’s numbers tumbled, driven by voters—especially white voters—panning his handling of racial justice and the protests.

[…]

Americans aren’t blind. They can see the violence, they can see that Trump won’t condemn it, and they can see that Biden has. As the former vice president said today, “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”

It’s a good line. Biden doesn’t fit the type, and the ill-conceived 1994 crime bill that he shepherded—so damaging to him in the Democratic primary—may actually help inoculate him against Trump’s attacks now. Yet despite all this, Biden had to be practically dragged into talking about the protests, and has resisted calls to go to Kenosha.

Meanwhile, Trump is eagerly seizing onto an issue that seems to harm him. Even though each previous round has ended poorly for Trump, he keep doubling and tripling down on exacerbating racial tension. Maybe once he goes big enough, it will work for him. Or maybe Trump, a man who went bankrupt running a casino, just isn’t all that clever a gambler.

With two months to go, the short-term memory of the electorate will more than likely forget about Kenosha, Jacob Blake, and Kyle Rittenhouse. But the overall abstract of Trump’s obvious racism and currying favor with white supremacy isn’t going away, and while it has been a part of his character and his tenure, it can be used by his opponents to bring out the voters who heretofore didn’t think it mattered if they did or didn’t vote.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Heartburn In The Heartland

When Thomas Frank wrote “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” in 2004, his theory was that the Republicans had successfully captured the rural vote by convincing the people of Kansas to vote against their own self-interest by frightening them with abstract fears of distant dangers.

According to the book, the political discourse of recent decades has dramatically shifted from social and economic equality to the use of “explosive” cultural issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, which are used to redirect anger toward “liberal elites.”

Against this backdrop, Frank describes the rise of political conservatism in the social and political landscape of Kansas, which he says espouses economic policies that do not benefit the majority of people in the state.

Trump and his minions have been exploiting this issue, riding to his election based on the fact-free claims that illegal immigration was destroying America, and that Others were out to destroy our way of life, including the suburbs.  The dog-whistle gave way to the bullhorn, and that is how they are hoping to keep their grip on power, using the demands for racial justice and police reform as precursors to the apocalyptic future of married lesbians lining up for free abortions and brown people voting.

But if it worked in 2016, it might not be working now, according to Nancy LeTourneau in Washington Monthly.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s margin against Clinton in Iowa (9.4) was slightly larger than it was in Texas (8.9). But according to the polling average at FiveThirtyEight, the 2020 Iowa presidential race is basically a toss-up, with Trump’s lead only 1.4 percent. Similarly, incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who won her seat in 2014 by over eight points, is tied against her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.

Iowa is one of those quintessentially “heartland” states that is predominantly rural. In other words, it is home to the people who make up Trump’s strongest base of support. So what has happened there over the last four years? According to Art Cullen, editor of The Storm Lake Times in Northwest Iowa, “An ill wind blows for incumbents” in his home state.

That’s not simply because Iowa is a COVID-19 hot spot or that the president’s trade wars triggered layoffs at John Deere plants in Davenport and Waterloo. It’s also owing to the climate crisis which Trump calls “a hoax”. The state had been hit by drought and a hurricane-like derecho wind, which flattened 14 million acres in August. Corn prices are at their lowest point in a decade.

As Cullen points out, Trump’s convention speech was tone-deaf to voters in Iowa.

Trump simply must win Iowa and Wisconsin. So he cast a convention against this backdrop of anxiety and fear – godless looters are coming for yours – and roped in our governor [Kim Reynolds], former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa to play in the tragedy. Few were inclined to listen. When the corn calls, you are too busy removing fallen trees from your machine shed.

So what’s the mood in Iowa?

Farmers are anxious. Latinos are afraid. Unemployed machinists are frustrated. That prized demographic, suburban women in Urbandale next to Des Moines, are encouraging the school board to sue the governor over her in-person school orders…

Even some of those farmers are wondering about Trump as they dig into a harvest so meager that wraps up as they vote.

What has changed in Iowa is that Trump’s narcissism and incompetence are landing hard on its citizens. If Cullen is right, they don’t need this president’s trumped-up fears about “those people.” They’ve got enough real-life worries.

This does not mean that the people of Iowa or Kansas will turn on Trump. But when reality overwhelms the abstract, nothing should be taken for granted.

(And yes, the picture is a shameless plug for my new play that is about this issue.)

Monday, August 31, 2020

That’s Insane

From the Washington Post:

Trump on Sunday amplified his call for federal forces to help subdue protests in American cities, denouncing local Democratic leaders and fanning partisan tensions a day after a deadly clash between his supporters and social justice protesters in Portland, Ore., underscored the threat of rising politically motivated violence.

Scenes of Trump faithful firing paint and pellet guns at protesters during a “Trump cruise rally” caravan through downtown Portland — a liberal bastion that has been the site of weeks of street demonstrations — raised the specter that the nation’s summer of unrest had entered a new phase in which the president’s backers are rallying to defend businesses and fight back against Black Lives Matter and other groups he has labeled “anarchists” and “terrorists.”

One man, thought to be a member of a pro-Trump group, was shot and killed Saturday night during the Portland unrest.

In tweeting a video of the caravan on the move, Trump called the participants “GREAT PATRIOTS!” The reaction marked a sharp contrast to his silence during a large and peaceful civil rights march on Friday in Washington that drew thousands to the Mall, where some speakers denounced his leadership.

This is after he went on a Tweet-rant Sunday morning — and we’re talking before sunrise — where he sounded more like a raving lunatic than someone in the position to blow up the world.

Trump on Sunday morning posted or reposted a barrage of tweets about the clashes in Portland, with many of them assailing the city’s Democratic mayor, Ted Wheeler. The president retweeted a video showing his supporters shooting paintballs and using pepper spray on crowds in Portland before the fatal shooting. Mr. Trump wrote that “the big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected,” a remarkable instance of a president seeming to support confrontation rather than calming a volatile situation.

Any rational person, regardless of political affiliation, would do whatever it takes to stop the violence and the killing. Not Trump; he’s actually working actively to make it worse and using the baffling argument that in order to make things better in America, keep the people in power who caused this situation in the first place.

One can speculate as to why, to quote Tennessee Williams, he chose this particular moment to lose his mind, assuming he was rational in the first place. Bad ratings from the convention? Sinking poll numbers in battleground states? Too much mustard on his Whopper? But trying to figure out why is a waste of time. That would require rational thinking of irrational acts, and it doesn’t work that way.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Happy Friday

The RNC is over and the Park Service will spend the next day or two cleaning the bullshit off the South Lawn.

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington: “I have a dream.”

Today would have been my father’s 94th birthday.

Here’s a little respite from all the noise: an egret on the lawn next door.

Monday, August 24, 2020

What A Stupid Argument

The New York Times put out their idea of a thoughtful and cautionary article about the similarities between the presidential race in 1988 and 2020.

George H.W. Bush was in trouble. It was July 1988 and Michael Dukakis, the Democratic candidate for president, was on a roll after his party’s convention in Atlanta. A Gallup poll showed Mr. Bush trailing by 17 points.

But he had a road map to victory.

One month earlier, Mr. Bush’s top aides had gathered at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, deliberately out of sight and away from campaign headquarters, to review a thick binder of polling and focus group data. The campaign’s research showed that Mr. Dukakis’s record was not well known and that some of his liberal positions, in particular supporting prison furloughs and opposing the death penalty, could swamp him in a general election.

Using the plan laid out in that room, the Bush campaign proceeded, as Lee Atwater, the campaign manager, put it, “to strip the bark off the little bastard,” beginning in force with Mr. Bush’s hammer of a speech at the Republican National Convention in August through Election Day.

Mr. Bush not only overcame Mr. Dukakis’s summer polling advantage, but defeated him handily: by 53 percent to 46 percent. He won 40 states.

In many ways, with Mr. Atwater as its dark prince of strategy, the Bush campaign of 1988 marked the birth of the modern-day negative campaign. Most memorably, Republicans plastered Mr. Dukakis, then the governor of Massachusetts, with the case of Willie Horton, an African-American man who raped a white Maryland woman and stabbed her boyfriend while on a Massachusetts prison furlough program.

It’s never wise to be complacent, but come on already. As Dana Houle, a campaign professional responded, “What a stupid article. Yes, 2020 could be just like 1988…if the population of the US went from about 15% foreign born back to 8%, the non-hispanic white population went from 60% back up to 75%, & the electorate—which will probably be under 70% white—went back to 85% white.”

In the first place, George H.W. Bush was basically running for a third Reagan term, and the level of popularity for Mr. Reagan was just a bit higher than it is for Trump. Second, Bush himself was not as divisive or antagonizing as Trump, whose geniality level is roughly that of a honey badger with the crabs. Third, as Houle points out, this isn’t the same country as it was in 1988. Not by a long shot.

I am sure the Times thought this sort of think-piece would show that they’re trying to be objective about the possibility that somehow Trump could pull out a win if he could completely change his campaign tactics.  But they might as well be speculating on the chances of how he could win if Mike Pence would show up at the Gay Pride parade in Key West in full drag.

Sometimes the New York Times is only good for the crossword puzzle.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday Reading

Words of Warning — Mike Murphy in the Washington Post.

After three hard years of fuming over President Trump, it has been a reassuring summer for Democrats. The Biden campaign had a strong convention, capped by a best-of-career speech by Joe Biden. Party fundraising is surging, and the polls look excellent. But a good campaign is a paranoid campaign, especially 70 days before an election.

So even though I think Biden is likely to win, I’m spending my time worrying about how he could lose. Here is what could go wrong:

Biden could still fumble the definition war. Opinions of Trump are etched in stone; we love him or we hate him. Right now, the haters are in the majority and polls show the country is itching to fire him. Trump could try to improve his image, but his braying tone and clumsy tactics never change. Don’t count on the Donald to heal himself. But if Trump is well defined, Biden and Kamala Harris are not. Heading into next week, the Trump strategy is brutally simple: change the focus from firing Trump to fearing Biden and Harris.

The Republicans will pound away at Biden and Harris with all the golden oldies that worked for them before. I was there when Republicans did a nasty new paint job on the once shiny Michael Dukakis. Whether they want to or not, Americans will be watching Fox News-style programming next week as the GOP tries to recast “Pop and Momala” as wild tax-and-spenders, enemies of private health insurance, dangerously soft on illegal immigration, destroyers of the suburbs and purveyors of vote fraud.

Democrats may scoff at this, but these attacks will take a toll. (And truth be told — a rarity in GOP politics these days — the ideological critique isn’t imaginary; Harris in particular has a notably liberal voting record.) Barack Obama used the same define-him-first playbook to end Mitt Romney’s White House hopes in 2012.

The debates worry me, too. So far, the election has mostly been Trump vs. covid-19, and the virus has won every round. Biden’s terrific convention speech smashed Trump’s dire hints about Biden’s mental acuity, but now that he’s a proven home-run hitter, Biden will face much higher expectations. As a Motor City native, I greatly enjoyed Biden’s new video with his classic Corvette. Now get back to debate prep, Joe.

One more worry. I fear a black-swan scenario based on the most reliable force of all: human nature.

We know covid-19 is the true special feature of this election. It has crushed the president’s poll numbers. It has hurt millions of Americans, flattened the economy and made the electorate fearful and uneasy. The fatigue we all share is powerful, draining, exhausting; Americans desperately crave some good news.

Which means you can count on our cornered and unrestrained president to try to manufacture some. He’s already tried with phony cures including old malaria drugs, Clorox and the healing power of ultraviolet fish tank cleaning lights. But in a few weeks, Dr. Trump may “discover” a far more powerful elixir: Tens of thousands of patients are already in advanced trials for experimental vaccines. Whatever the ultimate outcome of these trials, it is certain that murky, highly preliminary news will leak.

Even a whiff of promising results, regardless of how premature they might be, will spark a surge of euphoria. The breathless media of our digital age will erupt. A cure is on the way! Markets will rocket higher and businesses will rush to open, as a huge wave of relief envelops a country sick of wearing masks. It’s all based on our understandable hunger for something good to happen.

This could make for an interesting October.

Trump will move fast to exploit this moment with the full power of his office. Whether any of it is scientifically true will be irreverent [sic] to Trump. It will be also be irrelevant to many voters; as every dodgy operator knows, people just want to believe; be it a Bernie Madoff scam, a magic diet book, a Trump University hustle or any other of the cons, large and small, in human history. Trump, of course, understands that all too well.

I still think Biden beats Trump. I’d bet money on it. But not too much money. Only about 7 or 8 percent of the vote is really in play. Some will be convinced that Biden and Harris are too risky a choice. And if only half of the rest feel the cure craze and change their minds, everything can change. Don’t underestimate manias. The most famous example comes from wealthy 17th-century Holland. As most people know, in one particularly speculative moment, the price of a tulip exploded from virtually nothing to the price of a house. How long did it take for reason to go out the window? About 75 days.

It was probably a crazy time. But what would you call this?

See you in November.

Look to the Skies — An asteroid is heading to Earth just in time for Election Day.

(CNN) Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time.

Amid a pandemic, civil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.
On the day before the presidential vote, no less.

Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Its diameter is 0.002 km, or about 6.5 feet, according to NASA’s data. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.
NASA says there are three potential impacts, but “based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days,” the agency has determined the asteroid probably — phew! — won’t have a deep impact, let alone bring Armageddon.

The chance of it hitting us is just 0.41%, data show.

CNN has reached out NASA for any additional or updated information but has not heard back.

Doonesbury — Everybody wants to get in on the act.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Joe Biden

In case you missed it.

Good evening.

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light and they will find a way.

Give people light. Those are words for our time.

The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.

Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I will be an ally of the light not of the darkness.

It’s time for us, for we the people, to come together. For make no mistake. United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America. We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege.

I am a proud Democrat and I will be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election. So, it is with great honor and humility that I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America.

But while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did.

That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.

It’s a moment that calls for hope and light and love. Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another.

America isn’t just a collection of clashing interests of red states or blue states.

We’re so much bigger than that. We’re so much better than that.

Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear. Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, F.D.R. insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well. And he did. And so can we.

This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America. Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the “knee on the neck.” For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve to experience America’s promise in full.

No generation ever knows what history will ask of it. All we can ever know is whether we’ll be ready when that moment arrives. And now history has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced.

Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm. The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the ’60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.

So, the question for us is simple: Are we ready? I believe we are. We must be.

All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential. America is at an inflection point. A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities.

We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light.

This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot.

And the choice could not be clearer. No rhetoric is needed. Just judge this president on the facts: Five million Americans infected with Covid-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on Earth. More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment this year. More than 10 million people are going to lose their health insurance this year. Nearly one in six small businesses have closed this year.

If this president is re-elected we know what will happen. Cases and deaths will remain far too high. More mom-and-pop businesses will close their doors for good. Working families will struggle to get by, and yet, the wealthiest 1 percent will get tens of billions of dollars in new tax breaks.

And the assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until its destroyed, taking insurance away from more than 20 million people — including more than 15 million people on Medicaid — and getting rid of the protections that President Obama and I passed for people who suffer from a pre-existing condition.

And speaking of President Obama, a man I was honored to serve alongside for eight years as vice president, let me take this moment to say something we don’t say nearly enough: Thank you, Mr. President. You were a great president. A president our children could — and did — look up to.
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No one will say that about the current occupant of the office. What we know about this president is if he’s given four more years he will be what he’s been the last four years: a president who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators, and fans the flames of hate and division. He will wake up every day believing the job is all about him. Never about you.

Is that the America you want for you, your family, your children? I see a different America. One that is generous and strong. Selfless and humble. It’s an America we can rebuild together.

As president, the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that’s ruined so many lives. Because I understand something this president doesn’t. We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back to school, we will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus.

The tragedy of where we are today is it didn’t have to be this bad. Just look around. It’s not this bad in Canada. Or Europe. Or Japan. Or almost anywhere else in the world.

The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him, no miracle is coming.

We lead the world in confirmed cases. We lead the world in deaths.

Our economy is in tatters, with Black, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American communities bearing the brunt of it. And after all this time, the president still does not have a plan.

Well, I do. If I’m president on day one we’ll implement the national strategy I’ve been laying out since March. We’ll develop and deploy rapid tests with results available immediately. We’ll make the medical supplies and protective equipment our country needs. And we’ll make them here in America. So we will never again be at the mercy of China and other foreign countries in order to protect our own people. We’ll make sure our schools have the resources they need to be open, safe, and effective. We’ll put the politics aside and take the muzzle off our experts so the public gets the information they need and deserve. The honest, unvarnished truth. They can deal with that. We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask — not as a burden, but to protect each other. It’s a patriotic duty. In short, I will do what we should have done from the very beginning.

Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to this nation. He failed to protect us. He failed to protect America. And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.

As president, I will make you this promise: I will protect America. I will defend us from every attack. Seen. And unseen. Always. Without exception. Every time.

Look, I understand it’s hard to have hope right now. On this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes. But I’ve learned two things. First, your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart. They will always be with you. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.

As God’s children each of us have a purpose in our lives. And we have a great purpose as a nation: to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans. To save our democracy. To be a light to the world once again. To finally live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation that all men and women are created equal. Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You know, my dad was an honorable, decent man. He got knocked down a few times pretty hard, but always got up. He worked hard and built a great middle-class life for our family. He used to say, “Joey, I don’t expect the government to solve my problems, but I expect it to understand them.” And then he would say: “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your community. It’s about looking your kids in the eye and say, honey, it’s going to be O.K.”

I’ve never forgotten those lessons. That’s why my economic plan is all about jobs, dignity, respect and community. Together, we can, and we will, rebuild our economy. And when we do, we’ll not only build it back, we’ll build it back better. With modern roads, bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth. With pipes that transport clean water to every community. With five million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America. With a health care system that lowers premiums, deductibles, and drug prices by building on the Affordable Care Act he’s trying to rip away. With an education system that trains our people for the best jobs of the 21st century, where cost doesn’t prevent young people from going to college, and student debt doesn’t crush them when they get out. With child care and elder care that make it possible for parents to go to work and for the elderly to stay in their homes with dignity. With an immigration system that powers our economy and reflects our values. With newly empowered labor unions. With equal pay for women. With rising wages you can raise a family on. Yes, we’re going to do more than praise our essential workers. We’re finally going to pay them. We can, and we will, deal with climate change. It’s not only a crisis, it’s an enormous opportunity. An opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new good-paying jobs in the process.

And we can pay for these investments by ending loopholes and the president’s $1.3 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1 percent and the biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which pay no tax at all. Because we don’t need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work. I’m not looking to punish anyone. Far from it. But it’s long past time the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations in this country paid their fair share. For our seniors, Social Security is a sacred obligation, a sacred promise made. The current president is threatening to break that promise. He’s proposing to eliminate the tax that pays for almost half of Social Security without any way of making up for that lost revenue.

I will not let it happen. If I’m your president, we’re going to protect Social Security and Medicare. You have my word.

One of the most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people. They’re speaking to the inequity and injustice that has grown up in America. Economic injustice. Racial injustice. Environmental injustice. I hear their voices and if you listen, you can hear them too. And whether it’s the existential threat posed by climate change, the daily fear of being gunned down in school, or the inability to get started in their first job — it will be the work of the next president to restore the promise of America to everyone.

I won’t have to do it alone. Because I will have a great vice president at my side. Senator Kamala Harris. She is a powerful voice for this nation. Her story is the American story. She knows about all the obstacles thrown in the way of so many in our country. Women, Black women, Black Americans, South Asian Americans, immigrants, the left out and left behind. But she’s overcome every obstacle she’s ever faced. No one’s been tougher on the big banks or the gun lobby. No one’s been tougher in calling out this current administration for its extremism, its failure to follow the law, and its failure to simply tell the truth.

Kamala and I both draw strength from our families. For Kamala, it’s Doug and their families. For me, it’s Jill and ours. No man deserves one great love in his life. But I’ve known two. After losing my first wife in a car accident, Jill came into my life and put our family back together. She’s an educator. A mom. A military mom. And an unstoppable force. If she puts her mind to it, just get out of the way. Because she’s going to get it done. She was a great second lady and she will make a great first lady for this nation. She loves this country so much. And I will have the strength that can only come from family. Hunter, Ashley and all our grandchildren, my brothers, my sister. They give me courage and lift me up. And while he is no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day.

Beau served our nation in uniform. A decorated Iraq war veteran. So I take very personally the profound responsibility of serving as commander in chief.

I will be a president who will stand with our allies and friends. I will make it clear to our adversaries the days of cozying up to dictators are over. Under President Biden, America will not turn a blind eye to Russian bounties on the heads of American soldiers. Nor will I put up with foreign interference in our most sacred democratic exercise — voting.

I will stand always for our values of human rights and dignity. And I will work in common purpose for a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous world.

History has thrust one more urgent task on us. Will we be the generation that finally wipes the stain of racism from our national character? I believe we’re up to it. I believe we’re ready.

Just a week ago yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of the fields with lighted torches? Veins bulging? Spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ’30s? Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it? Remember what the president said? There were quote, “very fine people on both sides.”

It was a wake-up call for us as a country. And for me, a call to action. At that moment, I knew I’d have to run. My father taught us that silence was complicity. And I could not remain silent or complicit. At the time, I said we were in a battle for the soul of this nation. And we are.

One of the most important conversations I’ve had this entire campaign is with someone who is too young to vote. I met with 6-year old Gianna Floyd, a day before her daddy, George Floyd, was laid to rest. She is incredibly brave. I’ll never forget. When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said, “Daddy changed the world.” Her words burrowed deep into my heart. Maybe George Floyd’s murder was the breaking point. Maybe John Lewis’ passing the inspiration. However it has come to be, America is ready to in John’s words, to lay down “the heavy burdens of hate at last” and to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.

America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress. That we’ve found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again. That we can find the light once more.

I have always believed you can define America in one word: possibilities. That in America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.

We can never lose that. In times as challenging as these, I believe there is only one way forward. As a united America. United in our pursuit of a more perfect union. United in our dreams of a better future for us and for our children. United in our determination to make the coming years bright. Are we ready? I believe we are.

This is a great nation. And we are a good and decent people. This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we’ve been unable to accomplish when we’ve done it together.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney once wrote:

History says,

Don’t hope on this side of the grave,

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme. With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God — united in our love for America and united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark.

This is our moment. This is our mission. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle that we, together, will win. I promise you.

Thank you. And may God bless you. And may God protect our troops.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Kamala Harris

From last night, in case you missed it.

Greetings America.

It is truly an honor to be speaking with you.

That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me. Women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. And we celebrate the women who fought for that right.

Yet so many of the Black women who helped secure that victory were still prohibited from voting, long after its ratification.

But they were undeterred.

Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched and fought — not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table. These women and the generations that followed worked to make democracy and opportunity real in the lives of all of us who followed.

They paved the way for the trailblazing leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And these women inspired us to pick up the torch — and fight on.

Women like Mary Church Terrell and Mary McCleod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and Shirley Chisholm.

We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.

There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared. Another woman whose shoulders I stand on. And that’s my mother — Shyamala Gopalan Harris.

She came here from India at age 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer. At the University of California Berkeley, she met my father, Donald Harris, who had come from Jamaica to study economics.

They fell in love in that most American way — while marching together for justice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In the streets of Oakland and Berkeley, I got a stroller’s-eye view of people getting into what the great John Lewis called “good trouble.”

When I was 5, my parents split and my mother raised us mostly on her own. Like so many mothers, she worked around the clock to make it work — packing lunches before we woke up — and paying bills after we went to bed. Helping us with homework at the kitchen table — and shuttling us to church for choir practice.

She made it look easy, though I know it never was.

My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives.

She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.

She taught us to put family first — the family you’re born into and the family you choose.

Family is my husband Doug, who I met on a blind date set up by my best friend. Family is our beautiful children, Cole and Ella, who as you just heard, call me Momala. Family is my sister. Family is my best friend, my nieces and my godchildren. Family is my uncles, my aunts and my chithis. Family is Mrs. Shelton — my second mother who lived two doors down and helped raise me. Family is my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha … our Divine 9 … and my H.B.C.U. brothers and sisters. Family is the friends I turned to when my mother — the most important person in my life — passed away from cancer.

And even as she taught us to keep our family at the center of our world, she also pushed us to see a world beyond ourselves.

She taught us to be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all people. To believe public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is a shared responsibility.

That led me to become a lawyer, a district attorney, attorney general and a United States Senator.

And at every step of the way, I’ve been guided by the words I spoke from the first time I stood in a courtroom: Kamala Harris, for the people.

I’ve fought for children and survivors of sexual assault. I’ve fought against transnational gangs. I took on the biggest banks and helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges.

I know a predator when I see one.

My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning. And oh, how I wish she were here tonight but I know she’s looking down on me from above. I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman — all of five feet tall — who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California.

On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America.

I do so, committed to the values she taught me. To the word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight. And to a vision passed on through generations of Americans — one that Joe Biden shares. A vision of our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.

A country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.

A country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges and celebrate our triumphs — together.

Today … that country feels distant.

Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.

If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning, or you’re a teacher struggling on the other side of that screen, you know that what we’re doing right now isn’t working.

And we are a nation that’s grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy and, yes, the loss of certainty.

And while this virus touches us all, let’s be honest, it is not an equal opportunity offender. Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately.

This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism.

Of inequities in education and technology, health care and housing, job security and transportation.

The injustice in reproductive and maternal health care. In the excessive use of force by police. And in our broader criminal justice system.

This virus has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other — and how we treat each other.

And let’s be clear — there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve gotta do the work.

For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us.

We’ve gotta do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because none of us are free … until all of us are free …

We’re at an inflection point.

The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone.

It’s a lot.

And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more.

We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together — Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want.

We must elect Joe Biden.

I knew Joe as vice president. I knew Joe on the campaign trail. But I first got to know Joe as the father of my friend.

Joe’s son, Beau, and I served as attorneys general of our states — Delaware and California. During the Great Recession, we spoke on the phone nearly every day, working together to win back billions of dollars for homeowners from the big banks that foreclosed on people’s homes.

And Beau and I would talk about his family.

How, as a single father, Joe would spend four hours every day riding the train back and forth from Wilmington to Washington. Beau and Hunter got to have breakfast every morning with their dad. They went to sleep every night with the sound of his voice reading bedtime stories. And while they endured an unspeakable loss, these two little boys always knew that they were deeply, unconditionally loved.

And what also moved me about Joe is the work he did, as he went back and forth. This is the leader who wrote the Violence Against Women Act — and enacted the Assault Weapons Ban; who, as vice president, implemented the Recovery Act, which brought our country back from the Great Recession. He championed the Affordable Care Act, protecting millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions; who spent decades promoting American values and interests around the world, standing up with our allies and standing up to our adversaries.

Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons.

Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.

Joe will bring us together to build an economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind. Where a good-paying job is the floor, not the ceiling.

Joe will bring us together to end this pandemic and make sure that we are prepared for the next one.

Joe will bring us together to squarely face and dismantle racial injustice, furthering the work of generations.

Joe and I believe that we can build that beloved community, one that is strong and decent, just and kind. One in which we all can see ourselves.

That’s the vision that our parents and grandparents fought for. The vision that made my own life possible. The vision that makes the American promise — for all its complexities and imperfections — a promise worth fighting for.

Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy. We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.

We believe that our country — all of us — will stand together for a better future. We already are.

We see it in the doctors, the nurses, the home health care workers and the frontline workers who are risking their lives to save people they’ve never met.

We see it in the teachers and truck drivers, the factory workers and farmers, the postal workers and the poll workers, all putting their own safety on the line to help us get through this pandemic.

And we see it in so many of you who are working, not just to get us through our current crises but to somewhere better.

There’s something happening all across the country.

It’s not about Joe or me.

It’s about you.

It’s about us. People of all ages and colors and creeds who are, yes, taking to the streets, and also persuading our family members, rallying our friends, organizing our neighbors and getting out the vote.

And we’ve shown that, when we vote, we expand access to health care, expand access to the ballot box and ensure that more working families can make a decent living.

I’m so inspired by a new generation of leadership. You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love.

You are the patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country.

In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history. We’re all in this fight.

You, me and Joe — together.

What an awesome responsibility. What an awesome privilege.

So, let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves, and a commitment to each other — to the America we know is possible, the America we love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: “Where were you when the stakes were so high?”

They will ask us, “What was it like?”

And we will tell them. We will tell them not just how we felt.

We will tell them what we did.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Barack Obama

In case you missed it. Or even if you didn’t.

Good evening, everybody. As you’ve seen by now, this isn’t a normal convention. It’s not a normal time. So tonight, I want to talk as plainly as I can about the stakes in this election. Because what we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come.

I’m in Philadelphia, where our Constitution was drafted and signed. It wasn’t a perfect document. It allowed for the inhumanity of slavery and failed to guarantee women — and even men who didn’t own property — the right to participate in the political process. But embedded in this document was a North Star that would guide future generations; a system of representative government — a democracy — through which we could better realize our highest ideals. Through civil war and bitter struggles, we improved this Constitution to include the voices of those who’d once been left out. And gradually, we made this country more just, more equal and more free.

The one Constitutional office elected by all of the people is the presidency. So at minimum, we should expect a president to feel a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all 330 million of us — regardless of what we look like, how we worship, who we love, how much money we have — or who we voted for.

But we should also expect a president to be the custodian of this democracy. We should expect that regardless of ego, ambition or political beliefs, the president will preserve, protect and defend the freedoms and ideals that so many Americans marched for and went to jail for; fought for and died for.

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.

Now, I know that in times as polarized as these, most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you’re still not sure which candidate you’ll vote for — or whether you’ll vote at all. Maybe you’re tired of the direction we’re headed, but you can’t see a better path yet, or you just don’t know enough about the person who wants to lead us there.

So let me tell you about my friend Joe Biden.

Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother. Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief. Joe’s a man who learned — early on — to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: “No one’s better than you, Joe, but you’re better than nobody.”

That empathy, that decency, the belief that everybody counts — that’s who Joe is.

When he talks with someone who’s lost her job, Joe remembers the night his father sat him down to say that he’d lost his.

When Joe listens to a parent who’s trying to hold it all together right now, he does it as the single dad who took the train back to Wilmington each and every night so he could tuck his kids into bed.
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When he meets with military families who’ve lost their hero, he does it as a kindred spirit; the parent of an American soldier; somebody whose faith has endured the hardest loss there is.

For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president — and he’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country.

And in my friend Kamala Harris, he’s chosen an ideal partner who’s more than prepared for the job; someone who knows what it’s like to overcome barriers and who’s made a career fighting to help others live out their own American dream.

Along with the experience needed to get things done, Joe and Kamala have concrete policies that will turn their vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into reality.

They’ll get this pandemic under control, like Joe did when he helped me manage H1N1 and prevent an Ebola outbreak from reaching our shores.

They’ll expand health care to more Americans, like Joe and I did 10 years ago when he helped craft the Affordable Care Act and nail down the votes to make it the law.

They’ll rescue the economy, like Joe helped me do after the Great Recession. I asked him to manage the Recovery Act, which jump-started the longest stretch of job growth in history. And he sees this moment now not as a chance to get back to where we were, but to make long-overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody — whether it’s the waitress trying to raise a kid on her own, or the shift worker always on the edge of getting laid off or the student figuring out how to pay for next semester’s classes.

Joe and Kamala will restore our standing in the world — and as we’ve learned from this pandemic, that matters. Joe knows the world, and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from setting an example the world wants to follow. A nation that stands with democracy, not dictators. A nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change, terrorism, poverty and disease.

But more than anything, what I know about Joe and Kamala is that they actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy.

They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred, and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballot, not harder.

They believe that no one — including the president — is above the law, and that no public official — including the president — should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters.

They understand that in this democracy, the commander in chief doesn’t use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil. They understand that political opponents aren’t “un-American” just because they disagree with you; that a free press isn’t the “enemy” but the way we hold officials accountable; that our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.

None of this should be controversial. These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles. But at this moment, this president and those who enable him, have shown they don’t believe in these things.

Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better. But here’s the thing: no single American can fix this country alone. Not even a president. Democracy was never meant to be transactional — you give me your vote; I make everything better. It requires an active and informed citizenry. So I am also asking you to believe in your own ability — to embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure.

Because that’s what’s at stake right now. Our democracy.

Look, I understand why many Americans are down on government. The way the rules have been set up and abused in Congress make it easy for special interests to stop progress. Believe me, I know. I understand why a white factory worker who’s seen his wages cut or his job shipped overseas might feel like the government no longer looks out for him, and why a Black mother might feel like it never looked out for her at all. I understand why a new immigrant might look around this country and wonder whether there’s still a place for him here; why a young person might look at politics right now, the circus of it all, the meanness and the lies and crazy conspiracy theories and think, What’s the point?

Well, here’s the point: this president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.

We can’t let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than this — all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.

Last month, we lost a giant of American democracy in John Lewis. Some years ago, I sat down with John and the few remaining leaders of the early civil rights movement. One of them told me he never imagined he’d walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson. Then he told me that he’d looked it up, and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South.

What we do echoes through the generations.

Whatever our backgrounds, we’re all the children of Americans who fought the good fight. Great-grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation. Farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told to go back where they came from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs, made to feel suspect for the way they worshiped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged. Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.

If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work, and could not work, it was those Americans. Our ancestors. They were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives. They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth. And yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.

I’ve seen that same spirit rising these past few years. Folks of every age and background who packed city centers and airports and rural roads so that families wouldn’t be separated. So that another classroom wouldn’t get shot up. So that our kids won’t grow up on an uninhabitable planet. Americans of all races joining together to declare, in the face of injustice and brutality at the hands of the state, that Black lives matter, no more, but no less, so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism.

To the young people who led us this summer, telling us we need to be better — in so many ways, you are this country’s dreams fulfilled. Earlier generations had to be persuaded that everyone has equal worth. For you, it’s a given — a conviction. And what I want you to know is that for all its messiness and frustrations, your system of self-government can be harnessed to help you realize those convictions.

You can give our democracy new meaning. You can take it to a better place. You’re the missing ingredient — the ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed.

That work will continue long after this election. But any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election. This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up — by pouring all our effort into these 76 days, and by voting like never before — for Joe and Kamala, and candidates up and down the ticket, so that we leave no doubt about what this country we love stands for — today and for all our days to come.

Stay safe. God bless.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Michelle Obama

In case you missed it.

Good evening, everyone. It’s a hard time, and everyone’s feeling it in different ways. And I know a lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now or to politics in general. Believe me, I get that. But I am here tonight because I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting.

I’ve met so many of you. I’ve heard your stories. And through you, I have seen this country’s promise. And thanks to so many who came before me, thanks to their toil and sweat and blood, I’ve been able to live that promise myself.

That’s the story of America. All those folks who sacrificed and overcame so much in their own times because they wanted something more, something better for their kids.

There’s a lot of beauty in that story. There’s a lot of pain in it, too, a lot of struggle and injustice and work left to do. And who we choose as our president in this election will determine whether or not we honor that struggle and chip away at that injustice and keep alive the very possibility of finishing that work.

I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency. And let me once again tell you this: The job is hard. It requires clearheaded judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen — and an abiding belief that each of the 330,000,000 lives in this country has meaning and worth.

A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job.

As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too. And four years ago, too many people chose to believe that their votes didn’t matter. Maybe they were fed up. Maybe they thought the outcome wouldn’t be close. Maybe the barriers felt too steep. Whatever the reason, in the end, those choices sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes.

When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20,000,000 people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. And our leaders had worked hand-in-hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic.

Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than 150,000 people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless. Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent; too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back, not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.

And here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.

Because whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.

Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.

And like so many of you, Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.

They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.

They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protesters for a photo op.

Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation. A nation that’s underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character. And that’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating, because I know the goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation.

And I know that regardless of our race, age, religion, or politics, when we close out the noise and the fear and truly open our hearts, we know that what’s going on in this country is just not right. This is not who we want to be.

So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold, hard truth.

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

Now, I understand that my message won’t be heard by some people. We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a Black woman speaking at the Democratic Convention. But enough of you know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling. You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children.

So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.

I know Joe. He is a profoundly decent man, guided by faith. He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead our country. And he listens. He will tell the truth and trust science. He will make smart plans and manage a good team. And he will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.

When he was a kid, Joe’s father lost his job. When he was a young senator, Joe lost his wife and his baby daughter. And when he was vice president, he lost his beloved son. So Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own.

His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.

Now, Joe is not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president. And his ability to learn and grow — we find in that the kind of humility and maturity that so many of us yearn for right now. Because Joe Biden has served this nation his entire life without ever losing sight of who he is; but more than that, he has never lost sight of who we are, all of us.

Joe Biden wants all of our kids to go to a good school, see a doctor when they’re sick, live on a healthy planet. And he’s got plans to make all of that happen. Joe Biden wants all of our kids, no matter what they look like, to be able to walk out the door without worrying about being harassed or arrested or killed. He wants all of our kids to be able to go to a movie or a math class without being afraid of getting shot. He wants all our kids to grow up with leaders who won’t just serve themselves and their wealthy peers but will provide a safety net for people facing hard times.

And if we want a chance to pursue any of these goals, any of these most basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored. Because right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They’re closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They’re purging voter rolls. They’re sending people out to intimidate voters, and they’re lying about the security of our ballots. These tactics are not new.

But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning. We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012. We’ve got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow-up to make sure they’re received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.

We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.

Look, we have already sacrificed so much this year. So many of you are already going that extra mile. Even when you’re exhausted, you’re mustering up unimaginable courage to put on those scrubs and give our loved ones a fighting chance. Even when you’re anxious, you’re delivering those packages, stocking those shelves, and doing all that essential work so that all of us can keep moving forward.

Even when it all feels so overwhelming, working parents are somehow piecing it all together without child care. Teachers are getting creative so that our kids can still learn and grow. Our young people are desperately fighting to pursue their dreams.

And when the horrors of systemic racism shook our country and our consciences, millions of Americans of every age, every background rose up to march for each other, crying out for justice and progress.

This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.

So, it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis who said, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.” That is the truest form of empathy: not just feeling, but doing; not just for ourselves or our kids, but for everyone, for all our kids.

And if we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. And we have got to do everything we can to elect my friend, Joe Biden, as the next president of the United States.

Thank you all. God bless.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Unconventional

The Democratic National Convention gets underway today but it won’t be like the ones we’ve become accustomed to not watching in the past with the milling crowds on the floor of some convention center and long speeches by people you’ve never heard of but are told are rising stars in the party.  This will be all on Zoom and will feature a lot of music and acts geared toward a video-geared audience.  (Not to be outdone, Trump and his minions are planning commercial counter-programming.)

If you’re so inclined, here, via Balloon Juice, are some links by which you can watch the fun.

Simplified Convention Schedule
Official DNC Schedule
Official Convention Stream
YouTube (with Trump ads)
Crooked Media Includes Pre-Show
C-SPAN

How to Watch (scroll for instructions): TV, Phones, Apple TV, Fire, Roku, Prime

As for me, I plan to watch Kamala Harris and Joe Biden give their speeches, but that’s about it.

Nostalgia time:  Twenty years ago this week my parents and I sat outside the Romeo and Juliet Motel in Stratford, Ontario, and listened to Al Gore accept the Democratic nomination.  We had to sit in the car and pick it up via radio because the CBC wasn’t running it.  Little did we know…

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Reading

Losing It Over Kamala — Molly Jong-Fast in Vogue.

Since Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate, the last week has seen an onslaught of alternating sexism and racism from both the president and the Trump industrial-media-complex (Fox News, The Federalist, OANN, the lunatic-fringe conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit). Ditto the Republican office-holders who increasingly seem to compete with each other over who can out-Trump Trump. Example A: Soon after Harris was added to the Democratic ticket, John Kennedy, the U.S. senator from Louisiana, went on Fox and joked that his Senate colleague was like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “but without the bartending experience.”

I shouldn’t be surprised – but I am furious, in a way that I don’t think I was back in 2016 when Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In 2016, I was “with her” but I was a sweet summer child filled with the belief that sexism was a problem that we could overcome.

What a difference the Trump administration makes. The last three days have been absolutely infuriating. But they’ve also seemed kind of pathetic, with Trump trying to figure out how he can make his attacks land on Harris, in ways that worked for him in 2016 with the risible chants of “Crooked Hillary”and “Lock her up.” Harris is not as easy a target, which Trump knows. (Despite a tweet he sent out saying Harris was “the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!”, White House insiders have been telling reporters he would have preferred either Susan Rice or Karen Bass on the ticket.) And, as a former prosecutor, Harris can give as good as she gets. She flashed a glimpse of what Trump can look forward to on the campaign trail this fall when she declared on Wednesday that, based on their mishandling of the pandemic, “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

A few hours after she had been announced as Biden’s running mate, Trump used term “nasty” four times to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee. The president’s dumbest child Eric “liked” a tweet referring to Kamala as a “whorendous pick.” The Trump fundraising campaign sent a New York Times reporter an email calling Harris “the meanest, most disrespectful, MOST LIBERAL of anyone in the U.S. Senate.” And later, Trump himself called her a “madwoman” for her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, adding, “she was so angry and — such hatred with Justice Kavanaugh. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. She was the angriest of the group and they were all angry.” The idea of a woman doing her work the she was elected to do  and not being motivated by her emotions seemed inconceivable to Trump.

It took only a day for Trumpworld to bring back birtherism, which Trump used as his foray to originally get into politics. It all started with an opinion piece in Newsweek, written by John Eastman, who a few years earlier wrote a piece about how Ted Cruz could be president despite the fact that he was born in Canada. (An aside: The opinion section of Newsweek is now run by Josh Hammer, who writes for the far right blogs Amgreatness and Townhall and was described in one profile as someone who “has spent years stoking anti-Palestinian sentiment and is now fighting Black Lives Matter.”) Trump ran with this immediately discredited claim during one of his daily “coronavirus” briefings, saying “I heard today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” And then, later,  Marc Short, the chief of staff to Mike Pence. suggested during an appearance on Fox Business that Harris has “imported” socialist policies “from overseas.” This idea that Kamala is “the other” plays to the fundamental racism that lies deep in the heart of Trumpism.

And that’s not where it ends. Trumpworld is furious! Earlier this week, I watched Tucker Carlson during his basement studio meltdown about mispronouncing Kamala’s name, and then becoming even more apoplectic when he was corrected, as if the vice presidential candidate didn’t merit having her name pronounced correctly. Then, Trump’s favorite TV pundit, Judge Box of Whine (aka Jeanine Pirro) said “I believe Joe Biden isn’t even going to be on the ticket in the end because I can’t believe he would pick this woman.” The implication here is that Kamala is being controlled by some other force or that Biden is being controlled by some other force or that Judge Box of Whine is being controlled by some other force.  And that’s not the only disgusting attack against Kamala. After all the coverage about her being the first Black woman to join a national ticket, members of the conservative media immediately hit back, saying she wasn’t really Black, which for those of you keeping track at home is what we call racism and also something the right wing media did to Obama.

But I think these sexist racist assaults on the senator from California are going to backfire. It’s possible that American women have finally had enough of the racism and the sexism and the being put in our place by the president with all the sexual assault allegations. You know, the president who paid off two women during his campaign. The president who is currently being sued by the E Jean Carrol for defamation. The president that his former fixer, Michael Cohen, is about to come out with a new book about that, according to The New York Times, promises “stories involving the president and everything from ‘golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union.’” Yes, that president.

It’s been an extremely annoying four years for American women. We saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford harassed, degraded and ignored, while, in the end, Kavanagh was confirmed by just two votes, the narrowest margin for a Supreme Court justice since 1881. Trumpworld still heralded this as an enormous victory, but for a lot of us women it was yet another moment of degradation, of humiliation – of Trumpworld saying women’s voices don’t matter. (Are you listening Susan Collins?)

And it’s not like white men have been killing it or anything. For the last almost four years we have been governed a government made up almost entirely of white men, and they have been a complete disaster. They have been corrupted like Scott Pruitt who spent his time in the Environmental Protection Agency ordering tactical pants and used mattresses. They have been moronic, like the comically inept Jared Kushner, who predicted the economy would be “really rocking again” by July. (Hey, Jared, it’s August. Have you seen the latest unemployment figures?) They have ignored a pandemic, they have refused testing, they have focused on making themselves and their friends richer. Now they are furious by the idea that they may actually be replaced by people who know what they’re talking about. And one of them is a woman and she’s Black!

Payback is a bitch. On 2016, we did not get the first female president that many thought was an inevitability. Instead we got a reality television host with a raft of sexual assault allegations. Well, now we have Kamala Harris, and Kamala Harris is brilliant and tough and smart and very forceful in a way women of the older generation might have been afraid to be. I, for one, am counting down the days until Kamala Harris gets to question Mike Pence during the October 7th vice presidential debate, because Trumpworld is really going to melt down and I will drink a one big cup of their tears.

Signal to Noise: How Trump Plans to Sabotage the Election — Sasha Abramsky in The Nation.

The Noise? After Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, Trump resorted to one of his favorite insults against female opponents: “nasty.”

What an extraordinarily worn soundtrack he’s falling back on.

In 2016, when Trump called Hillary Clinton “nasty,” he was an outsider, a mold-breaker, a shock-jock-style entertainer, an alt-right punk, and didn’t yet have the responsibilities that come with political power.

In 2020, Trump is president, the man who is, at least ostensibly, in charge of this country—the leader who is supposed to craft grand coalitions, alliances, and brain trusts to beat back a pandemic and bring economic relief to the tens of millions of families at risk of destitution in the face of Covid-19.

At a Wednesday afternoon campaign event with Biden, Harris issued a full-throttle call to conscience against the Trump administration. She used her prosecutorial skills to construct what sounded almost like the introduction to a legal case against this corrupt, nepotistic, incompetent, and cruel administration. It was succinct and powerful—and, I suspect, an opening shot in a campaign that will use Harris to brutal effect to concisely and clearly detail Trump’s failings.

It strikes me that calling Harris “nasty” will neither get under her skin nor scare off potential Biden-Harris voters.

Which brings me to the Signal: Trump isn’t just going to lob juvenile insults and then retreat. The insults may get the attention, but the actions behind the scenes will be far more consequential. He’s going to resort to every dirty trick under the sun in the next 11 weeks to retain his hold on power.

Hence his campaign’s ludicrous efforts to help Kanye West get on the ballot in swing states, in the hope that he will siphon votes away from Biden. Jared Kushner has met with the rap star, and the two reportedly talk frequently to discuss strategy.

Hence the ratcheting up of Trump’s rhetoric against voting by mail. He has recently threatened to withhold federal funds from states that make it easier to vote by mail, and on Thursday he openly admitted that he refused to sign off on desperately needed funding to shore up the US Postal Service because he knew it would inhibit voting by mail. Trump has even alleged that household pets are being sent ballots in a nefarious animal-Democrat alliance to rob him of power.

Hence Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr.’s recycling of Russian-troll-generated misinformation about alleged Bible-burning episodes among Portland protesters.

Hence Trump’s overtly racist appeals to “suburban housewives,” whom he believes can be scared into supporting him if he tells them often enough that Biden wants poor Blacks to move into their neighborhoods. He’s upped the ante by averring that Senator Cory Booker (yes, a Black man, horrors!) might be put in charge of these alleged efforts to eviscerate the suburbs.

Meanwhile, as Trump fiddles and faffs, Rome continues to burn. Last week marked the 20th week in a row that more than 1 million Americans filed new unemployment claims. Trump has no coherent anti-poverty strategy, and no ability or desire to force the GOP-led Senate to negotiate with House Democrats to forge a relief package. What he does have, in abundance, is animus.

In addition to the funding crisis afflicting the Postal Service, an even bigger funding crisis is about to swamp USCIS, the agency responsible for passport, visa, and naturalization services. At month’s end, absent an injection of cash that the Senate and White House are in no hurry to grant, the agency is going to have to furlough more than half of its staff. Analysts predict the entire immigration system will grind to a halt—which would suit Trump, Stephen Miller, and the other anti-immigration hard-liners in their orbit just fine.

Want to renew that passport? Prepare for a months-long wait. Want to get that visa processed so you can visit loved ones or arrive in time to start work at your new job? Don’t hold your breath. Want to naturalize in time to vote in the election? That’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the administration is mulling something extraordinary even by its debased standards: It wants to allow border officials discretion to deny entry into the country to any US citizen who officials believe might have been exposed to Covid-19.

Not surprisingly, their efforts are reportedly focused on the border with Mexico. As a result, hundreds of thousands of US citizens who live south of the border could find themselves at the mercy of officers at ports of entry.

Doonesbury — You gotta believe…

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Quiet Part Out Loud

Trump couldn’t keep his id thoughts to himself even if he wanted to. Jack Holmes in Esquire:

Even at a time when the biggest rock star of his generation is engaged in an out-in-the-open campaign to ratfuck an election for the benefit of a reactionary incumbent, and even in a week where the vice president is touting the jobs numbers during an economic cataclysm, this newest one qualifies as truly shameless. Time was that folks thought it best to do their election rigging in secret, or at least come up with some phony justification like preventing (virtually non-existent) voter fraud. But Donald Trump, American president, has dispensed even with that kind of talk, and simply declared his intent to meddle with free and fair elections in this country. It’s not unlike his grifting strategy, which is to do the corruption out in the open so that people might think it’s above-board.

In short, the president has said, out loud and on national television, that he intends to destroy the United States Postal Service in an attempt to stop people from voting safely during a pandemic. He seemed quite happy to admit this to Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business, one of the putative news anchors—along with the Fox & Friends geniuses—who occasionally serve as his therapist. He gave away the game on his Postal Service fuckery Thursday like there was some sort of broadcaster-patient confidentiality in place.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots…But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting…”

This is just incredible, even if it’s been clear for some time that Trump is willing to dismantle the Postal Service—harming American citizens and American businesses—for his personal political gain. As a Republican in the modern era, the president is well aware that his political survival is tied to keeping turnout down. The post office is just the latest piece in the party’s larger campaign of voter suppression, which ranges from unnecessary voter-ID laws to just straight-up closing polling places. There is no evidence voter fraud is a major risk with mail-in voting—Oregon has operated without much incident since 1998—but Trump doesn’t even really lean on that lie anymore. He just out and says that he’s trying to stop people voting.

To drive home the point, his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow—a TV personality whose track record of being spectacularly wrong about the state of the economy is impressive in its own right—did an interview of his own this morning in which he cast “voting rights” as an issue for “really liberal left wishlists.”

The quiet part is extremely loud. This is where we are. Because it has decided over the last decade that it will not attempt to broaden its appeal to span a majority of the electorate, one of the two major political parties our system allows has now declared itself in open opposition to voting rights. The Republican Party’s record has been clear for going on a decade: stop people who don’t vote Republican from voting at all. Now they’re just telling you straight up. The United States has never been a full democracy, but in the Year of Our Lord 2020, the Party of Lincoln is working overtime—and publicly debasing itself—to make that problem worse, not better. Just another national disgrace.

Richard Nixon did all of his skulduggery and corruption behind closed doors and denied it all to the end of his days. But Trump does it out loud, based either on the idea that what Nixon did wrong was to keep it quiet, or he’s rightly thinking that the nation has become so inured to his fuckery that it’s no big deal that he’s openly advocating screwing over the election. “So what else is new?” And I’m sure there are those who, if President Obama had come up with this crap would have lynched him that afternoon, shrug or even approve of it because letting everybody have the right to vote is a liberal conspiracy. (And don’t get me started on the Covid-19 deniers. Please.)

At least when it’s all over, no one left alive will be able to say he didn’t warn us. Out loud.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

It’s On

Charles P. Pierce on the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s vice president.

Long about 4:20 ET Tuesday afternoon, Mike Pence of Indiana felt a cold chill Down There and he didn’t know why.

Joe Biden returned to the inevitable by selecting Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate. This decision put Pence in a nutcracker. Either he has to debate Harris on television—and he’s seen what happened to witnesses before Senate committees when Harris’s turn came around to question them—or he won’t get the chance, because this selection has to make some of the cutthroats on the other side wonder if dumping Pence for, say, Nikki Haley, is the proper countermove. (Narrator: They won’t, but you know some of them are thinking about it.) Frankly, given the choice between public evisceration and public defenestration, I don’t know which way Pence would go. Maybe he should poll on it.

The pick makes all kinds of sense. It always made all kinds of sense. It energizes the most loyal segment of the Democratic base. It honors the election of Barack Obama and the legacy of Biden’s work in that administration, while simultaneously acknowledging the reality, seen now in the streets, that, despite the fond anesthetic rhetoric of conservatives, the election of Barack Obama did not solve entirely systemic racism in this society. It puts a prosecutorial edge on the campaign that any campaign against the current president* needs. It injects the campaign with hot molten steel. At the same time, Harris is a genuinely charismatic person. And it demonstrates that, unlike the incumbent, Joe Biden can handle tough criticism like an adult. Nobody was tougher on him during the campaign than Harris was. (Her summoning up his history on busing was the single most memorable haymaker of the entire cycle.) The pick says as much about him as it does about her. There won’t be anyone tailoring intel reports to avoid presidential tantrums.

(Also, Harris’s election would enable Rep. Katie Porter to run for Senate in California. Bonus!)

There is some baggage in Harris’s past as a prosecutor, and as an attorney general, which gives me pause, and which is why I didn’t vote for her in the primaries. But given the way events have unfolded over the past several months, and given the way the entire dynamic of the election has changed so utterly, the logic behind choosing her grew more compelling, not less. I kept coming back to the times I sat in at various hearings in which she challenged the members of the administration* that has led the nation into disaster, and she did so before they led the nation into disaster. She has receipts to carry us into the next decade.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Biden Picks Kamala Harris

From the New York Times:

Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her own campaign as a vocal supporter of Mr. Biden and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the death of George Floyd in late May.

Ms. Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.

Mr. Biden announced the selection over text message and in a follow-up email to supporters: “Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

After her own presidential bid disintegrated last year, many Democrats regarded Ms. Harris as all but certain to attempt another run for the White House in the future. By choosing her as his political partner, Mr. Biden may well be anointing her as the de facto leader of the party in four or eight years.

A pragmatic moderate who spent most of her career as a prosecutor, Ms. Harris was seen throughout the vice-presidential search as among the safest choices available to Mr. Biden. She has been a reliable ally of the Democratic establishment, with flexible policy priorities that largely mirror Mr. Biden’s, and her supporters argued that she could reinforce Mr. Biden’s appeal to Black voters and women without stirring particularly vehement opposition on the right or left.

After leaving the presidential race in December, Ms. Harris turned her attention back to the Senate and found new purpose amid a wave of nationwide protests this spring against racism and police brutality. She marched beside protesters and forcefully championed proposals to overhaul policing and make lynching a federal crime, often speaking with a kind of clarity that had eluded her in the presidential primaries on economic issues like health care and taxation.

Okay, let’s win this.

Photo by Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

But Her E-mails

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

Nearly 5 million covid-19 cases in the United States. One-hundred fifty-seven thousand dead. Thirty-two million out of work. Tens of millions facing eviction, foreclosure and hunger.

What do we do now?

Simple: We talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails!

“During the investigation of Hillary Clinton over her email server, James Comey, the FBI director, had a press conference, as you know, on July 5 where he . . . said ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would prosecute that case,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Did you know before July 5, 2016, that he was going to do that?” Cornyn asked.

The witness, Sally Yates, a former Obama administration deputy attorney general called before the panel to testify, told Cornyn she had not known.

Cornyn pressed on. “When he reopened the case after Anthony Weiner’s computer was looked at, did you know he was going to reopen the case beforehand?”

“That was more than four years ago now,” Yates replied, “and I didn’t go back and try to review any of that.”

But Cornyn was not to be disturbed from his time warp. He went on about Comey’s conduct, Loretta Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, and Rod Rosenstein’s memo justifying Comey’s firing. “Director Comey was out of control,” the senator concluded.

Maybe so. But you know who’s out of control now? Cornyn — and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and all the others trying to change the subject from the crises now gripping the nation to their greatest hits from 2016. As the Trump administration drifts and millions lose their unemployment benefits, the Senate Judiciary Committee staged yet another hearing Wednesday about the Steele dossier, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Fusion GPS and other golden oldies.

Graham, the committee chairman, seemed defensive about his choice of hearing topic, for he kept posing and answering rhetorical questions: “So what’s the purpose of this hearing? . . . And to the public, why does this matter to you? . . . Why are we having these hearings? . . . And again, why does it matter?” And those were just the ones from his opening statement.

[…]

It’s much the same with “Obamagate.” An inspector general concluded that the Trump-Russia probe had a legitimate basis, and he found no evidence of political bias. Yet even now, in the midst of national crises and collapse, Trump’s allies are still talking about Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

“BIG NEWS!” Trump tweeted in response to Wednesday’s hearing. “The Political Crime of the Century is unfolding. ObamaBiden illegally spied on the Trump Campaign, both before and after the election. Treason!”

In reality, Yates testified that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation” and she repeatedly asserted that a genuine “counterintelligence threat,” not politics, was behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

Not that it mattered. “What I want to let the American people know,” Graham said after three hours of questioning Yates, “is I don’t buy for a minute that there were only two people at the FBI who knew the dossier was garbage.”

The nation, because of a worst-in-the-world pandemic response, is on the cusp of depression — and that’s what Graham wants Americans to know?

God help us.

What’s worse is that both Cornyn and Graham are up for re-election this year. And they will probably be re-elected.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Another Geography Lesson

Other than how to pronounce the name of a national park, Republicans are learning what creek they’re up.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A small but singularly influential group is a driving force for an agreement on a stalled coronavirus relief bill: Endangered Senate GOP incumbents who need to win this fall if Republicans are going to retain control of the majority.

Confronted with a poisonous political environment, vulnerable Senate Republicans are rushing to endorse generous jobless benefits, child care grants, and more than $100 billion to help schools reopen. Several of them are refusing to allow the Senate to adjourn until Washington delivers a deal to their desperate constituents.

Sen. Martha McSally, who has fallen behind in polls in Arizona, is breaking with conservatives to endorse a temporary extension of a $600 per week supplemental benefits. Republicans up for reelection such as John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are demanding results before returning home to campaign. And Sen. Susan Collins is in overdrive, backing help for cash-starved states and local governments — and Maine’s shipbuilding industry.

The opinions of senators up for reelection are of more consequence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than those held by conservatives like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who are broadcasting their opposition to the emerging legislation as costly and ineffective. As other Republicans gripe that they’re going to have to swallow a deal brokered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the vulnerable Republicans are craving just such a bipartisan result.

“Maybe eight Republicans who are up in tough states have a bigger interest in getting this COVID-19 bill done,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I think that’s accurate.”

Republican strategists, grappling with a political environment for their party that has worsened over the summer, said it’s imperative for GOP lawmakers to be able to head back to their states and districts with a deal in hand to show voters they are taking the pandemic and the economic fallout seriously.

“GOP Senate candidates need a deal, a good deal … so they can get home and campaign on helping small businesses get up and moving again,” said Scott Reed, the chief political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Republican operative Corry Bliss said it was crucial for incumbents facing tough re-election fights to “have wins” to highlight through the fall.

As what usually happens when times get desperate and they’re cornered, they are turning on each other; the safe seats willing to stiff the unemployed and the poor in order to cling to some kind of small-government/deficit hawk mantra while their vulnerable colleagues are doing everything they can to cling to power.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday Reading

Doing Right Isn’t Wrong — Alexander Vindman in the Washington Post.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (Ret.), a career U.S. Army officer, served on the National Security Council as the director for Eastern European, Caucasus and Russian affairs, as the Russia political-military affairs officer for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as a military attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

After 21 years, six months and 10 days of active military service, I am now a civilian. I made the difficult decision to retire because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career.

This experience has been painful, but I am not alone in this ignominious fate. The circumstances of my departure might have been more public, yet they are little different from those of dozens of other lifelong public servants who have left this administration with their integrity intact but their careers irreparably harmed.

A year ago, having served the nation in uniform in positions of critical importance, I was on the cusp of a career-topping promotion to colonel. A year ago, unknown to me, my concerns over the president’s conduct and the president’s efforts to undermine the very foundations of our democracy were precipitating tremors that would ultimately shake loose the facade of good governance and publicly expose the corruption of the Trump administration.

At no point in my career or life have I felt our nation’s values under greater threat and in more peril than at this moment. Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving.

Our citizens are being subjected to the same kinds of attacks tyrants launch against their critics and political opponents. Those who choose loyalty to American values and allegiance to the Constitution over devotion to a mendacious president and his enablers are punished. The president recklessly downplayed the threat of the pandemic even as it swept through our country. The economic collapse that followed highlighted the growing income disparities in our society. Millions are grieving the loss of loved ones and many more have lost their livelihoods while the president publicly bemoans his approval ratings.

There is another way.

During my testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, I reassured my father, who experienced Soviet authoritarianism firsthand, saying, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” Despite Trump’s retaliation, I stand by that conviction. Even as I experience the low of ending my military career, I have also experienced the loving support of tens of thousands of Americans. Theirs is a chorus of hope that drowns out the spurious attacks of a disreputable man and his sycophants.

Since the struggle for our nation’s independence, America has been a union of purpose: a union born from the belief that although each individual is the pilot of their own destiny, when we come together, we change the world. We are stronger as a woven rope than as unbound threads.

America has thrived because citizens have been willing to contribute their voices and shed their blood to challenge injustice and protect the nation. It is in keeping with that history of service that, at this moment, I feel the burden to advocate for my values and an enormous urgency to act.

Despite some personal turmoil, I remain hopeful for the future for both my family and for our nation. Impeachment exposed Trump’s corruption, but the confluence of a pandemic, a financial crisis and the stoking of societal divisions has roused the soul of the American people. A groundswell is building that will issue a mandate to reject hate and bigotry and a return to the ideals that set the United States apart from the rest of the world. I look forward to contributing to that effort.

In retirement from the Army, I will continue to defend my nation. I will demand accountability of our leadership and call for leaders of moral courage and public servants of integrity. I will speak about the attacks on our national security. I will advocate for policies and strategies that will keep our nation safe and strong against internal and external threats. I will promote public service and exalt the contribution that service brings to all areas of society.

The 23-year-old me who was commissioned in December 1998 could never have imagined the opportunities and experiences I have had. I joined the military to serve the country that sheltered my family’s escape from authoritarianism, and yet the privilege has been all mine.

When I was asked why I had the confidence to tell my father not to worry about my testimony, my response was, “Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all my brothers have served, and here, right matters.”

To this day, despite everything that has happened, I continue to believe in the American Dream. I believe that in America, right matters. I want to help ensure that right matters for all Americans.

Biden’s Big Tent — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

Earlier this week, there was a telling moment when Joe Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware, about the need to combat systemic racism and foster racial equality in the American economy. His speech was the latest in a series of public appearances in which the Presidential candidate has rolled out his Build Back Better economic agenda; earlier discussions were devoted to strengthening American manufacturing, addressing climate change, and building up the caring economy. “This election is not just about voting against Donald Trump,” Biden said. “It’s about rising to this moment of crisis, understanding people’s struggles, and building a future worthy of their courage and their ambition to overcome.”

The giveaway was the phrase “not just about.” Since capturing the Democratic nomination, Biden has repeatedly acknowledged, implicitly and explicitly, that, for many Americans, the 2020 election is mainly about getting rid of his opponent. This dynamic was clear during the primaries, when a majority of Democrats told pollsters that their top priority was selecting someone who could defeat Trump. It’s evident today in the endorsements that the former Vice-President has picked up, from groups ranging from the Lincoln Project, an organization of Never Trump Republicans that is running ads attacking the President and supporting Biden, to Indivisible, a group of progressive activists whose home page blares, “BEAT TRUMP AND SAVE DEMOCRACY.”

To the members of these groups, and to many other Americans, Biden’s role is to serve as a human lever to pry a disastrous President out of the White House. Defying the concerns of some political professionals who watched his primary campaign, the former Vice-President is shaping up to be an effective crowbar. Since wrapping up the nomination, in March, he and his campaign team have successfully navigated at least three significant political challenges.

The first was uniting the Democratic Party after a chaotic primary season. To this end, Biden has reached out to the Party’s progressive wing and tacked to the left in some of his own policy proposals. He created a Unity Task Force—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other supporters of Bernie Sanders—that released a lengthy set of recommendations earlier this month. Biden now supports Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan, which would make it easier for financially strapped people to discharge their debts. He has put forward a proposal to insure free tuition for many students at public colleges, modelled on an earlier Sanders plan. His climate-change strategy sets a target of 2035 for the creation of a zero-emissions power grid, which is just five years later than the deadline laid out in the Green New Deal. Some Sanders supporters are still scornful of Biden, but there has been no repeat of the internecine conflict that occurred in 2016.

The second task facing Biden was to fashion a coherent response to the tumultuous events of 2020. That’s where his Build Back Better plan comes in. The members of his policy team have worked on the assumption that the coronavirus-stricken economy will need substantial financial support for years. They think that this presents an opportunity to make it greener, more worker-friendly, and more racially inclusive. Biden’s proposals include spending two trillion dollars on projects to move beyond fossil fuels; seven hundred and seventy-five billion dollars on expanding care for preschoolers and the elderly; and a hundred and fifty billion dollars on supporting small, minority-owned businesses. He’s also promised to insure that forty per cent of the investment in green-energy infrastructure benefits disadvantaged communities, to expand rent subsidies for low-income households, to facilitate labor-union organizing, and to introduce a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars per hour.

Many progressive policy experts still think that Biden’s proposals don’t go far enough, but some of them are also issuing qualified praise. “When you look at all four elements of his economic platform, I think some of them have been very good—the climate plan in particular,” Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, told me. Wong also said that the speech Biden gave this week about the economy, race, and the coronavirus was an effective one. “He recognized that people of color suffer the most in economic downturns, and also bounce back last,” she said. “It’s hard for a lot of people to make the race and economic arguments together, and he laid it out eloquently.”

The third challenge that Biden faced was to avoid giving Trump an easy target. The pandemic has made the dodging part easier. Hunkered down in Wilmington, Biden largely has left the President to dig his own hole—which he has done, ably. But Biden has also reached out to Trump Country. The first of his Build Back Better speeches was delivered in Rust Belt Pennsylvania: it included calls to restore American manufacturing and “buy American.” As well as adopting some of the language of economic nationalism, Biden has rejected certain progressive proposals, such as defunding the police and enforcing a complete ban on fracking, that might alienate moderate whites in battleground states.

This is smart politics, Ruy Teixeira, a polling expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told me. Despite the changing demographics of the United States, whites who don’t have a college degree still make up about forty-four per cent of the eligible electorate, according to Teixeira; in some places, such as parts of the Midwest, the figure is even higher. “You cannot cede massive sections of the electorate if you want to be successful politically,” Teixeira said.

In 2016, Trump carried the white non-college demographic by thirty-one percentage points at the national level, according to Teixeira’s analysis of exit polls and election returns. Biden has narrowed the gap to twelve points, Teixeira said, citing a recent survey. That is similar to the margin in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain and the Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. As it is often defined, the Obama coalition consisted of minority voters, college-educated white liberals, and young people. Teixeira pointed out that Obama’s ability to restrict McCain’s margin in the white non-college demographic was also important, and if Biden matched that feat in November, he said, it could be of enormous consequence. “This is not the only thing that is going wrong for Trump,” Teixeira said, “but it is the thing that could give the Democrats the big victory that they need to govern effectively.”

None of this means that Biden is a lock for the Oval Office. Between now and November 3rd, something could conceivably shift the momentum against him, such as a Vice-Presidential pick that backfires, a major slipup in the debates, or a surprising economic upturn. Right now, though, the challenger’s strategy of keeping the focus on the incumbent and pitching a broad tent that accommodates anyone who wants to see the back of Trump is working well.

Doonesbury — Trading Places.