Monday, November 16, 2020

By The Numbers

Our friends over at Balloon Juice have a daily post about the status of Covid-19.  It’s a vital public service and we need to see it.  But it also can be numbing.  The Associated Press is reporting that over 11 million cases have been reported, with 1 million reported in the last week.  We are approaching 250,000 deaths.

I remember back to the height of the Vietnam war when the Pentagon would report weekly casualty figures.  It would show up on the nightly news as just another story, and on we went.

We have become inured to this pandemic; the statistics and losses are becoming part of our daily life along with the stock market numbers and the sports scores.  It doesn’t touch us unless it happens to someone we know.

Trump is ignoring it because he’s convinced he still won the election and is spending all his time on that.  Even the incoming Biden administration will have to fight a battle to not just end it but get Americans to pay attention to it.  And by the time they do, it will be too late.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday Reading

Learning From Mom — Sue Halpern in The New Yorker about what she learned about voting from her mother (and it sounds very familiar).

Five years ago, when my mother was in her late eighties, she volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. Most days, she drove twenty minutes to an office park in Virginia Beach and made phone calls for four or five hours at a stretch. Hillary was her candidate—not because she was a woman on track to make history (my mother isn’t sentimental that way) but because years before, when Clinton was considering a run for the Senate, my mother heard her speak at a fund-raising dinner and was impressed by her intelligence, humor, and, yes, warmth. My husband, a 2016 Bernie surrogate, could not persuade her to change her allegiance. She was “all in for Hillary.”

The 2016 campaign marked a turning point for my mother: it was the first in decades in which she did not go door to door, urging strangers to vote for whichever candidate she happened to be supporting. (One year, that candidate was my uncle, a progressive Democrat, who was running a quixotic campaign for Congress in a conservative Republican district in New York. Needless to say, he lost.) She said she was finally too old to be a door knocker, a task that she was very good at because, over the years, she had acquired the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere. Still, her biggest campaign triumph was pulling up at a rally in suburban Connecticut, where we lived at the time, with a huge Jimmy Carter sign atop her Oldsmobile 88, and getting a shout-out from the actor Paul Newman. This was in 1976. It probably kept her campaigning for the next forty years.

Both my parents were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, members of a local activist group pushing for reforms in the Party, but they recognized that American democracy did not work without a loyal opposition, and they sometimes voted for Republicans. The polarization that now characterizes our shared political life had not yet taken hold, and the concept of a moderate Republican was not anathema to either the Republican Party or liberal Democrats. Our corner of Connecticut was represented—and represented well—by two such Republicans, Lowell Weicker, in the Senate, and Stewart McKinney, in the House. They, and their fellow-travellers, had some gravitational pull in their party, and that was a good thing.

When I turned eighteen, I registered to vote as a Democrat. Then I wrote to Representative McKinney and told him I’d done that, and asked for a summer job. He brought me on as an assistant to his press secretary. And, although that experience cured me of any desire to work on the Hill, it was a hands-on education in the political give-and-take necessary to meet the needs of constituents. Today, as we watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory and encourage spurious claims of voter fraud; when we hear reports that McConnell, if he retains his leadership position, will block Biden’s Cabinet appointees if he deems them too radical; and when only four sitting Republican senators have reached across the aisle to congratulate the President-elect, we are seeing irrefutable evidence that McConnell’s Republican Party has little interest in governing. It is difficult to see how a two-party system works when the animating ideology of one of them is nihilism. Actually, that’s not true. We have empirical evidence from the past four years: it works nominally, but that is all. Unfortunately, democratic norms are not automatically revived by the election of a Democratic President, though it’s a start.

On November 8, 2016, my mother went to the Clinton campaign office for her last shift. The Times she read that day with her morning coffee calculated that Hillary had an eighty-five-per-cent chance of winning the Presidency. (The paper likened her chance of losing to an N.F.L. kicker missing a thirty-seven-yard field goal.) Everyone in the office was giddy, my mother told me when she got home that afternoon. The young people she’d worked alongside for months urged her to come back that evening for a watch party and victory celebration. “I’m not going,” she said. “He’s going to win.” At the time, I thought that she was hedging her bets so as not to jinx it. But, for months, she’d been telling me that most of the young and middle-aged women she was calling (and who she assumed were white) told her that they were voting for Trump, or at least that they would not be voting for Clinton. “I don’t get it,” she often said, but, on the night that those sentiments mattered, she did get it. She stayed home, and watched Trump glide into office.

My mother is a first-generation American. Both her parents came to this country from Europe, at the turn of the last century. She was born a year before the Great Depression and came of age during the Second World War. Hers was the generation that planted victory gardens, bought war bonds, and sent loved ones abroad to fight Nazism and fascism. They had a more visceral understanding of what was at stake in 2020 than many of us did. They had seen men like Trump before. The idea that their lives would be bookended by racist, authoritarian strongmen was almost unbearable. (Though Trump still carried seniors nationally, a post-election report from the Brookings Institution notes that there was “less Republican support among older segments of the population” than in 2016; among white people aged forty-five to sixty-four, support for Trump fell nine percentage points from 2016. There were no exit polls of nonagenarians, as far as I can tell.)

The pandemic—and Trump’s politicization of public health—meant that we could not be with my mother to celebrate her birthday, and that she could not attend her granddaughter’s wedding. Her book group went on hiatus, her mah-jongg crew was sidelined, and the municipal gym where she walked the track most mornings shut down. The isolation has been extreme, but she’s not complaining, nor are her friends. I suspect that their youth prepared them for behaving in the public interest. Their generation may be the last with a lived experience of comity, though the mutual-aid groups spawned by the pandemic may yet turn out to be instructive to the rest of us. When I posted, on Twitter, that my ninety-two-year-old mother had waited two hours to cast a ballot during Virginia’s early voting, the tweet received more than forty-four thousand likes. The overriding comments were of thanks.

Many people cast this election as the most consequential of their lives. They said that they were voting for the future—for their children and grandchildren, for the health of the planet, for the survival of democracy. But, for those of us with relatives and friends of a certain age, we were also voting for them.

Georgia On My Mind — John Nichols and Joan Walsh in The Nation on the January run-off elections that could determine the future of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As he prepared to claim the presidential victory he secured by more than 4 million votes, Joe Biden said, “What is becoming clearer each hour is that record numbers of Americans—from all races, faiths, regions—chose change over more of the same.” But his ability to deliver that change is still to be determined by the voters of Georgia.

Because the Democrats did not gain control of the US Senate on November 3, the defining moment for Biden’s presidency will come January 5, when a pair of runoff elections in Georgia could displace GOP incumbents and position Vice President–elect Kamala Harris to end Republican Mitch McConnell’s destructive tenure as Senate majority leader.

The Georgia runoffs give the Democrats a rare opportunity to finish the essential work of elections in which they fell short. The 2020 fight was always about more than defeating Donald Trump. McConnell had to be displaced, or Biden would serve as a virtual lame duck struggling to achieve incremental change with executive orders, tepid appointments, and a constrained agenda.

While Biden prevailed, the bid for Senate control stumbled. Instead of the net gain of four seats that they needed, Democrats beat Republican incumbents only in Arizona and Colorado, while Democratic Senator Doug Jones lost in Alabama. So many vulnerable Republican incumbents survived that it looked as if McConnell and the GOP could hang on to power with a 52-48 advantage.

There was plenty of blame to go around for what was clearly a disappointing result. Progressives complained that Biden ran a campaign so narrowly focused on upending Trump that it never developed the urgent issue agenda that could inspire full-ticket Democratic voting. But it was not just that. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put their thumbs on the scales for uninspired centrists who then disappointed. The most frustrating example was in the race against McConnell in Kentucky, where DC insiders favored Amy McGrath in the primary over Charles Booker, a legislator who had a far better plan for building an urban-rural Hood to the Holler movement in the state. Nearly $90 million was poured into McGrath’s campaign, yet she won just over 38 percent of the vote—not even 3 percentage points better than Tennessee progressive Marquita Bradshaw, whose insurgent Senate bid got little attention from DC Democrats.

Democratic strategists must get better at mounting coherent national campaigns that develop an issue-driven identity for the party. They must also learn to respect the wisdom of grassroots Democrats in the states rather than impose candidates from above. But political blame laying is of value only if it provides lessons for getting it right the next time. Luckily for the Democrats, the next time is now.

Georgia can prevent McConnell from becoming the grim reaper of Biden’s presidency. That’s because, unlike most states, Georgia holds runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial balloting. The state held two Senate contests this year: a regular race for the seat held by Republican incumbent David Perdue and a special election for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler, an extreme right-wing Republican who was appointed in 2019. It was immediately clear that the Rev. Raphael Warnock had finished ahead of Loeffler in a multicandidate contest and would face her again in a runoff. In Perdue’s race, the initial count had him finishing above the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff with Democrat Jon Ossoff. But things turned Ossoff’s way in the same tabulation of absentee ballots that put Biden ahead in the state. Perdue dropped to 49.7 percent, and the Democrat declared, “We have all the momentum.” There are still hurdles for Ossoff. Perdue is likely to demand a recount in the hope of clawing his way over the 50 percent threshold. But recounts rarely work.

So this is the time for everyone who wants to see a successful Biden presidency to go all in for Warnock and Ossoff. Georgia is deep into a process of political transformation, thanks to demographic shifts and the remarkable voter mobilization work of Stacey Abrams and a new generation of multiracial, multiethnic grassroots activists.

Warnock and Ossoff are different candidates who have run distinct campaigns. Yet it’s likely they will rise or fall together in what could well be the most expensive Senate competition in American history. Loeffler is reputedly the richest politician on Capitol Hill, Perdue is a multimillionaire, and McConnell will steer every special-interest dollar he can find into Georgia. That money will fund vicious campaigning. In the run-up to the November elections, Perdue mounted attacks on Ossoff, who is Jewish, that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Loeffler is already signaling that she’ll attack Warnock, who is running to become Georgia’s first Black senator, for what she labels “his radical policies and his agenda.”

But these Democrats bring strengths to the competition. Ossoff, who built name recognition and fundraising prowess with a high-profile 2017 bid in suburban Atlanta’s Sixth Congressional District, shredded Perdue in a late-October debate. Ossoff still has high support in the Sixth, where he narrowly lost in 2017 but African-American gun-control activist Lucy McBath won in 2018 and 2020. Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., finished ahead of Loeffler, thanks to an urban-rural coalition with a proven capacity to mobilize voters. Former president Barack Obama has already campaigned for the Georgia Democrats, reminding an Atlanta crowd just before the November 3 elections, “You’ve got the chance to flip two Senate seats.”

Abrams agrees. She dismisses the notion that runoffs disadvantage Democrats just because the big top-of-the-ticket races are settled. “We will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Ossoff and Warnock “are going to make certain that Joe Biden has the leadership, the support, and the congressional mandate that he needs to move this country forward.”

Ossoff told The Nation recently that his mentor Representative John Lewis, who died in July, urged him to work to revive the Black-Jewish electoral coalition that made major gains in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s. Ossoff and Warnock, running as a ticket, could be precisely the team the Democrats need in 2021—working to win two races in Georgia and prevent McConnell from obstructing another Democratic presidency.

Doonesbury — Art Smart.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Little Night Music

Eighty years ago tonight — November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered in New York.  It was the first motion picture with stereophonic sound.  Leopold Stokowski of the Philadelphia Orchestra arranged and conducted the score.

Happy Friday

It’s a Friday the 13th, just in case that gives you pause to go out and risk your superstitions.  These days, who can tell a sign of bad luck from just the new normal, anyway?

In a gesture to sanity, Arizona has been finally called for Joe Biden, bringing his electoral count to 290 and in alignment with what the Associated Press said it was back on November 4.  Trump himself hasn’t been heard from other than his Twitter account since his appearance in the White House briefing room a week ago; an appearance that was abruptly terminated on many news outlets when it was obvious he was sowing bullshit.  Since then he’s had his tantrums and extended periods of pouting, sulking, and spates of vengeance by firing the Defense Secretary and seeding the Pentagon with his toadies, who have 68 days to bring us to the brink of Armageddon.

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration is end-running Trump’s refusal to concede by going ahead with staffing and policy outlines, perhaps a precursor to how he’ll govern when he actually takes office and has to deal with Mitch McConnell and the nutsery that survived.  If this was any other time, the fact that Trump and his cronies are largely inert would be seen as a blessing; out of sight out of mind.  But with the number of Covid-19 infections reaching record levels every day, they are doing worse than doing nothing.

On days like these, even Friday the thirteenth, the best you can hope for is that if a black cat crosses your path, she’ll cuddle up and purr.

 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Critical Care

From the Washington Post:

The coronavirus pandemic is rolling across America like a great crimson wave.

In Illinois, the rate of new infections is so high that a group of doctors sent an urgent letter to the governor. “We’re having to almost decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t,” said one of its leaders.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

In Ohio, the rapid spread of the virus has pushed the state health-care system to the brink. Expressing deep concern, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vowed to enforce his statewide mask mandate and issued new restrictions on social gatherings. “We can’t surrender to this virus. We can’t let it run wild,” he said.

And in Iowa, where a record number of new infections in a day coincided with a record number of deaths, the White House coronavirus task force issued a dire warning about “the unyielding covid spread” throughout the state.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States jumped from 104,000 a week earlier to more than 145,000 on Wednesday, an all-time high. Nearly every metric is trending in the wrong direction, prompting states to add new restrictions and hospitals to prepare for a potentially dark future.

“We’re at a fairly critical juncture,” said Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association. The day will soon come when hospital staffing will fall below standards that are normally required, he said.

So what is the current administration doing about it?

Trump declared Wednesday on Twitter, “WE WILL WIN!”

But, in fact, the president has no clear endgame to actually win the election — and, in an indication he may be starting to come to terms with his loss, he is talking privately about running again in 2024.

Trump aides, advisers and allies said there is no grand strategy to reverse the election results, which show President-elect Joe Biden with a majority of electoral college votes, as well as a 5 million-vote lead in the national popular vote.

Asked about Trump’s ultimate plan, one senior administration official chuckled and said, “You’re giving everybody way too much credit right now.”

Republican officials have scrambled nationwide to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud that could bolster the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, but no such evidence has surfaced. And Biden’s lead in several states targeted by the Trump campaign has expanded as late-counted votes are reported. In all-important Pennsylvania, the Democrat now leads by more than 50,000 votes.

Still, the absence of evidence and of a comprehensive and realistic plan to overcome Trump’s significant deficit and secure him a second term have not stopped some of the leading figures in the administration and the Republican Party from amplifying the president’s misinformation about the election outcome.

That’s all they care about. Let the pandemic rage, let more people die, but by golly go to court and get yelled at by the judges for bringing baseless claims and no evidence. The only action plans Trump is thinking about is how to run again in 2024, which is both incredibly callous and an admission that he’s lost the election he’s fighting about in court.

He doesn’t care.  He never has.  He never will.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day

One hundred and two years ago today — November 11, 1918 — the guns fell silent across Europe, marking the armistice that brought an end to the fighting in World War I. It used to be called Armistice Day. Today is the official holiday to commemorate Veterans Day.

It’s become my tradition here to mark the day with the poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872-1918)

I honor my father, two uncles, a cousin, a great uncle, many friends and colleagues, and the millions known and unknown who served our country in the armed forces.

My father (left) and his twin, 1944

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Little Night Music

Were it not for Gordon Lightfoot and this song, the 29 men lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald would only be a memory to their friends and families, including some from my hometown of Perrysburg, Ohio. But the world knows what happened on this night forty-five years ago, November 10, 1975.

Tantrum

We knew this was coming.

Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Monday, upending the military’s leadership at a time when Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election has created a rocky and potentially precarious transition.

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter, writing in an abrupt post that Mr. Esper had been “terminated.”

The president wrote that he was appointing Christopher C. Miller, whom he described as the “highly respected” director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to be the acting defense secretary. Mr. Miller will be the fourth official to lead the Pentagon under Mr. Trump.

Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election.

Democrats and national security veterans said it was a volatile move in the uncertain time between administrations, particularly by a president who has made clear that he does not want to give up power and that he would be reasserting his waning authority over the most powerful agencies of the government.

Meanwhile, the GOP on Capitol Hill are doing what they do best: cowering like the cowards that they have been for the last five years, sucking up to Trump even though there’s nothing he can do to them.

Leading Republicans rallied on Monday around President Trump’s refusal to concede the election, declining to challenge the false narrative that it was stolen from him or to recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory even as party divisions burst into public view.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in Congress, threw his support behind Mr. Trump in a sharply worded speech on the Senate floor. He declared that Mr. Trump was “100 percent within his rights” to turn to the legal system to challenge the outcome and hammered Democrats for expecting the president to concede.

And now the Republicans in Georgia are rallying themselves into a circular firing squad.

A rift among Georgia Republicans exploded into public view on Monday as the state’s incumbent senators, both locked in fierce runoff fights for their seats, lashed out at the Republican officials who oversaw last week’s election and leveled unfounded claims of a faulty process lacking in transparency.

The all-out intraparty war erupted as the vote count in Georgia on Monday continued to show President Trump narrowly trailing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia took the extraordinary step of issuing a joint statement calling for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and condemning the election as an “embarrassment.”

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party,” the senators said in their statement, which did not offer any specific allegations or elaborate on how they believed Mr. Raffensperger had fallen short, except to accuse him of “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”

Even lawyers set to defend Trump in court are having second thoughts.

Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.

Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.

In real news, more than 133,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday with a total of 240,162 lives now lost to the pandemic. I can’t remember the last time the White House held a briefing on their efforts to combat the plague, but it doesn’t really matter since they’re not doing anything about it except reporting that more members of the White House staff and cabinet have tested positive for it.  The only person who is taking the lead on dealing with it is President-elect Biden.

Coronavirus cases surged to a new record on Monday, with the United States now averaging 111,000 cases each day for the past week, a grim milestone amid rising hospitalizations and deaths that cast a shadow on positive news about the effectiveness of a potential vaccine.

As the number of infected Americans passed 10 million and governors struggled to manage the pandemic, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. tried on Monday to use his bully pulpit — the only tool at his disposal until he replaces President Trump in 72 days — to plead for Americans to set aside the bitterness of the 2020 election and wear a mask.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day,” Mr. Biden said in Delaware after announcing a Covid-19 advisory board charged with preparing for quick action once he is inaugurated. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives — American lives.”

This would all be rather ridiculous and worthy of some sit-com were it not for the simple fact that lives are at stake every day, and not just from Covid-19. Disruption and disarray in the leadership of our defense forces, subject to the whims and tantrums of a child-like despot, reminiscent of a certain bunker scene in April 1945, can only lead to mischief from our enemies and mistrust from our remaining allies.

We’ve got 71 days.

Monday, November 9, 2020

He Never Was Our President

He may have gotten the official votes back in January 2017 when the Congress certified the votes of the Electoral College for the 2016 election.  He may have taken the oath of office on January 20, 2017.  He may have been given the little card with the nuclear codes that he carries with him all the time.  He may have been given living space in the residence quarters of the White House and moved his staff into the West Wing and sat behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, flown on the big plane, ridden in the armored limousine, and heard the band play his song.  But he was never really our president.

He only thought about the people who voted for him or shared his views.  He dismissed out of hand any contrary arguments or discussion, convinced that he was always right and infallible.  Anyone who had a different idea or wouldn’t proclaim loudly their fealty to him was suspect and not to be trusted.  That works in a government of fear and oppression, where dissent is not allowed.  (Ironically, he appealed to and won the votes of a lot of Cuban-Americans in South Florida who fled that kind of government to come here.)  He made it his mission to separate us based on fear of others, knowing that it would solidify his base and shore up his own belief in himself and appealing to the base human instinct of what’s in it for himself.

I’m not a psychologist, and I look askance at those who presume to diagnose from afar.  But as a playwright and a theatre scholar, I have a perspective on how characters are built and what lies beneath their outer actions.  It doesn’t require a PhD to see that we’re dealing with someone who has serious issues with their own self-worth and how desperate they are to win approval, and how they will lash out at those they think are smarter than them or have a natural ability to get people to like them, much less agree with them.  Simply put, he’s a quivering tower of massive insecurity and self-doubt.  Sophocles, Shakespeare, and any number of playwrights throughout history understood it, and it’s safe to say that this kind of character provides for powerful theatre and insight to the human condition.

That makes great drama, but that’s not the way to run a country.  We need — we require — leaders who seek the office not for the trappings, not for the adoring crowds and the rallies, but to work for all of us.

President-elect Biden has said repeatedly that he will be the president of all of us.  It shouldn’t have to be said that the person we elect as the president has to think of all of us, including those who fought against their election and disagree with them at every level.  But apparently it does, and it appears that there are over 70 million people who need to learn that basic fact of how our system works.  It’s a rather sad comment on how far the current office-holder has brought us that we have to say it out loud.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Tropical Storm Eta

Eta is making a run towards Florida.  It’s back to being a tropical storm, and we are still expecting heavy rains and wind here in the Miami area today and tomorrow.  Miami-Dade County Public Schools has cancelled classes for Monday.

 

Seventeen Years

It was a very different time when I sat down at my computer in my little apartment on November 8, 2003, and wrote the first post on Bark Bark Woof Woof. I was a year into my job with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, my daily driver was a 1995 Mustang GT convertible, the Pontiac was in retirement, my playwriting was unknown to all but a few dear friends, and I was incensed at the venality, criminality, and careless warmongering of George W. Bush.

This is what it looked like five months in:

Ah, those were the days.

Today I’m retired from M-DCPS, my daily driver is a 2007 Mustang, the Pontiac has been restored and going to car shows (and winning on occasion), my plays have been performed all over the country and overseas, they’re now being published by Smith Scripts, George W. Bush is no longer the worst president in the history of the country, and we just got rid of the one that was.

Since that Saturday afternoon, I’ve written 29,955 posts, including this one. I’ve made an effort to post something every day, missing a few due to weather and internet issues, but finding something to say or observe or just put up for the fun of it. I’ve made friends along the way; shared their joys and losses, learned a great deal about a lot of things, and on rare occasions been noticed by people who are worth being noticed by. I’ve posted in a lot of different places: three different homes here in Miami, numerous hotels from New York for my off-off-Broadway opening to Alaska, the homes of friends and family, and even internationally (Canada). I’ve shared a lot of personal stories, pictures of the family, and my own losses. After all, that’s what blogging was all about then, and in this rapidly-changing world, what it still is. And they said it wouldn’t last.

Thank you, dear reader, for coming here whenever you do and seeing what I’ve put up, and for those of you who comment, a sincere thanks for your support, your guidance, your corrections, and your indulgence. I’ve gotten to know many of you in real life and I truly appreciate your friendship and support.  You were here for the good times — my New York opening — and the sad times.  Thank you.

I’d also like to thank my brother CLW for the amazing work he’s done over the years in his technical advice, support, and commiseration in keeping this effort afloat. He’s been the designer and engineer in the move from Blogger to WordPress and from ASO to AWS. Despite the fact that we could not live further apart in the contiguous United States, he’s a lot closer than ever before. Thank you, my brother.

So, as I said back at the beginning, Here Goes. We’ve got a lot to do — a country to save, a Pulitzer to win (okay, I’ll settle for a Tony) — and with a little more time on my hands, I’ll ask the same question President Jed Bartlet asked: What’s next?

Sunday Reading

What’s inside the blue bag on front porches all over America this morning.

Our Better Angels — Charles P. Pierce.

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile.

King Lear, Act IV, Scene 2

At the moment, we have a president*.

In a few months, it appears, we will have a president.

The asterisk is dead. May god have mercy on its soul.

I stayed up until 5 a.m. on Friday morning, just long enough for Joe Biden to pass El Caudillo Del Mar-a-Lago in the remarkable state of Georgia, and he did so with votes from Clayton County, the late John Lewis’ old congressional district. I was asleep when Pennsylvania finally flipped after the sun came up. I did what every true American patriot has done all week—curse the Electoral College for murdering sleep—and realized that I’m going to be working against muscle memory every time I type the word “president” for quite some time. I apologize to President-Elect Biden in advance in case I occasionally drop the asterisk out of habit, until I get used to the idea that this president* and his awful family and his terrible administration* are vapor.

Joe Biden has come through a lot of history, and not unscathed, either. I applied to be one of his speechwriters in 1976, fresh out of college. (I didn’t get the gig, which is why he hasn’t built his library already.) Since then, he’s run for president three times. In 1988, he was sunk by a plagiarism scandal brought to light by operatives in the employ of Michael Dukakis. (When Mike Dukakis oppo’s you out of a race, it’s like losing a fistfight with Plato.) In 2008—Twenty years later!—he was swept aside by the phenomenon of Barack Obama, of whom he memorably once said,

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

And this is why campaign aides jump out of windows.

Obama, of course, held no grudges and, by picking Biden as a running mate, revived his career as cool Uncle Joe, one of the more remarkable charisma transfusions in the history of American politics. There is no question that Biden was transformed by the vice presidency, making him the first vice president to be elevated rather than minimized by that office, at least without the president’s having died. The gaffe-ridden friend of the Delaware financial-services industry slipped on the aviators, unleashed his killer smile, and found his way back to being the decent guy, friend of the Amtrak commuters, damn fine Dad, that everybody who really knew him always said he was. The guy who choked so badly during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings was sent to wrangle votes for a stimulus deal and the Affordable Care Act, and generally was one of the great wingmen any president ever had.

So, when he announced he was running for president again—32 years later!—and when he said he was doing so to recapture the soul of America, people bought it. Even when he barely crawled through the primary processes in Iowa and New Hampshire, he clung to that message—that we are somehow better than the president* we had elected in 2016, that the better angels of our nature were not taking a few years off. The message found an audience as soon as the primary electorate became less Caucasian, especially in South Carolina, where Congressman Jim Clyburn pointed the way. At which point, the country’s simple desire for cool and blessed normality asserted itself. I freely admit that I underestimated the political salience of that simple truth.

Events then conspired to intensify that desire. The pandemic hit in the middle of the year and the economy cratered as a result. The most intense racial upheaval since the 1960s struck with the murder of George Floyd. Biden stayed resolutely on message—that, basically, we have it in us to make it all OK. There was a brilliant jiu-jitsu element to that message. It insulated Biden from being firmly tagged with any rioting and looting that went on. It absorbed every episode of angry lunacy emanating from the White House as validation of its basic raison d’être. We can survive even the president* that we have inflicted upon ourselves, the message was. There is no crisis that Americans cannot overcome, not even each other. In all honesty, the truth of that message is still very much up in air; one thing that the 2020 election has proven is that the 2016 election wasn’t anywhere near the outlier that a lot of people wanted it to be. But, simply as a reason to vote for someone, it was both extraordinarily powerful and just barely enough.


SICINIUS: What is the city but the people?

CITIZENS: True, the people are the city.

BRUTUS: By the consent of all, we were establish’d the people’s magistrates.

—Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act I, Scene 1.

Citizens of the following cities saved the American republic: Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and (possibly) Phoenix.

Remember these names: Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Ben Wikler of Wisconsin, Jane Fleming Kleeb of Nebraska. They saved the American Republic.

Black voters saved the American republic.

Women voters saved the American republic.

Over 70 million American citizens saved the American republic.

The late Congressman Elijah Cummings left behind the question for us all to answer:

When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: “In [2019], what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?” Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?

Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States.

Kamala Harris is the 49th Vice President of the United States.

At the moment, another verse from Seamus Heaney, whom Biden used as a kind of unofficial speechwriter throughout this long, weird year, seems appropriate to the occasion, to the election of a president-elect for whom fatherhood has been both glory and deep, unhealed wound, something that touched a country desperate for the kind of solace that Joe Biden brought home from Washington every night on the Acela to his bereaved sons back in Wilmington.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.

Doonesbury — Shearing the sheep.

Saturday, November 7, 2020