Where Are All The People Who Used To Love Donald Trump?

So yesterday my sister, who loves to torment me, sent me an article from Vanity Fair where some reporter went out to a beaten-down town in Pennsylvania and claims to have found a couple of women who voted for Obama but then voted for Trump and are planning to vote for him again. Can Biden bring those gals back to the Democratic fold? No, he can’t. They love Trump.

When Graydon Carter was Editor of Vanity Fair, he would never have published such crap. Who cares if some sixty-ish lady sitting in a diner in Allentown and says she used to be a Democrat is in love with Donald Trump? Biden needs to chase those votes like he needs a hole in his head.

In 2016, Trump won 30 states. As of today, we have current polls for 23 of those states. The 7 states for which we have no current polls together count a whole, big 34 electoral votes. The remaining 23 states provided Trump with 270 EV’s, and with the exception of a 1-point gain in Utah, in not one of those states is his current margin as great now as it was back then.

In 11 of those 23 states, he is basically tied with Joe. In the other 12 states he is not carrying one single state with as wide a margin as he racked up four years ago: These other 12 states are so reliably red that we never spend one second thinking about which way they will go, Yet Trump right now is anywhere between 4 and 13 points below his winning margin of 2016. Numbers from Nate Silver’s website as of last night:

State% in 2016% in 2020
AL6256
AR6047
GA5047
IN5649
KS5651
KY6256
MS5750
MO5648
MT5651
OK6555
SC5450
TN6052
     

I’m not saying that Trump will lose any of what we should start calling the red, no-mask states. What I am saying is that if Trump can’t hold onto his support in reliably-red states, what does this say about whether he can come out ahead in any of the must-win, swing states? So the real story which should have been published by Vanity Fair wasn’t about a few older ladies who just can’t stop loving Donald Trump. The real story is how come so many people who loved him in 2016 have decided it’s time to end their love affair.

The big difference between 2016 and this year’s campaign is that Trump is now the incumbent, and for all the talk about the advantages of incumbency, the incumbent becomes the target when things go wrong. And how can anyone imagine that things haven’t gone wrong when the national Covid-19 death count is now well past 150,000, a number which includes Herman Cain, pictured (above) at the Tulsa rally without wearing a mask?

What Will We Write About If Biden Wins?

              The latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly contains an article which makes the case that Trump could still pull things out in November because he has key advantages that our side doesn’t have. The problem with this article, however, is that it’s based on a mish-mash of quotes from various sources, all of whom will find themselves without anyone to talk to if Biden actually wins. Let’s look at each argument in turn.

              Argument #1. Trump will spin a slight recovery into the beginning of a real economic return. To buttress this point, the author of The Atlantic piece, Peter Nicholas, says that a new ABC-WaPo survey still gives Trump a 50 percent mark for how he’s handled the economy. Except the mark is actually 47%, Trump is tied with Joe in the new poll and his positive number has dropped by 19 points since March.

              Argument #2. The polls are no more correct than they were in 2016.  Which experts does Nicholas quote for this idea? None other than KellyAnne Conway, who deserves the Lifetime Medal of Freedom for how much bullshit she has pitched for Trump over the past four years.

              Argument #3. Trump can use the powers of incumbency to campaign all the time. Nicholas uses as an example of Trump’s media presence his daily briefing on Covid-19. Except there’s only one little problem. Trump has now twice abandoned those briefing because he looks and sounds like a fool.

              Argument #4. Biden still can’t convince the Bernie supporters to get onboard. This argument is bolstered by a comment from big-mouth Nina Turner, a co-chair of the Sanders campaign, who believes that voting for Biden is like eating a “bowl of shit.” The pro-Trump media has had a field-day with that one.

              Argument #5. Biden’s vote might be suppressed because Trump is against the mail-in vote and in-person voting sites are being reduced as a protection from Covid-19. Why do we assume that making people wait longer to vote will only hurt Biden? Why couldn’t the same lack of voting sites hurt Trump?

              Argument #6. Trump could always pull an October surprise. Trump can pretend that a vaccine is ready to hit the market, but how does such news mitigate the fact that because of how Trump responded to the ‘Chinese plague’ back in February, we need to rush a vaccine into production at all? And what about the possibility that an October surprise would be pulled off by Biden against Trump?

              Trump may want to believe that he’s a ‘wartime’ President but Americans aren’t lining up to support him the way they supported George Bush after the Twin Towers came down. Why not? Because Trump isn’t a wartime President. He’s a real-estate salesman who figured out how to use social media against an opponent who ran a totally inept and mismanaged campaign.

              When Obama was President, every time I walked into a bookshop there was always a big display of anti-Obama books. He was undermining the Constitution, he was promoting nefarious social policies, he was born outside the United States, he was doing this or doing that.  Now I go into bookstores and that same display case is filled with anti-Trump books. He’s a Fascist, a crook, a liar, next month Michael Cohen’s tell-all will be on display.

              So here’s the question: What are all these writers going to do if Biden wins? Can you imagine an anti-Biden book which argues that he’s a threat to this or a threat to that? If things keep going the way they are going in this campaign, nobody’s going to buy a book which tries to prove that Biden’s anything other than what he really is – a nice guy who might have beaten Trump in 2016 except he didn’t run because of the untimely death of his older son.

              Yesterday the President of the United States got up in public and promoted the medical views of a doctor who actually believes that DNA from outer-space aliens is being used to treat patients here on Earth. And Biden’s the demented candidate this year?

What Does Portland Really Mean?

portland

What did Karl Marx say in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte? Something about you know you’re at the moment of great crisis when the best becomes the worst and the worst becomes the best. Okay – so he stole it from Dickens.  But I think what he said then, may hold true now.

Let’s start with the FBI. When I was a kid, J. Edgar Hoover was at the top of every liberal shit-list. Could there have been a McCarthyism without the FBI going after every Red under every bed?  I doubt it.

Now the FBI is a must-save organization for liberals because it has been the target of endless Trump attacks. But Trump is so much against the FBI that he wants to spend $1.5 billion to give this Deep State agency a new headquarters building, which happens to be located right across the street from Trump’s hotel. And by the way, even Republicans on the committee which oversees the FBI’s budget decided last month that the cost of a new building was way too high.

The day that liberals would be defending the FBI against conservatives is a day I never thought I would see. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg must be spinning in their graves. But notice how Trump manages to take advantage of a situation he created with his endless rantings about the ‘deep state.’

If you think that the best has become and worst and the worst has become the best is represented by the goings-on at the FBI, the situation in Portland as reported by NPR is even more of a comment on how things seem to have changed. Basically, the story out of Portland is that the demonstrations don’t seem to have attracted much attention from right-wing militia groups who have previously strutted their stuff in Portland and other Western states.

One of the groups which has appeared in Portland with their assault rifles, camo outfits and (of course) MAGA hats, is a group calling itself Proud Boys, who describe themselves as ‘Western chauvinists’ and have posted an interview on their website with – ready? – Roger Stone! To quote my grandfather, these guys are real drek. And if you don’t know what drek means, I’ll give you a little hint. It’s what is rubbed off on the toilet paper after you wipe your ass.

The militia movement has been a staple of right-wing political media entertainment ever since 2014 when that idiot Cliven (‘let me tell you about your Negro’) Bundy called for a national get-together of militia groups outside his ranch. They showed up again in Charlottesville for the 2017 rally which resulted in the death of a young woman and then provoked Trump to deplore the violence on ‘both sides.’

Bits and pieces of these schmucky groups have appeared in rallies protesting state lockdowns, and some of them were particularly abusive towards Governor Whitmer in Michigan, a mini-riot that was applauded by Trump.

But here is what I don’t understand. One of our friends sent us an email from a participant in the Portland demonstrations which said: “The unfortunate effect of the Federales is that the Black Lives Matter and police reform protests are taking a back seat. The troops are a distraction, are inciting rioting and unwanted.” In other words, the demonstrations have become a response of local residents to the appearance and behavior of federal cops.

Now I thought that the militia movement and all their bullshit about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ was a reaction to the ‘tyranny’ of the national state. So why aren’t all these drek groups out there guarding the Black Lives Matter people and the Mothers and Grandmothers from the tear gas and assaults that go on every night?

I’ll tell you why. Because the only time we need to worry about federal government ‘overreach’ is when the federal government is run by liberals and worse, if the federal government happens to be run by a liberal who is also Black.

Like Marx said, the best has become the worst and the worst has become the best. Welcome to the Age of Trump.

Trump’s Numbers Are Going From Bad To Worse.

Back in 1937 they held a special election in the 10th Congressional District of Texas which at that time covered Austin and much of the hill country that covers the South-Central part of the state. The Hill Country includes Gillespie County, and smack dab in the middle of the county is a town called Stonewall, which right now has around 500 residents, which has always been more or less the population of that place.

              One of the families that lived in Stonewall was the Johnson family. They had a boy named Lyndon who was a high school teacher, then borrowed some money from his wife’s family and got himself into the 10th CD race. The seat was open because the long-time Congressman, ‘Bucky’ Buchannon, had dropped dead in February. In those days, the only way that a Texas Congressman lost his seat in the House of Representatives was if he dropped dead.

              So here was ol’ Lyndon trying for the first time to get himself out of the dust of the Hill Country and make a name for hisself. There was only one problem. A week before the election, ‘ol Lyndon got together behind the Presbyterian Church with his buddies who were helping him out. And one of the assembled group had no choice but to deliver the bad news.

              “Lyndon,” he said to ol’ Lyndon, “you losin’ an’ you losin’ bad. If we don’ figure out sumpin’ that will get you ahead of that feller who’s beatin’ you, y’all goin’ t’be back teachin’ school agin.”

              There was silence. Nobody knew what to do. That is until ol’ Lyndon raised his head, smiled and said, “I got it! We’ll spread the rumor that he f**ks pigs!”

              “Awww Lyndon,” said one of his friends, “you know he don’t do that.”

              “Yea.” replied Lyndon, smiling and nodding his head up and down, “but we’ll get him to deny it.”

              As promised, here are the weekly stats on how Biden and Trump match up in the crucial swing states. And if the numbers continue to change the way they have changed in the last week, the only thing that Trump can do to reverse his disappearing campaign is to spread some kind of ‘he f**ks pigs’ around about ol’ Joe.

              What the Hell, it worked for ol’ Lyndon back in ’37 (that story was often retold by LBJ himself) so maybe it’ll work again. They’ve tried just about everything else, including that Joe’s demented, that he made corrupt deals for his son Hunter in China and the Ukraine. Why not spread the rumor that he f**ks pigs?

              That being said, here are the swing-state numbers as of today:

Note that Joe is now at or almost at the magic 50-mark in three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Last week he hadn’t yet hit any state at the 50-point mark. Note that Trump is slightly ahead in Iowa and they are basically tied in Texas. Last week, Trump was ahead in Georgia, Iowa and Arkansas. Note that Joe has pulled slightly ahead in Ohio. In other words, Joe has improved his numbers in just about every swing state and he’s ahead in 9 out of 12 swing states. Last week he was ahead in 6 out of 12 swing states.

But here’s the more important news. There is not one single swing state which still has a dog-shit (undecided) number above 9, and in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona, the dog-shit number is down to 6. If the dog-shit vote were to split evenly and nothing else were to change, joe would wind up with 135 additional electoral votes, which would give him 332 EV’s on election day.

Today Trump goes to Dallas for a meeting with some Black church and community leaders to talk about improving relations between the cops and the local folks. The discussion is being called (by the White House) “Transition to Greatness: Restoring, Rebuilding and Renewing.” Neither the DA, the sheriff or the police chief are planning to attend.

Hey, wait a minute. I thought we already were great. I thought that all we needed to do now was keep ourselves great. Frankly, I think Trump stands a better chance of reversing his political collapse if he spends less time talking about being great or becoming great and concentrates instead on whether or not Joe f**ks pigs.

Toss-Up Senate Races As Of July 24th.

As promised, here are the polls covering the Senate races that are rated as being ‘in play’ and if the Democrats can win five, plus hold their own current seats, the Senate joins the House as a blue chamber beginning in 2021.

The good news is that every race has at least one current, statewide poll so that we can begin to form some idea about how things might change on November 3rd. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the races have slightly tightened in favor of the red team over the last week, and in only one race – Colorado – has our candidate gone past the coveted 50 mark. Added to that issue is the fact that the dog-shit (a.k.a., undecided) vote is still substantial in every race. For what it’s worth, here is how the Senate ‘in-play’ races now look:

There’s one other piece of good news, by the way. It’s the degree to which the Trump campaign seems to be slowly but surely fading away. Yesterday he announced that the big convention event in Jacksonville has been scrapped, claiming, of course, that it’s just because he wants everyone to be ‘safe.’

The truth is that the cops in Jacksonville told Trump that they couldn’t guarantee security which meant that the same federal goof-balls who gassed the mayor of Portland would have had to show up in Jacksonville to keep the President safe. Maybe we would have seen a replay of the assault made by federal agents against a group of demonstrators back in early June when Trump pretended he was going to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s daily ‘briefing’ on the virus has turned into a dismal, boring rant in which he repeats the same nonsense every day, then takes a few questions from a small group of media people and usually responds to most questions with nothing more than his usual version of the ‘facts.’ When asked whether the worsening diplomatic situation with China might jeopardize China’s agreement to purchase more farm goods, the President shrugged. Well at least he didn’t say something that was wrong.

One last point. I live in Massachusetts and last week received an application to vote this year by mail. If you live in any other state and haven’t received such an application, please contact the Clerk of the jurisdiction in which you live and ask what is going on. We need to make sure we get every vote counted this year.

Remember. 2020 genug.

Police Violence From A Novelist’s View.

              I conduct lethal-force certifications for law enforcement agencies, so I know lots of cops. Right now, I wouldn’t want to be a cop because for many of the people who are demonstrating against police violence, it’s payback time.

              I just finished reading a new novel by Joyce Carol Oates, NIGHT. SLEEP. DEATH. The STARS, which is a stanza from a Whitman poem.I love her books. I read some of them again and again. I write non-fiction but I read fiction and her works are always at the top of my list.

              This novel opens with John Earle ‘Whitey’ McLaren driving down the highway outside of Hammond, New York and passing two cops who are whomping the shit out of some Indian guy. Later we find out that the Indian guy is a doctor at the local hospital.

McLaren pulls over on the shoulder, starts walking towards the cops to find out what’s going on, and the cops start whomping the shit out of him too. They knock him down, hit him with multiple tasers, and the sixty-seven year-old former town Mayor who has just attended a meting of the Trustees of the Public Library, suffers a stroke from which he succumbs ten days’ later without ever regaining full consciousness.

              He leaves behind a widow, Jessalyn, and five grown children, along with a successful business run by his eldest child, Thom. There are three daughters – Beverly, Lorene, Sofia, and another son named Virgil.  The novel is another example of what makes Joyce Carol Oates such a remarkable storyteller, which is her uncanny ability to create a portrait of a family whose members are in some way or another adrift from each other and from themselves.

              I am not a literary critic of any sort, so I’m going to leave an analysis of the book’s text to others who are much more versant in judging fiction than myself. What I want to talk about is the incident of police brutality which starts the book off, given how this issue has come to dominate so much of our public discussion today.

              There is no question that much of the anger and public, mass demonstrations following the death of George Floyd was due to the response, or I should say, lack of response from Donald Trump. Even Rush Limbaugh came out he next day and expressed shock and concern about the video showing  Black man on the ground with a White cop using his boot to crush the poor guy’s neck.

              It took Trump almost a week to say anything about the event, no doubt he was waiting to hear the reaction from a couple of focus groups before saying anything about what took place. In fact, what he began doing almost immediately was going back to the usual racist playbook which included re-tweeting the most disgusting comments from Black conservatives like Candace Owens.

              But now back to the novel by Oates. What happens is that the eldest son decides to go after the cops who killed his father and runs up against the usual resistance of local officials and the police union to redress the situation at all. I’m not going to go into details because the novel needs to be read word-for-word, but what happens in this instance is probably what happens in most instances of police brutality when the cops do something stupid or brutal in any town and nobody’s standing there with a video camera to record the details.

              The strength of this novel lies in the endless twists and turns of family members whose lives all change when the individual around whom the family created and maintained its identity suddenly disappears. But the issue of police brutality is also handled in a deft and nuanced way because we need to remember that when something unnecessarily violent happens to anyone, the violence reverberates far beyond the immediate circle of family and friends.

Is Panic Buying Of Guns Causing More Gun Violence?

              Last week our friend Gail Lehmann shared with us the FBI’s latest report on background checks, which showed an extraordinary bump in handgun sales during June. Generally speaking, gun sales, particularly handgun sales, tend to go South during the Summer because nobody’s worried about protecting themselves at the beach.  June handgun checks in 2019 were just shy of 500,000, slightly more than handgun checks for June, 2018.

              The handgun check number for July, on the other hand, went into the stratosphere, with 1,371,811; June 2019 handgun checks were 497,915. The big ‘winners’ on a state-by-state basis were Florida (133,285) and Texas (121,926). These two states accounted for almost 20% of all handgun checks in June and together contain 15% of the country’s population.

              There does seem to be an increase in gun violence coincident with the Covid-9 crisis. In New York City, which used to be one of the safest urban zones, shootings in 2020 are up by 46 percent in the first six months of the year, homicides have increased by 21 percent. In Chicago, June-to-June shootings have increased by 75 percent. Louisville, KY has doubled its shooting numbers from 117 non-fatal gun assaults in 2019 versus 246 this year.

              The information about spiking gun sales was contained in an email sent out by one of the gun-control websites – Guns Down America – which of course asked recipients for a donation to help reduce gun violence. Here’s what they have to say about the influx of more guns into the civilian arsenal: “Panic buying of guns has now reached record levels and it only increases the chance of death and injury.”

              The only problem with this very compelling argument is that it may or may not be true. Everyone who believes that Americans own too many guns has probably read the fundamental research on this issue, a series of articles published by David Hemenway which finds that the U.S. rate of fatal violence is much higher than what occurs ion other advanced (OECD) countries because we have so many guns lying around. We are the only country where the per-capita number of privately-owned guns is higher than the number of residents, and gun access is the fundamental difference between the level of lethal violence here as opposed to everywhere else.

              I would be willing to agree with Hemenway except for the messy little fact that most of the guns sitting in the civilian arsenal have nothing to do with gun violence at all. I published a study on the types of guns picked up by law-enforcement agencies in over 100 separate jurisdictions, and nearly all of them were handguns, particularly the small and concealable ones. When I did a scan on the entire list of 9,000 guns using the names of the six largest manufacturers of hunting rifles and shotguns, not one showed up.

              The biggest problem we have trying to figure out gun violence is that we also have no idea how, when, or why guns that are legally purchased end up in the ‘wrong’ hands. And the bottom line is that most, if not nearly all of the people who have shot other people this year (or any other year) didn’t get to that point in their lives as decent, law-abiding folks and then one day simply explode. To the contrary, the research by Marvin Wolfgang and others clearly shows that nearly all of the people who commit violent assaults were already exhibiting violent behavior by the time they were twelve years old.

              My point is that I am not sure that an increase in gun sales necessarily leads to an increase in gun violence pari passu, particularly when the increase in violence occurs during the same months that schools are shut down. And let’s not forget that thanks to the overwhelmingly stupid non-response of the Trump Administration to the virus, school summer vacation this year started back in March.

              I’m not trying in any way to diminish concerns about the increase in gun violence or the increase in gun sales. I would just like the discussion about both issues to be rooted not in fear but in facts.

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