Thursday, August 13, 2020

Kamala Harris' First Impression

 There is a race to define her.

She now defines herself on the Biden-Harris website as "the first Black and Indian American woman to represent California in the United States Senate."

Harris in New Hampshire, Sept. 2019

She leads with identity.

Meanwhile, Trump and Fox call her a radical socialist, a loser with a failed campaign, a nasty woman who will dominate and displace Biden.

Today's post is a look back to January 2019, when this blog gave Harris her first long look. Her first campaign rally was in Oakland, California and 20,000 people showed up. It was a favorable first impression. Back then she wanted to emphasize her fearless prosecution of wrongdoing, her personal rectitude, and law and order.

That brand evolved during 2018. Democrats wanted to hear about economic and racial justice, not criminal prosecutions.

Back at the beginning Fox thought to attack her with a "slut shame" focus, noting her former relationship with California legislator Willie Brown. They thought that was her vulnerable spot: the ambitious woman with a oh-so-convenient relationship with a powerful man. The slut!!

In today's political climate that attack seems even more nakedly misogynistic and gratuitiously  personal than it did then. She was little known then, but today she has been on the national stage for twenty months. I expect them to drop this line of attack, although I see remnants of it in Facebook comments from citizen partisans. Sean Hannity is dating a Fox colleague; Donald Trump, Jr. has separated from his wife and is dating a former Fox host. An attack from that direction exacerbates the problem Trump has in reconnecting with suburban women, a demographic that has switched away from him. Trump said he was defending those women, the "suburban housewife." Today that suburban  woman is not a housewife. Like Harris, she works, she has a career. Harris presents as a woman fully capable, fully legitimate, fully worthy of respect.  De-legitimizing Harris by calling her a slut insults and de-legitimizes by implication other women in the workforce.

Here is how things looked back at the beginning. 

Note: I leave my posts up, even when history shows me to have been wrong. We live in real time and I attempt to observe the unfolding present. This and all other posts are unchanged, except for minor corrections of typos if I notice them later:

                                                  ----    ----    ----

January 30, 2019

Fast Start. Big Crowd. "Fearless."

First impressions matter. 

The first things we know about a candidate are the mental structure that we use to understand the next few things we learn.

And we don't have mental shelf space to know very much. We get impressions. 

Kamala Harris's first campaign rally had 20,000 people, standing in a plaza in Oakland. I attended Trump's first rally in New Hampshire, where there were 3,000 people in a high school gymnasium in the town of Rochester, which seemed like a lot.

It's a very good start for Kamala Harris.

The typical American voter outside of California has barely heard of Harris. She starts with an appearance and biography. She is 54 years old, female, dark skinned, a lawyer, a California US Senator, a former Attorney General and District Attorney.

The pundits and activists and political "inside baseball" writers like myself will learn and integrate dozens of more things about her in the weeks ahead, but an ongoing premise of this blog is that most voters will have made up their mind about a candidate knowing about seven things on election day.  Her biography used up about four of them because her being a 54 year old dark skinned woman is a single category.

Archetype: Another premise of this blog is that a candidate for president is understood by voters as an archetype, a stock character in a simple fight in a near-wordless match up--sort of like professional wrestling, but for real. Then voters choose which character they prefer.

Trump has his character: the dominating tabloid newspaper bully, simple-minded but strong, fighting for traditional American values against liberal snobs, criminal aliens, outsiders.

Kamala Harris is creating her counter-brand. Her appearance is a given. Her clothes and manner present her as "professional" which is consistent with her law enforcement background.  She is adding an adjective: FEARLESS

This is a good choice for her. 

There were alternatives. She could have emphasized that she was a scrappy poor person, or fair-minded, or bi-partisan good government oriented, or not-a-narcissist, or intelligent, or really experienced in government. 

There are a multitude of ways to be not-Trump. 

By choosing to be a fearless former District Attorney, voters can make a choice between two worthy champions, two alternative fighters in a ring.  Americans are pre-programmed to understand this matchup. The white-hat sheriff versus the crook. 

Marshall Dillon in Gunsmoke. 

Good guy calling out the bad guy
Harris embraces her law enforcement background--casting against type. Blacks, women and Democrats generally have been positioned as the people sympathizing with Rodney King rather than the white policemen who beat him, and with hands-up blacks shot by white police. 

She is getting criticized for this by the left. The criticism will help her, if she handles it right, i.e. by not backing down and apologizing. She will demonstrate by unmistakable body language behavior that she was fearless. She is what she is. She will not get every left-leaning vote in the primary and her willingness not to pander to those lost votes will give her political credibility.

She has disrupters to this first impression narrative

Fox News slut shames Harris, accusing her of using sex to advance her career. They use a woman to do it. Tomi Lahren calls her a hypocrite. "Kamala, given you're a vocal and proud supporter of the MeToo movement, what are your thoughts about using an extramarital affair to boost their political career?"

Lauren says she lets viewer in on a secret, that Kamala Harris is a conniving imposter who used sex to advance her career over the careers of others, having an extramarital affair with a powerful man thirty years her senior. He helped her career. He got her jobs.

This created a tweet-storm from multiple sides. including widespread criticism of Fox for leading with this. There were thoughtful articles in the Washington Post saying that this is an example of misogyny and that these accusations would not be made against a male.

In general this hurts Harris. The entire subject is bad. In the limited-mental-shelf-space model, Fox managed to put "conniving slut" into the mix of seven things we are learning about Harris. 

It was smart of Fox. Position Harris as the slut who became Senator. Make her appearance a negative. 

But it is a mixed bag, and may well help Harris in the primary. 

Other women, particularly Gillibrand, are associated with MeToo, branding formed by Gillibrand's early criticism of Senator Franken. Slut-shaming by Fox makes Harris a victim. A Google search for Kamala Harris put his Lauren video and Fox News' coverage of the past relationship with Willie Brown within the top five or six about Harris, as of 6:00 a.m. this morning. The charge is working and  Democratic women may take her side: a single woman can't date--how unfair. What we did 20 years ago is held against us--how unfair.

It is a challenge for Harris. Perhaps she can retain her brand as the fearless warrior who represents rectitude, and therefore a worthy archetype opponent of Trump. She needs to appear unbowed and unapologetic. Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke did not apologize for whatever relationship he had with Kitty.

It would have been better had Willie Brown said nothing about their having dated beyond that he barely remembered. But he did help preserve her narrative when he said he dated lots of women and it was along time ago: "The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I 'so much as jaywalked' while she was D. A." 

Harris confirmed it with a generational and prosecutorial challenge: "His career is over: I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years. I do not owe him a thing."

Brown observed about her ingratitude: "That's politics for you."

No. It is Harris positioning herself as a law enforcement professional. "If there is corruption, it will be prosecuted."

Harris will prove herself worthy of being a candidate by how she gets through this.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Drop Biden. Kamala for President instead.

What if Democrats really wanted Kamala Harris all along, but didn't realize it until now?

Harris, speaking to 500 in New Hampshire

A Guest Post today suggests just that: Dump Biden, replace him with Kamala Harris, and let's have a forward-looking Democratic Party.

Joe Biden won the nomination because with over twenty well qualified candidates, no one stood out, least of all Biden, the best known. He was "Old Fashioned Vanilla" in an ice cream display case filled with "French Vanilla," "Vanilla Cream," "Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl." There were too many good choices, generally sharing his Democratic vanilla politics, but newer. 

The new candidates muddled the choices, wore each other out, and ran out of money. By the time the election got to South Carolina local leadership made a recommendation to go with "Old Fashioned Vanilla Biden." Biden won big. 

That cleared the field for a showdown with the other big alternative flavor, Bernie Sanders' "Democratic Socialism Pepper." To the dismay of Bernie Sanders' supporters, the American public was not, after all, filled with voters waiting on the sidelines to expand the electorate and vote for "Democratic Socialism." Sander's had not sold his case beyond a base of young, white, college town and coastal progressives. His movement condemned heretics; it didn't add allies. Sanders frightened a majority of Democratic voters, so they chose the safer and familiar flavor, Biden.

Then many got buyer's remorse. Polls showed Trump's voters were enthusiastic about him,, while Biden's voters were only enthusiastic about replacing Trump. Biden was old fashioned, indeed, very 20th century.  Many Democrats worry that he will be an easy target for Trump. Many Democrats have a deeper worry: that Biden is actually the wrong person for the job ahead. 

The process that got us Biden was happenstance. Why not another process, put into place now, one that gives the country what it actually needs?

Thad Guyer is an attorney who represents whistle blowing employees. Like me, in the fall of 2016, against all consensus, he predicted Trump would win. His prediction was based on past electoral data. Readers may be surprised by his proposal, but those who dismiss Guyer do so at the risk of ignoring a track record of being right, against the consensus.

[Speaking for myself, I am satisfied that Biden is a "transitional" figure, president for a while. America needs a time out from the Trump era of high drama. We need to re-establish the credibility of our political norms and institutions, including the institution of how we elect a president. But then I would hope Biden would step away gracefully.]

Guest Post by Thad Guyer

Step 1 of Offload Biden is Done and Done!

As I have argued before, it is unacceptable that a feeble old white man put into the position as our presumptive nominee by institutional racism, should be the officially selected nominee of the Democratic Party.  The process that swept aside all the women and people of color as not being as “electable” as good old white Joe was inherently a racist and sexist process.  That process was implicitly based on the cry that “blacks and women aren’t electable, only a senile old white man is”.  This is utterly disgusting, disheartening and racist reasoning at this juncture of history in 2020.  

Tuesday August 11, 2020 should be recorded as a historic day, and mark the first step toward removing Joe Biden from the ticket.  Forcing him, squeezing him, threatening him to name a black woman as VP was step one.  Yes, step 1 is done and done! On to step 2, which is replacing Biden with Kamala Harris, and then to step 3, selecting the female vice presidential nominee of Senator’s Harris’ choice.  Elizabeth Warren will be the likely pick. 

August, 2019. Not young.
Biden is not yet the nominee, we have not even had the convention, so offloading Biden is entirely possible and completely necessary as a matter of urgent racial and social justice. Indeed, we are not going to have anything like a “convention”, so there will not be that hard to break dynamic of face-to-face deal making, horse trading in hotel rooms, and unholy promises by and for the institutionalized political class.  It will be a Zoom process, virtual and virtuous.   Under the rules of regular order of the Democratic Party, if Biden does not get the nomination on the first vote, all delegates are released and can vote how they want. Under the Covid 19 pandemic rules in the face of the national emergency of Trump getting reelected, and a country convulsing on white supremacy, the rules of regular order, those rules of systemic racism, well, they must be discarded.  Biden should be rejected on the first vote, and Senator Harris should be selected on the second vote.

Let’s break the grip of institutional racism within our party.  Offload Biden now!"  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Trump to replace Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore

Problem: There isn't room to ADD Trump. So someone must be replaced.

Maybe Washington. Maybe Lincoln.

      "I think I've done more for the Black community than any other president, and let's take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, although he did some good, although it's always questionable. You know, in other words, the end result."

       Donald Trump, interview with Fox News's Harris Faulkner

Trump replaces Washington
Mount Rushmore is back in the news. Donald Trump's decision to give his Republican nomination speech either at the White House or at the battlefield site of Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" re-stimulated talk of Donald Trump being added to Mt. Rushmore. The Snopes internet rumor debunking website published today that the story of Trump angling to be added to Mount Rushmore is "True."  Click: Trump on Mt. Rushmore

Trump on Rushmore is classic Trump; his signature trademark for self branding is putting his name boldly atop monuments, usually buildings. He also brands himself with items that are, he says, singularly the greatest, most huge, best. The best golf courses. The best real estate training. He sold, he said, the "world's greatest steaks." 

Mt. Rushmore is an iconic celebration of presidents. It is the big one, in a whole greater league than monuments on the Mall, or a popular painting in the National Portrait Gallery, Obama's current physical legacy. The Gettysburg site of Lincoln's speech rededicating the purpose and meaning of the Civil War, is equally iconic. Schoolchildren memorize the speech. Everyone has heard of Gettysburg. What other presidential speech is known by its location, not its content? So where better for Trump to give a partisan nomination speech?

Trump brought up having his face on Mt. Rushmore with the South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, back when she was a member of the U.S. House. "Did you know it's my dream to be on Mount Rushmore," she reported him saying. She said she laughed at the prospect before realizing Trump was serious.

Impossible. No room to the left.
Trump raised the issue again speaking at a political rally in Youngstown, Ohio. 

     "I'd ask whether on not you think I will someday be on Mount Rushmore. But here's the problem. If I did it, joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say, 'He believes he should be on Mount Rushmore.' So I won't say it, OK?"

He said it by saying he won't say it.

When he spoke at the Independence Day celebration this July Governor Noem presented him with a 4 foot model of the improved Mount Rushmore, with his face on it. Shortly after, a White House aide sent this photograph to the Trump-friendly NY Post, which published it.

Over this weekend Trump again teased with the idea:

     "This is Fake news by the failing @nytimes & bad ratings @CNN. Never suggested it although, based on all the many things accomplished during the first 3 1/2 years, perhaps more than any other Presidency, sounds like a good idea to me!"

Is this actually real?  Is Donald Trump seriously suggesting/promoting this "good idea"?

Posing in South Dakota
Trial balloon. Yes, in the way that ideas get floated in DC, the classic deniable tease. An idea is posited as a suggestion of someone else, or by oneself as a maybe-joke, maybe-serious, not actually requested but put out there for discussion. Being on Mt. Rushmore is deserved, sure, he said, but Trump isn't actually requesting it himself, no, that would be fake news. 

The idea will have some traction. Trump is understood as transformational and superlative by some people in his base. Supporters send me emails suggesting that God intervened to put Trump here to give God and Jesus the boost they sorely needed. 

The problem for Trump is that the Trump on Mt. Rushmore meme accentuates the narcissism and megalomania meme. Trump always risks looking ridiculous, grandiloquent rather than grand, a self promoter. He is understood to be a master salesman who will tell you want you want to hear and make you believe it, because he believes in himself most of all. That is Trump's brand. Of course he wants to be on Mount Rushmore. That actually isn't all bad. The best incentive for Trump to do a good job as president--a constitutional leader rather than a distracted failure-- is the hope and prospect that he might someday enjoy enormous respect and his face might someday appear there.
Again, impossible. No room.

Trump is making a mistake talking about it, though. It is a bridge too far. He understood the American voter's respect for monuments, and he benefited from images of destruction of monuments to familiar and traditional heroes. There is a lot of emotional inertia at work, which is why even statues to Confederate generals have a constituency, although a diminishing one. A majority of voters don't want statues to American heroes changed. Monuments, once erected, become semi sacred. Defacement is sacrilege.

That is Trump's Mount Rushmore problem. He would be an interloper, a vandal. The talk of adding Trump comes across as defacement. 

[post updated to correct Harris Faulkner's first name.]

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mask Dispute in Medford Grocery

Me: "I see you aren't wearing your masks. Are you Trump voters?"

Couple: "We sure are!"

Some people take off their masks inside the store. They told me to "fuck off."

Medford mask scofflaws
I observed a dispute between customers at my local grocery store, an Albertsons in Medford, Oregon. A man and woman sharing a cart--presumably a couple--removed their masks after entering the store and left them dangling below their chins while they shopped.

A fellow customer, a women I would guess to be in her sixties, took them to task, telling them repeatedly they should wear their masks inside the store. They refused, and continued shopping. I could observe the back and forth between them until, by chance the unmasked couple was next in line behind me while I was checking out, and they ignored the signs on the floor to leave space and came right up to me. Their masks were off.

I asked if they were Trump voters.

"We sure are," they said. 

I said that I noticed that they took their masks off, so it was a guess.

The woman half of the couple told me, "Masks don't work and they make you sick. Educate yourself. It's my body, and I can do what I want. You liberals should fuck off."  She turned to her husband and said something about me needing to move to Ashland. Ashland is a nearby college town, with a well-deserved reputation for voting for Democrats.

The news has multiple stories about mask conflicts in stores. A man was arrested in Spokane, Washington accused of breaking the jaw of a 72 year old man in a wheelchair who had commented on a missing mask. A man broke the arm of a Target employee in Los Angeles who tried to enforce the mask law. A woman punched a man in the face in Baton Rouge in a face mask dispute.

None of that happened here. I was curious about them but I mostly wanted more to pay for my stuff and get out. I did not ask their occupations, nor if they were church goers. They refused to give the their names, and when they saw me take out my camera to photograph them, they pulled their masks part way up.

The divide has narrowed recently in response to Trump's grudging validation of  mask wearing, but it still exists. A significant number of Trump supporters remain mask skeptics, perceiving them as an unnecessary imposition. A Republican governor in Georgia sued to prohibit Atlanta's mayor from imposing a mask-in-stores rule in her city, a virus hotspot. The South Dakota governor is proudly saying that the Sturgis convocation of bikers is up and running, masks optional, crowd right in.

The shopper's comment to me embedded the justifications that circulate around conservative circles for not wearing a mask.

The whole mask/social distancing thing is unnecessary.  The virus is out there, it isn't that bad, and some people will die but most will be OK. Some people will die, and "it is what it is," as Trump put it. Worried old and sick people should shelter themselves, but the rest of us should soldier on and go back to life pre-virus.

Masks don't work. It is true that most masks do not protect the wearer. They give some protection to others for inhalation of aerosol body fluids, with the quality depending on the material and whether it is worn correctly. Many people don't cover their nose. Many people use pro-forma masks with minimal value. In short, masks are a very hit or miss protection.

They make you sickLouis Gohmert, the Texas Congressman who tested positive for Covid, publicly scoffed at masks and blamed wearing a mask for his getting it. He said it trapped germs. Others say it constrains their breathing, which, makes them uncomfortable. My own experience with an N-95 mask, worn tightly across my nose and cupping my chin, is exactly that. Breathing is harder because air in and out is pulled through filters, a feature, not a bug.
Irony alert: This is the "pro-choice" abortion argument.

It is a matter of freedom and autonomy. Masks are perceived as government over-reach, with mask opponents making the same arguments people make about whether or not to smoke, wear motorcycle helmets, how to wear ones hair, how to dress, whether to get vaccinated, and whether to get an abortion. People don't want to be told what to do. 

Distrust of experts. The woman told me to educate myself, implying a set of information different from the near universal direction from public health experts urging people to use masks. In fact there are sets of alternative facts circulating: masks build up carbon dioxide; masks collect germs; masks suppress your immune system from getting necessary exposure to the virus so it can respond appropriately. These have been debunked by experts, but that is the point, untrustworthy experts with their group-think.

Partisan signalling. This is a vivid example of the power of leadership.Trump validated resistance as a point of pride and political identity. This happened early and it set the stage. Trump said he didn't want to wear one, and then sent a tweet congratulating a demonstration of armed men going to the Michigan capitol building to protest a Democratic governor's mask and social distancing rules.

This was a big body language statement. He signaled that Americans who liked and trusted him should not let the virus worrywarts and tyrants push them around. You don't wear a Trump mask to own the libs. You own them by not wearing a mask at all. That will rile the snowflakes.

The couple refused to wear a mask, in the face of requests from a fellow customer. I made a guess, that they were Trump supporters, and I was right.

I was wearing a mask and confronted them about not wearing one. They guessed I was a liberal, and they are right.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Trump Gear Pop-up Store

Business opportunity: Sell Trump hats, flags, masks.  

Lots of customers. Big markups.

"No man, no woman, no commie can stop him."

      Trump as Rambo flag for sale.

A Trump store popped up on a wide spot on the side of a busy highway. It was no frills. It didn't need frills.

The store was a motor home festooned with Trump flags and banners. Local readers have seen the location, at the corner of Vilas Road and Highway 62, just north of a big shopping center where Walmart, Lowes, and until recently Costco, have big box stores. The shoulder of the road is wide and there was space for a dozen cars to pull over.

While I was there--for ten minutes--seven different cars pulled up. These were not curiosity lookers and comparison shoppers. These were buyers. They wanted to buy the hat to put on their heads and display their pride and association with Trump.

It might be obvious, but it is worth saying. This store was not selling irony, or camp, or kitsch material for sophisticates to buy as gag gifts, or as a curiosity. This is for real. 

The proprietor said her daughter had a similar business up and running in a nearby town--Grants Pass--and she hoped to get a better space in a mall shortly, but this would do for now and was really busy.  As I talked with her passing cars honked and waved. 

A woman in her fifties, who had bought an American flag style neckerchief told me she liked Trump because he "was fighting for our liberties, the freedom to have guns. Freedom of religion. The freedom not to have to have vaccinations if we don't want them. I don't want government telling me I have to have vaccinations or anything done to my body."

I asked if she wore a mask in stores. "I do if the store wants me to. It is their store and they have a right to make the rules. Otherwise, I don't care."

A woman in her forties who had purchased a banner said she admired Trump. "He gave up everything a man could want to serve his country. He had everything. Gold everything in his house. Every luxury and pleasure a man could desire, and he gave all that up. While the other guy, he's been there for fifty years on the dole."

Best Selling Item
A man in his thirties told me he was Mexican-American and he liked Trump. He said he was born in LA, but his parents were from Mexico. He said he didn't like Trump saying Mexicans were bad, that didn't sit right, but "there are bad people of every kind. Trump seemed like he was trying his best." 

I asked if Trump did a good job on the virus. He said he didn't know much. I asked if he knew anything about Biden, and he shrugged, and said that he had heard of him, yes.

A man in his sixties said that Trump "stood up for America."  I was wearing a mask, and like every other person at the outdoor store, he was not. His manner was mildly hostile. I thanked him as I backed away.  He said, Trump was "sticking up for America first."

An old woman who stayed in her car while her daughter shopped held a mask but did not wear it. I stayed well away. She told me God blessed Donald Trump and that he was a very good man. God was looking out for Mr. Trump, she said.

The proprietor told me adult size masks were $10, children's were $5, hats were $20 and they were the best sellers, and then flags and banners next, which cost $30 and up. She said she sold one of the Confederate flags so far.

Good markup opportunity

There are substantial markup opportunities for a entrepreneur who wants to get into the business. Similar material is purchasable on line for as little as $3 per hat. But this is an impulse purchase by people excited to be part of something bigger than themselves.

A question for Democrats: Would a similar pop-up store selling Biden merchandise work?  

I expect not. I have never in my life seen a Biden hat, not even at Biden Town Hall events in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A pop-up store selling Dump Trump material might, however, do some business.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Trump stumbles on "Yosemite"

     "The best defense is a good offense."

                  Military adage        

Joe Biden has a gaffe problem. Luckily for Democrats, so does Trump.


It is no secret that Joe Biden makes verbal stumbles. Trump and his media allies point to them, smirk, and call them evidence of Biden's senility. Trump has settled on an approach to disqualify Biden: describe him as a demented old fool, the puppet of younger radical leftists, who would be helpless to stop a socialist dystopia beset by enemies at home and abroad. Biden's verbal stumbles are the best evidence for the line of attack.

Click: 12 seconds
Biden has a defense: a good offense. 

Trump's struggles with reading prepared speeches. He made an amusing and surprising gaffe midweek in a speech about national parks. He cited the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and then he got to a word he struggled with, Yosemite. He hesitated, then called it:    "Yoh-Semite."

Watch the short clip.

I wish to make two points. The first is the moment of "Wow, that's odd. Surely Trump has heard the word Yosemite ten thousand times. Strange mistake."

The second is the source of the clip here.  Note that is the content of a DNC War Room tweet, one of the ways the gaffe circulated right after hit was made.The Biden team understands that Biden's best defense against the gaffe/senile charge is not the one that this blog made the  day before yesterday, that Biden has a stutter. That is the minimize-and-explain defense. It may work in normal human interactions, and I believe it to be useful context for people reading this blog, but it does not work in political messaging and advocacy. 

Trump has shown us that in today's media and political environment, what works is war. Don't explain. Don't look to third parties to referee. When hit, hit back. Indeed, it is not war in any formal, stylized way, as in a court of law or a debate where marshaling facts matter, or even in a clash of armies in which position and logistics matter. 

It is simpler than that. Trump has taught us that politics is war the way it is fought in middle school schoolyards.

Boy One:"You're senile."

Boy Two: "So are you! You are ten times more senile than me."

Click: funny
Boy One: "You said 'dog face pony soldier.' You're so stupid.

Boy Two: "You said 'Yoh-Semite.' You don't even know Yosemite. I'm rubber, your're glue. You are more stupid."

Some readers will think this an exaggeration and trivialization of a great Republic choosing its national leader, but it is close to dead earnest. Watch Fox News. Listen to Trump. Watch late night comedy. 

This clip from the Daily Show in effect shows both sides of the schoolyard fight because it mocks the tactic of Fox News in their furrowed-brow criticism of Biden's presumed incapacity by interposing it with Trump's own verbal miscues, starting with "Yoh-Semite."

It is an example of "So are you!" Late night comedy is one of Biden's media allies.

In politics, minimization and contextualizing validates the accusation, therefore backfiring. It frames the debate as "just how demented is Joe Biden?" and that question itself means that Trump has won the schoolyard fight. Trump has demonstrated that distraction, subject-changing, and accusation is a better tactic. Apparently the media and voters have no interest or attention span for careful consideration of nuance or degrees of something. Partisans have their minds made up. 

Biden's best defense of his own mental competence is to demonstrate that he can throw a punch right back. If Biden can defend himself, then that very fact alone demonstrates Biden's mental fitness for office. Don't defend; attack. Make Trump the subject. Look at Trump and his Yoh-Semite. And that raises a much better question from Biden's point of view: "Just how demented is Donald Trump?"

Biden's team is hitting back: Gaffes? What about you, Mr. 'Yoh-Semite." And physical fitness? Let's do some push-up right now, me against you.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Trump: Biden will "Hurt God. He's against God."

Trump sounds desperate. 

We understand this moment. It is the "Hail Mary" moment, when character is revealed. 

     "[Biden will] take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy. Our kind of energy."

End of the road for Joe McCarthy

In storytelling sometimes a central character, in defeat and exhaustion, gives it his last best shot. In the Frank Capra movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the character is sympathetic and eloquent in his desperation and exhaustion, and wins over hearts and minds of opponents, and succeeds. In football, the Hail Mary moment is when the quarterback throws the ball deep downfield into a clutch of defenders in an improbable play, yet with no other choices. Sometimes the ball is caught, miraculously, by the winning team's receiver.  In Cool Hand Luke, the Paul Newman character, or in the first Rocky movie, the Sylvester Stallone character, ends the fight defeated but still swinging, wildly but ineffectively, and each becomes heroic in their defeat, persisting past all hope.

Sometimes desperation looks good and works. Other times not.

Paranoia revealed
Sometimes in the moment of desperation, character flaws get revealed. Humphrey Bogart, the captain in the Caine Mutiny, rambling and looking crazed as he sits on the witness stand, rattles steel balls. Joe McCarthy, who became increasingly relentless and accusatory in the McCarthy-Army hearings, destroyed his own reputation. He went past a tipping point, and a famous question at long last was asked: "Let us not assassinate this lad further. Have you not done enough, senator? Have you no sense of decency?" We realized that McCarthy indeed did not.

Watch Donald Trump on the tarmac in Cleveland. The clip is two minutes long and worth a reader's time: Click Here.

It looks unhinged. He went past a tipping point himself. It doesn't look heroic. It looks wild and dishonest. 

Trump--when looking strong--comes across as confident and cruel. He toyed with Elizabeth Warren, calling her Pocahontas, with a smirk. Trump put down opponents with punches that landed. Jeb Bush, as this blog photographed and described, did in fact carry himself with low energy posture, arms dangling at his side. Trump exploited that. "Little Marco" Rubio is, indeed, short in stature. Joe Biden is, in fact, low drama--call it "sleepy"--compared with Trump.

Beat. Hopeless.
But Trump in Cleveland is entirely different. Accusations that aren't remotely credible hurt the accuser, not the accused. This clip is an in-your-face notice that he is willing to say anything, if he thinks it hurts his opponent. There will be people deep within a partisan or media bubble who absolutely agree with Trump, ready to believe any charge, so long as it is negative about a Democrat. This kind of talk will bring cheers from a small, thoroughly vetted partisan crowd. That will be a misleading and dangerous signal to Trump.

Joe Biden as an anti-God, anti-Bible frightening socialist simply does not seem plausible to people outside Trump's closest orbit. Biden is an ethnic cradle-Catholic. A church-goer. He prays, he goes to Mass, he gets ashes on his forehead on Ash Wednesday. We know people like Biden. They aren't anti-Bible. Biden's Party has become secular, but Biden has not. Biden's Party has moved left. Biden hasn't, not much. Nina Turner calls him a "half bowl of shit." 

Biden doesn't look like a tyrant out to hurt God. 

Among storytellers, if this scene of Trump desperation were to come with many pages still to come, then we would understand this to be a fore-shadowing, not the climax. We are at a hinge point, where Trump could either persist and go over the cliff, or turn back. There are still pages in this real-life story. There is still time for Trump to settle down and realize that wild talk hurts him, and he will ease up and become more disciplined. However, in stories and in life, this is the time when character is revealed. I do not expect change. Wild accusations got him this far, and Fox News encourages more outrage, not less. He will get feedback that encourages these charges, so I expect Trump to accentuate, not change. 
Trump in Cleveland .

This isn't over. Biden could lose. Biden could sabotage his own campaign, or Biden's allies could say and do things that prove Trump's case. But if Trump keeps sounding like this, then Trump will be hurting himself. 

Trump sounds like the car salesman when the buyer is walking out the door, not ready to buy, the salesman desperate--desperate--to have you talk to the sales manager before you leave. 

Your instinct is to say you need to leave and to walk briskly to your car.