Saturday, October 24, 2020

COVID triage. It's seniors' turn to die

      "A man can die but once. We owe God a death, and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next."

              Henry IV, Part 2  William Shakespeare

The USA has a policy of sacrificing old, sick people in order to spare the young and the economy. We just don't want to admit it.

Let me be clear. I am not happy about this. I am 71 years old.  I am on the hit list. I am not advocating. I am describing.

A Great Barrington Declaration is circulating and adding signatures. It advocates a change in US policies away from mass virus suppression and toward "Focused Protection." The Declaration says that it is both impossible and morally wrong to burden the entire country with the effort to stop the spread of the virus. COVID is probably not very dangerous for most Americans, it says, so the entire effort should be to protect the people that COVID actually endangers, the old and the sick. The cost of attempting to protect everyone is too great and the net result is more harm than good. Yes, people are going to get hurt, but fewer people are hurt if we stop trying to protect people who don't need protection and focus on those who do.

The ethic of Utilitarianism is well known among students who have taken a college course in philosophy. Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832, put the idea of Utilitarianism into coherent form. How to weigh the various moral consequences of any action? The best answer, he said, is summarized by a phrase: Do the greatest good for the greatest number.

The Great Barrington Declaration takes note of the reality that the social distancing rules have costs. Protecting seniors and the sick mean millions of schoolchildren are missing school and therefore education essential to their futures. It means millions of people who want to work cannot. It is disrupting landlord/tenant relations. It is pushing people into poverty, with all of poverty's current and long term consequences. It is exacerbating the problems of inequality, since many of the people least able to adjust to the new regimen are people already experiencing inequality, the working poor and their children.

Meanwhile, the people who could best be able to deal with social distancing and economic slowdowns are most likely to be out of the workforce, people getting pension and Social Security checks. They can shelter and protect themselves.

The Utilitarian idea focuses on the whole. By contrast, the Golden Rule ethic focuses on individual feelings, asking people how they would want to be treated, and few people would ask to be injured. The Golden Rule may work for guiding ones behavior toward family and neighbor, but for a national leader, it causes one to "err" on the side of compassion and avoiding direct injury.The Golden Rule is the ethical basis underlying policy of mass reduction of COVID spread, and the position advanced by Democrats. Look at the dead and injured. Think of them and their families. Don't hurt more people.

In actual practice, Americans have given up on mass suppression of COVID. Trump was certainly motivated by his re-election and maintaining a facade of COVID being harmless to protect the strong economy, but the result is that he backed into a Utilitarian policy of triage that sacrifices the old and sick for the benefit of the young, the healthy, and the economy.

He had choices. A mass COVID suppression program could have worked, with early and consistent buy-in from national leadership, with mask wearing, social distancing, shut-downs of social gatherings including church services and schools, plus testing and aggressive contact tracing. All those actions needed to have been affirmed as patriotic at the highest levels of government. There needed to be bipartisan buy-in. That didn't happen. A mass stop-the-spread policy cannot work if 35-40% of people think it is foolish and an affront to liberty and personal choice and a partisan signal of defeat to the opposite Party.

Trump is hinting at the actual policy with his I-feel-great comments and his unapologetic events that risk virus spread. White House behavior is body language messaging. "Don't let the virus dominate you," Trump says, in word and deed. But he is not laying out the actual policy because he is offering the fig leaf of it being non-fatal, there being therapies, and an imminent vaccine.

The simple reality is that as more people get virus, some percentage of extra people will die, concentrated among the old and unwell. It is politically unappealing to focus on the deaths, not the benefit to the people who continue to go to school and to work. Seniors vote, and there are a lot of seniors in Florida and Arizona, two states that Trump must win to be re-elected. If it were openly acknowledged that a half million seniors needed to die a just a few years early for the good of their fellow Americans, then people would be facing an ugly reality. 

Americans eat meat, but they avert their eyes to the actions that take place in slaughterhouses. Some work gets done because people focus on the sirloin, not the death and dismemberment of the cow.

Trump says our COVID policy is about the injury from China, and about freedom and resisting Democratic governors, and not being over-cautious since great therapies and a vaccine are coming soon, and besides Dr. Fauci is probably a Democrat and there are second opinions that differ from his. Republican seniors in Florida and Arizona have that fig leaf to hold onto.

The reality is that the floodgates are opening and we hit a new high of infections yesterday. It is too late to stop mass spread. If Biden loses the election it will be because people realized that they disliked the COVID-related shutdown more than they hated Trump's tweets, and that if Biden were president it would mean more months of inconvenience, but if Trump were elected things would go back to normal.

"Normal" means that young people go to school, that workers go back to work, and that old people get sick and die, just like always.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Personal Journey from Goldwater to Biden

One person, one vote.

Each person gets to the decision on how to vote based on ones own tastes, personality, personal history, and policy interests. 

Today's blog post is a bit of autobiography from John Flenniken, a regular reader of this blog. He is about 75, he taught chemistry in a Portland High School in the 1970s and then, better to support a family, left teaching to work for the electric power utility Pacific Power and Light.

Guest Post by John Flenniken

"The Republican Party Changed"

Here is a personal dive into why my military and police family voted Republican, but now I do not.   

I grew up in a military family. You might call me an Army brat. My mother was convinced there would be another great war within 20 years. In her thinking, I needed to start first grade at five (born October 1st) so that I’d have two years of college under my belt by 1964 when she predicted the next war would start--just in time for the Vietnam War it turns out. My mother thought those two years of college would put me into military service as officer material if drafted, and maybe I could avoid actual firefights. She was also convinced that Democratic presidents (i.e. Wilson and FDR) had lead the nation into war, and Democrats would again.  

My mother, recently widowed, felt the military was poorly served by Democrats.  As was the family custom, we all voted Republican. My mother's brother became a Portland police officer at this time, and, yes, he was very Republican.
 I grew up supporting Republicans because that is what I heard at the kitchen table. 

I worked on the Goldwater campaign in college. So what changed?  Well, to be direct I didn’t change--the Republicans did. The tipping point for me was Richard M. Nixon. Then and now, I consider myself a conservative of the Oregon stripe. I supported Governors Tom McCall, Victor Atiyeh and Mark Hatfield. But watching the Watergate Hearings it became clear to me there was criminality in the Nixon White House. Coupled with the OPEC Oil embargo, Nixon became someone who was crooked, and who mismanaged the government. Jimmy Carter looked like a good alternative to me.

There were new family influences on me, too. My wife, raised in a Democratic family, voted a Democratic social cause ticket, and back in the 1960s and 1970s she protested the Vietnam War. That made family holidays “interesting” but gradually I came to agree with my wife and in-laws. 

I kept hoping that America could be better and do better and my attitudes evolved in that direction during the1970s.  Carter had tried to turn the US from fossil fuels and towards conservation and renewable energy, which made sense to me, even though the average citizen was not happy going fifty-five miles an hour to save fuel. The political gridlock caused by oil and car companies lobbying made embracing a new direction impossible. I began to think Republicans were trying to divide the country rather then unite it, to enhance their own agenda.   

There were economic incentives, too. As a teacher, my salary was negotiated, and compared to today's salary and wages, it was poverty-level. I applied for summer work with the USDA/Soil Conservation Service/Snow Surveys and earned supplemental wages and as a GS-9 field engineer. I seriously thought about making the SCS a career, but all that ended with Reagan’s Grace Commission Report. Temporary work was available but now there was no prospect for longterm government service. Federal government jobs were being reviewed and, where possible, privatized.

I had a young family and I was pinched by the fact that wages did not keep pace with costs.  I became a strong union leader in the Portland School District’s salary negotiations. Those of us in the union had to bargain hard to get meager salary increases. I saw the writing on the wall. It was time for me quit teaching and find a job in the private sector.  PPL offered me a job if I would move to Wyoming. We agreed. Renting out my house in Portland, we relocated to Rock Springs, Wyoming. As it turned out Sweetwater County, Wyoming is the only Democratic area in the state.  

Suffering through the Reagan - Bush years was really hard. The economy was not working for people just starting out. The term “stagflation” described low wage growth and high inflation destroying those gains.  Bill Clinton’s administration did create an economy the “floated all boats.”  I liked the economy under Clinton, but of course I found myself apologizing for Bill Clinton's mess with Monica. Then, i was crossing my fingers hoping that Democratic presidents could regain the peace and prosperity of the Clinton years, voting first for Obama and then Hillary Clinton.

In 2016 we got Donald J. Trump, a newly minted and recast Republican. When my wife's and my dismay and grief over the 2016 election waned, anger took it’s place, as the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump became apparent. I had thought, briefly, that a New York real estate developer would be more conservative and less socially disruptive and divisive. Well, wrong again. He was worse. 

I do not expect that on November 3rd we will learn the election outcome.  I do expect there will be disruptions and legal challenges.  As Michael Steele, former Republican Party Chairman, still a Republican, said in The Lincoln Project political appeal ad, the choice is clear. A vote for Biden/Harris is a vote for America.  A vote for Trump is a vote for chaos. 

I agree. Trump is all about encouraging and profiting from chaos. Remember, my earliest political lessons were the value of authority and order in my military family.  I still value that, which is why Trump seems to me to be so wrong for America.

Still there’s hope this year!  Other unlikely people seem to be tiring of Trump's chaos. My Kansas cousin, for the first time in family history, voted a straight Democratic ticket. 


Debate: Trump was not a jerk

He wasn't an insufferable bully. Trump learned, took advice, and adjusted. 

That Trump could be re-elected. The problem is that "normal" Trump made for a boring debate.  

I returned e-mails during the debate and ate dinner. I write a political blog and watching the debate was work, so I stayed with it.

Last night we saw a reality that helps explain Trump's success, but also why Trump risks being a one-term president. The Trump Show is exhausting. It has devoted fans but it also turns people off.

Normally Trump is a whirling dervish of political theater, appealing to the resentments of his supporters, presenting bravado salesmanship of a can-do great America, with a great economy, the corner turned on COVID, jobs returned, all great again in America. Meanwhile liberals and Democrats are aghast. Some people want to cheer; some people want to tear their hair out. The people who cheer love the fact that those terrible liberal socialist woke coastal-elite baby-killing Democrats want to tear their hair out.

Last night we didn't get the Trump Show. We got something approximating a presidential debate. The CNN people are thrilled with explaining all Trump's lies and exaggerations and the Fox people are celebrating Trump's self discipline. The pundits and journalists have big exciting headlines, but they are trying too hard. They are pretending the debate really mattered.

It doesn't. Nobody cares.

People have already figured out how they feel about Trump, and Democratic and Republican ads are locking in those two views.  Republicans say Trump is great and Biden is corrupt. Democrats say Trump messed things up and Biden is decent. Insofar as the debate matters even a little, the question was whether Biden would prove inept beside Trump. Biden was OK. He seemed tongue tied at times and we saw him stutter. Democrats who had watched Obama the night before could not help notice the contrast between the fluent and eloquent Obama and the Biden who could only articulate a position with clarity when he was looking at the camera and doing a set piece. Biden is no Obama.

But this isn't an election about Biden. It is about whether people can stand four more years of Trump's behavior.

Biden is good enough. So was the Trump we saw last night, appearing more or less presidential, actively defending his record the way a president and candidate would. But that Trump was not convincing as the "new Trump" and in any case the normal, presidential Trump isn't all that interesting. That's the problem for Trump. To be interesting enough to change people's minds about him, he would need to be the old, outrageous Trump. 

Would a low information/low engagement undecided voter watch much of it, hoping to get a measure of each man?  I suspect not. Even political bloggers like me could barely stick with it.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Contrary View

Democrats couldn't pass health care.  And they think they can change the Constitution???

Guest Post comment by Thad Guyer

"Earth to Salem Massachusetts"

It is fun reading a well reasoned post from a Democratic committeeman in deep blue Massachusetts warning us that the sky is falling. It is reverberations from inside a blue bubble reflecting contemporary Democratic dissatisfaction with the foundational rules of the Republic. It engenders our sore loser orientation not just that the rules must be changed in our favor, but that failing to do so threatens democracy itself. Always we cry that democracy is crumbling. This is the cost.

Our party is the majority of the electorate, hence the Senate is supposed to protect Republicans from us. This is the constitution's explicit design both with the electoral college and with the Senate to protect the Republic from the popular will. That is our democracy. The founders decisively decided they did not want "one-man one-vote" direct popular election for any of the three branches of government. It cannot be changed statutorily or by Senate rules, but only by constitutional amendment. 

It is also fun reading Profession Kessler's piece because it is so fringe and fanciful, i.e. the hallmark of our blue punditry. It is as though Democratic insiders cannot remember the first term of the Obama presidency in which our party controlled the White House, the Senate and the House. As Mark Twain or Will Rogers quipped (we can't even agree who said it first), "I am not a member of any organized party I am a Democrat". Democrats have a storied history of not sticking together and of infighting. Because our range of constituencies is so broad, and because holding onto election wins is imperative, Democrats never have and never will muster the required unity to pack the Supreme Court much less create "new states" (LOL). 

We are a party that could barely get anything passed on Obamacare.  We had to threaten and coerce enough yes votes, we denounced moderate and conservative Democratic senators and House members as traitors because they would not support the grand design of Obamacare. Only a flawed and insurance company controlled Obamacare survived that was easily picked apart by the judiciary and GOP governors and state legislatures. Thereafter nothing could pass, DACA could not even be brought to the floor as Hispanics decried Obama and Biden as"Deporter in Chief". Our moderate and conservative lawmakers were wiped out in the 2014 mid term elections in the House, and Obama effectively served six more years as a lame duck. 

Harry Reid in desperation barely got Senate rules changed to eliminate the filibuster for lower court judges, and paved the way for the GOP to install three Supreme Court justices by extending Reid's rule to the high court. But only legislation can increase the number of justices for us to pack, and no leader in the House or Senate thinks the votes will be there for that during Biden's single term in office.

In reaction to Obama, our best female democratic standard bearer, former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton lost to a reality show huckster named Donald J Trump. Yes, when Democrats field our grand visions, the electorate gets scared. Repeat it to yourself-- Donald J Trump is the president in reaction to, if not in spite of, what Democrats historically do to each other.

While I am enthusiastic about Trump being ejected, the profound lack of unity and support for Joe Biden within our party guarantees that his win will be met by political chaos, media spectacle and vicious democratic infighting over the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, economic stimulus, infrastructure and racial equality legislation. Barack Obama explained that historically, a first term president can get one big thing passed and only one if he controls Congress. That takes two years and then comes the midterms. 

I hate to burst your bubble Professor Kessler, but neither Joe Biden nor the Democratic center is going to waste that first two years with the dream agenda of the grand systemic reform that you hope for. 

Back here on earth fundamental reform of the levers of government will not be on the agenda. Environmental, healthcare and economic bread and butter legislation will.

The Senate is destroying American democracy

Do not corner your enemy and make him desperate."

         Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We are witnessing an exercise of minority power that will end badly.

The U.S. Senate was intended to protect minority rights. It has gotten out of hand. Giving every state an equal number of Senators assured small states--Delaware--that they would not be overwhelmed by more populous ones--Virginia.

Current party coalitions create an urban-oriented party and a rural-oriented party. Urban and suburban voters are more likely to be politically liberal, ethnically diverse, and Democratic; exurban and rural voters are more likely White, politically conservative, and Republican. Rural Senators can leverage minority power to create yet more minority power via the Supreme Court, which can perpetuate that minority advantage for generations with strategically timed resignations. The Constitution is undemocratic on purpose, but it is now so undemocratic that it has become a threat to itself.

Rod Kessler is a college classmate who had a long career teaching writing at Salem State University in Massachusetts and observing the political culture. He is the acting chair of the Salem Democratic City Committee and has a Biden/Harris sign on his lawn. He observed a Republican Senate that stiff-armed an Obama appointee, filled that seat with a conservative, and now is putting through another conservative, giving a heavy conservative tone to the Court.  

The Senate can do that. It is legal. They have the power and are using it. 

There is a consequence to running up the score with a big win. They have cornered their Democratic opponents and made them desperate. If Democrats win elections this November, they will be under pressure to react in a way that desperate people do. They will attempt--legally and Constitutionally, just as the Republicans are now doing--to change the institutions that were the causes of their desperation. They don't need a Constitutional Amendment.  They could expand the number of Justices; reduce the areas of jurisdiction of the Federal Courts; make new states, divide large population states into smaller ones for the purpose of Senate representation. They could try to fix something that has gotten out of whack.

Guest Post by Rod Kessler

"Whitewater rapids ahead for America."

Like anyone paying attention to politics, I see whitewater rapids ahead for our ship of state and for our democracy, and by democracy I mean the idea of one person, one vote, the notion that in our representative form of government, people should be fairly and equally represented.
Rod Kessler

The Senate is poised to put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, where this 48-year-old conservative justice, approved by the Federalist Society, could sit for four decades. She is expected to rule against abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, the limitation of dark money in politics, gun control, and the prevention of voter suppression — all policies favored by the majority of Americans. She’s also likely to be no friend of government regulations (protections) regarding the environment and big business.

Even though she’s a great mom, Judge Barrett might never be confirmed if the general public could vote on the matter. But the general public has no say in confirming Supreme Court justices — that’s up to the president and the Senate.

The president, in the last election, received nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. Most people didn’t vote for him.

The Senate will confirm Barrett because Republicans hold a slim majority — of seats, but not of the people represented. The Republican majority that confirmed Justice Gorsuch represented states that comprise only 45 percent of the population. The Republican majority that confirmed Kavanaugh represented only 44 percent. Put another way, the senators representing the majority of Americans lost those battles. It’s likely that when the Senate meets in a few days to confirm Barrett, the senators whom most Americans sent to Washington will lose again.

So there it is: a president whom most Americans voted against and a bloc of senators most Americans didn’t vote for will soon solidify a Supreme Court whose values are abhorrent to most of us.

How is this possible in a democracy? How can majority rule be so thwarted? If “dark money” and voter suppression come to mind, you have a case to be made, but I’m blaming it all on Wyoming. Wyoming’s population in 2019 was 578,759. Wyoming has two Senators, both Republican, both supporting Barrett. Let’s compare that state with California. Its populations is 69 times larger: 39,937,500. California also has two senators, both Democrats unlikely to support Barrett. Put differently, a single voter in Wyoming has as much clout in the Senate as 69 Californians.

Why pick on Wyoming? Alaska's two Republican senators represent a population of 731,545. That’s the size of Boston, if you throw in Salem for good measure (694,583 and 43,302). Given that Massachusetts as a whole has nearly 6.9 million people, it takes more than nine Bay Staters to match the political clout of a single Alaskan.

Can this be constitutional? You bet — it’s as constitutional as the right to bear arms or to separate church and state. The framers sought to balance the political power of citizens as such with the political power of states. But maybe over the centuries the arrangement has grown out of balance? After all, the population of the original 13 states was 3,929,214 — just a little more than the population of, say, today’s Puerto Rico (3.2 million) if you threw in Washington, D.C. (705,749). In 1790, the largest state, Virginia, with its population of 747,000, was not even twice as populous as the smallest, Delaware (434,000) — and 39% of Virginia’s population were enslaved.

Once out of balance, our system can easily result in a minority running the show for everyone else. And if that imbalance can lock into place a Supreme Court that won’t undo gerrymandering, that won’t protect minority voting rights, that won’t stem the flow of dark money in politics, then we might need to kiss good-bye to any future vision of one person one vote, of majority rule.

But if our ship of state is hitting the rapids now, we can still reach calmer waters and smooth sailing ahead. Remember Wyoming with its population of 578,759? Well, the Washington, D.C., population is greater: 705,749. Adding a 51st state like D.C. is as constitutionally sound as our free press, and doing so would rebalance the Senate in this regard: one tiny red state with one tiny blue one. And why stop at 51? Puerto Rico’s population of nearly 3.2 million is larger than our two newest states combined: Alaska and Hawaii (731, 545 and 1.4 million). Hola, Puerto Rico! Let’s bring red Alaska into balance with another tiny state. Let’s dream even bigger: imagine a U.S. map with a North California and a South California.

You can see where this is going.

If today’s Republicans are racing the election clock to lock in a court forever advancing minority interests, a Democratic administration in 2021 can start to use constitutional means to rebalance our democracy and bring us closer to the one person, one vote democratic ideal.

And that notion of rebalancing? Can it be applied to the federal judiciary as well? I for one like the sound of rebalancing the courts better than “packing” them. (Once again, beware the far-right’s genius at using language to frame the conversation.)

What if the Democrats don’t prevail in this cycle? You’ll hear progressives fantasizing all the time that if Trump wins they’ll have to move to Canada or Scandinavia or New Zealand or wherever. To them I want to shout No! Let’s move to Wyoming! Let’s move to Alaska.  Let’s urge California to relocate a million or two voters here and there. It won’t take very many of us to rebalance the nation by relocating and sending to Washington a representative government that actually represents what most people want.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Trump is not George Washington

      "The story of Washington's voluntary resignation spread across the country and the globe, as he astonishingly gave up political power to return to his farm. 

     Across the Atlantic, upon learning of Washington's resignation from public life, King George III reportedly told the American-born artist Benjamin West: 'If [Washington] does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.'"

        Mount Vernon Historical Society

Washington could have been dictator. The strong man leader of the new country. The American king. 

In 1775 George Washington took command of the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1783, after the peace treaty with Britain had been signed, he returned his commission to the Congress in a ceremony at the temporary American capital in Annapolis, Maryland.

Washington understood the power of ceremony and the body language of visible gesture. He looked the part of general. He was tall, elegant, and regal in bearing. On the battlefield after the final victory he refused to accept British surrender from General Cornwallis' second in command. He delayed until Cornwallis himself did the surrender. The top man deals only with the top man. It was a matter of respect and authority. 

The Newburgh Conspiracy was a threatened military coup by some of Washington's officers in 1783, late in the struggle for independence. The fighting had ended but the troops had not been paid. Washington spoke to his officers, urging patience, urging that they not "open the floodgates of civil discord." He reminded them of the supremacy of Congress, and then made a gesture.  He referenced a letter from Congress. He took it out of a pocket and fumbled with it. Then he took out glasses. Few of his men had ever seen George Washington with eyeglasses.

"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."

It shocked the men. It re-established that their leader sacrificed along with them. With that, the mutiny collapsed. 

George Washington arranged a ceremony for the return of his commission. He spoke, There was a dinner for 200, there were 13 toasts, he danced with every woman who wanted a brief touch of the great man. At the ceremony he said,
     "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to their august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

Notice something: he understood he was under orders of the Congress. He wasn't the leader. He was the agent of the people. 

Washington handed the paper to the President of the Congress and bowed. The men of Congress were instructed not to bow in return. The top people don't bow; only the subordinate. And so the hierarchy and power relationship was established. Executive and military power obeyed the sovereign. It operates under orders. Temporary leaders relinquish power gracefully because power was never really theirs.

This history intersects with Donald Trump. Trump, like Washington, understands the importance of the theater of strength. It may seem laughable to some readers to liken Trump's vulgar braggadocio with Washington's regal elegance, but within the culture and media environment of each of their times, each attempts to communicate strength and personal sacrifice. Especially in the 2016 primary campaign, Trump tried to communicate sacrifice and incorruptibility because he said he self-funded his campaign. Trump's adult children and Fox now repeatedly describe what a sacrifice Trump is making on our behalf. He could be living the luxurious life of leisure, enjoying his airplane, golf courses, and gold-appointed homes. Instead he risks COVID, and gets it, his sacrifice.

Trump's supporters see him that way. In a previous post I shared the comment of one of the women buying Trump merchandise, whose primary comment about Trump was his sacrifice, with Trump giving up "anything a man would want", his golf, his leisure, his Shangri-la. His evangelical Christian supporters see Trump as suffering on a cross of media and cosmopolitan elite criticism, currently for his defense of churches that rebel at COVID restrictions on gatherings.

We do not yet know how Trump's open effort to move the question of a transfer of power from the election to the courts will work out for him. It may be too much, especially if there is an early report that he lost Florida. 

But if Trump wins Florida, it is game on. It means the election will be close and the results will be determined by Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and North Carolina, all states with Republican-majority legislatures. Trump has done the groundwork of de-legitimizing the way a majority of Democrats will vote. Polls suggest 65% of Republicans think that elections with substantial mail-in voting will be "somewhat" or "mostly fraudulent." Elections may have less credibility with Republican voters than would be a decision by the Supreme Court not to count ballots that are contested, and Trump has already announced that he will contest them. 

In 2020 there was grudging respect given Al Gore for his conceding the election and accepting the decision of the Supreme Court, even when its decision was to stop counting votes. Now Democrats are more inclined to see Gore as a naive patsy, a quitter, a do-gooder who got rolled by a fake "Brooks Brothers riot" arranged by Roger Stone. Trump's legal team is open about contesting votes. After all, "the only way we're going to lose this election is if it is rigged," and rigged it will be, Trump says. Why count fake votes?

In a failed election with uncounted votes and unknown validity, Republican legislatures may be able to step in and interpret on their own the actual "will of the people." If that is successful Trump will stay in office, re-elected by an electoral college chosen by Republican legislatures, okayed by a Supreme Court whose membership was recently chosen, again openly to achieve majorities to help decide this election. This may well seem "irregular" to Republicans, but it will be arguably the outcome ordained by a quirky Constitutional set of rules. There will be litigation on all of this, but ultimately the Supreme Court would decide. A Republican win, however achieved, was a welcome one for Republicans in 2000 and likely would be again in 2020. One doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

There will certainly be civil unrest, but unrest would validate the need for decisive decisions by the Supreme Court, which will give the irregularities a veneer of urgency and necessity, as well as legality.

It would be civic body language, and people on both sides would learn the unmistakable lesson. It would not be the lesson of Washington, that power belongs to the people and that leadership is given up willingly. It will be that winners win, that losers lose, and one can and and should use partisan power to win and retain power at all costs. There will be a sovereign, but it will no longer be the will of the people. It will be whoever can game the system and hang on.

It isn't George Washington's country anymore. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Field Report: Bay Area Republicans

California Anthropologist

A Democrat reports on a rare and endangered micro population: Trump-supporting Republicans in the heart of liberal, Democratic San Francisco Bay Area.

Tony Farrell drew the assignment of marketing Trump Steaks. It won't be on his tombstone, but it might be in his obituary. Tony worked for The Gap and for The Sharper Image, and then moved to the roughest job in marketing, making infomercials. He became an expert in branding, and he has brought that expertise to occasional guest posts on this blog.

Tony will be voting for Biden, but he lives in an odd subculture of prosperous, well-educated, Californians who will be voting for Trump. His neighbors have been Republicans back in the era of Reagan, both Bushes, and the Romney campaign. They care about taxes because those are far and away the largest expense they pay. They feel isolated and beleaguered, surrounded by people who are more liberal, more woke, and more Democratic than they are.  

Tony knows these people. He lives among them.

Guest Post by Tony Farrell

Report from the Bay Area


It’s funny that people now think there are no Republicans in California. It can seem that way in 2020. In an earlier era, California defined the new Republican Party, out of Orange County with iconic leaders like Nixon and Reagan. Today, Kamala Harris counts as a Republican here, for all intents and purposes. 

The Democratic spectrum is so crazy wide, Californians who would be seen as Marxists in Alabama are smiting their foreheads over the San Francisco School District’s list of schools whose names must be changed because of the misdeeds (and thoughts) of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, Hoover (perhaps America’s greatest humanitarian) and even Feinstein! 

We all know that Trump “lost the popular vote” but he really only lost California, a 4.3 million vote deficit when he only lost nationally by 2.9 million votes; that is, if you take out California, Trump won the U.S.A. by 1.4 million and, in fact, the biggest haul by a Republican candidate in history. 

In any event, California sits out national elections, from the Republican point-of-view, because the Electoral College here is winner-take-all, a shameful disgrace. It’s true, out of our state’s 53 Representatives, only 7 are Republican but, still, if California and the other 47 states had adopted the more-fair Maine and Nebraska system for allocating Elector votes (the two Senate ones winner take all; the Congressional District ones by district), then Romney beats Obama. So, you’ll find some understandable Republican resentment in the rural North and Central Valley areas, where it’s hardly worth going to the polls. 

As an aside, I've always wondered why Democrats get so angry about the Bush-Gore 2000 Florida fiasco; for starters, if Gore had won his Supreme Court case, he still loses--the four Districts in question were counted later and Bush still won. And later Florida-wide comprehensive counts showed Gore winning by perhaps only 50 votes; but the real travesty is the winner-take-all scheme, a true affront to democracy. Despite all its laudatory support for voters and democracy, I haven't sensed any move by California Democrats to adopt the Main/Nebraska model. Too bad.

All the Trump supporters I know have at least one if not two degrees from Ivy universities; so, my world is different from the Central Valley. Rather, I’m in a lovely residential area in the hills overlooking San Francisco Bay. Trump supporters are sort-of known, but keep a low profile—like secret smokers (often the same people). With one friend (and former boss), I’m treated to dinner so he can unleash his full Fox News-scripted commentary on Trump and his enemies. Because I had a sibling in the Reagan White House and generally was a Republican until they went all crazy on me, my friend feels he can, at least, talk to me. At home, he’s imprisoned by family and neighbors most would call crazed Left Coast Socialist home-schooling anti-vaccine hippies. 

In other realms, if you’re socializing with Trump people, political discussion has to be off limits; any start of a conversation invariably descends into angry vitriol and everyone wishes it hadn’t happened. I was proud of an encounter I had recently with a real Trumper, but a wonderful guy, too. Knowing we couldn’t talk current events, I simply asked him if he was involved in any nonprofit board work, and he was! He enthusiastically described what his organization did: They helped foster kids who were aging out of their homes at 18 and needed help getting credit, etc. In turn, I described my pro bono consulting work for various nonprofits around the Bay Area. In the middle of our chatting, a known Trumper lady showed up and you could tell she was keen to engage my friend with the latest Democrat idiocy, or Trump’s latest triumph, and he wouldn’t allow it, and off she slunk. I felt good about the entire engagement, but it sure took work.


Now that Trump is in serious decline, any fans of his are truly laying low (but of 

course, everyone is, in the pandemic). But my impression is that, soon, these old Trumpers will disavow their earlier enthusiasm, like all those lovely Germans after the War. (My family lived in Germany in the early 60s; Mom said they met so many Germans who said, “We didn’t know” but never heard anyone say, “We are sorry.”) 

Well, my own feeling is, the idea of a political party speaking for me, or representing my views on any given topic, seems completely ridiculous, right? How could anyone of serious mind, able to consider deeply complex issues, claim that a party platform is where they stand? Nuts. 

Look, every citizen finds some politicians admirable, but everyone has to forgive something in their flawed leaders. (Among Democrats, Bill Clinton comes to mind.) For a Trump Republican, there’s just more to forgive! 

I do sense a difference among Trumpers, compared to four years ago. Hillary was the real issue then; so hated. She’s gone, but Trumpers still think the President is the only one that feels tough enough to not put up with the world’s bullshit. There is mealy-mouth-ness to political discourse that any normal person should find infuriating. The military-officer retirees in my Mom’s old-folks home are, apparently, big Trump fans despite how dishonorable he his, and how insulting to the military. They like his toughness, no matter. Well, mercifully, the pandemic exposed the true depth of his toughness; shallow indeed—not to mention the incompetence, through and through. 

Ultimately, I guess, every culture (and the Bay Area is one) has a dominant realm, and if you’re outside it, you lay low, hang out with like-minded friends, and count on simple human decency to get you through it all. As for me, I’m fairly optimistic: Our system of government was designed to deal precisely with the sort of strongman that Trump wishes he were, and the system has worked amazingly well, especially the judicial side but also the civil service; the strength of some individual states (like California and New York) is a marvel. 

That all said, I’ll be very happy to see Biden win next month.