Thursday, December 31, 2020

18 U.S. Code § 2385. Advocating overthrow of Government

     "Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States . . . Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

    Title 18 Crimes and Criminal Procedure Chapter 115: Treason Sedition, and Subversive Activities  Section 2385: Advocating Overthrow of Government

Today's Guest Post author will not succeed in voiding the 2020 election to keep Trump in power. What is important is that many Trump voters welcome it, advocate it, and circulate emails demanding it.

Today's correspondent, a retired physician, sometimes includes me in emails he circulates urging the 2020 election be ignored or voided. I am sure he does not think of himself as a traitor. He considers himself an upstanding citizen, not a criminal. But the 2020 election did not provide the result he thinks is essential for America. Democrats are led by liberal elites, he writes me, and they falsely investigated Trump, so whatever happens to Biden is well deserved. In correspondence to me he simply discounts testimony of Trump's security chief, of Attorney General Bill Barr, of the Republican election officials, of Republican governors, of judges including ones nominated by Trump himself. They are afraid to tell the truth, he said. Besides, the people who voted for Biden were misinformed and wrong. The solution is straightforward: people with the power to do so should ignore the election, and retain Trump.

I get criticism wondering why I give space to dangerous, anti-democratic ideas. Others say I am being unkind, that the Guest Post author is a senile gullible crackpot, and I should not let him embarrass himself. Others have warned it is crime to publish or distribute seditious material, so let me note here that I disagree with the Guest Post author. I am sharing it so readers have some insight into what opinions are out there among Trump supporters.

Guest Post, Name Withheld

I would love to see this election overturned because it was and is the most blatant, corrupt, and serious miscarriage of justice in the history of this country since Andrew Jackson lost the first time. But as a Christian I know God is in control and biblically we are to support our leaders unless their practices go against the teachings of Christ as has happened here.

As far as Biden winning more popular votes I firmly believe that a large majority of these will some day be proven to be massively fraudulent and illegal. Conservatives just don’t think the way many elite liberals do and frankly those who control the party and who really control Biden and the presidency are totally disinterested in keeping America as a free country and I expect will continue to use their corrupt illegal tactics to maintain their stranglehold on our population in a Biden/Harris presidency.

It is documented by studies that conservatives actually support and assist the poor and care for the downtrodden more than liberals in our present society. But these poor and downtrodden are those that are unable physically or mentality to help themselves. It just makes no sense to financially support an entitlement minded society that are able, but unwilling to work for a better life because of a mentality that “the world owes them a living." It not only puts a much greater burden on those with ambition, a good work ethic, and a desire to make the world a better place, but it decreases the self image, self esteem, and self worth of those who feel they are owed by society. Also, there are multiple examples of Trump helping those truly in need and unable to help themselves throughout his career, but you are never going to hear that from the liberal media. By the way if you read the Bible Jesus was far from being a socialist believing in the importance of individual hard work and industry. His acts of kindness and divine healing were only for those who could not help themselves.

Trump and conservatives have continually supported the Constitution while the radical liberals have tried to change and rewrite it continually so I have never understood why liberals keep bringing up that point. Also, even before he was elected, and during the whole four years of Trump’s presidency the liberal elite stopped at nothing including attempts at impeachment with their lies, accusations and blatantly corrupt illegal unsupported investigations that took millions of dollars and a huge waste of time to eventually be proven false while involving the highest level of our judicial system and the previous administration because they knew he was going to reveal or at least interrupt their long history of corruption and control.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rant: "The AT&T stuck-on-hold frustration blues".

What do you do when you feel helpless? What if you are stuck in a loop where you can't get through to the people running the show?

You decide you need to shake things up.

Today's Guest Post came to me with a warning that it wasn't "blog worthy."  It was a rant, he said. Not analysis of anything.

Jeff Lowenfels wrote after spending some eight hours, mostly on hold, in the frustrating phone-tree loops where the voice says to press a button to go back to the main menu. He wrote that the experience gave him better understanding of why many Americans voted for Trump in 2016, and voted for him again in 2020.

Trump is a disrupter. He is bad at running things but he is good at breaking them and letting people know that he doesn't care one bit that he is breaking norms and not "playing fair." Jeff learned that if you want an AT&T service call you don't push 3 for service. Do that and you will wait forever. Push 2, the button to buy something. Then a live person comes right on.

Isn't that disrupting the system?  Yes. It is both an expression of frustration and a way to survive. After three hours on hold, nobody in their right mind respects the old rules and system. You want to shake things up.

Jeff is a college classmate who practiced law in Alaska, but became famous there by writing a popular gardening column, doing so every single week for 45 years so far. He is the author of the best-selling
Jeff Lowenfels
Teaming with Microbes, Teaming with Nutrients, Teaming with Fungi, and his most recent, DIY Autoflowering Cannabis.

A reverie, a rant, and an empathetic insight.

Guest Post by Jeff Lowenfels

Every Anti-Trumper has participated in more than one conversation with a Trump fan, puzzling over how they can support the guy. What are they thinking?

Whole CNN and MSNBC shows are dedicated to trying to find the answer. The Atlantic and The New Yorker struggle with it. What we get is advice on how to how to listen more carefully to them, how to empathize with them, and to be very careful casting personal blame on them for the disaster the Trump presidency has been to rules, to norms, to laws. But look at what Trump is doing right now. He told his co-conspirators he would pardon them if they kept mum or lied under oath to protect him; they did; and now he's pardoning them! What more do you have to do to destroy a system of laws? 

We argue about a future for Trumpism with or without Trump himself. It has become a sport. We forget that we should be looking for why people supported Trump and, more important, why some still do, after everything.

I was not thinking about the Trump issue as I reviewed my AT&T bill and found a number attributed to me. I am paying for a number I didn’t even know I had. And for some reason my voicemail stopped working. So, I did what anyone would do. I called AT&T. 

As a college grad, I did this after I Googled the issue and tried 16 different ways to fix it myself. It didn't work. You know where this is going if you were a fan of that TV show “Friends.” Remember that episode where Phoebe was put on the voicemail line, but accidentally hung up after 24 hours of waiting?

I dialed. I could not get a live voice. All I got was the same recording of music and a whole lot of advertising for Direct TV and a public service request about Not looking at your phone while you drive.  AGGGGGHJHHHHHHHHHHH. Over and over and over, telling me to stand by. Hour one. Hour two. These are the very same voice messages they must use on Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

After the third hour of trying to get a live person on the line, I didn’t think of “Friends;" I thought of Nashville and the bomb in front of the AT&T building. (I’m joking. Really. If the FBI is monitoring this blog don’t come after me.) I am just saying I know why the AT&T building might have been a target of a crazy trying to get attention. Three hours on hold!

Suddenly, Trump’s election became clear to me. What do folks want to do when things don’t work? How can they get meaningful help when you don’t have the time, the energy, or the smarts to ask the damn Artificial Intelligence voice mail machine loop the right question?

You break the system, or try to, and you don't care too much about how exactly you do it.

Over the past 15 years or so people have been replaced by machines and AI and voice mails and recorded messages. You can’t get a real person! And darn right people get angry, because the modern world has stopped working for them. The system sometimes meets the needs of the people who made the system--for AT&T, or the people who run or own AT&T, or the government, but not you and me. We want solutions, not loops that pull us back into the very system that isn't working. ATT is a metaphor for the big, impersonal, frustrating everything-system. The government. An economic system that is depressing wages. The healthcare system. The child care system. The immigration system. 

For a whole lot of people "the system" doesn’t work and you on hold getting nowhere.

OK, so, along comes a guy who says the government is a swamp. He points this out in ways you can relate to. Not enough water pressure in the shower? Can’t use hairspray? Can’t mine in a park? (if I hadn’t been brain damaged by those damn AT&T ads, I would give you better examples, but those were the kinds of idiotic things Trump complains about.) And his audiences related. Yeah, those little frustrations. Like the AT&T phone loop.

You get an incorrect utility bill, a lemon car, the wrong product shipped from China, slow cable TV, or big stuff like your job not paying enough, or competition with Mexico, or some new regulation, and now your employer shut down for COVID, and kids not in school. What to do? 

Do you want to vote for people with experience in the system, the people who built the system? Of course not. You want to vote for someone new and different who says he will take a muck rake to it and clean the swamp? 

So of course Trump had appeal. He wasn't going to sit on hold why Congress dithered. He would do things his way, heck with norms, heck with checks and balances, heck with subpoenas, heck with oversight. "Git 'er done."

But he didn’t drain the swamp, of course. He's Mr. Swamp. He gave pardons to the swamp-dwellers. He made racial tensions worse. He didn't fix immigration or trade with China. After four failed years, I think some stay with him because he is saying that he is the only one who can fix things. The Senate and House? Ha! They are tools of the system. He says he is the shake-things-up guy--and all the people who oppose him and are appalled by him are proof of how strong the system works to protect itself against him.

Back to my AT&T story. I finally gave up on day one. Day two was not much better. I did discover if you call someone at AT&T to buy a service, they answer, live, in about 20 seconds. 

I spent another two hours with this group, having convinced them I am an AT&T shareholder and was really upset. They took pity on me. They weren’t able to fix my voice mail, though, and when they put me on hold to get tech help, I ended up in the AT&T dance line again, with the same music and ads. 

Determined now to solve the problem, I dialed 611 about 200 times and tried to get the AI to understand I wanted to speak to someone LIVE. Whether I came up with the right words or it was just my random turn, finally, it happened. It took the AT&T tech 35 minutes to fix a problem I know half a million people must have.  

Artificial Intelligence phone-menu hell is just the kind of experience that might cause someone to vote for Trump. He isn’t a nice guy, or good at managing or building things, but he knows how to get angry, and that’s something Americans can relate to. 

All-told a day was wasted, but the phone problem is solved, and I had something priceless, a better understanding of why people would vote for a guy like Trump.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Trump's new brand: Crank.

 Trump's media allies are jumping ship.

He lost the New York Post:  They wrote: "Stop the insanity."  

He lost the Washington Examiner. They wrote: "Dubious tweet. . . confusion. . . fact check."

Trump is being jettisoned and re-branded by his former friends.

The Washington Examiner fact-checked Trump. His tweet about the Pennsylvania election was simply and obviously not true. There was no other way to spin it. They chose not to ignore it.

The Examiner was a loyal voice of Donald Trump, the DC alternative to the Washington Post. I visited with a frank and cynical Examiner reporter in New Hampshire in 2015, when we were both attending an event where Joe Biden got photographed serving bowls of chili to New Hampshire union firefighters prior to their going out to canvas door-to-door for him.  

The reporter said he tried to write honest reports, but the editors wanted "an angle" on every story. Maybe Biden looked tired; maybe the firefighters weren't really going to canvas; maybe Bided spilled some chili; maybe the crowd was small; something. He said he would be accurate, but there always needed to be the Examiner feel to the story.

Yesterday Trump tweeted out a message that was so ridiculous that the Examiner blew the whistle. Trump's millions of trusting supporters--like the retired physician this blog quoted yesterday--might swallow Trump's position whole, but a newspaper needs a fig leaf of plausibility. A misstatement so easily disproven cannot be allowed to stand at face value.

Yesterday Trump tweeted this:

There are nine million registered voters in Pennsylvania and under seven million votes were cast. Anyone could have checked to determine this. Trump was mis-quoting a confused and inaccurate statement written six weeks prior by a group of Pennsylvania lawmakers, a position they long since abandoned.

Washington Examiner headline
The Examiner could have just ignored the tweet. They could have described it neutrally, saying Trump is continuing to assert blatant voter fraud in Pennsylvania. This would have been a quiet favor to Trump; a neutral description would have extended and amplified Trump's strategy of keeping supporters skeptical and angry about the election. Instead, their headline and story directly contradicted Trump's tweet. "Nonexistent" was right there in the headline. They included this: 

     "A spokesperson for Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar shared a statement with the Washington Examiner that noted that state and federal judges 'have sifted through hundreds of pages of unsubstantiated and false allegations and found no evidence of fraud or illegal voting' and asserted that the Republicans' 'so-called analysis was based on incomplete data.'"

Trump is being rebranded, and it is happening to him, not by him. Trump is treated as a cranky loser doing pointless, crazy rants. He is a King Lear character, a description now being used frequently. He appears sad, confused, and angry at what he considers abandonment by his former allies. Even his media allies now describe Trump's reality and the reality, and they aren't the same.

The "respectable" conservative mass media-- the news part of Fox News and the Washington Examiner--have concluded that they cannot just re-publish and extend Trump's fantasies. This is paradigm shift. Trump triumphed by being an outlaw-hero, the impolite kick-ass fighter. Trump hit a tipping point. His status changed when he lost the election. He won't be president. And, simultaneously with that, his denials of the election results went from implausible to crazed. Frantic. Unhinged. Provably dishonest. There were too many accusations that didn't hold up and they were contradicted by too many people with credibility, i.e. Republicans. 

Trump was attacking them, too, calling them fake along with the others. Trump had become unreliable.

King Lear
The establishment conservative media will go through a rough spot here. Some of their readership and audience will choose to follow Q conspiracies, Newsmax, One America, and social media sites, and will follow Trump off a cliff. The establishment-conservative media are choosing the reality of a world as seen by people like Mitch McConnell, not Donald Trump. Mitch will fight Democrats every inch of the way, but he won't tweet indefensible things.  Mitch is boring, like Biden, and they realize this is a problem, but Trump went over the edge. They can still cover Trump, but in a different way. He will be a reliable source for a vivid attack on Democrats. A critic. A provocateur, like Ann Coulter or Newt Gingrich. 

They will miss Trump. He was good for business. But he became unreliable and a liability. They are doing what a company board of directors needs to do when the founder and face of the company becomes an embarrassment.

They have cut Trump loose.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Scheduled chaos on January 6

Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

          Donald Trump

Expect protests, violence, and maybe mobilization of the military.

Celebrations of the resiliency of American democracy are premature. January 6 is the day Congress counts the electoral votes. That is the day Trump called for people to demand Congress void the election and retain him in office. I don't expect those demonstrations to be peaceful. Trump has invited them to be unruly. Violence is a tool Michael Flynn said Trump should use. Trump can save democracy, he said, by observing violence, invoking the Insurrection Act to mobilize troops, declaring marshal law, and voiding the 2020 elections in states Trump lost.

Protests and crowds have a mind of their own. They get out of control easily. In this case there is both fuel for the fire in an aroused citizenry and a president with two weeks left on his term who has openly welcomed rebellion against an election he calls illegitimate.

Portland, summer of 2020
Democrats should not be surprised. Trump supporters in the streets on January 6 will consider it fair game and payback. They saw what happened this summer in the aftermath of George Floyd's  death. Americans protested on the streets. Some of those protests became unruly, then flagrantly so, especially in Portland, Oregon. If Democrats can be violent, so can they. 

The disruptions in Oregon caused some alert Democrats--Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, among them--to speak out promptly, saying peaceful protests were fine but violence was wrong "period, end of story."  Unfortunately, public officials with the power to direct police and national guard troops were slower and more reluctant. There were protesters saying that "violence is the language of the oppressed," that violence was the vehicle of change, and that opposing violence was blaming the victim. Protests got hijacked by people who used them as cover for vandalism, looting, and hooliganism. Trump and the Trump-oriented media called that "Biden's America."  

Now it is Trump's turn. He has one remaining card to play. He has direct democracy, in the form of pro-Trump protesters, whose assembly can turn violent, which will enable Trump--require him, he will say--to restore order. A great many Republican voters remain convinced that Trump simply must have been robbed of victory. We are seeing another iteration of the classic mechanism of the inertia of belief. Believing is seeing. When the evidence doesn't fit the belief, disbelieve the evidence.

Too late. Rebellion is in the air
The gatekeepers of Republican opinion have lost their ability to control what they created in their audiences and constituents. Fox News daytime news hosts are disbelieved by the same audience that watches their evening opinion hosts. Rupert Murdock's NY Post has lost patience with Trump and told him to stop his insanity. Too late. Trump has become frantic with tweets because the public officials he wishes would validate his claim of a fraudulent election are refusing. Trump is lashing out at election officials, governors, senators, the courts, and his own appointed law enforcement people, saying they lack courage. 

By defining it as a matter of courage--the wisdom and justice of it being assumed--Trump asks the public to step up and supply the force to keep him in office. 

Trump's supporters don't want to stand down. Some are Proud Boys and Boogaloo Boys, happy to find trouble. Many are gun owners. Most are regular citizens who believe President Trump and consider themselves patriotic. The notion of the brave private citizen, fighting for justice and democracy against tyranny, is part of the mythic image of themselves. They like the fact that Trump does not accept losing. The election could have been stolen. They write me: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." 

Boogaloo Boys, armed in Michigan 
I consider a letter I received from a retired physician, a White male, a self-identified Christian, to be a primary source. He expresses a point of view that circulates within Christian and conservative social media circles. He is adamant that Trump deserves office and that the country's welfare depends on it. He takes "massive election fraud" as a given. A coup d'├ętat is not destroying a free democracy; it is saving it.

He wrote me: 

     As I see it, and I am not alone by far, this is the very serious state to which America had deteriorated in the past 12 years prior to a non-politician being elected President. I believe we are headed for even worse if this massive election fraud is allowed to stand. We would lose all the advances President Trump has achieved in the past 4 years by his reversal of this deterioration toward a totalitarian oligarchy.
     Trump has been constantly maligned, lied about, demeaned, and continuously attacked like no other sitting President in our history by the majority of the corrupt liberal media. That media is itself controlled by Wall Street, the corporate, entertainment, judicial and political elite in order to maintain their power, control, and wealth at the expense of the American people. Our very existence as a free democracy is in peril.  Trump has the guts, tenacity, perseverance, and ego to say, as Churchill once said, 
'"never, never, never give up." [Signed] _____

I understand that this letter is from just one person, an anecdote, not data. Democrats should not dismiss this person as a nut case, a guy who bought the Trump con. He communicates with many people who feel as he does, people who believe they are saving democracy by overturning a democratic election. A contradiction? Not to him, not to people who start with the premise that Biden is undeserving of the office, that he could not possibly have won a fair election, and that the people who did vote for Biden were sheep led astray by elites. 

Trump can sell. He has true believers. 

Kansas state capital, September 2020
The protests will not be peaceful. How violent they become is not in the hands of wise, responsible people. The violence will be in the hands of people who gather into crowds, some of whom were motivated to carry rifles to statehouses, to cross state lines to confront and engage demonstrators, and to wave guns at passersby. People who are itching for a fight usually find one. They may consider it a "Flight 93" situation on the morning of 911, in which airplane passengers need to take action because the alternative is certain death; there is nothing to lose and the world is at stake.

I expect January 6th to be a very bad day in America. Trump will welcome this. It may bring him what he wants. I suspect Bill Barr did not want any part of it. His odd early leaving the AG post was a signal of how bad it might get and what Trump has in mind.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold"

     "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . . .
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity."

            William Butler Yeats 

The Biden presidency is shaping up as an effort at bi-partisan centrism. 

Sanders lost. Then Trump lost. Biden didn't win or have coattails. Biden is a survivor.

The 2020 election was a disappointment to progressive Democrats. They are the 30% of Democrats who identify most strongly with Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with Medicare-for-All, and with language that implicates capitalism itself for problems of income distribution. They want real change in America, not slow, incremental Band-AIDS. They don't have the votes to win elections--or at least didn't in 2020. 

Pete Buttigieg, who radiates a meritocracy elitist vibe, fought Bernie Sanders to a tie in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire vote. Biden crushed everyone in South Carolina when Black Democrats spoke. Democrats rejected cold, aloof Bloomberg; Klobuchar and Buttigieg left the field; Warren was a compromise Democrats didn't want. It came down to Sanders and Biden. If progressive change is the future of a fair, prosperous, and just America, then Americans are going to have to wait for it, because voters didn't buy it. Democratic voters chose Biden. 

Trump thought he would insult Biden with the brand "Sleepy Joe." Joe is no firebrand. Sleepy, low-drama, emotionally mature Joe, bi-partisan, can't-we-get-along Joe, looked pretty good. 

The post-election period is demonstrating even more plainly than did the campaign the differences between Biden and Trump. Biden is centrist in policy, calm in manner: Mr. Reasonable. Trump is frantic and erratic. He is threatening vetoes of proposals his own White House demanded. He is lashing out at everyone, tweeting and re-tweeting accusations. Everyone is against him, he writes: His Attorney General, Republican Governors, Mitch McConnell and John Thune and the other Republican ingrates, the Supreme Court ingrates, election officials up and down from Secretaries of State to County Clerks, all turncoats. 

A college classmate wrote wondering if a bipartisan centrist coalition in the Senate might be capable of getting done some of Biden's agenda, perhaps with Joe Manchin in play as either a Democrat or a Republican. The policies would be a grave disappointment to progressives, but it might make baby steps toward extending access to health care, addressing income inequality, making education more affordable.

A Trump voter wrote a response to him that helps explain the surprising and unintuitive 2020 vote where Biden won, but the GOP gained U.S. House seats and state legislative seats.  Biden did not win. Trump lost.  

Adolpho Garcia is a college classmate. He is a partner in a Boston law firm with international clients. His family escaped Castro's Cuba when Dolf was a child. He grew up in the Miami area, and like many Americans with a history that links back to Cuba, he voted for Trump. He says he is OK with Trump being a rough, pugnacious guy since that is the nature of foreign leaders. They are nasty people--"despicable human trash"--and need an equally nasty American president to counter them. Dolf doesn't want a president he would enjoy sitting down with and having a beer. But he recognizes the American public might. 

Adolpho Garcia:  

    [Bi-partisan centrism] is the only hope that Biden has to get anything done. Biden did not win. Trump lost because Trump is his own worst enemy and such a personal disaster. I am convinced that there are at least 10 million legal, legitimate voters who basically support the Trump policies, but absolutely, positively were not about to have four more years of Trump in the White House. 

Adolpho Garcia
     The fact is that Trump lost the election and has no one to blame but himself. To his credit, Biden knows that. Biden knows why he won. This is why Biden, who wants to be a successful President, is making the appointments that he is making. I believe that Biden will govern as a centrist, precisely where Bill Clinton found his success and popularity before his pecker did him in. Liberals and progressives succeeded in defeating Trump. 

     I believe that they will be very disappointed with Biden. I suspect that the more that I can warm up to Biden, the more unhappy liberals and progressives will be with him.

There is hazard here for Democrats. Biden can only govern if he cobbles together majorities, and the votes to get them will be with Manchin, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, possibly Mitt Romney. They aren't progressive. A majority of voters wanted an end to Trump's high drama, but a government built around Joe Manchin will leave progressives unhappy. The 75% of Republican voters who insist that Trump's election was stolen from him--notwithstanding denials of it by Trump's own election security chief, Attorney General, and judges he nominated--suggest that it will be hazardous for Republicans to compromise with Biden centrism. They consider Democrats dangerous and they want them vanquished.

There was a majority in America that wanted Trump gone, but there may not be a majority that wants to end the fighting.  On the left, too. Progressive Democrats will consider government built around Joe Manchin something worth fighting about. To win, Biden needed to unify Democrats. To govern, he divides them.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Yes Biden won. Five maps tell the story.

Many Republicans just can't believe Biden won the most votes.

They heard Trump claim he won by a landslide. They see the maps, and they look like a Trump landslide.  

Some of the correspondents to this blog watch Fox News and now drift to sampling Newsmax and One America Network. They find it hard to believe that anyone other than a few Socialists and Black activists, plus the weak-minded sheep who believe the corrupt liberal media, voted for Biden. They saw Biden as weak; his crowds were tiny; he is senile; he is an empty suit led around by AOC and Kamala Harris. 

Trump voters in the conservative media ecosystem were not surprised he did far better than polls predicted. That made sense. Biden's victory does not. Certified election results show Biden won by seven million votes, that he won 306 electoral votes, that he won five close battleground states. That cannot be true. There simply must have been fraud. Trump is adamant, and then there are maps circulating on social media that show Biden's win is impossible: 

It just seems wrong. How could Biden lose so much area and so many counties and still win? Just look at this map of counties for Trump:

Trump displayed a 2016 version of the map above in making he case four years ago that he won a landslide victory, not a narrow electoral vote victory. The NRA displayed the map with another message, saying that in an armed civil war, the red areas would overwhelm the blue ones. We have the guns and we have the territory, they said.

The two maps disguise two realities. One is that there are Trump and Biden voters mixed in everywhere. There are more Trump voters in California than there are in any other state. There were more Biden voters in Texas than in any state other than California. America is not as divided into red and blue as the map suggests.

The map disguises the other reality: Most Americans live in cities and the suburbs around them. Agriculture, forestry, mining, take place in wide open spaces with small populations. Here is a map of the night sky. It shows where people--voters and fellow Americans--live:

There is one anomaly visible in this map. There is a big cluster of bright lights in western North Dakota, almost directly north of the lights for Denver. Those lights don't signify people and voters. That is light from flaring off natural gas and methane from the oil drilling taking place in the Bakken oil fields. Aside from that, the dots of light generally represent where people are, a dark county with spots of light.

Here is a map that represents the actual votes for president with circle size representing vote size:
Now the map looks like a field of white--unpopulated areas between voters--dominated by big blue circles and smaller red circles, with a sharp line of demarcation just west of Houston, Dallas, Omaha and Kansas City, the 100th meridian. 

What is going on is commonplace understanding of voting patterns, combined with a realistic view of the population distribution of the country. Metropolitan areas voted for Biden, even in red states. Counties with big populations--and therefore big circles--tended to be blue, not red, although one can see red suburbs extending away from Dallas and red areas surrounding Atlanta when one gets far enough away from the city center. One sees red-by-a-whisker Pima County that includes the City of Phoenix, Arizona, and smaller blue Tucson south of it--a narrow victory for Biden.

Now the map tells a very different story: mixed America, with a blue majority.

One of the on-going themes within GOP circles is that the Constitution intentionally favored small states over large ones, and that cities would die without the countryside, and besides, based on the county map, most of "America" is Republican. Democrats respond with maps like the one above and one below. The next map shows where private enterprise creates wealth. The Fox News vision of cities is of homeless encampments, "Democrat" economic shutdowns for COVID,  and Antifa demonstrations. It is also where the good jobs are.

This wealth creation map above matches closely the Democratic vote for President. Democrats cite this as validation of Democratic legitimacy. We have a majority of the voters, we create a majority of the wealth, we are discriminated against in the electoral college but we win anyway--and should.

There is a warning embedded in the Economic Output map. Democratic vote for president--51.3%-- is associated the parts of the country that are doing relatively better; the wealth creators. It maps the continued erosion of the New Deal coalition that linked urban and rural working people and the then-Democratic Solid-South segregationists. Now the core archetype Democrat is an educated female office worker, plus Black and Hispanic voters who resent Republican racial tropes and dog whistles. The largest single demographic group in America is the White working class. Democrats used to win the countryside. Now they don't.

They are Trump's, and so are the Black and Hispanic voters who identify more strongly with being an American worker who wants a president who talks to them and their frustrations than they do being a person of color. There is an opportunity here for Democrats, but also a warning. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Silver linings. The Up-side of Bad.

 Merry Christmas. Really.

Now it's the season of joy. "Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas." 

Now is also the winter of our discontent. COVID.

The greetings of "happy holidays" seem discordant in this winter of frustration and grief. There is so much misfortune mixed into the 2020 Christmas season. Some people get infected and die, while others seem to do fine. Unemployment is real, even if many of us are safely retired or able to work remotely. Food banks are busy, and the stock market is at record highs.

COVID is a tragedy, for individuals, communities, businesses, the country, and the world. But there are some good things that have come out of COVID, and in the Christmas spirit let's take a moment to look at them.

America discovered we can fast track vaccines. Something we thought took years to do can, in a pinch, take months. That is a good thing.

America learned that a great many voters do not object to authoritarian rule- breaking in a president. Good to know. Maybe we can pass some laws to make it harder in the future for a president to deny an election result, and the time to do it is when the president in office has no intention of doing so and supports the change. A president can tie his own hands, with perhaps the support of both parties, in preparation for making it harder for himself and future presidents to overturn an election to maintain power. Republicans in Congress who would not stop Trump may be willing to stop Biden--and thereby a future Republican president--from doing what Trump is trying. America caught a break with this head's up. 

We owe the head's up to COVID. Trump would have rolled to re-election were it not for COVID. His brand of populist ethno-nationalist authoritarianism would have been associated with prosperity. We see this in China; their public accepts anti-democratic authoritarianism so long as China's government brings prosperity. It turns out, so do Americans. COVID revealed Trump's incompetence, with the result that Trump broke the mental link between presidential-rule-breaking and prosperity. Now Trump behavior is associated with out of control pandemics and economic distress. We were lucky. 

COVID accelerated a trend on remote work, which has some benefits. We have seen that lots of jobs do not need to be done at an office after all, not every day, at least. This has countless and unknown effects, with some winners and losers. Downtown office and commercial space may lose; suburban and rural spaces may win. Residences with home office space may get more valuable. Commutes may be fewer, which will affect traffic, auto sales, drive-time radio, podcasts, and more, with winners amid the losers. 

Generally, metropolitan areas have been harder hit than small cities and rural areas. This reverses a trend that has led jobs to the cities and a hollowing out of exurban and rural America. COVID reveals some of the benefits of wide open spaces. Broadband makes having those areas suitable for many jobs now concentrating in cities. Employment synergies had accelerated trends toward urbanization, but if employment can be dispursed--and COVID has shown it can--then this trend may moderate or reverse. Housing costs in cities may moderate.
Willamette Week, Dec. 24, 2020

Some adult children who moved from suburban areas to the big city to work have come back to live at their childhood homes. Empty-nest seniors discovered why they kept the house with two or three empty bedrooms. For better or worse, the nuclear family has been pushed back together, and in some cases families will decide they like multi-generational living, now that the social stigma of "living in your parents' basement" has been muddled.

COVID reminded Americans about public health. Communicable disease had been a primary cause of death throughout human history--and America's. Vaccines, antibiotics, antivirals, modern water, sewerage, and septic rules made death by infectious disease rare in the past fifty years. The communicable infections that got attention were STIs, Sexually Transmitted Infections: AIDS, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia. There was a stigma to infectious disease. 

That changed with COVID. Within Republican circles, led by White House example, there was a kind of too-tough-to-care macho element to getting COVID. Among Democrats and COVID-worriers, the COVID-infected were unfortunate victims, indeed, possibly heroes, because they were people who caught COVID by doing essential work in food, health care, policing, utilities, and other front-line work. 

Stigma-free-COVID has a silver-lining consequence. We want the COVID-infectious to stay home, we want them to get health care. They are, in a sense, injured soldiers in a war we all are engaged in. It opens the public mind to our own interest in stricken strangers isolating themselves and regaining their health. Americans who would recoil from "socializing" paid sick leave or health care observe our own interest in the health of strangers. We share the air in grocery store, hallways, work places, and restaurants. It is an opportunity to make progress on widening access to health care, and it is underway. The COVID vaccine is free.

COVID is an ill wind, but bits of good are coming out of it. This will be remembered as the COVID Christmas. There is something under the tree, even this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

An anti-Trump wave, not a blue one

Trump stimulated massive turnout, pro and con. Trump supporters voted down ballot. Trump opponents did not. 

A Guest Post by Jeffrey Laurenti

Democrats who read and believed the polls going into the 2020 election expected a Biden landslide. As readers of this blog know, I did not. I expected a massive turnout of people who don't usually vote. I counted banners on pickup trucks. I thought those people might represent a body of people who don't register in polls because they don't usually vote--but will this time. I was right.

I asked Jeffrey Laurenti to address a question about the election. Why did Biden win at the same time Democrats lost Members of the House? The weakness in the House vote confounds the conventional wisdom that big turnouts help Democrats. 

Twenty-five million more people voted in 2020 than in 2016, a spectacular increase. As Laurenti writes, a higher number of those extra Trump-supporters voted like Republicans in the sense that after voting for Trump they continued with their ballots to vote for a Republican Senator, Member of Congress, and Republican state officials. There were more Trump opponents than supporters, explaining Biden's win, but those extra Trump opponents were not so "Democratic" in their voting. They just wanted rid of Trump.

Laurenti, 2012
Jeffrey Laurenti is returning as an author of a Guest Post. He is a college classmate, a political scientist, a former senior analyst with a boutique foreign policy think tank. He lives in New Jersey, where he has been active in Democratic politics. He served as an elector in the 2012 election and cast his vote for Barack Obama.

Guest Post by Jeffrey Laurenti

There's been much angst among Democrats who were expecting a more decisive sweep last month, and much exuberance among Republicans who feared such a sweep and now taste a new House majority in 2022. 

True, congressional Republicans have largely given lip service to President Trump's claims that Democrats could only carry traditionally Democratic leaning states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, much less Republican-controlled states like Arizona and Georgia, if hundreds of thousands of "illegal" (presumably black) voters were flooding the polling places.

But most of those Republican congressmen know that they wrested a dozen congressional seats from Nancy Pelosi by winning a higher percentage of those same voters than Mr. Trump won, and as political professionals they know how every ballot, to be counted, had to be checked against a signature in a voter registry. They may be leery of offending Mr. Trump's inflamed supporters in their party, who proved their clout in the "Tea Party" insurgency a decade ago even before Mr. Trump was a candidate.

But they know he lost while they won. They feel lucky that instead of his losing by ten percentage points, as polls late in the campaign seemed to indicate (and which threatened to drag many of them down with him), he lost by just under five points. And they're ready to move on.

Political analysts speculate why Republican House candidates won 47.7% of votes cast for the House of Representatives while their incumbent president won 46.8%, barely higher than he garnered four years ago when there was a lot more attention to several third-party candidates. Were the differentials between the presidential candidates and their congressional ticket-mates primarily attributable to "split-ticket" voting (that sliver of Republicans who found Mr. Trump unpalatable who gave a vote to Joe Biden and then returned to the Republican column for the rest of the ballot), or to a greater propensity of Biden voters to vote only in the high-visibility presidential contest and then walk out of the polling booth?

Maine is the one state in which we can see significant ticket-splitting. Mr. Biden won Maine by nine percentage points. His party's Senate candidate lost to Republican Susan Collins by an equal margin. Elsewhere, Republican senators won reelection with close to the same winning margin as Mr. Trump: in South Carolina by 10 points (Mr. Trump won by 12), in North Carolina by two points (Mr. Trump won by one), in Iowa by seven (Mr. Trump won by eight), in Montana by ten (Mr. Trump won by 16). In Arizona the Democratic Senate challenger beat a Republican incumbent by two points; Mr. Biden edged Mr. Trump by a third of a point.

Nationwide, Mr. Biden won 81.2 million votes, which constituted 51.3% of all votes cast for president. Mr. Trump won 74.2 million votes. (His share was lower than the junior George Bush's 47.9% in 2000 and Mitt Romney's 47.2% in 2012.)

Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives won 77.5 million votes, or 50.8% of all votes cast for House candidates. That was a drop of 3.7 million votes from Biden's totals. Republican congressional candidates won 72.8 million votes, 1.4 million fewer votes than garnered by Mr. Trump. Put another way, if one assumes (as I do) that the 2020 election was essentially a referendum on the incumbent, Mr. Trump inspired 1.4 million voters to come out just to support him and no one else -- and inspired 3.7 million voters to come out just to vote against him and for no one else.

Certainly the Trump brand of politics motivated the highest turnout of voters in well over a century. Fully 15.6 million more voters poured out for Mr. Biden than cast votes for Hillary Clinton four years ago. A fair number of these new voters may have wanted to cast a ballot just to get rid of the Orange Man and then leave the polling booth. Conversely, Mr. Trump managed to gin up another 11.2 million voters over his turnout in 2016. Republicans notably had less fall-off down-ballot. 

They usually do. Indeed, in 2016, Republican House candidates actually got 200,000 more votes than Trump's 63 million. Mrs. Clinton's 65.9 million votes exceeded House Democratic candidates' cumulative total by 4.1 million. One might infer that Trump pulled out some voters this year who weren't interested in GOP House candidates. If anything, the surge in anti-Trump Democratic voters this year buoyed House candidates, who kept more voters for their presidential candidate in the polling booth to vote for down-ballot ticket-mates than they had four years ago.

Put another way: it's complicated.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

You would cry too

"It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to
Cry if I want to
You would cry too, if it happened to you.

Nobody knows where my Johnny has gone
But Judy left the same time
Why was he holding her hand
When he's supposed to be mine?"

       Sung by Leslie Gore, produced by Quincy Jones, 1963

Trump thought he was going to win. 

Besides, he had an ace in the hole. Plan B. He didn't need to WIN to win. He had the POWER to win, whatever happened--if his friends came through.

It must have been strange and upsetting for Trump to see friends giving off subtle signals of independence.

Fox News had been solid, and Trump made that happen. There was a little trouble at the beginning back in 2015. Fox News host, Megyn Kelly, was in his face, but Trump gave it right back in that first debate. This established that Trump wouldn't back down. Besides, Fox needed him. He was their ratings magnet. Soon, Kelly was out and things at Fox settled into Trump's liking. Fox was Trump-TV. Trump was Fox's main man.

Shepard Smith was an outlier but he was mid-day news and no one watched, and people complained--about Smith. Then he left. Then Chris Wallace started doing it, and Trump slapped him down, saying he lacked the talent of his father. Fox viewers complained--about Wallace.

But the magic was fading. By October mid-day Fox was no fun at all. The big breakup happened when Fox's analysts called Arizona for Biden. Fox put the idea into voters' heads that maybe Trump had lost. It was a betrayal.

He was sure he won by a landslide. How could he lose? The crowds. And to Sleepy Joe? No way. There must have been fraud. There is always some screw-up, something to point to. Trump's fallback was "reasonable doubt." He would win the way OJ had won, with a fig leaf of doubt and a great jury. Plan B was simple. It isn't the voters' decision. They only think so. It is a decision ratified by elected Republicans and judges, and they don't have to ratify an election whose outcome they don't like. 

But false friends started stacking up. His own chief of Cybersecurity, Christopher Krebs, a lifelong Republican, Senate confirmed, someone he should have been able to trust, stabbed him in the back. All Krebs needed to do was mumble "you never know for sure about elections," something for people to latch onto, like OJ's gloves being tight. Krebs said he had confidence in the election. He said the election was "the most secure in American history." Trump fired him, but the damage was done.

Then the turncoats in Georgia--the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Governor-- all three blew it and let people in Fulton and Cobb counties stuff the ballot box and refused to say it maybe could have happened, who knows for absolute sure. They didn't do it. 

Senate turncoats like Mitt Romney were no surprise; he's a RINO. But Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania could have leaned on the GOP legislature and told them to stand with Trump. Make America great.  He didn't. And Governor Ducey in Arizona, could have said their election seemed fishy, found some problems to point to, and leaned on his legislature. He didn't, either. Both guys defended the elections in their states. They were worthless. 

The two election certifiers in Michigan could have stood with him, made it a two-two tie in the election "certification," and throw things to the Republican legislature. One of the two Republicans vouched for the election and said we should respect the vote of the people. They could have started a snowball rolling but didn't. Cowards. 

His judges were worthless. Some of the judges who abandoned him were people he had nominated, people the GOP Senate, his GOP Senate, had confirmed. They had the power to interpret the evidence on the election any way they wanted. Judges have power to call a blue sky red if they want, say it looks sort of reddish to them in their judgement, and no one can stop them. They didn't do it.

Then Fox midday news anchors began calling Biden the "president elect," giving up, conceding the election. Then the Wall Street Journal said he should give it up. This, after all Trump had done for Fox and the stock market. Betrayal, sharper than a serpent's tooth. 

Attorney General Bill Barr has the power to describe the election any way he wants. He could appoint special counsels. He could announce an investigation. He could arrest Obama, or at least Hunter Biden, for something. There is always some error or question about something in a national election that would give an honest AG reasonable doubt. But no. Barr kept the Hunter Biden investigation secret--from Trump and everyone else. Barr said publicly he didn't see any fraud that would change the election result! He repeated it in his final press conference! He could have come up with something to give Republicans cover they need to ignore the vote. He didn't do it.
Weak Mitch

Mitch McConnell could have called in his caucus and said we GOP senators are going to stand shoulder to shoulder and reject the electoral college results. No exceptions, no holdouts, or else you lose all committee assignments. We all just say the election isn't 100% credible in our judgment as senators, and that, therefore under the Constitution we can reject the electoral votes and say that Trump wins a majority. Period. 

Trump knows that would work if McConnell would just do it. The House will vote for Biden, of course, but a tie would send the hot mess to the 6-3 Supreme Court. It would be easy for them; they would be breaking a tie. Ties can go either way. 

Meanwhile, Pence! Trump knows Pence is silently stabbing him in the back, talking about "every legal vote, no illegal vote." Pence knows full well that ship sailed. It isn't about the votes anymore. It is about who has the power to ignore the vote and just do what they have the power to do. Pence knows he is supposed to be saying the vote was irreparably corrupted and the Senate should give the election to Trump. Pence is playing dumb. Ingrate. 

Trump knows his staff people are against him but they pretend they aren't. They leak like a sieve to the media. He knows they are all saying on background that he is a delusional sore loser and they are all going to write books and get rich off him.  Back-stabbers.

Trump knows the voters didn't abandon him. Those vote totals Biden showed are all make-believe. Those were Trump votes that were switched, or fake votes dumped in by cheating Democrats. Trump knows he won big, that he has lots of supporters, millions of them. But he was betrayed by people who got close to him and stabbed him in the back.

You would cry too if it happened to you.