Elections Don’t Happen in a Vacuum

Trump’s address last night was such a disaster the markets dropped like a rock as soon as Trump said “God bless America.” The Dow Jones average was down more than 2,000 points at one point today, but it recovered a tad after the Federal Reserve announced it would inject $1.5 trillion into bond markets. See also Something Weird Is Happening on Wall Street, and Not Just the Stock Sell-Off.

As Trump read from a teleprompter, his inflection often was odd, and at moments he seemed out of breath. He also botched his own message. For example, in announcing a ban on travel from Europe, he said,

There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.

Daniel Larisen at The American Conservative:

Administration officials had to issue multiple clarifications to reassure the public that the president had not meant what he had just told us. It turns out that “Europe” only refers to people who have been in Schengen zone nations, and it doesn’t apply to goods at all.

Trump pointedly exempted the UK from the travel ban. Ireland is exempted also. Trump owns resorts in the UK and Ireland.

Trump also said,

Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.

Business Insider:

Not long after his speech, however, a representative for the insurance-industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans told Politico that major health insurers had agreed to waive co-pays only for coronavirus testing, not the far more costly coronavirus treatments.

I’m still not hearing a plan for testing people without insurance. I’m not hearing a plan for expanding hospital capacity and keeping coronavirus patients separate from non-infected patients.

And testing still is not happening. As of Wednesday morning, the CDC had tested only 77 people for the coronavirus since Sunday. Trump crows because there are more infections in Europe, but we have no idea how many people are infected here.

Charles Pierce:

This was not a speech. This was a cry for help, an SOS from a guy who knows, as Micheal Ray Richardson once put it, that the ship be sinking. You could almost imagine thousands of tiny feet running for lifeboats behind his eyes. You could see him reacting to storm sirens only he could hear. He is thrashing and floundering and he is surrounded by thrashers and flounderers who owe their entire careers to him now. This isn’t chaos. It is surrender to it.

The brief speech revealed that Trump is not dealing with the reality that the virus is already spreading here. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s a safe bet that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Which leads me to my real point, which is that the November election may well be determined by events that haven’t happened yet. This is why it’s pointless to claim (as many do right now) that our probable Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, can’t be elected.

I personally believe that Biden would have been elected had he run in 2016, if only because it was a terribly close election and he didn’t have half of Hillary Clinton’s negative baggage. That’s not something that can be proved, of course.

But do consider how much unexpected events change presidential fortunes. Were it not for the financial crisis of 2008, it’s very possible Barack Obama would not have been elected, for example. Hurricane Sandy may also have helped President Obama’s re-election, since Obama is famous for his grace under pressure, and Mitt Romney isn’t. Approval ratings for George W. Bush lept after September 11 and sagged after Hurricane Katrina, although unfortunately Katrina happened too late to keep Dubya from getting a second term.

So now Trump’s beloved stock market is tanking, and while it will likely recover well enough in time, the economy itself is going to be in shock for the next several months. Lots of people will have lost wages. Lots of businesses will have lost lots of income. It’s going to take a while to recover from that. And the more Trump tries to step up, the worse he looks.

It has to be said that Joe Biden is not someone I would have picked out of a lineup as The Man for Our Times. He is a creature of the status quo. There is much about his record I do not like. He was never the sharpest tack in the box, and I have wondered publicly if he’s even less sharp now.

But compared to Trump, Biden is Winston Churchill during the Blitz. Zack Beauchamp writes at Vox that while Biden’s remarks today on the coronavirus were unexceptional, Trump’s bumbling efforts make Biden seem strong and presidential. And while Biden may be famous for gaffes, he can speak extemporaneously in complete sentences most of the time. Trump cannot.

I’ve long thought that you can fool the American people about foreign policy all day long, but when something goes wrong in their own backyard they eventually notice. What’s about to happen in communities around the country will be hard to explain away.

I imagine that a lot of Republican politicians are getting an earful today from a lot of their deep pocket donors who have watched billions of their dollars evaporate over the past few days. However, it may be too late for the GOP to step back from being the party of Trump.

16 thoughts on “Elections Don’t Happen in a Vacuum

  1. The Dow finished down 9.99%. That's a minus 2352 points. I've seen some posts today that explain the nature of the impending crisis and it's not financial. What's happening in Italy is a system overwhelmed by The explosive spread resulted in a spike that means patients are being treated on a "who can we save" basis. They have to ration ICU access because there isn't enough to go around. This is WHY we slow the spread – not because anybody won't be exposed. We all will be. It's to extend the period of time so we can absorb the flood of seriously ill patients. 

    Some individuals in the US have taken steps to reduce the spread. Some local governments have taken steps. The CDC has reduced the number of tests (or they aren't reporting tests they have done) The claim that kits will be available in bulk has proven to be false in many instances. When the truth comes out, I think the administration is suppressing testing and reporting. If true, the results will be spectacular.  Some will make their final Twitter post in the hallway of a hospital to busy to treat lethal respiratory distress. It might be me.

    If it's that bad, Trump is toast. Biden has a bunch of faults, but I think he can field a competent team.  The value of putting qualified experts with integrity in charge of different agencies is going to be apparent even to the low-info voter fairly soon.

  2. The stock market is down 27% from its high, from a few weeks ago. That's an enormous drop.

    I didn't watch Biden speak, but Jennifer Rubin at the Wapo was ecstatic over it.

    This is becoming a teachable moment for this country, but the best voice we're left with is Joe Biden, better than zip, but still pathetic. Too bad this virus didn't make landfall earlier when so many Democrats were actively running for president. Any of them could've seized the mic and shown the country what leadership looks like.

    It reminds me of when Obama took office and another teachable moment presented itself with the banking meltdown. His considerable oratorical powers could've been used to castigate the conservative powers that got us into that jam, but he didn't, and so we're still stuck with right wing rule.

    What has to change in this country is the narrative conservatives have sold for the last four decades about what this country is about and how it should be run. It's embodied in Saint Reagan's dismissive quip: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". 

    It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that conservatives will use during this pandemic to prove once and for all, that government is worthless. People will finally realize St Ronnie was right: you are on your own.

    Change the stories that people buy into and you change the country. Obama missed his chance, and Joe Biden barely grasps what I just wrote. Short of Bernie Sanders, there's nobody else. This country is crying for articulate leadership that can finally put Ronald Reagan in the trashcan where he belongs.

    People will look to China, who aren't hobbled by American stupidity, and despite their large numbers, are getting their hands around the problem. They actually believe in this thing called "science".



  3. With that bumbling series of idiotic word-turds he read (barely) to the nation last night, tRUMP looked and sounded like he'd been sedated.

    I think he also put the last few nails in his own political coffin.

    At least I hope so.

    If the Democrats can't pound tRUMP,'s his maladministrstion's, and Moscow Mitch's already disastrous handling of the tFUMP Flu every minute of every day until Election Day, they will be committing not just political malfeasance, but political suicide!

    If Biden, who, at least as of today, appears to be our candidate, wins, you know he'll bring in the most competent Obama folks into his administration. And a lot of new competent faces (hopefully).     

    I hope I live to see it!

    Today, after a night of shivering and sneezing, the nurse here at my assisted living facility, and I agreed that I would self-quarantee until Saturday, to see if I feel better – which I do. 

    I have no temperature, nor any of the other tRUMP Flu symptoms, but I didn't want to affect any of my 70 friends and neighbors here.

    Please keep me, and them, in your thoughts.


    • I think the biggest thing you can do is to learn to wash your hands like a surgeon. It's kind of amazing how clean they feel when you're done – something I've been missing most of my life. The whole trick is to not let your dirty hands and fingers touch your face, as well as not being near people, avoiding their breath and their hands.

      Democrats have had ammunition for years, even when Obama was president, but were too stupid to know how to use it. Relying on Joe Biden? The guy who thinks he can make nice with Republicans? I wouldn't bet the farm. OTOH, if this crisis goes on long enough and causes enough harm…anything's possible.

  4. Some of us are learning a lot.  At my age I have to learn a lot more because I am forgetting things a bit faster.  So one gets to learn new things and relearn and refresh old things one has learned before.  

    I read a tremendous piece from Jenifer Senior, Op Ed writer from the NYT and expanded my vocabulary a bit this morning. More on this later, but first things first. This led to reading the comments when I found this jewel of a response to the address to the nation.  Credit E. Cripe of San Franisco:

    Knowing that my parents only watch Fox, I sent them a letter explaining the actual facts that we in the real world know about the virus, how it spreads, what kills it, and why there is national concern about it.  Their response indicated that my letter was none too soon.  Even in the highest risk group, at 80+ years old, they had no clue about even the basics of protecting themselves and others, the basics that we all now know by heart.  All they heard was it was a political hit job on the orange fella, that barricading our borders was the real solution, that everyone gets sick and so no big deal, and that everybody is making a mountain out of a molehill, again for political reasons.  After I put my jaw back in place, I realized that if Fox told them it was a jihad attack engineered by James Comey, they would have believed it.
    I urge everyone to send the basics to their loved ones who are stuck in the Fox echo chamber.  No need to be snarky, stick with the facts.  Don't argue with them, just inform them and leave it be.  Most importantly, do not assume they know anything at all.

    So back to my vocabulary lesson and a tease from Jennifer's Op Ed:

    What last night’s address made clear is that Donald J. Trump is no one — and I mean no one, a naked-emperor nullity — without a crowd. Audiences are what energize him, give him his confidence, his king-size certainty; it’s at rallies that he A/B tests his ideas in real time. Without a press corps to troll or an adoring crowd to feed off, the man is a shell.

    It was the naked-emperor nullity that sent me to the dictionary.  Null is used often in math, and from context I could get some clue but I had needed more clarity on this matter.  Meaning 2 gave me the enlightenment I sought.  A thing of no importance or worth…nothingness…and a list of synonyms that would have substituted but were not the best word for the job. Naked-emperor nullity was the word jewel that led me to my other find of the day. 


    •  Naked-emperor nullity is fine, but I prefer to refer to him as a big bag of shit. The logic being that it doesn't deprive him of substance. No matter how empty a suit he is there always is a residual of humanity present even if it is only a trace element.

       He's a bag of shit extraordinaire!

    • I work with programming languages, many of which have the concept of null, and so the word has been in my vocabulary for a long time.

      Bear in mind, that whatever Trump is, he's only one part of a three part pattern, that's been repeated through history:

      – a needy and helpless public, who wants a savior whose aim is to bring back the good old days

      – a socio-economic context where the glory days are clearly in the past, and people are suffering because of this

      Without these two conditions, Trump would be nothing more than some crooked businessman limited to running scams in New York.

      I remember visiting relatives in the rust belt during the summer of 2016. As I was leaving, Trump was flying in for one of his rallies. I don't blame the desperate people in my hometown for being suckers for what Trump was selling. The Democrats abandoned them, Hillary couldn't be bothered to show up, she insulted people with dopey campaign slogans like "I'm With Her" and that everything's fine in America. The 3 part formula worked like a charm. As it had for Hitler, Mussolini, any dictator you care to name.

  5. From the NYT piece:

    "In the global financial crisis 12 years ago, the Fed’s response included an alphabet soup of complex programs with names like “Term Securities Lending Facility” and “Primary Dealer Credit Facility.” The programs were meant to pump liquidity into various corners of the financial system."

    There's a clue in there. The economy, more unregulated and hostile to Keynesianism when Republicans are in charge, has drifted ever farther from representing anything other than how it services itself. Deregulation, overly sophisticated instruments and easy money policies have reduced its connection to capitalism and produced more unpredictable results. This makes two crashes under the last two Republican administrations.

    Worse, diseases like Covid-19 could become more common as the climate warms:

    "The rapid spread of the coronavirus is sparking challenging conversations about how to prepare for epidemics, especially new or little-known diseases. Climate change may make these conversations even more important.

    For one thing, climate change may cause diseases that are common in some places to shift into new geographic locations. That's a particular risk with vector-borne diseases, as mosquitoes and ticks expand their ranges."


    Republicans are proving themselves ideological to a malignant extreme. They accepted Trump and everything he stands for to get tax cuts and other right wing social programming, and damn the consequences. Biden is a lackluster candidate at best, but that might not matter. Very possibly all he has to be is a placeholder for a return to normalcy and hope for managing the future.


    • The economy, more unregulated and hostile to Keynesianism when Republicans are in charge, has drifted ever farther from representing anything other than how it services itself.

      Unregulated capitalism always engenders booms and busts. This is a feature, not a bug to the capitalist. It means assets and wealth flow from weaker hands to stronger hands. This is what Republicans want.

      • On second thought clarification is needed here. Republicans don't really support capitalism. They're supporters of  corporatism and statism. In short, they believe people should only support the economy, and it's not the job of the economy to support people.

        There are places in the world where capitalism works to the benefit of everyone because it's heavily regulated and cooperates with government and unions. Bernie tries to get that message out, but the way he goes about it confuses things. I'm hoping he can make himself more clear in the debate with Biden.



        • In short, they believe people should only support the economy, and it's not the job of the economy to support people.

          Yep. That's spot on. 

  6. The Dow finished up 1900 points. Stockbrokers are suffering from whiplash following a 2300 point drop Thursday. Pelosi crafted aid legislation which it looks like the Senate will pass on Monday. The focus of the bill is relief for citizens and testing, testing testing. I'm not sure if action from Capitol Hill drove the WallStreet rally. Was the inevitability of mass testing behind the WH declaration of an emergency? 

    IMO, yes. The CDC may have more inside info on the base of the bell curve which will define the impact of Trump Flu. I don't know if they do, but they should have (and should share) the factual data and realistic projection. IF Trump decided early this year that the virus was a PR problem they could control by choking the testing and reporting, Nancy blew up the last hope of managing the narrative. That would explain the declaration if the WH knows the bag is open and the cat is not going to wait around. 

    If there's evidence that anyone in the CDC or WH withheld information about the pandemic for political reasons, they should be criminally charged with 3rd-degree homicide – as many counts as there are fatalities. Only allow jurors who lost a family member to Trump Flu. 

    • There's a principle (whose name I've forgotten) that's akin to Occam's Razor: Never attribute to malice what can be easily attributed to stupidity or incompetence. Trump and his people are steeped in both malice and stupidity, but especially the latter.

      • Speaking of Trump and malice…Consider Trump's relationship with Jeff Sessions. Trump won't let up on his desire to fuck Session over for his perceived disloyalty. Sessions has done everything possible to atone for an offense he never really committed, he was put in a pinch play, and yet Trump continues to verbally batter and denigrate him with a vengeance. Unless I'm getting it wrong as to timing, Sessions was appointed the Attorney General prior to the Russia investigation while Trump continues to say, "If I had known he was going to recuse I never would have appointed him to be the Attorney General".

         So in reality, because Sessions had donned a MAGA hat he was locked into Trump's stable, and corruption to Trump's will was his expected obedience. I guess that like a pimp with his ho you don't get out of the stable without paying a price for disobedience and serve as an example to others for the cost of disobedience.

         It could be that Trump just has a sadistic streak and sees Sessions as a cur and feels a compulsion to publicly bitch slap him because that's just what you do when your head is in that kink.

        ? the record shows, Sessions took the blows…I did it my way! ?


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