Everybody Knows Somebody

A big, complex thing like the four-day Democratic National Unconvention will not please everybody. Today I’m seeing comments that the Dems didn’t talk enough about climate change or health care or the working class or unions or other things. And I’ve also seen comments there was too much about the working class and unions. You can’t please everybody. But on the whole I thought it was very good.

As I’ve said, the Republicans have got to be nervous. They had a lot less time to throw something together. Plus they are a party of nasty wackjobs defending an incumbent who has thoroughly screwed the pooch.

Republicans are so much happier when they are the minority party, or at least when there’s a Democrat in the White House while they control Congress. They aren’t interested in governing; they mostly just oppose government.

A couple of weeks ago Martin Longmen wrote that Trump is still trying to run as an outsider, when he’s the bleeping President of the United States. He hasn’t yet pivoted to running an incumbent campaign, other than to congratulate himself incessantly for what a great job he’s doing.

But it’s probably fair to say he didn’t really try to win the first time. He just discovered that if he got himself on television everyday talking shit about people, he’d soar in Republican polls. He didn’t change anything once he realized it was working. He didn’t change his primary “strategy” for the general election. His victory was a fluke, and he thought it reflected his brilliance.

Setting aside the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economy, and the fact that Trump was impeached, everything that worked for his 2016 campaign was premised on him being an outsider. He wasn’t a Bush Republican. He wasn’t an incumbent. He hadn’t cast a million votes over decades while middle America was getting hollowed out.

None of that works when you’re the president and the leader of your party. Newt Gingrich sent a dispatch from Rome to gently point out to Trump that he’s running Nixon’s 1968 campaign when he should be modeling his 1972 reelection. That’s absolutely true, except Nixon had a good economy, was winding down the Vietnam War, had opened the door to China, and had a list of domestic accomplishments to tout. Under Trump, Americans aren’t even allowed to travel because we’re too infectious.

While I know there are still some die-hards out there who insist covid-19 is being overblown or even a hoax, the infection has spread to Trump Country just in time to prove it ain’t. I’m in a county that gave Trump more than 70 percent of its votes in 2016. Last spring there were a handful of covid cases in the county. Now, every single day, the county daily paper has a banner headline giving the number of new cases. In a county with a total population of about 60,000, it doesn’t take a lot before everybody knows somebody who got covid. I’m actually seeing more people wearing masks lately, although it’s far from 100 percent.

What worked for Trump in 2016 is unlikely to work in 2020. In 2016 he won by a sliver of votes in what had been “blue wall” states, and he won mostly because Hillary Clinton was unpopular and ran a tone-deaf campaign. Biden doesn’t have the baggage and the negatives Clinton had, and I doubt he will make Clinton’s campaign mistakes.

What’s still a hoot to me is Trump pointing to incidents of violence on his watch and warning people that’s what they will get if they elect Biden. Hey, dude, it’s what we’ve already got, thanks to you. 

And then there’s the economy. Paul Krugman, yesterday:

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 stock index hit a record high. The next day, Apple became the first U.S. company in history to be valued at more than $2 trillion. Donald Trump is, of course, touting the stock market as proof that the economy has recovered from the coronavirus; too bad about those 173,000 dead Americans, but as he says, “It is what it is.”

But the economy probably doesn’t feel so great to the millions of workers who still haven’t gotten their jobs back and who have just seen their unemployment benefits slashed. The $600 a week supplemental benefit enacted in March has expired, and Trump’s purported replacement is basically a sick joke.

Even before the aid cutoff, the number of parents reporting that they were having trouble giving their children enough to eat was rising rapidly. That number will surely soar in the next few weeks. And we’re also about to see a huge wave of evictions, both because families are no longer getting the money they need to pay rent and because a temporary ban on evictions, like supplemental unemployment benefits, has just expired.

I am living in what almost qualifies as a retirement community. It isn’t really, but there are probably more retirees living in this particular development than there are working adults. Yet even among retirees, everybody knows somebody who has lost a job or has had hours cut back. Most of us geezers have adult children who lost their jobs or at least part of their income. And we worry. Plus there is still uncertainty about what’s going to go on with the schools. The local school district has pushed opening back to September 8; we’ll see what happens after that. Meanwhile, some folks who just sent their older children off to college are seeing them come back already.

If Trump spends all next week bragging about what a great job he’s done, I’m not sure that would sell even here. Of course, a significant percentage of the locals will be frightened into believing that if Trump is turned out of the White House, Black Lives Matter and Antifa will join forces and burn down their houses. There are always some of those. I remember them from back in the 1960s, when they were terrified Martin Luther King would turn up and do something unspeakalbe. I’m not sure what, but something. Around here, everybody knows somebody who thinks like that. But not everybody thinks like that, even here.

Back to Krugman:

So here’s the current state of America: Unemployment is still extremely high, largely because Trump and his allies first refused to take the coronavirus seriously, then pushed for an early reopening in a nation that met none of the conditions for resuming business as usual — and even now refuse to get firmly behind basic protective strategies like widespread mask requirements.

Despite this epic failure, the unemployed were kept afloat for months by federal aid, which helped avert both humanitarian and economic catastrophe. But now the aid has been cut off, with Trump and allies as unserious about the looming economic disaster as they were about the looming epidemiological disaster.

So everything suggests that even if the pandemic subsides — which is by no means guaranteed — we’re about to see a huge surge in national misery.

Oh, and stocks are up. Why, exactly, should we care?

Krugman says the high value in the stock market is mostly coming from technology stocks, and is mostly based on anticipated long-term future earnings. It really is nearly entirely divorced from the current state of the economy. All the rah-rah boom economy talk that no doubt will come out of the RNC convention next week can’t override the real-world experience of all but the most demented MAGA heads.

Greg Sargent:

Joe Biden’s heartfelt convention speech effectively dramatized what will surely be one of the most compelling contrasts of the final stretch of the election. It’s this: Biden grasps on a gut level that untold numbers of Americans feel like they — and our country — have been kicked hard in the teeth by events, by life.

This is enormously different from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 message, which was that everything was just great as it was and let’s not do much to change it.

President Trump, by contrast, will not or cannot demonstrate any ability to grasp this, either because it would require admitting to fallibility, or because he is incapable of empathizing with the suffering of others on a basic human level, or some combination of the two. …

…“He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well I have news for him — no miracle is coming,” Biden said of Trump, adding that as president, he would tell the public the “honest, unvarnished truth.” Biden continued: “They can handle it.”

Telling people the truth about the coronavirus isn’t just a matter of placing our public health response on a foundation of empiricism and science. It’s also about speaking to what people actually are experiencing.

This recognition of people’s experiences is a form of respect. It contrasts with the bottomless contempt Trump shows them by simply assuming he can make their real-world experiences disappear with his magical lies, all to serve corrupt, narcissistic ends.

It’s also the case that Trump and his supporters have charged for months now that Biden is cognitively challenged. That certainly wasn’t apparent during the convention, and especially not during Biden’s speech. It was clear, firm, direct, and energetic.

So let’s see what the Republicans do next week. I’m betting Trump will insist on making a lot of appearances. We’ll have to wait until September 29 for the first presidential debate; the remainder will be in October.