The State of the Race

Less than 19 days from election day, Democrats are running scared; they remember four years ago when most of them believed that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump.  (Clinton lost despite having 2.9 million (2.1%) more votes than Trump.)  Relax Dems; this time Trump is going down.

The Popular Vote:  According to the 538 website, Biden’s lead over Trump is 10.7 percentage points.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/)  After an extended period where his lead average 8 points, Biden surged after the September 29th presidential debate and the revelation Trump contracted COVID-19.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-post-abc-presidential/2020/10/10/303b2230-0b1d-11eb-859b-f9c27abe638d_story.html ) shows Biden with a 12 point lead over Trump.  This poll is rated “A+” by the 538 website.

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll shines light on a number of important issues.  For example, there is the issue of Trump’s approval rating.  It’s consistently been a couple of points better than his polling numbers.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ )  This has led some observers to claim there are “shy” Trump voters, who will suddenly appear on November 3rd and propel Trump to victory.  The Post-ABC poll notes: “Trump’s overall approval rating among registered voters stands at 45 percent positive and 54 percent negative… Among those who approve of his job performance, 90 percent favor him for reelection.”  So, there are poll respondents who approve of Trump’s job performance but aren’t going to vote for him.  Who are they going to vote for?  Perhaps the Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen who receives 2 percent support in Post-ABC poll.

Therefore, the Post-ABC poll suggests that Trump’s voter support has a ceiling of around 42 percent.

While Trump’s best issue is the economy, this no longer gives him an edge over Biden.  According to the Post-ABC poll: “Trump and Biden are trusted about equally to handle the economy, while Biden has a 17-point advantage (55 percent to 38 percent) on dealing with the virus.” “Trump is judged harshly both for his handling of the pandemic and for failing to take what people regard as adequate protections to avoid contracting the virus.”

The Post-ABC poll indicates that basic demographics have shifted in favor of Biden: “Biden holds a 23-point advantage among female likely voters (59 percent to 36 percent), while Trump and Biden split men, 48 percent each. If those figures hold, both would represent a shift from 2016, when men backed Trump by 11 points and women favored Hillary Clinton by 13 points.”

“Trump leads by 26 points among White voters without four-year college degrees, which is smaller than his 36-point advantage in 2016… Biden holds a 31-point lead with White college graduates, which is much better than Clinton’s performance among this group.”

“Preferences among independent voters appear to have shifted considerably compared with 2016, with independent voters favoring Biden by 52 percent to 40 percent. By contrast, Trump beat Clinton among self-identified independent voters by four points.”

Electoral College:  The current Cook Report electoral projections shows Biden with 227 solid electoral votes.

Alaska: (3 electoral votes, Cook rates likely Republican).  Real Clear Politics indicates there’s not much polling in Alaska.  The Senate race (Gross vs Sullivan ) seems to be a tossup; as does the congressional race (Galvin versus Young).  Too close to call.

Arizona:  (11 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 4 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.  (Trump has pulled his TV ads in Arizona (https://www.abc15.com/news/election-2020/president-trump-campaign-goes-dark-on-local-tv-but-for-how-long ).)

Prediction: Biden will win.  227+11=238 electoral votes.

Florida: (29 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 1.7 percent; race is too close to call.

Georgia: (16 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by .4  percent; race is too close to call.

Michigan: (16 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 7.2 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.  (Trump has pulled his TV ads in Michigan (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-14/trump-campaign-slashes-ad-spending-in-key-states-in-cash-crunch ).)

Prediction: Biden will win.  238+16=254.

North Carolina: (15 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden up by 2.7 percent.  race is too close to call.

Pennsylvania: (20 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden up by 6.4 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.

Prediction: Biden will win. 254+20=274 (enough to win presidential election).

Texas: (38 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Republican.)  Real Clear Politics shows Trump up by 4.4 points; race is too close to call.

Wisconsin: (10 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics  shows Biden up by 6.3 points.

Prediction: Biden will win. 274+10=284.

Summary: Biden will easily win the popular vote — by more than 12 points.  He will also win the electoral college.

To Do List

October 10, 1420
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Acorn mash
Feed horses and dogs
Hunt for food
Gather canes and grasses for baskets
Dig latrine
Bathe in stream
Carry water to community garden
Wash clothes in stream (use soapwort)
Lunch: berries and dry Salmon
Clear brush from around encampment
Make arrowheads
Hunt for food
Meet with band to plan trip to trading center
Dinner: cooked game plus mushrooms and wild greens
Meet with shaman to pray for rain
Dance and play clapperstick
Shaman leads healing ceremony
Walk encampment perimeter with dogs
Burn sage in remembrance of ancestors
Say prayers
Sleep

October 10, 1820
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat meal
Feed horses, cows, and dogs
Collect food from garden
Gather wood
Repair outhouse
Carry water to house
Heat water for weekly bath
Use hot water to wash clothes (use lye plus animal fat)
Lunch: lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from upper pasture
Sharpen tools
Milk cows
Meet with neighbors to plan trip to town
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Ride farm perimeter accompanied by dog
Play harmonica
Study Farmers’ Almanac to predict rain
Read “The Last of the Mohicans” (hardcover)
Study ancestors’ pictures
Read passage from Bible
Sleep

October 10, 2020
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat flakes
Feed dogs
Buy food at market
Read email
Flush toilet
Turn on hot water
Take shower
Wash clothes in washer (use laundry detergent)
Lunch: Lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from access road
Load new version of operating system
Read email
Zoom meeting to plan fire-safety actions
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Walk ranch perimeter with dog
Play Jazz
Study Weather Channel to predict rain
Read “All the Light We cannot See” (Kindle)
Say prayer for family
Give thanks
Sleep

Harris-Pence: Keeping Score

After the dreadful initial 2020 presidential debate, there were some who called for the debates to cease. That would have been a mistake because the second debate, a vice-presidential tussle between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, was productive. It resulted in a win for Senator Harris and further momentum for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Going into the debate, California Senator Kamala Harris had three objectives: 1. Introduce herself to the (many) voters who hadn’t seen her before; 2. State the case for Joe Biden as president; and 3. Point out the failings of the Trump-Pence regime.  Harris did this and accomplished a fourth equally important objective; she established that while remaining calm and personable, she can defend herself and her running mate.  Harris went into the debate the most popular of the four major candidates (Trump, Pence, Biden, and Harris) and emerged even more popular.

During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump interrupted Joe Biden 118 times. Trump’s abrasive strategy was to throw Biden off his game and cause him to have a “senior moment” that Trump could use in his TV ads.  Trump’s strategy didn’t work.  As a consequence, Trump came off as a bully and Biden as an adult struggling to participate in a normal presidential debate.

During this second debate, Mike Pence interrupted Kamala Harris 15 times.  (He also interrupted the female moderator, Susan Paige, several times and ignored her pleas to stop talking because he had run over his alottedtime.)  Senator Harris responded politely but firmly: ”  “Mr. Vice President, I am speaking.” “If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can have a conversation.”

Pence seemed intent on flustering Harris, cause her to lose her temper, and further the “nasty woman” trope.  Pence’s strategy didn’t work.  Senator Harris kept her cool throughout the debate.  As a result, an “instant” CNN poll (https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/07/politics/mike-pence-kamala-harris-vice-presidential-debate-poll/index.html ) found that most observers (59 percent) thought Harris had won the debate.  More important, she improved her favorability rating: “In pre-debate interviews, 56% said they had a positive view of Harris — that rose to 63% after the debate. For Pence, his favorability stood at 41% in both pre- and post-debate interviews.”  (At 63 percent favorability, Harris is far and away the most “popular” of the candidates.)

To be fair, Senator Harris’ performance was not perfect.  For example, she missed a golden opportunity to nail Pence-Trump on their lack of a plan to deal with pre-existing conditions — if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare on November 10th.

There are two ways to judge a political debate.  One is on technical points; that is, judging it strictly as a debate while ignoring the political context.  The other way to judge the debate by considering its political consequences.  I’m focusing on the latter.

Coming into the debate. Vice President Mike Pence had a monumental political challenge: His boss, Donald Trump, had lost the previous (presidential) debate and is trailing in the national polls by 10.2 percent.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/ )  In addition, the Trump-Pence campaign is running out of money (https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/519766-trump-canceling-ads-in-ohio-and-iowa ) and Trump has been unable to campaign after contracting COVID-19.  The Trump-Pence campaign needed a big win in the VP debate, something that would change the overall campaign momentum.

Pence didn’t get a big win in the debate.  In terms of political consequences, he lost.  What most women will remember about the debate is that Mike Pence interrupted Kamala Harris multiple times and disrespected the female debate monitor.  (This comes at a time when the Trump campaign is losing female voters to Biden (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-poll-suburban-women-will-not-vote-for-trump-301130148.html )).  Senator Harris held her own with Vice President Pence and came out of the debate looking presidential.  (And became more popular.)  She defended Joe Biden and avoided any major error.

Senator Harris had three big moments: First, at the beginning of the debate she attacked Trump-Pence on their handling of the pandemic.  “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country. And here are the facts. 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months. Over 7 million people who have contracted this disease. One in five businesses closed… And here’s the thing, on January 28, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic. They were informed that it’s lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people and that it would be contracted because it is airborne. And they knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you…  The president said it was a hoax.”  Pence could not counter this.

Second, Senator Harris stated the obvious: the Trump Administration is trying to cancel Obamacare.  “Donald Trump… is in court right now trying to get rid of  trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means that you will lose protections, if you have pre-existing conditions…. If you have a pre-existing condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they’re coming for you.  If you love someone who has a pre existing condition they’re coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents coverage, they’re coming for you.”

The moderator, Susan Page, gave Vice President Pence an opportunity to respond to this: “President Trump says that he’s going to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but he has not explained how he will do that. So, tell us, specifically – how will your administration protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and give access to affordable insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down.”  Pence never responded.

At the conclusion of the debate, the moderator read a letter from an eighth grade student: “If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along? Your examples could make all the difference to bring us together.”  Pence responded, “We’re going to work every day to have a government as good as our people.”  Harris had a much stronger answer:  “What propelled [Joe Biden] to run for president was to see that, over the course of the last four years, what [the student] described has been happening. Joe has a long standing reputation of working across the aisle and working in a bipartisan way. And that’s what he’s going to do as President. Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity.”

Senator Kamala Harris won the vice-presidential debate, providing further momentum for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Coronavirus Serenade

Lessons Learned (7th month)
Rx: “West End Blues” (Louis Armstrong)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WPCBieSESI)

You gotta move
body
mind
spirit.
Rx:”Pressure Drop” (Toots and the Maytals)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw66FA6OTqA)

Take time to reflect
one day at a time
in the present moment
cushioned by impermanence.
Rx: “The Wheel” Jerry Garcia
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYGatU18PMQ )

Connect to
loved ones
friends
heart.
Rx: “See the Way” (Jimmie Dale Gilmore)
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEPQWOEiwdo )

Build
art
order
joy.
Rx: “You can get it if you really want.” (Jimmy cliff)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18EAqHx2lMk)

Celebrate
moment
world
life
Rx: “Favorite Things” (John Coltrane)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWG2dsXV5HI)

Biden-Trump: What Happens Next?

On the heels of a fractious presidential debate came the news that Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19.  Where does this leave the presidential contest?

There were ten takeaways from September 29 debate:

1.Trump’s demeanor:  Donald Trump was very aggressive throughout the debate; he was constantly on the attack, interrupting 118 times.  Imagine trying to retrieve a large weasel from his den and you’ll get the sense of how vicious Trump’s manner was.  (He sneered at Biden throughout the 90 minutes.)

Trump’s strategy seemed to be to throw Biden off his game and cause him to have a “senior moment” that Trump could use in his TV ads — that accuse Biden of senility.  This strategy didn’t work.  As a consequence, Trump came off as a bully and Biden as an adult struggling to participate in a normal presidential debate.

2. Biden’s manner: While Trump glowered, Biden ran through a normal range of expressions: seriousness, bemusement, exasperation, intensity, etcetera.  Biden tried to follow the debate rules while Trump didn’t.

At first, Biden seemed a bit flustered by Trump’s constant interruptions.  Then he responded with his own zinger, “Will you shut up, man.”  Then he peppered Trump’s interruptions with zingers: “Wrong guy, wrong time, wrong place.”  “Will he just shush for a minute?” “Trump doesn’t have a plan.”  “He panicked.”  “Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  “He’s a fool,”  “Trump is lying.”  “[He’s writing] the art of the steal.” “Trump is a clown…”

3. Moderator Chris Wallace: I had high hopes for Chris Wallace — an experienced moderator — but these hopes were dashed early on.  Wallace let Trump get away with constantly interrupting Biden and, in general, destroying the debate format.  The contest was so fractious that some observers are calling for the next two presidential debates to be cancelled or there to be some dramatic change in format — such as the moderator having the ability to turn off the participants’s microphones, when necessary.

4. Trump blew his best chance: For the past several months, Biden has been ahead of Trump, nationally, by about 8 percentage points.  The Cook Report (https://cookpolitical.com/sites/default/files/2020-09/EC%20Ratings.092920.pdf ) projects that Biden will win with, at least, 290 electoral votes — versus Trump’s 163 — with 5 states as tossups (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio).  The current Real Clear Politics state poll averages show Biden ahead, or tied, in each of these states.

Donald Trump is losing the presidential election.  To win, he has to expand his base.  The September 29th debate was an opportunity for Trump to cut into Biden’s lead, but Trump did not take advantage of this.  The after-debate CNN Poll (https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/29/politics/donald-trump-joe-biden-debate-poll/index.html ) found that 60 percent thought Biden did the best job in the debate, versus 28 percent who thought Trump did.  (65 percent of respondents thought that Biden’s answers were more truthful than Trump’s versus 29 percent that thought that Trump’s responses were more truthful.)  An Ipsos/538 poll (https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/538-first-presidential-debate-2020 ) had similar results.

Several important national policies were discussed during the debate:

5. Obamacare: It was clear that Donald Trump wants to end Obamacare and will ask SCOTUS to do this during the hearing scheduled for November 10.  Trump said: “Obamacare is no good…it’s a disaster. It’s too expensive. Premiums are too high, that it doesn’t work. So we do want to get rid of it. Chris, we want to get rid of that and give something that’s cheaper and better.”  Biden responded, “He’s been promising a healthcare plan since he got elected. He has none.”

6. Coronavirus:  At this writing, the US has 7.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 212,000 deaths.  Joe Biden said, “When [Donald Trump] was presented with that number [of deaths], he said, ‘It is what it is.’ Well, it is what it is because you are who you are. That’s why it is. The President has no plan… He panicked or he just looked at the stock market. One of the two. Because guess what? A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter…”

Biden and Trump have very different approaches.  For example, on wearing masks.  Biden said, “Masks make a big difference. [Trump’s] own head of the CDC said if we just wore masks between now, if everybody wore a mask and social distanced between now and January, we’d probably save up to 100,000 lives. It matters.”  Trump responded, “And they’ve also said the opposite.”  Biden followed up, “[Trump’s] been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to. He’s a fool on this.”

In retrospect, Trump’s debate position was that the pandemic was winding down — nothing to be afraid of.  Considering this, it’s ironic that Trump has contracted COVID-19.

7. The Economy:  The moderator asked, “The president says it’s a V-shape recovery, you say it’s a K-shaped recovery. What’s the difference?”

Biden responded: “The difference is millionaires and billionaires like him in the middle of the COVID crisis have done very well. Billionaires have made another $300 billion because of his profligate tax proposal, and he only focused on the market. But you folks at home, you folks living in Scranton and Claymont and all the small towns and working class towns in America, how well are you doing?”  Biden continued, “We handed him a booming economy, he blew it.”

Trump never responded.

8. Racial Tension: The moderator asked both candidates to explain what they would do to deal with racial issues.  Biden responded, “It’s about equity and equality. It’s about decency. It’s about the constitution. And we have never walked away from trying to require equity for everyone, equality for the whole of America. But we’ve never accomplished it, but we’ve never walked away from it like [Trump] has done.”  Trump did not respond directly.  Biden commented, “He’s the racist.”

The moderator asked Trump: “[A]re you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia group and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.”  Trump responded, “What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn.”  Biden suggested, “Proud boys.”  Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Trump’s response was widely condemned; he later tried to back away from it.

9. Climate Change: The moderator asked Trump, “What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?”  Trump refused to answer directly.

10. Election Integrity: the moderator asked, “How confident should we be that this will be a fair election, and what are you prepared to do over the next five plus weeks? Because it will not only be to election day, but also counting some mail-in ballots after election day. What are you prepared to do to reassure the American people that the next president will be the legitimate winner of this election.”  Donald Trump responded, “It’s a rigged election.”  He went on to rail against mail-in ballots.

The moderator asked, “Will you urge your supporters to stay calm during this extended period, not to engage in any civil unrest?”    Trump responded, “I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”  Biden responded, “The fact is, I will accept it, and he will too. You know why? Because once the winner is declared after all the ballots are counted, all the votes are counted, that’ll be the end of it. That’ll be the end of it. And if it’s me, in fact, fine. If it’s not me, I’ll support the outcome.”

Debate bottom line: Trump had an opportunity to gain support, but did not take advantage of this.  At the end, he seemed to be saying that he expected to lose and would vigorously contest the fairness of the election.

What happens next:  Given Trump’s reckless personal behavior, it’s not surprising that he contracted COVID-19.  Now he will go into quarantine.  At the least, this suggests that he will cancel campaign events and probably his participation in the October 15th second debate.  Hopefully, Trump’s illness will encourage his supporters to take the pandemic seriously: to wear masks and practice social distancing.

A tumultuous presidential contest just got weirder.  Hold on!

Growing Old

My delta waves sweep in
carrying the realization
running out of runway.

Awake
pondering
how many more days
I will be able to:
walk the dogs
carry the groceries
do my familiar routine.

The hits keep on comin’
shelter-in-place suggests
I may never again visit my favs:
Musee D’Orsay
NYC Theatre District
SF Jazz Center
Esalen
Poipu beach.

I walk the dogs
with renewed attention
see the wildflowers
delight in the (smokey) vistas
vow to protect democracy.

Scranton vs Park Avenue

It didn’t attract much attention, but over the last few days, Joe Biden has crafted an effective economic message. In a voter town hall in Scranton Pennsylvania, and in subsequent speeches, Biden crystallized his powerful argument.

Although a majority of voters are worried about the Coronavirus pandemic, there is also deep concern about the economy: jobs, everyday bills, and healthcare costs.  Joe Biden is addressing this with a comprehensive plan (https://joebiden.com/build-back-better/#), while Donald Trump offers a set of bromides.

Until the last few weeks, when compared on a range of issues, voters saw Trump as better than Biden on only one issue: the economy.  But recently, the gap has narrowed.  The September 2nd, Quinnipiac poll ( https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=3671) found Biden and Trump tied on the question “who would do a better job handling the economy.”

Now Biden has found the perfect way to demonstrate to voters that Trump isn’t the one they should trust to handle the economy: Biden is making it personal.  “Guys like Trump who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people that I’ve always had a problem with, not the people who are busting their neck… I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue.”  “Like a lot of you, I spent a lot of my life with guys like Donald Trump looking down on me. Looking down on the people who make a living with their hands. People who take care of our kids, clean our streets.”

Biden’s message is one of deep equality:  “One of the lessons my mother taught me… it’s one that you probably were taught too… She said, ‘Joey, remember nobody’s better than you, but everybody’s your equal…’ You don’t measure people by the size of their bank accounts. I don’t respect people based on how big the house they live in is. I don’t look down my nose when people are busting their necks just making a limit, nor do any of you.”  Biden is identifying with working folks, the ones who have been left out of Trump’s economy.

Based upon this perspective, Biden is directly attacking Trump’s fixation on the stock market.  “Trump says… everyone’s in the stock market. That’s why he cares about the stock market. What the hell is he talking about? People, I grew up in Scranton, Claymont, they don’t have money in stocks. Every penny we made was to pay the bills and take care of the families, putting clothes in the back, and a roof over our head.”

There are several important elements of Biden’s message.  One is raising the minimum wage. “[It’s] about time we start to pay essential workers for the fact that they’re essential. Blinders have been taken off the American people. I think they’re ready. They’re ready to insist that the minimum wage be $15 an hour.”

Another is emphasizing “work not wealth.” [My] entire campaign is built upon a simple concept. It’s time to reward hard work in America, not wealth. Reward work, not wealth… it’s the opposite now. Reward wealth and not work. We’re going to have to rebuild an economy in the wake of COVID-19. And as we do, we have an incredible opportunity to make long overdue investments for working families. To make sure the wealthy, the very wealthy and big corporations finally began to pay their fair share. I’m not looking to punish anybody, just pay your fair share.”

Buy American: “[My plan] starts with a pretty basic idea. When the government spends taxpayers’ money, we should spend that money to buy American products made by American workers in American supply chains to generate American growth and opportunity.”

Rebuild America: “During my first term alone, we’re going to invest $400 billion in federal money… to invest and purchase products and materials our country needs to modernize the infrastructure, to replenish critical stockpiles, to enhance our national security.” “My infrastructure plan is going to revitalize American infrastructure so the future is made in America.”

Protect workers: “I’ll fight for workers and unions at every step requiring all federal infrastructure projects to, one, pay prevailing wage, two, prioritize project labor agreements so collective bargaining is in place before the project starts, [employ] workers from registered apprenticeships… Pass the PRO Act to crack down on employers who are trying to block or break unions.”

Tax Fairness: “Look, I’m not looking to punish anybody, but dammit, it’s about time the super wealthy and corporate America start paying their fair share.”  Biden’s plan raises taxes for those who make more than $400,000 a year.  “You have nothing to worry about if you make less than 400… If you make more, you’re going to start to pay your fair share. No who makes less than 400 is going to pay a single penny more in taxes under our administration. In fact, tens of millions of middle class families are going to get tax cuts when they need it most, while you’re raising your children, while you’re trying to get affordable healthcare, buying your first home or saving for retirement”

Healthcare: In Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan ( https://joebiden.com/build-back-better/#), he promises to expand healthcare: “[Biden] will pass universal paid sick days and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. And he has a plan to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care, by providing a public option and lowering costs for care and for prescription drugs.”

Sex Discrimination:  In Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, he promises to address sex discrimination: ” Biden will also address discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act as the next step in efforts to ensure women are paid equally for equal work.”

Just in time for the debates, Biden has found his economic message: “Guys like Trump who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people that I’ve always had a problem with, not the people who are busting their neck… I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue.”

Answering Service


[series of key tones, followed by dial tone]
[deep male voice]
“Hi, this is God. At the moment, I’m not available but I do want to hear from you. Please leave a message.”
caller: #@&%*!
[disconnect]

(two days later)
[series of key tones, followed by dial tone]
“Hi, this is God. At the moment, I’m not available but I do want to hear from you. Please leave a message.”
caller: #@&%*! #@&%*!
[disconnect]

(weeks later)
[series of key tones, followed by dial tone]
[mechanical voice]
“Hi, you’ve reached God’s office. Please listen carefully because our message has changed.
“If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911.
“touch 1 if you want the prayer for the day.
“touch 2 if you forgot your mantra.
“touch 3 if you wish to receive a text version of the last rites.
“touch 4 if you want to be added to our prayer list.
“touch 5 if you want to represent God in your neighborhood.
“touch 6 if you are a solicitor.
“touch 7 if you require technical assistance.
“touch 8 if you need to know the way home.
“touch 9 if you need to speak with a spiritual counselor.”
[key tone for 9]
“Hi, you’ve reached God’s counseling center. Requests for succor will be processed in the order received”
[beep]
[different mechanical voice]
“You are number 1,367,432.
“You waiting time is approximately 1 year 7 months and 13 days.
caller: #@&%*! #@&%*! #@&%*!
[disconnect]

(months later)
[series of key tones, followed by dial tone]
[female voice]
“You’ve reached God. How can I help you?”
caller: “Really?! I actually reached a person?”
“You sound surprised.”
“Yes. Because I’ve tried to reach you for months and only got your dreadful answering service.”
“I understand. And apologize. After we made the decision to no longer be inscrutable, we had a few missteps figuring out an effective customer service model.”
“We?”
“God.”
“There’s more than one God?”
“We are one. Think of us as your ‘heavenly host’. When you speak to me, you speak to God.”
“Do you have a name? Or is it just, God?”
“If it’s easier for you, you may call me Angelique. I’ll be your personal service representative.”

What Happens After November 3

There’s a lot of concern about what happens after the polls close on November 3rd. Here’s the BB view: mainstream media “exit” polls will show that Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than ten percentage points. Before midnight, on the West Coast, enough California results will be published to confirm this —  Biden will gather two-thirds of the Golden State early vote. Then the nation will wait on the electoral-college results.

The Popular Vote:  For the past month, according to the 538 website, Biden’s lead over Trump has stayed between 7 and 8 percentage points.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/)  It’s unlikely that Trump can narrow this gap, but he can make it widen.  For example, Trump’s continuing harangue against mail-in ballots will hurt him with senior Republican voters — who traditionally vote using mail-in ballots.  (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/9/7/1975717/-Rep-Kevin-McCarthy-We-re-Screwed?)

Trump is likely to lose badly in the debates.  And, he is running out of money.  Ergo, the popular vote margin won’t be close.

Exit Polls:  There’s a lot of concern that Americans won’t know what’s happening, at the end of election day, because the traditional exit polls won’t work — most voters (estimated 75 percent) won’t go to actual polling places, they will instead vote by mail.  But that scenario assumes that pollsters won’t do the obvious: call up registered voters and ask, “Did you vote?  (If yes) How did you vote? Who did you vote for?”  But pollsters will adapt and the new “exit” polls will be available.

Therefore, on the evening of November 3rd, we will have exit polls projections for the national popular vote and for individual states — so we will have a preliminary electoral vote count.  And then we will wait for the actual votes to be counted.  (The deadline is December 14.)

Electoral College:  The current Cook Report electoral projections shows Biden with 290 electoral votes, Trump with 187, and 61 as tossups.  I’ll focus on eight of the Cook-designated swing states and consider how their votes will be processed and what we should expect on November 3.

Arizona:  (11 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 5 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.  (Trump has pulled his TV ads in Arizona (https://www.abc15.com/news/election-2020/president-trump-campaign-goes-dark-on-local-tv-but-for-how-long ).)

Arizona relies heavily on mail-in ballots.  (They have a permanent mail-in ballot option.)  Roughly 80 percent will vote by mail.  Ballot tallying can begin 14 days before Election Day but results cannot be released until polls close.

Prediction: Biden will win.  We’ll have most results within 24 hours and final results within 72.

Florida: (29 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 1.6 percent; race is too close to call.

Florida makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot.  (In 2018, 31 percent voted by mail.)  Ballot tallying can begin 22 days before election day but the results cannot be released until polls close.  Unfortunately, voting in Florida has been subject to a variety of obstacles — and lawsuits.

Prediction: toss up.  We’ll have most results within 24 hours and final results within 72.

Georgia: (16 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Trump leading by 1.3 percent; race is too close to call.

Georgia makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot.  (Nonetheless, in 2018, only 6 percent voted by mail.)  While signature verification can occur when ballots are received, actual ballot counting does not occur until November 3rd.  Georgia is another state where voting has been subject to a variety of impediments.

Prediction: toss up.  Results won’t be known for more than a week.

Michigan: (16 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden leading by 4.8 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.  (Trump has pulled his TV ads in Michigan (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-14/trump-campaign-slashes-ad-spending-in-key-states-in-cash-crunch ).)

Michigan makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot.  (in 2018, 24 percent voted by mail.)  Actual ballot counting does not occur until November 3rd.

Prediction: Biden will win.  Definitive results will take a week.

North Carolina: (15 electoral votes, Cook rates tossup.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden up by 0.9 percent.

North Carolina makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot. (In 2020, the election director expects that 80 percent will vote by mail.)  Ballot counting can occur two weeks prior to Election Day — but results cannot be announced before November 3rd.

Prediction: Biden will win.  We’ll have most results within 24 hours and final results within 72.

Pennsylvania: (20 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics shows Biden up by 4.3 percent; Biden has been leading for several months.  (Trump has pulled his TV ads in Pennsylvania.)

Pennsylvania makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot.  Actual ballot counting does not occur until November 3rd.  (There’s legislation pending to speed this up.)

Prediction: Biden will win. Definitive results will take a week.

Texas: (38 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Republican.)  Real Clear Politics shows Trump up by 3.5 points.

Texas make it difficult for anyone but seniors to cast a mail-in ballot.  Actual ballot counting happens on election day.  Another state where Republicans have tried to impede voting.

Prediction: Trump will win. Results won’t be known for more than a week.

Wisconsin: (10 electoral votes, Cook rates lean Democrat.)  Real Clear Politics  shows Biden up by 6.7 points.

Wisconsin makes it relatively easy to cast a mail-in ballot.  Actual ballot counting does not occur until November 3rd.

Prediction: Biden will win. Definitive results will take a week.

Summary: Biden will win the electoral vote but it will take at least a week to confirm this.  (Georgia and Texas will be a mess.)

Take a deep breath.

I Remember

I remember
the beginning
the flash of light
and
maternal cries of anguish.

I remember
being comforted
searching for a hug
sometimes
flinching from opprobrium.

I remember
Fifties California
driving among stately Fan Palms
surrounding
glistening orange groves.

I remember
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
gaping at the Cinemascope screen
swept up
by the magic lantern.

I remember
Balboa beaches
swimming alone at sunrise
experiencing
baptism in the frothy surf.

I remember
peak experiences
dancing “beneath the diamond sky
with
one hand waving free”.

I remember
optimistic America
feeling lucky
always
expecting the best.

Ten Potential Game Changers

The political conventions have come and gone and little has changed in the 2020 presidential election.  Before the conventions, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by an average of 8.0 percentage points; after the conventions, Biden led Trump by an average of 7.6 points.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/ )

Trump continues to be unpopular; his latest ratings are 53.1 percent disapprove and 42.7 percent approve.  (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ )

For Trump to win, external factors will have to intervene.  Let’s consider ten possible game changers.

1.The Presidential Debates:  There will be three presidential debates: September 29 (Cleveland), October 15 (Miami), and October 22 (Nashville).  (There will be a Vice-Presidential debate on October 7 (Salt Lake City).)

A recent USA Today poll found that 47 percent of respondents expected Trump to prevail, versus 41 percent who thought Biden would win.  (http://poll trump expected to win debates)  This is a curious result.  In 2016 Hillary Clinton bested Trump in every debate.  (https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-trump-debate-win-hillary-1447108)  In 2012, Joe Biden defeated Paul Ryan in a Vice-Presidential debate.  (https://www.businessinsider.com/ryan-beats-biden-debate-cnn-poll-2012-10 )

The debates should be fascinating.   I expect Biden to prevail.

2. Russian Intervention: Many believe that Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral college edge was the direct consequence of Russian intervention: Millions of Russian-oligarch funds funneled into the Trump campaign via the NRA; Russian hackers providing key Clinton campaign emails to Wikileaks (Julian Assange); and Russians trolls manipulating social-media feeds to favor Trump in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The Russians are at it again, but there’s more energy directed to protecting the vote.  Specifically, there is more focus on social-media companies, such as Facebook, taking action to circumvent malignant Russian actions.

Recent New Yorker article observed that the impact of Russian disinformation is over stated: “Russian-produced disinformation certainly exists…. But compared with, say, Fox News pundits like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, let alone Trump himself, the perceived menace of Russian trolls far outweighs their actual reach.” (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/09/14/is-russian-meddling-as-dangerous-as-we-think? )

(By the way: Reuters reports that the White House has systematically downplayed the possibility of Russian interference in the election (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-whistleblower/former-u-s-official-told-to-halt-russia-intelligence-assessments-whistleblower-complaint-idUSKBN26032Q?).)

I expect the Russians to screw up counting the vote in at least one swing state.

3. Money:  Six months ago, when Joe Biden secured the Democratic presidential nomination, it was assumed Donald Trump would have a huge financial advantage, going into the campaign homestretch.  Now it appears that Biden has the money edge.

Recent New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/politics/trump-election-campaign-fundraising.html? ) revelations indicate that Trump’s campaign team mismanaged their multi-million dollar financial advantage and now they are scrambling for funds.  Biden is running ads in all the swing states and Trump in only a couple.  (By the way, the Trump campaign appears to have conceded Arizona to Biden.)

For the remaining 7 weeks before the election, I expect Biden to have more money.

4. Enthusiasm: For months, the Trump campaign has boasted of their “secret” advantage: Trump supporters are more enthusiastic about Donald than Democratic voters are about Joe.  (Of course “MAGA” voters are crazy about Donald; they are cult members.)

A recent Reuters poll ( https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-turnout-analysis/supporters-who-helped-trump-win-presidency-lagging-in-motivation-this-year-idUSKBN25Z1ID?) suggests the Republican narrative is false. “President Donald Trump’s supporters are less motivated this election cycle than they were in 2016. Although non-college-educated whites comprise 44 percent of the electorate and were pivotal to Trump’s 2016 victory, less of them support him this time around… his 12-point advantage in August is down from a 21-point lead in May, and well below the 34-point advantage he had over [Hillary] Clinton.”

Early voting numbers are out ( https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/10/democrats-early-voting-lead-412106) and they favor Democrats.  Advantage to Biden.

5. Trump health:  For months, there have been rumors that Donald Trump is in poor health; that he cannot walk a ramp without assistance, that he has trouble operating one of his hands, that he has more than his share of memory lapses…  There’s speculation that Trump, aged 74, has contracted the Alzheimer’s disease that felled his father, Fred.

What’s clear is that Trump is overweight (estimate 250 pounds), has an awful diet, and gets almost no exercise — he plays golf relying on a cart.  He has, to say the least, a high-pressure job.  My doctor friends tell me Trump is a prime candidate for a stroke.

On the campaign trail, Trump mocks Joe Biden’s health and age.  (Really!)  Advantage to Biden.

6. COVID-19 Pandemic: Trump has treated the pandemic as if it is a crisis that has been solved. Unfortunately, It hasn’t been solved and is likely to get worse when flu season starts in October. By November 3rd, 250,000 Americans will have died from the virus.  Trump can’t wish this away and most voters blame him for the crisis.  (The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll found: “A clear majority of Americans (63%) disapprove of Trump’s oversight of the public health crisis — a steady trend since early July.”)

As this was written, Bob Woodward’s book, “Rage,” was published.  Woodward taped Trump admissions of intentionally downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic.  (During a period where Trump was telling supporters the Coronavirus was a “hoax” and suggesting it was less dangerous than the flu.) ( https://www.motherjones.com/coronavirus-updates/2020/09/trump-admits-that-he-lied-about-the-coronavirus/?)

The pandemic will rage on and voters will blame Trump.

7. Economy: Trump acts as if the economy is growing but last quarter it shrank at a rate of 32.9 percent.  Trump pretends we are in a V-shaped recovery but it’s actually a K-shaped recovery where only the richest 1 percent are benefitting.  0 As the weeks go by, and Trump presents no plan to deal with the recession, increasing numbers of voters will be angry. (Voters are split on Trump’s handling of the economy (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval_economy-6182.html ).)

(At this writing, the Senate failed to approve a Republican-backed “skinny” stimulus bill (https://www.npr.org/2020/09/10/911414284/senate-gop-covid-relief-bill-fails-prospects-of-bipartisan-deal-before-election-?).)

Advantage Biden.

8. Climate Change: As we head into the final days of the presidential campaign,  Trump refuses to acknowledge climate change. Meanwhile, the west is beset by wildfires and the southeast by hurricanes.

This week Trump went to Florida and declared himself, “the No. 1 environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt.”

Advantage Biden.

9. Law and Order: Coming out of the Republican convention, Donald Trump tried to brand himself “the law and order President.”  He predicts dire consequences if Joe Biden is elected President.

A recent  CNN poll found, “Biden ahead of Trump by a 7-point margin on who [respondents] thought, if elected, would do a better job on the criminal justice system in the United States. Biden was favored by a 6-point margin on who would keep Americans safe from harm.”

Advantage Biden.

10. Trump Scandals:  As this is written, Trump is dealing with (at least) three scandals: the revelations about his attitude towards the American military (“suckers,” “losers”); the insider information from Trump’s one-time attorney, Michael Cohen; and, the publication of Bob Woodward’s book, “Rage.”

There are seven weeks left until the presidential election.  It’s reasonable to assume that every week will see some new revelation about Trump’s conduct.  Trump’s base will be eroded to the hardcore — below 40 percent of voters.

Advantage Biden.

Summary:  Most potential game changers favor Biden.  The notable exception is Russian interference in the election.  Next time I’ll take a closer look at election interference, in general.

Morality

Don’t say you believe
ethics have no cost.
Faith’s easy to cleave
integrity lost
What values your soul?
Is it white or black?
What gives you control?
Is it strength you lack?

Make truth your defense
to status be blind.
Learn from mistakes past
stand in the light hence.
Keep ego confined
probity will last.