Should We Worry About Inflation?

On November 10th it was announced that the consumer price index has increased 6.2 percent in twelve months, the largest yearly increase in thirty years.  This announcement coincided with a Washington Post/ABC poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/14/post-abc-poll-biden/)l showing that President Biden’s approval ratings have fallen again: “Despite a mix of economic signals — falling unemployment and rising prices — 70 percent rate the economy negatively, including 38 percent who say it is in ‘poor’ condition.”  What should we make of this?

First of all, prices have risen.  Inflation is real.

It’s important to understand why this is happening.  Despite what Republicans may claim, inflation is not the fault of the Biden Administration.   As explained by CNN reporter Allison Morrow (https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/13/economy/what-is-inflation-explainer/index.html): “Blame the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, as Covid-19 spread, it was like pulling the plug on the global economy. Factories around the world shut down; people stopped going out to restaurants; airlines grounded flights… It was the sharpest economic contraction on record. By early summer, however, demand for consumer goods started to pick back up. Rapidly. Congress and President Joe Biden passed a historic $1.9 trillion stimulus bill in March that made Americans suddenly flush with cash and unemployment assistance. People started shopping again. Demand went from zero to 100, but supply couldn’t bounce back so easily.” [Emphasis added] “Blame the pandemic.”  Blame the Trump Administration that mishandled the pandemic.

In today’s polarized environment, Democrats and Republicans view inflation differently.  Nonetheless, the Washington Post/ABC poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/14/post-abc-poll-biden/) found that most respondents (50 percent) do not hold Biden responsible for inflation.  ([Notably] the poll finds majority support for [Biden’s] biggest plans. The Post-ABC poll finds that 63 percent of Americans support Washington spending $1 trillion ‘on roads, bridges and other infrastructure,’ while 58 percent support spending roughly $2 trillion to ‘address climate change and to create or expand preschool, health care and other social programs.'”

Most Republican voters don’t understand economics, so it’s easy for them to believe that President Biden caused the inflation to happen.  Recently Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio  said: “This will be a winter of high gas prices, shortages and inflation because far left lunatics control our government.”

The economy is complicated and multiple factors have contributed to the rise in the consumer price index.  As mentioned, demand bounced back and supply did not respond rapidly.  In addition, there have been problems in the global supply chain.  Some are remote — problems in Chinese chip factories — and some are local — a lot of truck drivers quit their jobs, during the pandemic, and have not returned.

Economist Robert Reich (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/11/us-inflation-market-power-america-antitrust-robert-reich ) believes that corporate greed has played an important role in the inflation kerfuffle: “There’s a deeper structural reason for inflation, one that appears to be growing worse: the economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices. If markets were competitive, companies would keep their prices down in order to prevent competitors from grabbing away customers.  But they’re raising prices even as they rake in record profits.”

Regardless of one’s political persuasion, inflation is likely to diminish in 2022.  Writing in CNN Business, Moody’s economist Mark Zandi observed (https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/17/perspectives/inflation-high-prices-economy/index.html?): “As [the pandemic] fades and workers get healthy and return to work, the acute labor shortages and outsize pay increases will end, which means higher prices will too. What’s more, workers who permanently lost jobs during the pandemic will find a new employer; parents who’ve been home tending to children in school online will return to work as schools continue to return to in-person learning; and parents with younger children will take jobs as children eventually get vaccinated and daycare becomes more widely available.”  Zandi continued: “All of this refutes the notion that the government spending and tax breaks to support the economy through the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan this past March, are somehow behind the higher inflation.”

Yes.  Inflation is real.  It’s been stoked by the pandemic.  As we overcome the pandemic, we will overcome inflation.

That, of course, is the challenge.  If the pandemic endures, then inflation will endure.  President Biden is determined to end the pandemic by mandating vaccination wherever possible, but many Republicans are fighting this.  That’s a problem.  That’s what we should worry about: Republicans have abandoned common sense.

Two Coyotes

Two coyotes near the house
One taking a nap in the lower meadow
The other hunting for food.

Healthy coyotes
Larger than a fox
Smaller than a wolf.

Coyote symbolizes mental growth
Strength for dealing with stress.

For the indigenous
Coyote is the holy trickster.

For our Aussie, Belle,
Coyote is intruder
A stimulant for hyper vigilance
an excuse to go apeshit.

Lessons from Virginia

The results of the November 2nd elections were not good for Democrats but the sky is not falling.  Democrats still have time to salvage the midterms if we pay attention to what went wrong; particularly in Virginia.

1.Candidates matter: While it’s impolite to speak ill of the dead, Terry McAuliffe was a terrible candidate.  Not just because he was personally obnoxious, but also because he ran with a dreadful strategy: “That other guy is the second coming of Trump.”

In the aftermath of the November 2nd election, we saw multiple instances where good progressive candidates won — for example, new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu — based upon their accomplishments and programs.

2. Voters are pissed off.  It’s not unusual for midterm voters to be irritated, but the US electorate is unusually roiled at the moment.  That’s the enduring Trump legacy: voters of all persuasions are angry.  Reds because they believe Trump was cheated; Blues because they want Trump to go away.  Reds because they don’t want to be vaccinated; Blues because they want the pandemic to be over.  Reds because they believe the economy has been artificially suppressed; Blues because it’s hard to make a living.  Etcetera.

The November 2nd electorate was angry and Republicans did a better job harnessing this anger.

3. Midterm elections are tough because most voters have a limited memory.  Whatever problems voters are currently experiencing they attribute to the current Administration.  It’s Biden’s pandemic and Biden’s economy and Biden’s border…

Voters want the pandemic to be over.  They’ve forgotten — or don’t care-  that Trump and the Republicans turned it into a disaster.  Everyone wants Coronavirus to go away.  (The best way to accomplish this is “tough love:” vaccine mandates.  Force everyone to get vaccinated.  Get vaccinated or stop being a cop or bus driver or nurse.)

Voters have forgotten that Trump and the Republicans screwed up the economy by a series of bonehead moves: cutting taxes of the wealthiest individuals and corporations, mishandling the pandemic, mishandling Covid relief… Voters want the economy to be better; they want life to be easier.  The best way to accomplish this is for Congress to pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” program.  Now is the time for Congressional Democrats to stiffen their spines and pass this legislation.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Now is the time for Democrats to “get going.” (During this writing, Democrats passed a historic $1.25 trillion infrastructure bill.  And the economy added 531,000 jobs.)

4. In Virginia, Republican voters were incensed about parental control of schools. There’s a grain of truth to this because, during the pandemic, many parents had to drop out of work to take care of their children because of school closures and vaccination requirements. Fox News, and other conservative outlets, have jumped on the “parental rights” issue to pump out a ton of disinformation; such as parents should determine school health standards.

It’s sad that Red voters are so gullible.  But in every election we have seen this.  We should be used to it.  And better able to fight back. We must do a better job fighting disinformation.

Writing in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/04/memo-democrats-be-loud-be-proud/?), Pulitzer-Prize-winning  columnist Eugene Robinson said: “Democrats should not retreat on cultural issues but instead should fight lies with truth. Explain that when Republicans say “critical race theory” they really mean “aspects of American history that they hope will make White voters uncomfortable.” Explain that the Biden plan gives more funding to police, not less. Be loud and be proud.” [Emphasis added]

5. There was high voter turnout in Virginia.  Democrats turned out more than usual, but even more Republicans turned out.  Republicans have learned to turn out their base with manufactured cultural issues.  We should get used to this.

Writing in The Guardian, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/04/democratic-strategists-are-embracing-popularism-but-theyve-got-it-wrong) political observer Steve Phillips said: “In the 16 seats flipped by Republicans last year, an average of 34,000 more people came out to cast ballots for the Democratic candidate than in 2018. The challenge for Democrats was that Republican votes jumped by 54,000 votes per district…. Rather than distancing themselves from issues that are unpopular with Trump supporters, Democrats need to double down on the issues that resonate with and inspire infrequent voters who are progressive.” [Emphasis added]

6. Republicans have embraced racism.  Many of the November 2nd voters were motivated but the racist tropes of Fox News and other conservative outlets; for example, the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” in Virginia schools — a blatant lie.  It’s important to recognize how central racism is to the core of the contemporary Republican Party.  For example, many Republicans believe in “replacement theory” — the notion that Democrats are encouraging the population growth of non-Christian non-whites so “those people” can take their jobs.

There are many facets of the legacy of Donald Trump: one was open racism.

A christian white Republican member of my family recently told me that the January 6th insurrection was understandable “because people were fed up with the Black Lives Matter riots.”

7. Democrats can prevail so long as we turn out our base and there’s a level playing field.  We can turn out our base with exciting candidates and dynamic programs.  We need help with the “level playing field” part.  We need to do everything we can to pass the Freedom to v/ote act (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act ).  Yes, even if that means changing the filibuster rules.

It’s not time to panic, it’s time to get busy.  We know who the Republicans are.  Do we know who we are?

Time (Marches On)

The older I get
The more refined
My sense of time.

When I was young
I drifted down a broad road
Composed of sunshine and flowers.

Now I trudge
Along a rainswept path
Littered with detritus.

Have my senses eroded
or been sharpened?
Am I more realistic
or muted by pessimism?

I drove to Sebastopol listening to the radio
Tom Petty, Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia..
“They’re all dead”
I realized

“What if I live long enough
that no one remembers
John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday…”
Sigh.

“Fie on them”
I said — like my grandfather
“If that happens
They don’t deserve my company.”

How to Write a Country & Western Hit

RULES
1. Start with tragedy.

If your life is going great, write a pop song.
Sample: “I Don’t Care”
I’m dancing with my girlfriend
to crappy music
and
I don’t care
.

2. Pick the tragedy style:
a. Relationship: My baby left me
b. Natural disaster: I lost my town in the great flood.
c. Your pet: My dog left me.

3. It’s okay to combine the styles
My baby got washed away in the flood.

4. Pick the perspective:
a. Historical: My baby left me standing at the altar.
b. Contemporary: My baby drove away in my brand-new Tesla.
c. Existential: My baby left or maybe she didn’t; was it all a fantasy?

5. Add seasoning:
a. Getting drunk: My baby left and I’m drinkin’.
b. Going to prison: My baby’s in prison; my dog, too.
c. Mama: I got drunk the day my mama went to prison

6. Mix and match:
My dog drank my last beer.
PG&E turned off my power and now I can’t find my baby.
My mama got drunk, took my dog for a walk, and fell into a volcano.

View from the Barricades: The Labor Market


If you’re confused by the state of the US economy, you’re not alone.  Market watchers know that stocks are sending confusing signals.  Some “experts” say we are in a recovery, other predict big problems.  In August, consumer sentiment (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/consumer-confidence ) hit a decade low.  The unemployment rate is falling but tens of thousands of workers are leaving the labor market.  What’s happening?

Duh: we’re in the middle of a civil war.

Thankfully, so far it’s a non-shooting civil war.  Nonetheless, it’s a civil war marked by two vectors: one is the millions of folks who insist that the orange menace won the 2020 presidential election; they’re more interested in creating chaos than a better world.  The second is the millions of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated.; they leaving and aggravating the labor market.  (By the way, these populations overlap.)

The Unemployment Rate: The latest jobs report ()https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf ) indicated that the US economy added 194,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent.  That seems like good news, but it must be tempered by the understanding that 183,000 workers dropped out of the labor force (mostly women). The “job participation rate” increased to 61.6 percent and remains below the 63 percent norm — pre-pandemic.

What’s happening? For one thing, the latest jobs report indicates that there’s no truth to the Republican claim that workers were staying out of the job market in order to get unemployment insurance benefits; many are reentering but looking for better jobs.  The churn in the  labor market can be understood by studying the relationship between unemployment and vaccination rates.  For example, California the state with the highest vaccination rate is also one of the states least impacted by the labor shortage.  (Conversely, South Dakota one of the states with lowest vaccination rate is also one of the states most impacted by the labor shortage.) Where it’s safe, workers are returning to the labor market, but they are being picky.  Where it’s not safe, workers are quitting their jobs.

Unfilled Jobs: There remains a big gap between the number of job openings and those who are looking for work — a deficit of several million.  Many employers — particularly small businesses — are desperately looking for employees.  There are several explanations for the lower than expected “job participation rate.” The most obvious is that “caregivers,” mostly women, are staying at home taking care of vulnerable family members: children or the elderly.  Their justification is that they don’t feel safe letting others care for their family members or, in some cases, there’s no safe hospital or nursing home option. (More than 300,000 women over 20 dropped out of the labor force in September.)

The second explanation is that some unemployed workers came from sectors that are on the “front lines” dealing with the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and public education.  Many of these workers left  jobs where there was a high probability of exposure to the coronavirus — such as bus drivers — or they were put in the unpleasant position of having to enforce a mask mandate — such as restaurant employees.  They don’t want to return to that hassle.  (Consider this Buzzfeed article where restaurant workers report the abuse they’ve recently had to endure  https://www.buzzfeed.com/rossyoder/why-people-left-restaurant-industry  or this similar Axios article https://www.axios.com/bars-restaurants-angry-violent-customers-pandemic-515777d8-8550-4cee-9193-c55eda96d2f1.html?  )

The third explanation is that many American workers now feel empowered to quit their jobs. The August labor report ( https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf) indicated that a record number, 4.3 million, quit in August. (“Quits increased in accommodation and food services (+157,000); wholesale trade (+26,000); and state and local government education (+25,000)..”)

Writing in The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/09/30/during-great-resignation-workers-refuse-accept-unacceptable/ ) Karla Miller observed there are four main causes for “the great resignation:” “A backlog of workers who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer; burnout, particularly among frontline workers in health care, food service and retail; “pandemic epiphanies” in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers and start their own businesses; and an aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely.”

Worker Power:  UC Economist Robert Reich postulates that we’re experiencing a form of national strike (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/13/american-workers-general-strike-robert-reich ). “American workers now have bargaining leverage to do better. After a year and a half of the pandemic, consumers have pent-up demand for all sorts of goods and services…But employers are finding it hard to fill positions… Over the past year, job openings have increased 62%. Yet overall hiring has actually declined… My take: workers are reluctant to return to or remain in their old jobs mostly because they’re burned out… What’s really going on is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage.” [Emphasis added]

Summary: We’re living in interesting times.  We’re in the middle of a (low key) civil war and similarly subdued national employment strike.  And then there’s climate change.  Stay tuned.

You Can’t Run Away from Death


Oh you can’t run away from death
No time to pause and catch your breath
The end is coming, don’t look back
‘Cause when you stop, death will attack.

You can’t run, oh you can’t hide
For death will take you for a ride
Past the story of your life
Through all the tumult and the strife.

Oh you can’t run away from death
Don’t try to swim the river Lethe
Just do your best and stand your ground
Ignore the breath of death’s great hound.

You can’t run, oh you can’t hide
Death flows onward with the tide
Carrying all your sins and woes
To leave you gasping in the throes.

Oh you can’t run away from death
No time to pause and to catch your breath
The end is coming, so don’t look back
‘Cause when you stop, death will attack.

Extreme Measures


A recent Washington Post Robert Kagan oped (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/) says what a lot of us have been thinking: the United States is heading into a constitutional crisis.  Would-be dictator Donald Trump is determined to run for President in 2024 and “Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary.”  To deal with this existential threat to our country, it’s necessary for all of us — not just our leaders in Washington DC — to take extreme measures.

Robert Kagan observes that Trump has consistently been underestimated: “[The establishment] underestimated the extent of [Trump’s] popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power.” Kagan details the forces that animate the Trump movement: “Suspicion of and hostility toward the federal government; racial hatred and fear; a concern that modern, secular society undermines religion and traditional morality; economic anxiety in an age of rapid technological change; class tensions, with subtle condescension on one side and resentment on the other; distrust of the broader world…”  Kagan continues: “What makes the Trump movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements.” [Emphasis added]

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this an existential crisis.  It’s time to get back on the barricades.  Here are the measures I suggest:

1.Guaranteeing fair elections has to be our number one priority.  In these difficult times, many policy initiatives are vying for our attention: climate change, racism, economic justice, reproductive rights, affordable housing, public health…to name only a few.  But we have to focus our efforts: guaranteeing fair elections has to be our unmistakable top priority.

The problem is that millions of Americans have pledged their fealty to Donald Trump.  And he is willing to do anything to regain power.  A recent University of Virginia study (https://www.alternet.org/2021/09/clear-and-present-danger-majority-of-trump-voters-believe-its-time-to-split-the-country-in-two/? ) detailed the extent of this problem: “A majority of Trump voters believe it’s time to split the country into two, with ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’ seceding from the Union.”

2. Enact Vaccine Mandates.  While enacting vaccine mandates might seem peripheral to the central problem, it isn’t, because vaccine mandates are a rare “two-for.”  First, requiring vaccination helps keep us (relatively) safe from Coronavirus; second, vaccine mandates drive a deep wedge into the Republican Party.  Mandates are a powerful wedge issue because hard-core Trumpers subscribe to conspiracy theories and many of these theories suggest that Coronavirus vaccines are evil.  (Recently Trump has given half-hearted support for vaccination; but there’s no evidence that this has changed the behavior of his rabid base.)

Therefore, if you are Trump supporter and you are required to get vaccinated, you have a difficult choice: get vaccinated to save your job — as a nurse, police officer, bus driver, or whatever — or not get vaccinated and lose your employment and possibly die.  This choice largely falls on Republicans.

Approximately 55 percent of all Americans have been fully vaccinated;  A recent NBC News poll (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/nbc-news-poll-shows-demographic-breakdown-vaccinated-u-s-n1277514 ) found that 69 percent of ADULTS had been vaccinated: 88 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 55 percent of Republicans.  The NBC poll found that among those “Republicans who support Trump more than party,” only 46 percent had been vaccinated. (Nationally, there’s about a 13 percentage point difference between counties that voted for Biden  and counties that voted for Trump — there’s a 17 percentage points difference in California.)  Many Trump followers are going to get very sick, and possibly die, because they won’t get vaccinated.

Bottom line: Unless they are vaccinated, Trumpsters shouldn’t be allowed to be public employees, use public facilities, go to theaters or sport arenas, or use public transportation.

3. Restrict Hate Speech.  One of the consequences of the Trump ascendancy is that “hate speech” has been empowered.  Trump has obliterated the boundaries of political correctness.  He feels he can say whatever he feels like, whenever he feels like it.  And because of his stance, Trump’s followers believe they can say whatever sexist, racist, or xenophobic phrase that pops into their mouths.  Because of Trump, is it any surprise that the daily news features videos of minorities being threatened or taunted by white folks?

But the Trumpster conduct goes way beyond speech; opponents of Trump are threatened.  It’s become common for public officials — those who are perceived to be in Trump’s way — to be threatened with physical assault or death; often their families are threatened.  (This is the same “brown-shirt” behavior that characterized Hitler’s early followers — “Sturmabteilung”.)

Robert Kagan deplores the current state of the GOP: “The Republican Party today is a zombie party. Its leaders go through the motions of governing in pursuit of traditional Republican goals, wrestling over infrastructure spending and foreign policy, even as real power in the party has leached away to Trump. From the uneasy and sometimes contentious partnership during Trump’s four years in office, the party’s main if not sole purpose today is as the willing enabler of Trump’s efforts to game the electoral system to ensure his return to power.” [Emphasis added] Kagan speculates that many erstwhile Republican leaders are afraid of being primaried.  Sadly their motivation is more basic: they fear for their lives.  Many otherwise decent Republicans are afraid to oppose Trump because of the damage his deranged followers might do.

Trump is a thug.  He’s the reincarnation of Hitler.  The conduct of his followers needs to be opposed and penalized.

(By the way: we need to severely penalize those who planned and participated in the January 6th insurrection.)

4. Protect Voting Rights: Robert Kagan understands the nature of the dilemma facing the republic: “Senate Democrats were wise to cut down their once-massive voting rights wish list and get behind the smaller compromise measure unveiled last week by Manchin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar… Heading into the next election, it is vital to protect election workers, same-day registration and early voting. It will also still be necessary to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which directly addresses the state legislatures’ electoral power grab.”

Passing these changes in the Senate means either abolishing the filibuster — a move that seems unlikely — or gaining the support of ten Republican Senators.  Kagan asks, “If that means political suicide for this handful of Republicans, wouldn’t it be better to go out fighting for democracy than to slink off quietly into the night?”

Summary: This is not a drill.  We’re in the middle of an existential crisis.  Get to work!

18 Worries

I’m worried about fires.
Fortunately, it just rained.

I’m worried about getting old.
You still look young to me.

I’m worried that I keep forgetting things.
Nonetheless, you can remember what you wore to the Saperstein’s party, five years ago.

I’m worried that I’m not as spiritual as I was.
You still hunger for peace and justice.

I’m worried that we will run out of water.
The well is okay and it just rained.

I’m worried that you will die before me.
Our marriage contract says we go together.

I’m worried that my children don’t get along.
That’s because they are half French.

I’m worried that we will lose our Democracy.
They still need us on the barricades.

I’m worried about climate change.
Turns out Al Gore was right.

I’m worried that I’ll get dementia, like my sister.
You’re not a bit like your sister.

I’m worried that I’m getting “old lady” skin.
You still look young to me.

I’m worried that all my friends are going away.
Some are; but _____ and _______ are still here.

I’m worried that I’m not reading serious books.
What about “Lust on the Pecos?”

I’m worried that we’re not going to be able to go to Paris.
There’s always Petaluma.

I’m worried that Republicans are taking away the right to vote.
They still need us on the barricades.

I’m worried that  the news is all bad.
Turn up the Bruce Springsteen channel.

I’m worried that we’re not eating enough fresh vegetables.
There’s always chard.

I’m worried that we don’t talk enough.
Hmm. I’m worried that you’re worried.

What Did We Learn From the California Recall?

(Red = “no on recall” county.)

The September 14, 2021, California recall is over and Governor Gavin Newsom won a resounding victory.  What does this portend for California politics? There are four takeaways:

1. Democrats demonstrated they can mobilize their base in an off-election year.  The Republican recall “logic” had two aspects: first, Republicans wanted to get rid of Governor Newsom because of his strong response to the Coronavirus pandemic (the lockdown and mask mandates) and, second, they believed the recall would succeed because  Democrats would not be bothered to vote in an “off” election year.  However, Democrats did mobilize and blocked the recall with 63 percent of the vote.

There had been concern that California’s Latino voters might not show up.  However, Latinos did participate in the recall election and overwhelmingly supported Newsom; that is, voted “no.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/15/california-newsom-recall-latino-voters-democrats-lessons/ )

Republicans made three miscalculations.  First, because they didn’t like Newsom, they assumed that some Democrats and many Independents also did not like him.  That turned out not to be the case.  Second, they assumed that most Californians were also anti-vaccination, anti-mask, and anti-mandate.  That was also not the case; most Californians are tired of the pandemic and mad at those who will not get vaccinated, who will not take Coronavirus seriously.  Third, Republicans assumed they could mobilize behind a Trump clone, Larry Elder, and voters would prefer him to Newsom.  That was not the case; a strong majority of voters were horrified by Elder. Check out the CNN exit polls: (https://www.cnn.com/election/2021/exit-polls/california/recall )

(There were moderate Republicans who might have gotten traction with independents and some Democrats; for example, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.  However, Faulconer is now too moderate for mainstream Republicans.)

2. Most of Southern California voted “No” on the recall. This surprising result has consequences for six Republican held congressional seats.

California has 53 Congressional seats, 11 are held by Republicans: 4 of these are in Northern California — above San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield– and the remaining 7 are in Southern California: CA8 (Obernolte), CA 23 (McCarthy), CA25 (Garcia), CA39 (Kim), CA42 (Calvert), CA48 (Steel), and CA50 (Issa). Except for CA 23 (in Kern County), all of these districts opposed the recall. Before the recall, 3 of those congressional districts (CA25, CA39, and CA48) were already prime Democratic targets; perhaps CA8 and CA42 have been added to the list.

If Democrats continue to mobilize Latino voters, this will increase the likelihood of these Republican congressional seats flipping.

3. As a Republican candidate, linking yourself to Trump may be the most expedient thing to do, but it’s not a viable strategy, in California, because it doesn’t attract any crossover votes.  Trump is not popular in California.  For this reason, it didn’t make much sense for Larry Elder to run as a Trump “clone.”  In the upcoming midterm elections, all 11 Republican incumbent members of Congress will be linked to Trump and to Larry Elder.  This may help those incumbents who are in deep red districts, but it won’t help those who are in toss-up districts.

4. Republicans aren’t interested in most of the issues that concern the general California electorate.  One of the factors that hindered Larry Elder was his cavalier attitude about the pandemic.  Elder’s position appeared to be “We don’t need mandates to deal with Coronavirus, this is a matter of personal responsibility. I trust Republicans to do the right thing.”  Most Californians don’t trust individual Republicans to do “the right thing.”  Most Californians feel that individual Republicans have prolonged the pandemic by their irresponsible behavior. ( https://www.cnn.com/election/2021/exit-polls/california/recall)

Elder expressed opinions on a wide-variety of issues: crime, homelessness, education, immigration, etcetera.  His problem was that his positions never gained traction — outside the Republican base — because he didn’t have a realistic plan to deal with the pandemic.  (Elder also took extreme positions on social issues that diverted media attention from his bread-and-butter policy positions; for example Elder said that if he became governor, he would immediately issue an executive order banning all abortions.)

Summary: On November 8, 2022, Gavin Newsom will be up for reelection.  Based upon the September 14th recall results, Newsom will have no viable Republican opponent.  This suggests that Democrats will make a strong showing, in the 2022 midterm election, and probably pickup several house seats.

The New Civil War


On September 14th, Californians will decide whether to recall Governor Newsom.  In a difficult period, this recall is another Republican effort to disrupt democracy, to blow up government.  It’s another manifestation of the new Civil War.

The latest 538 polls ( https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/california-recall-polls/) indicate that the recall will fail.  If this occurs, it will be due to the fact that Democrats mobilized and that they have been willing to spend millions of dollars defeating the recall.  If the recall fails, it will likely be the result of conservative radio commentator, Larry Elder, becoming the leading Republican recall choice.  Elder is a Trump acolyte.  If he were to “win” the recall contest, he’d be able to issue “executive orders.”  Elder has promised to issue an executive order banning all abortions in California; he also would outlaw mask mandates and other common-sense public health measures to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a period where Californians are concerned about climate-change disaster (fire and drought), Covid-19, housing, and other issues, the Republican party wants to blow up government.  This summer, nihilism has become the dominant GOP theme.  In Red states, such as Texas, while the Republican governor has failed to protect citizens agains the pandemic, GOP operatives have taken draconian steps, such as banning abortion.

This has made a difficult period much worse.  The latest PBS News/Marist poll (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/2-out-of-3-americans-believe-u-s-democracy-is-under-threat ) shows that two-thirds of respondents believe “democracy is under threat.”  As we might expect, the poll results are heavily influenced by Party affiliation: 87 percent of Republicans believe the country is NOT going in the right direction; while 87 percent of Democrats believe the country is going in the right direction.

What’s happening?  Why are Republicans so negative; so destructive?

There are three explanations, the politics of grievance, ideology, and greed.

Grievance: Donald Trump has had political success mobilizing the politics of resentment. At the core of this collective resentment is a sentiment shared by many Trump voters, the belief they have lost their shot at the American dream because others have played “the game” unfairly.  That is, Red voters believe they are economically and socially disadvantaged because some groups — such as women and “people of color”  — have received preferential treatment.  These Red voters have lost faith in the democratic process and, therefore, believe only “a strong leader” can save them.

Many Trump voters cling to the belief that Trump is the strong leader they have been waiting for.  Further, they believe he was cheated out of a win in 2020.  A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/53-republicans-view-trump-true-us-president-reutersipsos-2021-05-24/) found: “A majority of Republicans still believe Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blame his loss to Joe Biden on illegal voting…The May 17-19 national poll found that 53% of Republicans believe Trump, their party’s nominee, is the “true president” now, compared to 3% of Democrats and 25% of all Americans.”

Because of their suspicion of government, in general, and their belief they have been cheated, many Trump voters believe that the January 6h “Insurrection” was not the serious event portrayed by the media.  A recent NBC News poll (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/attitudes-jan-6-capitol-attack-settle-along-familiar-partisan-lines-n1277534 ) found that “Forty-six percent of adults say the attack has been exaggerated to discredit former President Trump and his supporters,”  This belief is held by 82 percent of Republicans.

Many Trump voters continue to be angry, to believe that they have been cheated, and lied to by the Federal Government.

Ideology: Although the level of Republican anger feels new, the underlying ideology is familiar. The first American Civil War was precipitated by a dispute regarding states’ rights and slavery,  The new Civil War involves a dispute about states’ rights and human rights.

Because of the widespread Republican belief that Trump “won” the 2020 election, the GOP leaders have asserted “states’ rights” in response.  For example, they have enacted draconian restrictions on voting rights.  As another example, Red states like Florida and Texas have defied Federal Public Health advice on vaccinations, masks, and social distancing. Finally, Red States are enacting new legislation restricting abortion rights.

Many observers described the Trump regime as “the new confederacy” because of its demonstrated preference for white men and its antagonism to women and “people of color.”  Many of us believe that Trump is a misogynist and a racist.  Predictably, Trump has responded to his 2020 election defeat by lashing out at women and people of color.  He’s despicable.  And his presence as the head of the Republican Party has caused many GOP partisans to adopt their own despicable stance.

Republicans seek to establish a confederacy where there is a weak central government and each state would establish their own definition of citizenship and the attendant rights. In this new confederacy, each state would establish their own environmental and business standards.

Greed:Of course, behind any political movement is money.  Donald Trump would not continue to be a political presence if he did not have the backing of wealthy donors. Trump’s funders include executives with conservative media organizations (such as “the Epoch Times” affiliated with the Falun Gong organization), fossil-fuel companies, real-estate developers, financial services companies, and others.

What do these donors want? The common thread that runs through these Trump loyalists is the desire for lower taxes and reduced government regulation.  They wholeheartedly get onboard the “blow up government” express because they resent taxation and government oversight of their business sector.  They can support notions such as viewing mask mandates as an infringement of individual freedom, because they espouse a libertarian philosophy that maximizes personal responsibility.  They see Trump as a “means” to their end game.  And this end game is, in effect, the establishment of a new confederacy.

Summary:  It’s not your imagination.  These are hard times.  Made more difficult by the Republican push to blow up democracy.  Tighten your seat belts, we’re flirting with civil war,

Trust Exercises


I’ll hold her.
Wow
She’s beautiful
Tiny.

You’re standing.
Go ahead sweetheart
Take a step
I’ve got you.

You don’t need training wheels
Just keep pedaling.
Steer straight ahead
I’ll keep you from falling.

Don’t worry
I’ll catch you.
Jump in the pool and
Swim to where I’m standing.

Close your eyes
Relax
Fall backwards
Into my arms.

Take a deep breath
You know your lines.
Just pretend
The audience isn’t there.

This song is a cappella,
Your voice is strong
We’ll start
With your solo.

The only way
to find out
Is to walk up and
talk to him.

Would you like to dance?
Take my hand
And
Follow my lead.

This party is boring.
Why don’t we
Take a walk
And get to know each other?

I was wondering
If you
Would be my date
For the prom.

A group of us
Are going skiing.
Would you like to
Go with me?

Next year
I’m going to rent off campus.
Would you like to
live with me?

You should go med school at Stanford.
After I graduate
I could live there
and get a job.

I love you,
It’s time
for us
to marry.

I’ll hold her.
Wow
She’s  beautiful
Tiny.