The Onslaught of Madness

Madness does not run
It slithers up from behind
Catches you unaware.

One moment you’re safe
And the next, its tentacles
Wrap around your heart.

I saw the madness
In its cell, behind strong bars
Before it escaped.

Jumping the high fence
Racing across the pasture
Finding the grotto.

Hiding deep below
Feeding on the dark creatures
Sucking their essence.

Venturing outside
Sensing vulnerability
Probing our weakness.

Haunting our dreams
Polluting our unconscious
Clouding our resolve.

“Are you resentful?
Come follow me,” it whispers,
“Let out your anger.”

“Treated unfairly?
Because of your white skin?
Let your rage flow!”

Hollers, “Might makes right!
The ends justify the means!
Burn down everything!”

Madness taints judgment
Strips away moral constraints
Hardens fist and heart.

A New Era

The 2020 election is almost over; it will end when Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th. The election process took 19 months: beginning with the first Democratic debate and ending with the November 3rd election, January 6th counting of the electoral votes, and the inauguration. We all have good reason to feel drained.

There were emotional peaks and valleys.  After the polls closed, on November 3rd, there was an awful moment when we thought Trump might win.  Then we worried that Trump might find a way to steal the election; that he would force a coup.  We held on to a slim hope that we would regain control of the Senate by winning two Georgia run-off races; improbably, on January 5th we won both seats.

Now we have to set to work rebuilding the country.  But before we do this, we need to consider what we have learned from this process.

1.Democrats can win anywhere.  Biden won Arizona and Georgia; two states that had previously been considered “red.”  Democrats picked up a Senate seat in Arizona and two (!) seats in Georgia.

2020 proved that the political battlefield is expanding; the number of reliably red states is shrinking.  This means that Democrats can win any election if they have a strong candidate and effective local organizing.  (Dems have proven they have the money to compete in any venue.)  What remains to be done is for Democrats to replicate in every state the effective organization that Stacey Abrams built in Georgia.

2. Trump voters have a different worldview.  Sadly, during the 2020 presidential election, we have also learned that many Republicans — particularly those that idolized Donald Trump — have a vastly different perspective than do Biden supporters.  (We must never forget that 74 million Americans voted for Trump — 46.9 percent of the participants.)

Of course, not every Trump voter continues to support Trump — given recent events, such as the January 6th Capitol Hill riot.  Nonetheless, it’s reasonable to assume that a majority of Republicans support Trump.  In the 2020 presidential election exit polls, 36 percent of respondents identified as Republicans — versus 37 percent as Democrats and 26 percent as Independents.  95 percent of these Republicans voted for Trump; one-third of voters.  Assuming that Trump’s behavior, since November 3rd, has driven away some of this base, this means that between 25 and 30 percent of the electorate now support him — approximately 40 million voters.

It’s impossible to predict what Trump will do and, therefore, difficult to plot the course of the Republican Party.  At this moment, the GOP seems to have divided into two warring factions: the Trump devotees and Republicans who have entered “recovery.”  (On January 6th, 147 Trump-supporting members of Congress voted to overturn the results of the election (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/07/us/elections/electoral-college-biden-objectors.html).)

Going forward there are three mammoth tasks confronting the Biden-Harris administration: managing the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuilding the U.S. economy, and responding to climate change.  For each of these, the Biden-Harris administration is going to need the cooperation of Republicans, including some Trump supporters.

a. Covid-19 pandemic: At this writing, the United States has more than 22 million Coronavirus cases.  In contrast to Donald Trump, Joe Biden has promised to take the pandemic seriously: we can expect that he will emphasize mask use and demand funds for testing and vaccinations.  Most Americans will support these efforts, but Trump supporters will resist.  Too many do not take the pandemic seriously and, therefore, resist calls to wear a mask and socially distance — witness the Trump mob that stormed Capitol Hill; most of whom did not wear masks or socially distance.  (On Planet Trump, Coronavirus is a myth.)

Given the level of resistance of Trump supporters, it’s hard to imagine how a Biden-Harris initiative to ameliorate the pandemic will produce quick results.

b. Economic Recovery: The Biden-Harris team will attempt to restore the economy in two phases: first, provide assistance for individuals and businesses that have been damaged by the pandemic; and second, begin to address the more general issue of economic inequity — for example, by raising the minimum wage and forgiving student-loan debt.

Many Republicans, and Trump supporters, will be supportive of these efforts.

c. Climate Change: The 2020 presidential-election exit polls indicate that there’s a significant gap between the climate-change attitudes of Democrats and Republicans.  69 percent of Biden voters believe that “climate change is a serious problem” while 71 percent of Trump voters disagree.  It’s a situation similar to that on the pandemic: a strong majority of Biden supporters take the problem seriously and a similar majority of Trump supporters do not.

This is a particularly vexing situation because, once the pandemic is ameliorated, the United States needs to mobilize to deal with climate change.  We need to go to war to save the planet, but many Trump supporters won’t join this mobilization.

The bottom line is that the Biden-Harris team will govern a broken country; a fragile democracy that has just barely survived the reign of Donald Trump.  We’ve entered a new era but we all have much more work to do.

Rolling Down the Line

The train keeps rolling
Stations fly past the windows
“Leaving middle aged.”

“Next stop, elderly”
Technicolor fades to gray
Horizon shortens.

Farther I travel
The fewer train passengers
And the more baggage.

Many memories
Therapy burnt deep pathways
Opened locked doors.

Shaped perspective:
Look ahead or look behind?
I choose tomorrow.

Remain curious
Open to new experience
Prepared for wonder.

Sing my latest song
Write my political tract
Walk my feisty dogs.

Hope for the best
Always prepare for the worst
Treasure each moment

The glass is half full
Tomorrow is another day
We are getting there.

Mourning in America


2020 grinds complete
Desperate souls seek respite
Hunger for new hope.

Spirit defiled
Innocence abandoned
Optimism sullied.

Humanity torn
Compassion brutalized
Tolerance shunned.

Wonder forgotten
Creativity ensnared
Music furloughed.

Get up from the floor
Shake your fist and stomp your feet
Make a joyful noise.

Break out of your cell
Bellow justice to the world
Sing Democracy.

Hope is eternal
Wisdom lies within your grasp
Light freedom’s candle.

Donald Trump M.I.A.

On November 4th, after it became apparent that Donald Trump had lost the 2020 presidential election, I suspected that he would not be a gracious loser. Therefore, I haven’t been surprised that Trump has taken the position that the election was “stolen” by Joe Biden. What has shocked me is that Donald has stopped doing his day job. In the midst of four crises, Trump has abandoned any semblance of operating as President of the United States.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  From at least the time that Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, October 2, he checked out of his traditional White House duties.  Since November 3rd, Trump has seldom appeared in public and very rarely spoken to the press.  Nonetheless, Donald has tweeted a lot; an average of 25 per day — 75 percent of these tweets have been claims of election “fraud.” (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/11/24/us/politics/trump-twitter-tweets-election-results.html)

While it’s understandable that Trump is upset and, therefore, has sequestered himself in the White House to “lick his wounds,” that doesn’t excuse his failure to do his job.  The United States is beset by four crises.  Over the next 33 days, we need presidential leadership.

National Security:  On November 4th, after I realized that Trump had lost the election, I mused: “I hope there is no national security event between now and January 20th.”  Unfortunately, the United States has been the target of a massive Russian cyberattack.

Writing in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/opinion/fireeye-solarwinds-russia-hack.html), Thomas Bossert, former Trump Homeland Security Adviser, observed:

“The [Russian] malware was on [SolarWinds] software from March to June. The number of organizations that downloaded the corrupted update could be as many as 18,000, which includes most federal government unclassified networks and more than 425 Fortune 500 companies. The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate.  [Emphasis added] The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months…While the Russians did not have the time to gain complete control over every network they hacked, they most certainly did gain it over hundreds of them. It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.”

This is the most serious cyberattack ever.  The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the hack, “poses a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.”  It’s an act of war.

President Trump has yet to address this crisis.

Coronavirus Pandemic:  We’re in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic.  So far, 17.7 million Americans have been infected and 320 thousand have died — we’re adding 220 thousand new patients per day.  Since November 3rd, Donald Trump has frequently tweeted, but not about the pandemic.  (On November 13th, Trump held a brief press event, to tout the development of the Pfizer vaccine; he took no questions and did not acknowledge the US pandemic statistics.)

US Economy: In the closing days of the presidential election, Donald Trump ran with the message: “Biden wants to shut down the economy, I want to open it up.  Coronavirus is no big deal; I survived it.”  Of course, we’ve learned that Coronavirus is a big deal, and that it does have a savage impact on the economy.

At the moment, because of the third wave of the pandemic, the U.S. economy has stalled.  Employment growth has slowed down and unemployment lingers around 7 percent.  This week jobless claims increased to a three-month high (885,000).  Consumer confidence has fallen.  About 25 percent of US renters face eviction.  Millions of Americans are suffering.

At this writing, the US Congress is struggling to agree on a compromise stimulus package.  Donald Trump has had only marginal involvement in this process. (And, Trump has not addressed the pain endured by many working-class Americans.)

National Confidence:  Finally, as if it weren’t bad enough that Donald Trump has ignored a Russian cyberattack, mismanaged the pandemic, and provided no economic leadership, he has also failed to send a positive Christmas message.  We’re coming to the end of a very difficult year; American need to be cheered up.  A normal president would transmit a message of hope.

Instead, Donald has hunkered down in the White House.  Trump’s narcissistic focus is on the 2020 election results.  This stance furthers the impression that the 45th President of the United States does not care about the welfare of the American people — that Donald Trump only cares about himself.  At a time when Americans need to come together to fight for the common good, Trump is, instead, promoting a message of “you’re on your own.”

Donald Trump has, once again, failed to be a leader.  Since November 3rd, he’s M.I.A.

Christmas Sestina


December, a time for GRATITUDE
2020, a year of DISASTER
When the air was thick with TENSION
Infused with the fetid odor of POLITICS
Catalyzed by pandemic-fed ISOLATION
As we struggled to realize SIMPLICITY

The most challenging virtue: simplicity
(More demanding than gratitude)
Begin by savoring isolation
Clear your mind of disaster
Turn off the torrent of politics
Recognize anxiety and tension

2020, defined by tension
The antidote: simplicity
Heals anxiety precipitated by politics
(Soon, a president who fills me with gratitude)
A year teetering on the edge of disaster
Months spent in prickly isolation

2020’s legacy: isolation
A retreat from omnipresent tension
Shelter from the threat of disaster
Take refuge in simplicity
In ritual express gratitude
Forswear the swamp of politics

2020’s malignancy: Politics
Emails and tweets shattered isolation
November 3rd brought gratitude
Release from tension
The taste of simplicity
A reprieve from disaster

2020’s bequest: disaster
Nihilism fanned by the fires of politics
An existential threat diminished by simplicity
Amplified by isolation
Fomenting tension
Each safe day promoting gratitude

2021 intentions: avoid DISASTER
celebrate ISOLATION

Eschew POLITICS
Accept TENSION

Embrace SIMPLICITY
Welcome GRATITUDE

Trump Crazy, Republicans Crazy


Like most of you, i cannot wait until Donald Trump leaves the White House and the daily onslaught of Trump “news” ceases.   Unfortunately, while Trump will move on to the netherworld, the political madness will continue.  The most difficult 2020 election lesson is that Trump is not the cause of Republican insanity, he is its symptom.

In the 2020 election, more than 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.  They chose crazy.

It’s a deeply disturbing fact that millions of Americans voted for Trump.  A fact that’s important to consider, because Trump will disappear but Trumpism will persist.  Many Trump voters will continue to support Republican irrationality.

Many pundits disparage Trump supporters; call them stupid, deplorable, or worse.  I believe the most apt characterization of MAGA devotees is desperate.  Trump supporters feel hopeless and have grasped Trump as a “lifesaver.”

This is the perspective expressed by UC Berkeley Sociology professor Arlie Hochshild in her 2016 book: “Strangers in Their Own Land.”  Hochschild conducted a five-year study of Louisiana Tea Party voters who eventually became Trump supporters.  Hochschild details their “deep story,” a narrative shared by her interviewees: “You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage.  You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male… Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line.  Most in the back of the line are people of color… Look!  You see people cutting in line ahead of you!  You’re following the rules.  They aren’t.  As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back… Who are they?  Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers — where will it end?”

The voters Hochschild interviewed had been screwed over for so long that they were profoundly disoriented.  Grasping for a lifeline, they latched onto Trump.  After January 20th, Trump may slink offstage, but the desperation experienced by Trump voters will not disappear.  As a consequence, Trump voters will continue to support Republican irrationality.

This is a perspective shared by New York Times columnist, David Brooks, who recently wrote (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/opinion/republican-disinformation.html? ): “We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality.” [Emphasis added]  Brooks explained: “In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives… This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power…. People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.”

Brooks concluded: “Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set… Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.”

The key question for the Biden Administration is what to do about this.  How should they manage a situation where a substantial percentage of the populous not only did not vote for Biden-Harris but actually believes their election was illegitimate?

Addressing this political and social divide will take time.  There are several obvious steps.  First, the message from the Biden Administration has to be one of reconciliation.  In a recent speech, Joe Biden said, ““We are not enemies. We are Americans. This is the time to heal in America.”  That’s the right message, but many Trump supporters will not accept it; many MAGA devotees will hunker down within their paranoid communities.

Biden has taken control of the “bully pulpit.”  Over the next four years, Biden has to use this communication advantage to promote a positive message of reconciliation and hope.  The key is message consistency; if it’s maintained, Trump supporters will succumb.

The second step requires understanding that “the populist backlash” is a symptom of class conflict.  Donald Trump, and other Republican leaders, have — to further their selfish political agenda — promoted a class war: the “deplorables” versus the “coastal elites.” Listen to the language of Trump attorney Sidney Powell: “American patriots are fed up with the corruption from the local level, to the highest level of our government…  We are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.”

In 2016, Trump’s message to his supporters was: “The system is broken and I alone can fix it.”  Millions of Americans responded to Trump’s message, because they believe the system is broken.

The third step is to address the substantive grievances of Trump supporters, and millions of other Americans.  They want a shot at the American Dream.

In October, the Gallup Poll asked Americans: “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?”  80 percent of respondents said they were “dissatisfied.”  These Americans are dissatisfied with a lot of things: their jobs, housing, healthcare, and the education of their children.  They are dissatisfied because they do not believe there is “a level playing field.”  They are dissatisfied because they believe that a seminal American mythic narrative is dead.  A myth that Robert Reich (https://delong.typepad.com/egregious_moderation/2008/02/robert-reich-th.html) identified as: “The Triumphant Individual… the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.”

This dissatisfaction is not unique to Trump supporters.  It’s shared by many who voted for Biden-Harris.  That’s the silver lining in this difficult situation: most Biden supporters, and Trump devotees, ultimately want the same thing: a fair shot at the American dream.

Finisterre

Trapped at the end of the earth
the hours roll on relentless
time eased by fortune of birth.

Each day a measure of my worth
a challenge to my temper
trapped at the end of the earth.

Hard work to control my girth
not succumb to food and leisure
time eased by fortune of birth.

An anxious period, abandoned by mirth
tension cloaks my daily labors
trapped at the end of the earth.

Of humanity there is a dearth
family gatherings become virtual
time eased by fortune of birth.

In solitude learned a thing or two
pondering pleasures I could eschew
trapped at the end of the earth
time eased by fortune of birth.

*********************************

The villanelle is a very old form of poetry that came from France and has lots of rules. It is made up of 19 lines; five stanzas of three lines (tercet) each and a final stanza of four lines (quatrain). As you can see from the rhyme scheme; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, this type of poem only has two rhyming sounds. Plus, there is a lot of repetition throughout the villanelle. Line one will be repeated in lines six, 12 and 18; and line three will be repeated in lines nine, 15 and 19.

Reconciliation (1)


You’re in my family, no matter what
We may not agree, and that is okay
Feel free to tell me your opinion, but
Do not bellow when you hear what I say.

To me your vote defies rational sense
You support candidates that I detest
And claim there is no lasting consequence
For falsehoods and insults not made in jest.

Now you ignore my attempts to reason
And bloviate, evade, sometimes bluster
As if volume mutes the sound of treason
Lacking the substance you fail to muster.

You’re in my family, that is a fact
Still, it’s my integrity you attack.

Trumpism: The Politics of Paranoia

On November 19th, Rudy Giuliani and other members of the Trump legal team held an extended press conference to discuss their claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. While this event will be remembered as the occasion where Giuliani’s hair dye dripped down the sides of his face, it was more notable for the bizarre claims made. We shouldn’t be surprised, because the press conference is consistent with the Republican “paranoid style” championed by Donald Trump.

Conspiracy Theories: For the last 70 years, there’s been a faction within the Republican Party that promotes conspiracy theories.  This began with the 1950 claim, by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, that Communists had infiltrated the State Department.  The assertions by the Trump legal team are part of this tradition.

Giuliani began his November 19th press conference with this claim: “There was a plan from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud…in a  number of states.”  Trump legal team member Sidney Powell elaborated: “What we are really dealing with here, and uncovering more by the day, is the massive influence of Communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States.”  Powell described the mechanism for interference: “The Dominion voting systems, the Smartmatic technology software and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here in as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez.”  She claimed the Dominion company has a relationship with George Soros, adding “There are ties of the Dominion leadership to the Clinton Foundation and to other known politicians in this country.”  Giuliani told reporters: “I would love to release all the information that I have… Except most of you wouldn’t cover it… The censorship that is going on in this country right now by big tech and by big media, is almost as dangerous as the election fraud that we’re revealing.”

This isn’t the only conspiracy that Republicans are concerned about.  On November 22nd, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes referred to former President Barack Obama as President-elect Joe Biden’s “overlord,” calling for a special counsel to take over the investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8975595/Rep-Devin-Nunes-claims-Barack-Obama-Joe-Bidens-overlord.html )

Conspiracies swirl around Donald Trump.  At various times, Trump has tweeted conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus: it was a Chinese bio-weapon; the U.S. numbers are overstated — the pandemic is not as serious as health authorities say it is; etc.  He has also tweeted conspiracy theories about Barack Obama and Joe Biden: they illegally spied on his campaign; Biden is semi-senile and only appears normal because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs; etc.  Recently, Trump’s most venomous theory is that use of mail-in ballots leads to widespread voter fraud. (https://www.vox.com/recode/21546119/trump-conspiracy-theories-election-2020-coronavirus-voting-vote-by-mail )

Many Trump supporters subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory (https://www.nytimes.com/article/what-is-qanon.html .  According to the New York Times: “QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.  QAnon followers believe that this clique includes top Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros, as well as a number of entertainers and Hollywood celebrities…”  (Trump refuses to disavow this group.)

Trumpism: Some political observers have dismissed Trump as a performer, observing that he has no deep political beliefs; that he is guided by the maxim: “do whatever it takes to win.”  Another way to view Trump is as an “extreme” Republican; that he represents long-standing Republican tendencies taken to the extreme.  For example, “isolationism:” since before World War Ii, the Republican Party has been the “isolationist” Party; Trump has taken this tendency and promoted objectives such as the U.S. leaving NATO.  As another example, since passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the political realignment, the Republican party has been the “White folks” Party.  Trump has played to this and been the most overtly racist President in modern times.

Most relevant to the present moment is the fact that, since 1950, the Republican Party has been the conspiracy Party; there has always been an element within the GOP that believed “socialist hordes are at the gates,” and promoted stories about “the Communist menace.”  Once again, Trump has taken this to an extreme.  Not by emphasizing Russian communists but rather by demonizing Chinese communists and fomenting a conspiracy theory linking communists/socialists, AntiFa, leaders of Black Lives Matter, and violence in American cities.

Donald Trump has championed paranoia.  He’s distributed paranoia through his public statements and the conservative media silo.

The Paranoid Style:  The Republican tendency to engage in conspiracy theories was analyzed in a classic 1964 political essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” (https://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/ ) written by historian Richard Hofstadter.  “There is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”  Hofstadter linked the paranoid style to Joseph McCarthy and Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater,  Hofstadter described three aspects:

First, there has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism…The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.  Finally, the country is infused with a network of Communist agents…so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media is engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans.

Summary: Considering Hofstadter’s words, It’s easy to see Donald Trump’s 2020 political campaign as a manifestation of the Republican paranoid style: Trump claimed the United States was under attack by socialists (and Antifa), the Democratic Party had been infiltrated by these socialists, and socialists had subverted the mainstream media — with “fake news.”

From this perspective, the fact that more than 73 million Americans voted for Trump is not surprising.  They did not necessarily vote for the man, they voted in support of the notion that the United State is under attack and Republicans can save it.  In 2020, Republican voters were motivated by paranoia.

Election 2020: Lessons Learned

At this writing, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 5.9 million popular votes and 74 electoral college votes. Nonetheless, the election was closer than many Democrats expected. There are several important lessons to be learned.

 

1.Trump had a strategy. And it almost worked.

Since his inauguration, Trump has been historically unpopular.  According to the 538 website (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ ), during his presidency, Trump’s approval ratings never got to 50 percent; he typically ranged between 41 and 44 percent.

Many political observers felt that, given his lack of popularity, Trump could not be reelected unless he made a concerted attempt to reach outside his base.  Trump made no attempt to do this.  He made no effort to “reach across the aisle” — to attempt to work with Democrats.  He seemed to revel in disparaging Democratic leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

But Trump did have a strategy.  Part one was to increase the size of his base.  Trump started his re-election campaign on January 21, 2017.   Over the course of the next 3+ years, Republicans registered and mobilized 3 million new voters.  In 2016, the vote breakdown by Party was 36 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican, and 31 percent Independent.  In 2020, the breakdown by Party was 37 percent Democratic, 35 percent Republican, and 28 percent Independent.  Republicans increased their Party registration by two percentage points and increased their voting loyalty by 5 percent (88 percent voted for Trump in 2016 versus 93 percent in 2020.)

Part two of Trump’s strategy was to suppress the Democratic vote.  Since Trump never expected to win the popular vote  — in 2016, Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes — he focused his efforts on suppression in key swing states: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  Republicans unleashed their typical dirty tricks: savage voter purges, new “voter identification” requirements, changing polling places, etcetera.

At Trump’s direction, Republicans attacked voting by mail-in ballots as “fraud.”  A New York Times article by Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corassniti (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/15/us/politics/trump-voter-fraud-claims.html? ) details the years long effort to build this nefarious case: “From the start, the president saw mail-in ballots as a political threat that would appeal more to Democrats than to his followers. And so he and his allies sought to block moves to make absentee voting easier and to slow the content of mail-in ballots.  This allowed Mr. Trump to do two things: claim an early victory on election night and paint ballots that were counted later for his opponent as fraudulent.”

Part three of Trump’s strategy was to drive down Joe Biden’s favorability ratings.  Just as he had done with Hillary Clinton, Trump tried to paint Biden as dishonest — as illegally benefitting from Hunter Biden’s business activities.  When this didn’t work, Trump switched to attacking Biden as senile — too old to be running for President.  None of this worked — Biden’s favorability actually increased over the last few months before election day.  Nonetheless, in certain parts of the country, more general attacks on Democrats did resonate.  (For example, accusations that Dems wanted to “defund the police.”)

Part four of Trump’s strategy was to monopolize the Republican information silos: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh radio, and conservative social media pages.  This worked.  Voters who only listened to these silos acquired a warped perspective on Donald Trump; for example, they thought he had done a good job managing the the Coronavirus pandemic.

2.Trump increased his popular vote.  In 2016 Donald Trump got 62,985,106 votes.  At this writing, in 2020 Trump has 73,703,919. 

Trump overwhelmingly carried non-college-educated white voters (67 percent).  The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/11/16/us/politics/election-turnout.html ) observed: “Statistically, whether or not American voters had college degrees was by far the most significant predictor of where the 2020 tide of additional turnout was highest, and who won it. This metric is a stand-in for socioeconomic status — closely following patterns of higher income. Thus it could also be an indicator of cultural security, comfort and enfranchisement. There was a stark schism in the white vote apparent along this fault line: Populist areas, highlighted by concentrations of white voters without a college degree, moved toward Mr. Trump. White areas with better-educated populations, whether cities, suburbs or college towns, moved decisively away.”

There’s a rabid Donald Trump voter, who supported him and the other Republicans on the 2020 ballot.  These voters  made a big difference in contested Senate and House races.  It remains to be seen whether these Trump devotees will show up when Donald Trump is not on the ballot.  They didn’t in 2018.  (In 2020, in four California swing congressional districts — CA 21, 25, 38, and 48 — the Democratic incumbent would have prevailed if Republicans had voted at 2016 levels; in 2020, Republicans significantly increased their vote and as a result recaptured two of these seats, with the other two undecided.)

3. Money isn’t everything.  Democrats were eager to take control of the Senate and poured millions of dollars into Senate races.  They didn’t have much to show for this.  For example, in Kentucky, Democratic challenger Amy McGrath raised $90 million versus Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell’s $51 million.  Nonetheless, McConnell won by 400k votes (57.8 percent to 38.2 percent).

The most glaring failure was in Maine where Dems were convinced they would replace Republican incumbent Susan Collins with Democrat Sara Gideon.  Gideon raised $69.5 million versus $24.2 million for Collins.  Nonetheless, Collins won by 72k votes (51.1 percent versus 42.2 percent.)  The New York Times did an analysis of this race (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/us/maine-susan-collins.html) and concluded: “[Maine] voters thought the reasons [for Collins victory] were clear: The Gideon campaign, they said, was too focused on national politics. It was too negative, they complained. And it cost too much money, too much of it from outside the state.”

What we can learn from this is that for any particular political contest it’s not sufficient to have more money.  Democrats can only be assured of a victory when they have a better organization.  Ultimately, that’s why Biden prevailed over Trump.  (and that’s why, in Arizona, Mark Kelly defeated Martha McSally.)

That’s a cautionary tale for the contested Georgia Senate races.  Democrats will win if they have the better organization — of course, this costs money.

Summary: Whether we may feel about Donald Trump, he is a force in contemporary politics.  Democrats should be very wary of rabid Trump voters.

Terror

The first time I met the blues
People, you know I was walkin’, I was walkin’ down through the woods

(Little Brother Montgomery, 1937)

Lethal
If you look directly at terror
it drills a hole in your soul.

Yes, I’ve watched my house burnin’ blues
Blues, you know you done me, you done me all the harm that you could
.”

Invasive
terror breaks into your space
gagging your senses.

The blues got after me
People, you know they ran me from tree to tree
.”

Chronic
terror stalks you
infecting your sleep.

Yes, you should-a heard me beg ya, blues
Ah, blues, don’t murder me
.”

Pernicious
terror abducts your identity
and devours your soul.

Buddy Guy 1960 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwy7pmFkv9o )