Monthly Archives: October 2020

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.