Monthly Archives: October 2020

America’s Hitler

Growing up on the Left Coast, I was taught about the rise of the Third Reich, World War II, and the Holocaust tragedy. I asked myself, “If the American version of Hitler appeared in the United States, what would I do?” Now I know.

I was surprised and horrified by Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. In retrospect, multiple factors contributed to this: Trump supporters were more enthusiastic than Clinton supporters; Trump took advantage of the weird U.S. electoral college system; Russia aided the Trump campaign; and former FBI director Comey’s October 28th letter about the Clinton emails moved undecided voters. Trump benefited from a “perfect storm” of political events.

I predicted Trump would be a bad President — because of his mercurial temperament and inability to think strategically. Nonetheless, I thought Republicans would “moderate” him; I believed that GOP officeholders would restrain Trump from exercising his worst impulses. Trump’s response to the August 11-12, 2017, Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally woke me up. I saw how deep Trump’s racism is and realized how much of a threat he is.  And, I understood that Washington Republicans weren’t going to stand in his way.

During the 2016 campaign I joked that Donald Trump was the Republican Party’s version of Adolf Hitler. After Charlottesville, I understood that what I had intended as jest was, in fact, the grim reality.

Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler have a lot in common.  (Not their size, Trump is 6’2″ and Hitler was 5’9″.)  Initially, neither was taken seriously; the Hitler and Trump rallies were mocked, as were Hitler and Trump’s oratory.  Nonetheless, they attracted passionate followings and, over time, developed a “cult” appeal.  Hitler and Trump have three things in common: 1. Both preached a deeply emotional brand of populism; they brought hope to the hopeless.  When Trump brags that only he can fix a broken government, millions of Americans believe him because they have lost faith in the traditional political system.  2. Both had an openly “racist” message: Hitler advertised his anti-semitism, while Trump pushed his anti-Muslim theme — later expanding this to people-of-color, in general.  3. Both Trump and Hitler had the support of powerful capitalistic oligarchs (For example, for Hitler the Krupps and for Trump the Kochs); Hitler painted himself as an alternative to communism, Trump paints himself as an alternative to socialism.

I believe on November 3rd Joe Biden will soundly defeat Donald Trump and be declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.  Nonetheless,Trump’s defeat won’t signal that “Trumpism” is dead — anymore than the death of Adolf Hitler meant that anti-semitism had been vanquished.  The rise of Trump, and his iron grip on the Republican Party, is a sign of deep social problems in the United States.  In the years to come, the Biden-Harris team, and all of us who supported them, are going to have to come to grips with Trumpism.

Trump’s oligarchs aren’t going to disappear after the election: the Adelsons, Devos’s, Kochs, Mellons, Mercers, Warrens, etcetera, aren’t going to abandon politics.  They’ll try to retain their power.  They won’t have Donald as their sympathetic frontman but there will be plenty of other Republicans — Mitch McConnell — willing to take their money and promote their anti-democratic agenda.  For this reason, a high priority in the 2021 Democratic congressional agenda has to be passage of legislation weakening the impact of big money on the political process.

Trump’s racist supporters aren’t going to disappear after the election.  The militias aren’t going to disappear.  The white supremacists aren’t going to disappear.  Their hate-filled politics of revenge has been emboldened by Trump and the racists are likely to be angry when Trump loses an election they were promised he would win.  Biden-Harris supporters must push for a multi-faceted response to this dangerous problem: Actions to confront systemic racism.  Common-sense gun control.  Curbs on hate speech in social media.  Enforcement of existing state laws banning militias.  Etcetera.

Members of the Trump cult aren’t going to disappear.   They will continue to be resentful.  For many of them, Donald Trump is seen as their last, best hope of grabbing a piece of the American dream; they’d lost confidence in most American institutions — certainly in conventional politics.  If the Biden-Harris Administration acts on the social platform they ran on, this will ease some of the anxiety of the Trump cult: universal healthcare, expanded unemployment benefits, a massive federal jobs program, forgiveness of student-loan debt. expanded educational benefits, protection of the environment, etcetera.  One of the main challenges for Biden-Harris will be to get members of the Trump cult to believe in science.

After the election, for a period of several years, Democrats are going to control the White House and Congress.  Dems will have an opportunity to enact major legislation that will benefit working families — Democrat and Republican.  This will be a time-consuming process, but the Biden-Harris Administration has a real chance to win over a significant segment of the Trump cult.  Biden-Harris will have to work hard on a message of reconciliation — bringing the country together; moving beyond the politics of greed, hate, and resentment.

On November 3rd, Biden will win but America’s Hitler won’t disappear.  We’ll have to stay engaged.


The Final Debate: C’mon

The final 2020 presidential debate didn’t change the minds of Democrats and Republicans.  This was a debate targeted for the very few undecided voters  They saw a memorable conflict between “Mister Rogers” (Biden) and “Crazy Uncle Don” (Trump).

Over the past few months it’s become banal to describe Donald Trump as crazy but an operational definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over” and that’s what Trump has done.   Trump has stuck to the same dysfunctional strategy and his situation hasn’t improved. Since January Biden has been ahead of Trump in the 538 average of national polls; at first by around 5 percent, then, in the summer, by around 8 percent, and now by 10 percent.  Biden is winning and Trump seemingly doesn’t know what to do about it.

Trump’s dysfunction has 5 components:

1.Trump sole focus is on his base.  It’s been clear to every political observer that Trump can’t win the election unless he expands his base beyond 40 percent of the electorate.  Trump isn’t doing this and over the course of the year has lost several key constituencies that supported him in 2016: suburban housewives, older voters, white college graduates, and  self-identified “Independent” voters.

In last night’s debate, Trump did nothing to expand his base.  In this sense, he lost.  The after-debate CNN poll ( ) indicated that “53% of voters who watched the debate said that Biden won the matchup, while 39% said that [Trump] did.”  A related CNN poll of 11 undecided voters found that 9 thought Biden had won and 2 thought the debate was a tie.

2.Trump’s communication strategy has only three components: campaign rallies, appearances on Fox News, and tweets.  To repeat the obvious: with this communication strategy, Donald doesn’t reach voters outside his base.

In the debate, Trump used his “Fox News” persona, particularly in attacking Biden and his family — the unfounded allegation that Biden’s son, Beau, acted as a “bag man” for Joe.  If you weren’t a regular Fox News viewer, you found Trump’s allegations incomprehensible.

3. Trump’s 2020 campaign doesn’t have a coherent theme.  In 2016, he used “Make America Great Again.”  He’s been forced to reuse this but it doesn’t have the same punch.  (“Make America Great Again, Again” doesn’t work.)

In 2016, every Trump rally featured three chants: “Build the wall,” “Drain the swamp,” and “Lock her up.”  In 2020, Trump can’t use “Build the wall” because he has failed to build his much-touted wall.  Trump can’t use “Drain the swamp” because during his White House residency he has become king of the swamp.  And he can’t use “lock her up” because he is no longer running against Hillary Clinton — and he can’t convince the American public that Joe Biden needs to be locked up.

In the debate, Trump tried to use the “lock her up” tactic against Biden; it didn’t work.  Trump had no fall back strategy; he did not give viewers — outside his base — a reason to vote for him.

4. Trump blew his big chance.  In January, when warned about the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic, Trump dismissed this,  (“We have it totally under control.”)  A month later, he still didn’t take the pandemic seriously:  “This is like a flu…One day, it’s like a miracle,  it will disappear.”  For several critical months, Trump failed to show leadership; this fed the pandemic and led to the collapse of the economy.

The debate opened with a discussion of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Trump said, “We’re learning to live with it.”  Biden pounced: “He says that,,, we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it… Learning to live with it? Come on. We’re dying with it, because he’s never said… it’s dangerous.”  “220,000 Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this. Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control… anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America…. [Trump] still has no plan.”

5. Trump had a monetary advantage over Biden and then frittered it away. ( ) In the spring, Trump had a $200 million cash advantage over the Biden campaign.  Republicans lost that edge.  The Hill reports that entering October, the Biden campaign had a $100 million advantage over the Trump campaign.  ( )

Summary: Two things jumped out of the debate.  The first was that, while Trump was better behaved, the split-screen — that showed both candidates at the same time — consistently showed Trump as disdainful and antagonistic.  Trump sneered but did not laugh.  Biden occasionally laughed at something — a perceived lie — that Trump said.  (This difference in affect was reflected in the CNN poll: “Favorable views of Biden before the debate stood at 55%, and they held steady at 56% in post-debate interviews. Likewise, Trump’s numbers held steady, with 42% saying they had a favorable view of the President in interviews conducted before Thursday’s debate and 41% saying the same afterward…. 60% of women said Biden won, 35% Trump.”

The second was that Trump unleashed an avalanche of falsehoods. ( )

Biden responded to these with incredulity: “c’mon.” (Come on)   In presidential debate history, Biden’s “c’mon” will be noted along side Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again.”  For example:”[Trump says] ‘Oh, don’t worry. [The pandemic] is all going to be over soon.’ Come on, there’s not another serious scientist in the world who thinks it’s going to be over soon.”  With regards to the solvency of Social Security and Medicare: “I mean, the idea that Donald Trump is lecturing me on Social Security and Medicare? Come on.” With regards to race relations: “Here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one… Come on. This guy has a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

The moderator, Kristen Welker, concluded with this question to Trump and Biden: “Imagine this is your Inauguration Day. What will you say in your address to Americans who did not vote for you?”  Trump responded: “Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes and [Biden] wants to raise everybody’s taxes. And he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression, the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

Biden responded to Welker’s question: “I will say, ‘I’m the American president. I represent all of you whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope… what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency. Honor. Respect. Treating people with dignity. Making sure that everyone has an even chance.'”

Biden won the debate.

Philosophers’ Blues

Invented the blues.
“Whoa Oh.
Sometimes I wonder

who I am
and whether
I know anything.”

sang Socrates’ songs
at the Lyceum.
“Hey, everybody
I’m here in my cave

watchin’ the shadows
with my favorite slave.”

sang the blues
got a girlfriend.
Oh baby
I was nothin’
until I met you.

Tom Aquinas’
girlfriend left him.
Oh baby
my cave’s so lonely
without you.

left his girlfriend.
Oh baby
I think about you
but I don’t miss our cave.”

Rene Descartes
moved to the city
invented the urban blues.
Hey, everybody
I’m livin’ in a loft

diggin’ the shadows
my life’s so soft.”

Immanuel Kant
couldn’t get a girlfriend.
Oh baby
I’m all alone
you’re so far away.

Friedrich Nietzsche
pondered his celibacy.
Oh baby
I wonder who I am
without you.

William James
sang Socrates’ songs
in coffee houses.
“Whoa Oh.
Sometimes I wonder

who I am
and whether
I know anything.”

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.  (  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 ( ) 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.  ( )  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 ( ).)

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 ( ).)

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

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

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

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 ( ) 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.  ( )  In addition, the Trump-Pence campaign is running out of money ( ) 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 ( )).  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)

You gotta move
Rx:”Pressure Drop” (Toots and the Maytals)

Take time to reflect
one day at a time
in the present moment
cushioned by impermanence.
Rx: “The Wheel” Jerry Garcia
( )

Connect to
loved ones
Rx: “See the Way” (Jimmie Dale Gilmore)
( )

Rx: “You can get it if you really want.” (Jimmy cliff)

Rx: “Favorite Things” (John Coltrane)

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 ( ) 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 ( ) 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 ( ) 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.

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
Poipu beach.

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