Day 37: Biden and A Return To Normalcy

Joe Biden comes across as such a nice guy that it’s easy to discount how smart, capable, and hard-driving he is. Despite being blatantly imperfect and visibly elderly, he embodies several qualities–such as pragmatism, civility, and a deep familiarity with the nuts and bolts of governmental processes–that the US desperately needs in the presidency.

Biden isn’t trying to be overly charismatic.  He isn’t promising to fix everything that’s wrong with our culture and political system. He isn’t trying to have the most earth-shattering agenda.  He is, however, someone who thoroughly understands the issues the nation faces, and he approaches them in a sophisticated and thoughtful way. He knows the backstories and the players. Moreover, Biden abides by a tradition of statesmanship that has drawn men and women to dedicate themselves to national service in hopes of earning broad public gratitude, favor, and esteem.

Presidents are uniquely dependent on the American people for their position and prestige, a dependence that every president except Donald Trump has recognized by treating American citizens with honor, reverence, and consideration.

Trump is alone among American presidents in denigrating the people. Far from having an affectionate relationship with Americans, he has insulted, defamed, and even threatened violence against them and their state governments. This is so subversive of American norms and Constitutional order that most Americans are dumbfounded. Nothing will be left of this government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” if the people let the incumbent president usurp their power.

Climate change, health care, women’s rights, black equality: these are all important issues, but acting on them is mainly Congress’s job. This presidential election is about something far simpler and more urgently necessary. It’s about having a president who respects the people as the source of his power.  Biden will be a fine and honorable president: one who respects all the people, serves them, and makes them proud.

Image: Biden discussing a chemical weapons treaty
during a 1997 meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
as his Republican colleague Jesse Helms looks on,
from this source.

Day 49: The People Without A Party

The national struggle to defeat Donald Trump in November is going forward amid an exodus from the Republican Party and a paradoxical crisis in the two-party system.  The paradox is that, even as the parties and their candidates raise more and more money and draw the battle lines between one another more sharply, they excite more animus and aversion in the population at large.  It’s hard to be mindful of the huge swath of the American population that is withdrawn and disenchanted, unaffiliated and uncertain, especially given the hype that keeps Democrats and Republicans ever before our eyes.

This hype inadvertently sustains Trump’s power, a president whose popularity ratings are shockingly low relative to every other modern president.  Trump’s “base”– the amoral and low-information voters who continue to approve of him–lacks the geographic spread to prevail.  Meanwhile, legions of prominent and rank-and-file Republicans have either left the party, gone silent, or endorsed Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

The pool of voters available to put Biden in the White House is unusually large.  Let’s remember this as we work to get out the vote against Trump.  Innumerable voters besides those who are Democrat want Trump to go.

The millions of people currently without a party are something like “a silent majority.”  They do not need to be convinced to join a party: they only need to be persuaded to vote once for Biden and, by ending Trump’s disastrous presidency, save what’s left of our Constitutional system.  For that matter, the Senate Republicans (with the exception of the noble Mitt Romney) have so failed in their duties to the Constitution and the nation that the voters must try to depose them, too.

Image: Albert Levering’s “Republican Voters Revolt” (1910),
from this source.

Day 53: The state of the race

There’s no sure-fire way to know the mind of the electorate, but this map from 270 to Win expresses where pollsters and other experts think the race for the White House is going, based on the information on hand now.

To win, Donald Trump will have to hold the states of Texas and Iowa and swing all the toss-up states (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Arizona) into his column.  In addition, he must recapture pivotal northern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that he narrowly won last time but that are trending for Biden now.

Trump is a shrewd campaigner, but, as president, he has alienated and outraged so many Americans that it is hard to imagine him winning their votes.  He’s likely to do poorly anywhere with sizable minority communities.  The black population, in particular, is highly energized against Trump and eager to destroy him at the polls.  His predatory and retrograde treatment of women dooms him with this crucial demographic, too.  From day one, Trump has treated his political opponents as enemies, spoiling any hope now of making new “friends.”

Underneath Trump is a Republican party that is rotting away.  The compromises its leaders have made for Trump’s sake have driven thousands of reputable and influential followers away.  Hundreds of high-ranking Republicans have washed their hands of Trump, declared their support for Biden, and counseled rank-and-file voters to do the same.

This discord isn’t free-floating.  It’s playing out in states.  Former governors and legislators are actually working to defeat their own party’s leader.  Trump’s funding is drying up.  Many Republicans up for election are shaky.  As Trump continues to war against his own party’s establishment, he risks a victory that may doom him, too.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Co-opt and Corrupt: How Trump Bent and Broke the GOP” (NYR)
Jacob Greber, “James and Kathryn Murdoch Become Some of Biggest Anti-Trump Donors(AFR).
“Trump’s August Fundraising Lags Biden’s By 150 Million” (NPR)

from this source.

Day 59: Formulating a personal pro-Biden campaign

Whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins will depend on which candidate’s voters are more self-motivated and organized.

The COVID epidemic has disrupted normal society. It has displaced millions of people who have moved or altered their living arrangements to be safe, to care for loved ones, or because they’re suddenly out of work or their workplaces are closed. The risk of illness has estranged Americans from one another, making ritual gatherings, including all those associated with politics, rare.

COVID-related conditions have blunted every normal, in-person aspect of political campaigning. The conventions were virtual, rallies are extinct, and stumping, whether by the two candidates or state-level surrogates, must be so highly orchestrated as to sap its momentum and energy. The face-to-face aspect of American politics has been declining for decades in favor of electioneering that is more impersonal, media-driven, and premised on masses of sociological data. COVID has pushed those trends to almost pointless extremes.

At the same time, many of us crave a politics that is more immediate, local, and personal. Only by restoring honest personal discourse will Americans forge a new political consensus, and will a new generation of leaders be empowered to govern in a more accountable, forward-looking, and effectual way.

The temporary lull in national “retail” politics invites each of us ordinary voters to fashion personally appropriate ways to further the Biden cause.

All over the US, small grass-roots efforts are coalescing to get out the vote for BIDEN, to help people vote successfully during the pandemic, and to persuade inactive, new, or disaffected voters to “86 45” and make Joe Biden POTUS 46. One of my family members, for example, is active in the newly formed We of Action Virginia. Many other such local volunteer groups are loosely organized under Indivisible. Check out this map on the Indivisible website to find a local pro-Biden group near you.

I hope you will join me in committing to elect Biden on November 3. Please check back for American Inquiry‘s election count-down posts devoted to these themes.

  • Making a personal plan to vote, whether in person or by mail.
  • Voting in a timely fashion.
  • Lending your talents and influence to the campaign.
  • Deploying swag.
  • Considering who voted for Trump, and why they might switch.
  • “Each one, reach one:” personal GOTV efforts are the surest kind.
  • Aspiring to turn a pink county blue.

American Inquiry will disseminate information and materials in support of Biden. More soon.

Image: from this source.

Day 60: Game On

With sixty days to go before the presidential election, the extraordinary power of ordinary Americans to cancel Donald Trump is at last beginning to dominate public life. Will you and I succeed in ending the presidential double-dealing, callousness, vulgarity, and ineffectuality that we’ve had to put up with for the last four years? Game on.

The COVID epidemic and Trump’s full-throttle drive to assail the legitimacy of the election make it all the more essential that Joe Biden score an big, incontrovertible win on November 3rd. Instinct tells us what the polls barely reveal: Trump is a loser, his appeal passé. Tens of thousands of Americans are abandoning him, including many prominent people from within his own Republican party.

His outrage, his desperate rhetoric, his increasingly erratic attempts to smear the election process: Trump is behaving this way precisely because he knows he’s going down in flames.

But only we, the people, can make it official. We’ve got to vote and make sure that polling places are open and adequately staffed on Election Day. We’ve got to drive Democratic majorities to the polls. We’ve got to demonstrate enthusiastic support for Biden–put out our yard signs, dole out the swag. We’ve got to help turn out the vote for him, under circumstances that make turning out much more complicated. And we have to encourage independents and persuadable Republicans to turn out for Biden this time.

If everyone who wants Biden in the White House does something to assist him, he will emerge as the victor on Election Day.

“Counting the Vote, on November 7th, at Elephant Johnnie’s” (1876),
from this source.