Let’s look at developments in a half dozen themes that I’ve been emphasizing.
The corruption of the Republicans continues unabated. Each day brings new revelations. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that he would be scaling back election security briefings. Trumpus encouraged North Carolina residents to vote twice. He doubled down on his praise of white supremacist violence while repeating the old fascist strategy of claiming that his opponents will do (cheat in the election) exactly what he will certainly do.
Liberals were shocked. Shocked!
There was some good news. The ACLU, citing investigations by Greg Palast, blocked the wildly inaccurate and deeply racist “Crosscheck” voter purge program in at least one state, Indiana. And Markey defeated Kennedy in Massachusetts, proving that Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement is the kiss of death among young progressives.
But Palast offered some terrifying speculations, which I summarize:
Unless Biden wins in a clear and early landslide, the election may not be determined on November 3rd but during the following week, when far-right gangs disrupt vote count centers. If they are successful in enough places, they will prevent several states from certifying the count, and neither candidate will receive the necessary electoral college votes. Then, according to Amendment 12 of the Constitution, the election will be decided in the House, with each state getting one vote. Since Republicans have majority delegations in 26 states, Trumpus wins. Is this scenario too far-fetched? It can’t happen here? Well it already has, in Florida in 2000, under the direction of Roger Stone.
The corruption of the Democrats: Unfortunately, another progressive, Alex Morse, lost, due in large part to an anti-gay backlash set in motion by the College Democrats of the University of Massachusetts. Yes, you read that correctly. University. Democrats. Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Biden touted Rick Snyder’s endorsement, which one writer called his “most toxic endorsement yet”.
Liberal innocence: More polls and graphs such as these regularly show that Biden’s lead among likely voters remains strong. May it be so. But as usual, they never mention anything about Republican dirty tricks, in other words, whether those votes will actually be counted. Yet another memoir by a former Trumpus insider appeared, from Michael Cohen. And yet again, liberals – and liberal journalists – were shocked. Literally: Alternet’s headline was Shocking details from Michael Cohen tell-all book revealed after Washington Post obtained a copy! (my exclamation point).
We have been here before. Just as we’d like to think that Biden’s earnest call to our better natures would be enough to motivate most people, so we’d like to think that in some mythic America, the prospect of being shamed by the god-fearing citizenry would be enough to restrain the behavior of all but the most sociopathic of criminals. We would really like to think that sociopaths, assassins, fear mongers and organized crime bosses don’t run our government. Cohen’s book will have no effect on Trumpus’ base, since only liberals are likely to read it.
The continuing revelations (and, sure as the sun rises, they will continue to continue) of Republican corruption are not impacting the election itself because shaming no longer works. Corruption has been normalized. After five years it’s quite clear Trumpus supporters don’t care. Some so desperately believe in him that they accept his regular denials and accusations at face value; others actually seem to boast of his crimes, interpreting them (Q-style) as proof of his actions against the Deep State.
There was a brief time when convincing citizens to act – to do the right thing – by appealing to their sense of shame actually worked. Shaming the public into supporting the civil rights movement was a successful political strategy from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, when the economy was growing, White people still had positive if patronizing attitudes toward Black people and post-assassination cynicism had not yet alienated millions from civic engagement. For more on this issue, read my essays The Civil Rights Movement in American Myth and John F. Kennedy and America’s Obsession With Innocence.
As recently as the last years of the Obama administration, the phrase “Don’t shoot! Hands up!” – a clear acknowledgement of the legal, non-violent, non-threatening nature of anti-racist activism – had no effect on either police behavior or right-wing attitudes toward people of color. Police murders of unarmed POC continued at the same rates, not only because murderous cops were rarely held accountable, but also because they had grown up in a shame-less culture, in which conservative politicians and preachers had laid the groundwork for pride in hatred. When Trumpus arrived to give haters permission he was merely stating directly what his predecessors had been hinting at since the days of Barry Goldwater.
Here is the mythological truth: Every year, America proudly rewards its security forces for sacrificing thousands of scapegoats, as I write here: now, the only people who react negatively to new proof that American democracy no longer works (if it ever did) are the same innocent liberals who have been continually shocked by Trumpus for five years.
In lectures or radio interviews, I often ask a trick question: When did you lose your innocence? After the usual replies (JFK, 9/11, etc), I ask, When did you lose it again? In this context, to be shocked is the painful experience of having one’s cherished beliefs demolished. But when innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture no longer offers its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people live lives of denial and perpetual childishness. When a tear in the fabric of the myth of innocence appears, it quickly closes back up, and each loss of innocence, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time.
The Military-Industrial Complex reaffirmed, even after the news of Trumpus’ insults about American war dead (“losers and suckers”), that the generals and the arms merchants would thrive under either party.
Over 100 former staff members for Senator John McCain endorsed Biden, writes Scott Horton, “Explicitly Because He’s Worse on War”. Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido (who had received a bipartisan standing ovation at the last State of the Union address) said he is counting on U.S. plans to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro no matter who wins the election. Thirty-four Democrats with military-intelligence backgrounds won their primaries for the House, as well as three Senate candidates.
The stunningly incomprehensible decision to ignore Latinx Democrats: No news is bad news. The DNC lurched on after the convention with no apologies or explanations. This is political suicide, plain and simple. In February a poll indicated that 73% of Latinxs said they were “certain” to vote in November. However, after Biden secured the nomination, that number dropped to 60%. It has rebounded somewhat since then, but not up to the earlier figure. Two-thirds of them will support Biden – if they can find places to vote.
Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President? Political scientists accurately describeTrumpus’s fear mongering as an ugly but rational strategy going back to the Jim Crow years. But his hate mongering and worse, his violence mongering are unique in presidential politics, representing a wild gamble that they will garner him enough support. In conjunction with voter suppression, computer fraud and Biden’s mistakes it could work. But this is no monolithic universe; what may appear to be appropriate (if evil) realpolitik at one level of motivation may at another level be deliberate, adolescent provocation, upping of the ante, and ultimately a cry for help. Stop me!
Meanwhile, a pre-convention poll claimed that 56% of likely Biden supporters are voting for him because “He Is Not Trump,” proof that he still hasn’t offered anything positive, let alone progressive, to the 100 million other people who, once again, probably won’t vote. I doubt if, during the convention, appeals to our better nature – and moderate Republicans – changed much of that reality.
Once again, we have to wonder not simply whether the Democrats are repeating the failed strategy of appealing to suburbanites while shunning progressives, but whether this guy really wants to get elected. If we can agree that four more years of Trumpus would certainly destroy our last chance to prevent global environmental collapse, not to mention a 7-2 Republican majority on the Supreme Court, then we can at least wonder whether the future of humanity depends on Joe Biden’s unconscious desire for failure. Ralph Nader writes:
Biden should be thirty points ahead in the polls against the delusional, falsifying, lawless, selected occupant of the White House…Instead, Biden’s lead is in single digits and he is having a hard time getting the offensive Trump on the defense.
Trumpus goes low, doing everything possible to provoke violence and arouse his base (the predatory imagination manipulating the paranoid imagination), praising the Kenosha killer, while Biden’s strategy of going high would be a fine strategy in a normal world. But idealistic language without actual progressive policies sounds insincere, because it is. People are not stupid if they are apathetic about voting, and treating them as if they are only makes things worse.
Let’s face it: Biden is uninspiring in both style and substance, while Trumpus makes crazy people crazier and more likely to act. Michael Moore, who was so enthusiastic about Kamala Harris only a month ago, is now saying that that “enthusiasm for Trump is off the charts” in the swing states and he’s mentioning polls indicating that the race is tightening. Whom to believe?
I hope he’s wrong, but he was right four years ago.
Do polls (other than exit polls) tell us anything at all? Why haven’t we heard of polls that ask, If you are not planning to vote, would you change your mind and vote Democratic if Biden announced that he is supporting Medicare For All? One reason we haven’t is that polls question likely voters, but this begs the question. To me, it’s the elephant in the national living room, and it’s growing larger by the day.
One hundred million non-voters, the majority of whom are young, have no health insurance and are one paycheck away from being evicted (if they have jobs at all). If one tenth of them voted, the result would be a Democratic landslide. WTF?
Biden’s one chance, and one only, to win: Trumpus’ incendiary language is effective, and Biden’s isn’t. Still, I predict that Biden would succeed – again, if this were a normal election without the certainty of massive fraud. For what it’s worth, here are two predictions:
To win, Biden will need a solid ten-point lead in most of the battleground states on election day. And even if he does, voter fraud will make it quite close, the Dems won’t flip the Senate, and Trumpus, at the very least, will contest the results.
OR: Biden announces his support of MFA, makes it the core of his campaign and enters election day with a lead so huge that no Republican dirty tricks can change it.
One hundred million non-voters. Biden still has time to motivate them. If he doesn’t, well, I guess he’ll get what he really wants, and deserves.