Don’t Give Donald Trump Any Reason Play Games With The Election Results; He Will
The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended our everyday lives, kept us staying at or close to home and avoiding public places as much as we can. It also hit right smack in the middle of the biggest campaign season; primary elections for state and federal races, including the race for President. That meant delays for those elections, as well as special elections that had been scheduled, and questions about how we could vote safely.
Most states decided to change their primaries to entirely vote-by-mail, already a method of voting used in several states including Oregon, Washington and California. Now, most states are looking to at least give the option to mail-in votes from home to all voters for the general election on Nov. 3, where Americans will decide if Donald Trump retains his job for another four years, or gets the ultimate “You’re Fired.” Progressives and voting rights activists have long been pushing for mail-in voting because it makes voting more accessible to people who have trouble getting to polling places, including the elderly, college students and people with disabilities. Election results have also found young people are more likely to turn out when they could mail in their votes. The pandemic finally presented an opportunity to push the issue of mail-in voting.
Some states, like Arizona, California and Washington, take weeks to count all their votes because mail-in votes have to be postmarked by or on Election Day, meaning they are often received at election offices days later. That means many races in these states are not called on Election Night. This has created concerns over whether or not we will know who the winner of the presidency is on the night of Nov. 3, and what will happen if we don’t.
Arizona is the most concerning. It is considered a tossup state this year and could be the state that gives the winner his winning 270th electoral vote. In the 2018 midterm elections, several races in Arizona saw the Republican candidate ahead on Election Night, but the Democrat catch up and take the lead as mail-in votes were counted during the next week, ultimately ending in their victories (Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs were both trailing their GOP opponents on Election Night, but ultimately won). The nightmare scenario is one in which it looks as if Trump won on Election Night, but the counting of the tens of millions of absentee ballots in Arizona and elsewhere in the days and weeks after puts Biden over the top. With Trump coming out against mail-in ballots – even going so far as to suggest delaying the election – it is increasingly likely he will refuse to concede the election if these ballots put Biden over the top after it appeared Trump was ahead on Election Night. Who could forget the Trump meltdown on Election Night in 2012 when the election was called for Barack Obama even though his Republican opponent Mitt Romney appeared to be winning the popular vote. Trump practically called for a coup d’teat.
Obama ultimately won the popular vote when late mail-in ballots from California were counted, as well as absentee ballots.
The threat of Trump sending in the FBI, or worse the military, to stop counting mail-in ballots after Election Day in Phoenix and other state capitals is terrifying. Further, with news today that the United States Post Office is slowing delivery, its possible some votes may never be postmarked or be postmarked after Election Day, giving the Trump campaign clear cause to have them thrown out. Its clear the Trump administration will do anything to thwart mail-in voting this year.
Remember, this is more than just Trump’s ego not wanting to be bruised by a loss. There’s a chance Trump goes to prison once he’s out of office. New York State is investigating him and its possible Biden’s DOJ will also look into some of his actions. He isn’t just fighting for his job, he’s fighting for his freedom and perhaps the rest of his life. He’s desperate and will do anything to win.
Also, while several states have been doing mail-voting successfully for years, most states are being forced into it because of the pandemic. This trial-by-fire implementation of mail-in voting hasn’t been going so well everywhere. In New York, tens of thousands of ballots either arrived late to voters (some were not even sent out until the day before the election), or were disqualified for not having a postmark – a problem caused by the post office and not the voter. The sloth-like speed in counting votes, and the problems with postmarking and delivery, put in question how reliable mail-in voting is for the states that don’t already do it regularly.
But thankfully, voting in person, even in a pandemic, has proven to be safe.
The April 7 Wisconsin primary proved that even under the worst conditions – raging pandemic and voter suppression – voting in person is possible with low risk. Voters had to wait in long lines to vote in Milwaukee because an attempt by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to change it to all mail-in was thwarted by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature, and only one polling place was opened in Wisconsin’s largest city. In the end, though people stood in line for hours with masks and practicing social distancing, only a few COVID-19 cases were registered among poll workers. No major outbreaks were recorded that Wisconsin officials were able to tie to voting on Election Day.
New York itself has in-person early and election day voting in June for our primary. Many who requested absentee ballots and didn’t get them on time were forced to go vote in person. Tens of thousands, perhaps more, voters voted in person in June. No outbreaks were recorded, nor any cases that could be tied to voting.
In person elections were held in other countries as well this year, including South Korea and Serbia, with little effect on transmission.
It’s not ideal, it’s not 100 percent without risk, and in a perfect world, we’d be able to vote from the safety of our homes and trust that the United States Post Office will deliver our mail safely and promptly without the president playing games to keep his job and keep his ass out of prison. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world right now. If we want to get rid of Donald Trump, we’re going to have to show up, COVID-19 risk and all.
By voting in person, early if need be, you guarantee your vote will be counted the night of Nov. 3. The more who do it, the quicker the election can end and the fewer shenanigans Trump can play in the days after if the race isn’t called. I plan on voting in person on the first day of early voting here in New York. If I contract COVID-19 and die from voting to replace Donald Trump with Joe Biden, it will be the greatest sacrifice I could ever make for my country.
Short Of A Vaccine Or Drugs, The Pandemic Ends Only After Mass Illness and Death, Or Dumb Luck
Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. We hear that tired idiom often, and we heard it again at the start of the pandemic when comparisons were made to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the deadliest in modern history.
On Thursday morning, Ross Barkan, a New York journalist and writer who has written a lot about New York’s COVID-19 response asked a pertinent question: How did the 1918 pandemic end, and why aren’t we talking about that more?
Early on, the comparisons to 1918 were focused on how quick to respond with mitigation efforts and how long they should be in place. But we never talked about how the pandemic played out. The reason, I believe, is simple: We don’t want COVID-19 to end the way the Spanish Flu did.
There was an implication in comparing this to 1918 that a few weeks, or at worst months, of social distancing and the pandemic would end. That was never going to be true, nor was it true a century ago.
In the end, 675,000 people died in the United States during the Spanish Flu epidemic, and that was almost entirely within a 14-month span: March 1918-May 1919. The country’s population was almost less than a third of what it is now. The death toll from the 1918 pandemic in America per capita would equal about 2.3 million today. That was with 3 to 4 months of mitigation tops, some places like Philadelphia only did mitigation efforts for a few weeks, and 6 months or so of mask wearing. New York City held a ticker-tape parade celebrating the end of World War I only a few weeks after the second wave of the Spanish Flu peaked. Eventually, 50 million Americans, or HALF the population of the country, came down with the virus in about a year’s time. Only then did it stop.
There are two theories as to why it stopped. One is that the world reached a level of herd immunity that allowed transmission to slow down to a trickle, and though H1N1 continued circulating beyond the end of the pandemic in 1920, it did so slowly, allowing the annual flu season to be manageable. Another is that it mutated to a less lethal strain.
When we talk now about rolling lockdowns, mask wearing and social distancing, we’re no longer talking about eradicating COVID-19. We are basically talking about managing herd immunity in a way that our healthcare system can handle it, and in a way that saves as many lives as possible. That was always what it meant, but it was never clearly communicated to the public. Studies done by Imperial College in London in March and by Dr. Mike Osterholm and a team of Harvard researchers back in May suggested lockdowns would not eradicate the virus, but just slow transmission, and we would have to go in and out of lockdowns for as long as two years until herd immunity is reached. Experts pretty early on realized that the virus wouldn’t be eradicated through social distancing and lockdowns, it was already doomed to become endemic. The World Health Organization’s Mike Ryan said as much in May. Osterholm and Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady both suggested the virus would never go away this past week.
“If COVID were going to be over in a month or two, this would be an easy decision. Of course we would we would we would all hunker down and wait two months, but it’s not. At the health department we’re planning two to three years where we think about sort of the COVID response and throughout that whole time,” Arwady was quoted as saying. “I don’t know we’ll ever get to a point where COVID will be eradicated.”
In other words, another lockdown won’t eradicate the virus. It’ll still be here when we open up, as it was in Croatia, Israel and Vietnam, which all at one point appeared to eradicate COVID-19 from their borders. Any restrictions now are purely about preventing exponential growth that will overwhelm hospitals, not achieving eradication.
Which means we have one of three options to end this pandemic:
An effective vaccine and high number of people being vaccinated
50 to 70 percent of the country getting the virus with a lot of death and permanent illness coming from it
Luck – the virus mutates and disappears
That’s it. Those are our options. Everything in between is just about spreading the illness and death over a longer period of time, to learn more about the virus so we can treat it better and save lives and perhaps make it a less serious illness.
It makes sense that experts won’t openly admit this. If we knew we were going to live like this for years and most of us will still get sick anyway, would we be more inclined to just let it happen now and get it over with so we can move on with our lives? Would governments, facing falling tax revenue and longtime economic and social unrest, think that’s a “better” strategy? Sweden did. Brazil did. India now has, as as the United States, and increasingly other countries, such as Croatia and Mexico, that are seeing new spikes and not shutting down again,
It was always a mistake to compare this to 1918. This isn’t a flu virus, it’s much more contagious and does not mutate nearly as fast. And the ugly truth is, odds are, unless we are all vaccinated soon, you are probably going to get COVID-19 eventually, either now, or a few years from now, unless you plan to spend perhaps the rest of your life in quarantine.
As of July 27, only 54 percent of New Yorkers have filled out the Census form. Staten Island has the highest response rate so far at 58.9 percent, Brooklyn has the lowest at 51.2 percent. Queens so far has a 54.2 percent response rate while Bronx and Manhattan are trending close at 55.3 and 55.6 percent respectively.
Census Response Rate (as of 7/27)
Now more than ever (ugh, I hate that phrase, but it fits here), New York needs the maximum amount of funding and representation that comes with Census tallies. The final Census count, which will be released sometime next year, will determine how many representatives New York sends to the U.S. House of Representatives from 2023-2033, how many Electoral Votes it will have in the presidential elections of 2024 and 2028, and will determine what level of funding and support from the state, and by extension, the city gets from Washington. It’s imperative everyone, no matter their status (citizens, immigrant, documented or not), fill out a Census form. The Census does not ask about immigration status and will not be used for an enforcement purposes.
Even if you’re not from New York, the Census is vital. The pandemic has caused social and economic pain all across the country, and no matter where you are or what state you are in, the Census is key to determining what level of representation, and help, your part of the country gets over the next decade.
The pandemic has also made it harder than usual to conduct the Census, because workers cannot go door to door to conduct household counts as they would normally do. But the Census is easier than ever to fill out. Just go to https://my2020census.gov/ and fill out the form – it only takes a few minutes.
And when you’ve done it – Tweet at me at @NRafter and I’ll Tweet a special thank you for helping add to the count.
What Started As Disorganized Movement Of White Transplants Is Now A Growing Socialist Machine
Few people have been a bigger critic of the “left” than me. For over a decade, I dismissed the leftist movement, specifically in New York City, as a ragtag band of unfocused dreamers who throw around words like “socialism” and “revolution,” with no real plan to achieve anything except to march around with signs and go home feeling good about themselves.
For years candidates ran for office under the banner of leftism and most lost. Some made it through on the hyper local level, some -like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – won, but quickly found himself the target of the “movement.” They seemed to be no real threat and have no real organization.
This week, New York City will (hopefully) release its official results from the June 23 primary after a long absentee ballot-counting process, but we already know who the winners are – and it’s the artists formerly known as ragtag band of unfocused dreamers. In fact, of all the races the New York City chapter of Democratic Socialists of America endorsed in, their candidates won all but one – the New York 15th Congressional District in the South Bronx, where their candidate, a relatively unknown upstart, finished a surprising second in the race, ahead of Assemblyman Michael Blake, an establishment favorite and a high ranking member of the Democratic Party.
Bernie Sanders may have lost the New York presidential primary twice and Andrew Cuomo might have beaten back two leftists challengers, but the 2018 Democratic primaries saw some noticeable successes on the left and made them a force to be reckoned with. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) ousted longtime incumbent, and Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley, followed by the defeats of six of the eight members of the Independent Democratic Conference – a bloc of State Senate Democrats who aligned with Republicans to keep them in the majority even when numbers favored the Democrats after 2016.
Progressives saw several notable election results since; the 2019 special election for New York City Public Advocate, where Jumaane Williams won the citywide office being vacated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and the district attorney’s race in Queens, nearly won by criminal justice reform advocate Tiffany Caban. Queens is a borough with a longstanding tradition of electing law and order Democrats to office (the previous long-serving district attorney Richard Brown, who died in 2019, was known for being “tough on crime”), so Caban’s near win was huge news.
So what happened? How did progressives, once mocked or their lack of political skills, become winners? There are several things I think they did right, which, along with a little luck in the version of an orange-hued menace, gave them the keys to success.
Engaging Communities of Color
After the 2016 election, I joined a now-defunct progressive group in Bushwick that was led by a handful of former Bernie Sanders supporters. I quickly left the group after a few meetings because I felt the leaders of the movement were not listening to some of its members – specifically black, brown and LGBTQ members. In one case, during a discussion about outreach to Black Lives Matter, the only black female in the group was told she could not be the point person for outreach because she was “too close to the issue to see it objectively.” She left the group.
Eventually the group disbanded, but many members have gone out to do their own outreach and connect to groups like Make The Road New York who had similar policy goals. It was these activists, mostly from communities of color, who bridged the gap between the white-led anti-establishment democratic socialist movement and communities of color who felt left behind by such a movement – or feared it was a trojan horse from gentrifiers. They established organizations like Democratic Socialist of America, who put people of color in key roles and branched out into black and brown communities across New York City, doing the work the Working Families Party had been accused of not doing earlier.
Further, the lesson of the victories – or near victories – of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Jumaane Williams and Tiffany Caban – was candidates matter.
They matter because if communities of color were going to trust a revolutionary message that is being promulgated by what appears to be a mostly white, young crowd, they will want confirmation that members of their own community are aligned and trust this movement. This isn’t me speaking FOR them, it is what I often heared from black leaders and activists back when I was editor-in-chief of The Press of Southeast Queens, a now defunct newspaper that focused on Southeast Queens’ black community (which we later branched out to black Queensites all across the borough). It’s also what I heard at the time from many in the queer community as well.
It’s no surprise that leftists have had more success when running people of color in these districts. Who better to sell a message that a community is skeptical of than a member of that community?
Some may dismiss this as “identity politics,” but this ignores the message. If “identity” was all voters care about, black Republicans would beat white Democrats in black communities. They don’t. The message works, so long as it is delivered by someone the community trusts. It doesn’t always have to be a non-white person, but it certainly helps in a city like New York.
Some of the victorious candidates from 2018 and 2020 are names known in the community, from former elected officials like State Sens. John Liu of Flushing and Robert Jackson of Manhattan, both former council members; local activists like State Sen. Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn, formerly a lawyer who worked pro bono for victims of police brutality; Marcela Mitaynes, the soon-to-be Assemblywoman from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a longtime advocate or tenants and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, a former executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice and a well-known local activist on issues like immigrant rights and healthcare, who won a Jackson Heights-based Assembly primary.
Running candidates from the community who are familiar to each districts’ specific issues also made it easier to sell more broader agendas. Candidates were able to tailor a leftist agenda to fit their communities; Medicare For All and how it would stop hospital closures, a housing guarantee and how it would help keep people in their homes who are at risk of being priced out due to gentrification; better public transit in neighborhoods where options are lacking and traffic snarls the streets and parking is a battle. This type of hyperlocal focus was missing from earlier leftist campaigns.
Bill de Blasio
It may irritate some on the left, who have been left with a bitter aftertaste in their mouths by the mayor who ran as a progressive and governed as anything but, but in many ways, de Blasio’s 2013 campaign was the foundation for future progressive successes in New York City. In tying both the economic resentment against the Bloomberg years in with social causes, like policing, he build the road map to connect both economic and social justice in a way other progressives, like Bernie Sanders, struggled with. Though de Blasio became a pariah outside the city for much of his first term, he helped build progressive support in the five boroughs and his win helped weaken the already tenuous hold the Democratic establishment had on city politics. Indeed, former Queens Democratic boss Joe Crowley backed Christine Quinn in 2013, only to see de Blasio win his borough and his district – a foreshadowing to his own downfall five years later.
Some worked for de Blasio, like State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens, and Emilia Decaudin, whose election as a Queens Democratic district leader will be certified this week (she is one of two openly transgender candidates to win this cycle). Decaudin was among 400 former and current de Blasio staffer to sign a letter blasting the mayor for his lack of action on police reform.
Much like those who came from failed progressive movements and organizations early in the decade, those who came from de Blasio’s campaign and administration learned a lot about how and where to sell progressive ideas.
It almost hurts to give him credit, but you cannot escape the fact the election of Donald Trump ignited a fire and leftist ideas were kindling.
Until Donald Trump, there was little appetite for revolutionary ideas among the more mainstream left and progressives were an afterthought to moderates and centrists, who believed compromise and cooperation were still key to progress. Obama was president, there was progress being made on social issues and on issues like healthcare – albeit not to the extent many had hoped for – but there was a sense that the Overton Window was being moved ever so slowly to the left, and we were on the “right track” to a fairer world.
Then Trump won. Suddenly, cooperation and bipartisanship were out the door. Many who felt aligned with moderate thinking – that cooperation was better than partisanship – began rethinking their positions, realizing it was unlikely such a thing would happen to their benefit under Trump. His presidency also meant a lot of the progress that kept revolutionary ideas at bay were at risk of being rolled back, and many were.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trump’s election radicalized a lot of center left voters who normally stayed away from revolutionary movements, especially in black and brown communities. Cooperation, compromise and incrementalism seemed to not only have failed, but also be dead in the short term. That is what movements like Democratic Socialists for America picked up on, selling their ideas to skeptical moderates by focusing on the failures of incrementalism and bipartisanship through the bad faith actions of Republicans, and the need for more radical ideas to quell the economic problems that Trump took advantage of.
It also helps that for many black and brown communities, Trump was a reminder o the Giuliani-Bloomberg years in New York City, where poor minorities communities were treated as an afterthought and too often overpolicied in the name of “law and order” and “quality of life.” It gave progressives a huge opening.
Working Within The System
In 2012, several activists I met at Occupy Wall Street the year before decided to run for local office, utilizing the contacts they made at the protests. Within weeks, they were out of their respective races, including one candidate who actually raised a ton of money.
“The people I met at Occupy thought it made me a sellout to run and serve in a broken system,” one candidate told me.
Early activists were less interested in changing the system – they thought they had already done that with Barack Obama and it didn’t take – instead they believed the entire system of government was illegitimate and voting and running for office is “selling out to the system.” For years, smart activists who could have made a difference could not get the support they needed to mount campaigns.
About mid-decade though, the creation of groups like DSA shifted the message, making it clear that voting and running for office and rejecting the system as broken or illegitimate are not mutually exclusive, and overhaul can come, and perhaps must come, from the inside.
AOC’s victory, and the victories of progressive Democrats in the State Senate, were a boon to the idea that change can happen within the system. In just the first year, State Senate Democrats got longtime adversary Gov. Andrew Cuomo to agree to a wide variety of reforms, including eliminating bail for minor crimes, expanding voting rights and expanding access to social services for undocumented immigrants. The New York State Senate may be the most obvious example of where progressive change succeeded by working within the system, and it is probably is a big part of what influenced voters to go in even harder this year. As a result, even more DSA-endorsed and progressive candidates are headed for Albany, leading some to wonder if New York now has the most left-leaning legislature in the country – a far cry from only a few years ago when Republicans still controlled the State Senate.
When new Congressional district lines were drawn in 2012, I looked at the new maps and told a colleague of mine what I thought they meant:
“Before the decade is out, Crowley could lose to a Latina,” I said, noting how his district was minority-majority and his white working class Maspeth base in Central Queens was largely moved into the 6th Congressional District. I also predicted Eliot Engel could fall to a black challenger because the district had lost its spur to Rockland County and became more focused on the North Bronx and black-populated suburbs like Yonkers and Mount Vernon. Enter Jamaal Bowman, who took down Engel with the support of progressive activists this year. I also suggested Charles Rangel could lose to a Dominican challenger. While that almost happened in 2014, Rangel later retired freeing up space for his challenger and successor, Rep. Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan.
Targeting incumbents who are not accustomed to running hard races has been another key to success for leftist challengers. Crowley had never faced a tough race in his career before his 2018 primary; Engel hadn’t faced one in 20 years. Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, who was defeated by a leftist challenger, Emily Gallagher, in his Greenpoint and Williamsburg-based district, had been in office since 1972, rarely facing a challenge, and before losing to Mitaynes, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz hadn’t faced a tough primary challenge for his seat since himself beating an incumbent 26 years ago. Ortiz was also considered vulnerable after his loss in the 2017 City Council primary.
Geography also helped. Progressives figured out what parts of the city were ripe for a leftist candidate using previous election results as a guide. As mentioned before, Ortiz had previously lost a City Council primary against Councilman Carlos Menchaca of Sunset Park, a favorite of DSA. Menchaca’s 2013 victory and 2017 reelection signaled that Sunset Park and Red Hook were ripe for a DSA-endorsed challenger upballot (Indeed, Sen. Myrie represents part of this area and won it big in 2018). Similarly, State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi of the Bronx, an ally of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, defeated former IDC head Jeff Klein in 2018 by running up huge margins in portions of the Senate district that also overlap with Engel’s Congressional district, and DSA-endorsed challenger Zohran Kwame Mamdani defeated Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas in Astoria, Queens, in a district where AOC turned out more than 60 percent of the vote in her 2018 primary and Tiffany Caban won a landslide in her unsuccessful district attorney campaign in 2019.
I will cover more on the geographic aspect of these races when results are released, so expect a post on that.
What happens going forward now that progressives are winning? A lot depends on what happens in the next year or two; does Trump win reelection or does Biden win and tamp down, or perhaps ramp up, the desire for radical change? How does the pandemic and the ensuing economic calamity play into how people vote and view progressives?
Despite fears of rising crime and backsliding into “the bad old days,” increasingly more radically leftist candidates are winning office, and will continue to I think at least through the 2021 citywide elections. How they govern and how their agenda plays out will depend on the movement’s endurance.
Some moderates, conservatives and critics in communities of color warn that the “gentrifiers” as they call the leaders of the progressive movement, will eventually leave the city and move away when the “damage” from their policies come to light; high crime, lower real estate values, strained city finances that will force cuts to social services. This argument basically looks at what happened in the 1960s and 1970s under the John Lindsay and Abe Beame administrations, where the city was seem to be in “decline” and a financial crisis forced cuts to some of progressives’ favorite programs, like free CUNY and housing assistance.
Others, like Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn, whose council district overlaps a State Senate and State Assembly district won by DSA-endorsed candidates last month, still see the progressive left as trojan horses led by white gentrifiers aiming to take down the longtime black and brown political establishment. My former colleague Ross Barkan has a good piece on that here. Check it out for further reading.
There is no doubt, however, that the progressive left have made inroads into communities of color, and in doing so, have begun winning real power in New York. How they yield it and keep it for years to come, and whether it continues to grow all the way to perhaps the Governor’s Mansion, will be interesting to watch.
14 Weeks Out, Florida and Arizona Show A Blue Tint
Two states have moved toward Biden since last week, now pushing him up over 300 Electoral Votes.
Teagan’s map has moved Florida and Arizona to Lean Biden.
Florida’s movement is largely on the prediction of Cook Political Report, who believes Florida’s COVID-19 epidemic, and the failure of its Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis – a key Trump ally – in reigning in the virus, moved the state’s voting bloc away from Trump. Florida at Lean Dem seems a bit rosy to be, as Florida is almost always a 50-50, and it is now considered Trump’s home state. In 2018, it seemed pretty clear that DeSantis would lose the governor’s race; he was trailing his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by as much as seven points just days before the election before DeSantis went on to shock pundits and narrowly win.
I think the fundamentals right now point to Biden being ahead, but Florida is tricky and I would still call it a tossup.
Arizona on the other hand seems to be pretty favorable to Biden right now. The pandemic aside, Arizona has been trending blue for a while. Trump only won it by 3 in 2018 and Democrats won several statewide races in 2018 including one of its U.S. Senate seats. With the pandemic raging in Arizona, a marquee Senate race where the Democratic candidate has opened up a big lead, and its Republican Governor, Doug Ducey’s popularity waining, I think it is safe to say Biden has the upper hand in the desert Southwest right now.
Tossups remain the same: Texas, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. I would still put Maine’s 2nd District there as well.
All eyes now are on who Biden picks as a running mate. Odds favor Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois or former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. It’s possible we will know before next week’s update.
I watched Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Fla.) so-called “apology” for calling Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez…eh…I won’t repeat it here, but it rhymes with “ducking mitch.” It wasn’t much of an apology, but a justification for doing what he did. He appeared contrived and not at all magnanimous. It was obviously forced and he took the opportunity to instead make a case for why he had to do it.
If you don’t know the story – and we never would’ve known about it had it not been for a reporter who overheard it – Yoho, a retiring member of the far right House Freedom Caucus approached Ocasio-Cortez outside the U.S. Capitol and called her “disgusting” for comments she made earlier pinning New York City’s rising crime rate to high unemployment and social disorder related to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is right, but that’s for another post. AOC called his comments, and the fact that he accosted her in such a manner, “rude” and he called her…that name…right after.
Yoho, who represents Gainesville, Fla. in the House, went to the floor of the House of Representatives this week to apologize for the comments, but spent more time seemingly justifying his actions. He apologized “if anyone was offended,” but refused to apologize “for his passion” or for his love of God, family and country.
That’s not an apology, its a justification. No one asked him for apologize for his passion, or religion, or supposed love for family and country. The fact that he said this is disingenuous, as if calling a duly elected member of Congress a “fucking bitch” is somehow part of his religion and patriotism. Rep. Yoho believes being a Christian and American and a family man requires him to verbally abuse a 30-year old Latina colleague. That is the Republican worldview. What kind of worldview is this, and why are accepting it as a legitimate one?
Further, he explained that he didn’t make the remarks directly TO Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, as if that matters, and didn’t deny making them:
“The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were constructed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding,” he said, basically admitted that he said them, but never meant for the congresswoman to hear them. Again, he is only sorry he got caught.
He went on to explain that he had a wife and daughters, so he is “cognizant of his language.”
Oh really? What does it tell us that Rep. Yoho said he would never use that kind of language around his wife and daughters, but he felt fine using it around Rep. Ocasio-Cortez? I’ll tell you what it proves; one one of the two things:
He have zero respect for his own wife and daughters and calls them names when they can’t hear him.
He doesn’t consider Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to be equal to his wife and daughters, worthy of the same respect
Neither option reflects well on Rep. Yoho.
But this is the reality many women, especially women of color, face. No matter what they achieve, or how they achieve it – both Yoho and Ocasio-Cortez got to where they are the same way, being voted in by 100,000+ people – they are still not seen or treated as equals. Any attempt to correct bad behavior only leads to a half-hearted apology and desperate clinging to faith, family and patriotism. It’s the same thing with every celebrity or politician who gets caught doing something bad and then “finds God” in a desperate attempt to repair his or her image. It’s eye-roll inducing.
It also shows how little Rep. Yoho thinks of the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District; that their choice doesn’t deserve the same respect his constituents’ choice does.
And of course Yoho has done what all bullies do when cornered; retreated to his safe space. He appeared on Fox News, where he whined that AOC is “making hay out of it” and was “on the floor crying,” as if he expected her to just accept hi half-hearted mealy-mouthed apology and shut up. Again, infantilizing a duly-elected representative in the United States government.
Donald Trump Is Embattled, Weak And Losing, And That’s A Very Dangerous Situation
A few months after Donald Trump took office as president, I started a new career in real estate. Starting out, I had the opportunity to meet a New York City real estate big wig and we got to talking about Trump, whom she knew pretty well (and wasn’t a fan of).
She said she that while she thought he had some skills that could translate well into governing, she was most concerned about him in a crisis, and most concerned about what happened if he loses reelection or becomes unpopular.
“He doesn’t know how to handle the world ‘no,'” she said. “If it looks like he’s going to lose a deal, and he can’t save it, he’ll do whatever he can to destroy everyone involved out of pettiness and spite.”
And those words keep churning in my head as we count down to 100 days until the election, and 180 until the next inauguration, which, if current trends continue, will not be of him.
Donald Trump’s decision to send federal law enforcement into Portland, Oregon and other major cities (disguised, for some reason, as soldiers), may be more shocking than it is surprising. Anyone could have seen it coming. Until the pandemic, Trump may have been a slight underdog for reelection, but he had one, no pun intended, trump card – the economy. When unemployment was under 4 percent and the economy was growing at a stable rate, he could always point to that as an example of his success, to ease any concerns about his other more unpopular stances and attributes.
But then came the pandemic, his pathetic, hapless response and the economic calamity it caused. The spring epidemic was quelled and there was hope the pandemic would pass and Trump could get his “good economy” back on track. Democratic governors – and a few Republican ones like Charlie Baker of Massachusetts – bailed his ass out.
Then the resurgence happened.
Now there is no hope of a bettering economy before November 3, and no hope COVID-19 will go away as an issue. He has never been more unpopular. He is trailing Joe Biden by double digits in some polls. Texas, whose electoral votes alone are more tan those of Michigan and Pennsylvania combined, is in play. What is Donald Trump supposed to do now?
He is, as that real estate scion told me, running out of options to “save the deal.” He has to pull a Hail Mary, and if that fails, he will to take out his anger and vengeance on everyone spurning him; the Democrats, the Republicans who have turned on him, and most of all, the voters.
His Hail Mary pass: Do what Republicans have been doing since Richard Nixon – he will try to play on people’s fears. Law and order, a tried and true message for the GOP, is this new attempt to salvage his career – and perhaps his freedom.
The protests over the death of George Floyd in May gave way to some rioting and looting in June, and since then Republicans have been trying to sell the narrative that Americans cities (read: Biden strongholds) are in chaos. Fox News’s “Violence Rages In US Cities” chyron has been having its moment, showing up in nearly every still photo from the network.
But almost six weeks after rioting and looting in major cities forced Democratic mayors and governors to issue curfews, things have begun to calm down and Biden is still holds a commanding lead in polls. Though many cities are seeing spikes in some crimes, the idea that cities are descending into chaos is just not true. That there is some crime and unrest during a global pandemic with double-digit unemployment (20 percent in NYC) shouldn’t surprise us.
Meanwhile 70,000+ new COVID-19 cases are being reported each day. More than 1,000 have died each of the previous three days, the first time we’ve reached that number since May.
Trump is desperate and afraid. His unable, or unwilling, to handle the pandemic effectively, and the story from late May about hiding in the White House bunker while protestors gathered outside, has clearly gotten to his head. This scares me. What does a man with nothing left to lose, and still holding tremendous power, do? What happens as it become increasingly clear he’s losing the “deal” for another term to Joe Biden? How does he spend his last 80 or so days in office after losing the election in the heat of a pandemic, and an economic and social crisis? Trump is losing, who does he decide to hurt or kill so he can try to come out looking like a winner?
I have this really sinking and anxiety-ridden feeling that he will kill people before January 20. Like, not just ignore a virus while it kills people, but actually fire on protestors and kill them. Whether his desperation leads him to believe murdering “libtards” will win him enough votes to win the election, or whether he’s written the election off and decides to take revenge on a nation that spurned him, I have a bad feeling it will happen. The American people may become the next broker whose HIV diagnosis he leaks because he was outbid on a property (he did this), or the next landlord whose son’s drug problem he will make public (he did this too), because neither would accept his terms for a deal. We may be the next people whose lives he ruins – or ends – to save his reputation and legacy, so that he goes out looking strong in a blaze of glory and not weak; decisive and not feckless; powerful and not hiding in a bunker.
New York Has Natural Ways To Quarantine The Sick, We’ve Used Them Before, Why Aren’t We Using Them Now?
New York City has been down to under 500 new cases a day since the middle of June, and though that success seems shaky the last week or so as cases rise elsewhere in the country, generally speaking, we’re doing ok.
But much of the city is still shut down. No bars, no nightlife, no indoor dining; shopping malls closed, museums still closed, no theaters. The reason, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is that the rest of the country has seen a spike because of opening these things. I think this indefinite shutdown of some of New York’s most important business is bad for the city, and contributing to some of the crime we are seeing. So the question is, how do we get COVID-19’s infection rate down even further so we can start opening up that part of the economy?
As we see the few hundred new cases each day, my mind wonders: where are these infected people going? Are they self-isolating? Are they quarantining? Is anyone watching them? Or are we just leaving it up to the honor system and hoping they don’t go out and infect other people? Did the 350 cases a month ago go on to infect the 350 who tested positive yesterday and are we just in a never ending spin cycle that will continue until we’re all vaccinated?
When we talk about what other countries have been doing successfully, we talk about lockdowns and contact tracing and mask wearing, but one thing that is being done, especially in Asia, that has shown much success is centralized quarantining.
South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are all enforcing central quarantining measures to citizens or foreigners who test positive, providing a place for them to go and isolate away from others until they’ve recovered and are no longer contagious.
The mistake that we have been making – AND ARE STILL making – is not isolating the sick. We’re still sending them home to isolate where it just isn’t possible to do so. I don’t know if we can legally do forced quarantine, but that is the only way.
New York City has long utilized its unique geography to control infectious diseases.
As studies now show, the primary place people get infected is inside the home, and in New York City and other places around the country, household size has been an indicator of how bad an outbreak can be, probably for the reason that the virus is being transmitted within households. And we’re still letting it happen.
New York City is offering hotel rooms to isolate as an option, but early indication is only a handful of people are taking them up on the offer. Mandatory isolation is perhaps not Constitutionally possible, just as other mitigation efforts like closing state borders isn’t, but if it were, it would be extremely effective.
And there is a precedence for this. Obviously Typhoid Mary is the most well-known. She was quarantined on North Brother Island – a small island in between The Bronx and Queens – for years due to her being an asymptomatic career of typhoid. Now Mary Mallone’s situation was quite different as her quarantine was indefinite and she refused to cooperate with authorities, but to forcibly quarantine someone for two weeks should be something we’re able to do.
New York City did build hospitals for cholera and smallpox on islands in order to isolate the sick from the general population, The ruins of a former smallpox hospital can still be seen on the southern end of Roosevelt Island. Hart Island in the Long Island Sound off The Bronx because infamous early in the pandemic for the mass burials of COVID-19 victims there. The island itself was actually used to quarantine infected New Yorkers during a yellow fever epidemic in 1870.
In March, I suggested transforming Governors Island, which can comfortably house 5,000 people, into a quarantine zone. New York’s geography allows us to utilize islands, which can put infected people in a place where they are physically distanced from the rest of the population until the time they are contagious has passed. Governors Island is large enough to provide accommodations for:
very sick in buildings repurposed as hospitals
mildly-ill in buildings repurposed as convalscent homes.
asymptomatic in buildings repurposed as “hotels”
The seclusion of the island also allows for those who are symptom-free or recovering time to walk around outside and get fresh air and sunlight rather than be completely isolated and essentially imprisoned – one fo the concerns many have about centralized quarantine. (Even in Korea, you are banned from even leaving your hotel room for two weeks). Converting North and South Brother Island and perhaps Fort Totten and Fort Wadsworth – old out of commission forts in Queens and Staten Island respectively – into overflow quarantine space would allow us to further contain and manage an outbreak in the city without resorting to shutdowns.
But I think not having a plan to isolate the sick – and continuing to not have a plan for a long term – is wrongheaded. New York City has long utilized its unique geography to control infectious diseases. It’s odd that we’re not doing it now. If this pandemic is truly going to last more than a year, we need to have a real plan on how we will isolate infectious people going forward, so the rest of us can actually move on with our lives.
Unless, of course, officials and experts don’t expect it to last quite that long, which is a theory I’ll explore in another post soon.
‘Cancel Culture’ and ‘Political Correctness’ Battles Are About Protecting Privilege And Superiority
Who is the bigger snowflake? The people who nicely suggested to Trader Joe’s that its branding of cultural items pushes racist stereotypes and maybe they should think about changing it – or the white people who never even thought about the subject until someone spoke out, now acting like civilization will collapse because Trader Joe’s is no longer marketing its Spring Rolls as Trader Mings?
It’s a rhetorical question of course, but if we treated it like a real question, what are the odds there would be great disagreement?
Ever since Fox News figured out the “War On Christmas” was crack for scared white people, and they could ride that cash cow right to the bank, “political correctness” has become a semi-regular social debate in our society. It goes a little something like this:
Person A says something offensive; Person B notes that it is offensive and explains why and asks for an apology; Person A feels attacked, explains that it isn’t offensive, everyone says it, s/he offends everyone and its just a joke, don’t take it too seriously; Person B is angered by this response and seeks out retribution in some form; Person A suffers the consequences and apologies and says s/he never meant to offend anyone and has learned his/her lesson and thinks the punishment is too severe and rallies society toward believing Person B is the wrong one, the “snowflake,” for asking for repercussions.
It’s unfair; it’s a mistake, what about due process? And so on and so forth.
Being offensive is about one thing – Power. Once you have to apologize and do better, you have lost that power. You are no longer superior. You are not longer dominate. That’s what “political correctness” threatens. If you accept the comment, you are protecting their power.
There always seems to be one line of defense the “anti-PC” crowd uses; Why now? We have always been using this word, this phrase, this stereotype. Everyone found it funny before? What happened? “My black friend doesn’t seem to have a problem with it!”
Here’s the thing. He or she almost certainly did not find it funny, but did not find it prudent to fight you on it. I can tell you this as a queer person that there were blatantly offensive gay jokes I heard for years. Stuff like:
Don’t give him the cucumber, he’ll sit on it
Something about tucking my penis in my legs so it looks like I have a vagina
A generous serving of the words “f*gg*t” and “s*ssy”
Male friends acting frightened at the idea of sharing a bedroom or bathroom
“Maybe he has a crush on you!” everybody whenever I get too close to a male friend.
I just smiled and laughed at, or rolled my eyes – being sure the smile while doing it, or just walked away. Did the joke offend me? Yes, very much so. Were they worth fighting a losing battle? No. Even if I lost the battle, would I lose an ally? Allies are hard to come by for the marginalized.
Or worse, would it lead to me getting beat? The fear of repercussions are real.
While some things, like jokes or racially insensitive branding, might seem harmless, what they do is give license to go even farther. It also desensitizes us to offensive characterizations. How many of us grew up thinking Mexicans were lazy and slept a lot because Speedy Gonzalez enjoyed siestas often? Did you also think, like me, the reason so many Mexicans avoided immigration was that they were small and fast like the Looney Tunes character?
A lot of this could be remedied if children were taught to recognize bigotry and reject it, and to their credit, there are plenty of parents who do this. My aunt was the one who told me Speedy Gonzalez was “not what Mexican people are like, it’s what bad people think they’re like.” But bigots, well, they’ll test to see how far they can go. First its Trader Mings, then its using racial slurs for Asians, until finally it’s accusing them of carrying deadly viruses and beating them in the streets.
Go ahead, roll your eyes. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a big jump from a store brand to hate crime, but its not. Once the lines are blurred, it’s like a runaway freight train that will eventually crash at high speed.
Are there people in marginalized groups who aren’t “offended” by racist, sexist and bigoted things? Sure. Candace Owens may be a grifter, but I think there are black people who think responding to racism only gives it power, which is a big part of her message.
There are plenty of people who also just shake it off because; why bother? If you say something, you just get a lecture on political correctness anyway – or worse, violence. They’re just going to let it not consume them. There will also be folks who feel it’s just a minor nuisance and a distraction from the real problems. But they’re also likely to be welcome and open to change, or at the very least not be bothered by it.
This is also an issue for good-intention white progressives – you know, the “woke” crowd. If a black person or Hispanic person isn’t offended by something, there’s often a push to get them to be offended. This is primarily because bigots will use the lack of offense as an excuse to push the envelope further. Having grown up around racists, I can tell you this is true. There are people who look to offend (This is why Trump keeps calling COVID-19 the “China Virus.” He knows it’s offensive and he wants to get a rise. If he doesn’t get it, he will pull out something worse).
So why this battle over political correctness now? Or at least since Fox News started its annual jihad on Happy Holidays about 15 years ago? Well, as we become a more diverse, multicultural and accepting society, it has allowed marginalized communities the space to be able to step forward and say what has been on their minds for generations. The things you claim weren’t offensive 25 years ago, they were, its just the offended didn’t feel comfortable telling you. Archie Bunker was never a lovable bigot, he was always an example of what NOT to be. You weren’t supposed to idolize him, and yet people still look at him as an example of who they wish they could be. Al Bundy’s misogyny wasn’t something to admire – he’s a shoe salesman whose life peaked at 17 for crying out loud. His own children mock him.
It’s not that society has become more offended by things, it is that we now feel safe telling you things are offensive and have always been.
The truth is, the “anti-PC people” know that, and that’s what this crusade is so important. Whenever you see the meme about how it use to be “ok to be funny,” what they mean is “when it ok to intimidate people in letting me be offensive.”
Because that makes them feel superior…and powerful.
15 Weeks Until The 2020 Presidential Election. Biden Up Big
With the presidential election only 15 weeks away from tomorrow, I’m going to take the time on my blog every Monday do what I’ve been doing every four years since 2000 – predict elections and give some analysis of what is going on.
Below is the consensus Electoral Map according to Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard, whose blog I’ve been regularly following since, oh, about 2006.
So a lot to unpack here. First of all, you’ve probably noticed Texas is one big tossup on the map. Taegan’s map is the consensus of five electoral forecasts; Inside Elections; CNN’s Harry Enten; Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball; Cook Political Report and the Bitecofer Model, the latter of which hasn’t been updated since pre-pandemic. Some of them have been influenced by recent polls to shift Texas into tossup territory, and COVID-19 slamming the state this summer has also provided some context into how bad Trump’s numbers are or may get there.
I’m not just I’m ready to buy a Blue Texas just yet, but I’m warming up to it. As 2018 showed us, the state’s suburbs, once a bastion of conservatism, are moving left fast. In 2018, Democrats picked up two suburban House seats; the 32nd District outside of Dallas and the 7th District in Houston, and came close in several others. Democrats are seeking to pickup several competitive GOP-held House seats in the Lone Star State this year, including in the vast 23rd District, which spans the Rio Grande Valley from El Paso to San Antonio; the 22nd District (and former Tom DeLay stomping grounds) in suburban Houston; the 24th District in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth and the two badly gerrymandered Austin-based seats, the 21st and 10th. Democrats will be pouring money into the state downballot, let’s see if Biden follows.
The other consensus tossup states are Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Iowa. I think that’s right, although I’m still skeptical about Ohio and Iowa considering how far right they moved in 2016, but Iowa snapped back in 2018 and there’s a marquee Senate race there between Republican incumbent Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. I also think that while tossup may be the right call here, Arizona might have already slid into the Biden column, though perhaps not by much. COVID-19 may be what sinks Trump there as well, as the Grand Canyon State is struggling with one of the biggest epidemics right now. Also, incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally is running well behind her Democratic challenger, Astronaut Mark Kelly (who is also the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011). Also, Arizona’s election will be overseen by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat.
I’m not buying Florida anywhere left of Tossup at this point, although the COVID-19 and an unpopular GOP governor may be enough for Biden to win there.
One consideration I’m taking is who is running elections in these states. Georgia, Florida, Ohio and Texas will all have Republicans overseeing the voting, and we saw how that worked out in Georgia in 2018.
The good news for Democrats is that it seems Biden has opened up a stable lead in the Obama-Trump Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that eluded Hillary in 2016. All three saw Democratic sweeps in 2018 in statewide offices, so there’s very little chance of GOP shenanigans there. (Or in North Carolina, where Democrat Elaine Marshall is Secretary of State).
I also think if the election was held today, Biden would carry Nebraska’s 2nd District and its Electoral Vote. Nebraska and Maine allocate their electoral votes by Congressional district and two are given to the statewide winner. In 2008, Barack Obama won Nebraska’s 2nd District, which is based in Omaha. Democrats are contesting the seat in the House and the Omaha market also reaches competitive Iowa and the Des Moines/Council Bluffs-based Iowa 3rd Congressional District, a Democratic pickup in 2008 the party is defending. In 2016, Trump won Maine’s 2nd District, which includes almost all of Northern and Central Maine. As of now, I see Biden squeaking out a win in Maine’s 2nd District thanks to the coattails of freshman Democratic Congressman Jared Golden, Democratic Senate candidate Sara Gideon and the general depression of Trump’s numbers in the Northeast.
Alaska, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Indiana are solid red states that some of these forecasters have moved into a slightly more competitive category. If the election slips further from Trump, except these to be states to watch. All but Missouri and Indiana have Senate races this year where Democratic candidates (or in Alaska’s case, an Independent) have raised a lot of money.
For Democrats, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Maine’s two statewide Electoral Votes are safely in Biden’s column for now (Maine’s 1st District Electoral Vote was never in play for Republicans). Nevada, Minnesota and New Hampshire are also sitting deep in Biden territory but could become competitive if the election starts to move Trump’s way. He came within three points of winning them all in 2016.