Heather Cox Richardson

October 20, 2020 (Tuesday)

Trump is acting as if he expects to lose the election. Today, on the Fox News Channel, he hammered again on the discredited Hunter Biden laptop story and lashed out at Attorney General William Barr for not pursuing it. “We’ve got to get the Attorney General to act,” he said. “He’s got to act, and he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election. And by the way, we’re doing very well. We’re going to win the election. We’re doing very well.”

Today the FBI declined to comment on the story, saying in a letter to Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who had asked for information about the alleged laptop, that “consistent with longstanding Department of Justice… policy and practice, the FBI” was not getting involved in this political effort. “If actionable intelligence is developed,” Assistant Director of the Office of Congressional Affairs Jill C. Tyson wrote, “the FBI in consultation with the Intelligence Community will evaluate the need to provide… briefings….”

Trump also lashed out at Lesley Stahl, the host of CBS’s 60 Minutes, after he walked out of an interview. On Sunday, 60 Minutes is running a special featuring interviews with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Trump was apparently angry that Stahl asked him about coronavirus, his attacks on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and infectious disease authority Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the size of the crowds at his rallies.

Trump’s people were taping the interview themselves, allegedly to archive it, but after he left, Trump took to Twitter, where he threatened to release the video himself to undercut 60 Minutes. “I am pleased to inform you that, for the sake of accuracy in reporting, I am considering posting my interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, PRIOR TO AIRTIME! This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about…” he tweeted. “Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!”

While there has been some tightening in the polls, giving a boost to Trump, there are signs he is right to be worried. In the Washington Post today, Greg Sargent noted that at the congressional district level, Trump is significantly behind his 2016 polling with both working class and college-educated white people. Interviewing David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, Sargent quoted Wasserman’s observation that Trump is consistently running 8 to 10 points behind where he did in 2016. He is doing even worse in wealthy suburbs. He is doing better than he did in 2016 in heavily Hispanic districts in Florida and Texas, but that will not help him much in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He needs to build more support among white voters, but he has only two weeks left to do it.

After being on-again, off-again for a new coronavirus relief bill, Trump is now eager to have one before the election, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appear to be close to a deal. But news broke today that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has privately told Republican senators that he opposes the idea, and has warned the White House not to negotiate with Pelosi before the election.

Some Republicans object to the price tag of a big measure; others don’t want to have to choose between agreeing with Trump or upsetting their relief-hating base. McConnell is also determined not to let anything interrupt the tight schedule he has established for the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the election. It is also likely the Republicans are not eager to pass a big relief bill just before an election that might put a Democrat in power, thus boosting his chances of rebuilding the economy.

It is also true, though, that Trump has less clout with Republican lawmakers than ever before, and they are trying to distance themselves from him.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden today stayed out of the news as he prepares for Thursday’s presidential debate. It hit me, as I was reading the news today, how blissfully normal it sounds to imagine a president who actually prepares for things, and who is not in the news all day, every day. Apparently, I’m not the only one to feel that way: Axios reports that this month popular engagement with Biden’s Twitter account and videos have passed Trump’s. So have Biden’s follower numbers. Biden’s town hall last week also drew more viewers.

Just why this election is so important received powerful illustration tonight. In 2017, the Trump administration began a pilot program to deter refugees from coming to America by taking away migrants’ children. It broke up more than 1000 families. The next year, the program became official, and the administration forcibly removed more than 2,800 children from their parents in May and June of that year. Most of those families were still in custody when a federal judge ordered the program stopped and the families reunited. Today NBC broke the story that lawyers appointed to identify the separated families have not been able to find the parents of 545 of the children, and that the administration actually deported about two-thirds of those parents during the pilot program while keeping their children behind. Those children are now in America with relatives or foster families.

Almost immediately after this news broke, the administration put out a press release announcing that “THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS COMMITTED TO COMBATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND PROTECTING THE INNOCENT.” It listed the ways in which the administration has taken on this crime. Pedophilia and human trafficking are the central concerns of the conspiracy theory QAnon, so the press release both addressed the administration’s policy of stripping children from their parents and nodded to QAnon supporters.

Other revelations today included news from the continuing investigation by the New York Times into Trump’s tax records. It turns out that, for all Trump’s attempts to smear Biden by claiming he is too close to China, Trump himself has a bank account in the country which he did not list on his public financial disclosures because it is held under a corporate name. The account paid $188,561 in taxes in China from 2013 to 2015. Biden’s income taxes, which-- unlike the president-- he released, show neither business dealings nor income from China.

Today, in a plea deal, Elliott Broidy, a major Trump fundraiser and deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Broidy admitted to lobbying the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests in exchange for millions of dollars. Broidy forfeited $6.6 million, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in return for their recommendation of lenience at sentencing. Like Trump, Broidy was one of Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s clients.

In the midst of all this, there is, today, what appears to be excellent news: two new studies show that deaths for hospitalized Covid-19 patients have dropped sharply since the start of the pandemic. When it began, hospitalized patients had a 25.6% chance of dying; now that rate is 7.6%. There are a number of reasons for this apparent drop, but the three that seem most important are a better understanding of the disease, standard procedures for care, and mask wearing, which reduces how much virus initially infects a patient. The disease remains vicious, of course, but mortality rates 18 percentage points lower now than they were at the start of the pandemic are definitely moving in the right direction.


October 21, 2020 (Wednesday)

As we enter the home stretch to this election, we are bombarded with so much news the only way to make sense of it is to divide it into categories.

The president is angry and self-pitying while campaign officials are trying to tip the election with the dubious laptop story. Administration officials are also working as quickly as they can to push through whatever they can while they are still in power, hoping what they are doing flies under the radar with so much going on. And this flurry of activity means there are bad slips.

At the same time, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is trying to get elected, but in such a storm of crazy that his actual policies, which are quite developed, are simply not getting much airtime. Instead, people have begun to look to him as a return to an America in which strength was measured not by dominance but by caring.

The president began the day by tweeting about Biden’s proposed tax plan, which he calls “the Radical Biden-Harris Agenda.” He claims that the plan will “slash the typical American’s income by $6,500 per year. They will raise TAXES by $4 TRILLION DOLLARS – triggering a mass exodus of jobs out of America and into foreign countries…. Your 401k’s will crash with Biden. Massive Biden Tax and Regulation increases will destroy all that you have built! Additionally, 180 Million People will lose their Private Healthcare Plans.”

In fact, though, it is the administration that is talking about slashing things, including millions of dollars from Democratic-led cities that Trump and Barr have labeled “anarchist jurisdictions": New York City; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle, Washington. That money would cut federal grants for coronavirus relief, HIV treatment, newborn screening, and so on. Officials from the affected cities, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, say they will sue if the administration tries to follow this through.

In a move that threatens to destroy our nonpartisan civil service, Trump today signed an Executive Order creating a new category of public servant who is not covered by normal rules. These employees can be hired by agency heads without having to go through the merit-based system in place since 1883, and can be fired at will. This new “Schedule F” will once again allow presidents to appoint cronies to office, while firing those insufficiently loyal. It also appears to shield political appointees from an incoming administration by protecting them from firing because of political affiliation.

Yesterday, an inspector general for the United States Postal Service issued a report requested by Congress examining the effects of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s changes to the postal service. The report concluded that the changes resulted in “significant negative service impacts across the country.” DeJoy is a Trump loyalist. The USPS Board of Governors, made up of Trump appointees, rejects the report’s conclusions.

Meanwhile, a number of senior administration officials and lawmakers from both parties are worried that the White House is fast-tracking a business deal worth billions of dollars in what is essentially a no-bid contract to a company associated with Republican operatives, including Karl Rove. The company, Rivada, wants to lease the Department of Defense’s mid-band spectrum. This spectrum is wildly valuable for the 5G market, the next-generation mobile network. Pentagon leaders are opposed to the deal since the military uses that spectrum, and they say they have not been able to study the effect of commercial use of the spectrum on military readiness. Pentagon lawyers say the White House has no authority to sell or lease its spectrum. Lawmakers of both parties oppose the deal. One senior official told CNN, “Something is really fishy about this.”

Today, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe blamed Iran for hacked emails purporting to come from the alt-right Proud Boys warning Democrats to vote for Trump. Ratcliffe said “we have identified that two foreign actors, Iran and Russia, have taken specific actions” relating to the election. He said the emails were designed to hurt Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Rachel Maddow that intelligence officers in a classified briefing about the matter did not, in fact, say that there was any attempt to hurt Trump. “I’m surprised that Ratcliffe would say that to the public…. I had the strong impression it was much rather to undermine confidence in elections….”

Meanwhile, Trump continues to push the laptop story. He is reportedly considering firing FBI director Christopher Wray after the election because Wray has refused to announce an investigation into Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or other Biden associates. After Wray’s refusal to back up Trump’s insistence that this summer’s violence was from “Antifa,” the FBI director’s unwillingness to announce a Biden investigation is apparently infuriating the president. In 2016, then FBI director James Comey announced a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the election, an announcement political scientists say helped to swing victory to Trump. While the president can, in fact, fire an FBI director, it is unusual, and certainly should not happen because the director refuses to attack the president’s political rival. The term of the FBI director is set at 10 years so the director serves at least two presidents, and is not bound to the political cycle.

Trump is railing not just at Wray, but also at Attorney General William Barr. Trump was counting on Barr’s probe of the Russia investigation to implicate high-ranking members of the Obama administration just before the election, but Barr has backed off on delivering the report. Trump is frustrated, recently retweeting a photo of Barr with the caption “for the love of GOD ARREST SOMEBODY.” Barr has been staying out of the news lately, although he was in Memphis, Tennessee, today, announcing arrests made there under his Operation Legend, the name for the police crackdown in a number of cities announced in July.

Pushing the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop got a lot more difficult today when Sacha Baron Cohen revealed that his new Borat film shows Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani—the source of the laptop-- in a compromising position with a young woman. Giuliani insists the scene is a “complete fabrication,” but the stills I saw (and I was trying really hard not to see any of this) indicate that this explanation will convince only those determined to be convinced. As many observers have pointed out, if Baron Cohen could prank Giuliani so easily, what does that say about how well Giuliani could identify foreign influence operations?

For his part, Biden is acting like a normal presidential candidate, which just doesn’t grab the headlines the way Trump’s actions do. After Trump attacked Biden’s tax policy, though, a number of stories noted the actual terms of the plan.

Biden proposes to raise taxes on the wealthy. He would get rid of some of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, including the cut in the income tax rate for people making more than $400,000 a year. Trump cut that rate from 39.6% to 37%. Biden would put it back where it was. This change would affect fewer than 10% of taxpayers. People would also pay into the Social Security payroll tax for incomes over $400,000. That tax is currently collected only on $137,700 of earnings. Under this plan, the nation’s top 1% of earners would bring home about 15.9% less money after taxes than they do now.

Biden also proposes to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, and establish a 15% minimum tax on the so-called “book income” of a corporation, that is, the amount its directors report to shareholders, which often makes a corporation look quite profitable while it pays little or no tax. He would also increase taxes on international profits. These proposed taxes would make up more than half of the revenue the Treasury would see from the new measures.

The Biden proposals would raise between $2.4 and $4 trillion over a decade. The Penn Wharton Budget Model concludes that the top 1% of earners would pay about 80% of the tax increases. Its report continues: “All groups outside of the top 5%… see their after-tax incomes fall by less than 1 percent.” The Washington Post awarded four Pinocchios to Trump’s attacks on Biden’s tax plan. The Tax Foundation could not score Trump’s own plan because he has made no actual proposals.

Biden had powerful help today getting out his message. Former President Barack Obama, who has largely stayed out of the political fray, has reentered it powerfully. In a speech in Philadelphia, Obama directly attacked Trump, tearing apart his successor’s response to the coronavirus and his administration in general. No one gets under Trump’s skin like Obama does, and the former president seemed to be deliberately needling the president, perhaps to prod him to more self-destruction at tomorrow’s debate.

His appearances were not just attacks on Trump, though. They were reminders of what the presidency looked like just four years ago, and they were designed to make sure people get to the polls. “We’ve got to turn out like never before,” President Obama said. “We cannot leave any doubt in this election…. A whole bunch of people stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time,” he said. “Not in this election.”

Still, what made most news for Biden today was an old video of the former vice president at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who died when he tried to disarm the killer. In the clip, which circulated widely on social media, Biden expresses his sympathy to Hixon’s parents and is walking away when Hixon’s son Corey, who has Kabuki Syndrome, runs up and, as Biden turns to see what’s happening, throws himself into Biden’s embrace. Biden spontaneously kisses the young man’s forehead and asks if he’s okay. When he shakes his head no, Biden hugs him, cradling his head, and reassures him, “It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay, I promise.”


That is a message we all need. I teared up just reading it.


Right wing assholes are apparently projecting pedophilia onto Biden over this.


That’s because (besides the obligatory projection) the ideas of empathy and comforting another are alien to them and utterly inconceivable.


October 22, 2020 (Thursday)

Today had two important takeaways:

Intelligence officials warned today that Russia recently hacked into our local and state computer networks. This could compromise our voting infrastructure. Intelligence officials believe our adversaries will try to help Trump, possibly by casting doubt on the voting results. While the administration has tried to insist that Iran and China are as significant a threat, experts disagree. Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe identified Iran as the originator of fake emails purporting to be the from the alt-right gang the Proud Boys warning Democrats to vote for Trump, but the information they used for the enterprise was all public. Russia, though, has hacked our private election systems, making officials worry that it could change or delete voter data, throwing people off the rolls or invalidating mail-in ballots.

Bottom line on tonight’s final presidential debate: Trump needed to move the needle in his direction. He didn’t. Biden needed not to lose voters. He didn’t. The debate will likely not change the trajectory of the election.

If you need a break after this week’s news hurricane, you can quit reading right here.

For those sticking around….

This was not a good day for the president’s reelection campaign. He seemed unable to get over how angry he was at Lesley Stahl from CBS’s 60 Minutes after yesterday’s interview for a special program Sunday evening, and ultimately decided to post on Facebook the video the White House took during it. Trump’s team had said they were recording “for archival purposes only,” and posting the video meant Trump violated his agreement with the network.

Trump seemed to think showing the clip would illustrate how poorly the media treats him, but in fact it shows Stahl behaving professionally, asking solid questions and fact-checking the president, while Trump argues and denigrates her. If the clip was supposed to generate sympathy for him, it backfired.

The debate did him no favors either. Debate moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News was far more effective at keeping control over the debate than the previous two moderators were, especially at first, when the two men appeared to be afraid of her cutting their mics. Trump could not contain himself for long, though, and slipped pretty quickly back into talking over Welker and Biden both. Still, he was far more restrained than he was at the first debate.

More significantly, he made little effort to use his time to connect with voters. He focused simply on badgering Biden and rehearsing the talking points that have become almost set pieces in his performances. They are not entirely comprehensible to someone who is not reading or watching right-wing media, but they are quite shockingly full of lies. And while his language is familiar to his usual audience, it is unlikely to attract new voters, who will likely be confused at best and, possibly, bored after hearing the same phrases for so long.

While Biden, too, strayed from the truth on occasion, CNN fact checker Daniel Dale put it this way: “For a fact checker, you’re kind of sitting there w/Biden. Occasionally you’re like oh that’s wrong. With Trump you’re like the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in the chocolate factory. You don’t know which one to pick up because there’s just so much.” He noted, “From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate.”

Trump did not make much of a case for his reelection tonight. He seemed to have no plans for what he would like to accomplish in a second term, although he did say he hoped to create a new healthcare plan (he has said repeatedly he already has one). He mocked Biden for talking about the so-called “kitchen table issues” that are important to ordinary voters, and insisted that Biden should have done everything he talks about accomplishing in the future back when he was vice president under President Barack Obama. At one point, Trump talked about what he would do “when I become president.”

For his part, Biden largely ignored Trump’s wild answers and tried to outline his policies, which he described with more detail than clarity, but which were interesting nonetheless because they offered something new when compared with Trump’s rote performance, worn thin by familiarity. Biden had no major slips. Trump pounced on Biden’s declaration that the nation must transition away from oil, instantly responding, “Will you remember that Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?” But Pennsylvania and Ohio produce just a tiny bit of crude oil—they are both primarily natural gas states—and Trump’s identification of Texas and Oklahoma was a self-own. He is worried about carrying Texas and Oklahoma?“

Most telling was that Trump was unprepared for Welker’s final, excellent but softball question: if they were to be elected, what would they say on Inauguration Day to voters who did not support them. Trump claimed that rebuilding the economy “to make our country totally successful as it was prior to the plague coming over from China” would bring Americans together, and then pivoted to attacking Biden, warning that if he were elected, “you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

Biden, though, recognized that Welker had deliberately lobbed them the opportunity to make a final pitch to voters. He promised to represent all voters, not just those who voted for him, and promised to put “science over fiction” and “hope over fear.” “We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better,” he said. “We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism, and at the same time we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy creating millions of new jobs. That’s the fact.”

On the ballot this year, he said, are “Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance, and I’m going to make sure you get that."

Instant polls gave the debate to Biden by the same margins showing in the polls in general. CNN had Biden at 53% and Trump at 39%; Data Progress had Biden at 52% and Trump at 41%; US Politics had Biden at 52% and Trump at 39%.


That’s both funny and terrifying. The flood of lies mixed with obscure far right conspiracy theories was something to behold. I am still stuck on the exchange that I hope I misheard:

Biden “You’ve lost 535 kids who don’t know where the hell their parents are”
Trump “Good” (or “Go ahead.”)

Either response was not a good look. I heard the first, and was horrified.


And, frankly, that’s largely because of Turmp’s bullshittery, too. Debating someone who doesn’t just lie, but creates utter bullshit from thin air, often on a completely different topic makes it very challenging to stay on track. I mean, when the question is about healthcare, and your opponent, who has had 4 years to develop and implement a plan that no one has seen but he’s claimed to have had for five years, then says some bullshit like, (and this isn’t a quote; I didn’t watch the debate; it’s rhetorical) “I just made a new plan while Sleepy Joe was talking. It’s the best. We’re going to drill uranium in the deep ocean so everyone can go to Sweden for healthcare. We’re working out the details right now. They rake the forests, so they don’t need all the healthcare they’ve got, and they will give us some. Maybe when we make Greenland a state. See, I’m a dealmaker.”

Actually, that’s too coherent for Donnie, but how do you respond? Do you counter it point-by-point? And remain completely truthful by any interpretation?

“He doesn’t have a plan” False; he does, and it’s to repeal the ACA completely and go back to completely private healthcare, putting tens of millions of Americans back in the situation where they are uninsured.

“There’s no uranium in the deep ocean!” False, though it is more expensive and dangerous to extract than it is worth.

“He’s got no deal with Sweden!” False, he does, but it’s about extended their shark fishing quotas in the North Atlantic (rhetorical example again).

“They don’t rake the forests!” False, but it’s only in the historic king’s hunting preserve park (again, rhetorical)

Etc, etc, etc. You can’t effectively prepare for debating a con artist. All you can do is present your own policy points and make some general statements about what they’ve done and said. And it seems like where Joe got fact checked was on points where he tried to counter Turmp’s BS, not on his own policy or record.


October 23, 2020 (Friday)

Today the United States had at least 82,600 new cases of coronavirus, our highest daily level of cases in a single day since the pandemic started. The outbreak is widespread, meaning it will be harder to move medical personnel around to address the crisis. We have lost close to 224,000 Americans to Covid-19. As it spreads through Republican-governed states, leaders refuse to use government authority to slow its reach. “It’s not a job for government,” North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said.

In a sign that Trump supporters see his reelection in danger, tonight on his show on the Fox News Channel, Lou Dobbs unloaded on South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for not doing more to help Trump. Dobbs urged South Carolinians not to vote for Graham, who is up for reelection.

This is ironic, since one of the goals of the very public Republican effort to ram Amy Coney Barrett through a Senate confirmation vote was to get airtime for Graham, who is in an unexpectedly tight race. Graham is faced by Democrat Jaime Harrison, who raised an eye-popping $57 million last quarter, the most any Senate candidate has ever raised in a quarter. Harrison is the first Senate candidate in history to raise and spend more than $100 million.

Even if elected, Democratic senators will come too late to stop Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Today, senators battled over the confirmation of the 48-year-old judge, whom Trump appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit just three years ago. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is urging Republicans not to confirm an extremist judge less than two weeks before the election season will end. “The Republican majority is on the precipice of making a colossal and historic mistake,” Schumer said. “The damage it does to this chamber will be irrevocable.”

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed the fight over Supreme Court justices on Democrats, beginning with their 1987 opposition to Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the court, Robert Bork. This is a common complaint on the part of Republicans, although in Bork’s case, 6 Republicans joined the Democrats to oppose him—making the opposition bipartisan-- and the Democrats went on to confirm Reagan’s next nominee for the seat, Justice Anthony Kennedy, after only three days of hearings. The Senate confirmed Kennedy by a unanimous vote, indicating that the problem with Bork was not Democratic partisanship, but rather the nominee.

In this case, Barrett will be the third Supreme Court justice appointed by Trump, since McConnell refused even to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland. McConnell said that holding confirmation hearings for Garland in March before an election was a disservice to voters, who should be allowed to make their wishes known in the upcoming election. If confirmed—and the Republicans have the votes to confirm her—Barrett will allow Trump to cement an originalist view of the Constitution on the Supreme Court.

Barrett’s appointment is the outcome of a longstanding attempt to overturn the active government under which we have lived since the 1930s. During the Great Depression, Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to use the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net—this is when we got Social Security—and promote infrastructure. But racist Democrats from the South balked at racial equality under this new government.

After World War II, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, and Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Republican appointed by Richard Nixon, the Supreme Court set out to make all Americans equal before the law. They tried to end segregation through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools. In 1965, they protected the right of married couples to use contraception. In 1967, they legalized interracial marriage. In 1973, with the Roe v. Wade decision, they tried to give women control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion.

The justices based their decisions on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Congress developed this amendment after legislatures in former Confederate states passed “Black Codes” severely limiting the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people. Congress intended for the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that African Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures wanted to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery.

Justices in the Warren and Burger courts used that same amendment to protect civil rights a century later. They argued that the Fourteenth Amendment required that the Bill of Rights apply to state governments as well as to the federal government. This is known as the “incorporation doctrine,” but the name matters less than the concept: states cannot abridge an individual’s rights, any more than the federal government can. This doctrine dramatically expanded civil rights.

But from the beginning, there was a backlash against the New Deal government by businessmen who objected to the idea of federal regulation and the bureaucracy it would require. As early as 1937, they were demanding an end to the active government and a return to the world of the 1920s, where businessmen could do as they wished, family and churches managed social welfare, and private interests profited from infrastructure projects. They gained little traction; the vast majority of Americans liked the new system.

But the expansion of civil rights under the Warren and Burger courts was a whole new kettle of fish. Opponents of the new decisions insisted that the court was engaging in “judicial activism,” taking away from voters the right to make their own decisions about how society should work. That said that justices were “legislating from the bench.” They insisted that the Constitution is limited by the views of its framers, and that the government can do nothing that is not explicitly written in that 1787 document. Faced with confusion over the exact meaning of the Constitution, some revised their position in a few ways, one of which was to rest on “textualism,” the idea that a law says exactly what it says and nothing else.

This is the foundation for today’s “originalists” like Barrett. They are trying to erase the era of legislation and legal decisions that constructed our modern nation. If the government is as limited as they say, it cannot protect the rights of minorities or women. It cannot regulate business. It cannot provide a social safety net, or promote infrastructure.

Their doctrine will send authority for civil rights back to the states to wither or thrive as different legislatures see fit, so long as their laws don’t run into textual problems, in which case the Supreme Court will step in to limit state actions.

Barrett is a darling of religious conservatives who expect her to overturn Roe v. Wade, and to undermine civil rights legislation, as the court did, for example, in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But she also has the support of secret dark money donors. She will be the key vote to having a solid pro-corporate Supreme Court that will sharply limit what the federal government can do. Such a court can be expected to gut government regulation of business with more decisions like the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and to slash the social safety net. First up, of course, is the Affordable Care Act, about which the court will begin to hear arguments on November 10, just a week after the election.

This version of our government is not popular. Republican senators who will vote for Barrett represent 14.3 million fewer Americans than the Democratic senators who oppose her confirmation. Schumer today warned his Republican colleagues: “The majority has trampled over norms, rules, standards, honor, values, any of them that could possibly stand in its monomaniacal pursuit to put someone on the court who will take away the rights of so many Americans.”


i doubt, if they have their way, they’d allow that to happen. does anybody really think they’ll stick to their principles when california or new york seek to extend state protections that have been removed at the federal level?

just the same way the republicans are throwing out their previously held principles on things like appointments, deficits, and tariffs. they’ll attempt whatever they feel suits them.

guaranteed they’ll invoke federal supremacy to stop any state law that tries to break down racial and class divisions. and like mcconnell has already done, try to force states into bankruptcy so that how they spend money can be restricted by “conservative” judges.


October 25, 2020 (Sunday)

Recognizing that he is losing the demographics he needs to win reelection, Trump has clearly decided that his best bet is to spur his base to turn out in vast numbers and vote. To that end, he has given up any pretense of appealing to any but his base. At the same time, he and members of his administration are pretending the coronavirus pandemic is ending.

Last night in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Trump held a rally not in front of an American flag, but in front of a thin blue line flag. This flag reflects the old saying that law enforcement officers constitute the boundary-- the thin blue line-- between chaos and order. It is a black and white American flag, with a blue stripe running across its middle. The creator of the new flag, Andrew Jacob, insists “the flag has no association with racism, hatred, bigotry…. It’s a flag to show support for law enforcement—no politics involved.” But white supremacists waved it at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it has come to symbolize opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Its adherents talk about “socialism” and “law & order” and “illegals.” According to Jacob, “The black above represents citizens… and the black below represents criminals.”

Flags matter. They are the tangible symbol of a people united for a cause. That Trump replaced the American flag with the Thin Blue Line flag as the centerpiece of his rally is a rejection of the nation itself in favor of his role as the leader of the alt-right. And it was not inadvertent: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called attention to the prominence of the flag, tweeting: “The Thin Blue Line flag is flying HIGH at President [Trump’s] rally in Wisconsin!”

The Trump administration is playing to his religious base, as well. Last Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made the United States a co-sponsor of an international declaration opposing abortion. While United Nations human rights bodies, as well as most of our former allies, seek to protect access to reproductive rights including abortion, we have now signed onto the Geneva Consensus Declaration declaring that “there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.” The declaration also reaffirms that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State,” a sentiment that appears to undermine same-sex couples.

The declaration claims that the goal of the signers is to “Ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and equal opportunity for women at all levels of political, economic, and public life; [and to] Improve and secure access to health and development gains for women, including sexual and reproductive health, which must always promote optimal health, the highest attainable standard of health, without including abortion.” But women’s rights and health are hardly a priority for the other sponsors, Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and especially Uganda, where women die in high numbers from complications related to pregnancy and where gay sex is punishable by death. Saudi Arabia, where men can sue their daughters or wives for “disobedience,” also signed the declaration.

The administration is also talking about identifying Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam—all groups that protect human rights—as anti-Semitic because they have criticized Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical who has used US support for Israel as a way to fire up evangelical support for the president, is backing the proposal, but career officials at the State Department and lawmakers from both parties are alarmed. Such a declaration would give authoritarian governments a way to ban the work of these human rights organizations.

And then, of course, there is the confirmation of Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist who excites evangelicals because of her expressed opposition to abortion rights and excites corporate leaders by her views on the limits of federal power, including her likely opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rushing her confirmation through. In a rare Sunday session this afternoon, after the Senate voted to limit debate on the nomination, McConnell noted: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” Tomorrow, the Senate is expected to confirm Barrett’s elevation to the Supreme Court.

While the administration is working to fire up Trump’s base, it is also working to downplay the coronavirus, even as infections continue to rip across the nation. Daily infection numbers are the highest they have ever been during this crisis, with 78,702 new cases reported on Saturday and more than 20 states at record levels of infection. We have had more than 8.5 million infections in the country and have lost almost 225,000 Americans in the official count to Covid-19. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital; Utah is so overwhelmed it is preparing to ration care.

We learned last night that at least five people on the staff of Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short. Nonetheless, the vice president is not going to quarantine; he is going to continue to campaign. According to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Pence can travel because he is working and he is “essential personnel.” According to other officials, Meadows was hoping to keep the outbreak out of the news.

Today, Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the administration was “not going to control the pandemic.” Instead, “What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this.”

Other countries have managed to bring their numbers of infection and death downward, but the White House plan seems to be simply to let the disease take its course. South Korea, with 55 million people, got the disease at the same time we did. It has had fewer than 500 deaths. With our population of about six times theirs-- 331 million— we have almost 225,000.

But Trump is trying to demonstrate that all is well by rejecting mask use, holding rallies, and telling people, “It is going away.” He has held nearly three dozen rallies since August, usually at airport hangars, appearing to revel in speaking before crowds. In an investigation, USA Today discovered that, in at least five counties, Covid-19 cases rose after Trump’s rallies. “We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything,” Trump said in New Hampshire on Sunday. “Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.”

The staunchly conservative New Hampshire Union Leader, from Manchester, New Hampshire, isn’t buying it. Objecting to the president’s dramatic expansion of the national debt by more than “7 TRILLION dollars” (their capital letters), as well as his weaponizing of social media, the editors note that “We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths.”

The Union Leader is backing Joe Biden. “We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.”


October 26, 2020 (Monday)

Tonight, the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The vote was 52 to 48, with no Democrats voting to confirm Barrett. One Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voted against the confirmation, saying it is too close to an election to fill the seat. Collins is in a tight reelection race against Democrat Sara Gideon, and since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not need Collins’s vote, she could vote no on procedural grounds and hope to push fewer voters to Gideon.

Barrett is an originalist, and will cement a 6-3 majority of justices eager to unwind the judicial decisions of the past seventy years that protect civil rights, business regulation, and a social safety net. Today is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s birthday, and as soon as the vote went through, the Twitter account for the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted: “Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed. Happy Birthday, [Hillary Clinton]!”

McConnell promptly adjourned the Senate until November 9 without taking up a coronavirus relief bill.

An hour later, Trump held a public ceremony for Barrett at the White House, in an echo of the coronavirus super spreader event on September 26 at which he announced her nomination. The ceremony seemed designed to demonstrate that he rejects scientific recommendations about the virus. Barrett took the constitutional oath, administered by Justice Clarence Thomas, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the second oath she must take, the judicial oath, on Tuesday in a private ceremony at the court.) Trump congratulated her in a short speech.

Shortly after the ceremony, Trump released a video of the event with Barrett walking alongside him through the doors of the White House onto a balcony where the two stood for the crowd. It was a triumphant demonstration of Trump’s power, and undermined the illusion that Barrett will be a nonpartisan judge. Traditionally in America, Supreme Court justices keep a distance from political leaders, yet she has just appeared in a campaign commercial for the president.

The significance of Barrett’s elevation to the court showed just minutes before the Senate confirmed her, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 for Wisconsin Republicans who want to block the counting of votes postmarked before Election Day but received up to six days after it. Democrats and civil rights groups wanted the extension because of the pandemic. For this year’s primary in Wisconsin, 80,000 ballots postmarked in time arrived after the election were counted; for the election, such late ballots will be rejected. The court’s decision follows originalist ideology: it says states get to run elections however its legislators wish. That principle trumps the right to vote.

That seemingly principled stand in favor of local democracy hides the reality of one-party rule. Wisconsin has been so thoroughly gerrymandered that although Democrats actually won a majority in state elections in 2018, Republicans hold 63 of the 99 seats in the legislature. It is virtually impossible for Democrats to win control of the state and thus the Republican legislature will get to decide who votes. We have seen such political dominance before… just ask any Black or Brown American.

In a footnote, Justice Kavanaugh went further to argue that states need to avoid “the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of the election. And those States also want to be able to definitely announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.” This is the argument Trump has been making to delegitimize mail-in ballots, and it is political, not judicial. Absentee ballots do not “flip” an election; they are a legitimate part of an election that cannot be decided until they are counted. And the idea of calling an election on the night it is held is a tic of the media. In fact, no state certifies its election results the day of the election. Some take weeks.

So what we have tonight is the Republican Party under Trump ramming through a third Supreme Court justice who is far out of sync with the vast majority of the American people, an authoritarian ceremony for an election ad, and a sign that partisans are working to steal the upcoming election.

This is not a sign of strength—it is a sign of weakness. Trump’s Republicans have gotten a reliable majority on the Supreme Court—for now—but they have delegitimized the Senate and the Supreme Court. It is the desperate act of a party that is so far out of favor with the American people it has given up winning elections fairly and is resorting to the tactics of strongmen. That McConnell pushed this confirmation through right before the election, rather than holding the seat open to fire up evangelicals as he did in 2016, suggests he thinks that even evangelicals cannot save the White House this time around.

The administration is sinking in bad news. It has given up on combatting the coronavirus, which infected 74,323 more Americans today and killed at least 534. Reflecting that the rising infection numbers mean a slower economic recovery, the stock market today had its biggest drop in a month. Financiers are so tired of Trump’s volatility, including his tweets, that they are pouring five times more money behind Biden. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who admitted the coronavirus policy on Sunday, is so hated that 18 administration officials talked to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post about him; one White House advisor said “It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as a chief of staff…. It’s been an unmitigated disaster.”

A Trump appointee who chaired the Federal Salary Council overseeing federal pay resigned today in protest over Trump’s recent Executive Order enabling him to fire key federal workers. “[T]he Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process,” Ron Sanders wrote, “As a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his administration.”

And staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services are openly looking for other jobs. Three of them told Politico’s Dan Diamond that they are voting for Joe Biden. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, but Biden hit the sweet spot. I know he’s not too far left and he understands how to make government work,” one said. "And I know he’ll never make fun of [Anthony] Fauci in public.”

Biden’s campaign, run quietly and steadily, has picked up steam until he is ahead in the polls by about 9 or 10 points nationally, and there is no sign that Trump is closing that gap. Clearly, the president had hoped the malarkey about the Hunter Biden laptop story—which we learned today White House lawyers tried to pitch to the Wall Street Journal before Rudy Giuliani took it to the New York Post-- would create the same stampede from Biden that the email laptop story caused from Clinton in 2016, but that stampede has not materialized.

On Sunday, nine days before the election, about 58.6 million Americans had already voted early, more than the total number who voted early or by mail in 2016. Registered Democrats have made up 51% of those votes, while registered Republicans have made up 31%, leading Trump officials to attack the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and to insist that “the huge majority of President Trump’s supporters” were planning to vote on Election Day. But Black Americans, the heart of the Democratic Party, are turning out in huge numbers. “This election is for saving the U.S.” business consultant Dave Richards told CNN’s Faith Karimi.

People like Biden. They think he’s a decent man, who cares about someone other than himself. He has plenty of that old word, fallen into disuse in the last four years: character. He has principles, honor, a work ethic, and he treats people with respect—attributes we should demand in our officials. He has provided detailed plans about how he would address the country’s problems: systemic racism, economic inequality, and coronavirus, among others. At the same time, he offers a positive vision of America, a welcome contrast to Trump’s dark vision of American carnage. Biden constantly repeats that there is nothing Americans can’t do if we do it together.

And that, right there, is why the Republicans needed to pack the Supreme Court.


October 27, 2020 (Tuesday)

During her interview with the vice-presidential candidate on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday, journalist Norah O’Donnell asked Senator Kamala Harris if she would bring a “socialist or progressive perspective” to the White House. Harris burst out laughing before she said “no.”

Harris’s response has been viewed more than a million times on social media. One person responded “she doesn’t even know she’s into Marxism = socialism = communism.”

Trump and his campaign surrogates, as well as Republican lawmakers, continue to refer to Democrats as “socialists.” In Florida on Friday, Trump said: “We’re not supposed to have a socialist—look we’re not going to be a socialist nation. We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president, we’re not gonna have it, we’re not gonna put up with it.”

Today, in Lansing, Michigan, Trump warned about the elevation of Harris to the presidency, saying that “Joe’s shot; Kamala, you ready?.. She makes Bernie Sanders look like a serious conservative.” Trump seems to be using the term “shot” as the old slang word for “worn out,” but there is no doubt he understands the dual meaning in that word, and is warning that Harris, should she be required to succeed Biden, will be a left-wing radical.

The American obsession with socialism has virtually nothing to do with actual international socialism, which developed in the early twentieth century. International socialism is based on the ideas of political theorist Karl Marx, who believed that, as the working class was crushed under the wealthy during late stage capitalism, it would rise up to take control of the factories, farms, utilities, and so on, taking over the means of production.

That theory has never been popular in America. While we have had a few socialist mayors, the best a socialist candidate has ever done in an election was when Eugene V. Debs won about 6% of the popular vote in 1912. Even then, while Debs called himself a socialist, it is not clear he was advocating the national takeover of industry so much as calling for the government to work for ordinary Americans, rather than the very wealthy, in a time that looked much like our own.

American “socialism” is a very different thing than what Marx was describing in his theoretical works. Fear of it erupted in the 1870s, long before the rise of international socialism, and it grew out of the peculiar American context of the years after the Civil War. During the war, Republicans had both invented national taxation—including the income tax—and welcomed African American men to the ballot box. This meant that, after the Civil War, for the first time in American history, voting had a direct impact on people’s pocketbooks.

After the war, southern Democrats organized as the Ku Klux Klan to try to stop Black Americans from taking their rightful place in society. They assaulted, raped, and murdered their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. But President Ulysses S. Grant met domestic terrorism with federal authority, established the Department of Justice, and arrested Klan members, driving their movement underground.

So reactionary whites took a different tack. The same people who had bitterly and publicly complained about Black Americans participating in society as equal to whites began to argue that their problem with Black voting was not about race, but rather about class. They said that they objected to poor voters being able to elect leaders who promised to deliver services or public improvements, like schools and roads, that could be paid for only by taxes, levied on property holders.

In the South of the post-Civil War years, almost all property holders were white. They argued that Black voting amounted to a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to poor Black people. It was, they insisted, “socialism,” or, after workers in Paris created a Commune in 1871, “communism.”

This is the origin of the American obsession with “socialism,” more than 40 years before Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution.

Since that time, Americans have cried “socialism” whenever ordinary Americans try to use the government to level the economic playing field by calling for business regulation—which will cost tax dollars by requiring bureaucrats—or for schools and roads, or by asking for a basic social safety net. But the public funding of roads and education and health care is not the same thing as government taking over the means of production. Rather, it is an attempt to prevent a small oligarchy from using the government to gather power to themselves, cutting off the access of ordinary Americans to resources, a chance to rise, and, ultimately, to equality before the law.

It is striking that O’Donnell felt it appropriate to ask Harris if she is a socialist—and lots of people apparently think that’s a legitimate question—while no one seems to be asking Trump, who is currently in power, if he’s a fascist.

Fascism is a far-right political ideology born in the early twentieth century. At its heart is the idea of a strong nation, whose people are welded into a unit by militarism abroad and the suppression of opposition at home. While socialism starts from the premise that all members of society are equal, fascists believe that that some people are better than others, and those elites should direct all aspects of society. To promote efficiency, fascists believe, business and government should work together to direct production and labor. To make people loyal to the state, fascists promote the idea of a domestic enemy that threatens the country and which therefore must be vanquished to make the nation great. The idea of a hierarchy of men leads to the defense of a dictatorial leader who comes to embody the nation.

Trump has certainly rallied far-right thugs to his side. At his first debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, he told the far-right Proud Boys to “stand by,” and last week a study warned that five U.S. states are at risk for election-related armed violence by right-wing terrorists who have already threatened elected officials.

Today, Trump repeatedly attacked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at his rally in Lansing. Whitmer was a target of right-wing extremists who plotted to kidnap her and put her on trial for “treason,” and she has asked him repeatedly to stop riling up his followers against her. He has also weaponized government police for his own ends, sending them into the streets to bash peaceful protesters in a campaign he insists, in an echo of fascist leaders, will produce “law and order.”

He has certainly behaved as if some Americans are better than others, telling us that we simply must accept more than 225,000 deaths from coronavirus even as we know that those deaths disproportionately hit the elderly and Black and Brown Americans. Over the past week, the U.S has reported more than 500,000 new cases—a record—while Trump claimed credit today for “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.” He uses images of himself as a strongman, insists he has handled his job perfectly, and increasingly uses our public property as props for dramatic videos and photoshoots.

He is purging the public service of career officials and replacing them with loyalists. Recently, he issued an Executive Order stripping public servants of their civil service protections so he can fire those who are insufficiently loyal and fill their posts with cronies. Last night, his hand-picked head of Voice of America, Michael Pack, scrapped a federal regulation giving editorial freedom to the U.S. media outlets under the VOA umbrella. Pack wants editorial control, to turn the public outlet into a mouthpiece for Trump. Former VOA director Amanda Bennett told NPR she was “stunned” at his actions, which remove “the one thing that makes Voice of America distinct from broadcasters of repressive regimes.”

He has set up Muslims and immigrants as scapegoats, and has increasingly threatened Democrats, saying they should not be allowed to win the upcoming election, an election he has threatened to ignore unless he wins.

It’s a frightening list, no?

But for all that, Trump is an aspiring oligarch, rather than a fascist. He has no driving ideology except money and sees the country as a piggy bank rather than as a juggernaut for national greatness. Still, that his drive for power comes from a different place than fascism makes it no less dangerous to our democracy.

Over the next few years, we are going to have to have hard conversations about the role of government in society. Those conversations will not be possible if any Democratic policy to regulate runaway capitalism is met with howls of “socialism” while Republican policies that increasingly concentrate power in a small group of Americans are not challenged for the dangerous ideologies they mimic.


October 28, 2020 (Wednesday)

Today marks the beginning of the last week of the 2020 campaign. The candidates are making their closing arguments to voters.

The Biden campaign has announced that it will dispatch vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris to campaign in Texas on Friday, suggesting that it thinks Texas is in play. Since the 2016 election, Texas has gained at least 2 million emigrants from others states, many of them Democrats. About 800,000 Latinx Americans have turned 18. More than 3 million Texans have registered to vote for the first time. Democrats are pouring money into the state, money the strapped Trump campaign can’t match.

If the Biden campaign looks strong, news looks less cheery on the Republican side.

First the good news for Trump: today 80-year-old golfer Jack Nicklaus endorsed him—as he did in 2016— warning that “if we want to continue to have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, and not evolve into a socialist America and have the government run your life,” voters should back Trump. Nicklaus and Trump golf together, and Trump has steered $20 million in federal money to Nicklaus’s mobile children’s hospital program. Nicklaus is from Ohio and still popular there. Trump is slightly ahead in the state, and Nicklaus’s endorsement could help him hold it.

That was the day’s high point for Trump. To launch the final week of the campaign, last night the president held a rally at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, in near-freezing temperatures. The campaign bussed attendees to the site from parking lots about three miles away, but when the rally was over and Trump had headed off on Air Force One, the buses could not navigate the crowded road and rally-goers were stranded. By the time the last people were finally rescued, 30 people needed medical attention.

Critics said this negligence showed how little Trump values his supporters but, rather than contradict that impression, the campaign’s national press secretary Hogan Gidley made it worse. This morning, CNN host Alisyn Camerota asked him about the vice president’s campaign events during the pandemic. She asked, “are you at all concerned given that there has been an outbreak in the vice president’s orbit of people around him and that there is currently an outbreak – I mean, hospitals in Wisconsin are near capacity…. [D]oes that give you any pause or the vice president any pause about going there and holding a big rally?” Gidley responded “No, it doesn’t. The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him, they’ve obviously contact-traced and have come to the conclusion it’s fine for him to be out on the campaign trail.”


Today coronavirus continued to spike around the country as we approach 9 million coronavirus cases. More than 20 states have record levels of infection. Today the nation reported 81,181 new cases and 1,016 deaths.

The rising numbers of infections, and how that will delay an economic recovery, drove the stock market down sharply today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 943.24 points, or 3.4%, its worst drop since June.

Since March, attorneys have filed more than 300 election cases in state and federal courts. Most of the lawsuits have to do with mail-in voting, made imperative this year by the pandemic. Republicans are trying to depress voting by making it harder to vote; Democrats are trying to increase voting by making it easier. Today a factual error in a Supreme Court opinion upholding the Republican effort embarrassed one of Trump’s Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh.

On Monday, five Supreme Court justices—all appointed by Republicans—backed a request from Wisconsin Republicans to throw out ballots postmarked by November 3 but received up to six days later. In his explanation of why he was siding with the Republicans, Kavanaugh said that state legislatures should be the ones to decide on voting rules. He specifically noted Vermont as a state that has “decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots.” In fact, Vermont did change its rules, making two major changes, and today Vermont’s Secretary of State Jim Condos formally requested that Kavanaugh’s opinion be corrected.

Meanwhile, with no verification and dubious origins, the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop is dying, and likely will have little of the impact for which Trump was clearly hoping. The president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is still trying to push the story, but with little luck. He blew up when a host on the Fox Business Network suggested the Hunter Biden laptop story was unverified. Tucker Carlson tonight claimed that he had “real, authentic and damning” new Hunter Biden documents, but a producer shipped them to Carlson’s home—apparently without making copies of them-- and they mysteriously disappeared.

News services today reported that Russians are secretly developing illegal chemical weapons. If true, this puts pressure on Trump to respond. So far, he has resisted pushing back on Putin’s treaty violations, including the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, although Britain and the European Union acted.

Today, Miles Taylor, former chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019, revealed that he was the person who published critiques of Trump under the pen name “Anonymous.” In 2018, Taylor wrote an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that a number of people inside the administration were working hard to keep Trump from destroying the country. In 2019, he wrote a book he called “a character study,” warning that many of the officials at the highest levels of the government were alarmed by Trump’s instability.

In a piece published today on Medium, Taylor noted that an unprecedented number of former officials of the Trump administration are speaking out against the president, and he urged ordinary Americans to join the chorus. Taylor warned that, if he is reelected, “Trump unbound will mean a nation undone — a continued downward slide into social acrimony, with the United States fading into the background of a world stage it once commanded, to say nothing of the damage to our democratic institutions.”

The candidates have six more days to make their final pitch.


That’s not how contact tracing works. There’s a photo of him with his chief of staff less than 48 hours prior to the positive test; neither of them were wearing a mask. That’s a contact, and Pence hadn’t completed the full incubation time post-contact when that comment was made.

Fucking amateurs can’t be bothered to do a 30-second google search before bullshitting.


I think they are so accustomed to empty buzzwords that they really can’t imagine that “contact tracing” refers to any kind of specific method or procedure. It simply means “some COVID theatre shit” to them. This is how little they care about any and every one in this country and how empty their understanding of literally anything is. What sickens me is that people still trust them. The Trumpist stooges know their audience may be too lazy to look it up too and that the ones who aren’t too lazy may not be able to understand well enough. So they don’t have to care.


October 29, 2020 (Thursday)

Four years ago, headlines across the country announced that FBI Director James Comey had sent a letter to Congress on October 28 saying that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State. That announcement, made despite the Justice Department’s policy of taking care not to do anything that could affect an election, swung the election toward Donald Trump, who won.

Four years later, Trump’s attempt to seed another “investigation” into his rival through the “discovery” of a compromising laptop has fizzled. Today, NBC News noted that a document purporting to show Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden in a corrupt relationship with Communist leaders in China was actually ghost written by an academic and published under a fake identity.

Meanwhile, a record number of 80 million early ballots have already been cast, and we are all parsing the polls for clues about who will emerge as the winner of the 2020 election.

What is clear is that, as we approach the end of the campaigns, each is reflecting its presidential candidate.

This morning, the New York Times revealed that Trump and Attorney General William Barr worked together to try to stop a criminal investigation into a bank owned by the Turkish state. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, was preparing a case against Halkbank, which the government suspected was laundering money and sending billions of dollars to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Investigators believed Iran was using the money to pay for its nuclear weapons program. The case involved President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and members of his family and his political party. In June 2019, Berman was shocked when Barr asked him to end the investigations and let Halkbank get away with paying a fine and admitting some wrongdoing.

The story shows Trump undermining American policy to advance his own interests. From the beginning of Trump’s presidency, Turkey worked to gain influence with the new administration, hiring Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn, for example, as a lobbyist. Erdogan had personally lobbied Trump hard to get rid of the Halkbank investigation. Senior officials worried that the president was chatting with an authoritarian leader about a criminal case, in a country where Trump does business. Erdogan had tried unsuccessfully to get the Obama administration to drop the case, but now appeared to be having better luck. Erdogan told reporters that Trump had assured him he would take care of the matter. It was not until Trump and Erdogan clashed over Syria last October that the U.S. charged the bank, but the charges did not include any individuals. Barr fired Berman this summer.

Similarly, Trump’s willingness to defend his own interests at others’ expense is showing in the final days of his campaign. It is showing generally, with his willingness to expose his supporters to coronavirus infections at his rallies. It is showing more specifically with Trump’s refusal to support endangered Republican Senators who have stood by him and lost support because of it. At Trump’s recent visit to Maine, he did not mention Senator Susan Collins, who is in a tight race with her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon.

In Arizona, Trump mocked vulnerable senator Martha McSally. “Martha, just come up fast. Fast. Fast. Come on. Quick. You got one minute!” Trump said, as the senator rushed to the stage for some airtime with the president. "One minute, Martha! They don’t want to hear this, Martha. Come on. Let’s go. Quick, quick, quick. Come on. Let’s go.” Trump gave McSally just 60 seconds to speak, before turning the microphone over to other national figures.

A recent endorsement of the president was damning. The publisher of the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington, urged people to vote for Trump only because he claimed Biden’s policies would “strike at the economic well-being of the country.” As for Trump himself, the editorial acknowledged, he “is a bully and a bigot…. He panders to racists and prevents sensible immigration reform in a nation built on immigrant labor and intellect. He tweets conspiracy theories. He’s cavalier about Covid-19 and has led poorly through the pandemic. He seeks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without proposing a replacement. He denies climate change.”

Even such a half-hearted endorsement drew rebuttals from an editor and a columnist at the paper.

The campaign continues to downplay the coronavirus. Tonight, campaign spokesperson Donald Trump, Jr., told Fox News Channel personality Laura Ingraham that the number of deaths from Covid-19 is now “almost nothing, because we’ve gotten control of this.” But today alone, at least 951 Americans died of the coronavirus, and more than 91,000 new cases were reported. Our overall official death total is approaching 230,000. “If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday night.

Trump has begun to muse about losing the election, and said he would like simply to drive away, or fly away, from the burden of the presidency. Yesterday, retired Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack wrote that, with his immense financial debts and pending legal issues, “Trump appears to be a classic flight risk.”

Still, though, the president continues to fire up his base with accusations that Democrats are engaging in voter fraud, and that counting ballots after November 3 will mean a stolen election. His rhetoric is so worrisome that business owners in Washington, D.C., are boarding up their windows and Walmart is pulling guns and ammunition from its shelves (although it will continue to sell them on request).

Tonight, both candidates are in Florida, and while Trump could have focused on today’s economic report showing 7% GDP growth in the third quarter, he went all-in with attacks on Hunter Biden and mused about losing.

In contrast to Trump’s erratic personality-driven campaign, Biden’s campaign is smooth and professional. Unlike the Trump campaign, it has plenty of money, and is running fun, moving, and professional ads on social media emphasizing unity and healing for the country.

In addition to the many other groups breaking in Biden’s favor, early data suggests that young Americans are turning out to vote in record numbers. About 63% of voters from ages 18 to 29 say they support Biden, while only about 25% support Trump.

While the polls are suggesting there is little movement in the race, there has been a shift toward Biden in Georgia in the past few days. That shift will likely get a boost from an astonishing moment in a hard-hitting debate last night between embattled incumbent Senator David Perdue, a Republican, and his challenger, Democrat Jon Ossoff.

After Perdue attacked Ossoff for taking money from out-of-state donors who support a “radical socialist agenda,” Ossoff countered with a devastating takedown: “Perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the Covid-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading,” he said. “It’s not just that you’re a crook, Senator, it’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent.” Perdue seemed frozen. The clip has gone viral, and today Perdue pulled out of the final debate scheduled between him and Ossoff. Instead he will join Trump for a rally that night.

Biden and Harris are reaching out to Hispanic voters, whose support will matter a lot in southern states. In Florida tonight, at a drive-in event, Biden hammered on Trump’s approach to the pandemic, called for racial justice, and promised that he will not be too hard on Cuba or too soft on Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president. Biden got a boost today from an op-ed in the Miami Herald by Hispanic business and economic leaders who endorsed Biden as the candidate who would build “a stronger, more dynamic economy that works for everyone.” With Hispanic voters extra-concerned about charges of “socialism,” the op-ed’s authors emphasized that Biden is the candidate of “free enterprise.”

Today, Biden wrapped together his pitch to Hispanic voters, an appeal to morality and a better future, and an illustration of how a Biden presidency will be different than its predecessor. He promised that, if he is elected president, he will immediately create a task force to reunite the families of the 545 immigrant children still separated from their parents.


October 30, 2020 (Friday)

And so it is Friday. We are in the final countdown to the 2020 election.

The polls at the popular political website FiveThirtyEight favor Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are not out of the running. Every poll shows Biden far ahead of Trump in the popular vote, but because of our Electoral College system, the president could still win reelection. Virtually no one is suggesting that Trump could win the popular vote, and his campaign’s plan is simply to get enough Democratic votes thrown out in swing states that he can win those electoral votes and clinch the election. Never before in our history has a candidate openly planned to win an election by gaming the system, but here we are.

It feels today like a bunch of stories from the past are coming home to roost.

For all of the attention on the election, the top story remains the coronavirus, which is infecting Americans and killing us at an alarming rate. Today we broke a terrifying record: the U.S. had more than 100,000 new infections. In all but a handful of states, the virus is spreading unchecked. A scathing new report from a congressional panel chaired by Jim Clyburn (D-SC) calls the administration’s response to the pandemic “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.”

The coronavirus story is also the story of the election, as Trump and his supporters insist those eager to combat the pandemic are simply trying to hurt the president. Trump complains bitterly of the attention media is giving to “covid, covid, covid,” and today told people attending his rally in Michigan that doctors are exaggerating the threat of coronavirus because they get paid more if a cause of death is listed as Covid-19. The American Medical Association released a statement saying “The suggestion is a… malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge.” It pointed out that doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are risking their lives daily to try to defeat the virus.

The administration’s changes to the reporting system for coronavirus have hampered our ability to combat it. In July, the administration shifted the way hospital data is collected, taking the project away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and giving it to a private contractor. CDC experts no longer check and analyze the data. Information on hospitalizations is no longer publicly available, so states cannot see what is happening elsewhere. This hides the picture of what is happening nationally, making it impossible for public health officials to plan for spikes.

Meanwhile, Twitter users today reminded us that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told the nation in mid-September that the White House was planning to have 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine ready by the end of October. A White House aide said today that that deadline was “kind of… arbitrary,” although Trump told a rally in Arizona this week that we would have a vaccine “momentarily.” No companies have applied for approval yet.

The Trump campaign mirrors the past practices of the Trump administration. The Government Accountability Office says Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli are in their jobs illegally, but Trump has kept them where they can do his bidding. He has recently dispatched the two men, along with top leaders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to hold press conferences in swing states boasting of Trump’s immigration policies. In an unprecedented politicization of their offices, they are making the case for Trump’s reelection, warning, for example, that there will be an “unimaginable public health crisis” at the southern border if Biden is elected. They are also putting up official billboards that support Trump’s reelection.

Dave Lapan, a retired Marine Corps colonel who served as DHS spokesman during the Trump Administration when John Kelly was the secretary, told TIME magazine, “The rhetoric that’s come out of Wolf and Cuccinelli is appearing to be a propaganda arm of the White House.” The agency looks like “an extension of the president’s re-election campaign.”

The attempts of the Trump administration to manipulate the election through government appointments showed up in another way today, too, when a video surfaced of piles of mail at the Miami-Dade Post Office. The person who took the video said the mail, which included ballots, had sat unsorted for more than a week, precisely what people feared would happen when Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, implemented new rules for mail delivery this summer. Several Florida officials said they were launching an investigation, but U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan isn’t waiting around. He ordered the United States Postal Service to implement emergency measures to speed up delivery of ballots.

Republicans have more than 300 lawsuits underway in 44 states to try to stop the counting of mail-in ballots in general. In Texas, for example, they want courts to invalidate more than 100,000 votes in and around Houston because voters cast them at drive-through voting centers. In Pennsylvania and Minnesota, election officials are setting aside mail-in ballots postmarked on or before November 3 but arriving afterward, anticipating court challenges.

But judges are inclined to defend voting rights. So Republicans are now turning their focus to individual ballots. In Nevada, for example, they hope to examine the signatures on every single ballot to challenge the ones they don’t believe match.

Trump has hinted to his supporters that they should intimidate voters, either keeping them from voting or making them turn away at the polls. Voter intimidation—disrupting the voting process in any way-- is a crime under both federal and state law. States and the federal government take it very seriously indeed, setting up trained poll workers at every venue, and providing voter protection hotlines in each state and at the federal level as well. Earlier this month, right-wing activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged on four counts of intimidating voters in at least five states through robocalls. If convicted, the men could face up to 12 years in prison.

For his part, Trump continues to preach to the converted at his rallies, but social media trackers say his shocking performances are no longer attracting positive attention on those sites. Followers find him boring, and much prefer Biden’s calm, solid messages.

So a better bet for Trump’s reelection is his pitch to call the election on November 3. He says that a longer time period would be new and unfair, but this is just wrong: the election is not over until a state certifies the results, and no state does that on Election Day. More to the point was Trump’s statement in March, when he objected to a Democratic proposal to encourage voting, saying “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Some stories from the past are continuing despite the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today he would not take up a coronavirus relief bill until January. He also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he had every intention of continuing to confirm judges, despite the Senate’s traditional practice of stopping judicial confirmations at some point during an election year. “We’re going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the President,” he said. “We’re going to fill the 7th Circuit. And I’m hoping we have time to fill the 1st Circuit as well.” “We’re going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well,” he told Hewitt.

One more returning story from the past: today one of the Louisville police officers who stormed Breonna Taylor’s apartment has sued her boyfriend for emotional distress, assault, and battery. Taylor’s friend, Kenneth Walker, a licensed gun owner, allegedly shot the officer, Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg as the law enforcement officers broke into the apartment on March 13. Walker thought they were intruders and fired his gun. The police opened fire and killed Breonna Taylor. They arrested Walker for attempted murder, but the charges were later dropped. He has filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the police department. And now Officer Mattingly is suing him.

“Walker’s conduct in shooting Mattingly is outrageous, intolerable, and offends all accepted standards of decency and morality,” Mattingly’s lawsuit said. For his part, Walker’s lawyer noted that his client was protected by Kentucky’s laws about self-defense in one’s home, and added, “One would think that breaking into the apartment, executing his girlfriend and framing him for a crime in an effort to cover up her murder would be enough for them….” He called the lawsuit a “baseless attempt to further victimize and harass Kenny.”

And after all these stories from the past, a story from the future: today Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in Berlin threw its statue of Trump into a dumpster in preparation for a new president.


Best closing line yet!!! I LOVE THIS! HCR FTW!

I want to go muss up his hair, wrinkle his suit and put a banana peel on his shoulder.