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State of flux
Masks (Suzie Dickson)
State of flux – The political cauldron has been boiling of late, with much of the action well outside the normal course. There have been three major phases to date: presidential impeachment (Act One), coronavirus pandemic (Act Two), and a nationwide wave of social justice protests and demands (Act Three). More surprises could surface between now and November. The political outlook remains uncertain, 6/22/20.
What do these developments portend for the positions of political candidates and the likely outcome of the November elections? What’s changed, what hasn’t, and how will the two sides need to adjust their campaign plans so as to make their respective cases?
As a starting point, consider what Democratic presidential candidates were saying in their 2019 debates. (1) The current president must be given the boot, whether via impeachment or in the upcoming election. Anyone standing on this stage would be better, etc. (2) The president would claim credit for robust economic results, so Democratic candidates needed to counter this claim. (3) Promising to deliver better/cheaper healthcare for all Americans sounded good, but was Obamacare Plus or Medicare for All (single payer) the best approach? (4) All of the candidates vowed to lead a battle against catastrophic global warming, which would involve promoting the use of renewable energy (wind or solar – to which Andrew Yang added nuclear) while penalizing the use of fossil fuels.
House Democrats voted articles of impeachment in December, but this thrust ended with an essentially party-line vote for acquittal in the Senate – one day after the president had delivered an upbeat State of the Union address. Trump was riding high, it seemed, and Democrats might pay a price for launching an impeachment process that was arguably motivated by spite. Then came Acts Two & Three, both still in progress, which completely altered the political landscape.
It would be easy to focus on the current negatives, and there are many, but this newsletter will take a more optimistic – and hopefully realistic – approach.
Biden surge – Joe Biden lagged in the early primary contests, and after the Nevada caucuses on February 22 Sen. Bernie Sanders was leading. No one expected Sanders to secure enough delegates in the primaries to win the nomination, but Karl Rove’s “contested convention” prediction at the start of the year was beginning to seem probable.
Then came the South Carolina primary, with a solid win for Biden, followed by the withdrawal of several Democratic candidates from the race. After a big night in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3, Biden appeared to be the inevitable nominee. Meanwhile, the coronavirus escalated from a secondary issue in the US to a crisis.
Sanders probably wouldn’t have won the nomination under any circumstances, the party elders didn’t want to back a self-described Democratic Socialist who kept advocating political revolution. But the exigencies of the coronavirus pandemic favored reaching a decision more quickly.
Biden had served as vice president in the prior administration, and he was perceived to have more crossover appeal than Sanders. His campaign strategy would be to maintain a low profile, which seemed to be what the situation required. And last but not least, the public was losing interest in the seemingly endless process of picking a Democratic nominee.
There would be one more Democratic presidential debate on March 15, this time with two candidates (Biden & Sanders) on stage and no live audience. Then, having done his best to push Biden to adopt left-leaning policy positions, Sanders suspended his campaign. Biden’s campaign activity for the next several months consisted primarily of virtual events broadcast from his Delaware home.
Voting continued in primary races around the country, but the results were simply not big news. Reports in early June that Biden had clinched the nomination drew a distinctly ho-hum reaction.
Issues – In preparation for the 2020 elections, the president and his supporters had been boasting of record low unemployment and a robust economy. See, e.g., the picture he painted in the SOTU address. Transcript, 2/4/20.
[After taking] office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy—slashing a record number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements. *** The unemployment rate is the lowest in over half a century. *** If we hadn’t reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success.
But conditions changed rapidly as the coronavirus pandemic surged, necessitating numerous restrictions that led in short order to double digit unemployment and a major economic recession. The economy: an abrupt plunge, 4/6/20.
Republicans could talk all they wanted about how well the US economy was doing until the coronavirus came along, but they wouldn’t get much credit for that in November. Similarly, memories of the botched impeachment effort would be overridden by the ensuing pandemic – largely erasing a Democratic negative.
For their part, Democrats seemingly moved the global warming issue to the back burner. Perhaps they figured that Americans wouldn’t be inclined to worry about global temperatures in 30 or 40 years when the country was facing an undeniably real crisis right now.
These shifts in sentiment were reinforced by the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, which was attributed to police racism. One of the officers was charged with murdering the black suspect, and three others with aiding and abetting.
A wave of protests followed in Minneapolis and other cities around the country, some of which turned violent. The current list of demands includes defunding the police, which would arguably harm the interests of the black community, and taking down statutes of numerous historic figures.
The election may now turn on which party can offer the best answers to the coronavirus pandemic and social grievances, to include not only surviving them but what should happen next.
Let’s get America moving again. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1960)
Campaigning – The president and his supporters (Team Trump) were chomping at the bit to start holding political rallies again, as they had been doing until March. Pointing to social justice protests taking place all over the country despite coronavirus restrictions, they scheduled a rally in Tulsa Oklahoma on June 20.
The other side (Team Blue) did their level best to block, disrupt or disparage this event, which at best was a mixed success. But the Tulsa rally communicated Team Trump’s goals even if some details seemed to be missing from the action plan
Stop obsessing about the coronavirus, the current restrictions are undermining morale and causing other health problems that are every bit as serious. In particular, let’s reopen the public schools in September because young people are resistant to the disease and virtual learning doesn’t seem to be cutting it.
Unleash the power of the private sector rather than relying on government action. Things are already happening, and by next year we can anticipate the biggest economic recovery in history.
Encourage the police to put a brake on protests as soon as the violence starts, albeit punishing “bad apple” officers as necessary. Take pride in our nation’s heritage versus buying into the guilt trip naysayers are trying to lay on us.
SAFE respects the effort that went into the Tulsa rally, and hopes there will be more rallies that fill in some of the blanks.
What’s the Team Blue response? Aside from opposing all of the president’s proposals and favoring another multitrillion-dollar spending bill to ease angst about the economic recession, we’re not quite sure. It would be helpful for the Biden campaign to start explaining its agenda and taking real questions on when and how they envision a return to some semblance of normalcy. More culture war than election campaign, 6/29/20.
The former vice president has made one thing clear. Biden would use federal authority to mandate masks, thehill.com, 6/26/20.
I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen, it would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks.
Too bad for anyone who might happen to have a different view of the matter. See the next story for a contrary perspective.
Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. – Ronald Reagan (1981)
Why are we still wearing masks? Suzie Dickson - Wearing masks has gained acceptance as one of the precautionary measures being used to minimize the spread of Covid-19. As time goes on, however, it’s natural to wonder whether the masks are doing any good and how long they will be required.
Many people may say this practice has been recommended by medical experts so end of discussion, but expert guidance has vacillated. In early March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said masks weren’t effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19 for the vast majority of the public - only for those who were infected and symptomatic, and for medical staff. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) initially concurred, but later said it was desirable for everyone to wear masks in public places.
WHO fell in line with the revised CDC guidance, only to issue a subsequent report that wearing masks may increase the likelihood of respiratory infections. In a similar vein, Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD cites a study of 212 healthcare workers (47 males & 165 females). One third of the workers developed headaches with the use of the masks due to hypoxia (reduction in blood oxygenation, which can result in loss of consciousness and impair immunity) and/or hypercapnia (elevation of CO2 in the blood, which can inhibit immune cells used to fight COVID-19).
See also The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2020: “We know that wearing a mask outside healthcare facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. *** The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
Given conflicting advice from medical experts, why is the public still being required to wear masks? Why not allow people to decide for themselves rather than leaving this decision to public officials? Even if mask wearing is deemed necessary for now, how long should the authorities wait before relaxing the requirement?
Skeptics might say mask orders are really about power and control versus public health concerns. Perhaps this will sound like a stretch, but don’t you feel less free when wearing a mask – which makes it harder for others to hear you clearly let alone reading your facial expressions. Similarly, “social distancing” and store capacity restrictions serve to isolate people and weaken the bonds between them, again increasing the relative power of the State that is making the rules.
Take off the masks, open businesses and allow people to live their lives. The mantra repeated these past few months has been “Stay Safe” – NO – I say “Stay Free!”
National holiday – It’s been suggested that “June teenth” should be designated as a national holiday in order to honor the abolition of slavery. But would the observance of such a holiday truly contribute to national unity, as opposed to underscoring divisions that already exist?
Our thought would be to designate the first Tuesday in November as “Free Speech Day.” This would recognize an essential element of the American political tradition, which should please everyone, and also make it easier for citizens to come to the polls on Election Day.
Why is in-person voting desirable? It (a) dignifies the election process by postponing voting until the candidates’ campaigns have been completed, (b) minimizes the risks of voter fraud, and (c) permits election results to be quickly tallied rather than risking lengthy delays in determining the outcome of close elections. US electoral system is faltering, 12/10/18.
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