A Virtual Convention

The Democratic National Convention started on Monday, but like the 2020 version of everything else it was far different than usual. There were no ballrooms filled to the brim with button-wearing delegates, no bands playing campaign theme songs, and no network cameras or press scribes filling their notebooks.
That’s because the coronavirus version of the convention is “virtual,” with the candidates and delegates and party officials spread all over the country but connected by the modern miracle of the internet. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same old show.
Otherwise, it was the same old show.Some very famous celebrity we’ve never heard introduced four speakers, all of whom spoke on behalf of presumptive nominee. The choice of speakers, though, was a bit unusual.
Up first was Vermont Sen. and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Democratic party’s sizable bolshevik faction and the runner-up in the last two Democratic primary races. He spent the first part of his speech castigating Biden as a corporate sell-out for not endorsing Medicare for all and other far-left pipe dreams. This was a big favor to Biden, as it reassured swing voters that Biden’s not the looney left figure that Trump hopes to portray, and Sanders finished by imploring his followers to not let Trump win. He was followed by Michigans constantly upbeat and staunchly centrist Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who gave the impression of a fully unified Democratic party.
The next speaker was highly unusual because he’s a Republican, former Ohio Sen. and Governor John Kasich. Kasich has been one of the very, very few Republicans willing to criticize Trump, and eventually the criticisms mounted to a point that he’s endorsing the Democratic nominee. He can expect to be reviled by his erstwhile party, at least until he’s called upon to help revive it. The finale was by former First Lady Michelle Obama, whose famously heartfelt style came through as she described her personal relationship with Biden, but was able to strike a far harsher term when criticizing Trump.
All in all, a pretty good start for the Democrats. Assuming anyone was paying attention.

— Bud Norman


The Only Alternative

Our very favorite reader is a reluctant supporter of President Donald Trump..He no longer musters any defense of Trump against Trump’s dishonesty and incompetence and corruption crudity, but he feels even greater disdain for the Democratic Party and is continually frustrated that we offer no alternative.
Alas, there is no alternative at the moment, except to begin the difficult process of creating a far better alternative in the future.That means helping the Republican Party of Trump go down in flames,
then trying to revive the Party of Lincoln and Grant and McKinley and Eisenhower and Reagan from the ashes.
America needs a sane center-right party, and always has and always will. Not just to thwart the most destructive ambitions of the left, but to formulate new innovations to improve America’s economy and culture. The party’s economic policy must bemixed but mostly free system based on facts, science and well-tested theories, and not whatever Trump’s gut instincts intuit on a certain day. A sane center-right party would reject Trump’s protectionist trade policies, which favor certain American industries over others and had the manufacturing sector in recession even before the coronavirus and somehow never resulted in those promised greatest deals anyone had ever seen.

The new Republican party should seek to maintain and strengthen the international institutions and the military and trade alliances mostly kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II, and stop antagonizing invaluable allies over perceived personal slights and aggrandizing the brutal dictators arrayed against us in exchange for their flattery. It should return to its previous principle of aiding democratic movements anyway.</div.

The new Republican party should be less overtly redneck. America has complicated racial that must be carefully worked out, and defending the confederacy and attacking athletes who take a knee during the National Anthem is not a solution. A more respectful attitude toward women would also be helpful, given the astounding gender gap the party of Trump now has. A new Republican party could continue to champion the rights of white men, but must realize that does no require restricting the rights of anyone else.

The new Republican party should continue to respect the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but absolutely reject theocracy, and be tolerant of the many belief systems Americans live by. It can continue to be an antiabortion party, but that cannot be its single issue, and dissenters must not only be tolerated but welcomed into the party.
Above all, a new Republican party would choose its leaders by their qualification and the quality of their character. It would choose men and women capable of responding to the opposition’s arguments with better counterarguments rather than schoolyard taunts and childish nicknames. It would respect the norms of civil discourse, and at all times seek satisfactory compromises rather than total annihilation of the hated enemy.
Admittedly, the downside to this plan is four long years of a Democratic administration, which we would no more relish than our favorite readers. We expect the country would survive that better than another four years of Trump, though. With trust in our constitutional systems and powerful non-governmental institutions, the country survived 16 years of Roosevelt-Truman, eight years of Kennedy-Johnson, four years of Carter, eight years of Clinton, and America somehow survived. Those years left America with a bigger and more expensive government, but they also created Social Security and Medicare and some things our favorite reader now praises. Somehow a Biden-Harris doesn’t seem likely to destroy the country in four short years.
The rebuilding won’t be easy, given how much of the Republican party has sold its soul to Trump, but it won’t be impossible. Much of the conservative electorate — George Will, Jennifer Rubin, Jonah Goldberg, Max Boot, Irving Kristol, Fred Barnes — have remained faithful to traditional Republicanism and unintimidated to call out Trump’s heresies. There are numerous economic and military think-tanks that have continued their center-right ideas with no regard to Trump. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is the only Republican in Congress to have maintained his integrity, but Independent Rep. Justin Amash would be welcomed back into the party, and surely in each of the 50 states that are Republican legislators and state officials untainted by Trumpism and eager to establish a new and better Republican party. The party should have appeal to both big business donors and rank and file workers who will also pitch, and could be competitive by the next presidential race.
To many of Trump’s dwindling group of supporters this project won’t be nearly entertaining as Trump’s Charlie Callas routines at the rallies, and not so much fun as seeing all the liberals thoroughly enraged, but they’ll get more wins and fewer humiliations.

— Bud Norman

Return to Normalcy

One can’t help reminiscing these days, and lately we keep wandering back to the long ago year of 2016. In retrospect is was a pretty good year. Unemployment was relatively low by historical standards, the economy was growing at a slow but steady pace, and people walked through public spaces to attend sporting events and public festivals and churches and bars without wearing uncomfortable face masks. Yet for some reason it was a very angry year.
Meanwhile, everyone to the left of that certain point was feeling betrayed and disillusioned. Just eight years earlier liberals saw Obama as a messianic figure, a “light giver” whose charisma and brilliance would at long last deliver the socialist utopia that generations o progressive thinkers had so
longed for.
Both sides, of course, overestimated the man. During the first two years he had the support o sizable majorities in Congress, and was able to pass a health care reform law that angered everyone on the right but was far short of the fully socialized health care system that the left wanted. After that he was constrain by the Constitution and a gridlocked government from passing any significant legislation, which of course furthered the anger on both sides.
Which in turn made for a weird presidential election that will surely befuddle historians for centuries.
Despite its many successes in retraining Obama much of the Republican party had come to blame “the establishment” for not destroying an opposition it no, routinely referred to as “satanic.” By “establishment” the party firebrands meant the professionals, and anyone with any claims to expertise in a given area, apparently on the logic that such people had wrought such devastation on America that only complete amateurs with no credentials whatsoever could repair the damage. A reality television show star named Donald Trump, an oft-bankrupt and thrice-married businessman who shared the populist disdain for pointy-headed types seemed the man for the moment.
Somehow all of Trump’s myriad flaws came to be seen as selling points. Yeah, he was a liar and a cheat and bully, but that was what it would take to defeat the damned Democrats, and he’d be lying and cheating and bullying for America. He was crude and vulgar and preferred to answer criticisms with a schoolyard taunt rather than a counterargument, but Senators John McCain and Mitt Romney had been perfect gentleman, and what good did that do? Trump was clearly a racist and sexist, but it turned out that more Republicans than we had suspected had no problem with that, and his supporters argued that any Republican nominee would face the same accusations.
The Democrats had their own sizable “anti-establishment” faction, which wanted to go full-blown socialist with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but the party was more concerned about four years of Republican and placed its bet on the very establishment former First Lady and Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton had the credentials, but those were of little use in 2016, and she also had decades of scandals big and small to explain, and was a uniquely awful campaigner. Between the two, they offered America it’s worst choices in the history of American politics.
Clinton wound up winning the popular vote by some three millions, but razor-thin victories in four states handed the electoral college and the presidency to Trump, Which has done little to diminish the polarization and hatreds of the American people. The upcoming election will surely make it worse.
We’ve largely forgotten all of the dystopian details that the Republicans were sure would come about if Trump weren’t elected –something to do with Christians being rounded up behind barbed wire, we seem to recall — but at this point it’s hard to imagine how four years of Clinton could have wrecked the country more thoroughly.
The right will nonetheless throw around words like “satanic” and paint a Heronymous Boschian portrait of the hellish American landscape if the Democrats aren’t thoroughly vanished. The Democratic ticket of former Vice President and California Sen. Kamala Harris will respond accurate accounts of daily COVID-19 deaths and the number of unemployed and the unprecedented contraction of the economy, and hope that America has gotten over its msg aversion to experience and expertise.

At this point only the most idealistic fool holds out hope for a brave new world in the next four years, and we suspect most Americans will settle for what Warren Harding called a “return to normalcy”..</

— Bud Norman

Good Policy, Bad Politics

At almost anytime in history we’d be in favor of a capital gains tax cut. A capital gains tax is a tax on investment, after all, and that’s something governments should always encourage rather than discourage.

Still, there’s a certain tone deafness to President Donald Trump seeking a capital gains tax cut at this particular moment, and the few remaining Republican who care about constitutional checks and balances are obliged to resist how he’s planning to go abut it./div

The political problem with capital gains tax cuts has always been that too many Americans don’t care to wade through all the economic theory, making it easy to demonize them as “tax cuts for the rich.” In fact most of the benefits do accrue to the already wealthy, as they tend to invest more often an in larger sums. The added economic activity and subsequent revenue growth benefits all Americans, but in a time of polarized politics of resentment, that’s just more economic mumbo-jumbo too many Americans don’t want to hear.
According to all the polls Trump is currently losing in his bid for reelection, which is not surprising given that 30 million are out of work and the Gross Domestic Product has shrunk by more than a fourth in the past year due to a coronavirus that has killed more than 60 million Americans. Trump has described the death tool as “It is what it is” and continues to hold out hope that “It will just go away the way things just go away,” which strikes many voters as callous and no substitute for a plan. Trump also points to recent stock market gains as proof a a rapid economic recovery.but few of those 30.1 million Americans who are out of work. At the moment, pressing for capital gains tax cut only plays to a widespread perception that Trump cares more about his billionaire buddies and donors than the average guy. It’s good policy, but for now bad politics,
Any change in the tax laws must be done through the legislature, and with the Democrats holding a strong majority in the House of Representatives, so Trump is hoping to get around that with an executive. This would quickly lose in the courts, with even the two Trump appointees voting with a majority. Trump can order the Treasure Department to index capital gains to inflation, which would have the same effect. Some Republicans who rightly urailed against similar efforts at executive overreach during the Obama administration, and don’t care to be hypocrites about it now. Most Republicans don’t care about the hypocrisy, confident their supporters won’t notice of won’t mind, but Trump can’t afford any erosion of party support,
Otherwise, it’s another brilliant move by Trump.

— Bud Norman<

The Lower Half of the Ticket

Harris possesses a formidable intellect, is very well spoken and, using complex but comprehensible and complete sentences on rarely hears in politics today, and is not prone to gaffes, and have proved herself an indefatigable campaigner. She was regarded well enough as the California State Attorney general to win one of the state’s Senaate seats, and has earned a national profile in that position.
On the other hand, she doesn’t seem to bring any political advantages to the ticket. She’s from California, but Biden or any other Democratic nominee needn’t worry about that state’s 55 electoral votes. She’s a woman, but Biden already has the support of a majority of women voters an Harris isn’t likely to attract any distaff supporters of President Donald Trump. By current Democratic standards she’s considered a moderate, but she’s sill far left of the average Republican and won’t be seen as a moderating influence on the ticket. She might even wind up dispiriting some far-left Democratic voters who consider Biden insufficiently Democrat.
Given the current state of Democratic politics, Harris’ reputation as a tough-on-crime attorney general will probably alienate much of the party, and it won’t win over any Trump supporters. He will find it hard to attack her as part of a nefarious plot to stop enforcing the law entirely, but he’ll try anyway.
Harris is black, too — actually part Indian and part Jamaican, which qualifies as black by current rules — but in this race that won’t make much difference. Like any other Democrat Biden can count on at least 90 percent of the black vote, and while there are still a lot of racists in America they were all going to vote for Trump anyway.
Perhaps the 77-year-old Biden thought her the most qualified President of the United States should he be unable to serve a full first team. We don’t share that assessment, but we can’t think of anyone on the current political scene who is up to the job.

— Bud Norman

Worse Than Judas

To hear President Donald Trump and his media allies tell, presumptive Democratic nominee is an extraordinarily evil. More evil than any man ever, probably.
According to Trump and his on-air friends Biden wants to “abolish” the suburbs, ban windows, plagiarizing his trademarked slogan of “buy American,” allowing vicious mobs to rampage freely in the streets, and capitulate to the Chinese government on anything it asks for. Oh, and he also wants to “hurt God.”
We don’t worry much about Biden “hurting God.” Our God is very powerful, indeed all-powerful, and we trust he continue unimpaired through eternity.
As for the rest of it, it seems typical Trump hyperbole. Biden does support the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which if fully followed would have the effect of introducing some black and brown faces into previously lily-white neighborhoods, but they’ll have to be as affluent as their neighbors and probably won’t lead to gang warfare on the streets. Banning windows seems an ambitious plan for even the most energetic leftist, especially one Trump has nicknamed “Sleepy Joe.” Trump has also accused Biden of having authoritarian tendencies, and we’ve noticed th atuthoritarians of both the right and left have little patience for mass protests.
The latest salvo will more likely backfire on Trump. Many Americans have already grown weary of Trump’s hyperbolic style of politics, and anyone who is still undecided will likely conclude that Trump is overselling both Bien’s flaws an his own virtues.

— Bud Norman

An Old Age Question

Whenever we ask out Trump-loving friends why they continue to support him despite everything, the most frequent answer we get is that Joe Biden is senile. It’s now a common trope on the rightwing talk radio shows and some of the Fox News opinion programs, where they love to endlessly replay a montage of the Democratic presidential nominee mispronouncing words, momentarily losing his train of thought, and stumbling through sentences.
style-“text-indent:20px;”>It is indeed pretty embarrassing, and enough to raise questions about electing a 77-year-old. Some of it is the sort of thing that even a hearty 50 year old might say at the end of a long day of non-stop talking on the campaign trail. Also, every cable network and late night comedy show has a montage of Trump that is longer and even more damning.
By now the 73-year-old Trump is well known for malapropisms. He wanted to look into the “oranges” of the Mueller investigation. He responded to a question by saying “When you say per capita, there are many per capitas so you have to ask yourself “per capita relative to what?” He boasted of the great work being done by his “adminstrazizess.” His always misspelled and randomly capitalized “tweets” have featured similar offenses against the English language.
just this week Trump has spoken of the “Yo-Semite” National Park, although he quickly changed that to “Yo-Seminite.” He also pronounced Thailand as “Highland.” ,Similar examples are far too numerous to list, and at least twice a day the president says something that subjects him too late night ridicule.
Which is not to mention Trump’s penchant for making such obviously insane suggestions as injecting bleach into Covid-19 patients and stopping hurricanes with nuclear bombs.
Both make a case for nominating younger leaders, as most people’s mental sharpness starts to decline after ge 60 even if they accumulate more knowledge and wisdom. Alas, none of the younger generations have stood out for their leadership, and America is left to decide which of two septuagenarians is less senile.

— Bud Norman

It’ll Go Away, Eventually

During his Wednesday coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump remained as hopeful as ever in deus ex machina solution arriving soon. “It’s going away,” Trump said.”It’ll go away, like things go away. There’s no question in my mind it will go away.”
As much as we admire Trump’s eternal optimism, we don’t think it’s a sufficient strategy for getting the coronavirus under control. Trump cited some rosy statistics from various states that have been recently, but didn’t note that might be because of insufficient and botched testing. He largely ignored the larger picture. More than 158 Americans have died of Covid-19, the death toll continues to mount at a rate just under 1,000 a day, More than 4,830,900 Americans have been infected, and although most will live through a painful recovery many will have suffered permanent lung damage. Things are getting better in some places, for now, but overall the situation remains grim and grows grimmer by the day”.
“It is what it is,” Trump said twice during a disastrous interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that aired Saturday on HBO. Eager not to seem callous about it, he insisted that the coronavirus was under control to the extent anyone could control it. Meanwhile, the government’s top expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was telling CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that America had the worst outbreak in the world and that most other countries had done a better job.
The American public will reach its own conclusion on Election Day. Trump had better hope that the coronavirus will have just gone away by then.

— Bud Norman

Over-Promise, Under-Deliver, Repeat

Several weeks ago Trump announced that in two weeks he would be signing a bill to massively overhaul America’s health system, which was obviously balderdash. Even with a Democratic president and both chambers of Congress controlled by Democrats, it took months of acrimonious debate for Obamacare to be passed, and given a Democratic House majority Trump clearly couldn’t get anything done in two weeks. Trump doesn’t mind telling such obvious and inevitably disproved lies, however.
A few weeks before the last mid-term elections Trump promised to sign a 10 percent middle class bill, which came as a surprise to both the then-Republican Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, who admitted they were unaware of any such legislation. The promise was quickly forgotten after the Democrats won a large House majority, but he still looked pretty damn stupid.
From the he announced his candidacy Trump has promised a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that would cover every American a far lower cost. He never revealed that plan, however, and even with Republicans in control of Congress he couldn’t win a repeal because there was still no better replacement on the table.
This time around Trump has at least issued an executive order to expand the popular “telehealth” program that was created in response to the coronavirus epidemic, which is a good idea but hardly the major overhaul of the health system he as long promised. Over-promising and under-living has been Trump’s style since his business, and no amount of bankruptcies has caused him to question it.
Eventually it leads to further erosion of the public’s confidence that the President is telling us the truth, though, and makes his next grandiose all the more dubious.

— Bud Norman