Bernie Burns Out

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, which caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among his fanatical supporters but was largely overlooked by most of the country.
Once a front-runner in the Democratic primary after race after wins in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, he was largely knocked out of contention after a string of losses to former Vice President Joe Biden, and since then the primaries have been mostly postponed by the coronavirus and mostly ignored by the media, so Sanders’ departure wound up getting less press coverage than the death of a minor figure from the Lewinsky scandal way back in President Bill Clinton’s administration. There were a few think pieces about how self-described socialist Sanders’ two failed attempts to win the Democratic nomination succeed in dragging the party further to the left, but we think they overstate his influence.
Both campaigns ended with Sanders losing to severely flawed centrists from the Democratic establishment, and although such far-left acolytes as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in the mid-terms the Democrats won back a majority of the House of Representatives mostly because of centrist candidates who did well with the college-educated suburbanites who have deserted the Republican party in droves since the election of President Donald Trump. Biden wound up winning a majority of Democratic votes because even some Democrats who liked Sanders’ policy positions worried he couldn’t win in a general election.
Our guess is that they were right, and the Democrat party dodged a bullet when Sanders faltered. Trump was eager to run against socialism and so worried about Biden that he got himself impeached trying to dig up dirt on him, and for all of his undeniable flaws Biden will be a more formidable opponent. Sanders fanatical supporters argued that he could beat Trump by bring out young voters and a multi-ethnic working class coalition that have typically abstained from voting, but they didn’t show up in the primaries and probably wouldn’t have in a general election.
Trump got a small bump in his approval rating when the coronavirus came along, but it was smaller than the rally-’round-the-flag bumps that previous presidents saw in times of national crisis. President Jimmy Carter saw a bigger bump after the American embassy workers in Iran were taken hostage after the Islamic Revolution, but by the time election day came around the the embassy staff were still in captivity it was one of the big reasons that he lost to President Ronald Reagan by a landslide. The latest polling shows Trump’s approval rating back in the low-to-mid 40s, where it’s been since the day he took office, and if the coronavirus continues to kill and keep much of the American population in captivity on Election Day it will probably be even lower.
For now Biden is unable to campaign except on the internet, and for now a lot of Sanders fanatics are vowing to sit out the election or vote for the Green Party or the Socialist Party or the Communist Party or some other option, but we expect that the Democrats’ loathing of Trump will ultimately unite the party. Trump will continue to blame President Barack Obama and certain Democratic governors and the World Health Organization and his erstwhile pal and Chinese dictator Xi Ping for the lack of testing and medical supplies that have exacerbated the toll of the coronavirus, but he’ll find it hard to blame Biden, who has been happily out of the news ever since it started.
The stock markets had a pretty good day when investors learned that Sanders wouldn’t become America’s first avowedly socialist president,  but that also suggests they weren’t at all terrified that Biden might win. It’s long time between now and Election Day, and things could change, but for now Biden sees to have a very good shot at beating Trump.

— Bud Norman

The Big News That’s Not Entirely About Coronavirus

The coronavirus craziness continues, with the Kansas governor shutting down all the public schools for the rest of the year and President Donald Trump wanting to send everyone in the country a check for a thousand dollars, but Tuesday at least gave us something else to write about. There’s still plenty of politics to be played, although for now the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination looks to be over.
Despite everything there were three more state primaries on Tuesday — it was supposed to be four, but Ohio decided to put it off until summer — and front-running former Vice President Joe Biden won them all by landslide-to-comfortable margins, so after Biden’s big wins on “Super Tuesday” that pretty much knocks self-described socialist and last-man-standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race. Biden won big in the populous and delegate-rich states of Illinois and Florida, where Sanders also fared badly last time around against former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President “Crooked Hillary Clinton, and the upcoming states don’t look any more promising for Sanders, who didn’t offer any comment on the results.
Even in the age of the coronavirus, and perhaps especially so, that’s worth noting.
Which we figure is bad news for Trump, who so feared Biden’s nomination that he got himself impeached trying to extort dirt from a foreign ally about Biden’s son. Better by far to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders and his pie-in-the-sky utopian promises, which make Trump and his own oversold and thus-far underdelivered promises seem relatively sane.
Biden is a boring and often inarticulate fellow, and over a political career that stretches back to the administration of President Richard Nixon he’s not done much for either good or bad. Come November the electorate might well find that an attractive alternative to the undeniably entertaining yet even more inarticulate Trump, whose bull-in-a-China-shop approach to governance so far seems to have exacerbated this coronavirus craziness. Trump is now offering thousand-dollar checks to every American, and billion-dollar bailouts to various big-bucks industries to keep the economy afloat, which his Republican base probably won’t mind, but by November he’ll have a lot of explaining to do to the rest of the country, and Biden will have been out of power and utterly blameless for any of it. He’ll be able to point out that Obama created an agency within the National Security Council to deal with pandemics, and Trump sent it packing, and that none of the pandemics that occurred during the Obama administration led to schools and bars and other essential businesses shutting down.
At this point pretty much the whole country is in a panic about the coronavirus and no one seems more panicked the the President of the United States, and we expect that will last until at least next November’s Election Day, which we cautiously hold out hope will happen. We can’t see any happy ending, but we’ll also hold out hope for the least worst outcome, whatever that is.

— Bud Norman

The Seeming Quick End to the Democratic Primary Race

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, as the great baseball player and aphorist Yogi Berra so memorably put it, but even with most of the states yet to weigh in over spring and summer the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination already seems to be pretty much over. After a couple of “Super Tuesdays” former Vice President Joe Biden seems to have it wrapped up, and self-proclaimed socialist and last candidate standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seems knocked out.
Which is an interesting and important development. Sanders’ supporters are as fervent bunch as President Donal Trump’s most die-hard apologists, and when he won the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire he seemed unstoppable. Biden kept coming in third or fourth behind relatively sane and centrist but openly homosexual former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left vote, and his debate performances were as lackluster as his fund-raising and campaign organization and general appeal to the electorate.
Biden scored a big Saturday win in South Carolina, though, largely because of the endorsement of iconic civil rights leader and longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn and the fact that Biden was the loyal vice president of first black President Barack Obama and most white South Carolinians are Republicans so black votes comprise a majority of the state’s Democratic party. Since then he’s been on a role. Despite being out-funded and out-advertised and out-organized by Sanders, he won 10 of the 15 “Super Tuesday” races, which knocked out all of his rivals for the votes of relatively sane and centrist Democrats, all of whom urged their supporters to vote for Biden. It also knocked out loony left darling Warren, but she’s not yet made an endorsement, and Biden won’t get all of her votes.
Yesterday was a sort of “Super Tuesday II,” and Biden once again got the best of it. He won by a landslide in Mississippi, where most of the white folks are Republicans and the Democratic is therefor majority-black, but he also won by a wide margin in very diverse Missouri, a state the Democrats can reasonably hope to win in November, as well as the very winnable state of Michigan, which was probably the Sanders campaign’s last hope. Sanders won in Washington, solidifying his hold on the loony left Left Coast, as well as North Dakota, where  all the Democrats would fit in your living room and don’t have a chance of winning the state’s electoral votes.
Four years ago Sanders gave former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States a hell of run for her considerable money, and he scored an important victory in Michigan, where his left-wing populism was appealing to the disaffected denizens of the Rust Belt State. Trump’s right-wing populist appeal to those same voters proved slightly more appealing to the same disaffected voters, however, and this time around a majority of the state’s Democratic voters to go with the desultory Democratic status quo rather than the radical alternative.
This time around, it seems a good bet. Trump would clearly prefer to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders rather than “Sleepy” Joe Biden. Trump got impeached trying to dig up dirt on Biden, even though there’s plenty of dirt already on the public record that he could have used, and he’d have a good argument that Sanders is truly crazy. Biden is arguably “sleepy,” but at this point the general electorate might well prefer that to a hyperactive president who’s awake in the wee hours and “tweeting” all sorts of outlandish nonsense.
We have no affection whatsoever for this Biden fellow, but we figure the Democrats could have done far worse, and that he’s a more formidable challenger for Trump than Sanders would have been. He’s old and gaffe-prone and not always honest and has exhibited creepy behavior around women, but Trump is arguably worse in every regard. The Obama administration inherited a recession economy and after the Republicans won Congress eventual delivered too-slow but steady growth, and Trump was planning to run on the same slow but steady economic growth, but it’s now within the realm of possibility that argument won’t work on Election Day.
Those Sanders supporters are a fanatical bunch, and many are vowing to sit out the race, but Biden now has an entire spring and summer and early fall to remind the left coast and the rest of them how very much they hate Trump, and he’ll have plenty of money. We expect the entire party will be unified by the convention, and that a large number of independents will be on board, and that not just a few of us old-fashioned Republicans will be sitting it out on the sidelines. Here’s hoping the rest of the country chooses wisely between its bad options.

— Bud Norman

A Dreary Monday Followed By Yet Another Super Tuesday

Pretty much everyone we encountered on Monday asked how we’re doing, as the friendly folks here in Wichita tend to do, and we were able to cheekily answer that we’re faring better than the stock markets. Most of the people we met got the dark humor in our reply, as they’d heard the news that Monday was an historically bad day on Wall Street.
All three of the major American exchanges suffered at least a 7 percent drop, which comes after a few weeks of alarming declines, and all the smart money on the rest of the world’s markets seems similarly panicked, with no apparent good news on the horizon to turn things around in the near future. The main reason for the dive is the steadily spreading coronavirus pandemic, which has thus far killed only a tiny fraction of the world’s population but already cancelled big events and shut down schools and disrupted global supply chains and currently has most of Italy in quarantine. The markets are also worried that oil prices are plummeting on falling demand and a dispute between Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Russia and Saudi Arabia, which can’t agree on an ideal price to fix.
Neither of these developments can be credibly blamed on President Donald Trump, but so far the smart money isn’t betting that he has any solutions. Trump has thus far argued the coronavirus threat is overblown, based on his hunches and natural ability to grasp the science of epidemiology because he had a “super-genius” uncle who taught physics at the Massachussets Institute of Technology, but by Monday he was proposing a slew of government programs and “stimulus” measures redolent of President Barack Obama to prop up the economy just in case. The Federal Reserve Board is on the brink of offering zero interest loans and already printing more money to make up for the trillion dollars of deficit spending by the government, the bond markets are offering pretty much zero return on long or short-term yields, Trump is “tweeting” demands they go even further, and we can well understand why the smart money isn’t reassured.
The worries about the plummeting oil markets are harder to understand. We’re old enough to remember when the OPEC cartel’s price-gouging was the global economy’s biggest worry, and won’t mind a bit if the local gasoline prices fall below $2 a gallon as expected, but it does seem to be a troubling sign for the rest of the global economy. Trump will surely be conflicted about it, as he’s good friends with both the Russian and Saudi dictators and would love to take credit for cheap gasoline, but nothing he might say or do about it is likely to stabilize any of the markets.
Today is another big Tuesday in the Democratic presidential primary races, and the smart money is betting that former Obama-era Vice President Joe Biden will knock self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race, but that won’t help much. The stock markets had a rare good day when Biden took the lead over Sanders after last week’s “Super Tuesday,” but no one’s betting that Biden has all the answers.
It’s all quite desultory, but for now we can tell anyone who asks that we have no symptoms of the coronavirus and are feeling somewhat healthier than the stock markets. Here’s hoping that all of our dear readers are faring at least as well, and that we all make it through.

— Bud Norman

In the Age of the Coronavirus

The coronavirus seems to be steadily spreading around the world, and the panic about it is spreading even faster. Large events are being cancelled, vacations are being postponed, employees of major businesses are being asked to work at home, cruise ships are being held at sea, and stock markets around the world are tanking.
Even here in Kansas, where there has so far been no reported cases of coronavirus, some people are already taking precautions. They’re being extra careful to cover their mouths when coughing or squeezing, which is the polite thing to do even in the best of circumstances, and some are resorting to more extreme measures. Some folks we know are even washing their hands a few dozen times a day and singing “Happy Birthday” twice while doing so to make sure they’re there at it for the recommended 20 seconds, which used to be considered a severe symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but is now merely good hygiene. Although we try our best to be hygienic we probably won’t take up the habit until our neighbors start getting infected, as we’d feel damned silly otherwise.
Humans everywhere are also advised to avoid rubbing their eyes or otherwise touching their faces, but that’s an instinctively human habit that will be hard to break. These days we’re constantly slapping our foreheads and scratching our chins and rubbing our eyes as we read the news, and all these stories about the coronavirus don’t help.
Otherwise, we have few serious problems with the new protocols of the coronavirus. We’ve never been the touchy-feely types, and are uncomfortable with hugs even at a family reunion, and we only allow a person to touch our faces in very special circumstances after they’ve been thoroughly vetted, and we consider a respectful nod a sufficiently respectful greeting in most social interactions, so the new no human-to-human contact rules are fine by us. So far we’ve proudly never failed to shake a stranger’s hand, but if the new rules forbid it, so be it.
President Donald Trump has tried to reassure the nation by saying that all the experts are wrong and his “hunch” that everything will soon be fine is right, but that kind of crazy talk only seems to have increased the panic. The stock markets had a good day after the “Super Tuesday” Democratic fueled hope that self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie won’t be the next president, but on Thursday they were once again slumping on news of the spreading coronavirus. The stock markets are betting that neither Trump nor for-now presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden have a cure for this latest pandemic and its resulting panic, and we figure they’re probably right.
We’ll probably be slapping our foreheads and scratching our chins and rubbing our eyes as we watch it all play out, but we’ll hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

“Super Tuesday” and Beyond

There’s still a lot of politics left to be played, but after 14 states and American Samoa weighed in on “Super Tuesday” the Democratic presidential primary seems to be coming down to a race between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Which offers the Democratic party a choice between left-of-center and way-the-hell-left of center.
The biggest winner of the night was Biden, who looked to be down and out after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada, but after a big victory on Saturday in South Carolina he wound up winning in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. As we write this he’s also clinging to slight leads over Sanders in Maine and Texas, states Sanders had been expected to win easily, so it’s an impressive showing.
Sanders did well enough to remain a formidable contender, even if he’s no longer the clear front-runner he seemed to be just last week. He won in his home state of Vermont and way-the-hell-left-leaning and delegate-rich California, as expected. He also won in Colorado, where marijuana is legal, which might or might not have something to do with the result, and in Utah, which we were surprised to learn has enough Democrats to bother holding a primary. No one else in the once-crowded field did anything to give their voters hope.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had vied with some success for the relatively sane centrist votes, but both dropped out after disappointing finishes in South Carolina and urged their voters to go with Biden. Our guess is that Klobuchar helped Biden to win Minnesota, and that Buttigieg’s endorsement will help when Indiana holds its primary. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke ran a surprisingly strong race against Sen. Ted Cruz as a relatively sane centrist, but went loony left during his failed presidential bid, but he’s still popular with Texas Democrats and his endorsement of Biden was probably helpful in the state.
Multi-billionaire media mogul and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been spending millions of his own dollars in a bid to court the relatively sane and centrist vote, and for reasons we do not claim to understand he won most of the delegates from American Samoa, but otherwise the best he did on Super Tuesday was a couple of distant third-place finishes. He can afford to keep his quixotic campaign going until the convention or beyond, but we expect he’s too shrewd a businessman to do so. Once he drops out Biden will get all of the relatively sane and centrist votes in the Democratic party, and that just might comprise a majority.
Massachussets Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been challenging Sanders for all the loony left votes, but after South Carolina and “Super Tuesday” that probably won’t last much longer. She suffered the ignominy of losing her own state to Biden, fared poorly in the nearby states of New Hampshire and Vermont and Maine, and the loony left clearly prefers Sanders. When she inevitably drops out all of her votes will go to Sanders, whether she endorses him or not, and the very sizable loony left portion of the Democratic party will be united behind him, and that just might comprise a majority.
Which makes for a fascinating Democratic presidential primary race between a couple of septuagenarian straight white guys. The ratings should be sky-high, which will surely irritate straight white septuagenarian President Donald Trump but might wind up helping his reelection chances if it gets ugly enough to divide the Democrats, which it probably will.
On the other hand, Trump has a unifying effect on the Democratic party, and he’s not popular with independents and a stubborn nine or ten percent or so of us old-fashioned Republicans can’t stand him. As we figure it at this point in time it’s well within the realm of possibility that either Biden or Sanders could beat Trump in both the popular and Electoral College votes. Seventy out of 77 pollsters back that up, and both candidates have a case to make.
Sanders supporters argue he will bring both a massive youth vote and a widespread blue collar yearning for economic justice to the race, and win back all those voters who didn’t like Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and stayed home last time around, but they didn’t seem to show up on “Super Tuesday.” The establishment types backing Biden argue that he’s a more reassuringly boring alternative to Trump’s grotesque reality show, and that argument might prove persuasive.
We’re still registered Republicans, and will leave it to our many Democratic friends to choose how far they’ll go in what we consider the wrong direction. The Kansas Republican party has chosen to not hold a primary, depriving us of the chance to cast a futile protest vote against Trump, so we’ll be watching it all play out from our prime seats on the political sidelines.
We must admit it’s binge-worthy stuff, even if we can’t foresee any possible happy endings.

— Bud Norman

The Coronavirus and the Real Reason to Be Very, Very Afraid

President Donald Trump has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of America’s response to the now-pandemic coronavirus problem, and we hope the world’s stock markets will be reassured that at least it’s not presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner running the show. There are new cases of the Chinese-born disease showing up in France and Brazil and here in the United States as well as South Korea and Japan and Italy and Iran, and the disease-fighting sector of the American government has been decimated by budget cuts and staff defections over the past three years, but the Dow Jones only dropped a hundred or so points on Wednesday, so for the moment there’s no real reason to panic.
Trump now argues that the real reason for the six-plus percentage drop in the stock markets this week is all the damn Democrats running for president, and we must admit there might be something to that. The current front-runner in the Democratic race is self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose loony-left policies would probably have a more destructively virulent effect on the stock markets than even the coronavirus, and even the most relatively sane and centrist Democrats still in contention are unlikely to inspire any bull markets.
One of many problems with Trump’s argument, however, is its implicit acknowledgement that the smart money is already hedging its bets that any one of those damn Democrats has a chance of beating him in the next presidential election. They’ll all have plenty of arguments against Trump, including his anti-establishment burn-it-down decimation of the government’s disease-fighting apparatus, which is the kind of bone-headed mistake that even the looniest left of the anti-establishment yet government-loving Democratic party would never make. If this coronavirus problem and its stock market woes continues to Election Day despite the best efforts of Pence, even the damndest of the damn Democrats will have the advantage on the issue.
At this point we’re cautiously hopeful that humankind somehow survives the coronavirus, and that America’s free markets will continue to prosper in a scarily global worldwide economy, and that it all ends for the best, whatever that might be.

— Bud Norman

The Damn Democrats Duke It Out

What’s left of the contenders for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had another knock-down-drag-out free-for-all of a televised debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and as gruesome as it was we couldn’t look away. The Democrats’ grotesque reality show is as binge-worthy as Republican President Donald Trump’s.
If you’ve been following the complicated plot so far, you already know that the self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie won most of the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and is already the clear frontrunner, and that the former frontrunner and relatively sane centrist former Vice President Joe Biden needs a big win in Saturday’s South Carolina after three disastrous finishes to remain a viable contender in the race. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth is still vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left faction, while South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar continues trying to win over the still-sizable relatively sane and centrist portion of the party.
The debate also featured self-made high-tech multi-billionaire Tom Steyer, who has no previous government experience but lands somewhere between the loony left and the relatively sane and centrist positions in the party, and self-made media mogul and multi-billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who was actually a pretty successful two-term mayor of New York City by doing things that have not endeared him to the Democratic party’s loony left. Democrats of all stripes have by now had enough of billionaire presidents, however, so both seem minor characters in the plot.
Which made for quite a freewheeling debate, with everyone weighing in on topics from Mideast peace to the legalization of marijuana to Medicare for All and that coronavirus that lately has been dragging down the international stock markets. Everyone took care to attack anyone who was a rival for the loony left and relatively sane centrist votes, both sides attacked one another, and everyone agreed that Trump was even worse.
No one was a clear winner in the shouting match, but in the long run these debates matter very little. What we’ll be watching for on Saturday is if Biden can beat out Sanders and keep the relatively sane and centrist portion of the party in the race. Given Americas’ complicated politics, it’s hard to say. Most of the white folk in South Carolina are now proud members of the Grand Old Party that once waged war on the Confederacy, which means that the state’s sizable black population comprises a majority of the state’s Democratic votes, which gives Biden a natural advantage.< Black Democrats are more likely than their white counterparts to attend worship services and serve in the military and start a business, and most white Republicans don’t understand how especially in the south they’re a moderating influence on their party. Biden was a loyal Vice President to first black President Barack Obama and is tying himself to that mixed record, and we expect that will be enough to keep him in the race after South Carolina.
No matter what happens on Saturday in South Carolina Sanders seems to be winning black and Latino votes and hurtling toward the Democratic nomination, Which naturally has all the relatively sane and centrist and “establishment” media and politicos in a panic, fretting that Sanders is a bridge too far toward socialism and worse yet someone who could lose a general election even to the likes of President Donald Trump.
We can well sympathize with their plight, as we well remember a time four years ago when we and the rest of the boring Republican establishment types thought that Trump’s isolationism and protectionism and populist nationalism and know-nothingism was a bridge too far into the crazy right, and that he might even lose an election to the likes of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump lost the popular vote by a landslide  our = eked out a victory in the Electoral College, and has s been about as bad as  expected, so we invite the Democrats to learn whatever they can from the past.
We hope they’ll conclude that Sanders would be awful, and come up with some better centrist alternative than Biden, especially that nice and more electably heterosexual Klobuchar, but they might rightly conclude that Sanders could also beat the likes of Trump. Any Republicans and Russians rooting for Sanders should also keep that in mind, as there’s really no telling how either of these grotesque reality shows might turn out.

— Bud Norman

These Scary Times

Having survived the swine flu and the bird flu and AIDS and SARs and the Ebola virus and all the other pandemics that were supposed to wipe out humankind, we’ve been feeling pretty cocky about our chances of surviving this newfangled coronavirus. After what happened on Wall Street on Monday, however, we’re at less a wee bit nervous.
News that the coronavirus has spread from China to South Korea, Iran and Italy renewed concerns that it will further disrupt the international trade system and the many gazillions of money that it generates, which has already seen much global several business with the gargantuan Chinese economy brought to a screeching halt. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a jaw-dropping 1031 points, which is a jaw-dropping 3.6 percent, and the Standard & Poor and NASDAQ suffered even worse percentage losses, and for now all the smart money seems scared.
Aside from the already horrific death toll and severe economic consequences from the coronavirus, there are also political implications. President Donald Trump can’t plausibly be blamed for the coronavirus and the resulting stock markets, but he always implausibly claimed full credit for all the impressive stock market gains during his administration and has thus tied his political fortunes to the latest indexes. Decisive presidential leadership is called for, but at this point there’s not much Trump or any possible president might do.
The White House has requested congress to pass a $1.8 billion emergency spending bill to bring the total of spending on the coronavirus to $2.5 billion, which is a good idea that will probably win bipartisan approval, but by Washington standards that’s a relatively puny amount of money to throw at a problem of this size. There are many very smart people in America’s scientific community, but for now the smart money is betting that they won’t have this problem solved by election day, which seems a smart bet to us.
Trump is also calling on the Federal Reserve and the rest of the world’s central banks to reassure the world markets with a fresh infusion of that sweet opium of newly-printed cash, but at this point there’s not much more they can do. Several of the world’s biggest economies are offering below zero interest rates, which is every bit as stupid as it sounds, and despite what Trump has called the best American economy ever the Federal Reserve has been setting interest rates historically close to zero and the budget deficit is over a trillion dollars. A debt-ridden America and the rest of the debt-ridden world are ill-prepared to deal with one of those occasional Black Swan events, as the smarty-pants economists call it.
Which is not to say that any of those damned Democrats running for the presidency have any solutions. Self-described socialist and current Democratic front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will have a a harder time paying for his all his trillions of dollars of spending on all of America’s problems if there’s an economic downturn. The relatively sane and centrist Democratic candidates also don’t have any answers, and we frankly admit that neither nor do we few remaining NeverTrump Republicans,
Pretty much everyone anti-Trump will get their digs in, though. Trump has taken his usual position against foreigners entering the country, but some very quarantined cases of the virus have come in, and Trump’s skepticism about fancy pants scientists seems to have decimated the government agencies charged with dealing with pandemics. Trump has questioned the scientific community’s assessments of global climate change and the quality of America’s air and water and the cancerous effects of wind turbines, and he’ll probably soon ask you to believe that he knows more about the coronavirus than anyone.
Even so, we expect to eventually die from something other than the coronavirus, and to survive whatever political and economic upheavals it might bring. Which is not to say it will be a happy ending for anybody.

— Bud Norman

The Damned Democrats’ Debate

The six candidates who still have a plausible shot at winning the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had a debate Wednesday night in Nevada, which is having one of those weird caucus rituals on Saturday, and it was a raucous affair. All of the contenders spent so much bashing one another they had little time left to bash President Donald Trump, who surely enjoyed the show.
According to the latest polls  the clear frontrunner in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist and the darling of the loony left portion of the Democratic party, which is plenty big enough to give a him a 32 point plurality in the crowded field, with fellow loony lefty Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fading into fourth at 12 percent. Former Vice President and former frontrunner Joe Biden, who is courting the party’s relatively sane centrists, is in second with 16 percent, but that’s barely ahead of the 14 percent by billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is courting the same votes. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have 8 and 7 percent respectively, which also come from the relatively sane centrist faction.
All of which led to Wednesday’s brass knuckle free-for-all, with the relatively sane centrists attacking one another as well as the loony left contenders, and the loony left contenders also firing in every direction. As best as we can score the bout, Bloomberg got by far the worst of it.
Bloomberg skipped the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has carefully avoided any public appearances or interviews with the media, so his recent rapid rise in the polls is entirely due to the $50 million of his own money that he’s poured into national advertising on radio and television and the internet, and one big question was how he’d fare on his first debate stage since his mayoral campaigns. Not vey well, as it turns out.
Everyone in the Democratic party and most of the independents they’ll need to win in November have by now had their fill of New York City billionaires, so all the other candidates gleefully piled on. Warren blasted Bloomberg’s longstanding reputation for saying outrageously things in public and the numerous lawsuits brought by women against his company for fostering a hostile workplace and having women bound by nondisclosure agreements, which seems to be what New York City billionaires do, and Warren succinctly summarized his response as “Well, I’ve been nice to some women.”
Klobuchar criticized Bloomberg’s failure to release his tax returns, another one of those thing New York City billionaires seem to do, and although he promised he’d get around to it soon his explanation for the delay only emphasized that he’s suspiciously rich. Sanders whole platform is anti-billionaires in general, so he further demonized Bloomberg to his fans. Others on both the left and center criticized the “stop and frisk” policing policies aimed mostly at minorities that Bloomberg championed as New York mayor, and although Bloomberg has fulsomely apologized for it that probably won’t do him much good in the largely-Latino Nevada caucus or the majority-black South Carolina primary that’s coming up next.
Everyone but Warren argued that Sanders’ self-described socialism might render him unelectable in a country that’s still mostly center-right, and was forced by the centrists to defend the economic feasibility of his pie-in-the-sky health care proposals, but Bloomberg drew a gasp an then boos when he accused Sanders of being a communist. The 78-year-old Sanders recently suffered a heart attack and was roundly criticized for failing to keep a promise to release his full medical records, and he offered the same explanation that Trump did about his undeniably grueling campaign schedule, but he didn’t seem on his game.</div div style=”text-indent:20px;”>Biden went largely unscathed, but the lack of attacks seemed to emphasize his slow decline into irrelevance, which will rapidly accelerate if he doesn’t do very well in Nevada and then South Carolina, and he still not much of a campaigner and didn’t do much on Wednesday to turn things around. That’s good news for Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who could now overtake both Biden and Bloomberg for those relatively sane centrist Democratic voters. Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of the Mexican president during a recent interview, but she admitted to the understandable momentary lack of memory and made Buttigieg look rather pedantic. On the whole, we think she got the better of it.
Sanders has run afoul of the hotel and casino and restaurant workers union that is largely Latino and a huge chunk of the Nevada caucus-goers, who don’t like his plan to take away their hard-earned health benefits package as part of his single-payer “Medicare for all” plan, which gives the relatively sane centrists a chance at a much-needed win. As bad as Bloomberg was in his first public appearance he probably won’t be the beneficiary, no matter how much money he spends, and we expect Biden to continue underperforming, so that’s an opportunity for either Buttigieg or Klobuchar.
Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and although that didn’t matter to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and doesn’t offend our old-fashioned sensibilities any more than Trump’s tawdry sexual history, the largely Latino voters in Nevada and the black majority of voters in South Carolina might not be so open-minded, and even in this day and age it eventually will raise unavoidable questions about his electability, a sanely centrist with impressive military experience though he might be. Which is good news for Klobuchar, a happily married heterosexual woman and mother who has won every race she’s ever run even in Minnesota’s most Republican districts, and can brag of the bills she’s written that got passed and signed even in this polarized age, and she doesn’t want to take away anyone’s private health insurance.
As we scored the free-for-all cage match Klobuchar had a pretty good night, which is the only bad news of the evening for Trump. Eventually Warren will drop out and her 12 percent will join Sanders’ 32 percent, but if Klobuchar is the last relatively sane centrist standing she could have 45 percent of the party on her side, and even more if the Democrats decide that their socialist utopia can wait another four years and beating Trump is the party’s top priority. Trump will come up with some taunting nickname to tar Klobuchar as a loony leftist, and he won’t be able to resist making some outrageously sexist comment about her less-than-beauty-queen looks, but that won’t endear him to the educated suburban Republican women he have left the party in droves over the past three years, and we think she’d be a formidable foe. She also punches back, and she’s pretty darned good at it.
There are still 48 states and all those territories to go, though, and a big chunk of the Democrat party is clearly intent on leaping off that loony left cliff, so we’ll see how it turns out. The scariest part is that even the looniest left Democratic nominee could come up with a bigger plurality in this polarized nation than Trump.

— Bud Norman