Aging Politics in a Young Republic

Even by President Donald Trump’s debased standards, the speech he delivered on the Third of July at the base of Mount Rushmore was what President George W. Bush might call “some weird shit.”
Weird that he would use the occasion of a holiday intended to promote national unity by assailing not only the rioters and looters but also the vastly more numerous protestors objecting to the racism and police brutality that undeniably exists in our country. Weird that in a time when millions of Americans are sickened and tens of thousands of of them have died from a rampaging epidemic, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, and foreign adversaries from Russia to China to North Korea are exploiting America’s moment of distraction and weakness, he would identify the mostly peaceful domestic protestors against statues glorifying the Confederacy’s attempts to secede from the union as the the great threat to America’s existence as a Republic. Weird that Trump said those who disagreed with him want to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” and accuse of them of wanting to crush dissent and impose what he called “toe-tally-terry-tism.”
That mangled pronunciation of totalitarianism, along with the rest of the generally sloppy and slurry and low-energy reading of the speech, should be of greater to concern to Trump and his hard-pressed apologists. At one point in the speech, where he recounted America’s great military feats, he was caught on video saying that “in the jungles of Vietnam they delivered a swift and swiffying, you know that’s sweeping, it was swift and sweeping like nobody’s ever seen anything happen, a victory in Operation Desert Storm. A lot of you were involved in that, a lot of you were involved. That was a quick one.”
>We’re hopeful that Trump knows Operation Desert Storm wasn’t a swift and swiffying and sweeping victory in the Vietnam, War, and even some in “lame stream” “fake news” media who are always out to get Trump noted that if you read the speech there was a period and a pause between the part about Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but if you were listening to the speech as it was delivered rather than reading it as written it sure sounded like Trump thought that Operation Desert Storm was how America won a quick and sweeping victory in the jungles of Vietnam.
For all the late-night comics who revel in ridiculing the Trump it’s his greatest gift since said he talked about how the Continental Army, which was named after General George Washington, stormed the ramparts and seized the airports during the Revolutionary War, and other the rockets’ red glare over Fort McHenry, which happened in the war of 1812, “had nothing but victory.” We’re sure that Trump knows the Continental Army didn’t seize any airports during the Revolutionary War, although we’re not so sure he knows the difference between that war and the unpleasantness of 1812, and can believe that it was just another of those embarrassing misreadings of a teleprompter that might happen to anyone.
Still, that’s a problem for Trump. By nature he cannot admit making the sort of mistakes that might happen to anyone, and he clearly hopes to run for reelection on the argument that the gaffe-prone presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe is far less physically fit far and more senile than himself. Biden has lately been rising in the polls by mostly biding his time in his basement, occasionally reading carefully-written and mostly well-delivered speeches about national unity and such boilerplate blather, and following the public health guidelines and not making any conspicuous mistakes. Trump spent 15 minutes at his sparsely-attended and widely-panned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, explaining why he walked so gingerly down a ramp because of his leather-soled shows and used to two hands to take a sip of water to avoid staining his silk tie at his West Point commencement speech, and letting Trump hog all the media seems a winning strategy for Biden.
Both septuagenarian options are older than any previous presidential nominees, both show it, and that is a matter of concern. So is the fact that the Congressional leadership of both parties is, to put it charitably, seasoned. As much as we value the wisdom of old age, and decry ageism, the years eventually take the same toll on the brain as the rest of the body. We’re a mere 60 years old, but have already noticed we don’t play speed chess at the far-above average level we used to, and when the country oldies station played “Oh, Lonesome Me” as we were driving around today it took as a frustrating minute or so to remember that it was the great Don Gibson singing it. Our parents are octogenarians who continue to acquire to wisdom every day, and we don’t hope to ever catch up with them, but both will wisely say they’re not up the rigors of the presidency.
Not a one of those many millions of young American whippersnappers out there have won their party’s heart, however, and on both sides they’re an uninspiring lot. We can’t identify any potentially earthshaking 40-somethings such as Republican Teddy Roosevelt or Democratic John Kennedy among them, and this time around no one dared challenge Trump for the Republican nomination the last Democrat standing and the darling of the youthful left was self-proclaimed socialist and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is even older and crankier. Our generation has made quite a mess of things, but for now we’re the only options, and soon we’ll leave it to all those many millions of young whippersnappers out there to set things right. We wish them the best, and will be glad if we don’t live long enough to see how things turn out.

— Bud Norman

Trump’s Trip to Tulsa

We’ve never failed to have a good time on our many visits to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is one of America’s most musical cities and one of those places that has its own weird vibe, but President Donald Trump wound up having a very bad day there on Saturday.
Trump had hoped restart his reelection campaign with one of of his famously jam-packed and raucous at the 19,000-seat Bank of Oklahoma Center in downtown Tulsa, but starting with the announcement it proved a public relations disaster. The campaign was widely criticized for packing unmasked people into a crowded building during an ongoing pandemic, including by the mayor and public health officials hospital workers in Tulsa, which has lately seen its coronavirus cases spiking. Others noticed the rally was scheduled for June 19th, which millions of black Americans celebrate as “Juneteenth” to commemorate when the last Americans slaves in Texas learned they were free, and given that it was shortly after the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 when white Tulsans murdered at last 300 black Tulsans and largely burned down the city’s prosperous black district, and given that most black Americans consider Trump a racist, it was another controversy.
In a rare concession to public opinion Trump rescheduled the rally to the next day, and boasted that he “made Juneteenth famous,” then announced that all the rally-goers would be provided one of those face masks that he refuses to wear and has discouraged others from wearing. He also required that rally-goers sign a form waiving liability against the campaign if anyone was infected during the rally, and the rally wasn’t getting the coverage Trump hoped for. Shortly before the rally the press was reporting that six campaign workers who’d been doing advance work the event had tested positive for coronavirus, and Trump was reportedly furious that it was being reported.
Still, Trump flew into Tulsa with high hopes. His campaign manager had boasted that one million people had applied for tickets, and Trump promised he would not only pack the arena but have thousands more supporters in a makeshift stadium outside the arena waiting for another speech. When the Tulsa fire marshal estimated that 6,200 people were inside and only a few dozen were milling about outside, it was embarrassing. Unwilling to call the Tulsa fire marshal a Trump-hating liar and unable to refute all the “fake news” footage from every outlet including Fox News and One America News Network the campaign blamed the media for stoking coronavirus fears and left-wing protesters scaring away families and blocking the doors, but the protests were also smaller than expected and far more peaceful than Trump might have preferred, and it was another rough news cycle for Trump.
The campaign boasted that 5 million or so people watched it on the internet, which might well be true, but we doubt it won Trump many new voters. The speech was a typically meandering harangue, with some weirder than usual moments. He attacked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a number of nicknames and some seemingly contradictory accusations, criticizing Biden for supporting the tough-on-crime 1994 Crime Bill and also predicting that a President Biden will defund the police and allow criminals to run amok. He also bragged at length about how strong the economy had been before the coronavirus came along, and how great it will be when the coronavirus magically fades away, and he blamed the Chinese for the current unpleasantness, and said he’d told “his people” to stop testing so often to slow the rate of reported cases. Before the speech was even over the White House press office released a statement explaining that Trump was only joking, but couldn’t explain why it was appropriate for a President of the United States to joke about a disease that has already killed more than 120,000 Americans. He didn’t mention the national debate about racism and police brutality, except to criticize the commissioner of the National Football league for allowing players to kneel during the national anthem in protest.
He also did an extended monologue about the widely seen videotape of him very gingerly and uncertainly descending a ramp after a graduation ceremony at West Point, which made for an embarrassing news cycle a week or so ago and is the kind of thing most politicians would happily left fade from memory, and although we found the explanation further embarrassing the crowd seemed to think it the funniest comedy routine since the heyday of Bob Hope. He’d also been videotaped using two hands to drink from a cup of water, which he blamed on having saluted 600 cadets individually, and when he demonstrated that he could indeed drink from a glass of water with just one hand the crowd went wild at the feat of strength. Again, the fans love it, but it’s not likely to win any new voters.
When Trump returned to the White House aboard the Marine One helicopter he was videotaped walking across the lawn with his tie undone and a Make America Great Again ball cap in one hand, looking very exhausted and unhappy. That quickly made the rounds, delighting Trump’s many critics, and will probably fuel a few nights of late night comedy show monologues and lots of “memes” on social media. Meanwhile, we haven’t heard any spin from the White House press office that is at all convincing, and are eager to hear what they might come up with.
Tulsa’s a fun town full of good people and great architecture and real-deal American music, that horrific episode back in ’21 notwithstanding, and if you get the chance we urge you to visit. We don’t expect that Trump will be eager to return, though.

— Bud Norman

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 Coronavirus Vs. Civilization

The news about the coronavirus gets worse with each passing day. Infections and fatalities are spreading exponentially, more businesses and schools are being shut down, such large cities as San Francisco are in lockdown, the stock markets are tanking as the economic repercussions increase, and now even President Donald Trump has stopped downplaying the threat and is urging Americans not to gather in groups larger than ten.
If you’re bold enough to venture out in public, or are forced by circumstances to do so, you’ll probably notice the panic about it is palpable.
Already many Americans are hoarding supplies of food and toilet papers are other necessities, which is unfortunate but understandable, but some are also stocking up on guns and ammunition, which we find even more worrisome. The coronavirus is of course invulnerable to bullets, but many people are apparently preparing for the post-apocalyptic breakdown of civilization ’70s-era dystopian movie scenario they expect will follow.
At this point we’re taking this coronavirus very seriously, and keeping to our lifelong habit of avoiding human contact or encounters with any more people than necessary, and don’t disagree with all the advice about staying at home as much as possible. We expect that a horrific number of people will get sick, that a smaller but still horrific number of people will die, and that the economic consequences for those majority who survive will be severe.
Still, we hold out hope that commerce and some semblance of civilization will also somehow survive, and that we won’t need a whole lot of guns and ammunition to get by. We have a very fancy handgun and a couple of boxes of bullets, which are well hidden in a secret location and we hope to never use, but we’re not gun-slingin’ types and don’t think it would do us much good in one of those ’70s-era dystopian movie scenarios.
We know some of the people who are stocking up on guns and ammo, and in most cases they seem to relish those post-apocalyptic possibilities. They seem to find it more enticingly adventurous than their daily lives in a world of commerce and civilization, and imagine themselves the star of the movie rather than the extra who got mowed down in the first scene. Knowing that we’d probably be among the first victims of a collapse of commerce and civilization, and rather liking the many blessings of commerce and civilization, we’re hoping they’ll persist.
So far, we like our chances, even with Trump in the White House and former Vice President Joe Biden the only plausible alternative. Commerce and civilization have long proved resilient to plagues, and the American people are a pretty plucky bunch. For everyone stocking up on guns and ammo, there are far more doing their best to not spread any germs and volunteering to deliver essential goods to shut-ins and trying to keep calm and civilized. State and local governments are on the job, so are the cops and the military, businesses are setting aside certain hours for elderly shoppers and otherwise acting responsibly, and America is still a land of mostly good people.

— 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 Democratic Race and the Rest of It

The recently panicked stock markets were closed over the weekend, and won’t resume freaking out about all the bad coronavirus news that dribbled out on Saturday and Sunday until today, so the big story was the big story was an unsurprising plot twist in the Democratic Party’s primary contests to choose a nominee to run against President Donald Trump. Former Vice President and former Democratic front-runner Joe Biden won a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, ending a streak of three embarrassing finishes in the first three contests and stopping current front-runner and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s impressive winning streak.
Which gave all the talking heads on television and the editorialists in the last of the newspapers something to talk and write about. For the most part the mainstream media hate Trump but don’t much like Sanders’ loony left policies, with both the Sanders Democrats and Trump Republicans now grumbling that it’s all a fake news conspiracy on behalf of the hated establishment, and from our perspective here on the sidelines we have to admit they overplayed Biden’s win in South Carolina.
Biden’s win allows him to live and fight another day, an undeniably big story that should be reported, but on this Monday the day after is Super Tuesday, with 15 states comprising a third of the Democratic convention’s delegates on the line. All of the usually reliably polls indicate that Sanders is going to substantially pad his lead in the delegate count, with clear victories in such populous states California and Texas and Virginia, and least a strong finish everywhere else. Perhaps Biden’s impressive showing in South Carolina will give him enough momentum for a couple of red state wins an some respectable showings elsewhere, but that was one of those overlooked weekend stories.
If you’ve been following the Democrats’ presidential primary reality show so far, you know that it’s basically a contest between the left-of-center part of the party and the so-far-loony-left-they’re-off-the-cliff faction, and that Biden is so far the choice of the former and Sanders is the clear favorite of the latter. It’s been complicated by a crowded field so far, but after South Carolina things are taking clearer shape.
After impressive showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary the South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out after a desultory in South Carolina, which is good news for Biden. Buttigieg is openly homosexual, which would have doomed his candidacy in our earlier lifetime, but he’s also got more a impressive military record than anyone running for president in either party and is a very eloquent spokesman for a more-or-less left-of-center status quo. We figure his votes will mostly to go the very heterosexual and procreative Biden, and that he’ll need every one of them on Super Tuesday.
The South Carolina primary also caused the withdrawal of Democratic candidate Tom Steyer, but it is hard to tell what that means. Steyer made billions more than Trump ever did in the hedge fund business, then became one of those bleeding-heart billionaires who started investment banks for poor and minority folks and poured millions into Impeach Trump advertising, and we have noidea where his third and fourth place finishes in the early Democrat races we have no idea where his meager votes will go. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is still vying for the loony-left vote, at least through Super Tuesday, but when she inevitably drops out her sizable chunk of the vote will mostly wind up in Sanders’ column.
Meanwhile, media billionaire Michael Bloomberg remains a factor, with his millions in ad buys making him a contender to Biden for the relatively sane and centrist vote, but unless those ads are more effective than we’re figured on Super Tuesday he’ll probably drop out on Wednesday and most of his votes and delegates will go to Biden. Which leaves us with a Sanders versus Biden and the loony-left versus relatively sane and centrist factions. Our guess is that Sanders still has s a huge lead after Super Tuesday, and that the loony left eventually winds up winning the Democratic nomination. After that,  and Trump’s inevitable triumph in theRepublican party, makes it unclear how hat will play out in a general election.

— Bud Norman