Like Nobody’s Ever Seen

Not so long ago President Donald Trump was plausibly bragging about the best economy, and hoping that would carry him to reelection despite everything else. The latest economic figures suggest we’re now in the worst economy ever, however, and Trump is struggling to find another argument.
The jobs and gross domestic product numbers are undeniably gruesome. Another 1.4 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the past week, bringing the overall unemployment rate to 14.7, which is higher than in any previous post-war recession. Over the past three months the GDP shrank at an annualized rate of 32.9 percent, which is even worse than the worst quarter of the Great Depression.
The cause of all this the coronavirus epidemic, which is unlikely to away by Election Day, and is currently getting worse in many parts of the country. Trump does his best to defend his administration’s response, but but he’s not convincing any skeptics and even losing some supporters. He’s peddling a cure that most scientists believe would do more harm than good, relying on the advice of some very dubious doctors, and has resisted public health measures a consensus of medial opinion are urging. Some of his die-hard supporters will appreciate his defiance, but the rest of the country won’t.
Lacking a boast-worthy record to run on, Trump is instead pursuing two related strategies. One is o claim that his expected loss in the election will be due only to massive fraud by mail-in ballots, and the other is to argue that his Democratic opponents “sick people” bent on destroying everything good about America. Trump will have a hard-time arguing that the man he’s nicknamed “Sleepy” Joe Biden is up to such a gargantuan task, and there’s nothing in Biden’s 40 year record that suggests he want to do it.
Trump “tweeted” a suggestion that the election be delayed, but his most loyal allies in the Senate shot that down, and a few extra weeks of a deadly epidemic currently killing an American every minute and a continued Great Depression economy wouldn’t do him much good.

— Bud Norman

Firing the Manager

If this were an ordinary summer we’d be in the middle of a Major League Baseball season about now, and some of the losing teams would be firing their managers. In most cases the team is losing more because of bad players than a bad manager, and whatever genius is hired as a replacement won’t turn that out around, but it’s easier to replace a manager than a team and the fan base must be reassured that the franchise is still trying to win.
In this extraordinary summer the only spectator sport to watch is politics, so we’re watching all the state and national polls with the same obsessive fascination with which we’d ordinarily poring over the box scores and batting statistics, so we noticed that President Donald Trump has fired the manager of his reelection campaign. In his stunning upset campaign of 2016 Trump promised we’d be sick and tired of winning by now if he were elected, but the firing of the campaign manager is further evidence that he’s losing at the moment. We see people posting on Facebook and calling to talk radio who are sure Trump is cruising to a landslide reelection, but they might as well face the facts as Trump has done.
All of the statistics indicate otherwise. The lotest poll, which is from the generally reliable Quinnipiac University, shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a 15 point lead over Trump, even the friendly Rasmussen poll show Trump trailing, and the average of the polls has Trump well behind albeit it a mere 9 points. Trump’s average disapproval rating in the polls is some 15 points lower than his average approval rating, and although Trump claims his own polling shows otherwise he has fired his campaign manager.

None of the other statistics bode well for Trump. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19 continue to mount, even the most Republicans states are re-instituting public health restrictions, which doesn’t bode well the 40 million or unemployed Americans, and it’s not likely to “magically disappear” by Election Day. Nor will racism, another big issue of the summer, which Trump has said can be “quickly and easily solved./div>

Last night we got bored and counted up all the states where polls showed Biden was ahead by at least eights points, and added up their electoral votes, and according to our calculator the total was 258. The magic number is 270, so at this point in the season Trump is already in a hole. We also calculated the electoral votes of all the states where Biden is leading by less than eight points, and it adds up to a President Herbert Hoover-style landslide defeat. Which is ample reason to fire the manager./div>

The defenestrated campaign manager Bradscale was no Joe McCarthy, if you’ll forgive us a perhaps obscure baseball allusion, but we can’t hold him entirely accountable for the team’s poor performance He got the job by being Trump’s successful “digital director” in ’15 and being friends with presidential daughter and son-in-law Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and doing whatever the boss told him to do. He gained a brash reputation of his own, and was reportedly making a fortune from the campaign, but Trump hates that and it didn’t prevent Trump’s plummmeting polls. Still, we figure he was managing a losing team, and that the genius who replaces him probably won’t turn things around.
Biden isn’t leading in all those polls because he’s the 1927 New York Yankees of presidential candidates, if you don’t mind another baseball reference. It’s more because Trump seems to recall the legendarily losing ’62 New York Mets, whose Hall of Fame manager Casey asked during that season “Can’t anybody here play this game?” In politics as in baseball the fundamentals matter, and team Trump will have to quickly improve its numbers on a lot of vital indices. There’s plenty of season left if baseball were happening, but we’re in the late innings of a presidential race, and we don’t see a new manager turning things around.

— Bud Norman

How Bad Could It Get?

All of the published opinion polls show President Donald Trump trailing in his race for reelection, and although he claims that his own polling show him with a comfortable lead we believe that’s another o the boastful lies he routinely tells. Down-ballot polling and anecdotal evidence and the way things are going lately suggest that every major news organization including Fox News and every pollster including Rasmussen are not conspiring to mislead the public.
Trump and his die-hard supporters will note that last time around the polls failed to predict his Electoral College victory, but they tend to forget that the polls almost precisely predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2 percent win of popular vote and the polls in the four states states where Trump eked out victories were all within their margins of error. This time around the national polls have Trump losing by 9 to 14 points, and faring as badly in those battleground states he won in 2016. Worse yet, the state polls also show that some states Republicans have long taken for granted are now battleground states.
According to a poll by commissioned by the Dallas Morning News, Biden even has a five point lead in Texas, which is very bad news for Trump. Texas is by the most populous state the Republican party counts on, and losing it would make Trump’s reelection impossible. The good news is that Biden has only 46 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 41 percent, with 14 percent of the electorate in the undecided column, bu that’s not great news. Trump needs to win well over have half of the undecideds just to catch up, and that will require time and money that can’t be spent in other states will need to prevent an electoral landslide.
If current trends continue Trump might be forced to write off the four Rust Belt states that got him elected in 2016, and try to hold on to such once reliably Republican states as Arizona and North Carolina and even Georgia and Kansas, as well as populous and always-competitive Florida and Ohio, where the polls show him in a fight for his life.
Current trends might not continue, of course, but at this point it’s hard to imagine what might reverse them. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and deaths are climbing steadily nationwide and spiking to new records in Texas and Arizona and Florida, while d public health experts are saying the worst of it might come fwhen lu season arrives in the fall. Economic experts are predicting that unemployment will remain in double digits through the end of the year. Perhaps Trump’s steadfast stand for the Confederacy and crackdowns on peaceful protests against racism might turn things around, and his pardons of convicted felons won’t undermine his “law and order” positions, but so far they’ve only been driving his approval ratings down.
Trump is a master at marketing, if nothing else, and maybe he’l pull something out of his Make America Great Again ball cap. It will need to be something pretty damned good, though.

— Bud Norman

Three Cheers for the GOP’s “Human Scum”

Lately we’ve been binge-watching videos from both the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, as they make us feel lonely and give us hope that the Republican Party might eventually recover from President Donald Trump.
If you’re not familiar with either organization, you probably will be by Election Day. The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by some prominent Never Trump Republicans, including conservative lawyer George Conway, now best known as the husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former managers of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Jennifer Horn, and former California Republican Party political director Mike Madrid. Republicans Voting Against Trump is a more grass roots organization posting videos of dozens of disillusioned rank-and-file Republicans explaining the conservative and Republican reasons they’ll be voting against Trump.
Both groups make a more persuasive case against Trump than anything the damn Democrats have come up with so far, and both are a problem for the president.
The well-funded Lincoln Project’s videos are very professionally produced by political professionals who know a thing or two about how to make an effective attack ad and can speak to Republicans in Republican language. Last time around Trump had the advantage of running against spineless Republicans who didn’t want to alienate his supporters during the primary, and then against an inept Democratic nominee whose long history prevented her from exploiting Trump’s moral weakness. This time around he’ll presumably be running against presumptive Democrat nominee “Sleepy” Joe Biden, whose blandness will contrast favorably with Trump’s overly energetic persona, and he’s also got to contend with some bare-knuckle political pugilists who won’t be intimidated by a “tweet.”
All the YouTube views being racked up the Republican Voters Against Trump should be more worrisome. They’re not at all slick, just ordinary-looking Republicans looking into a video camera and stating their reasons for voting against Trump. Most of them have stories about how they’ve been Republicans since Trump was a Democrat, several talk about their military service and careers in law enforcement and their time in public office as Republicans, others talk about their Christian faith and belief that character counts, and none of them come across as “human scum,” as Trump has called any Republicans who don’t support everything says and does. They talk about how Trump has abandoned traditional Republican positions on free trade and maintaining the alliances that have largely kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II and lowering federal deficits and telling the truth, and as they rack up thousands of “views” on the internet they’re bound to win over more Republicans.
With coronavirus cases spiking and unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression and peaceful protests and the occasional riot popping up around the country because of racial injustice, Trump is betting that his defense of the the lost cause of the Confederacy is the best thing he’s got going for him. That will appeal to a certain segment of supporters, but we can’t see how it will win him any new voters nor appease any of the disillusioned Republican voters who continue to believe in the Grand Old Party’s traditional-since-its-founding pro-Union stance.
Most Republicans still like Trump, which we attribute to the fact he’s the Republican nominee, like it or not, but all the polls show that party support slowly eroding. The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump likely accelerate that trend, and Trump will be hard-pressed to recruit replacements.

— Bud Norman

Happy Independence Day, Despite Everything

Independence Day has always been one of our favorite days of the year. It brings hot weather, fireworks, charcoals grilling beef, ice chests cooling beer, and a collective sense of the great feeling that comes from being a citizen of the United States of America. This Independence Day, though, will feel different.
This Independence Day comes as the country suffers daily record increases in coronavirus infections, even as the rest of the industrialized first world is seeing daily declines, which puts a damper on the usual Fourth of July festivities. Even in such stubbornly Republican and individualistic states as Kansas and Texas the citizenry will be compelled to wear face masks and stay six feet of social distance from one another in small gatherings. The unemployment rate has fallen to a still-appalling 11 percent, but filings for unemployment insurance have continued to grow and the recent spike in infections will surely slow any further economic recovery.
America’s undeniably imperfect history of providing equal justice and opportunity for all has also been much in the news lately, driven by both peaceful protests and violent riots, and that has doesn’t anything to lighten the national mood. A recent polls shows that pride in America has hit its lowest point in a century, global polls show the country’s standing with the rest of the world also plummeting, and based on what we can observe while staying mostly at home here in Wichita we’re inclined to believe it.
President Donald Trump will kick off the holiday today with fireworks and a fiery speech to the faithful at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which might have seemed an anodyne act of patriotism is simpler times but these days creates several controversies. National Park Service experts and local fire marshals have warned Trump that the fireworks could cause a forest fire, which would be a metaphor for the Trump presidency that most of the media will not be able to resist, but Trump is willing to take his chances. Trump plans on having some 7,000 or so people in the audience, most of the presumably not wearing masks or standing six feet apart, but Trump is also willing to risk a viral wildfire.
Mount Rushmore is a stunning monument to four of America’s greatest presidents, so Trump also risks looking puny by comparison, but the sort of fiery speeches Trump likes to give are bound to create more controversy. The Native Americans who live in South Dakota still resent what they consider sacred land being taken by the United States of America, and having what they considered an especially sacred mountain carved up in the image of four white men, two of whom were slave-holders and none of which were very good friends to the Indians. It doesn’t help that admittedly ingenious sculptor who created it was a Ku Klux Klan member who also carved the Stone Mountain monument to the confederacy in Georgia.
An eloquent president with a nuanced understanding of how history fitfully proceeds might give a compelling speech about how despite its imperfections America has attained greatness, groping its way towards equal justice and opportunity and defeating the global threats of totalitarianism and helping the world prosper, and how the four imperfect men in the background helped lead this country in that noble direction, and then call for unity and shared sacrifice in this time of national crisis. We’re not holding out any hope that Trump will deliver that speech, however, and instead expect he’ll ad-lib himself into another divisive brouhaha.
Even though this will be a different Independence Day from any we remember, it’s still the Fourth of July, damn it, and we plan on charcoaled beef and ice cold deer and whatever contact we can responsibly have with our fellow citizens, and we’ll be watching the fireworks neighborhood kids are shooting off, and despite everything we’ll hold out hope for America.
We wish you all as happy an Independence Day as possible.

— Bud Norman

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

On How Things are Going

Despite everything we still run into friends occasionally, and from a social distance we’ll ask how things are going for them. In most cases they shrug and tell us that they’re hanging in there, but we haven’t had anyone recently tell us that things are going great.
This admittedly anecdotal evidence is corroborated by a fresh poll from the Columbia Broadcasting System showing that only 5 percent of Americans say that things are going vey well for them. At this rate it will take us a while to ask 100 people how things are going, and if we find five among them who saying things are going very well we’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Pretty much everything is undeniably awful at the moment, after all, and only the luckiest 5 precent or so are having a good time. Coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths continue to mount at the fastest rate in the world, tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, people are once again bickering both peacefully and violently about race, there are no sports or campaign rallies to divert our attention, and around here it’s hotter than hell and theres’s even Saharan dust in the air.
Not all of this is President Donald Trump’s fault, of course, but everything seems to have gone to hell on his watch, which is how Trump judged all the previous presidents of his lifetime, and nobody seems to be “sick and tired of winning,” as Trump promised they would beat this point in his presidency. His boasts about “Only I can solve” and making America great again and building a big and beautiful wall across the southern border that Mexico would pay pay for haven’t been backed up. The budget deficit is up by trillions and trade deficits are up by billions, and Trump is boasting about how great things were last January and how great they will be when the coronavirus magically disappears before inauguration day next January,
We’ll see how it turns out, but Trump seems to be one of the 95 percent who don’t think things are going very well.

— Bud Norman<.

America Persists

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the second Great Depression and all the protests and occasional rioting for social justice that’s been going on lately, Thursday was a pretty good day for us. The weather here in Wichita was sunny and hot, as we like it, and we got insurance for the brand new used car we boought the other day, which isn’t a convertible but is an immaculate six-year-9ld car with only 60,000 or miles at a very good price from trusted friends, and we took care of a trash payment that kept getting rejected, and we had a nice chat at Kirby’s Beer Store with some old and valued friends,
All in all it was a pretty good day, until we got home and started reading and hearing the news. The coronavirus is as bad as ever, the economy is not the best anybody ever’s seen an economic revival seems months away, and the racism causing the protests and riots seems likely to linger for a while.Try as we might, can’t find any good news in the news.
Which is no reason, we’ve found, why you shouldn’t have a nice day despite everything. That’s what we wish for all of you on this dismal Friday.

— Bud Norman

In Search of Good News

Everyday we spend an inordinate amount of time reading and watching news from a wide variety of sources, always hoping for some glimmer of good news, but for most of this year it’s been a desultory task. We can only imagine how depressing it must be for President Donald Trump.
Coronavirus cases continue to mount in many states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, where Trump recently had large crowds gathering together indoors and mostly without face marks, and in such crucial states as Texas and Florida. All the stock markets suffered significant losses on Wednesday because of the scary coronavirus numbers, and the estimated 50 million workers who are now out of work can’t to expect things to change soon. There are still peaceful protests and lawless vandalism going on around the country about racism and police brutality, and although Trump has promised racism can be “quickly and very solved,” we don’t expect he solve that problem by Election Day.
Trump got big applause at his appearances in Oklahoma by calling coronavirus “the Kung Flu,” even though many Asian-Americans have voiced their objections, and he still likes to call Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” despite the objections of many Native Americans, and his latest cause is a defense of the statues and other honorifics to the slave-holding traitors of the Confederate Sates of America. This is good news for Trump’s most die-hard defenders, but it’s bad news to the rest of the country, and doesn’t seem likely to end racism by Election Day. There are fears from the experts that the coronavirus will be worse by then, and that the economic numbers will be just as dire. Unless you’re Trump or one of his die-hard fans the only good news is that all polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading by wide margins nationwide and in crucial swing states.
The only other news is about Trump politicizing the Justice Department and letting his cronies off easy and going after prosecutors nosing into Trump’s business, but he’ll surely have some explanation for that will satisfy the die-hard fans.
Election Day is still four months away, though, and almost anything could happen in that time. We’re not hopeful, though, and neither should Trump be.

— Bud Norman

A Long, Hot Summer Lasting Past Autumn

Sooner or later American life will have to get back to something like normal, but it looks like it will be much later. The coronavirus seems likely to be around past the summer, and the economy won’t start to recover until it’s gone, and the unrest on the streets don’t seem likely to abate until after the election.
For the first time since 1972 the charming little town of Winfield, Kansas, won’t be hosting the annual Walnut Valley Festival, a weeklong acoustic music event that all of our folkie friends look forward to with a passion. The massive hootenanny is another victim of the coronavirus, although the event is annually held in mid-September, so the state and local health officials have decided the risk of further infections will persist until at least then. If so, the schools won’t be able to reopen at the traditional start of the school year, and all the school districts are currently trying to figure out what to do about that.
Which means that all the recently semi-reopened businesses won’t be back to their pre-coronavirus levels of activity, leaving a lot of people still out work, with various ripple effects across the wider economy.
Which in turn will exacerbate the anger that’s being expressed both peacefully and violently in pretty much every American city. President Donald Trump is hoping to quell the discontent with an overwhelming show of force, but so far that hasn’t seemed to pacify those protesting and rioting against police brutality, and the president is clearly more interested in exploiting the country’s political divisions than in healing him.
According to all the recent polling, the strategy isn’t working for them. If you’re inclined to dismiss the polls as “fake news,” there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support their conclusions. Another big story here in Wichita on Thursday was presidential advisor and First Daughter Ivanka Trump being invited to give a commencement speech to Wichita State University technical school, then quickly being disinvited after a deluge of angry phone calls in this traditionally conservative and Republican city.
Everything that’s going on will make it difficult for both major parties to hold their conventions in the traditional fashion, although Trump is determined to find a state where can do so, whatever the health risks to conventioneers and the likelihood of a bloody clash between protestors and police like happened in Chicago in 1968. The election might also need to be done with voting by mail, and Trump is also arguing that results would be rigged, which the 35-to-40 percent of the country that still adores him will believe.
Even after the coronavirus runs its course and everything’s reopened and the streets are relatively quiet, we expect that even then American life won’t be back to something like normal.

— Bud Norman