Saturday, May 23, 2020

Race for the White House # 73

This Saturday brings us to a very different Memorial Day Weekend than what we have all been used to. Nonetheless, every state in the country is now opened up to various degrees, as the human toll of Covid 19 rapidly approaches 100,000.

Each week, I have less and less desire to write here, but will try to do the best I can. It was a difficult week that felt especially long. Numerous actions by both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are enough to make you wonder about just how unpopular the eventual winner of this current election will be as President, once this pandemic passes.

Somebody will win though, and the polls show Biden ahead. We should remember though, that Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls for most of 2016 as well and many (myself included) thought it was inevitable that Trump would lose. That did not happen and America and the world have faced the consequences. I am glad that there are two recent conservative additions to the Supreme Court, but continue to be extremely regretful about the entire direction of the Republican Party and the capitulation of the conservative moment to the megalomania and selfishness of Trump and his Cult of Personality.

This week, as he continued to try to allege, without any real specifics, that Barack Obama and his Vice President Biden, engaged in illegal activities, Trump claimed he had been taking the unproven malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure after being exposed to the Coronavirus. Interestingly enough, many just assumed Trump was lying about this. He has talked up this drug for weeks now, despite incomplete or negative studies about its effects. While it is true that frontline medical personnel also take it for the same reason, for someone of Trump's age and uh.. weight, ("morbidly obese" as Nancy Pelosi snarkily remarked this week), it is probably not a good idea. The White House physician though released a statement saying that yes, Trump was taking the drug, while at the same time seeming to distance himself from the decision. Now, Trump is going off the drug and did not get sick. Of course, that is a good thing, but could one imagine what the reaction would have been by Trumpists if the President had suddenly dropped dead or had a heart attack because of this drug and the calls for criminal and civil retribution against the White House physician?

As usual, Trump said and did a lot of other crazy things this week and I can hardly remember them all. I have my own job to focus on during the week and that has not been easy. On Friday, he appealed to many in his base who consider themselves highly religious by saying that churches and other places of worship needed to open and that he would overrule the Governors if needed. Of course, he has no authority to do so. On one hand it was also funny to hear Trump refer to mosques as "essential."

Much of the week also involved a ton of talk about Trump not wearing a mask, despite being warned. During a trip to a factory in Michigan, for a time, he violated company and state regulations by not wearing a mask. He said he wore one earlier, but did not want to give the media a chance to see him in it. Nonetheless, a photographed of a masked Trump did surface.

He also fought with officials in Michigan and other states about sending out absentee ballot applications both for their primaries and for the November election. Erroneously, he first claimed they were the ballots themselves. Many states are doing this, including ones with Republican officials and in states Trump is highly likely to win, but he did not mention those. Frankly, Republicans should embrace the concept of vote by mail during this year of the virus. It has been successful for their candidates in the past.

Trump's presumptive opponent Joe Biden, once again had a more low-key week, at least up until Friday. His campaign seems to be accelerating their search for a female Vice Presidential running-mate. The frontrunners are believed to be California Senator Kamala Harris and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, both former Presidential candidates from this cycle, which now feels like eons ago.

On Friday, Biden was on some sort of video podcast with a famous hip hop personality and the conversation turned awkward and somewhat confrontational. There is something about Biden that leads to anger in unexpected situations. On the topic of an African-American being undecided between Trump and Biden, the former Vice President said that anybody doing that "ain't black."

While I do not think this will lose Biden a ton of anti-Trump black votes, this was still a major unforced error and a sign of Biden's political weaknesses that should continue to concern his party. The soon to be nominee did take the steps of apologizing for his remarks (something Trump has almost never done) and saying he was just saying it in jest. I am reminded though of the time that Biden in 2012 told a black audience that Mitt Romney would "put y'all back in chains." Was he joking then? Where was the apology?

While party insiders have tried to rally around Biden amid this sudden controversy, others on the left have expressed dismay at his remarks. They are saying he owes far more of an apology to the African-American community and that he now basically is required to pick a black Vice Presidential choice. I also saw Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, whom I have considered a mostly principled conservative, on television, attacking Biden using Trumpist talking points for this tempest and somehow trying to defend the indefensible of Trump's record on race. This is going to continue to be an ugly campaign season.

On the substance, of course what Biden said was horrible, and while he can claim he was joking, he meant much of it. This is no different than Trump having claimed a few months ago that Jews who vote for Democrat (which is definitely most of them) are somehow not loyal to Israel or their faith. While most African-Americans will certainly vote against Trump, it is also pretty disgraceful (especially when said by a white man) to claim that someone must vote a certain way in order to be a part of a racial identity. With all that is going on in the news though, this gaffe by Biden is not getting the coverage it otherwise would and perhaps will be largely forgotten by summer.

Traditionally, Memorial Day is considered the kickoff to summer, but it still feels like life has stayed still since mid March. We always should remember the meaning behind the Holiday though in honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our history during times of conflict.

Right now, our most pressing enemy is an invisible one and for a little over two months, we have been asked to make sacrifices. These have not been easy sacrifices, but in terms of what those who fought and died for our country faced, we should maybe try to show some greater perspective.


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