Saturday, March 14, 2020

Race for the White House # 63

History will long remember this week in America. For one thing, it now appears a near certainty that Joe Biden, a one-time frontrunner, whom later saw his campaign declared all but over, has made a fairly unprecedented political comeback to be the choice of his party. There are still many states left to vote however and there could be some further developments in the race. However, Presidential politics all but took a back seat as this week progressed. America is finding itself in a very unfamiliar situation this weekend, as the worldwide Pandemic of Coronavirus spreads with an anxious planet trying to do what is needed to slow down the threat. It occurred to me earlier this week, that not even the 9/11 attacks have had such an impact on our daily lives. I remember those days well, and believe that the attack of course is too frequently forgotten. Those days though, saw a nation become more calm and less afraid by the day. These days though, a virus that is effecting relatively few people, and killing even far fewer, is on the minds of just about everyone. Some think we are drastically overreacting. Some think we are not taking this risk seriously enough. Of course, the truth is likely in the middle and it is better to err on the side of caution. Thus, Americans are having to sacrifice at a level not asked of us since World World II.

So, the sports world is basically on hold, a huge disappointment to athletes and fans alike of professional, college, and international competition, but nothing more shocking that the outright cancellation of "March Madness." Things got real on Wednesday evening when the NBA announced the suspension of its season, as fans were present at arenas across the country for games. Three players have now tested positive for Coronavirus and while they are likely to recover in short time, steps have to be taken to prevent the spread and for the illness to not reach those who are old or sick who would not survive. Multiple Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson became the first celebrities to announce they had the virus, even as they remain in good spirits while quarantined in Australia. The wife of Canada's Prime Minister has it, but her husband has tested negative. Tonight is the news (positive of course) that Donald Trump, the 73 year old President, has tested negative for the virus, despite the fact that he has had physical contact with people who later tested positive.

Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening, just minutes before the Hanks and NBA news broke and his speech was roundly panned, as he announced a travel ban for most of Europe. He seemed to go out of his way to blame foreigners for the virus, not taking into account that it was already present in America and must be combated from within. Wall Street reacted quite negatively on Thursday, causing real concerns about a major recession. On Friday afternoon, Trump and his team made things a bit better politically in a Rose Garden press conference, but the media is of course, as expected, still harping on false statements made by Trump. The underlying issue there is why we have a President who lies so much and who gets so much wrong. It is almost as if we take it for granted. It is too early to tell what polling data might say over Trump's actions late this week and into the weekend and if any of his base has abandoned him. Conventional wisdom though states that a sharp economic downturn will make it nearly impossible for an already divisive President to win another term and that there is much to be criticized about how he and his Administration reacted to the early stages of this outbreak, relative to the rest of the world. This could all certainly be a game changer.

Of course, games of all sort are on hold, and the politics of primary season almost seem an afterthought, even as my state and three others prepare to vote on Tuesday. Will voters and election judges feel safe enough to show up? I know I plan on doing what I consider to be a civic duty as quickly as possible, and will likely discuss it here next week.

This past Tuesday, before Wednesday 3/11, entered the annals of history, saw another big night for Joe Biden as he easily defeated Bernie Sanders in four states. Sanders won in one, and Washington state, once thought to be one of Sanders' strongest, is still counting their mail in votes, but it is Biden who has the narrow lead. Today, Sanders managed to win in the Northern Marianas Islands, but in the delegate rich places that matter, polls show that Democrats have decided on Biden. Even Sanders and his campaign appear resigned to this. He is not yet heeding calls to drop out of the race (and some Biden backers even shamelessly started to call for remaining primaries to be canceled), but that he is still intent on trying to move the party to the left and is running about issues. It now appears likely that Sanders will be pulling his punches against Biden similar to how he did against Hillary Clinton four years ago. Sanders definitely has a core set of beliefs, but clearly, considering his entire political history, he is not someone who really cares about losing and likely does not even have a deep desire to be President.

Before the results came in Tuesday from Michigan and other states, there was an incident with Joe Biden at that state that did not receive a lot of attention this week, because of other stories. Biden who has a long history throughout his career and into this campaign of being combative with voters who criticize him to his face got into it with a UAW worker at an auto plant over the issue of guns. Whether the man was correct or not on Biden's positions is not really the point. The fact is that the former Vice President told a voter to his face that he was "full of shit" and as the conversation continued, used other insults and even seemed to threaten to slap the man's face or "take him outside." Somehow, Biden's fans, old, and new, and renewed, among Democrats liked his fighting spirit. I think this is a horrible character trait for Biden and that America deserves better, especially from a candidate who is selling himself as a "healer" in the age of Trump. Even Trump, for all the awful things he has said and done, has never gone this far in cursing at or threatening an individual voter over an issue disagreement. It seems clear that the message going forth in a campaign against Biden from Trumpland will be that Biden has dementia. As I have stated before, I do not believe that to be the case. Biden is the same sort of politician, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as he has been over a long public career. Tuesday saw some of the ugly, even as he struck a unifying tone on Tuesday night, while speaking at his national headquarters.

For now, campaign rallies of all sorts are on hold. A scheduled Arizona debate between Biden and Sanders for tomorrow night has been moved to Washington D.C., where no audience members will be present. I actually think it might be better to have these two septuagenarian candidates debate in seperate rooms. They have both interacted with a lot of people over the past month and a half and hopefully will remain healthy.

There is so much about the next week and the weeks to come that are uncertain in terms of life in America and around the world and how it will effect this campaign. We can be certain though that partisans on both sides will attempt to gain a political advantage out of it. Many Democrats seem near gleeful that a panicked populace and economy could finally be the thing that brings Trump down. On the other hand, right-wingers and others who back Trump seem incredulous that Americans are acting so afraid and think this will all work to Trump's advantage and that he and his Administration are handling everything perfectly.

Both sides should be careful on relying too much on the unknown. This could all turn out very badly for Trump, but at the same time, he remains the "chaos candidate" and "chaos President" whom might actually thrive on chaos and fear. One can imagine him making this issue a wedge on such things as immigration and needing to close the borders to keep out "foreign invaders", human and bacterial

When the story of Campaign 2020 is written, I hope Coronavirus is not the main factor nor the thing most on voters minds when they vote in November. Even as Americans are lucky enough to "social distance" with all sorts of technological and comfort items, none of this feels good. I think we would all like to see life return to "normal" and also hope that those who are going out of their way to keep things "normal" will not come to regret their attitude a month from now.

Let us all hope and pray this passes, regardless of our political beliefs. Let us not not hope that a virus will be what causes one side to win or one side to lose. Let us do what is always right and hope for the health, safety, well-being, and prosperity of all decent people.


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