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Friday, March 20, 2020

Even the Coronavirus Can’t Avoid the Partisan Divide

Pres. Trump appearing at a meeting at the CDC donning his campaign cap

Our politics are so divisive that even the coronavirus pandemic, which has no political allegiance, can’t be viewed through a non-partisan lens. From the outset, President Trump has shifted his interpretation of the effects of covid-19 from near denial of a problem to a “wartime” footing.
 
During this unsettling process, in which the financial markets have reacted viciously against the uncertainty of the economic impact mixed with the often contradictory messaging from the White House and medical experts tasked with mitigating the pandemic, people who are Republicans and those who are Democrats differ markedly in their perception.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken between March 11 and 13 (noting attitudes may have shifted since), the following findings appear:

Worried that someone in your immediate family with catch the coronavirus?
All voters: 53 percent
Urban Dems: 70 percent
Suburban Dems: 68 percent
Rural Dems: 65 percent
Urban GOPers: 44 percent
Suburban GOPers: 37 percent
Rural GOPers: 41 percent

Stop attending large public gatherings?
All voters: 47 percent
Urban Dems: 59 percent
Suburban Dems: 63 percent
Rural Dems: 59 percent

Amazingly, there are plenty of deniers still out there fueled by commentary on FOX News at the beginning and by the president himself who at his rally in South Carolina on February 28 called the situation “the Democrats’ new hoax.”

According to the Washington Post on Instagram:
Even as President Trump has asked Americans to stay at home and has called on the nation to come together to fight the “invisible enemy” known as covid-19, virus doubters persist. They call reports of more than 200,000 sickened and 9,000 dead worldwide a sham. Republican legislators have continued to brag about their dinners out, some beaches remain packed with spring breakers and Hollywood starlet Vanessa Hudgens was forced to apologize for complaining on Instagram that “people are going to die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?” 

Virus deniers vow to continue on with their daily activities with little adjustment, convinced that the unprecedented reaction to the virus is nothing more than a plot by the media or liberals out to get Trump. The Pew Research Center released a poll Wednesday that found that 62 percent of adults say the media is exaggerating the risk of the virus.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll referenced above seems to suggest that these deniers are more likely to be Republicans.  #Hocopolitics

Anecdotally, Trump supporters see this as another attempt by Democrats and the media to make

Trump look bad after the Mueller Report and the impeachment trial failed to lower the president’s approval numbers. I have heard this from Trump supporters that the coronavirus is exaggerated to drop Trump’s numbers.
    
As the markets tank to a level that existed before Trump took office and that the economy will undoubtedly slide into a recession, Trump’s main re-election campaign arguments have gone down the drain.  But Trump is doing this to himself.  The stock market dives with every lie, contradiction and factual error he spews from the White House briefing room adding to the already built-in medical uncertainty of this new virus.

Though Republicans and the president himself have called for unity and non-partisanship (meaning no criticism of the president), it must be pointed out that Trump attended a CDC meeting two weeks ago sporting his familiar red campaign cap.  That alone undermines his plea for nonpartisanship; there is no justification to wear that cap at such an event.

Plus he made comments, such as the stock market will rebound in time (for the election, he implied); and cruise ship passengers should not be allowed to return to the U.S. because he didn't want the number of cases to rise; or consciously calling it the "China virus."

People have the right to criticize the handling of the crisis; perhaps and hopefully, it would be taken more seriously. It was reported, for instance, that one of the FOX News commentators urged Trump to take it more seriously lest there will be political hell to pay.

Here is the problem: If we cannot get 100 percent on board to see this as a major health crisis and stop worrying how this will affect the November elections, the results could be catastrophic. This is not the time for bravado and machismo as we often see when the tough guys speed on snowy roads or do other stupid stuff.

To amplify this point, there is the viral clip of the doophus on spring break with the backward cap saying, "If I get Corona I get corona. At the end of the day, I won't let this keep me from partying." How selfish is that?

Even as our local officials take strong actions and we comply by taking the necessary precautions, the deniers are putting all of us in danger with their cavalier, selfish and careless behavior.  This is not political pandemic but it sure feels like one.

_____

UPDATE:  On March 27 President Trump signed into law a $2 trillion stimulus package that was passed in a bipartisan manner. to provide relief to those businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  Despite the bipartisan passage of the bill in Congress, the White House purposely excluded Democrats from the signing ceremony.  And Republicans accuse the Democrats of politicizing the coronavirus crisis!

Friday, March 13, 2020

For Biden this is a Big Fu****g Deal

Joe Biden addressing the nation on the coronavirus
Under the cloud of uncertainty stemming from COVID-19, the primary races are continuing albeit without the grandeur of big crowd rallies and other forms of interpersonal campaigning. Even the debate on Sunday between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden will take place at CNN’s Washington studio with no live audience to distract from the candidates’ ability to enunciate their points. #hocopolitics

Biden is clearly the front runner following a jaw-dropping comeback that has every pundit on earth scratching his or her head.  While Sanders is mathematically in contention, the landscape looks bleak for the Democratic Socialist with the upcoming debate the last realistic opportunity to change the trajectory of the race.

To repeat the sentence Biden uttered into a hot mic to a cringing President Obama following the signing of the Affordable Care Act, this is a big fu****g deal.  Where we stand now in the primaries and caucuses, that sentence is apropos for Biden and, of course, Sanders.

How aggressive the now underdog Sanders will go after Biden in this one-on-one matchup, the first of the primary season, is unclear. Some Sanders’ supporters along with Trump supporters led by Donald Trump, Jr. have been pushing the narrative that at a minimum, Biden is no longer on his game and at the extreme end, he suffers from dementia. They site Biden’s malapropisms, gaffes, and confusion at times as evidence. It’s sad that people would use such a personal attack, but in the age of Trump, there are no longer any rules.

Unquestionably, this debate will provide the opportunity for Biden to prove the critics wrong. The less frenetic, more casual setting should be better terrain for Biden. However, he is still prone to mistakes and in the age of social media, the slightest slip-up will be magnified and will be cycled through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and what-not. And they will be compiled into a montage for ads as the election cycle proceeds.

It is akin to attending the Indy 500 looking for a crash as opposed to the caring who the ultimate winner is after dozens of laps.  People will be scrutinizing Biden’s style and fluidity of thought more than his actual policy positions.  Bernie’s style is already baked in so he won’t be under that sort of microscope. And he is no longer the frontrunner.

There is considerable irony that Trump supporters are pushing the dementia button on Biden. This is especially so following Trump’s pathetic dumpster fire of a nationally televised speech from the Oval Office this past Wednesday in a Hail Mary attempt to quell the nervous financial markets. 

Slurring many of his words, seemingly out of it, speaking like it was a hostage video, Trump piled up lie after lie, mistake after mistake while not seriously addressing the public health measures that the coronavirus requires.

The markets responded with the futures dropping during each utterance like leaves falling from trees in November. And on Thursday, the markets rewarded Trump, who sees the coronavirus and its ensuing economic impact as a significant threat to his re-election chances, with the worst day on Wall Street since the huge crash of October 1987.

Joe Biden receiving the critical endorsement from Rep. Clyburn
By stark contrast Joe Biden, as did Bernie Sanders, showed what presidential leadership is all about. Both described the situation in calm, measured tones while articulating the correct course of action to be taken. For Biden, this was a huge moment and he delivered.

Facing this debate where Biden is only one of the two last standing is, in itself, a miracle of sorts. Left for dead along with other Democratic hopefuls after the first three contests, Biden received arguably the most consequential endorsement in modern election cycles.

Normally, endorsements have minimal effect; not this one. James Clyburn, the highly respected Congressman from South Carolina and Democratic Majority Whip gave an emotional endorsement of Biden that propelled the 77 year-old candidate to a crushing win in South Carolina. That victory, powered by African-American voters, launched this comeback, also powered by that demographic, to major victories on Super Tuesday and the primaries the following week. Other Dem hopefuls joined the post-South Carolina parade by endorsing Biden and seeing him as the best chance to defeat Trump.
#hocopolitics
For Joe Biden, who ran unsuccessfully twice before and didn’t win his first primary ever until the South Carolina game-changer, is at the precipice of finally reaching that goal. Clearly, Trump doesn’t want to face him in the general election as he was impeached for his efforts to sully Biden’s reputation.

Joe Biden needs to seal the deal this Sunday. He doesn’t have to “win” the debate as that assessment will come from the electorate who will view the debate through the lens of their candidate. But he must be able to hold his own. If he does, the finish line will be near as upcoming primaries loom favorable to Biden.

This is indeed a big f*****g deal.










Sunday, March 01, 2020

Paranoia Overtaking Trumpworld


Photo: The Guardian
At a time when there is an external crisis, such as the Coronavirus, that can potentially affect an untold number of Americans and the world’s population (and already has), we need strong, competent, scientific-based leadership. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and his acolytes have not only bungled the rollout of a “plan” to combat the spread of the virus by minimizing its seriousness but are viewing the outbreak through the lens of politics.

Observing how the Stock Market dipped a whopping 12 percent in just a week making the fall the largest since the 2008 financial crisis, Trumpworld who has yet to experience a crisis not of his own making and testing the competency and leadership of an administration which has demonstrated neither, sees the threat of contagion, not to mention an economic slowdown as a result, as serious threats to the president’s re-election.

Measures, such as Trump assigning the lead to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus to Vice President Pence rather than to medical experts, did not help gain the confidence of the American people.  And making Pence the gatekeeper for messaging or spin did not help. Nor did Trump aid his cause by lying about the number of actual cases in the U.S. and portraying a cringe-worthy blasé attitude laced with false optimism.

In an effort to preempt criticism, Trump’s allies have taken to the airwaves accusing the Democrats and the media for exaggerating the scope of the crisis (the fact is, it could very well turn into a pandemic) and trying to “take down the president.”  Toadies from newly decorated  Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh to Rep. Steve Scalise have attempted to make the conversation about politics.

None other than Donald Trump, Jr. added to the “non-politicization” of the discourse with this gem on CNN:

“But for them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here, and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump’s streak of winning, is a new level of sickness. You know, I don't know if this is Coronavirus or Trump derangement syndrome, but these people are infected badly.”


Former Under Secretary of State and Managing Editor of TIME magazine Richard Stengel responded to Pence’s reaction to the Trump Jr. diatribe in this tweet:

In Trumpworld, everyone is always trying to take down the president: the Russia Hoax, the Mueller Hoax, the Impeachment Hoax, the Climate Change Hoax, the Evolution Hoax, and now the Coronavirus Hoax—all manifestations of the underlying paranoia gripping Trump and his followers. The evil Democrats led by “vicious” Nancy Pelosi and “corrupt” Adam Schiff, the media (except for FOX News, Breitbart, Drudge, Limbaugh, etc.), the “Deep State,” the leakers, the dis-loyalists, the book authors exposing the Trump White House—are  part of an effort to defeat Trump’s desperate desire to cling to power.

This paranoia surfaced back in August when there were early signs of an economic downturn, Trumpworld accused the Democrats and media for “rooting for a recession”  as a way to stop Trump in November 2020.


We are facing a serious public health crisis whose damage and effects are frighteningly unknown at this point. We should not panic but instead turn our hopes for guidance to a government effort to curtail the impact of the Coronavirus to the best of its ability. 

This is no time for politics from either side, and clearly not the time for Trumpworld to demonstrate weakness and uncertainty through their never ending paranoia.