Category Archives: Joe Biden

Biden Won

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I’ve considered it one of my duties as a citizen to stay informed.  I try to get a balance of media, and one element of that has been the NBC evening news.  I try to watch even when I don’t agree with them, but I’ll shut it off when it becomes overly tiresome.

This spring and summer, though, I found myself wanting to throw something through the TV screen.  And for a month and half after Election Day, I simply stopped watching.  I found myself disagreeing not with the facts they presented, but their interpretation, which was presented as if it were fact.  If you disagree that Mount Rushmore is evil because it was built on stolen land, and Trump is evil for speaking there, as we were told around Independence Day, then you yourself must be evil.

More recently, we’ve been told about President Trump’s baseless accusations of election fraud.  The word ‘baseless’ is never omitted, as if we’re forbidden to consider what happened.

Let’s consider it, shall we?  Since the mainstream media won’t even hint that the elections were anything other than squeaky clean, I’ll have to use my alternative news feeds and gut instincts.

  • Was there election fraud in the 2020 Presidential election?  Almost certainly.  It was run by humans, wasn’t it?
  • Was there election fraud sufficient to turn a state from one candidate to the other?  I think so.  I was sure that Pennsylvania would go for Trump, but it didn’t happen, and there were reports of ballots appearing in the middle of the night, and poll watchers denied access.  There are reports of similar events in other swing states.
  • Can you prove it?  Every murderer on Columbo dares the detective to prove he did it, although they don’t say that out loud.  But Lieutenant Columbo is trying to unravel a relatively simple personal crime, has all the time in the world, and has a compelling interest in getting to the bottom of things.  In this case, we have something far more complicated, which must be resolved in the eleven weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and there’s a compelling interest in sweeping it all under the rug.  I’m not an election official: it isn’t my job.  But there’s plenty of anecdotal and statistical evidence that something was afoot.
  • If you can’t prove it, that means it didn’t happen!  That’s what’s presumed in a criminal trial.  If a person is tried for murder and acquitted, the rest of society must presume the defendant was innocent.  Absent extraordinary circumstances, the police and prosecutor can’t go after the defendant again.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the murder happened, and the reality of who the perpetrator might have been.  In the case of the elections, it’s more than fair to keep questioning and keep looking.  That President Trump’s partisans did not prevail on court does not mean that nothing untoward happened.  It only means they couldn’t develop adequate proof in the available time.
  • OK, then: who did win the election?  If I had superpowers, and I could count all the votes, excluding the finagled ones, that would be easy.  But all I can do is speculate, the same as everyone else.  I can’t say for sure that Trump would have won if only the valid votes were counted, and were counted accurately.  So I’ll default to the official result, and acknowledge that Biden won.
  • If you acknowledge that Biden won fair and square, what are you yammering about?  I didn’t say that Biden won fair and square.  There are other ways besides fraud and vote-count shenanigans to manipulate an election.  Some of them are even legal.  That doesn’t make them right.

And while Joe Biden won the election and is now the President-Elect, Joe Biden the candidate didn’t win: it was, for lack of a better term, Joe Biden the movement.  But even that doesn’t quite capture it, because, as far as I can tell, Joe Biden himself had very little to do with it.  We need to understand that, and come to terms with what it means.

We now come to the events of 6 January, when Congress’s efforts to finalize the election results were delayed by what has been described as a riot or an insurrection, when some number ‘breached’ the Capitol and interfered with Congress’s deliberations.  Five died in the events: one woman was shot by a Capitol Police officer; a Capitol Police officer died from injuries resulting from getting hit by a fire extinguisher; two died from medical conditions; and one death hasn’t been further described in the media.  If someone had been killed by an armed private citizen, commonly referred to as a ‘gun nut,’ I’m sure we would have heard about it.

President Trump has been impeached yet again for his remarks that day. The news media have all been presenting this as a dastardly effort by Trump to subvert the will of the American people, not to be considered as anything else.  So, once again, off we go:

  • Was it an insurrection?  No.  An ‘insurrection’ presumes a plan by its leaders to wrest control from lawful authority and do something.  There’s no evidence of a plan beyond making noise and breaking things.  (If there were a serious plan, we’d never hear the end of it!)
  • Was it a riot?  I think that’s a fair characterization, although as riots go, on a scale of 1 to 10, it was about a 3.  The property damage, compared to the riots last spring, was minimal, and Congress got back to business after a few hours.
  • Did Trump incite the crowd?  Incitement to riot is a well-defined crime.  It must be well-defined because it exists alongside the First Amendment right to free speech.  By that measure, no, Trump did not incite the crowd.   But then again, anything that Trump would have said apart from an abject admission of defeat (and even then!) would have been considered incitement by the opposition.
  • How many participated?  That’s the real question.  Tens of thousands were there for what was almost certainly President Trump’s last rally, and to protest the election results, but how many were there to make trouble?  Some fraction of those who ‘breached’ the Capitol were in fact admitted as visitors (Trump regalia and all!) by the Capitol Police.  There weren’t very many actual rioters, and a little mayhem goes a long way.  The US attorney for the District of Columbia noted that ‘at least 170 people’ were suspect.  That seems a more realistic figure.  What’s galling is that the news media are perfectly happy, if not eager, to conflate the handful of troublemakers with the vast majority who were peaceful and entirely within their rights.
  • Was it appropriate to protest that day?  Absolutely.  Perhaps the Trump partisans are misguided in their beliefs, but that doesn’t diminish their rights.  The Democrats protested Trump’s election and inauguration: sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

It seems pointless to impeach a President who will be out of office anyway later in the month.  It remains to be seen whether the Senate will continue the process to remove a President who will have already left office.  The intent seems to be to pound Trump into the ground, perhaps to prevent him from running again in 2024 (at which point, he’ll be older than Biden is now, and if Trump is the only alternative to the Democrats at that point, we’ve got other problems), but more as a grim warning: this is what happens if you don’t govern the way the cool kids think you ought to govern.

New Year 2021

2020 is over.  Finally.

The ball dropped in Times Square last night, but the public was kept out, with attendance limited to the TV crews and performers, and a handful of first responders.  The guy on NBC kept prattling on about his thoughts while the ball was dropping; someone must have finally gotten his attention about 15 seconds before midnight so they could finally focus on the main event.

While 2020 is thankfully over, alas, I don’t see the emergency ending anytime soon.

We have two vaccines against Covid that became available in December, which in itself is a fantastic achievement.  But wait!  There’s now a ‘super-Covid’ strain against which the vaccine may or may not be effective, and we’re now told that while the vaccine may protect the person who receives it against getting sick, it won’t prevent that person from spreading the virus asymptomatically.  So even if we all get vaccinated, the masks, social distancing, and occasional lockdowns for shits and grins will still go on.

For now, unless some makes me, I’ll pass on the vaccine.  As far as I can tell, Covid is perhaps a couple of ticks more severe than the Hong Kong flu that was a thing when I was a kid.  The Hong Kong flu killed perhaps 100,000 in the United States (160,000 or so adjusting for population between then and now), but at the time we didn’t have overly sensitive PCR tests to genetically identify the virus (or non-functional fragments thereof), and didn’t have a political interest in emphasizing the worst, including fussing over asymptomatic transmission.

Nevertheless, here we are, with a politically weaponized virus that served to take down a President.  I acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election, but not that he won fair and square.

My son voted for Biden, not believing the radical progressive rhetoric, thinking that he would govern as a moderate Democrat, rather like Bill Clinton.  If I had believed that, I might have voted for Biden myself.  If Biden and Harris ultimately govern as moderates, it would mean that the entire electorate, the Democrats and Republicans, the liberals and conservatives, had all been played (except, maybe, my son).

I hope my son is right.  Meanwhile, Uncle Joe has told us to look forward to a dark winter.

Making My Peace

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to make my peace with the notion of a President Biden.  I don’t begrudge President Trump’s efforts in the courts to possibly change the results—the Democrats took similar measures after the 2016 election—but I doubt he’ll succeed.

I still haven’t made my peace yet.

It would help if I could believe that Biden won fair and square.  If Biden was this wonderful candidate, so much better than Trump, the election should have played out as a shining example of how elections are non-partisan in their execution.  But that isn’t what happened.

An election is supposed to be a social experiment: you poll the voters and the results are what they are.  But Biden’s win feels like an engineered result: from Biden’s non-campaign, to the suppression of news items unfavorable to him, to making President Trump look like a blithering idiot at every turn, to the post-Election-Day shenanigans, it’s happening by design.  The fix is in.

But if I suspend disbelief for a bit and presume that what happened was in fact a free and fair election, that’s even more troubling.  It means that the electorate has decided that we’d rather not be a free country anymore.  It’s better for the government to take care of us: we can’t manage it ourselves.  Then again, if you vote for Republicans, you must be an evil racist.

It took me a while (a couple weeks after Election Day!) to realize that this year’s Presidential election isn’t really about Donald Trump or Joe Biden: if the candidates had kept their personalities and Twitter habits and families and foibles, and traded policy positions, the news media would be going on about how wonderful Donald Trump is, and I’d have voted for Biden.  The difference is more stark than it has been in any election in my life, even going back to when I was three and didn’t know what a President was.

A vote for Trump is a vote to stay true to the ideas the United States started with over 200 years ago, ideas which made us the most prosperous and successful country on Earth.  We haven’t always been true to those ideas, but have so far followed them more often than not.  In general, the difficulties we’ve faced have been in proportion to our divergence from them.

A vote for Biden is a vote to reinvent the United States as a corporatist, authoritarian nanny state bent on telling us all what to do—for our own good!—and making our lives miserable if we don’t do it.  Big business will still be free to do as it wishes, but small businesses and independent thinking are too disruptive and will be sat on.

Nevertheless, the reinventors won: now what?

When I imagine the worst, I anticipate that within two years I will be dead, destitute, imprisoned, or will have my life changed in some other way for the worst.  But that isn’t realistic: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not the Khmer Rouge.  I expect that taxes will go up, particularly corporate taxes, so I will go back to running my business not to be profitable.

More practically, things will slowly get worse.  If you weren’t fearful and suffering before, you will be made so now.  The ongoing Covid emergency won’t end, even with a vaccine, because it serves the purposes of the leadership to control the population.

But we can only be fearful and suffer with our own consent.  Abraham Lincoln remarked that ‘most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.’  For my part, I’ll carry on, trying to eat well, sleep well, and not stress out over events.  And I’ll enjoy, as much as I can, the cool parts of my work and the companionship of those around me.

That’s all I can recommend for anyone, for now.

Serene or Petrified?

The finagle was in for 2000.

You can read about it in Greg Palast’s book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.  The Florida state government, in the name of purging convicted felons from the voting rolls, disenfranchised thousands of others, effectively throwing the state to George Bush, who was elected President.

George Bush was an establishment Republican.  He campaigned on the usual Republican agenda of lower taxes and a smaller government.  I had voted for Al Gore, the Democrat.  I was disappointed by what happened, but could accept that the other guy won.  Under President Bush, we got into the War on Terror and war in Iraq.  We were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to be true.

Nevertheless, in 2004, Bush was re-elected, fair and square.   He ran on the theme, ‘I will keep America safe.’  His opponent, John Kerry, ran on the theme ‘I am not George Bush.’  It didn’t end well for John.

As I write this on the Saturday morning after Election Day, the results of the Presidential election are still unresolved.  I voted for Trump: I noted why in my last post, and won’t rehash that now.

And the finagle appears to be in process.  There are stories of piles of ballots appearing in the middle of the night, all voted for Biden, and of communities reporting more votes than registered voters.  So far, these stories are all unconfirmed.

The Democrats have changed since 2000.  While Biden presents himself as an establishment Democrat, the kind my parents voted for and I generally supported until about 10-15 years ago, the Democratic agenda has veered sharply to the left.  What used to be the middle of the road is now the ditch alongside it.

There will be recounts and court battles, and one way or another, Trump or Biden will win.  The loser will make a non-concession speech acknowledging the results, and that will be that, at least until Inauguration Day.  (You didn’t seriously imagine the D.C. sheriff coming to evict Trump from the White House, did you?)

I’d like to be able to be serene about a Biden victory and accept that ‘the other guy won.’  I could be serene if the Republicans hold onto the Senate.

But that’s dicey.  Counting the senators not up for re-election this year and the elections already resolved, there are 48 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two Independents, who functionally count as Democrats (one of whom is Bernie Sanders).  Two of the remaining seats are in Georgia and will be the subject of a runoff election in January; the other two are unresolved as vote counting continues.

If the Democrats win two of these races, they and the Independents will have 50 senators, which is enough, since the Vice President (Kamala Harris, for now) breaks ties.  The Democrats will have their dream of a blue House, a blue Senate, and a blue President.  Unlike Trump in 2017, the leadership will not have to fight the rest of the government as they pursue their agenda.

And then… we’re in trouble.

Under the prevailing Democratic philosophy as I understand it, since I’m white, male, and heterosexual, I’m an oppressor, the origin of evil, and will need to be put down hard.  Hillary Clinton called me (and many others) ‘deplorable.’  Keith Olbermann remarked last month,

And then [Trump] and his enablers and his supporters and his collaborators and the Mike Lees and the William Barrs and the Sean Hannitys and the Mike Pences and the Rudy Giulianis and the Kyle Rittenhouses and the Amy Coney Barretts must be prosecuted and convicted and removed from our society while we try to rebuild it, and to rebuild the world Trump has nearly destroyed by turning it over to a virus.

MSNBC, 8 October 2020

Well, thank you!

As I write this, word has come in that Biden has won Pennsylvania and therefore the Presidency.  It was probably a foregone conclusion: Biden needed only to win any one of the remaining states in play.  The lawyers may continue their battles, but yup, the other guy won.

OK, which is it:

  • We’ve taken a turn for the left, one among many in American history, just like in 1976 and 1992 and 2008.  (I was, in fact, OK with all three of those.)  Things will change, a little bit, but the fundamentals of our country will continue: nothing to get overwhelmed about.
  • The writing is on the wall; the storm clouds are on the horizon.  We’re about to go through a very painful transformation.  And I can’t protect myself against it, as one might board up one’s house in anticipation of bad weather, because the difficulties will be perpetrated by our own government.  (OK, I could stock up on guns and hide out in the woods.  But I still must earn a living, and my wife is a bigger New York City chauvinist than I am.)

Let’s just hope the Republicans can keep control of the Senate.

Election Reveal 2020

It’s 5:09 in the morning, the Wednesday after Election Day.  I’m here with my breakfast; I turned on my computer, but broke from my routine of checking emails and news feeds before doing pretty much anything else.

Like probably everyone else, I’ve had a bellyful of election news, to the point where it’s no longer news anymore.  I voted a week and a half ago, on the second day of early voting.  That much, at least, was done.

My wife asked me to get home early last night, fearing that there might be rioting in the streets: not as outlandish as it sounds, as many of the businesses in midtown Manhattan were pre-emptively boarded up.  Macy’s in Herald Square was boarded up; the Victoria’s Secret across the street, which had remained boarded up since the spring, got its boards renewed.  Chase and Citibank were not boarded up; Santander and some of the smaller banks were.  Sweetgreen, an overly pretentions salad place, was boarded up; most of the other eating places were not.

I had wanted to get home at 5:30 pm, but got stuck at the office.  I cheated and took an electric Citibike (electric bikes are fun, but they don’t count as exercise) most of the way, then walked the last mile or so.  Downtown Brooklyn looked mostly normal, or at least the new normal with restaurant seating in the curb lane and the queue outside Trader Joe’s.  I got home at 5:45 pm.

Back home, I resisted the habit of the evening news.  I watched part of a Hunger Games movie, itself a political statement of a sort.  Then dinner, a M*A*S*H rerun (it’s a timeless classic), a shower, and bed.  No election reports whatsoever.

A week and a half ago, I voted for Trump.  Even if I didn’t like him, I couldn’t vote for Biden.  He may be the last of the old-time moderate Democrats, the kind my mother would have voted for without a second thought, but he’s gotten old and slow.  He made very few campaign appearances, and those were sparsely attended.  And while Biden remarked, ‘I am the Democratic party,’ in the first debate, the party very clearly has other plans.

I had low expectations for Trump.  His campaign slogan, ‘Make America great again,’ suggests that the President and the government can make the country great.  They can’t.  The best the President and the government can do is to create an environment in which the people can make the country great.

But for three years, that’s what happened.  In spite of relentless attacks from the media, and the spectacle, which I’ve never seen before, of the President having to fight the rest of the government to get things done, Trump accomplished much of what he promised.  The border was made more secure; taxes and regulations were moderated; unemployment dropped to historic lows.

And then Covid came.  The essential problem with Covid was that nobody knew quite what it was or how severe it would be.  The best we could do is muddle through.  And we’re still muddling, although I hope that now that the election is over, one way or another, we can ease off on trying to treat Covid as a political issue.

In brief, from my perspective, the worst part of Covid was not the sickness, it was the response of Democratic politicians.  I believe the Republicans could win the New York City mayoralty if they can run a candidate more compelling than a live turnip.

I hope Trump wins cleanly, but I doubt that will happen.  My second choice is for Biden to win cleanly.  I’m really worried about what a Biden/Harris (or is it Harris/Biden?) administration would do, but at least the election would be over.

As I’m about to look at the news, my sense is that the election results will be inconclusive at 6:00 on Wednesday morning.  Trump may be ahead on electoral votes, but not all the way there.  And there is Pennsylvania.  I lived in western Pennsylvania for a time, years ago.  My gut feeling is that the state will go for Trump, but the state’s leadership seems to be trying really hard to put it in the Democratic column.

OK, here goes….

We’re not there yet.  At this point, Biden has 224 electoral votes, Trump has 213, and Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona are still in play.

The soap opera will go on.

Voting… Somehow

I’ve come to believe that voting ought to be a little bit difficult.

Voting shouldn’t be an ordeal or an all-day project, but for me, voting has always meant taking time on Election Day itself to go somewhere off the beaten path, wait in line, possibly as much as an hour, and vote.  In my work, some of the controls of the machinery are designed to be purposefully difficult to operate because they would be dangerous if used without specific intent.  To me, voting is a similar endeavor: it’s serious, and not to be done lightly.

New York mailed absentee ballot applications a few weeks before this year’s primaries, with helpful instructions: you couldn’t simply vote absentee because you were afraid of Covid, but if you wrote it up as a ‘health issue’ you were good to go.  In the spring, I had not yet returned to the office, but I had been going out for a walk every day, joining my wife for grocery shopping, and heading out to job sites: a trip to the polls didn’t seem particularly frightening.

I ultimately didn’t vote.  Biden had already won the Democratic Presidential nomination, and none of the candidates in the other races were different enough from their opponents to make a vote worthwhile.  Not making a decision is, itself, a decision.

New York took a reasonable approach in sending out absentee ballot applications before the election, and giving voters an alternative to voting in person.  It represented a minor change from established law and procedure, but was appropriate under the circumstances.  However, while the Presidential race was effectively already decided by the time New York held its election, some of the other races were undecided for weeks until all the absentee ballots could be counted or their disposition resolved.

Now that we know what happened, would this be the right thing for the general election?

In one respect, it may not matter: New York is a thoroughly blue state and will go for Biden no matter what.  But the New York experience suggests that mandating national vote-by-mail, as the Democrats are proposing, is a spectacularly bad idea.

  • First, it’s an unwarranted intrusion by the Federal government on a function that is the responsibility of state and local governments.  It’s the responsibility of the states, with their knowledge of local conditions, to decide the best method for their citizens to vote.
  • Contrary to the insistence of the news media, vote-by-mail fraud does happen: in fact, the results of a local election in New Jersey were thrown out by the courts just last week.  The potential for election fraud with mail voting has historically been recognized by both parties, until the Democrats decided a couple of years ago that such a thing just didn’t happen.  For my part, it appears the Democrats are more interested in grabbing power than in good governance: I wouldn’t put it past them to try to finagle the election.
  • But the real problem with a vast shift to mail-in voting is human error and the Postal Service.  When you vote in person, the election staffer is checking the paperwork and walking you through a process so simple as to be essentially foolproof.  If you make an innocent mistake with your mail-in ballot, like forgetting to sign the accompanying paperwork, you’ve lost your vote.  (Some places will give you the opportunity to rectify such errors, but that takes time.)  And even in the best of circumstances, lost or delayed mail, or mail without postmarks, could result in more people losing their votes than the margin of a close race.  The Postal Service is an imperfect organization, and even throwing $25 billion at it, two and a half months before the general election, isn’t likely to help.

At this point, alas, all I can do is hope for the best, and hope and pray for a calm and fair election.  If the election goes badly—no matter who wins—it will be a worse emergency than Covid.