The Phony Campaign

Easter 2020 Update

Happy Easter, folks. I don't believe we have any specific paschal content today, but to a certain extent, that's in the eye of the beholder.

The Betfair punters have thought better of their temporary infatuation with Andrew Cuomo, and dropped his odds below our inclusion threshold. Just as well, I didn't have any content for him saved up anyway.

So it's down to our two white male septuagenarians, Bone Spurs and Wheezy. (My pet nicknames inspired by the medical excuses they made to evade the draft in the sixties.) Trump's odds improved a bit this week, but they're still down significantly from early February, where he was scraping a near-60% probability of winning. Sad!

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 50.4% +1.9% 1,520,000 +270,000
Joe Biden 42.5% +0.5% 431,000 +80,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Senator Bernie dropped out of our standings awhile back, but he made it official this past week. National Review's Jack Butler eulogizes his campaign and finds he was Just Another Politician in the End. In years past, Jack was somewhat impressed by Bernie's non-stereotypical positions on guns and immigration. But…

    That Bernie Sanders is gone now. His 2020 platform called for “breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities,” unilaterally reinstating President Obama’s DACA and DAPA programs, and decriminalizing illegal immigration, among other things. For the most part, he became difficult to distinguish from his Democratic opponents on immigration, except insofar as some of them chased after him as he moved left in the hope of capturing more votes. Thus did this unconventional aspect of his public persona recede.

    Similarly, Bernie shifted position on Second Amendment issues. Not out of principle, but in pursuit of votes.

  • We venture over to the New York Review of Books for Fintan O’Toole's screed against the Vector in Chief.

    On July 4, 1775, just his second day serving as commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces, George Washington issued strict orders to prevent the spread of infection among his soldiers: “No person is to be allowed to go to Fresh-water pond a fishing or any other occasion as there may be a danger of introducing the small pox into the army.” As he wrote later that month to the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, he was exercising “the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous Enemy.” On March 8, 2020, well over two months after the first case of Covid-19 had been confirmed in the United States, Dan Scavino, assistant to the president and director of social media at the White House, tweeted a mocked-up picture of his boss Donald Trump playing a violin. The caption read: “My next piece is called Nothing Can Stop What’s Coming.” Trump himself retweeted the image with the comment: “Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!”

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that Donald Trump is no George Washington, but his descent from commander-in-chief to vector-in-chief is nonetheless dizzying. Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the coronavirus crisis and they have been magnified rather than moderated in his surreal response to a catastrophe whose full gravity he failed to accept until March 31, when it had become horribly undeniable. The volatility of his behavior during February and March—the veering between flippancy and rage, breezy denial and dark fear-mongering—may not seem to demand further explanation. It is his nature. Yet there is a mystery at its heart. For if there is one thing that Trump has presented as his unique selling point, it is “utmost Vigilance,” his endless insistence that, as he puts it, “our way of life is under threat.”

    It's long, and a typical example of paint-the-numbers Trump-hatred. Pull out maybe a dozen things Trump has said over the years that piss you off. String them together with amateur psycholoogizing. If you find contradictions, don't worry: the subject's mental "contradictions" must be part of the general theme.

    I can't help but remark futher on this bit:

    With [his] stream of disparaging commentary, Trump himself became a vector of the coronavirus. His followers got the message that the whole thing might well be a media and Democratic conspiracy, and therefore that they did not need to take the threat seriously. A Quinnipiac poll on March 9 showed the effect: while 68 percent of Democrats said they were concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected, only 35 percent of Republicans felt likewise. Belief in the seriousness of the threat is a prerequisite for self-protection (not to mention for reducing the spread of the virus)—Trump’s undermining of that belief is literally lethal to his own supporters.

    Unfortunately for O'Toole's grand theorizing, see (for example) Science News: Why African-Americans may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

    Were African-Americans persuaded by Trump to not take care of themselves? Doubtful, but I'm sure O'Toole has some other explanation available for that.

  • Wired writer David Karpf, another strident Progressive, looks at Biden's path to victory and decides, well: Biden's Path to Victory Does Not Bode Well for Voters.

    Trump, like Biden, barely spent on advertisements during the Republican primary. Trump, like Biden, didn’t build much of a campaign organization in the early primaries. But Trump received an estimated $2 billion in free media coverage during the Republican primary, completely dwarfing the coverage received by his competitors. Trump drew this coverage through his rallies, his tweets, and his media stunts, relying on instincts that he developed in the 1980s and honed during his years as a reality-television celebrity. Biden has none of Trump’s flair for the dramatic, but he converted his party support into media dominance nevertheless.

    It's an interesting theory, might even be somewhat true. Karpf goes on to speculate wildly about Trump manipulating news about Covid-19 in order to suppress voter turnout in heavily Democrat enclaves.

  • In the WSJ, Barton Swaim offers a headline that seems to be designed to cheer me up: Joe Biden and the Slow Death of Liberalism. (Assuming "Liberalism" here refers to the statist variety.)

    With Mr. Biden’s ascension and Mr. Sanders’s decision this week to suspend his campaign, Democrats are again choosing liberalism. The important thing to understand about modern American liberalism, though, is that it is a spent force. It is out of ideas. It is visionary, but it no longer sees much of anything. That Mr. Biden has been reduced to protesting the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, safely tucked away in his basement, nicely symbolizes liberalism’s impotence.

    The liberal politician can offer a collection of ideas, but those ideas are old ones repackaged. He can offer a vision, but it is the same vision liberal politicians were offering 20 or 40 years ago. Accepting the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, Bill Clinton ridiculed President George H.W. Bush’s disdain for “the vision thing.” Mr. Clinton quoted Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The goals he enunciated in that speech were more or less the same goals every other Democratic nominee has endorsed since the middle of the 20th century: a fair shot for working Americans, new investments in schools, expansion of access to health care. Mr. Biden could give that speech today and few would suspect him of plagiarism.

    They're going through the motions, pretending they have bold goals. But their only real goal is to achieve greater political power. For its own sake.

  • And President Trump spoke an unpopular truth, according to the Daily Mail: Trump takes swipe at Obama, claims having a pet dog would be phony.

    When he moved into the White House in 2016, Donald Trump became the first president not to have a pet dog in 130 years.

    And during his rally in El Paso, Texas on Monday night, Trump appeared to finally reveal why - while taking a swipe at Barack Obama.

    'I wouldn't mind having one, honestly, but I don't have any time,' Trump told the crowd.

    'How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn? Would that be right? It doesn't. It feels a little phony to me.'

    And so it would. I say this as a dog owner myself. Dogs deserve their owner's attention. If Trump isn't the kind of guy to provide it, then it's best he go dogless instead of getting a symbolic dog who would "really" be taken care of by some low-level White House staff.