We Shouldn’t Be Freaking Out

“Are we all as anxious as hell?” (She included a visual aid.)

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“No, I’m anxious but also optimistic and glad Tuesday (and Wednesday) are so close. I think it’s the beginning of the end for the big, bad toddler.”
 
“Sigh. I am afraid to have hope.”
 
I’m convinced the pendulum has to swing. That there has to be a reaction to the last four years.
 
One reason is that Hillary came so close. 100,000 votes in three states would have given her the Electoral College. And more people are comfortable with good old Joe. And fewer are ready to give the maniac the benefit of the doubt.
 
We are all still in shock from 2016 and fear something similar will happen again. But I don’t think we’re in for a similar surprise at all. We’re motivated to stop it from happening again. 
So many people are volunteering to get out the vote. Many more people are motivated to vote than last time.
 
In 2000, one ridiculously close state ended up in the Supreme Court. There is no reason to think this election will be that close in enough states to let the Supreme Court intervene.
 
It’s human nature to fear that a traumatic event will happen again. Nobody wants to get it wrong, to be taken by surprise again, but traumatic events are infrequent. Palm Beach isn’t using butterfly ballots. The news isn’t emails, emails, emails. James Comey isn’t in charge of the FBI. 
 
Four years ago, he asked us what we had to lose. Now we know.
 
This time we’re going to win.”

2020 Won’t Be 2016 (or 2000)

We’re entering what’s been called and what’s going to be “the longest two weeks in human history”. A neuroscientist who writes for Scientific American says we shouldn’t worry too much about what’s going to happen:

Will we be surprised again this November the way Americans were on Nov. 9, 2016 when they awoke to learn that reality TV star Dxxxx Txxxx had been elected president?

. . . Another surprise victory is unlikely to happen again if this election is looked at from the same perspective of neuroscience that I used to account for the surprising outcome in 2016. Briefly, that article explained how our brain provides two different mechanisms of decision-making; one is conscious and deliberative, and the other is automatic, driven by emotion and especially by fear.

Txxxx’s strategy does not target the neural circuitry of reason in the cerebral cortex; it provokes the limbic system. In the 2016 election, undecided voters were influenced by the brain’s fear-driven impulses—more simply, gut instinct—once they arrived inside the voting booth, even though they were unable to explain their decision to pre-election pollsters in a carefully reasoned manner.

In 2020, Txxxx continues to use the same strategy of appealing to the brain’s threat-detection circuitry and emotion-based decision process to attract votes and vilify opponents. . . .

But fear-driven appeals will likely persuade fewer voters this time, because we overcome fear in two ways: by reason and experience. Inhibitory neural pathways from the prefrontal cortex to the limbic system will enable reason to quash fear if the dangers are not grounded in fact. . . .

A psychology- and neuroscience-based perspective also illuminates Txxxx’s constant interruptions and insults during the first presidential debate, steamrolling over the moderator’s futile efforts to have a reasoned airing of facts and positions. The structure of a debate is designed to engage the deliberative reasoning in the brain’s cerebral cortex, so Txxxx annihilated the format to inflame emotion in the limbic system.

Txxxx’s dismissal of experts, be they military generals, career public servants, scientists or even his own political appointees, is necessary for him to sustain the subcortical decision-making in voters’ minds that won him election and sustains his support. . . . In his rhetoric, Txxxx does not address factual evidence; he dismisses or suppresses it even for events that are apparent to many, including global warming, foreign intervention in U.S. elections, the trivial head count at his inauguration, and even the projected path of a destructive hurricane. Instead, “alternative facts” or fabrications are substituted.

. . . Reason cannot always overcome fear, as [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] demonstrates; but the brain’s second mechanism of neutralizing its fear circuitry—experience—can do so. Repeated exposure to the fearful situation where the outcome is safe will rewire the brain’s subcortical circuitry. This is the basis for “extinction therapy” used to treat PTSD and phobias. For many, credibility has been eroded by Txxxx’s outlandish assertions, like suggesting injections of bleach might cure COVID-19, or enthusing over a plant toxin touted by a pillow salesman, while scientific experts in attendance grimace and bite their lips.

In the last election Txxxx was a little-known newcomer as a political figure, but that is not the case this time with either candidate. The “gut -reaction” decision-making process excels in complex situations where there is not enough factual information or time to make a reasoned decision. We follow gut instinct, for example, when selecting a dish from a menu at a new restaurant, where we have never seen or tasted the offering before. We’ve had our fill of the politics this time, no matter what position one may favor. Whether voters choose to vote for Txxxx on the basis of emotion or reason, they will be better able to articulate the reasons, or rationalizations, for their choice. This should give pollsters better data to make a more accurate prediction.

Unquote.

Pollsters did make an accurate prediction of the national vote in 2016 (Clinton won it). Most of them didn’t taken into account the Electoral College, however, or anticipate the last-minute intervention by big-mouth FBI Director James Comey.

In 2000, the Electoral College result depended on an extremely close election in one state. That allowed the Republicans on the Supreme Court to get involved. There’s no reason to think that will happen again, despite the president’s hopes that it will.

I Wish Ever Reporter, Columnist, Editor and Publisher (and Every Voter) in America Would Read This Before It’s Too Late

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post says “We’re Already Seeing the 2020 Version of ‘But Her Emails'”:

Here we go again.

If you think we learned anything from the “But Her Emails” debacle of 2016, in which the fact that Hillary Clinton used the wrong email was treated as far and away the most important issue of the presidential campaign, I have some bad news for you.

And right about now, Republicans probably can’t believe their luck. They’re like a three-card monte grifter who keeps pulling the same trick on the same guy who stops at their table every day and never seems to figure out he’s being conned.

Yes, I’m talking about Tara Reade’s allegation that then-Sen. Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. We’ve now entered the “Show us the documents!” phase of this game.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that Reade is lying; I have no idea, and the evidence we’ve seen so far is not conclusive in either direction. Moreover, in all likelihood we aren’t ever going to get proof, and we’ll be better off if we acknowledge that now instead of acting like a smoking gun will emerge if we dig hard enough.

But now this question has come to rest on Biden’s Senate papers, currently held at the University of Delaware. Despite the fact that those papers reportedly don’t include personnel records and there’s no reason to believe they contain anything at all about Reade, we’re hearing the first round of demands for Biden to publicly release them.

Transparency is a good thing, and if people want to argue that the release of those papers will be useful in giving us a full picture of Biden’s career as a senator, then that’s fine. I’m sure it would be of interest to historians to see drafts of Biden’s speeches or notes going back and forth between him and his staff as they write legislation.

The problem is that we’re already starting to treat those papers as though they will contain deep and shocking secrets that could transform everyone’s view of Biden and therefore must be brought into the light lest the electorate make a terrible mistake in November.

And we know that Republicans are just itching to get their hands on all those boxes, so they can find some sentence in a memo that can be taken out of context and turned into evidence that Biden is a villain, then plastered across Facebook and Twitter.

We know this because we’ve been here before, repeatedly.

In 2004, Republicans made the scurrilous charge that John F. Kerry lied about his Vietnam War service and didn’t deserve the medals he was awarded. Demands that his service records be released were repeated throughout the fall campaign.

In 2016, Republicans alleged that Hillary Clinton had concealed shocking proof of everything from Benghazi to Jimmy Hoffa’s murder to the Loch Ness monster in her personal emails. Demands that she produce them were repeated throughout the campaign.

It worked. One study of 2016 found: “In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.” Other outlets weren’t much better.

The common thread linking Kerry, Clinton and now Biden is the allegation that hidden documents contain incriminating information, and if we can get our hands on them, then everything will change. As Republicans know, this plays right into reporters’ suspicion of secrecy. The result is wave after wave of news coverage that assumes that the Democratic candidate is concealing something nefarious.

And yet somehow, President Trump — the most dishonest and corrupt human being to ever sit in the Oval Office — largely manages to avoid that kind of coverage, all while he wages an unending war on transparency, including firing every inspector general who reveals his administration’s misconduct or incompetence. No one has more to hide than him, yet whenever those questions come up, they disappear in relatively short order. Reporters ask, he lies and evades, and then they move on.

Perversely, it’s precisely because Trump is so adamantly opposed to any kind of transparency that he gets fewer demands for transparency than Democrats do. We in the media wind up saying, “What’s the point of writing another editorial demanding he release his tax returns? We all know he won’t.”

Indeed, the Times reported back in the fall of 2018 — based on extensive documentary evidence — that the president of the United States and his family engaged in a years-long tax evasion conspiracy that defrauded the federal government of hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet the story simply disappeared.

What if the hundreds of reporters who had been assigned to investigate Clinton’s email account were assigned to follow up on that? But they weren’t. So how many Americans know about it? Five percent? One percent?

The same apparently applies to the voluminous allegations of sexual misconduct, up to and including rape, that women have made against Trump. Biden’s running mate will be asked dozens or even hundreds of times about Tara Reade. How many times has Vice President Pence been grilled about Karen Johnson, or E. Jean Carroll, or Summer Zervos, or any other of the 24 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct?

Yes, Biden should be transparent. But let’s apply the same standards to Trump that we apply to him. And let’s not be fooled, once again, into going on a months-long crusade to uncover documents that swallows the entire presidential campaign, just because Republicans claim they must contain something incriminating.

We’ve been through this before, and we know how it ends.

Unquote.

Yesterday, The Guardian had three stories about this on their digital front page. The New York Times has three opinion columns about it, including one that calls for Democrats to develop a Plan B:

To preserve the strides made on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the era of #MeToo, and to maximize their chances in November, Democrats need to begin formulating an alternative strategy for 2020 — one that does not include Mr. Biden.

Given that the election is six months away, that might be the dumbest piece of political advice ever printed (no wonder there were more than 5,000 comments). 

In USA Today, a former prosecutor explains why he’s skeptical about Ms. Reade’s story, even after presenting the reasons to believe her.

I don’t plan to write about this again, unless it looks as if those same voters are heading toward an even worse decision than they made in 2016 (four years ago, nobody had seen this president in office yet — there is really no excuse now).

If You Want To Feel Even Worse About the 2016 Election

Or imagine how good it will be to get rid of this president, you can watch Howard Stern’s long interview with Hillary Clinton. He’s a very big fan of hers, so he gushes a lot, but as human beings or leaders go, she beats the Toddler hands down.

For the most important part of the interview, go to the brief Russian Meddling & 2020 Election section in part 4 further down the page.

This is part 1.

Part 2

0:00 – Therapy & Religion

4:24 – Family & Upbringing

15:39 – College Years & Obama

20:35 – Meeting Bill Clinton

Part 3

0:00 – Favorite President

5:08 – Falling in Love 

12:55 – Investigating Nixon & Meeting MLK

18:32 – Becoming First Lady & Public Scrutiny

Part 4

0:00 – Life in the Public Eye

9:33 – Economy & Bin Laden Raid

18:31Russian Meddling & 2020 Election

Part 5

0:00 – “The Book of Gutsy Women”

12:17 – Nelson Mandela

21:01 – The Beatles & the Rolling Stones

The Creep Wins If You Only Focus On Mueller’s Performance

Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post says what needs to be said about the Mueller hearings. Quote:

“After totally unplugging and being out of the country for 23 days, watching President Trump’s gloat-o-rama in the wake of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s halting testimony on Wednesday was like turning on a soap opera after 20 years. Same plot. Same script. Same actors. But being away from Twitter, the perpetual American news cycle and the insane pendulum ride that is the Trump presidency gave me some much-needed perspective.

The reaction to Mueller’s testimony brings a key lesson to light. If y’all are focused on the 74-year-old lifelong Republican’s performance rather than the substance of what he actually said, you’re playing Trump’s game on Trump’s turf. Here are three of the bombshells from Mueller:

  1. The Russians are still interfering in U.S. politics. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Mueller told congressional lawmakers.
  2. The FBI is still engaged in a counterintelligence investigation. When pressed by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) about how his report did not address false statements made by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Mueller said, “I cannot get into that mainly because there are many elements of the FBI looking at that issue.” Notice the present tense? Krishnamoorthi did and asked, “Currently?” To which Mueller replied, “Currently.”
  3. The Mueller report does not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice. “The finding indicates that the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed,” Mueller told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), using a $50 word (exculpated) to say the president was not declared not guilty of obstruction of justice.

The first two points are clarion calls for us to pay attention to things that are happening in the here and now that we’re not paying attention to because of Trump’s distraction industrial complex over at the White House. The third point is bound to have folks dismiss it because it’s something we already knew. And while that might be true, it’s always good to have the words said out loud again, since most folks haven’t read the 448-page Mueller report.

Since the start of Trump’s candidacy four years ago, we know that optics mean everything to Trump. How someone looks, how he or she sounds is paramount to the man who views every day as an episode of the “Apprentice” scripted television franchise that made everyone think he was a successful businessman instead of the grifter he really is. What should be important to all of us is that the world heard (again) that the Russians continue to undermine our democracy, that the Trump campaign was not averse to accepting Russian help in the 2016 presidential election and actively sought to cover up its actions, and that there was convincing evidence the president of the United States obstructed justice. And those are just some of the things that were discussed at the hearings.

On a related note

The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, blocked two election security measures yesterday, arguing that Democrats are trying to give themselves a “political benefit” (i.e. the opportunity to have a fair election without foreign interference in 2020).