Beware of Early Exuberance

A supporter of Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency was ready to celebrate. She excitedly told friends in a ZOOM gathering that the most recent polls show Biden with big leads nationally and in battleground states. “Let’s forget about the pandemic for an hour or so and celebrate the coming victory” she urged the group.

This early exuberance reminded me of my high school football coach walking into our locker room at halftime of a rivalry game in which we were leading 21-0. All of us were hooting and hollering and pounding on each other’s shoulder pads as we crowed about our first-half dominance.

The coach stood up on a bench and demanded that we quiet down and gather around. “We had a good half” he said, “but we haven’t won anything yet. I want you to imagine that the score is reversed, that we are behind by three touchdowns. And I want you to focus and double down on your energy. Go out there in the second half with determination to erase the deficit and win the game.”  And he wrote a score on his black board: Opponent 21, The Oaks 0. He propped the board up on our sideline and as we scored, he erased the zero and added our points. At the end of the third quarter we were up 35-0, but he showed the score as a 21-14 deficit. We eventually won the game 42-7.

So, my exuberant friend, we can feel encouraged about how things stand today, but we have nothing to celebrate. If you doubt the wisdom of my former coach’s lesson, ask former staffers on the Clinton 2016 team.

Trump Dictum: If You Don’t Like the Truth, Tell a Lie

Donald Trump is a prolific and brazen liar. The Washington Post Fact Checker has documented more the more than 20,000 false and misleading statements spewed out by the president during his time in office. Yet, he has the chutzpa to suggest by retweet that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is telling lies about Covid 19 in order to influence the election. Furthermore, in addition to attacking the CDC, the Trump White House is orchestrating a campaign to disparage and discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert.

Why is the President trying to destroy the public’s confidence in experts? The CDC, Fauci and other health care professionals are telling Americans the truth about the existential danger the nation is facing from a surging increase in new cases. Their truth undercuts Trump’s attempt to minimize the growing seriousness of the pandemic as he tells school districts to reject CDC advice and fully open their classrooms.  He knows that his best chance for reelection is a completely recovered economy. Therefore, children need to be out of the home and in school so parents can go back to work.

He also knows that Americans regard medical scientists, the CDC and Dr. Fauci as their most trusted sources for accurate coronavirus information. Since they insist on truth and refuse to propagate Trump’s self-serving misinformation they must therefore be discredited.

But that’s a difficult proposition because The New York Times/Siena College poll shows those three at the top of the most trusted list, while the president is at the bottom with only 26% saying they trusted information from him.  It is no wonder, therefore, that the president, the White House staff, Trump’s army of FOX toadies, his twitter followers and conspiracy nerds are all seeking to destroy the integrity of truthtellers.

Make Voting More Difficult if You are Afraid of a Big Turnout

Voting is a crucial artery that pumps oxygen-rich blood into the heart of democracy. Republicans have, however, been trying for years to stick a clot into that artery and staunch the flow of votes from targeted parts of the electorate. Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the ultra-right Heritage Foundation, summed up their agenda: “I don’t want everyone to vote. Our leverage in the election, quite frankly, goes up as the voting population goes down.”

In previous elections Republican governors and secretaries of state have adopted policies to   limit early voting. They selectively purged voting roles, closed polling places in minority precincts, restricted mail-in voting, and required voter identification. For the 2020 election the Republican Party is recruiting and training 50,000 volunteers to be “poll watchers.” Their published task is to help prevent largely fictional voter fraud, but their real job is to challenge and intimidate minority voters.

President Trump has a particular aversion to (or fear of?)  voting by mail. He tweeted, “RIGGED 2020 ELECTIONS: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”

The New York Times reported that Trump “has made five dozen false claims about mail balloting since April…About a third of the president’s falsehoods were general warnings about widespread fraud in mail voting. Another 22 were specific claims about held-up mail carriers, stolen and forged ballots and dead people voting.”

Why is President Trump so focused on limiting mail voting? He answered the question for us: According to him, if the United States switched to all- mail voting “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

 

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