Sunday, November 1st, 2020


The Count of Mar a Lago

OK, I'm calling it. Donald Trump is not going to pivot. And America is not rounding a corner on Covid-19. Both Trump and the pandemic have gone from bad to worse. And the last thing any of us needed this weekend was yet another hour of this endless campaign, but falling an hour backward during a year we can't wait to get through is entirely on brand for 2020. So where are we as the countdown to election 2020 enters what we hope will be its final days? After four years of psychic hell, I'm worried the next month with be worse, both in terms of threats to our democracy and our health. To be clear, I'm less worried about the election itself than I am about what are the near certain efforts to prevent the counting of votes and challenge the reality of the election's outcome (and challenging reality has been Trump's brand forever). First, on the election: In 2016, Trump narrowly won in a few swing states and pulled off a near-impossible inside straight. Since then, he has become the worst president in American history, overseeing the worst crisis response in American history, and is concluding a poorly run campaign by traveling to the nation's hardest hit Covid-19 hotspots to tell people that Covid-19 is over. Even after four years of being unable to believe what I'm seeing, I still can't believe that the above is a recipe for reelection. Second, on the counting: We know Trump will do everything possible to challenge the will of the people. He challenged the popular vote in the 2016 election after he won. From the "perfect" call with the Ukraine president to the relentless efforts to slow down the postal service, Donald Trump has been going postal on our electoral process since the day he conned his way into the Oval Office. It's not a matter of whether he'll try to cheat. It's that he's going to continue cheating and bashing democratic norms until the end. No, he's not going to pivot. The question is whether America will. And right now, it looks like we could have the highest voter turnout in a century. Give Trump credit for this: The dude can draw a crowd.

+ Just because he will try to rig or steal the election, doesn't mean it will work. It's more a matter of how the trying will play out, and how the media reacts. Some analysis from Dan Pfeiffer: Trump's Unserious Plan to Steal the Election.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting Trump

"Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don't know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can't predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn't do. 'That guy you saw in the debate,' a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. 'That's really him. Not the myth that's been created. That's Trump.'" The NYT's Ron Suskind with a great overview of what Trump has been, and what he could do The Day After Election Day.

+ "The footage that Trump posted appeared to be of the same truck caravan that the Biden campaign said 'attempted to slow the bus down and run it off the road.'" Trump Cheers Caravan of Trucks That Swarmed Biden Bus in Texas.

+ "You may roll your eyes, but such things are not unimaginable, or even unrealistic. Normal people don't like to imagine terrible events, which is why autocrats consistently surprise them. (As when I wrote here back in April that it would seem logical to someone like Trump to try to sabotage the US Postal Service if he thought it could help his electoral chances. Unimaginable, until it happened.)" Garry Kasparov: Win or lose, with Trump, prepare for the unimaginable after the election.

+ "A neighbor reports that AG William Barr's house in McLean is being picketed by Trump supporters who believe he's not doing enough to lock up Joe Biden."

+ MoJo: Businesses Around the Country Are Boarding Up Ahead of Election Season. (Who knew that the smartest investment of 2020 would be in plywood...)


Betting the Spread

"The average discrepancies between the number of infections in counties hosting Trump rallies and the infection rates in other, similar counties suggest that at least some of Trump's campaign events were superspreader events, potentially responsible for hundreds of lost lives." Study: Trump rallies may be responsible for an estimated 700 Covid-19 deaths. (It's worth noting that this study is on rallies from weeks or even months ago. It's not counting the recent rallies with big crowds in places where the Covid-19 is spiking.)


You Sank My Battleground

NYT: The Battlegrounds Within Battlegrounds. "The most contested battles this year will take place in six states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Mr. Trump won some of them by razor-thin margins. Within these states are 20 counties that will help decide who wins enough electoral votes to reach the White House. They represent groups of voters both candidates are seeking. Here's what to watch for in these battlegrounds within battlegrounds."


Drive Thru Drive By

"Republicans in Texas have asked the courts to toss out some 127,000 early ballots cast by voters in Harris County, arguing that the votes — delivered via drive-through in the heavily Democratic area — violate the U.S. Constitution and should be deemed invalid." NPR: Republicans Seek To Toss Out 127,000 Ballots In Democratic-Leaning Texas County.


The Cost of Returning to Business

"No American President has ever been charged with a criminal offense. But, as Donald Trump fights to hold on to the White House, he and those around him surely know that if he loses—an outcome that nobody should count on—the presumption of immunity that attends the Presidency will vanish. Given that more than a dozen investigations and civil suits involving Trump are currently under way, he could be looking at an endgame even more perilous than the one confronted by Nixon ... Trump has famously survived one impeachment, two divorces, six bankruptcies, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated four thousand lawsuits. Few people have evaded consequences more cunningly. That run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if he loses to Joe Biden. Even if Trump wins, grave legal and financial threats will loom over his second term." The New Yorker's Jane Mayer: Why Trump Can't Afford to Lose.


Hurts Not So Good

"We're in for a whole lot of hurt. It's not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly." WaPo: Fauci warns of covid-19 surge, offers blunt assessment of Trump's response.

+ "Gone are the days when Americans could easily understand the virus by tracking rising case numbers back to discrete sources — the crowded factory, the troubled nursing home, the rowdy bar. Now, there are so many cases, in so many places, that many people are coming to a frightening conclusion: They have no idea where the virus is spreading." How Are Americans Catching the Virus? Increasingly, They Have No Idea.

+ "The virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisors, whose models ... now suggest unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day." Boris Johnson announces a new lockdown in England.

+ AP: San Francisco curbs virus but once-vibrant downtown is empty. (Alt headline: San Francisco curbs virus BECAUSE once-vibrant downtown is empty.)


Special Op

"This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation." U.S. Special Operations Forces Rescue American Hostage In Nigeria.


Easy Rider

"Struggle is the essence of drama, but there are some actors who win you over by making everything look easy, and in that group, Connery was the warmest presence, the most natural, the most welcoming. Paul Newman made a career out of playing insouciant golden boys who learned what it meant to get the shit kicked out of them, but Connery almost never took a blow he couldn't bounce back from with a quick change of clothes and a drink. He let you feel what it was like to dodge the bullet, get the loot, outwit the mastermind, and drive away in a cool car, softly chuckling. And as with Newman, you never resented him for anything he got away with, not because he deserved to get away with it, but because what he shared with you was the extraordinary relief of occasionally not having to deserve it. He made not deserving it existentially beautiful." Remembering Sean Connery, an Icon of Effortlessness.


Feel Good Sunday

Let's end on a positive. When democracy is on the ballot, the best thing people can do is vote. And that's what they're doing. "It was motivating and encouraging to hear people clap or cheer for something I felt was necessary to do as a citizen, especially in this election." First-Time Voters Are Being Celebrated With Cheers And Applause At Polling Stations.