With all the discussion this past week on Trump's insistence on opening schools, I thought that this would be a particularly good conversation on Al Franken's podcast to post here. Al (who was a member of the Senate Education Committee) talks with Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, about teaching during a pandemic and, as he puts it, “an important subject: how awful Betsy DeVos is.”
What kind of a day was it? A day like any other, except -- you are there.
And it was a day like any other in Trumpland...although even by Trumpland standards it was pretty swirling. Under normal circumstances in normal times, the Supreme Court decision that says the subpoenas against Trump can go forward, since no American is above the law. While it's not likely, though possible for New York State , though bordering on improbable that the public won't see Trump's tax returns before the election, it was concerning enough for Trump (and "concerning" here will be defined as "horrifying" that he went on another Twitter meltdown facing the probability of releasing his taxes as evidence against him in a court case. And that's probably far more critical to him then even the election. You win or lose an election, life goes on. You lose in court, your may go to prison. Would it be nice to see the tax returns before the election? Absolutely -- but given the world today and Trump's approval and standing against Joe Biden, that's less important than a year ago.
But still, that's just one issue on the table yesterday.
I mean, boy howdy, the Trump Wheel o' Wonder is just spinning wildly. So much to choose from, it's almost enough to make you dizzy. And where it ended up is on the election..
The latest Gallup Poll was released yesterday. It had Trump’s support within the Republican Party up from 87% to 91%. (I’ve long had a theory about that, which I’ll get to in a moment.) But in the FAR more important category of Independents, since they're often who decide elections, his support is down from 38% to…33%. Horrific. Both the drop of five points, and only being 33% approval. As for Democratic approval, it's almost a joke, dropping from 5% to 2%.
Okay, back to my theory about Trump’s approval within the GOP which I've yammered for several years at this point, it's that he has been driving off a lot of Republicans from the party, so they no longer get counted by pollsters as Republicans. As a result, it’s a smaller, more concentrated Republican base, so his numbers within the party go up. And these Gallup numbers sort of support that theory – Trump went up 4 points in the GOP, but dropped 5 points among Independents. It’s not that he’s gaining popularity in the Republican Party, it’s that they’re fleeing him. And (I think) that’s why his approval within the Republican Party has always been so high.
There was also a huge result from the highly-respected Pew Research. It shows that young people from 18-29 support Joe Biden over Trump by -- are you ready -- FORTY POINTS, 68-28!!
More than just the margin, the even greater importance of this is that if any group feels bullet-proof going out to vote at polls during a pandemic...it's them. And with guns, civil rights and environment as important issues this year -- issues that are specifically of top interest to these voters -- they're likely motivated to vote, which hasn't generally been the case in the past.
Moreover, many young people (like most Americans, but more so…) probably will have nothing better to do when the election roles – “Hey, you want to go vote today?” It won't just be a civic duty, or an act of self-interest...but simply Something To Do, to get out of the house. And if you have to stand in line for six hours, party on!
Further, there was a report from the high-quality Cook Political Report which had a remarkable finding. They were saying that Trump is actually on the verge of reaching the point of no return -- four months before the election. More than that, they said instead of a Blue Wave, it could be a Democratic Tsunami. Again, four months before the election. It it truly bizarre to consider that we might be at the point of no return four months before the election, but I can see the thinking. As I noted on Thursday, what other cards does Trump have to play to not only make things better, but good enough to erase the 10-point margin many polls are showing? In fact, I think it will just keep getting worse for Trump, since he’s shown that he’s thrown himself all-in on denying the danger of the pandemic. And he doesn’t have to skills to get better at his job and is already out of his depth. Nor does he have The Best People around him to help.
And we see Republicans around him starting to bail, notably those senators saying they won't be attending the Republican Convention, and it seems reasonable to think more will.
But above all…I think the public is finally getting a full opportunity to truly see Trump. A manic, paranoid, racist, sociopathic, pathologically-lying, malignantly narcissistic simpering child. And it’s one thing to support someone as president because He’s the President. But another when you get to CHOOSE who you want as president. And to do so after having lived through the manic, exhausting angst of Trump for four years and now a pandemic and economic meltdown and massive unemployment of 47 million Americans and national social change. And 135,822 Americans have already died, and are expected to hit at least 200,000. And you get to CHOOSE who you want as president, and the other option is “Sleepy Joe Biden,” which Trump doesn't understand is actually a relief to most people I suspect -- calm, steady, quiet, nice, comforting, middle-of-the-road, a little liberal, sleepy peaceful Joe Biden, and you can CHOOSE him. I think it will all just reinforce the concept among so much of the weary, sheltering public of “God almighty, get rid of him out of office already.”
The only slight positive for Trump is that the economy can possibly improve. But here's the big hurdle for him: that doesn’t mean it will be better than before. (It won't be close.) Or even good. (Even that is a long way off.) It only means that, at best, it will be "better" than the disastrous economic meltdown we're in now. And the problem for Trump is that I think most people know he helped cause that disastrous economic meltdown by his inaction and truly horrible choices. And many of those 47 million lost jobs aren’t even coming back. And whatever improvement there is will still be under pandemic, social distancing, wear-a-mask conditions. And so you add all the other hellish things on top of the perhaps slight improvement over "disastrous economic meltdown" – assuming there is even a slight improvement – and you still have a pandemic, an very bad economy, massive job loss, most schools still closed, probably 200,000 dead, national social change…and a manic, paranoid, racist, sociopathic, patholgically-lying, maligantly-narcissistic, simpering child in charge. And…You Get to CHOOSE Who You Want as President.
Trump has lost the women’s vote, by a lot. He’s lost the black vote, by a lost. He’s lost the Hispanic and Asian vote, by a lot. He’s lost the young vote, by a lot. He’s even lost the GOP standby, the senior vote, by enough -- a a major drop from their previous, relied-upon GOP support. He’s probably lost the college educated white male vote. And...none of that is likely to change. Those votes are lock in by hatred and anger and fear. So, all that’s left is the non-college white male vote. And even that is probably closer than before. And could conceivably change, if only slightly, if their lives get terribly worse. And you not only can’t win on just that vote, you probably can’t keep a tsunami from hitting.
And finally, a Democratic Tsunami isn't about Trump. That's about the Republican Party. And if so, it is massively well-deserved. After all -- this isn't about Trump, we know who he is. This about the elected members of the Republican Party who have enabled him willingly and enthusiastically for four years, have blood on their hands and are fully complicit.
There is a reason Trump's campaign for re-election is in serious trouble. Okay, in fairness, yes, I know that there are a lot of reasons -- and I'll pause a moment while readers fill in the blank with your own responses.
My explanation is what I call the Mark Twain Rule.
Mark Twain has a story about how he was feeling poorly, and was told to cut out smoking, drinking and swearing. He did, and soon felt better. Ever the proselytizer, when he ran into an elderly friend who was not feeling well, he exuberantly had the cure for her. He said she should cut out smoking and drinking and swearing. The problem was that she told him that she couldn't cut those things out because she had never smoked or drank or swore. Twain took in this information for a moment. "Well -- there you have it," he tells us, finally figuring out the problem. "She was a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard."
Trump is a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard.
We know the Trump playbook. I suspect most people can recite it by heart. He ran on it in 2016, and he has been running on it for the past 3-1/2 years.
Everything that Barack Obama did was terrible and weak and illegal.
Hillary Clinton's emails put us all at risk.
Mexicans are bad and want to come into the United States and must be stopped.
Hillary Clinton should be locked up.
The Media is fake and the enemy of the people.
Barack Obama played too much golf.
We have to build The Wall.
Russia is a hoax.
Barack Obama tried to wiretap him.
Fake news, fake news, fake news.
The Deep State is out to get him.
China caused the pandemic.
We're at risk because of immigrants.
We're at risk because of immigrant children. Lock them up, too.
Kneeling during the National Anthem undermines liberty.
LAW & ORDER!
Obamacare is a disaster and has to be replaced.
The Antifa movement is a terrorist organization.
We're at risk because of Muslims.
And...and...and...yes, fine, you know it all. The list is longer, though most of it simply gets repeated, sometimes with just a few words changed, often the exact same. But we know it all. By heart.
And that leads us to the problem for Trump.
We knew all that in 2018 -- and it didn't work. Democrats had the Blue Wave tsunami, taking over control of the House by a massive 36 seats. They even closed the gap in the Senate. And this was when Trump was telling us that a caravan of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants was making its way to the U.S. and he had to call out 5,000 soldiers from the United States Army. And even with that national "threat," Republicans got swamped in the election..
And despite losing so badly, Trump only ratcheted up his cries of outrage. He hasn't tried to expand his base, he's focused on it all the more intently. Even amid a pandemic where 134,364 Americans have died, and an economic meltdown where businesses have folded and 46 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and national social change has swept across the country -- and a scandal of Russian bounties against the American military. And yet Trump keeps pounding the same, old, unrelenting messages -- with the result that his approval has been plummeting, going from around 45% (which is awful in an election year) to now 38%.
So, that's the time when you dearly need to expand your support, because 38% is not getting you re-elected -- especially in the middle of a pandemic, massive unemployment, national social change, and a Russian bounty scandal. But on and on he goes, with the very same messages -- apparently because he knows it got him elected. And because it's all he knows.
The problem is that the public itself knows all that now. We've heard it for four years. In 2016, he was an unknown and could make wild promises. But he now has a record. And we know it all. We can recite it in our sleep. And repeating to us What We All Know by Heart didn't scare the public, didn't outrage the public, didn't inspire the public -- it got the Republicans crushed in the 2018 mid-terms and has gotten Trump a 38% approval. And this is all he has. There's nothing else. He's a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard.
There's nothing else. Trump can't suddenly now tell the country that the doctors and scientists were right all along, and that it was his ignorant intransigence that caused a pandemic to spread further and killed 134,364 Americans, and then expect to gain support from that. He can't bring back the economy without the pandemic ending, which is spiking specifically because of his own actions. He can't bring back jobs that have gone bankrupt and disappeared. He can't support social change that Black Lives Matter when he has spent four years trying to attract white supremacists, when he's run as a racist for -- well, not just four years, but his whole life. He can't put sanctions on Russia, or even criticize Russia, because he's counting on Russia to help him get re-elected.
So, he has nothing to expand his support. He only has the same, old issues. And they long ago stopped working for him. We Know Who He Is. Republicans got swamped on those same, old issues in 2018, and his approval is 38%.
With new options out of reach, and the old tricks flatlining, we've seen his campaign forced to raise those old tricks to almost desperate levels. Using the military, for instance, to attack Americans on U.S. soil during a peaceful rally. Dragging his White House team to a photo op at a church, uninvited, that outraged the church officials and turned into a disaster for him. And when those even-larger efforts failed and his approval lowered further, and election polls widened Joe Biden's margin, Trump has been reduced to using the remaining dregs of his tricks. Not much more than the fumes still in the tank. There's no baggage left to thrown overboard. And so the result is that this week the issues he pushed were his "culture war" demand that the only black NASCAR driver "apologize" for his team finding a noose in their garage at the race track. And his effort to again create "racial divide" was by weirdly bemoaning how unfair it was for sports teams to change their nicknames from ones that are offensively racist. Indeed, Trump seems to be going full white supremacist with his odd support of the Confederate flag (which even the Mississippi legislature voted to change) and statues of Confederate generals, as one of his remaining go-to issues, which would not seem to be an ideal position anyone outside...well, the old Confederacy. (And even inside it, it appears). As for dragging out the old "patriotism" chestnut, Trump has been reduced this week to retweeting Tucker Carlson's ill-advised rant questioning the Americanism of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who received the Purple Heart and had both legs amputated from her service in war fighting for the country. The best the Republican National Committee could do was slam Joe Biden for his supposed radical “assault” on the Declaration of Independence for having written an op-ed that referred to “all people are created equal” rather than “all men.” When you're trying to expand your support, it's hard to imagine much more that could help guarantee the erosion of the women's vote than by you being offended at your opponent saying "all people" should be treated equally, instead of only men.
Because he's got nothing else.
Yes, there are all the many problems Trump faces that he's been unable to resolve. There's his shrinking support that he's been unable to expand. There's a pandemic and already 134,364 dead Americans. But after four years, his biggest problem is that We Know Who He Is. We know the old, scratchy, broken record that stopped working years ago. And playing that record over and over and over in the middle of a pandemic, massive unemployment, national social change and a Russian bounty scandal doesn't make it sound any fresher or work any better.
An analyst on MSNBC the other day commented that in the past, Trump has always been able to sue and bully his opponents. But the coronavirus can't be bullied or sued. And Trump doesn't know what to do about it. Or it seems about most anything. And it's made him desperate. And even more insecure. And in deep trouble. Because, in the end, he's come face to face with the stark reality of the Mark Twain Rule.
He is a sinking ship with no baggage left to throw overboard.
Mark Twain can explain it better, here --
I don't post every ad from the Lincoln Project or MeidasTouch or VoteVets or Republican Voters Against Trump, even when some of them are quite wonderful. As so many of them are. But only the ones that I think leap out as special.
I love this one from the Lincoln Project..
And I'm sure that readers here will know why. The mantra gets repeated here endlessly -- It's not about Trump, we know who he is. It's about the elected Republicans in Congress who enable him and are complicit.
I figure that there has been plenty enough coverage of the upcoming book by Trump's niece Mary that I don't have much to add in any immediate comment. I do want to say that the one thing that most leaps out to me is the author credit. The book does not say it is written by "Mary Trump." Rather, it's emblazoned across the cover as "Mary Trump, PhD."
What I love is that I have no doubt at all that this was very intentional to add deep credibility to the overall work and the psychological insight, not merely to give her proper professional title for the sake of accuracy. After all, Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist. So, when she analyzes her uncle's mental condition, the front cover lets you know right up front that she knows what she's talking about.
So, when she writes something like -- "Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be," she's not just a relative making an untrained observation. She's putting her professional work on the line and giving it substance.
We'll leave the rest about the book -- and there's a lot -- to others for now. Instead, we'll move over to The Daily Show for a extremely funny, and almost as disturbing a video.
A couple days ago, The Daily Show sent out a clip with a montage of the "Best of Jordan Klepper" interviewing supporters at Trump rallies. They'd posted this a while ago, but said they're doing it again because, in their words, "It's too good."
It's too good.
No, seriously, it's really too good.
Scary, though. But too good.
Apparently Randy Rainbow -- like most people in the country -- has a lot of extra time on his hands, so he's written and produced another new song parody. It's very good, maybe even more blunt than usual, and with a strong production, as well. The song being parodied may not be familiar to everyone -- it wasn't to me, so I had to a little searching. It's "Poor Unfortunate Soul," from The Little Mermaid.
And we have a bonus today. In honor of the filmed stage-version of Hamilton premiering last Friday, here is a Randy Rainbow song parody from 2017. It came about after the story broke of Don Jr.'s infamous meeting with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. It's the song, "The Room Where It Happened," based on the Hamilton song...well, okay, he didn't have to change the title for this one.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Andrew Zimmern, who hosted MSNBC’s excellent series, What’s Eating America. If you haven’t seen any episodes (I’ve seen a few, not all), the show is very well-done and offers a unique perspective on its subject -- food. As Franken writes, “Turns out food is important. Andrew Zimmern, host and producer of MSNBC’s new series, What’s Eating America talks about the intersection of food and health, immigration, climate, and addiction – including his own harrowing journey to sobriety and grace.” This latter episode is one that I did see, and it was terrific -- open and fascinating.
Perhaps the most blunt ad that the Lincoln Project has put out -- which is saying a lot. It comes from a veterans association.
Yes, that Project Lincoln ad above is probably the most brutal…but man, this new one below from yesterday is a really close second.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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