All You Need To Know #18

The 2020 US Presidential Election

This is the week Donald Trump was hospitalised with Covid. And it’s not just him. A lot of other Republicans have become sick as well, and evidence is mounting that Amy Coney Barrett’s formal nomination in the Rose Garden was the super-spreader event that’s to blame. So that’s huge.

I know that the history books are going to pore over this week, month, and election for decades to come. So I’ll spend this time starting with objective facts that we know as of the 4th of October, then I’ll turn attention to some speculation.

538 is currently putting his chances at 20%. His high-water mark was in late July, but he’s been on a downward slide since then.

There are a lot of reasons for this. One big factor is that the number of undecideds is quite low, so it’s harder and harder to imagine big swings towards Trump as we get closer and closer to election day.

It’s also notable just how solid Biden’s leads are. He’s up an entire 5% in Pennsylvania, and even up by 2% in Florida. Ohio, a state I hadn’t even put in the realm of possibility, is basically a tie. And yesterday I saw a poll that had Biden up 2% in deep red Georgia. The poll was taken after the debate.

Earlier in the week, Trump turned in what was called the worst debate performance of all time. He bullied, heckled, and interrupted for a painful 90 minutes. Biden was seen as the winner by wide margins, and even the president’s own allies expressed dismay at his performance.

Going into it, some people thought Biden would make verbal flubs. Some people thought the bar was set so low for Biden that even an average performance would look good. But I’m not sure anyone expected just how rabid Trump would appear on stage. He let Biden win by being so insufferable. And it helped that Biden isn’t as mentally frail as Trump has spent months saying.

There are a lot of forks in the road to consider. Trump could die. Trump could become ill enough that it affects his campaigning. Trump could make a full recovery. Maybe the Supreme Court seat is filled, maybe it isn’t because they don’t have enough Republican senators available to vote. Maybe the stimulus passes, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe Biden gets Covid, maybe he doesn’t. There are a lot of moving parts at play here.

I’m making a couple of assumptions, personally. First, many more people in the White House are about to get Covid. And more senators will as well. Three have gone into quarantine already, putting the Supreme Court nomination process at risk. Here’s how the math works:

  • First you have to get out of committee, but two Republicans on that commitee are out of commission right now. So they can’t proceed because they don’t have the votes.
  • Then you have 53 senators voting, but three are out of commission, so they are on thin ice there.
  • Remote voting in the Senate is not currently allowed.
  • People testing positive are going to quarantine for ten days, and ten days is coincidentally when the process is set to proceed.
  • Chuck Grassley, age 87, is refusing to get tested despite coming in contact with people who have Covid. Burr, the attorney general, has made the same decision.

So if you put this all together, it’s not hard to imagine the GOP changing the voting rules just enough to get their coveted seat. And then being punished for it by losing the Senate.

But it’s also not hard to imagine Chuck Grassley getting sick or even dying. And he’s on the judicial committee. So not only would it complicate getting the vote out of committee, it would complicate the vote count in the senate.

One of the lasting legacies from modern politics and Trump in particular is how no one knows what to believe anymore. I’ve had a very frustrating few days trying to explain to my friends that Trump actually has Covid, and that it’s not a giant hoax. How do I know? Because this is Trump 101.

Think of his motivations. He doesn’t want anyone talking about Covid. He doesn’t want to appear weak. He doesn’t like hospitals because he’s a giant germaphobe. Think of how many times he has admitted fault, or weakness. Think of how fundamentally against his character it would be to do absolutely anything that makes him look passive or not fully in control.

Trump has Covid. It’s not even worth considering any other option because it’s so plainly true. But as a society, we need to get a lot better at critical thinking. Democracy can’t survive when absolutely every piece of news is put through a conspiracy theory filter. Some things are as plain as they look: Trump has Covid, he’s losing in the polls, and is on track to lose the election and swing the Senate to the Democrats while he’s at it.

I hope Trump recovers, because he’s a human. I hope he loses the election because he doesn’t have the support of the American people. I hope he is punished because he broke the law. And I hope the Republicans continue to lose support because they’re not good at governing. At this point, all of those predictions will probably come true. And that’s the good news.

See you next week!

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