All You Need To Know #8

The 2020 US Presidential Election

Hello, and welcome to week eight!

So two months ago, when I started this weekly summary, my friend was asking me a lot about Biden’s VP pick. What I said back then was that no one can really predict yet, but that I think it’ll be Kamala Harris. Well, things have shifted this week.

One of the first things about media literacy is to understand the motivations of the stories that are reaching you. If there’s a big protest in Panama, and people write stories about it, it’s because the papers of record want to document history. But when you read a story about how a candidate is hard to work with, that’s a leak. And leaks happen for a reason. So while you might be technically reading the news, it’s news that’s been planted for a certain reason. To turn public opinion.

So Kamala Harris checks a lot of boxes. She’s super smart, and she’s a senator. She’s run for office. She’s a great speaker. She’s a woman, which Biden declared was part of his selection criteria. Also, she’s Black, which goes a long way towards building an administration that has diverse perspectives.

This week, quite a few stories hit the media about how Harris is far too political. Calculating. Ambitious. How she’d spend her entire time scheming to be President and not enough time actually performing the roles needed from a Vice President. Biden has stated he wants someone there to be a team player, and support the administration, not be there for her own ambitions. And just like that, Harris was toast.

I could go on for a long time about how frustrating it is seeing ambition turned against women every single time. There’s this great analysis of Hillary Clinton where when she’s actually performing her job, she has historically high approval ratings. And when she’s a private citizen, she’s popular as well. But the minute she’s applying for a job, presto, she becomes the most hated woman in the world. And it’s not just Hillary. There’s a lot of sexism at play here, because no one ever writes off a male candidate for being ambitious. .

So what do you do when you’re penalised for being a confident, ambitious woman in politics? What do you do when you want to make a difference but you can’t make the same amount of impact when you’re in the spotlight? Well, you get really good at working behind the scenes. You go big on what’s often called “service leadership.” Barack Obama famously started as a “community organiser,” which runs counter to the myth of the singular genius. But in my experience it can be far more effective.

Enter Karen Bass. She’s the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. She represents Los Angeles, and was protesting against police brutality there for many years before the infamous 1991 Rodney King video. The reason she showed up on my radar is because she said Defund Police is “probably one of the worst slogans ever.” The reason she showed up on everyone else’s radar is because it’s rumoured that Joe Biden is about to choose her.

To be clear, I’ve been a fan of Kamala Harris for over a year and I am incredibly impressed with Karen Bass. I think either woman would do a fantastic job. But I’m a little frustrated that Kamala Harris will probably be passed over for being too ambitious while Karen Bass will probably be selected because she’s famously disinterested in the spotlight. It would be nice if we could just let women be ambitious, but here we are. My vote is on Karen Bass, and I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the strengths she’ll bring. There’s a reason she keeps winning re-elections with landslide results. .

Now, any new character in this political soap opera is going to change the dynamics of the story. So how does Karen Bass change things? Well, it’s a new attack vector for Trump. Already I’m seeing articles about how she praised Scientology and Cuba, so that’s probably what her attack ads are going to look like for the next 100 days. We’ll see how that pans out.

So how do the Six States That Matter look this week? Last week Biden was leading by 5.6% and now he’s leading by 5.3%. A few days ago he was all the way up to 6.2%. More tellingly, and importantly, Trump is down by 6.2% in Florida, a place that Trump cannot afford to lose. No Republican has won without Florida in nearly 100 years. So that’s pretty much the whole ballgame right there.

Things can and will change, of course. America seems to be reaching another plateau with new Covid cases. Vaccine development seems to be steaming ahead well. Biden and Trump haven’t debated yet. Trump keeps trying to be disciplined with his messaging for a few days at a time. So there are still a lot of days to go and we don’t know what will happen yet.
But this week Trump proposed postponing the election, a spectacularly dumb and troubling thing for a modern American president to even propose. Some people called it the single most troubling quote from any president in the entire modern era. So what happened next? Did the Republicans let him get away with it? Did everyone write it off as a joke?

No. For the first time in his entire presidency, the entire Republican leadership shut him down. The majority leader of the Senate, the minority leader of the House, and tons of other people in leadership positions all categorically rejected him. That’s simply never happened before.

The head of the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative, very pro-Trump, very right-wing organisation, recently wrote this:

I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.

But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Ladies and gentleman, we’ve officially found the threshold the Republican Party is unwilling to cross: destroying US Democracy by moving an election. It’s too bad it had to go this far, but it’s good we’ve finally found the line. And that’s the good news. See you next week!

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