I’ve just published a new piece at Medium.com: “Reflections on an Era Recently Passed: The Pandemic Crisis and the 2020 Election.” I discuss two books published last year, on the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 election, respectively: A Plague Upon Our House, by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, MD, and Rigged!, by Mollie Hemingway.
This one turned out to be rather lengthy, owing to 1) I’m reviewing two books in the same article, and 2) I am the worst choice to be my editor.
One of the perennial jokes of U.S. foreign policy is that the first U.S. troops to arrive in any foreign theater of conflict are just there as “advisors.” The U.S. intervention in Vietnam started off with just “military advisors” in 1950. Within two and a half decades, some 55,000 American soldiers had returned home in body bags from that tiny war-torn southeast Asian country on the other side of the world.
In recent days, President Joe Biden has made alleged “gaffes” about U.S. troops being present in Ukraine and removing Vladimir Putin from office, prompting administration officials, including secretary of State Antony Blinken, to make hurried correctives on his behalf that neither are official U.S. policy. While it remains unclear as to whether or not the latter is a serious U.S. policy goal, the former “gaffe” is a documented fact. There are in fact U.S. and NATO military personnel present in Ukraine at the moment, but only in a “limited” “advisory” capacity, of course. And they’ve been there since at least January–several weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Eerie echoes of Afghanistan circa late-1970s. The U.S. began supporting mujahadeen resistance to the newly installed Marxist regime in Kabul at that time and lo and behold the Soviets invaded several months after. The U.S. just officially ended its nearly 20-year occupation of Afghanistan last August.
The ability of the U.S. government to convince the vast majority of the American public of a false perception of what they’re really up to never fails to astound. The Biden administration keeps insisting that the direct involvement of U.S. troops in Ukraine is not in the cards, and yet we know for a fact that U.S. and NATO military advisors have been there for at least the past few months. They’re apparently teaching Ukrainian forces how to use all those weapons–including Soviet-made tanks being delivered by NATO allies–that were made possible courtesy of $1 billion—and counting–in U.S. military aid.
But yet we’re supposed to be convinced that Uncle Sam just isn’t doing enough in Ukraine. Never mind that this recent twist of tragic events was catalyzed by the Obama administration’s support for the Euromaidan putsch in Kiev some eight years ago. Never mind that billions of dollars in American military aid has been sent to Ukraine since then. Never mind that the U.S. and NATO are now facilitating weapons transfers to Ukraine. We’re supposed to believe that Washington has been acting with restraint and caution in regards to Russia v. Ukraine for fear of escalating into all out war with nuclear-armed Russia.
But doesn’t it appear more and more as though the opposite is true? The U.S.–which has launched a total of three regime-change and attempted regime-change wars since its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001–appears to be inching closer and closer to a direct military confrontation with Russia. Just as his “gaffe” about U.S. troops in Ukraine turned out to be an absent minded revelation of what was in fact true, perhaps Biden’s “gaffe” about Putin being forced out of power in Moscow will, in due time, turn out to be another slip-of-the-tongue that prematurely revealed the truth regarding Washington’s actual long term goal with regards to Russia.
As I write this, Donald Trump’s campaign has filed multiple lawsuits in several key states that have been called for Joe Biden, challenging the legitimacy of their vote counting processes.
I have to wonder if the Trump people really believe that any of those lawsuits will affect the election result. We went down this road 20 years ago, during the great Bush v. Gore fiasco of 2000. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a recount of votes in Florida ordered by the state supreme court was to grind to a halt. That played out in George W. Bush’s favor as it allowed the state’s previous certification of him as their presidential winner to stand.
Granted, I’m no legal expert, of course, and I don’t know any of the ins-and-outs of the various suits, but it instinctively seems doubtful that, if any of those lawsuits were to be admitted for hearing by the SCOTUS, or any Federal court for that matter, that they would rule that any of those states must do a recount, or that they would intervene in state counting processes in any other way. I’m wondering if, in one of those ironic little twists of history, the Bush v. Gore decision would hold precedent and this time favor the Democratic nominee rather than the Republican. But who knows?
In any case, it could be that Trump, as befits his wont, is merely shoving his great big middle finger in the ruling establishment’s face one more time on his way out the door. He’s not going quietly into that good night. It may be that he’s just determined to gum up the works as much as possible by casting as many aspersions and doubts as he can on the legitimacy of Biden’s election before he leaves.
And why shouldn’t he? A similar tactic was used against him four years ago, though how it was done to him was far worse by any conceivable viewpoint. His enemies hurled charges of treason at him; they accused him of being a witting tool of a foreign head of state, Vladimir Putin. Putin, we were supposed to believe, somehow rigged the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, in exchange for Trump doing Putin’s bidding (though it was often difficult to keep track of the specific allegations, they were so fluid). After spending nearly two years and $32 million, the best Robert Mueller could come up with was that there may have been, possibly, just perhaps, maybe, a dozen or so instances in which Trump committed every prosecutor’s favorite catch-all crime, “obstruction of justice.” Did Trump commit a crime or not? Mueller chose not to make either claim, which we can safely assume to be due to a lack of any evidence supporting the former.
Then there was the impeachment circus over The Notorious Phone Call. The more you learned about it, however, the more that was revealed of Joe Biden’s bullying–by means of the carrot-and-stick of U.S. foreign aid–of the Ukrainian government into firing a prosecutor because he was investigating an energy company with which his son Hunter was involved. Biden was even caught on tape bragging about this at a public event. He apparently didn’t care who heard it, likely because he was confident that he would face no consequences.
After major media figures had spent years accusing him of treason on national television–the maximum penalty for which is death–perhaps Trump is just kicking a little sand into the faces of his enemies before he stalks off. Who could blame him?
Still, it must be asked, is it really so far-fetched that the Democrats manufactured votes and/or tossed out others in key states? I don’t think so. There are plenty of reports out there that even the most die-hard partisan Democrat has to admit just look fishy. Furthermore, considering that there are people on the Democrat side who have repeatedly stated for the past four years that Donald Trump is the ultimate manifestation of Pure Evil–the literal reincarnation of Adolf Hitler in his pact-with-Stalin phase–isn’t it totally reasonable to conjecture that such people, if given the opportunity, would resort to any means necessary, no matter how illegal, to prevent President Literally Hitler from winning re-election?
Even if there wasn’t any voter fraud at all–and every intelligent person should find that terribly difficult to believe–then the way they handled the counting of the unprecedented number of mail-in votes, plus the absentee ballots, based on what I’m seeing reported, seemed almost designed to invite suspicion and skepticism of the victor’s legitimacy. I would think that to at least start counting the mail-in and absentee votes at the same time as the in-person votes that were cast on election day–all of it 100% observed by a bipartisan (or even tri- or quadrapartisan) group, of course, from beginning to bitter end–would go a long way toward at least making a sudden turning of the tide during the count look a lot less shady. This dropping off votes at 4 a.m. stuff, even if every vote was completely legit, is just “bad optics,” as the kids say. If election authorities insist on retaining the current counting methods indefinitely, then they should be viewed with suspicion.
In any case, the sudden change in Democrat talking-points analysis as the tide turned in Biden’s favor, as the counting progressed in the days following the election, was quite revealing in and of itself. When it looked early on as though Trump may yet squeak his way to another victory, social media was predictably barraged with the typical, boiler-plate laments of the systemically racist specter haunting America, and that possibly the Russians–this time with the possible assistance of the Iranians and the Chinese (pick your favorite foreign bogeyman)–had struck yet again.
But then, lo and behold, whaddya know?! Biden surged ahead in the key state-by-state tallies, and racism and Russians didn’t seem so much of a factor anymore! (I was in deeply blue Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood this past Saturday just after the corporate media declared Biden the winner. There were so many people waving U.S. flags that I thought I had stumbled into a Trump rally. Biden is making America great again, apparently.)
Should we just accept Biden’s victory as indisputable prima facie evidence that those twin evils have finally been vanquished? I mean, how do we know that the Russians and racists didn’t just switch parties in a particularly sneaky and diabolical maneuver? (Look–here’s Richard Spencer endorsing Joe Biden!) I say we have a new round of congressional and independent counsel investigations just to make sure our elections haven’t been “hacked” yet again.
But of course, it just may very well be–as I think is most likely the case–that there were some Democrat shenanigans, and yet it could also still be said at the same time that Trump lost the election fair and square. The Trumpites have to face the fact that their guy’s worst qualities–the self-obsession; the mammoth ego; the lazy refusal to actually prepare himself, study, and follow through; the thin-skinnedness; and, worst of all, his obvious and pathetic yearning to do whatever he thinks it takes to be adored by the masses, most likely torpedoed his re-election chances.
In Trump’s focus on defending himself from the albeit relentless personal attacks by his enemies, he soon lost sight of what got him elected in 2016. He simply lacked the discipline to do otherwise. And it certainly didn’t help that he had surrounded himself with typical GOP establishment hacks. The agenda his administration ended up pursuing turned out to be quite different from the agenda that he ran on in 2016. Those who voted for him back then were expecting some drastic curtailment of unfettered, completely out-of-control immigration, and some kind of action to safeguard America’s obviously struggling working class. They didn’t get much of either.
Instead, the Trump administration got a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill passed, a bill that seemed designed to win over liberal support. Whatever the merits (or demerits) of that bill may be, there was certainly nothing that Trump could do to sway Democrats. They persisted in shrieking that he was literally Hitler regardless. And such a bill wasn’t on his base’s agenda in 2016.
On the foreign policy front, Trump does genuinely deserve credit for not launching one single new long-term military intervention overseas during his term, and for turning down the temperature in U.S.-North Korean relations, at least for a little while.
At the same time, however, he insisted on ramping up Barack Obama’s war in Yemen; he slapped new sanctions on Russia and pulled the U.S. out of the Reagan-negotiated intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty; he backed out of the Iran nuclear agreement and increased severe sanctions on that beleaguered country (which have now escalated even further), and had a high-ranking Iranian military officer drone-assassinated in a needlessly provocative move; he insisted on moving the U.S. government’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem; and he facilitated a new treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, formally consummating a relationship that had already been under way for years.
All of those moves seemed intended to appease the dead-enders of the conventional bipartisasan foreign policy establishment, and, once again, none of those goals were on the wish list of his 2016 base. Their desire to roll back immigration and establish some economic security for the working class were overwhelmingly domestic concerns; they rarely seemed much concerned about foreign policy at all. I honestly believe, however, that they would have cheered a major scaling back of U.S. military commitments around the world, including withdrawals from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, due to their domestic policy preferences. They surely would have welcomed it as an opportunity for the redeployment of resources for domestic goals.
As a result, the populist approach Trump had taken the first time around was almost entirely abandoned, and that no doubt cost him some of his base in certain swing states amidst the record voter turn-out.
Trump’s handling of the covid crisis obviously didn’t help him out, either, but not in the way most Democrats assume. If he had come out firmly against the states’ hysterical, overreactive, and totally irrational lockdowns–most of the first of which were led by Democrat governors–he could have dominated the public debate over that approach. He could even have had the Justice Department file suit in Federal court to force the states to stay open or re-open, citing the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. constitution as their legal basis. To instead play along with the initial hysteria, and only later begin to protest that the country needed to get back to normal, was just so much weak tea. It may have given him the opportunity to play the knight in shining armor riding to the rescue with the stimulus payments to newly impoverished working people and small business owners, but I’m willing to bet that most of those people would have rather kept their jobs and businesses.
So what now? Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States, and that will obviously be followed by a new Era of Good Feelings, during which we will all join hands and sing kumbaya–or at least Biden himself has expressed that he’d like to see as much.
“Let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said in his recent victory speech. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
My guess is that this entreaty rings very hollow to the Trumpites, and I can’t say that I’d blame them.
If Biden really wants people to stop demonizing one another over politics, he would do well to specifically address the problem within his own base, among whom it’s endemic. For nearly every single day for four straight years, the loudest Democrat cheerleaders took to social media to routinely denounce anyone who voted for Donald Trump as hopelessly stupid, hateful, racist bigots. Expressing vicious, boundless hate towards those people has been the top-ranking political fashion among the “progressive” “liberal” set for the past four years.
Trump voters have consistently been the one demographic in America for whom one could safely express public contempt in the most graphically hateful and vitriolic terms imaginable.
It seems like only yesterday that actor Michael Shannon declared, during the 2016 campaign, that every senior citizen who was planning to vote for Trump should just die already. “[I]f you’re voting for Trump, it’s time for the urn,” the renown character actor colorfully declared. I once met Shannon briefly many years ago, and he seemed a nice enough guy; I doubt he’d remember me now. But we have some mutual acquaintances. I keep forgetting to ask them to convey to him that my father, who had voted for Trump in 2016, died last year at the age of 72, in the midst of his fourth bout with cancer. I imagine that would make Mr. Shannon’s day.
For Democrats to now offer an olive branch to those they’ve relentlessly otherized and demonized for four long years, now that they’re about to be safely re-installed in executive power, must certainly strike any Trumpite as the emptiest and most meaningless gesture imaginable. For even as Biden speaks of wanting people to “listen to each other again,” a glance through Twitter shortly after the media’s announcement of Biden’s victory showed that the contempt had not abated.
And not only mere contempt was expressed. These people want vengeance. Having convinced themselves that they’d been subjugated to the rule of a quasi-Nazi regime for nearly four years, but are now newly liberated by Biden’s declared victory, they are now out to exact retribution from their former oppressors–whom they define as any person who has ever expressed any kind of support for Donald Trump.
But perhaps their real problem is that they have come to recognize, in their heart of hearts, that their recent national victory is merely a pyrrhic one. For after all of the non-stop whining and carping about Trump and his base–the Hitler comparisons, the Russiagate allegations, the claims of endemic bigotry–with about 98% of the news media, the entertainment industry, big tech corporations, and academia–and let’s not forget the FBI and the U.S. intelligence apparatus–all of them egging it on and facilitating it–the historic voter turn-out did not deliver the kind of overwhelming, immediately decisive Biden victory that they had claimed would happen.
Approximately 149 million voters cast presidential ballots in this election, a huge increase in voter turn-out when compared to the 129 million ballots cast four years ago, about a 16% uptick. Biden’s margin of victory in the popular vote was just a little over 3%, and was just a wee bit shy of a solid majority. 66 million ballots were cast for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 77 million voted for Biden. That 11 million-vote increase is about a 17% improvement for the Democrats.
About 63 million voters cast their ballots for Trump in 2016, and he increased that by about 9 million votes this time around. That’s about a 14% improvement. Not bad for someone who was supposed to be The Most Evil President of Our Lifetime.
Even worse, the Democrats suffered a net loss of 5-6 seats in the U.S. House, and the GOP appears to be holding on to at least a slender majority in the U.S. Senate. The two run-off elections in Georgia may very well flip it in January, but that thin majority would be far more troublesome for the Democrats, as they would still have a very difficult time passing Biden’s agenda. There were almost immediate recriminations among congressional Democrats over the lackluster results in the congressional elections.
(For my Democrat friends: if you should ever be told again to expect a “Blue Wave,” for God’s sake, just ignore it. The disappointment will be just too much for your emotional state.)
Another interesting bit of information: President Hitler actually improved his votes among blacks and hispanics compared to 2016, and he actually lost some white voters.
Those results are just too much for your die-hard Democrat to bear. Trump should have been buried in a landslide, with the Democratic party vastly improving their majority in the House and easily dominating the Senate, considering what truly evil Nazis Trump and the Republicans were supposed to be.
But just as Trumpites have blind spots about their guy, so, too, does our disillusioned Democrat friends have their blind spots as well. They have a hard time even conceiving that Biden’s repeated ominous warnings of a “dark winter” due to covid–i.e., more forced restrictions, lockdowns, and other nanny-state interference with normal civil society, from the Federal level–may have made a lot of people think long and hard before casting their vote, and that they may have concluded that Trump was the better option. Trump, after all, his previous capitulation to the covid hysteria notwithstanding, had made it clear that it’s high time to knock off at least some of this paranoid nonsense about the new virus–which has already wreaked considerable damage in peoples’ lives–and get back to normal.
Further, Biden and the Democrats’ reluctance to condemn the BLM-leftist riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis cop earlier this year certainly didn’t help their cause any, either. Who knows how many of Trump’s additional 9 million voters were motivated by a desire to insure that left-liberal rioters and looters would not be rewarded with their choice of presidential candidate?
The end result was that the Trumpites may have lost the election, but 72 million voters is not exactly an insubstantial minority. Though leaderless after January of 2021, they will likely prove to be a massive headache for the Democrats in the 2022 mid-terms, and thereafter.
Now, how does this all wrap up? Here we have the country, sharply divided between two awful, obnoxious political parties whose chances for victory seem to ride almost entirely on whether or not they’re hated a little less than the other side.
Any color-coded electoral map will tell you that “Blue America” is mostly centered in the cities and large towns, the urban centers, with “Red America” encompassing mainly the small town/rural areas. That’s where the focus of one’s attention should be in assessing America’s ongoing political conflict, not just on the White House and the U.S. Congress. For whichever faction controls the urban areas, pretty much controls the states’ electoral votes, with few exceptions. My own adopted hometown of Chicago is one prime example. The city is so overwhelmingly blue that it consistently delivers Illinois into the Democrat column in one presidential election after the other.
Or maybe this country finally needs an amicable divorce, so that all factions can have the freedom to seek out the maximum of their preferred social arrangements. The problem isn’t just the division in the U.S., it’s the ongoing conflict between the divisions, which are caused by fundamental differences in world views–including views of existence itself–that are not likely to be resolved any time soon.
Peaceful co-existence may be the best outcome that we can possibly hope for.