Tag Archives: Biden

Respect

Tom Friedman isn’t one of my favorite New York Times columnists; I usually find him either tendentious or self-congratulatory. But he’s growing on me.

I especially liked his column last Wednesday, in which he suggested a slogan/bumper sticker for the Biden campaign:“Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.”

If only!!

As Friedman writes, not only are these values held by most Americans, they are in dramatic  contrast to Trump. (I’m pretty sure Trump doesn’t have anything we would call “values”–and I have never seen him display anything remotely resembling respect for anyone or anything..Even self-respect would be an improvement.)

Disdain for science is seen in Trump’s antagonism to fact, evidence and reality. It’s bad enough when his contempt for facts involves lying about crowd sizes or windmills causing cancer, infuriating when it involves denial of climate change– but with the advent of Covid-19, it poses an even more immediate threat.

But his disdain for science has become fatal, as we’re seeing in this widening pandemic. Trump has gone from offering quack remedies, like disinfectant, ultraviolet light and hydroxychloroquine, to mocking people, including Biden, for adopting the easiest and most scientifically proven method for limiting the spread of the coronavirus: wearing a face mask.

Trump doesn’t simply reject science. He’s lost whatever grip  he ever had on elementary logic.  Friedman echoes the astonishment so many of us expressed when our Commander-in-Chief–the purported leader of the free world–opined that we have more cases of Coronavirus because we test for it.

Think about that: Stop testing. Then we’ll have no knowledge. Then we’ll have no numbers. Then we’ll have no virus. Why didn’t I think of that?

Stop testing people for drunken driving, and then we’ll have no more drunken drivers. Stop arresting people for shootings, and then the crime rate will go down.

And if we didn’t have pregnancy tests, voila! Population control…

Then there’s the little matter of respecting Mother Nature.

Trump’s lack of respect for nature may be a political asset for him with his base, but it’s been a disaster for the country. …

Respect for nature also means understanding that we live on a hard rock called planet Earth with a thin cover of oceans and topsoil, enveloped by a thin layer of atmosphere. Abuse that soil, junk up those oceans with plastics, distort that atmospheric blanket and we will likely (further) destroy the perfect Garden of Eden that has been the basis of all human civilization.

According to National Geographic, the Russian Arctic has been having an extended heat wave that drove temperatures north of the Arctic Circle to 100.4 degrees F on June 20–the official first day of summer. (I can’t imagine what that will do to all the structures that have been built on the Arctic’s permafrost…)

The Trump administration has rolled back close to 100 environmental regulations–and has failed or refused to enforce a number of others. The administration reserves its “respect” for the bottom lines of fossil fuel and chemical companies that are operating with impunity as the planet heats and widely-used chemicals are found to be lethal.

Respect for other people? Can we even remember the civility, decorum and good manners of the Obama-Biden administration?

Respect each other? That’s not so easy in the midst of our other pandemic — a pandemic of incivility. You cannot exaggerate the impact on the whole civic culture of having a president who has elevated name-calling, denigration and lying to a central feature of his presidency, amplified by the White House.

Friedman acknowledges that there are multiple sources of disrespectful behavior–especially the algorithms of social media platforms–but he notes that restoring interpersonal respect will require  two things: a president who every day models respect rather than denigration, and citizens who actually listen to each other. Right now, we have neither.

Respect for science. Respect for nature. Respect for each other.

I like that.

 

It Wasn’t “The Establishment”

In the wake of Joe Biden’s victories on Super Tuesday, there has been a concerted effort by Sanders’ most rabid supporters (undoubtedly abetted by some Russian ‘bots’) to accuse a nefarious (and conveniently un-defined) “Establishment” of dirty tricks.

The folks crying foul look a lot like the Trump supporters who dismiss any and all facts that contradict their fervently-held beliefs as “fake news.”

The data says otherwise.

An analysis of actual data by Thomas Edsell in the New York Times is instructive. Here’s his lede:

Four years ago, in Grant County, Oklahoma, Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton, 57.1 percent to 31.9 percent.

This year, Sanders didn’t just lose Grant County — 87.5 percent white, 76.9 percent without college degrees — to Joe Biden, his percentage of the vote fell by 41 points, to 16.1 percent.

Grant County reflects what has become a nationwide pattern in the Democratic primaries, including those held Tuesday night: Sanders’s support among white working class voters has begun to evaporate.

What happened?

Edsell mines the data. It shows that large numbers of voters in 2016 were extremely hostile to Clinton; they voted for Sanders because they detested her–not because they were part of Bernie’s “revolution.” Once she captured the nomination, a surprising number voted for Trump.

Edsell suggests that the aversion of these (mostly) male voters to Hillary was also a factor in Elizabeth Warren’s inability to do better in the primary. He cites a recent study,

“Understanding White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism,” by Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts, and Matthew MacWilliams and Tatishe Nteta, political scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was published in 2018 in the Political Science Quarterly.

Trump, according to the authors, deliberately put racism and sexism at the center of the campaign in order to make these issues salient and advantageous to his candidacy:

Trump’s rhetoric went far beyond targeting racial and ethnic groups; he also invoked language that was explicitly hostile toward women. These remarks were often focused directly at opponents, such as Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, or news reporters, such as Megyn Kelly.

Edsell goes into some detail about the study, and it’s worth clicking through and reading, but his larger point was that considerable research demonstrates that a very significant percentage of non‐college‐educated whites hold sexist views.  So we shouldn’t be surprised by post-primary analyses that show non-college educated whites –many of whom voted for Sanders in 2016–breaking for Biden in significant numbers now that Sanders no longer faces Hillary.

Overall Sanders is running well below his 2016 vote share everywhere. A lot of people underestimated just how much of his support in 2016 was an anti-Clinton vote, and now that he’s not running against Clinton, those voters aren’t backing him anymore.

Other interesting data points: between 10 and 12 percent of Sanders’s 2016 primary voters voted for Trump in the general election, with an additional 12 percent either voting for a third-party candidate or not voting at all. And many weren’t Democrats; interviews with Sanders-Trump voters over the years suggest that only 35 percent of them had voted for Obama in either 2008 or 2012.

What separated Sanders-Trump voters from Sanders-Clinton voters was simple racism.

When asked how they felt about whites and blacks on a 0-100 scale, Sanders-Trump voters rated blacks 9 points less favorably than Sanders-Clinton voters. But Sanders-Trump voters rated whites 8 points more favorably.

Nate Silver has also crunched the numbers, pointing out that in 2016, Sanders won 43 percent of the primary vote against Clinton; however, if “24 percent of that 43 percent were #NeverHillary voters, that means Sanders’s real base was more like 33 percent of the overall Democratic electorate.”

If Edsell and the scholars he quotes are right about the extent and effect of latent sexism (and not-so-latent racism), it explains why Sanders’ support diminished this time around–although it doesn’t explain the significant reduction in turnout by young voters, especially in a year when Democratic primary turnout overall has skyrocketed. (One tongue-in-cheek explanation: Young people tweet. Old people vote.)

One thing, however, is clear. No matter how distasteful the evidence is to Bernie’s most passionate supporters, neither the pathetically inept DNC nor some shadowy “establishment” are responsible for his likely failure to win the nomination.

It may seem inconceivable to them that a majority of Democratic voters prefer Biden. But the data says they do.

 

Analog Candidates For A Digital Age

Let me begin with an admission: I am old. The same age as Bernie Sanders, actually, and just a couple of years older than Joe Biden. I know firsthand that age bestows a number of benefits along with the gray hair and sagging skin: more tolerance for the foibles of others, a broader context within which to analyze thorny issues, greater appreciation for the complexities of the world.

When we are determining which candidate the Democrats should nominate to occupy the Oval Office, however, those benefits must be weighed against some undeniable negatives.

First and foremost is political reality. If a Democrat wins the 2020 election, he or she needs to be seen as a possible– or likely– two-term President. Thanks to Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate, we have ample evidence that the GOP will do everything in its power to run the clock out on a President in his last–or only–term. (Ask Merrick Garland if you don’t believe me–or look at the overall pathetic performance of Congress in Obama’s last term.) It’s much, much harder to pursue that strategy with someone who is potentially a two-term President.

Someone who assumes office at the age of 78 or 80 is not a two-termer.

Second, the world into which someone was socialized matters. A lot. The reality we occupy growing up shapes us in ways we only dimly recognize. Joe Biden’s hugging and physical demonstrativeness is just one example; I love Biden, and I recognize his behavior as fairly typical of affectionate men of his and my generation. We all grow up unthinkingly accepting the social norms of the world we were born into as “the way it is,” making it very difficult to realize that “the way it is” isn’t anymore.

As a consequence, my generation has difficulty fully understanding and adapting to a world that is profoundly different from the world of our youth, not just because of  generational social change, but because of the way those changes have been magnified and their speed accelerated by the Internet, social media and technology generally.

What younger folks find intuitive is anything but for those of us who grew up with landlines attached to the wall, shelves of encyclopedias for information, and service station attendants who pumped the gas and cleaned our windshields. I’m an example: I am not the Luddite some of my age cohort are–I use an iPhone and laptop, I read on a Kindle, and I review research studies about the sometimes convoluted ways in which technology and social media are constantly changing social norms–but none of this comes easily or naturally, as it so clearly does to my students and grandchildren.

Nor does my understanding go very deep; like most of my generation, I rely on younger people if I need to go beyond superficial knowledge of how it all works.

If Russian bots are exacerbating America’s tribal divisions, those dealing with the problem need to understand what bots are, what they do and how they are deployed. If virtual currencies like Bitcoin are threatening to destabilize global monetary systems, they need to understand how those currencies work, how they are generated and why they have value. And that’s just two examples.

Thirdly, and much as I hate to admit it, age takes an inexorable physical and mental toll. I’m a pretty high energy person, and I am blessed with excellent health. But there is absolutely no way that I could discharge even the purely physical requirements of a job like the Presidency. (My theory is that Trump’s well-documented aversion to actually doing any work is partly due to his age and poor physical condition.) And numerous studies definitively show that on nearly every scale of intellectual capacity, people over 70 have less flexibility and less to offer than younger generations. 

There comes a time when we older folks need to yield power to the next generation. We can still offer our hard-earned wisdom, and we can still play an important advisory role. But existential threats like climate change need to be addressed by those who will live with its effects; racism, sexism and other bigotries can best be dealt with by people who have grown up seeing mothers who are doctors, lawyers and CEOs, and interacting with friends and classmates of many races, religions and sexual identities.

America owes huge debts to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. We are safer thanks to Biden’s wisdom on foreign policy and exceptional service in the Senate and as Vice-President. Sanders’ 2016 campaign almost single-handedly demonstrated the hollowness of Democrat’s “Republican-lite” policies. His is no longer a lone voice–virtually every Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020 has adopted his progressive perspectives on healthcare and economic fairness.

That said, it’s time for the party’s elders to step back and give day-to-day management of government to a new generation. Fortunately, the Democratic Party–unlike the GOP– has an exceptional young bench.

To coin a phrase: it’s time for a (generational) change.