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Joe Biden and the historical moment


CNN as a whole has actually been pretty decent for the past year or two, with its reporters being allowed by their editors to call false Trump statements “false” for example, but this kind of thing is a reminder of the basic absurdity of horse race media coverage:

Barack Obama, in a moment of catharsis that doubled as a warning against Democratic complacency, blasted President Donald Trump in a speech dripping with ridicule ahead of Thursday’s crucial debate — perhaps the President’s last chance to turn around his campaign.

(BTW good on Obama for finally letting it rip.)

Let’s linger for a moment on the preposterousness of the idea that tonight’s made for TV “debate” could actually change the votes of any more than the tiniest handful of incredibly confused — I’m trying to be nice — people.

Trump’s campaign is almost broke: it’s managed to incinerate almost all of the $1.5 billion it raised. He remains historically unpopular. Tens of millions of people have been thrown into dire straits by the pandemic, and Moscow Mitch has decided that crippling Joe Biden’s presidency is more important than trying to save Trump’s with a stimulus package.

On top of all that, 44 million people have already voted, and it appears Democrats outnumber Republicans by two to one among those voters. (For example, using party affiliation as a proxy, and assuming unaffiliated voters are being split evenly — an assumption that may be unduly favorable to Trump — Biden is likely already a half million votes ahead of Trump in Florida).

The best news is that Senate Republican candidates tend to trail Trump among voters, so big Biden win is very likely, although not certain, to produce a Democratic Senate, which is almost as crucial as getting Trump out of the White House. In comments last night Ben in RVA produced a nice tonic for the nerves of the negative Nestors and Nellies in our midst (I’m sometimes one of them so no judgment):

This is nothing like 2016. This is very 2008 vibes except probably better because the extent of the victory is shaping up to be bigger.

There was both a darkness to the Fall of 2016 in the country and a basic competence in the Trump campaign for the closing arguments, along with Hillary hate, and they’ve got none of that this time. They’re down double digits with less than two weeks to go, one of his chief advisers just got caught rubbing his crotch in front of what he thought was an underage girl, he got caught paying more money in taxes to the PRC than he does to this country tanks to his secret Chinese bank account, they’re playing defense in Texas and early voting is smashing records. Oh yeah and there’s a pandemic he botched the response to that has killed more Americans than in all of WWI (and counting).

He has no message, no money, no direction, and nobody who is even really loyal to him. His original campaign manager blew all his money and then had a psychotic breakdown! Every ginned up scandal they try to sic on Biden in some cargo cult manner falls flat because the MSM is not biting this time, and people are way more wise to disinformation than they were in 2016. Trump is a rolling dumpster fire in a way that, no, he was not in 2016. Not in the least.

I know our political discourse since 2000 is incapable of admitting when an election is over, and obviously we still have to vote–which doesn’t seem to be an issue as the same polls that show Biden with double digits show that everyone also thinks Trump will win the election by just as wide a margin–but it’s effectively all over but the shouting.

Of course this comes with the standard caveat that all this is no argument for complacency, we must treat the next 12 days as if the survival of liberal democracy in America depends on it (because it actually does) etc.

I want to add that Joe Biden has really grown on me over the course of this campaign. Part of that, I think, is that I underrated how important it would be, at this particular historical moment, for the Democratic candidate to be an obviously warm and humane person, in order to produce the maximum possible contrast with the monstrous sociopath in the White House. But part of it is that Biden also seems to be rising to that moment, in ways that are genuinely impressive, and go beyond being a decent person in general and a non-fascist in particular:

In this regard, Biden is beginning to remind me of Lyndon Johnson — a radically different sort of person, in both good and bad ways, than Biden, but another man who, at a moment of national crisis, transcended the limitations of his personal and political past to achieve great things. (That Vietnam — which I believe would have been a similar disaster under just about any plausible American president at the time, and most especially under JFK — did so much to both cripple and obscure Johnson’s greatness as a president is one of the biggest tragedies of that immense disaster).

So the debate will go on, because the show must go on, but there is no debate: not really, not for any decent person, anyway.

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