Monday, October 12, 2020

Last Call For The Country Goes Viral, Con't

The immediate danger after the election is white supremacist violence, and Trump trying to nullify the election and take power, but it's also an issue of COVID-19 pandemic spread as we rapidly approach 8 million cases. Here in Kentucky we've now set three consecutive weekly new case records, even with Gov. Andy Beshear's mask mandate.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Sunday announced the state has once again surpassed its record for new COVID-19 cases reported over seven days.

The 852 new cases announced Sunday brought Kentucky's weekly total to 7,675 cases of the coronavirus, topping last week's record of 6,126. The record before that had been set the previous week with nearly 5,000 cases.

This week's total includes more than 2,000 backlogged cases from Fayette County reported Wednesday, according to a press release from the governor's office.

Kentucky has now seen 80,292 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Beshear also announced three more deaths linked to the pandemic, including a 33-year-old man from Jefferson County, a 60-year-old man from Hopkins County and a 70-year-old woman from Warren County.

“That’s three more families who are now grieving," Beshear said.

Beshear announced earlier Sunday he and his family were quarantining themselves after potentially being exposed to a person with COVID-19. They all tested negative, and Beshear said they will be tested regularly and remain in quarantine until cleared by the state health department.

“We want to make sure we’re setting the example, and we want to make sure we’re keeping other people around us safe,” Beshear said.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky's public health commissioner, said social gatherings and settings where people are close together for extended periods of time continue contribute toward case clusters.

"With the disease so widespread in Kentucky now, the risk of all of us getting exposed is high if we don’t all do our part to socially distance, wear masks and practice good hand hygiene," Stack said in the release. 
But Americans are bored of masks and social distancing, because the leader of the country is bored with masks and social distancing even after contracting the disease, and he's making it the policy of the federal government that they no longer care either. 
Trump’s infection with COVID had presented an opportunity for him to personally change his behavior and, with it, encourage his followers to do the same. That he didn’t was viewed as the final nail in the coffin for attempts to convince skeptical Americans that masks were invaluable in stopping the deadly disease’s spread.

“That’s when I realized that the time to convince Americans to take all these health precautions seriously in order to prevent the spread was totally over,” said one senior health official who works with the White House’s coronavirus task force.

Since the early days of COVID, the Trump administration has not only resisted mask-wearing but actively portrayed it as a form of partisan virtue signaling. To keep your face uncovered, the thinking went, was to show support for the president, a value of personal liberty, and a defiance against public health professionals who publicly speak out against the president’s response to the virus.

The logic has alarmed scientists. Multiple officials working on the federal government’s coronavirus response said that at the start of the pandemic they pushed for the administration to embrace public health messaging that underscored the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining social distancing. Task force officials appeared in public hearings telling lawmakers and the American people that embracing these measures would prevent community spread.

But the White House moved in another direction. It pressured its health agencies to switch its messaging to focus almost entirely on reopening the country no matter the cost, officials said. Two senior health officials told The Daily Beast that they were pressured to step back from reinforcing the effectiveness of masks and social distancing—guidelines that Trump and his confidants viewed as potential obstacles to states reopening schools, bars, and restaurants. And as The New York Times reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was stopped by the White House from mandating masks on public transportation.

The mask skepticism from the White House was so evident that officials inside the West Wing began to stop personally wearing masks for fear of retribution.

“If you stepped into a meeting with the president and you wore a mask when he and the rest of the room were not, you would very likely hear about it from the president himself,” said a Trump administration official who has been in the room in such cases. “It was well-known [in the building] that if you wanted to be taken seriously by the president, you should take his lead on the masks thing… and not be the guy wearing a mask in a gathering with him, as if to say you’re sticking it to [Trump].”

Now, officials say that months of the president mocking mask-wearers and refusing to wear a mask in public has not only instilled a false sense of security in some Americans but facilitated the spread of the virus. Officials say they’ve reached the point of no return—that the time for getting the message out that masks, in particular, are necessary—has passed. And that, they said, points to a dangerous new reality: that the virus could continue to spread throughout the country, killing more people, throughout the next year.
Even if Joe Biden wins the election and Trump gets what's coming to him, half the country will continue to refuse to wear masks or enforce mask mandates, and so the pandemic will spread to tens of millions in 2021.  Even if a Democratic Congress and Biden enact a federal mask mandate, there's every reason to believe the Supreme Court will strike it down, especially if Amy Coney Barrett becomes a Justice.

And even if a mask mandate does survive judicial scrutiny, people will still refuse to wear them, refuse to enforce the laws, and spread the disease.

As bad as 2020 is and has been, there's a lot of reasons to believe 2021 will be one of the most hideous years in American history.
And hundreds of thousands of Americans will die.

The Future Of Trumpism

Donald Trump is in serious political trouble. The white grievance movement he metastasized, however, is going to be with us for decades. If you want a glimpse into what's coming in a world where Trump is no longer in the Oval Office, take a look at tiny Montevallo, Alabama, where an August non-partisan election for mayor became an ugly race that saw white conservative Rusty Nix prevail over Joyce Jones, a Black woman in the era of "partisan everything".

Perhaps no one was more surprised to learn that Joyce Jones wanted to defund the police than Joyce Jones herself.

On Aug. 11, Ms. Jones was in the final stretch of her campaign for mayor of Montevallo, a town of 6,674 people in central Alabama, when she appeared in a candidate forum alongside her opponent, Rusty Nix. The moderator asked both candidates how they would work with the town’s police department. Ms. Jones said she was grateful for the work of Montevallo’s law enforcement, and that as mayor she would consider adding social programs to help the town not just respond to crime (of which there is little in Montevallo) but prevent it, too.

She awoke the next morning to find her phone clogged with social-media notifications. “‘Defund the police,’” she remembered. “It was like a wildfire.” Citizens on one of the local Facebook groups accused Ms. Jones, who was running to be the town’s first Black mayor, of using the “same language” in her answer as the Black Lives Matter movement, implying that she had a hidden agenda. “Very few people will actually say ‘Defund the police,’” one man warned.

Montevallo’s elections are nonpartisan, and there was a time when they felt that way. Candidates would run on proposals like updating the sewage systems, beautifying Main Street and starting a townwide recycling program.

But as Ms. Jones, a 44-year-old lifelong Montevalloan, was finding, not even her tiny town was immune from the divisions roiling the Trump era, the political tremors that once would have felt out of place in casual conversations at Lucky’s supermarket, not to mention local elections, but that now seemed to color everything.

Ms. Jones tried to quash the rumors. She posted on her campaign’s page about her daughter in the Alabama National Guard, her niece and nephews in law enforcement, how she did not believe in “de-funding the Montevallo PD.” But the falsehood continued to ricochet across social media. One man shared a photo of activists in Austin, Texas, holding a giant black-and-white “Defund the police” banner, captioning it, “Montevallo’s future if liberals keep getting elected.”

For Ms. Jones, it was but one partisan-inflected battle in a campaign season of many, an election that would go on to mirror national fights over poll watchers and targeting of Black voters; include sobbing staffers, charges of racism and warnings of Marxism; and culminate in an unsettling feeling among many that, by the time the final vote was counted on the evening of Aug. 25, something in the town had been lost.

“It has always been in my heart this center of civility,” said Montevallo’s outgoing mayor, Hollie Cost. “Before the age of Trump, before all” — she paused — “this, whatever this even is, we all got along. It just ripped us apart.”
And in rural Alabama, everything old is new again, including that oldest of foes, racism.

On the morning of Aug. 25, Ethel Blake, Ms. Jones’s mother, loaded her own 88-year-old mother, Sadie Burns, into the car. It was raining as Ms. Blake drove to the polling station and helped her mother stand in the long line. They were wearing their Joyce Jones T-shirts, which, as they’d checked on the Alabama secretary of state’s website, was legal to do when voting.

Each candidate has the opportunity to appoint a poll watcher inside the building. Like most candidates had done for years in Montevallo, Ms. Jones’s campaign did not appoint one. All four members of the Conservative Coalition, however, had watchers on duty.

Ms. Blake felt their eyes on her when she reached the front of the line. As she helped her mother obtain her ballot, she learned why. The poll watchers had flagged the two women for their T-shirts. They would have to go home and change.

Ms. Blake’s face burned — she knew she’d read the website right, but didn’t know how to respond — as she went to retrieve her mother, who became upset. “But I haven’t voted yet,” she kept repeating. Back home, Ms. Blake urged a plain blouse over her mother’s head. “Momma, I know, just please,” she said, fighting back tears as Ms. Burns said she didn’t want to change.

Ms. Blake prayed for God to cover her mouth as they returned to cast their ballots. She called Dr. Reece to tell him what happened. “Not as an adult have I sobbed that way,” Dr. Reece said.

They weren’t the only Black voters stopped for their T-shirts. Herman Lehman, the city clerk, said the poll watchers — none of whom agreed to be interviewed for this story — had been misinformed about the rule. But white voters who wore campaign gear said they had cast their ballot without issue. “It was really crazy, because it was after I had voted that we got the reports of people being turned away,” said Andrea Eckelman, who had worn her Jones T-shirt, button and mask to vote. “And the only people getting turned away that I heard of were people of color.”

Ms. Jones’s campaign spent the rest of the day trying to confirm that anyone who had been turned away for a T-shirt had ultimately returned to vote. Finally, from a tent outside the polling station, they listened to the results trickle in.

It had been a record turnout in Montevallo, a 60 percent increase from 2016 that included many first-time voters. Out of 1,307 votes cast, Mr. Nix won by 49.

Shortly after the results were announced, according to Ms. Jones and three others who witnessed it, a pickup truck filled with teenage boys sped by. “You suck,” they yelled, appending a racial epithet.

Ms. Jones reflected on that moment. “Listen, I’m not the angry Black woman. I’m not. Like, I fight really, really hard to not let that be my narrative,” she said. “But we, even I, walk around thinking that these things don’t happen — not here, not anymore.”
Win or lose, this is going to keep happening around the country for quite some time. The difference is how virulent -- and violent -- things are going to get if Trump wins as opposed to if Biden does. The rest of the GOP that went all on on white grievance politics will still be in office for the most part, and outside this cycle, especially in 2022 and 2024, I expect their numbers to grow.
And if you're wondering what the present of Trumpism is, it's the Traveling COVID-19 and Hatred Roadshow, all day, every day.
President Trump has asked his campaign to put him on the road every single day from now until Nov. 3.

Behind the scenes: His team is in the process of scheduling events to make that happen, two sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios. But not everyone thinks this is a good idea. One adviser said, “He’s going to kill himself.”

Why it matters: Look at the polls. Trump is in need of a rebound, and he's betting he's got a better chance on the move than sitting around the West Wing.

What we're hearing: The campaign is more worried than ever that seniors — a crucial voting bloc — are abandoning Trump over his handling of the pandemic. 
"He really f----d up with seniors when he said not to worry about the virus and not to let it control your life," one Trump adviser told Axios. "There are so many grandparents who’ve gone almost a year without being able to see grandchildren." 
We still have a lifetime of work to do.

A Supreme October Showdown

The Senate Judiciary hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett begin on Monday, and while Lindsey Graham may be in charge of the proceedings, all eyes will be on Kamala Harris.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) went viral twice when she questioned Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh at his volatile confirmation hearing two years ago.

She scored a hit when she pressed the nominee on whether he knew of any laws that tell a man what to do with his body, as abortion laws do for women, flustering Kavanaugh and prompting him to say he did not.

But she also pushed him on whether he’d discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at a law firm linked to President Trump — adding ominously, “Be sure about your answer, sir.” Kavanaugh appeared mystified and ultimately said no, leaving Republicans furious and Democrats unsure what Harris was getting at.

Those moments illustrate the power Harris’s prosecutorial skills have to energize Democrats and elevate her profile, but also the risk for controversy she faces in high-profile hearings like these.

Starting Monday, Harris will again be at the center of an explosive nomination battle — this time in an unprecedented role as a member of a presidential ticket participating in a divisive Supreme Court hearing just three weeks before Election Day.

As Joe Biden’s running mate, she faces an especially delicate task: appearing tough enough to satisfy liberals upset with Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, but restrained enough to support Biden’s outreach to disillusioned Republicans.

At the same time, she is auditioning as a possible future president. “If I were Kamala Harris, I would try to [give] off the most presidential demeanor possible,” said Mike Davis, a Republican Judiciary Committee counsel during the Kavanaugh hearings. “Her job is to be presidential.”

Harris’s aides say she will leave the campaign trail this week to focus fully on the hearing. Despite her national profile, Harris will be among the Judiciary Committee’s most junior members at a potentially raucous proceeding where everyone will be masked, several senators facing reelection will need to score points, and two members may participate remotely due to coronavirus infections.

In many ways, the stakes are higher this time. Barrett’s confirmation would create a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, an outcome Democrats warn would threaten abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, LGBTQ protections and more.
Democrats should expect to see the confident Harris we saw in last week's Vice-Presidential debate, especially when she gets interrupted (I promise you she will be) by Lindsey Graham. What Democrats shouldn't expect is Harris somehow stopping this nomination herself. Graham will have this nomination through the committee by the end of the week, and the real battle will be next week when the full Senate returns to business and holds a floor vote on a Supreme Court nomination just days before the election.

Senators have been preparing for the possibility of a vacancy for months. Senate Republicans vowed in May that they’d fill an opening this year, shortly after Ginsburg was hospitalized. That same month, Senate Democratic leadership and Judiciary Committee aides began to plan for a possible vacancy, according to a Democratic leadership aide. In these discussions, Democrats strategized on their messaging, including maintaining a focus on health care.

With no procedural tools to stop Barrett from getting confirmed to the Supreme Court, the only weapon Democrats have is messaging. But Brian Fallon, executive director of the liberal Demand Justice group, says that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have been “sleepwalking” so far.

“Dianne Feinstein, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin have been going around sulking about how the Republicans have the votes. And they ought to be convincing the country about what a partisan power grab this is,” said Fallon, whose group is spending millions against Barrett’s nomination. “Get passionate.”

Coons responded that he will be as “passionate and forceful” as he can be.

“There are some folks who are literally never happy no matter what we do,” he said.

Democrats will scrutinize Barrett’s previous writings on Obamacare, including her criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts for ruling to uphold the law. Her views on abortion will also come up. She has described abortion as “always immoral,” but she’s also suggested that Roe v. Wade will endure in some form.

“This nominee poses a clear and present danger to everybody’s health care, that should be uppermost in everyone’s minds, but that’s only the start,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee. “She has a position on abortion.”

Democrats hope their questions create tension between the committee’s conservatives who want the ACA repealed and Roe struck down and those up for reelection who are staying away from such suggestions.

Schumer refused to directly comment on how Senate Republicans’ confirmation of Barrett might affect key Senate races. Ever the optimist, he said that this is a fight like the one to save Obamacare, when Schumer helped convince former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to tank his party’s repeal effort.

“This is our job to push this as hard we can, knowing it’s not an easy fight, knowing that Trump is a vindictive guy and anyone who goes against him has suffered,” Schumer said of Senate Republicans who tangle with the president.

Yet there were always enough senators complaining about Obamacare repeal to conceivably tank the bill. When it comes to Barrett, only two of 53 GOP senators oppose her confirmation before the election. Getting two more looks borderline impossible.

Still, Harris should be able to provide more than a few memorable moments. And let's not forget that Susan Collins and Graham himself are both locked in the toughest Senate races of their respective careers right now against Democratic challengers that have both handily outraised them. Jamie Harrison especially has dominated Lindsey Graham's fundraising totals, including a record $57 million third quarter haul to besiege Graham in the final days.

It should be a solid fight.


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