Sunday, November 1, 2020

Last Call For Bus, Biden Bus

In a preview of the events to come, the Biden campaign has canceled several events in Texas this weekend after Trump cultists ambushed a Biden campaign bus in Texas and tried to force it off Interstate 35.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a Friday incident in which a group of Trump supporters, driving trucks and waving Trump flags, surrounded and followed a Biden campaign bus as it drove up I-35 in Hays County, a law enforcement official confirmed to The Texas Tribune Saturday.

The confrontation, captured on video, featured at least one minor collision and led to Texas Democrats canceling three scheduled campaign events on Friday. The campaign officials cited “safety concerns” for the cancellations.

The highway skirmish came as Democrats close ground in a state that is polling like a potential battleground in the race for president. Recent polls indicate the presidential race in Texas between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden is tight, with some national prognosticators calling it a “toss-up.”

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas [Friday] instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” said Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director for the Biden campaign.

On Saturday night, Trump tweeted a video of the Trump supporters following the Biden bus saying, “I LOVE TEXAS!”

When reached for comment, the Texas GOP Chairman Allen West dismissed questions regarding the incident. “It is more fake news and propaganda. Prepare to lose ... stop bothering me,” West said in a statement.

The bus tour was separate from vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ visit to the state Friday.

Texas Congressional candidate and former state senator Wendy Davis was on the Biden bus at the time, according to multiple sources, including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Travis County Democratic Party Chair Katie Naranjo, and a now-deleted tweet from the Biden Operations Director for Texas, David Gins. A spokesperson for Davis declined to comment.

The tour, which started on Wednesday in Amarillo and went through East Texas, the Gulf Coast, along the Texas-Mexico border, and Central Texas faced protests of varying sizes along the way.

Friday’s campaign events started with a small gathering in Laredo that was met with few protesters. From there, staffers drove to San Antonio. Around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, a social media user using the hashtag #TrumpTrainTexas posted on Twitter, “Trolling is FUN.” The user called for other Trump supporters to “escort the Biden [bus] coming through San Antonio.” 
Should Trump lose, and the odds are looking very much like he will, expect a lot more violence like this. It's only the beginning as this infected boil is lanced this week.  There will almost certainly be far more intimidation by Trump cultists, some of them law enforcement, in an effort to hurt Democrats over the next 48 hours.

And should it become clear that Trump is going down in flames, the rest of the country may very well follow.

Be careful this week at the very least. Between the virus and the cultists, America is not safe by any measure right now.

Boris Finally Locks It Down

As COVID-19 rips through the European Union, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a 30-day national lockdown starting on Thursday as UK total cases now top 1 million.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced a new month-long lockdown for England after being warned that without tough action a resurgent coronavirus outbreak will overwhelm hospitals in weeks.

On the day the U.K. passed 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, Johnson made a sudden about-face and confirmed that stringent restrictions on business and daily life would begin Thursday and last until Dec. 2.

He said at a televised news conference that “no responsible prime minister” could ignore the grim figures.

“Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day,” said Johnson, who was hospitalized earlier this year for a serious case of COVID-19.

Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants can only offer take-out, non-essential shops must close and people will only be able to leave home for a short list of reasons including exercise. Activities ranging from haircuts to foreign holidays must once again be put on hold.

Unlike during the U.K.’s first three-month lockdown earlier this year, schools, universities, construction sites and manufacturing businesses will stay open.

As in other European countries, virus cases in the U.K. began to climb after lockdown measures were eased in the summer and people began to return to workplaces, schools, universities and social life. The Office for National Statistics estimated Friday that 1 in 100 people in England, well over half a million, had the virus in the week to Oct. 23.

Johnson had hoped a set of regional restrictions introduced earlier in October would be enough to push numbers down. But government scientific advisers predict that on the outbreak’s current trajectory, demand for hospital beds will exceed capacity by the first week of December, even if temporary hospitals set up during the first peak of the virus are reopened.

The scientists warned COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths could soon surpass the levels seen at the outbreak’s spring peak, when daily deaths topped 1,000. The government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said the mortality rate had “potential to be twice as bad, if not more” than it was during the pandemic’s first European wave, if nothing was done.

As European countries such as France, Germany and Belgium in imposing a second lockdown amid surging caseloads, it looked inevitable that Johnson would have to follow.
Boris Johnson is finally doing the right thing.
There will be no lockdowns here in the US however. Trump will openly punish states that try it, and we've already had kidnap and assassination plots against Democratic governors, and there's always the Supreme Court to block them.
Expect another 100,000 deaths between now and Inauguration Day on Trump's butcher's bill.

Sunday Long Read: Reciting The Lordstown's Prayer

Our Election Day Sunday Long Read comes to us from Steven Greenhouse at The Guardian as he profiles Lordstown, Ohio and the voters there facing a historic choice. Two years after GM closed its major Chevy Cruze plant in Lordstown, four years after Donald Trump won Ohio by eight points based on his promises to keep the auto plants and steel plants open and jobs pouring in, the people of the Mahoning Valley are considering that Trump may have screwed them over and left them and the state holding the bag

Before Covid-19 hit, Trisha Amato spent her weekdays behind a modest, ebony-colored desk, running the “transition center” that helps laid-off General Motors workers pick up the shards of their lives. GM announced it was closing its mammoth plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in November 2018 and ever since Amato has been ladling out advice to the 1,700 laid-off workers on such matters as how to obtain jobless benefits and how to qualify for government assistance to pay for college courses.

The GM plant, the size of more than 100 football fields, had long been the heart of Lordstown – as recently as 2016, it employed 4,500 workers, and in its 53-year history, it produced 16m vehicles. Built alongside I-80, the hulking plant has long been a monument to America’s industrial might, or perhaps one should say its fading industrial might.

Deep-voiced, with long, auburn hair and broad shoulders – she, too, had worked at the plant – Amato has problems of her own, saying that she can no longer afford health insurance for herself and her two daughters on her transition center salary. Amato, who is divorced, felt betrayed when GM said it would shut the plant – the company had received $60m in state subsidies, and had promised in return to keep the plant open through 2027.

Many of the GM workers were also angry at Donald Trump. During the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly proclaimed that he would make American manufacturing great again and would bring back jobs that had gone overseas. That message resonated in Lordstown and nearby Youngstown, part of the Mahoning Valley area that has been dragged down for decades by one factory and steel mill closing after another. Trump’s repeated promise to bring back factory jobs played well not only in Ohio, but also in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, helping win over many blue-collar voters, who were key to his narrow victories in those states. Blue-collar workers in those states could again play a decisive role in this year’s election, with many still supporting Trump, but some souring on him – perhaps enough to flip those states to Joe Biden.

In July 2017, Trump spoke in Youngstown and told the crowd that on his way in from the airport, he had seen the carcasses of too many factories and mills. He bemoaned Ohio’s loss of manufacturing jobs, but then boldly assured the crowd: “They’re all coming back!” He next told his audience, many of them workers worried about plant closings: “Don’t move! Don’t sell your house!”

Laid-off GM Lordstown workers still rail about that speech. Many moved to other cities to find work; many lost money selling their homes. “Some of my hardest days of the last few years came when everybody left,” Amato told me. “They had to sell their houses.” Hundreds of longtime Lordstown workers moved to take jobs at GM plants in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas – all so that they could continue receiving good United Auto Workers (UAW) wages (around $30 an hour) and accrue additional years toward their pensions. Many in this diaspora make the four- to 10-hour drive back to the Mahoning Valley once or twice each month to visit their families.

“It’s all just a mess,” said Amato. “The ones who left, they’re angry.” GM offered to transfer Amato to its plant in Wentzville, Missouri, but she turned it down because her 19-year-old daughter was in high school and her 79-year-old father was ailing.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had considerable support in the Lordstown plant even though surrounding Trumbull County is traditionally a Democratic stronghold and even though UAW members, stretching back to Franklin Roosevelt’s time, have tilted heavily Democratic. Union officials estimate that 30 to 40% of Lordstown’s workers voted for Trump. “They felt he was the lesser of two evils,” Amato said. The sentiment was, “Let’s not have a lifetime politician in there. Let’s get some change.”

“Since so many of the steel mills closed, there isn’t much here economically,” Amato added. “They were hoping or praying that Trump would bring something here.” The workers were wowed, she said, by his promises to bring back jobs and his being a seemingly successful businessman.

Asked whom she supported in 2016, Amato told me: “I backed Trump,” but she followed that with a quick, nervous laugh. “I thought he stood for more of what I stood for.”

She, too, felt that Trump was the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton was an excellent first lady, she said, but to her mind, Clinton, by 2016, had become yet another career politician. “She just changed,” Amato said. “It comes down to character, and I wanted to believe Trump has a better character.”

Amato admits that she woefully misjudged Trump. “After he was elected, he really opened his mouth. He started tweeting and saying things that I feel are crazy. He doesn’t know when to stop.”

Upset at herself for backing Trump, she said: “I feel like I’m living in a reality TV show.” She added: “Trump, he’s a clown.”

She had thought it would be good to have a businessman as president. “But maybe he’s not such a good businessman,” she acknowledged, pointing to his numerous bankruptcies. “He doesn’t understand where the blue-collar workers are coming from. I don’t think any of the big politicians understand that. Trump, especially, doesn’t understand what it is to struggle.
Like a lot of 2016 Trump voters, Amato goes on to say she won't vote for Trump, but she doesn't know if she'll vote for Biden or at all (she would have voted for Mayor Pete "in a heartbeat" though.)  I don't blame her for not wanting to vote for a septuagenarian white dude, but it really is a binary choice right now.

Biden, or not voting for Biden.  That's the choice.

Vote like your country, your state, your county, your city, your home depends on it.

Because it does.

It's About Suppression, Con't

The NY Times frames the Trump campaign's effort to suppress the Black vote as "trying to woo Black men", which tells you both how much the Times depends on Republican framing of political issues and how effective it is, but Biden and the Democrats at least seem to understand that this is all about making sure that Black voters don't show up at all in battleground states, and they are making the effort to counter it. 

Four years after an election that came down to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the campaigns of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Trump are waging an intense and surprising battle in those states for votes among a crucial demographic: Black men.

The outreach is vital for Democrats, who lost the three industrial states in 2016 partly because of diminished support from Black voters. They worry that not enough Black men will cast ballots — or that Mr. Trump might make enough marginal gains to help in close races.

The Biden campaign is now heavily focused on getting Black men to turn out to vote: Mr. Biden and former President Barack Obama will campaign together for the first time this year on Saturday in Detroit and Flint, Mich. Mr. Biden is also running a series of ads featuring young Black men from Flint, tying local issues to the election. One walks through the history of Black voter suppression; another starts with Mr. Biden saying “Black Lives Matter, period.”

In Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton had strong but not surging support from Black voters in 2016, the Biden camp also deployed Mr. Obama for a day of campaigning, sent Senator Cory Booker to Sunday round tables in the city’s northern neighborhoods, and relied on leaders like Sharif Street, a state senator and the son of former Mayor John F. Street, to canvass neighborhoods multiple times.

The Trump strategy has aimed to erode Mr. Biden’s support with a negative campaign. One television ad replays Mr. Biden’s controversial “you ain’t Black” comment, in which he questioned how Black Americans could support Mr. Trump, and reprises his role in the 1994 crime bill. A set of 40 digital ads claiming “Joe Biden Insulted Millions of Black Americans” has been running across the country for the past week.

The battle for Black men is one of the more surprising developments in a race that has been defined by the monthslong stable lead of Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump in many polls. Republicans are making a concerted push to cut into the Democrats’ base of Black support in battleground states, as well as drive up their own numbers of Latino voters, and some polling suggests the effort has been moderately successful.

Mr. Biden held a 78-11 percentage point lead among Black men in a recent national poll from The New York Times and Siena College, a comparatively weak number for a Democratic nominee whose ticket includes the first Black woman selected as vice president. (Many undecided Black voters are widely expected to vote Democratic, though a number could well stay home.)

Mr. Trump won roughly 13 percent of Black male voters in 2016, according to exit polls; some Trump advisers are aiming to get closer to 20 percent next week.

Among some Black men, there is a belief that Mr. Biden carries similar baggage to Mrs. Clinton: a policy history that includes helping pass legislation that contributed to large increases in Black prison populations, and a party history in which they feel Democratic candidates are more concerned with winning Black voters than improving the conditions of Black communities.

Demery Charleston, a 42-year-old who lives in a suburb of Detroit called Harper Woods, said he was voting for Republicans because he believed they spoke out more forcefully against violence within Black communities and the incidents of looting that occurred during a summer of protests.

“I’m talking about the real Detroit. I don’t see these protesters marching in these neighborhoods,” Mr. Charleston said. “A 7-year-old girl gets shot in the neighborhood, and there’s nothing. It’s real hypocrisy,” he added, referring to a girl who was shot by someone driving by her Detroit home in May.

Mr. Obama, for one, tried to respond to such criticism of Democrats by delivering a direct message to Black men at a recent event in Philadelphia: Don’t get cynical.

“What I’ve consistently tried to communicate this year, particularly when I’m talking to young brothers, who may be cynical of what can happen, is to acknowledge to them that government and voting alone is not going to change everything,” Mr. Obama said. “But we did make things better.” 
I'm extremely glad that the Biden campaign understands what's going on here. Reducing Black voter support by even 10% would lower Biden's vote total in both the battleground states of the Upper Midwest like MI, WI, and PA and in Southern states like NC, GA, and FL by 1-2% overall, enough that Trump could win several of these states, or as he did in 2016, all of them.
We're going to need every vote, because the second this election is over, Trump no longer needs any voters, let alone Black ones.
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