This Must End!

Alan Zendell, September 27, 2020

Imagine for a moment that you’re a Canadian. Most Americans are vaguely aware of Canada as our neighbor to the north. Some can name most of the Canadian provinces, and some fraction of those can even locate them on a map. On any given day, however, most Americans don’t give Canada a thought, except for trite but largely true aphorisms like, “Canadians are just like us, only nicer.”

As a Canadian, however, you would be aware of your neighbor to the south on a daily basis. It’s bigger, wealthier, militarily stronger, and as individuals, more heavily armed. You‘d know our countries experienced many of the same problems: the embarrassment of genocide against our First Nations, racism, economic ups and downs. You’d be a citizen of a proud independent nation, but at some level you’d always know your fate was inextricably tied to ours.

If our economy fell into a major depression, so would yours. We experience the same climate change problems, and any major war that involved us would invariably drag you in as well. You’ve mostly admired us in the manner of a kid looking up to his big brother, even when he doesn’t treat you well. Lately, however, you’d wonder why your big brother seems so intent on destroying himself, and possibly taking you down with him.

You must shake your head in disbelief. Maybe the COVID virus, which you handled so well, has driven your neighbors to the south insane. You closed our shared border, which protected you from the virus, but if everything went to hell down here, a closed border wouldn’t protect you. Watching Donald Trump cavort around like a sociopathic clown at a distance may have been amusing at first, but seeing him willing to destroy everything America stands for to retain power must chill you down to your core. Most Americans feel the same way.

Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson summed it up perfectly in yesterday’s edition of her daily Letters From an American: “Trump and his cronies are trying to create their own reality. They are trying to make people believe that the coronavirus is not real, that it has not killed more than 200,000 of our neighbors, that the economy is fine, that our cities are in flames, that Black Lives Matter protesters are anarchists, and that putting Democrats in office will usher in radical socialism. None of these things is true. Similarly, Trump is trying to convince people that he can deploy the power of the government to remain in power even if we want him to leave, creating uncertainly and fear. By talking about it, he is willing that situation into existence. It is a lie.”

Watching all this from across the border must make you feel the way Europeans felt watching the Fascists transform Germany and Italy in the 1930s. You might even be justified in blaming America’s arrogant complacency and intellectual laziness. We created this problem by turning blind eyes to the rifts in our society and allowing them to grow into chasms that become harder to bridge, the longer they persist. We have let the subsurface anger and frustration of large segments of our population explode into a tableau that looks scarily similar to the days that preceded our Civil War. It has to stop, and soon.

We have created the spectacle of a power-mad president who masquerades as a populist, whose approval rating has never touched 50 percent, and who, five weeks prior to the presidential election has the support of only two in every five Americans. In a true democracy that would presage an end to his autocratic fantasies. But our archaic Electoral College could subvert the will of the majority, as it has in the past, only this time, it may cause permanent harm.

Americans have usually responded well to wake-up calls like this, and we had better this time, or the America our grandchildren grow up in will look nothing like the one we did. If we permit a cult based on divisiveness and partisan hatred to steal this election with lies and fearmongering fantasies, our alleged democracy is doomed. If Donald Trump’s cynical, deliberate mishandling of the pandemic, his implicit support for the murder and suppression of our minorities, his disregard for the health of the planet, and his lack of a moral center haven’t convinced Americans that this must end now, our country will never again approach the ideals of its founders.

To Americans who say things like, “If Trump wins I’m moving to Canada,” I say, “Think again. What makes you think they’ll let you in?”

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Protecting Your Vote

Alan Zendell, September 23, 2020

To date, the best example of mail-in ballot fraud the Trump campaign has come up with was nine ballots allegedly found in a waste basket in Pennsylvania in 2016. That’s nine out of more than six million. There are two ways to look at that. One is that those ballots represent less than 0.0015% of the total, and while there is always a vanishingly small chance that the margin of victory could be that small in one state, it has never come close to happening. Even in the contested 2000 election in Florida, which was decided by the Supreme Court, George W. Bush’s margin of victory over Al Gore in that state was more than 500 votes.

A more pragmatic way to look at it is that it is impossible to reduce the number of invalid ballots to zero. Everyone involved in statistics or quality control understands that targeting a zero error rate is the surest way to bring productvity to a permanent halt. The argument that mail-in ballots will make it impossible to have a fair election is entirely specious, one of a large number of attempts to create chaos and undermine voter confidence. It’s the sort of thing we’d expect a hostile foreign power that wanted to weaken our country by sowing dissension to do. The only reason an American president would resort to such a tactic is that he prioritizes his own power and ambition above the security of the nation.

States have used mail-in ballots to some degree ever since we’ve had elections. It’s regularly done in Donald Trump’s business world as well, where people even allow others to cast their votes for them by proxy. Is voting by mail safe and reliable? Let’s look at some facts.

Last Spring, when COVID-19 concerns forced most states to examine how to conduct elections safely, Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said, “There’s simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None.” She further noted that the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who prefer to vote by mail are almost exactly the same.

Since 2010, California has processed more than 33 million mail-in ballots with no evidence of voter fraud or difficulty in counting votes. Seven states have been mailing ballots to every registered voter for years with no significant reported problems. And yesterday, former Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich said that in all the years his state has used mail-in voting there were no negative outcomes.

Our intelligence services have warned us since 2016 that potentially hostile nations are attempting to manipulate American elections using the internet, through social media and overt attempts to hack state election systems. Russia, China, Iran, Ukraine, and North Korea have frequently been cited for such actions, and those efforts have been intensified in 2020. Banks and major retailers have had their databases hacked repeatedly, because no computer system can be made 100% percent secure.

But mail-in voting does not depend on the internet. Once voters have paper ballots in hand they cannot be hacked by external bad actors. From that point of view, mail-in voting is as secure as voting in person. The only identified impediment to mail-in ballots has been the president’s own public statements that he has deliberately degraded the postal service’s ability to deliver ballots on time.

More Americans are likely to cast votes for president in November than at any time in our history. Allegations and hyperbole about mail-in voting are entirely without substance, designed solely to undermine confidence in the election. There is no reason to be concerned that your vote won’t be counted if you don’t vote in person. If you choose to vote by mail you need only do two things to assure that your vote matters.

First, request or download your ballot, depending on the rules in your state, at the earliest date your state allows. My state, Maryland, has already notified every registered voter who requested a ballot that it is available to be downloaded, and it can be returned as early as next week. My wife and I have already printed and marked ours.

Second, and most important, if possible, bring your completed ballot to a secure drop box at a location designated by your local board of elections. Most states are placing them at locations that are easily accessible to the great majority of voters. Depositing your ballot directly in a secure drop box bypasses the postal service and any possible delays. The earlier you vote, the easier it will be for your state to know the result of the election on November 3rd. If you follow those steps, no one can keep you from voting, no one can steal your vote, and it can’t be hacked.

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McConnell and Trump – Odd but Dangerous Bedfellows

Alan Zendell, September 21, 2020

President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell couldn’t have more different styles. They have two things in common, however, which make them extremely dangerous when their self-interests align: both are corrupt and addicted to money and power. Trump is shamelessly overt while McConnell prefers to fly under the radar. Trump is constantly in everyone’s face, an intimidation tactic that served him well in business, while McConnell, the quintessential politician is the ultimate snake in the grass.

Trump’s narcissistic flamboyance and McConnell’s southern gentleman veneer often have them at odds. They clearly dislike each other, but they need each other. Neither has an ideology beyond opportunism. Neither respects “Christian” values, although they both pander to groups who do, the best example being their stances on abortion and gender issues.

Almost every significant accomplishment of the Trump administration was facilitated by McConnell. Without the Senate Majority Leader’s support, Trump would have accomplished little of note. If you paid attention since 2017, you noticed a pattern. Trump tweeted and shotgunned, seemingly at random, flouting tradition and ignoring laws and the Constitution. McConnell often remained on the sidelines, letting Trump negotiate with Democrats, knowing those talks would go nowhere and his hands would be clean. McConnell hid as Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Climate Accords, initiated trade wars, alienated our traditional allies, sucked up to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, and conducted his absurd love affair with Kim Jong Un. That’s an impressively long list of failures except for the renegotiation of NAFTA. McConnell knows when to lay low.

The 2017 tax cut, on the other hand, was the baby of McConnell and then House Speaker Paul Ryan, that had been gestating in oblivion for twenty years waiting for an opening; that is, waiting for a president who was happy to profit from its passage. Trump returned the favor by looking the other way as McConnell’s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, ran her department like an old-fashioned corrupt city hall.

She promoted trade agreements that enriched her father’s shipping company and not incidentally, enriched her and her husband as well; she delayed divesting her profitable interest in a construction materials firm, an obvious conflict of interest with her duties in DOT; and she continually diverted money toward Kentucky projects in districts favorable to her husband while holding back funding to repair the crumbling Gateway Tunnel used by railroads serving blue states in the Northeast.

All this is background for Trump and McConnell’s joint effort to pack the courts with judges favorable to their political agendas. The decision to proceed immediately with the appointment of a Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of the rare instances when Trump and McConnell acted publicly in unison as though they were choreographed (which they were.) They want to create a youthful right-wing majority in the courts that will overturn every liberal decision in the last fifty years. It’s in their mutual self-interest to have judges in place who can protect Citizens United, defend the wealthy against programs like universal health coverage that would require them to actually pay taxes, and issue rulings that will help Trump and McConnell retain their power.

Trump has created an environment of chaos and division in which it’s easy to get lost in the weeds, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. The issue is what it has always been – greed and power running roughshod over decency and integrity. Don’t be fooled by feeble attempts to dress this pig in silk. And don’t forget that if Donald and Mitch are successful in placing Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, we could be living with a right-wing majority for decades.

It would be bad enough if that represented the desires of a majority of Americans. But poll after poll shows that Americans want a balanced judicial system free of political influence. That will never happen in the ideal, but this extreme attempt to pack the court is a test of the viability of our whole political system.

Forcing a nomination through is wrong no matter who wins in November. If Trump is re-elected and McConnell keeps his majority in the Senate, the fight will be moot. But, if they seat their new justice as the Democrats win the presidency and both houses of Congress, the next four years will be a time of retribution and even worse partisanship. Full control of the government will enable Democrats to expand and re-pack the Court while holding public executions of anyone who supported Trump and McConnell. That may gratify some people, but it will be a disaster for a country already staggering from its own missteps.

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RBG’s Legacy

Alan Zendell, September 19, 2020

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She fought for equal rights, not only for women, but for everyone. Because I honor her legacy, I will not attempt to memorialize her here. Many people far more qualified than I have already done that. The best thing I can do to honor her is help assure that the things she achieved are not lost.

The way to accomplish that is to immediately begin fighting against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s determined effort to fill her seat on the Supreme Court with yet another reactionary judge appointed by Donald Trump. If that sounds crass, consider that McConnell and Trump have been salivating over this moment for months, waiting for Ginsberg to die. The speed with which both men have pounced on the opportunity speaks for itself.

Trump and McConnell dislike each other almost as much as they are disliked by most of us. Their cynical lack of integrity, the only thing they have in common, shines brightly today. They cannot be allowed to succeed. Either McConnell must be stopped from bringing Trump’s nomination to a vote or at least four people in his caucus must be convinced to not support the effort.

If John McCain were still with us, we would only have to convince three Republican Senators. McCain’s integrity and patriotism would assure that he placed country over party as he did when McConnell tried to force through a health care bill that would have taken away coverage from more than twenty million Americans. But McCain’s ghost may wind up playing a critical role this time.

McCain’s former Senate seat was filled when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed Martha McSally, but the law requires that she must stand for election this coming November to retain the seat. Astronaut Mark Kelly is contesting McSally and according to the polling website 538, currently leads her by eight percentage points.

An Arizona Superior Court judge recently ruled in a similar case that the winner of such a special election may be seated as soon as the victory is certified. Pointing to that case, Tim LaSota, a former general counsel for the Arizona Republican Party, said: “I think the law is clear that under such circumstances you don’t have to wait for the regular term to end. So I do think Mr. Kelly — if he does win and the canvass is in — he’d take office early… I’m obviously not biased in favor of Mark Kelly and will vote for Martha McSally [but] the law is the law.”

If Kelly were sworn in on November 30th, McConnell could afford to lose only two votes from his caucus, but fear not, he will try every trick in the book to prevent it. Whether he succeeds may depend on how hard the rest of us fight him. He has demonstrated an unscrupulous lust for power almost as extreme as Trump’s, but there’s hope that some in his caucus may feel differently.

Mitt Romney (UT) is one; Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have both shown a willingness to stand up to Trump and McConnell, and Collins is in a desperate bid to hold onto her seat in November.

There are others, too. Marco Rubio (FL) was quite vocal in 2016 when McConnell refused to allow the Senate to vote on Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Court. He said it was wrong then. What will he say now? And Lindsey Graham (SC) argued in 2016 that a president should never try to force a Supreme Court nomination through in the last year of his term. “If there’s a Republican president … and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” Of course, he reversed himself today, saying he would support whomever Trump nominated. Lindsey Graham can’t even be shamed by Lindsey Graham.

Keep in mind as you approach this that every sitting Senator’s first priority at all times is being re-elected. People like Joni Ernst (IA) and Cory Gardner (CO) are locked in difficult races. And there’s Lamar Alexander (TN) who claims that he deplores partisanship. Alexander is retiring in January. Is he more interested in loyalty to McConnell or his legacy?

The country didn’t need another crisis. Our democracy is being severely tested. But we can still use our voices and our checkbooks. If Trump and McConnell win this fight and you just sat on your hands watching, who are you going to blame?

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The Trump-Biden Debates

Alan Zendell, September 18, 2020

The Biden-Trump debates, the first of which occurs nine days from now, will not be as eloquent or long-winded as the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, but they will be equally momentous. They will also be ironically similar in some ways, more so in light of Attorney General William Barr’s bizarre comparison of slavery and mask wearing.

They won’t be eloquent because no debate involving Donald Trump can be. They won’t be as focused, because it’s impossible to stay centered when one participant doesn’t respect truth and shamelessly says anything he believes will throw his opponent off his game. If you’ve ever done any formal debating, you know the worst kind of opponent is an undisciplined, ill-informed one. My father used to say, “Never argue with an idiot.”

Trump will do what he bragged to Bob Woodward about: attempt to enrage Biden and keep him off message, rambling incoherently and sounding like a professional agitator. Biden will have to avoid taking the bait every time Trump lies, exaggerates, or makes wild accusations. We won’t hear eloquence because Trump is a terrible public speaker who can’t complete an English sentence unless he reads it from a teleprompter, and Biden, as knowledgeable and well-prepared as he is, will stumble over a word now and then when he is impassioned.

The similarities between the debates are the issues. Stephen Douglas supported the status quo, a nation split asunder by slavery. Whether or not he believed slavery was a good thing, he argued passionately for the Missouri Compromise which sought to draw a line on the map between states which could employ slavery and those that couldn’t, the 1858 version of blue states versus red ones. Lincoln famously argued that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and although he lost the 1858 Illinois Senate election to Douglas, he was proven right three years later, when the Confederacy attempted to secede from the rest of the United States, shortly after he was inaugurated as president.

Therein lies the ironic parallelism between then and now, ironic because the Republican party of Lincoln was established to fight against slavery and were accused of being seditionist radicals; in this scenario they were the Blues. Biden and Trump will face off in much the same way. Trump will continue his attempts to divide the nation because he knows that partisan gridlock offers his best chance of victory in November. Biden will argue that the only way to move forward to defeat the pandemic and restore the economy is to work across the aisle and seek common ground.

Biden and Trump showed us how they will approach the first debate last night. Biden did a Presidential Town Hall at a drive-in theater in Scranton, Pennsylvania in front of a small masked audience with diverse political views, though Democrats outnumbered Republicans. Trump ranted in front of thousands of packed-in supporters who were in close quarters for hours making no attempt to maintain safe distances and mostly eschewing masks. Trump pumped up his angry supporters, lying and making wild, unfounded accusations, sounding incoherent much of the time. Biden answered questions from voters, staying relevant and sounding well-prepared, while attacking Trump’s record as irresponsible and “nearly criminal.”

When they debate face-to-face, it should be good theater for most of us. The real target audience will be the small percentage of voters who remain undecided by then. If Trump causes Biden to melt down, he’ll be able to argue that Biden doesn’t have the mental capacity to be president. But if Biden stays on message and goes nose-to-nose with Trump as neither Hillary Clinton nor fifteen Republican candidates could in 2016, Trump’s goose will be cooked.

Nationally, most Americans view Biden as the anti-Trump, the moral equivalent of a vaccine against selfishness and incompetence that are placing our country at risk to explosive internal forces and foreign intervention. The nation succumbed to those forces in 1860 and nearly destroyed itself as Lincoln fought for our moral future. The country is very much in the same situation today. Our institutions are stronger, but it would be foolish to assume they are unassailable. There are a lot of heavily armed angry people in today’s America, and the coming election has the potential to be a powder keg if it isn’t unambiguously resolved. The solution is to vote early and make sure everyone you know does. Trump cannot win against a massive turnout.

Donald Trump will be more divisive than ever if he continues to trail in the polls. But one thing might restrain him. An election tied up in legal challenges could result in Trump’s worst nightmare. If there is no clear winner by January 20, 2021, Nancy Pelosi will be sworn in as president.

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Campaign Strategy

Alan Zendell, September 15, 2020

If you watched any news last week you probably saw coverage of Donald Trump’s indoor rally in Nevada. You probably also saw a maskless, sixtiesh guy wearing a red MAGA hat standing shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip with hundreds like him saying “I’m not afraid. God takes care of me. If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.” Let’s parse that for a moment.

He obviously was aware of the risk of being packed in with thousands of other sardines for hours. Nevada’s state health website ( reports that the positivity test rate for COVID-19 in that state is currently over 10%. If 3,000 typical Nevadans attended the rally, we would expect 300 of them sprinkled through the crowd to be carrying the virus. But people who attend Trump’s rallies are not typical. Because they reject mask wearing and tend to ignore social distancing, their infection rate is almost certainly higher. It’s a virtual certainty that those 300-plus Trumpers infected many more around them. We’ll know how many in about ten days.

When Trump was asked whether he felt safe at the rally, he said he was up on a stage far from the raucous, yelling, sweating, heavily-breathing crowd, so nothing could infect him. He said it with total disregard for the people he was putting at risk by encouraging them to be there. One doctor characterized it as negligent homicide, but that’s not fair – it was clearly premeditated.

Last evening, Bob Woodward played one of his Trump interview tapes for Stephen Colbert, in which Trump talked about a meeting in the oval office. When someone sneezed, Trump related, “we all bailed out of there. Me too,” and he was laughing as he said that. Going all the way back to the bone spurs that exempted Trump from the Vietnam draft, he’s more than willing to brag about his own self-preservation. Does he realize how it sounds that he treats his own followers like food tasters, or does he think they love it because by some convoluted logic it makes him sound tough?

To summarize: the unafraid guy in the MAGA hat sounded like a moron. The President sounded gleeful that the crowd was populated by so many other morons.

You may have also heard about two billionaires each promising to spend $100 million of their own money on the campaign. Michael Bloomberg said he would spend $100 million in Florida to assure that Trump doesn’t win there. Trump didn’t say how he’d spend his, but it doesn’t matter, because he was lying. The suddenly cash-poor Trump campaign hasn’t moved the polls at all with its post-convention television ad blitz, so someone drafted a letter to all Republicans begging them for money, suggesting gifts of $2,020. Catchy, isn’t it?

Although Trump signed the letter, we know someone else wrote it for him because it was reasonably literate and used words not contained in Trump’s sixth-grade vocabulary. One of my Republican friends was so disgusted by it, he offered it to me as “blog fodder”.

This gist of the letter is that if every Republican doesn’t ante up to help Make America Great Again, Democrats will do terrible things like repeal Trump’s wonderful tax cut; you know, the one that tossed his supporters a bone of a few hundreds dollars in savings that will go away in a few years while he and his wealthy donors will continue to make more billions with no sunset clause. But there’s much more.

Those damn Democrats will implement “Big Government Socialist Schemes” and job-killing environmental regulations, unfortunately not in time to prevent the entire western United States from burning down. They’ll also defund every police department, abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and promote open borders. They’ll even destroy monuments to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and defame Mount Rushmore. No kidding – the letter really says all that.

Just this once, let’s be clear. Except for a few crazies, We the People who believe Donald Trump is unfit to lead the country LOVE our police, George Washington, and Honest Abe. We LOVE the idea that every American is entitled to affordable health care, even the morons, and absolutely LOVE capitalism and HATE socialism. We LOVE secure borders, but we HATE seeing children in cages. We also LOVE our planet which will likely be the only one our grandchildren will have to live on.

Not coincidentally, Joe Biden feels that way, too.

I agree with one thing in Trump’s letter. If you care who is elected in the midst of the pandemic and our economic crisis, and you can afford it, your money will help. That’s why my wife and I contribute to the Biden campaign every few weeks.

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A Nine-Eleven Survivor’s Perspective on 2020

Alan Zendell, September 12, 2020

I’ve never met Harry personally, but I intend to as soon as it’s safe to be with other people again. I have it on good authority that it will be worth the effort. My sister, who has considered him a dear friend for decades, describes Harry as a wonderful man with an indestructible positive spirit.

On September 11, 2001, the middle-aged husband and father of three headed for his office near the top of Tower #1 of the World Trade Center. As we learned later, to our great dismay, a flaw in the construction of the towers caused the elevator shafts to turn into blazing infernos when the planes hit. Harry was in an elevator when the flames turned his car into a fireball.

He survived, barely. He suffered through years of painful skin grafts to repair the burns he sustained – nearly his entire body had been on fire. But it wasn’t just the outside of his body that was injured. His vocal chords and lungs were also seriously damaged. Harry’s physical recovery was miraculous, but perhaps even more remarkable was that his spirit and loving attitude toward others survived intact. If it had been me, I don’t think I’d have been able to remain as positive as Harry.

Here’s what Harry wrote to his family and friends yesterday.

Every year on this day I receive with gratitude phone calls, emails and texts from friends and family expressing love and gratitude that I’m still here, that I survived the life-threatening injuries I suffered on 9/11. Every year I remember with sadness the dear friends and colleagues I lost that day, and with equal sadness think about the spouses, parents, children and other loved ones they and so many others left behind. Thank you to those of you who call, those who write, and those who just keep me in your thoughts. This day is important.

But this year is different. I wondered as 9/11 approached this year why it seemed so much less consequential than in years past. Today, as I reflected on the meaning of this day and its place in the life of our nation, I understood.

On 9/11, we lost almost 3,000. So far this year we have lost almost 200,000.

On 9/11 the cause was the hatred of a far-away terrorist group. This year the cause is the indifference or willful ignorance of our own leadership.

On 9/11 our leadership faced up to tragedy. This year, our leadership has tried to deny it.

On 9/11 our leadership united us. This year they have stoked division.

9/11 matters. This year matters more.

I honor the memory of all who died on 9/11. But the best way to honor them is to live in the present and build a better world for the loved ones they left behind, a world that is more compassionate, a world that is more concerned about our obligations to each other as children of the same god. We can try to do that in every aspect of our lives, but this year, we have a once every four-years opportunity to honor that obligation in a powerful way, and given what is at stake, almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. In 2016, so many said, “my vote doesn’t matter.”

It matters! Vote!


See why I can’t wait to meet Harry?

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Why the Woodward Tapes Matter

Alan Zendell, September 11, 2020

In 1974, the United States lived through what felt like its worst existential threat since the Civil War. We’d defeated the British twice early in our history, the Spanish in the 1890s, and been instrumental in achieving victory in both World Wars. But those were external threats. Americans always react well under attack, (today is nine-eleven,) but when the threat is internal, we work against ourselves.

The Civil War nearly destroyed the country because half of our great, great grandparents believed it was acceptable to base our economy on slavery. The 1974 crisis was preceded by a decade-long war that wasn’t supported by a majority of Americans and that might never have expanded beyond border skirmishes except for a falsified report of a naval battle in the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened. After 58,000 deaths and years of street demonstrations, Richard Nixon’s attempt to rig the 1972 election and the subsequent lies and cover-up of the felonies committed on his behalf were the breaking point.

We were told Vietnam was a critical domino in the Cold War, based on the wrongheaded notion that North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Min was a puppet of Communist China; if we didn’t hold the line there, all of Asia would fall to China and the Soviet Union. But Ho had no allegiance to China. After decades of fighting against French colonization, which the United States took over by proxy, Ho wanted a united Vietnam free of interference from outsiders.

The war and the Watergate scandal were based on lies, deception, and government cover-ups that cost Lyndon Johnson a near-certain second term. But after months of denials and constitutional crises, Nixon might have gotten away with his unlawful actions, leaving the country in even more disarray than it is today, if not for the White House Tapes on which we heard him incriminate himself.

Journalist Bob Woodward played a major role in uncovering both the Watergate scandal and the lies told to Americans about the war by three presidents, two of whom were Democrats and one a Republican. The state of country in 1974 wasn’t about political ideology as much as deception and lust for power. In addition to the loss of life and the maiming of tens of thousands of Americans, they forever tarnished our image in the rest of the world and nearly wrecked our economy.

The state of our nation in 2020 is eerily similar. As we approach the most important election in our lifetimes, Woodward is again a major player. Most Americans realize Trumpism is a synonym for demagoguery, lies, and lack of respect for laws and the Constitution. Yet, our election system, based on an Electoral College which shouldn’t have survived the nineteenth century could enable another Trump victory.

By appealing to the worst of our natures, Donald Trump convinced two in five Americans that making America great again means turning the country over to White Supremacists, ending immigration, and trusting the good will of unfettered billionaire capitalists to guard the interests of working people. A lie that outrageous can only be perpetrated on a society that has completely lost its way and forgotten how we got here. It’s called decadence, and it has destroyed every civilization that imagined it could dominate the world.

Trump destroyed the Republican Party because its former standard bearers, who understood what Trump was the day he walked down that escalator, lacked the integrity and will to defend their principles. He’s trying to derail the Democrats by claiming they will lead us into an era of socialism in which white people will cower in their bunkers to be safe from black, brown, and yellow people. If not for the coronavirus, he might have succeeded.

The pandemic was Trump’s chance to prove that he cared more about America than himself. Many of us believed he failed miserably from the start. He lied about the virus for almost nine months because he knew the truth could panic the financial markets and cost him re-election. Until now, his ability to twist truth into an alternate reality has kept his base together.

That’s why Bob Woodward’s interview tapes matter. Trump’s own words on tape provide indisputable evidence that he knew how deadly COVID was in January, and that he made a conscious decision to mislead the nation. He failed to take timely actions that could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of Americans. He knew and he didn’t care as long as he was tested and protected, and he remained in power.

A third of Americans still believe that’s all fake news, but Woodward’s tapes should finally make many of them see the light. The most reliable models predict between 250,000 and 300,000 COVID deaths by Election Day. All of those people have families, friends, and business associates to whom they matter. How can any American hear Trump’s voice on those tapes and not judge him responsible?

Lying to Americans in ways that will surely kill so many of them is a crime that rivals the Nazi concentration camps. It’s time Trump was held accountable.

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Trump and the Military

Alan Zendell, September 8, 2020

Trump’s relationship with the military has disparate elements, but that’s not to say it’s complicated. It’s really quite easy to read. It began with the Vietnam-era draft. Due to the unpopularity of the war, the Government instituted a birthdate-based lottery system. Each year, every date in the calendar was put into a randomized bingo machine. Every American male over eighteen cringed as numbers were drawn. If your number came up early, you were most likely going to Vietnam. It was Russian Roulette with a 365-chamber revolver. On the other hand, what could have been fairer than random selection?

Except that random selection excluded people with deferments (employment, marital status, school-related) and those with enough money and political influence to buy their way out. I had a deferment because of my job as a NASA and defense contractor. I was ecstatic over not being shipped out to Nam, but I still spent three excruciating years in the Pentagon as a captive civilian.

All Donald Trump had was enough money to buy a friendly doctor who was willing to “diagnose” him with bone spurs, a conveniently temporary condition timed to last until the end of the war. Trump’s attitude toward average soldiers was clear – only suckers and losers put their lives on the line when there was no benefit to them.

From then on, right through the George W. Bush years, Trump disparaged every military venture, but there was never any mention of standing up for our troops. It was always political. Whether it was Clinton, Bush, or Obama, Trump always new better than either the current president or his military brass. He made a lot of noise, and all of it was uncomplimentary to the military, at least until Roger Ailes of Fox News explained to him that he couldn’t win without support from the millions of deployed military personnel who voted by absentee ballot.

Master panderer Trump began painting himself as someone who reveres our troops. In 2016, it worked; he won that segment of the electorate by nearly thirty points, even while referring to all of his predecessor’s (Obama) Joint Chiefs as incompetent losers. It was the same tactic he applied to the rest of his base. Label a sector of the electorate as downtrodden and taken advantage of and promise to stand up for them by attacking their oppressors. It sounds compelling, until you realize the guy making the promises is a life-long con man who is out only for himself.

Add to that Trump’s disdain for John McCain and his mockery of a mourning Joe Biden for lauding his deceased son’s military service as evidence that he is weak. Knowing what we do of Trump, nothing in Jeffrey Goldberg’s revelations in The Atlantic is either surprising or hard to believe. Goldberg reported that in the company of General John Kelly and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joe Dunford, Trump described veterans as suckers and losers on the way to visit the Aisne-Marne cemetery in France, where many American WW2 soldiers were buried.

Trump flew into a rage over the story that lasted through Labor Day Weekend. That’s notable because of the contrast with his reactions to other accusations. In the past, as with sexual allegations, his rage was pure counterpunch, anger and denial, playacting what he’d been taught by Roy Cohn and his mobster friends. But this was different. He was an erupting volcano. The Atlantic story unhinged him like previous reports hadn’t. It wasn’t about the truth or falseness of the allegation – it was fear of losing the support of those millions of losers and suckers on Election Day.

The main controversy over the Atlantic story was Goldberg’s reliance on anonymous sources. We’d all like to know who they are, but it’s understandable that high-ranking people might feel driven to tell the truth while needing to fly under Trump’s radar. Goldberg said journalists prefer sources who speak on the record, but sometimes, the public’s need to know is paramount. When up to six anonymous sources tell the same story, that’s enough to publish.

It’s not difficult to guess who at least some of them are. Dunford and Kelly and their aides were the only ones who could have heard what Trump said. The absence of overt denial by any of them speaks almost as eloquently as if they’d let Goldberg use their names. And if that’s not clear enough, Trump’s wild rant, accusing top military brass of being in bed with weapons manufacturers who profit from conflict couldn’t be more transparent.

The question that remains is the same one we’ve been asking since 2015. Will Trump’s base finally realize that he couldn’t care less about them except in pandering for their vote? In the case of active duty military and veterans, many of them will. And Trump’s panic tells us he understands that they vote early by mail, and the timing couldn’t be worse.

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Surviving Nine Weeks Until the Election

Alan Zendell, September 1, 2020

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson offered some advice on Tuesday to people who are afraid Donald Trump might lie, cheat, and steal his way to re-election: behave as if you think Biden is trailing instead of up by nine points in the polls. “…be paranoid that Trump’s encouragement of right-wing violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin might tip that vital swing state in his favor. Worry that Democrats are not paying enough attention to Michigan and Pennsylvania; that Biden’s polling lead in Florida might be a mirage; and that states such as Georgia and Arizona might not really be as purple as they now appear to be. Then act vigorously on those concerns, and be confident that if you do, Trump is toast.”

The complacency of the 2016 Clinton campaign that somehow failed to notice Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania slipping away will not be allowed to take shape this year. No matter how incompetent and disorganized the Democratic Party sometimes appears, they won’t screw this up in 2020. Their 2016 Chairperson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, spent her time rigging the primaries and alienating the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. Tom Perez, who replaced her after Clinton’s defeat learned from her mistakes. He has worked tirelessly to unite the party, no easy task under such a wide tent.

The only thing that unites Democrats is their animus for Trump. You might worry that that’s not enough to sustain Biden’s momentum for sixty-three more days, but Trump makes it easy. The attributes that were successful in 2016 are stale now. His support for right wing groups, his unapologetic pandering to hatemongers have their downside now that Americans have awakened to who and what Trump really is.

He’s playing to his base, more specifically to people who voted for him in 2016, who weren’t really part of the Anger Cult, like the women he likes to refer to as suburban housewives. He knows his behavior in office has alienated many of them, though he apparently doesn’t understand why. None of the suburban women I know think of themselves as housewives. That description worked in the 1950s when Joe McCarthy, one of Trump’s role models, warned that Communists would murder helpless women and children in their beds.

Today’s suburban women are not helpless. They’re well-educated professionals pursuing careers. Trump desperately needs their votes, but he won’t get them by calling them housewives. His lack of respect for women will sink him, something his narcissistic personality makes him incapable of seeing.

Eugene Robinson was right. Although Trump is his own worst enemy in 2020, we cannot be complacent. Contribute what you can to candidates who want to end the sickness that is Trumpism. It’s the most important investment you can make in your children’s future. Pay attention. Stay engaged, and don’t be shy about calling out his lies and insane conspiracy theories. But don’t overdo it.

Be aware of what Trump says and does, but don’t become agitated by it. Trump thrives on attention and television ratings. The way to starve this beast is simply to ignore it. There’s no need to listen to his rants and shake your fist at the TV. The best way to take the air out of Trump’s balloon is to tune him out.

Trump feeds on creating anxiety and rage. If that continues, and it will, the thing most likely to re-elect him is emotional voter fatigue. As Kellyanne Conway admitted on Fox News last Sunday, his campaign strategy is to create so many fights on so many fronts that voters are exhausted and go numb. He hopes they’ll crawl into a hole until after the election and not even show up to vote.

It sounds contradictory, but it’s possible to stay in touch with the essentials of the campaign without becoming totally immersed in it. Treat Trump’s rants and unhinged attacks the same way you deal with your five-year-old throwing a tantrum or your teenager lashing out at authority. It’s just a symptom of his arrested development. Be aware of his behavior, but don’t be sucked into it.

The one thing that will drive Trump crazy during the next nine weeks is being ignored. The fact that the Democratic convention’s ratings were 30% higher than his has him climbing the walls of the White House. His head must be exploding over the fact that a million more Americans watched Biden’s acceptance speech than his. The ratings for both conventions were down by nearly a third compared to 2016. It’s a sign that very few people are undecided in 2020, and they are learning to just block the noise.

When you check your favorite media outlet and see Trump forcing himself into the sensitive situation in Kenosha over the objections of the mayor and governor so he could do his tough guy act and claim undeserved credit for the work of the Wisconsin National Guard, don’t tear your hair. Turn it off.

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