The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Looking back on Elizabeth Warren's campaign

I read two articles worthy of mention about Warren dropping out. The first, by Megan Garber in The Atlantic, argues that "America punished Elizabeth Warren for her competence:"

Kate Manne, a philosopher at Cornell University, describes misogyny as an ideology that serves, ultimately, to reinforce a patriarchal status quo. “Misogyny is the law-enforcement branch of patriarchy,” Manne argues. It rewards those who uphold the existing order of things; it punishes those who fight against it. It is perhaps the mechanism at play when a woman puts herself forward as a presidential candidate and finds her attributes—her intelligence, her experience, her compassion—understood as threats. It is perhaps that mechanism at play when a woman says, “I believe in us,” and is accused of being “self-righteous.”

But in Mother Jones, Kara Voght says Warren's legacy will outlive her campaign:

On the morning of the South Carolina primary, reporters swarmed Elizabeth Warren in a tiny side room after a canvass kickoff in Columbia....

She’d barely offered morning pleasantries before a television reporter barked a question her way: “When are you going to start winning?”

Warren was silent for a moment. “No one knew what a wealth tax was a year ago,” she finally said. “I’m loving this campaign. This a culmination of a lifetime of work.” Her ideas, she said, had a chance to live beyond “the academic side of things.”

Taken in sum, Warren’s plans offer a progressive vision. Between the lines of them is not just a what, but a how. Throughout the campaign, Warren repeatedly said that she would rather have a guarantee that someone else would enact her agenda than be president herself, and her exit from the race speaks to that desire. The question, of course, is whether the remaining contenders will take up Warren’s blueprint if they ascend to the Oval Office.

But even if that doesn’t happen, “Professor Warren” has changed the way at least some voters view the world. At a Warren rally outside Charleston last fall, I met a middle-aged white woman who told me she’d never heard the term “racial wealth gap” before Warren began using it during her stump speech—to talk about how her plans would level the playing field for people of color. If that’s the understanding of America that Warren leaves behind, that’s not such a bad thing.

I'm sad she's out of the race, and quite put out that the three front-runners for inauguration next January are all so old they really can't attack each other's dotage without provoking snickers. Either Bernie or Biden, though, will bring with him a cadre of competent people who actually care about this country—among them, I've no doubt, Elizabeth Warren. She won't be president, but neither is she out of power.

Four old white dudes (and one un-serious woman)

My preferred candidate for president, Elizabeth Warren, dropped out of the race earlier this morning after depressing results in Tuesday's elections. This leaves three serious candidates for the 2020 presidential election: the 73-year-old white male incumbent, 78-year-old white male US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and 77-year-old white male former US Vice President Joe Biden (D).

(Apparently US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is clinging to her one delegate and refuses to go away, and 74-year-old white male former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld (R) also seems determined to stay in the race.)

As the New York Times points out:

Ms. Warren struggled to win over voters beyond college-educated white people, in particular white women. She was above the 15 percent threshold to win delegates, as of Thursday, in only a handful of highly educated liberal strongholds: places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Yeah. It's almost as if some people believe competence, intelligence, and humanity should determine who governs us. Weird, right?

This also means that a 70-something white male will almost certainly take the Oath of Office in 321 days.

I really, really wish the Boomers would get out of the way already.

Lunchtime links

Even when I work from home, I have a lot to do. At least I don't have a commute today, giving me extra time to catch up later:

And now, back to work.

Yawn

Of course Joe Biden picked up the most delegates in yesterday's Super Tuesday primary elections. To anyone paying attention to polling, this outcome wasn't really in doubt. Don't forget, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Mike Bloomberg all picked up delegates as well.

And yet on the BBC right now I'm hearing breathless reporting about how Biden "won" a bunch of states while Bloomberg only "won" American Samoa. (FFS, the BBC is now saying Biden "looked like Lazarus." I mean, honestly.)

Guys. It's about the delegates. You don't "win" a state in the Democratic primary; you get delegates. We still have four people running for the nomination, and (ha, ha) Biden is the youngest man in that pack.

Josh Marshall summed it up:

I’m certainly not the first to say this but it remains remarkable how clearly support for Biden and Sanders comes down to key demographic groups. African Americans have been critical to Biden. Hispanic voters are a big strength for Sanders. Biden absolutely dominating in the Mid-Atlantic and the South and doing well in New England. Sanders winning big in the West. Seemingly decisively in California and ahead, though not by a big margin, in Texas.

Right. We're a big party, and we all want to extract Donald Trump from the White House. But we have different preferences right now. I still support Warren, even though she has no path to nomination. But she has a bunch of delegates that may make a difference. (Also, as an elected US Senator, she herself is a super-delegate.)

We've got 244 days—just under 35 weeks—until the election. Chill.

Russia is winning the 2020 election

Don Von Drehle argues that Vladimir Putin succeeds by weakening the West, regardless of the short-term consequences to Russia:

It’s ironic that Americans of all political stripes have contributed to Putin’s success — by failing to understand what he wants and why he wants it. His goals are not the goals of the former Soviet Union (though he has described the collapse of the U.S.S.R. as a “disaster”). During the Cold War, the Kremlin pursued the spread of communist ideology. Putin is nonideological, according to former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, now of Stanford University and a Post contributing columnist. “I see him as impulsive, emotional, opportunistic. Putin sees himself as the last great nationalist, anti-globalist leader.”

A unified United States, pursuing a bipartisan, pro-democracy foreign policy is Putin’s biggest fear. So, he has taken the risk of creating an operation specifically to sow discord through social media. Putin’s computer hackers look for any internal divisions and tensions that tend to erode American unity or discredit American leadership. Though he clearly favored Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Putin doesn’t generally favor one point of view over another; he supports whichever candidates are most divisive and amplifies whatever arguments are most bitter. Whoever is freaking out on Facebook or Twitter is a potential ally in his cause. At the State of the Union address, he no doubt enjoyed both the snubbed handshake and the ripped speech.

At the same time, Putin went to work on other vulnerable pieces of the Western alliance. By enabling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s brutal tactics, he helped to send millions of refugees fleeing to Europe. When xenophobic nationalist movements flared up in reaction, the Russians poured on the gas via social media. Russia’s unseen hand wasn’t the only factor in the European backlash. But now the European Union may be coming apart.

These efforts would have been toxic even if Clinton had made a better case to voters around the Great Lakes and won the election in 2016. But the fact that Putin’s hackers went all-in for Trump, who won the electoral college with just 46 percent of the vote, turned a Russian win into a rout. The election itself became a cause of further division. Russia’s role became a new wedge issue, the doubt that keeps on festering.

I've no doubt the US and Western Europe will survive Putin's passive-aggression. Ultimately, the fundamentals are on our side. But remember, Putin's goal isn't to win, exactly; it's for us to lose. And in that respect he's succeeding.

A century ago, in Kansas...

...the 1918-19 influenza pandemic began. Historian John M Barry studied the outbreak, summarizing his findings in a 2017 Smithsonian Magazine article that did nothing to help me feel more comfortable about our present circumstances:

At its worst, the epidemic in Philadelphia would kill 759 people...in one day. Priests drove horse-drawn carts down city streets, calling upon residents to bring out their dead; many were buried in mass graves. More than 12,000 Philadelphians died—nearly all of them in six weeks.

Across the country, public officials were lying. U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue said, “There is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.” New York City’s public health director declared “other bronchial diseases and not the so-called Spanish influenza...[caused] the illness of the majority of persons who were reported ill with influenza.” The Los Angeles public health chief said, “If ordinary precautions are observed there is no cause for alarm.”

For an example of the press’s failure, consider Arkansas. Over a four-day period in October, the hospital at Camp Pike admitted 8,000 soldiers. Francis Blake, a member of the Army’s special pneumonia unit, described the scene: “Every corridor and there are miles of them with double rows of cots ...with influenza patients...There is only death and destruction.” Yet seven miles away in Little Rock, a headline in the Gazette pretended yawns: “Spanish influenza is plain la grippe—same old fever and chills.”

People knew this was not the same old thing, though. They knew because the numbers were staggering—in San Antonio, 53 percent of the population got sick with influenza. They knew because victims could die within hours of the first symptoms—horrific symptoms, not just aches and cyanosis but also a foamy blood coughed up from the lungs, and bleeding from the nose, ears and even eyes. And people knew because towns and cities ran out of coffins.

People could believe nothing they were being told, so they feared everything, particularly the unknown. How long would it last? How many would it kill? Who would it kill? With the truth buried, morale collapsed. Society itself began to disintegrate.

Time and time again, we see that public officials lying or minimizing imminent threats makes the results worse. Time and time again, they lie or minimize imminent threats.

Good thing Mike Pence is on the job today. It's not like he ever lied and minimized an imminent health threat, causing loss of life that his government could easily have prevented.

Trump and the Republican Party have left us dangerously unprepared for this

By "this," I don't mean the Covid-19 outbreak itself, though by cutting CDC pandemic funding 80%, ending epidemic prevention aid to 37 of 47 countries, or by appointing perhaps the worst possible administration official to lead the response effort, he has almost certainly increased the risk of infection to every person in the world.

No, I mean that we're dangerously unprepared for the recession the virus outbreak appears to be encouraging.

Economists have had a hunch we'd eventually get the stock-market correction we got this week, because we had ample evidence that stock values were not in line with fundamentals. However, the S&P 500 losing 10% in one week, wiping out more than a year of gains, has been the fastest correction in history, according to Bloomberg News. And at this writing the indices are still falling.

But the Republican Party passed massive tax cuts two years running, which has resulted in Federal budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion. Now many people are about to find out why a massive deficit in a strong economy reduces our options when the economy slows down.

In a strong economy, people feel wealthy, so they spend more money. We all know that. But people also have a higher tolerance for taxes when they feel rich. In individual states in the US that have constitutional balanced-budget requirements, boom times allow them to save money. In the US writ large, which has no such restrictions, boom times allow us to make investments in infrastructure, education, social programs, and all manner of things we have as a country failed to invest in for years.

Not so coincidentally, the years in which we've failed to invest are the same as the years the Republican Party has preached lower taxes, cutting social benefits, and getting the government so small "you can drown it in the bathtub." The goal is to consolidate wealth in a small minority that can then exert disproportionate control over an ever-more-impoverished majority. As I've said for 30 years, the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And it's easier to rule peasants than burghers.

The last two years under Trump have made previous Republican wealth grabs look gentle. And they almost got away with it, too. They've kept the economy going just strongly enough, preventing the inevitable slowdown after 10 years of Obama-led growth, to make people feel good about the next election. If only they could have made it to November. Four more years of Trump would, they hoped and planned, allow them to lock in Republican policies for 40 more years.

Walking from the train this morning, I realized the Trump administration has acted like a cocaine addict regarding the economy. They forced lower taxes through Congress (or blocked raising them) since the last years of Obama, then came out of the bathroom with powder on their noses crowing about how low taxes have helped the economy.

At the first signs of a slowdown in 2018 and 2019, they did a couple more bumps to make it last longer, just a little longer. But the crash is upon us, and like a cokehead, it's going to be much worse because it's been too good too long.

So here we are. We've lost hundreds of billions in paper wealth this week, we've got the Spanish Flu exploding all over the world, people are scared, and the front-runners in both parties represent the extremes. A really good recession right now will go a long way to helping the kids understand, on a personal and visceral level, why we don't want extremists in power.

And because of our massive deficits, it will be hard to summon the political will to continue those deficits and start necessary spending efforts to keep people employed and the economy from screeching to a halt. The only arrows we have left in our quiver include printing more money or raising taxes in a recession, both of which will increase inflation, wipe out more paper wealth (but of debt holders, not of debtors, which is the point), and possibly make the retirements of Boomers more uncomfortable than their grandparents had it in the Depression. (Oh, and we Xers will get screwed regardless, but that's been the case our whole lives.)

You think we're smarter than Europe in the 1930s? We're about to really find out.

Odd day in the news

Some highlights:

Finally, looking at dating like a marketplace doesn't make a lot of sense in practice.

Dastardly Do-Right?

Via reader ML, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have stepped in it over protests on First Nations land in northern British Columbia:

Canadian federal police had “no legal authority” to make ID checks and searches on activists seeking to block a pipeline project on Indigenous territory, according to newly released correspondence from the force’s oversight body.

The nine-page letter written by Michelaine Lahaie, chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, offers scathing criticism of the police’s continued use of tactics against Indigenous people which she had previously warned against.

In recent weeks, demonstrations have sprung up across the country, blockading major railway lines and obstructing access to ports and government buildings.

On Thursday, Canada’s largest rail operator, CN Rail, obtained a court injunction giving it permission to remove a blockade in St-Lambert, a suburb of Montreal.

Al Jezeera has an overview of the issues:

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, who hold authority over their land, say they were not properly consulted on the 670km (416-mile) Coastal GasLink pipeline. The company says it reached agreements with 20 elected First Nations band councils. In December, the BC Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction to continue work on the pipeline. 

Following the arrests of Wet'suwet'en land defenders about two weeks ago, tensions have mounted as solidarity actions have grown across the country, with many calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to solve the crisis.

"This is not a new resistance," said [lawyer Sylvia] McAdam, one of the founders of Idle No More, a movement born in 2012 in response to parliamentary bills that threatened Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections.

"I think today we're reaching a boiling point where Indigenous people are so tired of the racism, they're tired of colonisation, they're tired of protecting and defending (rights and land)," she told Al Jazeera.

McAdam said Canada needs to reckon with its past and pay the debts it owes First Nations.

I'll be checking back on this story as it unfolds.

Friday afternoon reading backlog

I was going to lead off with a New Republic article about Michael Bloomberg, but they just put up a paywall yesterday and lost my subscription information. And their new "subscribe now" page doesn't work. But why would anyone need to test software before deploying it to production?

Anyway, that wasn't the only article that interested me today that I'll read later on:

Finally, it's going to be warmer than usual this weekend, so I'm going to add some Brews with my Choos.