Trump supporters really think he can't lose — and could turn dangerous if he does

One of the more interesting (and somewhat confounding) polling results in this election cycle has been the belief among members of both parties that Donald Trump will win re-election, regardless of who they're actually planning to vote for. His approval rating has been stuck in the low 40s throughout his term, which is unprecedented, and he's been behind in the polls from the beginning of the campaign. Yet most Americans still remain convinced that he is going to win. This is from Gallup in early October:

Regardless of whom they personally support, 56% of Americans expect Trump to prevail over Biden in the November election, while 40% think Biden will win. Republicans are more likely to believe Trump will win (90%) than Democrats are to think Biden will (73%). Fifty-six percent of independents predict that Trump will win.

How can this be? Well, of course it all depends on what the definition of "win" is.

The explanation for the Democrats and many Independents is obvious. With all of Trump's talk about mail-in voter fraud and lawsuits and promises of intimidation at the polls, they believe it's possible that he will pull out all the stops to create or fake a victory regardless of the legitimate electoral outcome. With his statements to the press that he wants the ninth Supreme Court seat filled in order to ensure a victory, it's not being all that paranoid to assume it could happen.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are living in an alternate universe in which Trump holds a massive lead in all the polls and is heading for a landslide. They believe this because he tells them that every day.

It's unlikely we will have full results on election night next week, since some states won't even begin counting mail-in votes until that day, while others allow ballots to arrive some time after Election Day. There's certainly the possibility of lawsuits if contests are close. Nonetheless, we will probably know the winner within a few days — Trump's scenario that it could take "months" is hot air — and it's worth pondering how the two sides will react.

According to this Reuters-Ipsos poll, more than four in 10 voters on either side will not accept the results of the election. It doesn't go into details, except to say that 22% of Biden supporters and 16% of Trump supporters say they would engage in street protests or violence if the other side prevailed. But let's look at the reasons that might happen.

Obviously, if Trump prevails there will be an uproar among Democrats despite the fact that a large number of them believe he's going to win anyway. But in the unlikely event that he wins outright without any legal shenanigans, partisan court victories, discarding of valid votes or intimidation at the polls, I suspect they will be even more shell-shocked than in 2016, but will accept the outcome with depressed equanimity. If they take to the streets under that circumstance, it might be to stage a protest against pollsters for their overwhelming incompetence. Joe Biden has had a steady and substantial lead in all the polls for months now.

On the other hand, if despite a clear defeat at the ballot box, Trump nonetheless finds a way to "win" through lawsuits decided by right-wing judges who throw out legal votes or takeovers by GOP state legislatures, there will be a massive outcry. People understand that Republicans might try this, but that doesn't mean they'll stand for it. In that scenario, our nation would face the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War. God help us if that comes to pass.

But what about Republicans? They're already living in a miasma of disinformation, conspiracy theories and lies. Alex Wagner of Showtime's "The Circus" interviewed a bunch of fanatical Trump-supporting militia members and reported that for whatever reason they believe Trump will win in a landslide:

Reporting from Trump rallies on cable news inevitably shows the same attitude even among the more mainstream voters. Trump's supporters simply do not believe that he can legitimately lose. And why should they? Their Dear Leader — the only source of information they trust — has said so explicitly, over and over again. In fact, that claim has already been institutionalized:

Multiple social media analyses, including one conducted by a group of nonprofit researchers on behalf of NBC News, have detailed how a collection of the president's relatives and members of his inner circle, along with far-right media manipulators and an online army of disciples, has created or spread false or misleading content that supports his "rigged" narrative, while his campaign is urging supporters to join an "army" and "defend their vote."

Every single day, Trump is out on the campaign trail threatening to defy the election results. His newest rationale (one of many) is that "they spied on his campaign" and he didn't get a "friendly transition" in 2016, so he sees no reason to give the Democrats one in 2020:

What this adds up to is this: if the polls are right and Biden wins the election by a healthy margin, Trump voters almost certainly won't accept the results. Put yourself in their shoes and it isn't that hard. Four years ago, a lot of Hillary Clinton voters felt as if they'd had the wind knocked out of them by that shocking and unexpected result. That's what these Trump voters are going to feel, except that the dissonance will be a thousand times worse. They are expecting a Trump landslide, and have been told by him that the only way he can possibly lose is through fraud on a massive scale.

The difference between then and now, of course, is that Clinton and Barack Obama and every Democratic official immediately accepted the results and their supporters largely agreed voters that Trump had won, at least under the antediluvian constitutional machinery of the Electoral College. There is every reason to think that Trump will do quite the opposite, and I'm afraid there's no reason to believe we can depend upon Republican officials to step up and do the right thing.

And there's that undeniable pall that hangs over the whole process, with the possibility that well-armed Trump supporters who have been told they simply cannot lose the election will try to take matters into their own hands. After all, some militia-style goons have already plotted to kidnap and "try" Democratic officials for "treason." We can't predict how far they'll be willing to go if their world is turned upside down by an unexpected electoral defeat.

Shortly after the election in 2016, I wrote a column about the "sore winner" syndrome, in which angry Trump supporters were assaulting Democrats and screaming at them on the streets, even though their guy had won the election. This reflects a longstanding attitude among this political faction in which it's never enough to win by normal means — they can't be happy about until they force their rivals to admit they were wrong and offer an unconditional surrender.

Imagine what these people might do when they lose.

news & politics

Trump has a very bad weekend in his efforts to change the subject from COVID-19

Donald Trump has been working hard to change the subject from the coronavirus pandemic, since his failure to control it is a major reason he is on track to lose on November 3. From that point of view, this was a very, very bad weekend for Trump. So bad.

First, five members of Mike Pence's staff tested positive, news that got out despite the White House's efforts to cover it up. Pence announced he would keep to his schedule because, get this, he's an essential worker. Pence is mostly campaigning these days, so that's the work being claimed as so essential he can't follow guidelines and quarantine after close contact with people who have COVID-19. Then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows went on TV Sunday morning and said, "We're not going to control the pandemic."

"We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations," Meadows continued. Those are in the future though. In the present, the seven-day average of new cases has doubled in the last six weeks, and hospitalizations are up.

"We're not going to control the pandemic." Let that one sink in.

"This wasn't a slip by Meadows; it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away," Joe Biden said in a statement. "It hasn't, and it won't."

Trump, meanwhile, is committed to increasing the 165 times he's downplayed the threat of the virus:

At a Saturday rally, he whined "Turn on television: 'covid, covid, covid, covid, covid.' A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it—'covid, covid, covid, covid.'" No, you haven't missed a plane crash that killed 500 people. The most deadly plane crash during the pandemic killed less than 100 people, in Karachi, Pakistan, in May. Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are averaging more than 700 per day.

So they admitted that they're not going to control the pandemic—hell, they're not even trying, not that it hasn't been apparent to all of us for months now—while Pence is out on the campaign trail despite five of his aides having tested positive. Reporting shows coronavirus surges in several places where Trump has held rallies. Several of Trump's boosters at Fox News have been forced to quarantine after they were exposed to COVID-19. And Trump just keeps on pretending if he gets his supporters to clap harder the whole thing will go away. Eight days until the election and it sure doesn't look like they're going to succeed at changing the subject.

election '20

Michigan congresswoman has a ‘voter protection plan’ to keep Trump from stealing the election

In Michigan's 8th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin has not only been campaigning for reelection — the former CIA officer has also been sounding the alarm about the possibility voter intimidation and things that President Donald Trump might do to steal the election. And she discusses some of her concerns in an interview with Politico published this week.

Politico's Tim Alberta explains, "(Slotkin) worries that just winning is no longer enough. With the president regularly lobbing allegations of a rigged election — one that he cannot possibly lose fair and square — Slotkin, a former CIA officer, worries that America could be hurtling toward a civil and constitutional crisis. This is not what a vulnerable freshman campaigner is often preoccupied with down the home stretch of their maiden reelection campaign, but Slotkin can think of little else these days."

It isn't hard to understand why Slotkin is worried. Her state is one in which the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was recently the target of a kidnapping/terrorist plot by far-right white nationalists.

Slotkin told Politico, "I want to make sure that we get through Election Day without any incidents of violence, without any threatening behavior so we can conduct our elections free and fair and devoid of intimidation. I've been working on that — literally just today, we had a big meeting of all the elected leaders in the district, from our clerks to our town supervisors to our police chiefs. One topic on the agenda was Election Day, the protocols and the plan, if there are instances of intimidation or attempted intimidation."

The congresswoman stressed that she has been speaking to elections officials in her state as well as law enforcement officers in an effort to make sure that Michigan residents don't experience voter intimidation—and that votes are counted accurately in her state.

"My impression when talking to my peers outside of our state is that we are actually quite decently prepared," Slotkin told Politico. "The fact that our primary was so late, and we had kind of a dry run, was important. And if you look at the results from that primary — and we processed more absentee ballots than we ever had — I think we had basically all the results within 36 hours."

In addition to Michigan, Slotkin cited Pennsylvania, New York and Florida as three states she is "watching really closely." Slotkin told Politico, "If Republican leaders refuse to accept that Biden wins in any scenario, then we're in some of the more destabilizing scenarios."

During the interview, Slotkin discussed the specifics of her "voter protection plan."

"There's basically four problem sets," Slotkin told Politico. "One, worst-case scenario: intimidation inside a polling location — someone brings a weapon to make a point and refuses to leave. Second, a threat —intimidation is within a hundred feet from the polling locations. They're allowed to be there. They're allowed to campaign for whoever they want, but people feel like they have to walk a gauntlet in order to get inside a polling location."

Slotkin continued, "Third, a much lesser problem is the disincentives for people voting — they see lines when they drive by, most of these lines are going to be outside. How do we keep people motivated to stay? How do we identify those places where, if they're standing in line for three hours — I don't expect this in a lot of places — but what do we do in that scenario? And the fourth was just bad weather, I think."


Pennsylvania small business owners have a drastically different take on Trump than they did 4 years ago

Small business owners in Pennsylvania are sharing their reaction to life after four years under President Donald Trump, the only Republican president to win the state since 1988.

With all that has occurred over the last several months, many voters are having reservations about the possibility of Trump winning a second term. It is no secret that small businesses have been hit particularly hard amid the ongoing pandemic.

Joshua Mast, who owns a small business venue and restaurant in Scranton, Penn., happens to be one of them. He expressed concern about Trump's presidency as he admitted that his business is not better off than it was four years ago. He also shared his concerns about health care.

"I would have to say over the past four years we have not been better off," Mast said. "It would definitely take one level of stress away if [health] insurance was paid for or even reasonable. For any small business, that's a huge burden."

Mast also noted some of the characteristics he expects the president to have. Not only does he expect the president to have extensive knowledge of Washington, he also wants a president who will be proactive in the advancement of small businesses.

"I feel right now we need somebody who knows Washington, who is going to do something for the small-business owner and who's going to get something done."

Mast admitted that while he can manage to keep the doors of his business open, he knows that it will not be able to grow with Trump in office another four years.

"I will continue to have side hustles, as they say, to be able to keep my business open," he said. "But I will not be able to grow if we have another four years of this president."

Like Mast, many other Pennsylvania business owners are also facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. In fact, according to PennLive, requests for COVID relief funds for small businesses in Pennsylvania are reportedly outpacing the state's funds available by more than $600 million. The staggering deficit signals are major problem that could lead to long-term, and possibility permanent impacts, on small businesses in the state.

In addition to business owners like Mast, the Post-Gazette also reports that at least 33 mayors in Pennsylvania cities have also announced their support of Biden.


Political scientist dismantles the 'folk theory of democracy': Trump revealed that 'truth and reason' don't matter in politics

Public opinion polls and other data show that Joe Biden has a double-digit lead over Donald Trump, with just over a week to go until the election. Biden's campaign also has substantially more money. As judged by conventional standards, Biden won the two presidential debates. Nate Silver's much-cited FiveThirtyEight site gives Joe Biden an 87 percent chance of defeating Trump.

If Biden and the Democrats win by a landslide — an outcome that seems increasingly likely — one of the dominant narratives will be that a multiracial coalition of Americans rose up against Donald Trump and did so loudly and bravely in a time of plague, when gathering in public could quite literally be a death sentence. Trump's defeat will be heralded as true populism as compared to the authoritarian, white-supremacist faux-populism that won Trump his flukish Electoral College victory in 2016. Normalcy will have returned; the healing can begin. It will feel good, for a little while. Of course, matters in the real world are far more complicated.

What if that does not happen? What if Trump somehow manages to steal another implausible victory through both legal and illegal means, combining foreign interference, voter suppression and intimidation, and perhaps even a usurpation of the public's will by the Supreme Court? America will slide further into the abyss of full-on fascism and an authoritarian "managed democracy." A good many Americans, already afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder because of Donald Trump and his allies' collective assaults, will come to feel that resistance is futile. Both "people power" and the normal operation of electoral politics will appear impotent against the Age of Trump.

With either outcome, dangerous myths about American political culture will remain unchallenged, left as assumed truths and conventional wisdom created by throwing uncomfortable facts down the memory hole.

These myths are numerous, but perhaps begin and end with American exceptionalism, the delusional idea that the United States is fundamentally different from all other nations, and not subject to the laws and patterns of history. Beneath that overarching belief, we find these dogmas: America's democratic institutions, norms and values are strong and permanent; the free press serves as a resolute guardian of the country's democracy; the American people are fundamentally decent and American society is healthy; Americans will always reject authoritarianism and fascism, along with large-scale political violence and terrorism are rejected; white supremacy, nativism, misogyny and other antisocial values are largely things of the past; our multiracial democracy, whatever its flaws, is a settled fact.

It is these myths that helped to create the disaster of American fascism in the form of Donald Trump and his movement. Even if Trumpism in its present form is defeated, these uninterrogated myths almost guarantee that American fascism will spring forth again.

These myths are tied together by an assumption on the part of American political elites and other influentials that the American people are reasonable, rational, politically engaged and at least somewhat ideologically consistent. There is no basis in logic or fact for any of those assumptions.

How does this folk theory of democracy lead to incorrect understandings and conclusions about American politics in general, and about the Age of Trump and its aftermath? What is the role of "ethnic antagonism" and authoritarianism in voting and other political behavior in American politics? What does the data actually reveal about the fabled voters of the "white working class" voters and their support of Trump and the Republican Party? Do American voters actually factor in disasters such as the coronavirus in how they assess presidents?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with political scientist Larry Bartels, who holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. Bartels is the author of several books, including "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age" and "Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government" (with Christopher Achen). His commentaries and other writing have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other leading publications. Bartels is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Toward the end of our conversation, Bartels shares his thoughts on the reliability of the various models offered by historians, political scientists and others who claim to be able to predict the outcome of presidential elections and the likely defeat of Donald Trump. (I will not spoil his remarks for you here.) As usual, this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the major assumptions about American democracy that Donald Trump's time in office has shattered?

Among people who think and write about politics for a living, there is a kind of assumption that truth and reason, especially in American democracy, are the driving forces of people's behavior. These years with Donald Trump have stripped away some of those assumptions.

In 2016, I predicted that Trump would win the election. I argued that the average American voters is not rational or sophisticated. There was an incredulous response to my conclusion. In these four years of Trump, it took a long time for prominent people to state plainly that he is an authoritarian if not a fascist. Even as the facts reveal that to be true, there is deep anger at the truth and a profound denial among many in the commentariat and among the American people more generally. Why the anger? It almost seems like a type of narcissistic injury.

I believe that we all have, in some way or another, an attachment to what my co-author Christopher Achen and I describe as the "folk theory of democracy." That framework and narrative is a reassuring and comforting way of thinking about politics in this country. If we study the relationship between the political views that people espouse and then who they should vote for, there was this assumption that political views are causing political behavior, when in fact our research shows that it is probably more the reverse. Other variables are also involved in political decision-making as well, which are outside of many traditional rationalizations and explanations.

I was surprised by Donald Trump's election, not because I expect voters to be ideological, but because I viewed the identities that he was appealing to as being too narrowly focused. I was also surprised by the extent of loyalty among everyday Republicans, for whom white identity may be an inclination to their behavior and decision-making but is not a part of their identity on a day-to-day basis. Sheer partisanship motivated many people to vote for Trump who otherwise might have been put off by him and what he stands for.

Why does Donald Trump have such a stable and deep level of unwavering support among Republicans? It endures to this late date, no matter what he does.

Partisanship is an identity in and of itself, one that has become increasingly important in the last 10 or 20 years in American politics. One reason that partisanship has become more important is that is it more strongly correlated with many other identities, of which race is an important one, but certainly not the only one.

In some new research, I examined attachment to democratic values. I included prompts such as "The president should take the law into their own hands," "The results of elections can't be trusted," "Patriots may have to resort to force to save the American way of life" and other such items. We were surprised by how much agreement with those items there was among Republicans.

In trying to understand the data, I applied an index for "ethnic antagonism." This consists of questions about immigrants having too much access to government resources, the political influence of black people, "discrimination" against whites and questions of a similar theme. Ethnic antagonism was by far the most powerful predictor of these anti-democratic attitudes.

The cutting edge of the strong emotions and enthusiasm in the Republican Party for Trump, although not all Republicans exhibit high levels of "ethnic antagonism," is basically grounded in a kind of ethnic panic that some people have about the possibility that "their way of life" or "their America" may be swamped by demographic changes.

"White working-class" voters are still being obsessed over by the mainstream news media and too many Democratic political strategists. What do we know empirically about the white working class and its political behavior?

I think the first thing to figure out is what people mean by white working class. "Working class" is usually understood to be "people without college degrees," which is the majority of white voters. They did disproportionately switch to Trump in 2016, but those numbers were pretty small. It is easy to exaggerate the numbers and to imagine that these people who made an important difference at the margins are representative of Trump's supporters more generally. That is not the case. Donald Trump's supporters were generally more upscale, for example, than Hillary Clinton's supporters.

The typical Republican is someone who did not go to college but did pretty well in life despite that fact. He or she attributes that success to hard work and expects other people to be able to do the same thing. I believe that most such voters were already Republicans before 2016. But the people who switched to Trump in 2016 were disproportionately that person. Education has a role in Trump's rise in another way as well. Donald Trump's behavior is unappealing to those people who went to college and internalized a particular set of norms and values about American political culture.

The New York Times kept running these long pieces where they would explain to the readers how Donald Trump was violating some cultural and political norm, with the assumption that if readers understood that fact then the public would turn against Trump. For many people in the United States, those norms are not very salient. Their allegiance to what we understood to be "democratic norms" is pretty shallow. People who respected Donald Trump for "saying it like it is" and not being restrained by "political correctness" are disproportionately people who were less educated, although not less affluent.

What are some of your largest frustrations in terms of how supposed "political experts" in the news media analyze the country's politics?

Many professional political observers in the news media and elsewhere want to interpret politics in terms of ideology. They also want to interpret politics in the country by focusing on the most intense people on each side, as though they are representative of the public as a whole. One of the main arguments about Trump's voters and racism is that he appealed to a fragment of the American public that had been underserved by racism and related values, even as compared to Republican politicians, before he came along. There is evidence in support of that conclusion.

Prior to Trump there was a concerted effort among Republican elites to try to appeal to racism, but not in overt terms. They tried to appeal to anti-immigration sentiment, but not in a way that would cut off their chances to build support among immigrant communities.

One of the other common narratives is that Trump's election is a function of some huge upswing in racism. But if you track these measures of racial resentment over time, the big shift in the last decade has been that the public as a whole has become less racist and racially resentful. But this is largely because Democrats have increasingly learned what they are supposed to say in response to questions from pollsters and other researchers about race and racial inequality. Republicans have not.

There are more major shifts in American politics in terms of media coverage than there are in reality. Every time there is some major announcement about shifts in attitudes, one should be skeptical. However, public attitudes and values do sometimes change fairly rapidly. In terms of race and politics, my intuition would be that what has changed in the Age of Trump is mostly a verbal attachment to one position or another, rather than people's deep-seated feelings about race.

How ideological is the average American? And how does ideology relate to the folk theory of democracy?

The folk theory of democracy is a belief that America is a representative democracy, and that we the voters decide on who the political leaders are and basically give them a mandate to pursue some set of policies. If these elected officials do not live up to expectations, then they are voted out and replaced by someone else.

There are some elements of that story which are true. But most Americans do not have a very well-developed or sophisticated political ideology. Their views about politics are shallower, more contingent on circumstances and more subject to self-contradiction than people who spend their careers thinking about politics would likely be able to to imagine.

Now, this does not mean that the average American is without meaningful attitudes about politics and related topics. They are not a blank slate. But the average American thinks about American politics sporadically, when they are forced to or when there is something happening in terms of political life that they cannot easily ignore. In all, journalists and scholars of politics think about politics much more than the average person.

What do we know about how the average American factors in calamities and disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic in terms of their voting behavior?

There are many debates about that question among political scientists and others who study politics. One view, which our book "Democracy for Realists" adopts, is that people are not very critical about assessing the responsibility of elected officials for certain kinds of calamities. In "Democracy for Realists", Achen and I wrote about shark attacks in New Jersey and also how the public reacts to droughts and floods.

There is some existing and still in-progress research on the American people's reaction to the Spanish flu pandemic [of 1918]. We examined that work and it was surprising, because one would imagine a large backlash. But we did not see that in the data. [President] Woodrow Wilson was not punished. State governors were also not being punished by the public. One of the explanations is that no one of public prominence at the time was constructing the Spanish flu as a political issue or attaching blame to elected officials.

By comparison, when the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold and people were asking me about the political implications, I told them there that there is no way that it is not going to be politicized, and that once it becomes politicized, people are going to associate it with Donald Trump.

The alternative view is that voters attempt to assess the quality of elected officials' response, and that the backlash against Donald Trump is not simply a reaction to the pain of the pandemic and resulting economic collapse, but rather an assessment of Trump's performance. Therefore, if Donald Trump were performing better than average in terms of his response to the coronavirus pandemic, then he would have been rewarded rather than punished for the pandemic. We will need to do more research in the future, of course, but my sense is that someone has to be blamed and held responsible for the failures of the pandemic response — and for the public that is Trump.

There are various models from historians, political scientists, economists and others which purport to predict the outcome of presidential elections in this country. Is there a consensus on how accurate these models are?

There are a number of these predictive models. My first observation is that if there are seven factors, for example, then an intervention could be made so that the model is made to fit the data which the researcher already has.

But there are in fact models that have a pretty good track record in terms of accounting for election outcomes over time. In these predictions and models, the two most important factors are the state of the economy in the election year and how long the incumbent party has been in power. Those two things appear to work well in terms of predictive power. In 2016 they predicted an outcome which was not much different from what happened.

Many of the people responsible for these models said at the time, "This is what the models predict, but it certainly will not apply to Donald Trump because he is such an unusual candidate." Nevertheless, the models did turn out to apply to Donald Trump. I interpret that outcome to be a statement about the extent to which partisan behavior was shaped by the usual partisan factors, rather than by anything specific about Trump or the 2016 election. Those same models now predict that Donald Trump is going to lose substantially.

Here is a qualifier: There has been an increase in partisan polarization in this country. That probably means there are fewer people who are sufficiently undecided to be swayed by the state of the economy in the election year. Therefore, the magnitude of Donald Trump's loss, if he does in fact lose, will be less than one would predict based on the historical record.


Investigation reveals just how dangerous Trump's rallies are for public health

An investigation into the latest accelerated spread of coronavirus in multiple states appears to be linked to President Donald Trump's string of campaign rallies over the last several weeks.

As coronavirus plagues states all across America, Trump continues to blatantly disregard how dangerous his campaign rallies are for his campaign staff, White House advisors and aides, and everyone who attends his political events. Now, USA Today has explained the extent of the spreads in several counties following the president's rallies.

According to the analysis released by USA Today, case rates in at least five counties—Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota—increased at a faster pace after Trump's rallies. Collectively, these counties reported 1,500 additional new cases in the two weeks after Trump's campaign rallies. The previous number of 8,069 jumped to 9,647 cases.

As President Donald Trump jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn't just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.

While the absence of full contact tracing will make it a bit more difficult to definitively determine whether or not Trump's rallies were the sole cause of the coronavirus' accelerated spread in multiple states, the upticks in the counties highlighted clearly indicate that the president's events likely influenced the spread.

Public health officials have also managed to link some cases and hospitalizations in Wisconsin to the president's recent rallies.

Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.

The USA Today report comes as the United States battles its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day, now surpassing the massive surge over the summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States topped 80,000 cases in a single day on


Faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was “incompatible" with Christianity.

He isn't alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movement's “Godless agenda." Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being “witches" and “operating in the demonic realm."

Joining conservative Christians are some self-proclaimed liberals and atheists who have also denounced BLM as a social movement that functions like a “cult" or “pseudo" religion.

As scholars of religion, we believe such views fail to acknowledge – let alone engage with – the rich spiritual and religious pluralism of Black Lives Matter. For the past few years, we have been observing the way the movement and affiliated organizations express faith and spirituality.

Since 2015 we have interviewed BLM leaders and organizers as well as Buddhist leaders inspired by the movement. What we found was that BLM was not only a movement seeking radical political reform, but a spiritual movement seeking to heal and empower while inspiring other religious allies seeking inclusivity.

A love letter

Black Lives Matter was born from a love letter.

On July 13, 2013 – the day of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed black teenage named Trayvon Martin – soon-to-be BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, posted “A Love Letter to Black People" on Facebook. She declared:

“We don't deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter."

Since its inception, BLM organizers have expressed their founding spirit of love through an emphasis on spiritual healing, principles, and practices in their racial justice work.

BLM leaders, such as co-founder Patrisse Cullors, are deeply committed to incorporating spiritual leadership. Cullors grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, and later became ordained in Ifà, a west African Yoruba religion. Drawing on Native American, Buddhist and mindfulness traditions, her syncretic spiritual practice is fundamental to her work. As Cullors explained to us, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight."

Theologian Tricia Hersey, known as the “Nap Bishop," a nod to her Divinity degree and her work advocating for rest as a form of resistance, founded the BLM affiliated organization, The Nap Ministry in 2016.

In an interview with Cullors, Hersey said she considers human bodies as “sites of liberation" that connect Black Americans to the “creator, ancestors, and universe." She describes rest as a spiritual practice for community healing and resistance and naps as “healing portals." Hersey connects this belief to her upbringing in the Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, where, she explained, “I was able to see the body being a vehicle for spirit."

The movement is committed to spiritual principles, such as “healing justice" – which uses a range of holistic approaches to address trauma and oppression by centering emotional and spiritual well-being – and “transformative justice" which assists with creating processes to repair harm without violence.

Black Lives Matter protesters pray near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Transformative justice, central to the beliefs of many in the BLM movement, is a philosophic approach to peacemaking. With roots in the Quaker tradition, it approaches harms committed as an opportunity for education. Crime is taken to be a community problem to be solved through mutual understanding, as often seen in work to decriminalize sex work and drug addiction.

BLM affiliated organizer Cara Page, who coined the term “healing justice," did so in response to watching decades of activists commit themselves completely to social justice causes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. She advocates that “movements themselves have to be healing, or there's no point to them."

'Without healing, no justice'

BLM-affiliated organizations utilize spiritual tools such as meditation, reiki, acupuncture, plant medicine, chanting, and prayer, along with other African and Indigenous spiritualities to connect and care for those directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy.

For instance, Dignity and Power Now or DPN, an organization founded by Cullors in Los Angeles in 2012, hosts almost weekly wellness clinics on Sundays, often referred to as “church" by attendees.

On July 26, 2020, they held a virtual event called Calm-Unity, to remind people that “without healing there is no justice." Classes included yoga, meditation, African dance, Chinese medicine, and altar making.

In interviews, movement leaders described honoring their body, mind and soul as an act of resilience. They see themselves as inheritors of the spiritual duty to fight for racial justice, following in the footsteps of freedom fighters like abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

BLM leaders often invoke the names of abolitionist ancestors in a ceremony used at the beginning of protests. In fact, protests often contain many spiritual purification, protection and healing practices including the burning of sage, the practice of wearing white and the creation of sacred sites and altars at locations of mourning.

'More religion, not less'

BLM's rich spiritual expressions have also inspired and transformed many American faith leaders. Black evangelical leader Barbara Salter McNeil credits BLM activists in Ferguson as changing the Christian church by showing racism must be tackled structurally and not just as individual sin.

U.S. Buddhist leaders presented a statement on racial justice to the White House in which they shared they were “inspired by the courage and leadership" of Black Lives Matter. Jewish, Muslim and many other religious organizations, have incorporated BLM principles to make their communities more inclusive and justice oriented.

As University of Arizona scholar Erika Gault observes, “The Black church is not the only religious well from which Black movements have historically drawn," and with Black Lives Matter, “We are actually seeing more religion, not less."

Religious pluralism

Attempts to erase the rich religious landscape of Black Lives Matter by both conservative and liberal voices continues a long history of denouncing Black spirituality as inauthentic and threatening.

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The history of white supremacy, often enacted within institutional Christianity, has often vilified and criminalized Indigenous and African beliefs, promoted the idea that Black people are divinely destined to servitude, and subjected communities to forced conversions.

As Cullors said to us in response to current attacks against BLM as demonic, “For centuries, the way we are allowed to commune with the divine has been policed; in the movement for Black lives, we believe that all connections to the creator are sacred and essential."The Conversation

Hebah H. Farrag, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Ann Gleig, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Central Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

human rights

Election holds future of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance

SAN DIEGO — Among the many policies that will be on the ballot Nov. 3 is what will happen to the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.The Trump administration has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration. For the past four years, Trump officials have argued that the program is illegal and should be stopped.DACA has so far survived only through court intervention. Even after the Supreme Court issued a decision in June that it should be fully restored because it wa...

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Mitch McConnell gloats over what he's about to lose

The Senate is on a crash course to confirm another illegitimate Supreme Court nominee Monday evening, having stayed in over the weekend for procedural votes. That's a sense of urgency from Mitch McConnell totally lacking on responding to COVID-19, even while we're seeing record-breaking new infections and a bleak winter outlook. They voted on cloture Sunday night, 51-48, to advance the nomination to a final vote Monday evening.

Vice President Mike Pence is planning on taking a victory lap and presiding over the Senate Monday night, despite the fact that he is at the center of yet another COVID-19 outbreak in the White House. Senate Democrats have written to him asking him to keep his damn coronavirus-exposed self the hell away. "Your presence along could be very dangerous to many people," they wrote, to them and to "all the truly essential staff—both Democratic and Republican" who have to be there to make the U.S. Capitol function. Like he cares. In fact, the White House is planning another superspreader event for the ceremonial swearing in of Barrett either Monday night following the vote or Tuesday.

We have only 9 days before the election is over. When you wake up on November 4, we need to know we did absolutely everything to save our democracy. Sign up with 2020 Victory, and make phone calls to battleground state voters to get out the vote. All you need is a personal computer, and a burning desire to throw Donald Trump out of office.

McConnell couldn't control his glee over the prospect of this vote. Over the fact that he has engineered this takeover. "We've made an important contribution to the future of this country," he said after the cloture vote. "A lot of what we've done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come." That's a lot of bravado for a man who is about to lose his Senate majority. He's banking on Democrats being unwilling to reform the courts. He's wrong.

Democrats demonstrated their unity against this nomination by holding the floor all night. It couldn't change the outcome of the event, but it demonstrates a united front against McConnell's unprecedented and unprincipled power grab. Even Independent Sen. Angus King is on board with expanding the court, albeit reluctantly. "I don't want to have to do that," he said on the floor Sunday, "but if all of this rule-breaking is taking place, what does the majority expect? What do they expect?"

They need to expect to lose the majority, the White House, and the court. With Barrett, Republican presidents have claimed 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court justices, while they have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. That's called minoritarian rule, which McConnell and the Republican Party have now embraced, along with what is essentially apartheid to maintain it. They can't and won't win the popular vote, so they have to take over every institution they can by cheating, by subverting the rule of law, and by packing the courts with ideologues who will allow them to do it. That ends with this nomination.

Democrats are ready. "McConnell is clearly betting against the Democrats mustering the resolve to ever alter the structure of the court," Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, told NBC News. "Given how far the movement to add seats has already come in just two years, and how likely it is for this 6-3 court to produce rulings threatening progressive priorities, I think it's an unwise bet," he said. Fallon is a former aide to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, so he's not just talking out his hat. "It's a travesty for the Senate, a travesty for the country, and it will be an inerasable stain on this Republican majority forevermore," Schumer said on the floor. It will fuel a backlash.

Understanding that, embattled Republican Sen. Susan Collins both voted with Democrats against cloture, and will vote against Barrett. Not on the merits of the nominee, she stressed, but because the vote is coming so close to the election. That's Collins trying to split the baby—assure Republicans that she's totally on board with this ideologically, but tell Democrats she's all about fairness. A little too little and way too late for Collins to pull this one out. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is no better. She voted against cloture as well, in muted opposition to the timing of the confirmation. But she's going to be a yes on confirmation. Murkowski is running for reelection in 2022, so you can bet that's a maneuver to stave off another challenge from the right in Alaska. That's her setting herself up to be the Collins of 2022—the backlash from the left will be swift and massive.

Here's what psychologists say about Trump's overly large, narcissistic signature

Many have commented on the oddity of Donald Trump's huge and illegible signature. When Trump announced his candidacy, I was reminded of the time in about 1988 when his handwriting was analyzed by Felix Klein, a world-renowned graphologist, author and court-recognized document examiner. It was during a master-level seminar that I attended in NYC while pursuing my doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I had become interested in graphology several years earlier after reading that it was taught in European and Israeli graduate-level psychology programs and used clinically and for business personnel selection. I was further intrigued after learning how clinical projective tests, such as the House-Tree-Person and Kinetic Family Drawings Test, shared many interpretative similarities with gestalt handwriting analysis. Although children learn cursive using a standard writing form template (New York schools through the 1960's taught the Palmer Method or one of its derivatives), within a year or so most children's writing starts to differentiate from that model. These writing changes, which are unconscious symbolic representations, can reveal a person's developmental history, either positive, when their physical and emotional needs were met, or traumatic, if they were not. Personality characteristics and subsequent behaviors are largely determined by our primal and childhood experiences, for better or worse.

Klein had presented our study group with a full page of Trump's adult handwriting, with only his gender, age (about 40) and handedness (right), but without his signature which might identify him. We were all taken aback, having not seen anything quite like it before, and we each took a turn analyzing it. After this exercise, Klein revealed who the writer was and showed us Trump's overly large, narcissistic signature (with which we are all too familiar now, as he loves to show it off when he signs bills). Klein began his analysis saying that Trump's writing revealed his immense insecurity, aggressiveness and rigid inability to think and perceive the world accurately. He said Trump was grandiose, extremely narcissistic and paranoid, so much so that he considered him delusional. Moreover, Trump was unable to relate to other humans with any degree of emotional attachment or consideration. People to him were objects, only useful to feed his insatiable need for adoration and attention. In looking specifically at his signature, Klein explained that Trump's rigidly angular letter connections formed what he called shark's teeth, which is indicative of rage and the capacity for extremely aggressive, acting out behaviors.

Now I should explain that Felix Klein was a very soft-spoken and mild-mannered gentleman in the old-school Viennese tradition. However, as he continued to speak, he became visibly upset and agitated which surprised me. Attempting to calm him, I said something to the effect that, since Trump was just a vulgar real estate developer, there was no need to get upset. He continued that Trump was a very dangerous individual, capable of all manner of criminal behavior and was a menace to society. He went on to say that Trump was hypomanic and determined to get whatever he wanted, describing him as a "screaming locomotive running down the tracks without breaks," adding, "and God help anyone who tries to stop him!" Once again I tried to talk him down without success, whereupon he stopped me in my tracks, with these unforgettable, exact next words: "I've probably examined well over 200,000 handwriting samples over more than 60 years, and Trump's writing is one of the worst I've ever seen. In fact, the only writing that comes to mind that is as bad is Charles Manson's."

To say I was dumbfounded would not be an exaggeration, but I have had a long time to reflect on why Klein became so upset, as this presidency has proven him right. I believe Trump's writing triggered such a strong emotional reaction because of the year Klein had spent in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps where he was forced to "entertain" his captors by analyzing their handwriting at their parties. I cannot imagine if he were still alive how he would have reacted to Trump becoming president, not to mention his setting up his own "concentration camps" and traumatizing little children by separating them from their parents and placing them in cages.

As Trump's re-election is looking more remote and his legal and financial predicaments are looming large and threatening to destroy him, I am left fearing how he might react to defeat. Being so desperate and vindictive, he is capable of extreme destructiveness, not just of our democracy and its governmental agencies, but as Commander-in-Chief much worse. This is the reason I am putting out an analysis that was done over 30 years ago, which resonates as uncannily accurate today. I can only hope that the danger we face is clearly understood, so we are prepared to fight for our country and our very lives.

The GOP under Trump now resembles authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey: study

Liberal democracies aren't necessarily replaced with authoritarian rule because of an armed coup d'état. In some cases, critics of President Donald Trump have been warning, authoritarians will gradually undermine a country's system of checks and balances — which is what those critics have accused Trump of trying to do. And according to a new Swedish study, the Republican Party now resembles authoritarian parties in Turkey and Hungary.

The study was conducted by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, which compared political parties in a long list of countries and found that under Trump, the Republican Party's rhetoric now resembles authoritarian parties like AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — both of whom Trump has praised — are two disturbing examples of authoritarians who were voted into office and have been attacking the checks and balances and democratic norms in their countries.

Journalist Julian Borger, discussing the study in The Guardian, notes that that V-Dem uses an "illiberalism index" that "gauges the extent of commitment to democratic norms a party exhibits before an election" — and Borger points out that the GOP has "followed a similar trajectory to Fidesz, which under Viktor Orbán, has evolved from a liberal youth movement into an authoritarian party that has made Hungary the first non-democracy in the European Union."

According to Anna Lührmann, deputy director for V-Dem, the change in the GOP under Trump has been "certainly the most dramatic shift in an established democracy" — while the Democratic Party has changed little in its support of democratic norms.

V-Dem's "illiberalism index" has an "illiberal left" and an "illiberal right." One of the worst offenders of the "illiberal left," according to V-Dem, is Venezuela — while Hungary and Turkey are among the worst offenders on the "illiberal right." Meanwhile, conservative parties in Germany and Spain are listed as examples of the "democratic right," while the Labour Party of the U.K. is cited as an example of the "democratic left."

Borger notes that according to V-Dem, the Republican Party "has remained relatively committed to pluralism, but it has gone a long way towards abandoning other democratic norms, becoming much more prone to disrespecting opponents and encouraging violence."

Borger quotes Lührmann as saying of the GOP, "We've seen similar shifts in parties in other countries where the quality of democracy has declined in recent years, where democracy has been eroding. It fits very well into the pattern of parties that erode democracy once they're in power….. The demonization of opponents — that's clearly a factor that has shifted a lot when it comes to the Republican Party, as well as the encouragement of political violence."

According to the V-Dem study, "The data shows that the Republican Party, in 2018, was far more illiberal than almost all other governing parties in democracies. Only very few governing parties in democracies in this millennium, 15%, were considered more illiberal than the Republican Party in the U.S."

The bad news reported by V-Dem isn't limited to Turkey, Hungary and the U.S. by any means. Borger points out that "autocracies are in the majority — holding power in 92 countries, home to 54% of the global population. According to V-Dem's benchmark, almost 35% of the world's population, 2.6 billion people, live in nations that are becoming more autocratic."

Fox News report crushes Hunter Biden smear after network investigation ‘found no role for Joe Biden’

A Fox News investigation "found no role for Joe Biden" in the business dealing of his son, Hunter, the network said on Sunday.

The admission was made by Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins.

Jenkins explained that the news organization had been provided documents by Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden's former business partner.

"You're talking about a business venture with the Chinese energy company in 2017 at a time when Joe Biden was not vice president," Jenkins explained. "But Fox's review of Bobulinski's documents, which were given to us, found no role for Joe Biden in that business venture."

"There's another former business partner who says he knows of no involvement by Joe Biden," Fox News host Howard Kurtz added. "The Wall Street Journal says it also reviewed the text messages and emails, saying, they don't show either Hunter Biden or James Biden — the brother — discussing a role for Joe Biden."

Kurtz added: "My problem with this is these emails are from 2017. At that time, Joe Biden is out of office. So while it may have been unseemly — if it was true that Joe Biden was even acquiescing in a potential deal with China — he no longer has the power of the White House behind him at that time."

"That's correct," Jenkins agreed. "One thing is for sure, it's not getting the kind of attention that Fox has given it and the New York Post and others as we get close to this election."

Watch the video below from Fox News.

Fox News investigation 'found no role for Joe Biden' in Hunter Biden documents

‘Republicans are very nervous’ about stunning early voting surge: White House reporter

White House reporter Jonathan Lemire said Republicans are growing nervous that the coronavirus surge could give Democrats an even greater advantage in the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats have turned out already in greater numbers than Republicans, and the Associated Press correspondent told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that President Donald Trump's team is uneasy about the dynamic that's shaping up.

"It is very much on the White House's minds, and they're definitely concerned," Lemire said. "They're following the same numbers we are, too, and they try to point as a rebuttal to the idea that there's been a wave this year of new GOP voter registrations, more Republicans who are registered to vote for the first time this year than Democrats."

'x"Their aides like to say, they point to the president's rallies — it's a sign of enthusiasm, Joe Biden could never do this," he added. "First of all, Joe Biden is not trying to do this because he's monitoring and adhering to the CDC guidelines and it's possible that, yes, Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton before him, would not draw the crowds like Donald Trump does. He's unique in his ability to do that and there are other signs of enthusiasm."

More than 50 million Americans have already cast ballots in the presidential election, and experts predict a record turnout of about 65 percent of eligible voters.

"Look at the lines of early voting," Lemire said. "Are they all Democrats? Of course not. Some Republicans are voting early, but that would be the major display of Democrats' enthusiasm — not large rallies, but rather turning out to vote and lining up sometimes for hours to vote early."

The president's campaign team circulated a poll on Air Force One showing that voters in three states — Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — who had not yet cast ballots were leaving heavily toward Trump.

"They believe that Democrats will vote early and this Republicans will turn out in huge numbers on Election Day, that's what they're trying to underscore," Lemire said. "They can still win this on Nov. 3."

But the resurgence of COVID-19 infections could throw up some obstacles in that path to victory.

"As the virus surges throughout the country, it will become trickier and more dangerous for people to vote in person on Nov. 3, which may keep Republican turnout down on that day," Lemire said, "and secondly, even if indeed more voters cast their ballots for president trump on Nov. 3 than vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3 it's far from a given it will be able to offset the huge early voting totals were seeing from Democrats. Republicans are very nervous about this."

10 26 2020 06 34 58

Pennsylvania Trump voter is sure president's ‘facts’ aren’t lies: ‘I’m very active on social media so I do my research’

A Pennsylvania voter explained to ABC News that she supports President Donald Trump because of "research" she has done on social media.

"I would say everything, all his policies, I agree with 100%," a voter named Tanya told ABC's Martha Raddatz in an interview that aired on Sunday.

"Is there anything over the last four years that has given you pause about Donald Trump?" Raddatz asked.

"I would say no at this point," Tanya replied. "Because when I'm researching what he does say, there's facts backing it up. I see social media, I'm very active on social media so I do my research."

"Things that he brings up are exactly things me and my friends talk about in our kitchen," she added. "When we're sitting around having drinks and talking about politics, he's exactly spot on."

Watch the video below from ABC.

Trump voter: 'I'm very active on social media so I do my research'

Trump accuses media of ‘election law violation’ for reporting on COVID pandemic

President Donald Trump on Monday accused the American media of trying to illegally interfere in the 2020 presidential election by accurately report on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"We have made tremendous progress with the China Virus, but the Fake News refuses to talk about it this close to the Election," the president wrote. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by them, in total coordination, in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

The president's accusations against the news media comes as the average number of new COVID-19 infections hit a record high over the weekend.

According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, there have been an average of 68,954 infections per day over the past seven days.

Despite the fact that infections are hitting record highs, the president has continued to claim that the United States has "rounded the corner" on the pandemic.

'What's going on?' Mitch McConnell refuses to explain to voters why he's bruised and bandaged

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday was photographed with what appear to be disturbing bruises on his face and hands, and with bandages on his hands as well, but he is refusing to share with voters what health issues he is suffering from.

McConnell told CNN there are "no problems." When asked if he had any health problems the 78-year old said: "Of course not."

The Kentucky lawmaker "did not respond when asked if he was being treated by a doctor. An aide to McConnell also declined to provide any additional details when asked multiple times about the majority leader's health."

The Courier-Journal reports McConnell earlier this month "refused to say whether he had recently been tested" for coronavirus.

"Have I ever been tested? Yes," he said after reporters repeatedly asked him about that. "But I'm not going to answer questions about when."

McConnell, who has been blocking coronavirus legislation for months, is seeking re-election. He is challenged by Democrat Amy McGrath. He is nine points ahead of her according to a recent poll.

On social media, many are speculating about the Majority Leader's heath since he refuses to share with voters what has caused his appearance.

Some images and responses via Twitter:

Is it time to freak out? Here's what the polls say this week about the state of the presidential race

Welcome to my weekly roundup of state presidential polls, a feature of whose future is coming to an end at seemingly terrifyingly speed. Remember back when people would answer every poll with "it's way too early to look at polls!" Then there was that primary thing were everyone argued for a long time. And now? Here we are. At election's eve. Finally able to deliver a message to Donald Trump the only way he'll (maybe) listen: with a vote.

We always start with a look at the national poll trends, using The Economist's polling aggregate.

(The Economist)

Biden's current 54.3%-45.7% lead, or +8.6 points, is actually up a smidgeon from last week's 54.2% to 45.8%, or 8.4 points. Really, it's all float. The reality, and you can see it in the chart above, is that the race hasn't fundamentally budged in a while, not since September, really.

It feels like we're on the precipice of something amazing. It's no accident that Texas is competitive. The national numbers have swung nearly nine points toward the Democrats. How much did Trump win Texas by in 2016? Nine points. This stuff isn't rocket science.

We're already headed toward a real good night. But if we could shift those numbers 1-2 more points? That good night could become epic. Those 1-2 points could be the difference between a 50-50 Senate, and a 55-45 Democratic majority with victories in states like Alaska, Kansas, South Carolina, and Texas. We are so close to blowing this wide open. But also so close to seeing the pendulum swing back toward the GOP by 1-2 points, and taking those tough red-state Senate seats off the map.

That's why I don't understand the "act like we're 20 points down!" crowd. If that's what motivates you, go to Idaho, where Joe Biden is likely down by that amount, and see how motivating that actually is. You'll discover what every sports fan knows: it's more motivating to be in the lead than losing.

And here's the thing: Biden's 9-point national lead is the reason that Texas is competitive. It's the reason Alaska is competitive. It's the reason so many traditionally red states and districts are competitive. It's the reason we might pick up state legislatures in places like (again) Texas, as well as heavy Republican gerrymanders in places like Arizona and Michigan.

The fact that Biden is running so strong nationally means that we have a wealth of newly competitive races open up down ballot. Isn't that motivating? So please don't resort to loser "20 points down" bullshit. My suspicion is that people think they need to say that to motivate other people, and it's counterproductive. Freaking Ohio and Iowa, which Trump won by around 10 points in 2016, are competitive. Winning has its advantages. And winning bigger has even more advantages—the majorities we need for critical systemic change.

Okay, let me step off my soapbox, and let's look at the state polls. As usual, we start with our baseline map.

I still think Alaska is a battleground, and if it turns Blue on November 3, you'll remember that I've harped on it all cycle. The polling aggregate says it's a 6.6-point Trump lead, so it remains firmly red on this map. But, Alaska is the toughest state to poll, so don't be surprised if it flips, that's all I'm saying.




MICHIGAN16Biden +7.0-248-125
WISCONSIN10Biden +6.6-0.4258-125
NEBRASKA-011Biden +6.5-259-125
PENNSYLVANIA20Biden +5.8-0.4279-125
FLORIDA29Biden +3.4-0.2308-125
ARIZONA11Biden +3.2+0.4319-125
NORTH CAROLINA15Biden +2.4+0.4334-125
MAINE-021Biden +2.0-335-125
GEORGIA16Biden +0.0+0.2351-125
IOWA6Trump +1.8-1.0351-131
OHIO18Trump +1.6-0.8351-149
TEXAS38Trump +2-351-187

Wow, pretty much nothing changed, and that's great news for us since, you know, time is running out. Biden still has a five-point-lead-or-larger for all the states he needs to get to 270 electoral votes, and ultimate victory. He also leads in enough states that will finish their counting on election night (Florida and North Carolina), to avoid having Trump and the GOP sow chaos with an avalanche of lawsuits.

And Biden is within 2 points of blowing past 400 electoral votes, which would deliver pretty much the most humiliating defeat possible to Trump. And really, we want him humiliated.

According to conventional political wisdom, a good GOTV ground game is worth around 3 points (another reason why "fight like we're 20 down" is so stupid). So every one of those states above is gettable, especially if the Trump GOTV operation—which has put all of its marbles on Election Day turnout—fizzles. And does anyone trust the Trump Republican Party to do anything right?

Of course, no one is counting on former campaign manager Brad Parscale to have pilfered all of the money. We know he ran off with tens of millions of Trump campaign cash. Maybe some of it was spent on building a GOTV machine. Which is why we have to work as hard as we have already been working.

We truly are on the cusp of something transformative. Leave nothing on the road.

Watch: Obama drowns Trump in a flood of mockery in a brutally hilarious speech

Former President Barack Obama took the stage in Miami, Florida, for a drive-in rally where people could social distance safely. That didn't stop Obama from bringing the heat against the president, however. Speaking to a honking crowd, Obama mocked Trump for the overwhelming ignorance and cruelty that has persisted throughout his four years in office. "When the daily intelligence briefings are flashing warning signs about a virus, the president can't be AWOL," Obama said. "When Russians put bounties on the heads of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan, the commander in chief can't be MIA. He can't be somebody who doesn't read the briefings. Joe Biden would never call the men and women of our military suckers and losers. He knows those troops are somebody's husband, somebody's wife, somebody's kids, somebody's spouse, somebody's father. And when a hurricane devastates Puerto Rico, a president is supposed to help it rebuild, not toss paper towels withhold billions of dollars in aid until just before an election. We've got a president who actually suggested selling Puerto Rico." The former president then went on to blast Trump for being so weak he couldn't even handle a "60 Minutes" interview. Obama continued: "Believe it or not, could have been worse. He once asked national security officials if he could nuke hurricanes. I mean, at least he didn't do that. A nuclear hurricane seems like it would have been bad. I mean, it would be funny if it wasn't. Look, some of the rhetoric you're hearing down here in south Florida, it's just made up. It's just nonsense. Listening to the Republicans, you think Joe was more communist than the Castros. Don't follow for that baloney. Don't fall for that okie-doke. Joe Biden was a senator from Delaware; he was my vice president. I think people would know if he was a socialist by now." See the videos below:

'This isn't over': Lincoln Project issues lawyer letter mocking Jared and Ivanka's billboard threat

The Lincoln Project is staffed with a slate of Republicans using a unique set of ads to bring down President Donald Trump. One of the latest is a billboard in New York City's Times Square, where many tourists often visit when they are in town. The ad features a photo of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, which prompted the first family to lash out at the organization demanding the billboard be taken down or they would sue for "what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages." In response to the letter, the Lincoln Project's lawyers fired off a letter of their own: "Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere. The Lincoln Project will not be intimidated by such empty bluster," the letter says. "Your clients are no longer more Upper East Side socialites, able to sue at the slightest offense to their personal sensitivities. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump are public officials. They have been public officials since President Trump, in a gross act of nepotism, awarded Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump senior White House positions in 2017. The placement of Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump in these high-level White House offices has been disastrous for Americans everywhere, but it is now also devastating to the prospects of your would-be lawsuit." They included a footnote saying that to have standing for such a case, Jared and Ivanka must "satisfy the First Amendment 'actual malice' standard to bring a libel claim." "The Lincoln Project plans to avail itself of these constitutional protections to duly criticize Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump until they cease to be public officials, at approximately Noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2021," the letter goes on. Contrary to your claim that 'Mr. Kushner never made any such statement,' Vanity Fair reported in a widely circulated article that Mr. Kushner did indeed say that New Yorkers "are going to suffer and that's their problem" during the time that he was entrusted to lead our nation's COVID-19 response," the Lincoln Project lawyers continue. "The Lincoln Project explicitly cited Vanity Fair as the source for Mr. Kushner's featured statement. Please contact us again if, at some point, you somehow succeed in convincing Vanity Fair to retract its article, but I trust that this supplemental explanation settles the matter for now as to Mr. Kushner's reported remark." They went on to dispute that Ivanka Trump "never made any such gesture." Ms. Trump took a photo of herself, "in violation of federal ethics rules," to promote a commercial product in July 2020. The photo was of her holding a can of Goya beans. They explained that the photo of her endorsing Goya beans and in the Lincoln Project's photo, she "endorses the Trump Administration policies that have led to an unacceptable number of American deaths every bit as much as she once endorsed that can of beans." They closed by saying that'd love an opportunity to "establish their truthfulness through litigation and discovery," which would be one of the most disastrous things the Trump children could face. It would mean they would be required to turn over a host of documents, emails and other things about Kushner's communications about the COVID-19 pandemic. "This isn't over," the Lincoln Project letter says. "Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump will hear more from The Lincoln Project soon." Read the full letter below:

The 'Q' movement is a pro-terrorist Trumpian cult

Well, we seem to be getting closer to the national realization that this thing that calls itself "QAnon" is, at heart, just another partisan iteration of the same far-right conspiracy theories that have plagued conservatives since forever ago. The New York Times has another look at the growth of "Q" nonsense in the Republican mainstream, and while it doesn't contain anything new, it does more forcibly connect the batshit conspiracy theorizing of gullible, gullible supporters to the cowardice—and complicity—of Republican leaders.

The most plausible explanation for the Q hokum, in which an anonymous supposed member of the Deep State drools out accusations against anyone deemed to be enemies of Donald Trump in comically performed pseudo-riddles, remains the obvious one: It is the work of chan-style trolls, part of that internet corner's grand tradition of crafting gaudily improbable hoaxes to distribute for no other purpose than to see who they can draw in. It may turn out to be the first domestic terrorism group founded for funsies—though at this point, those connected to the movement have focused their claims and targets enough to make it clear that stoking incidents of real-world terrorism is, in fact, the current goal.

Like the 2016 proliferation of European "fake news" sites aiming to generate advertising traffic by inventing hoax political stories, Q conspiracies have been tailored to American conservative tastes because American conservatives are the richest (read: most gullible) targets. Fox News conservatives have been fed decades of tawdry but false information, all packaged with advertising pitches to buy gold, or "survival" equipment, or hyper-expensive pills sold through conservative mailing lists and on conservative programs relentlessly. It is an audience of laboratory-grown suckers, people who have been whittled down over the years to a base of the most credulous, and therefore profitable, marks.

But—and this is a big but—there's an undercurrent here that's getting more and more ... let's say blatant, as actual news events slap Q claims back and forth and sideways month after month after month.

The QAnon claim is that most or all of the world's most famous powerbrokers, including politicians, actors, nonpartisan government figures and so on, are secret ultra-pedophiles and child traffickers. But the revelation of Trump ally Jeffrey Epstein as precisely that did not make a ripple. Instead, the "real" traffickers are unanimously people who oppose Donald Trump, and most especially those who report what looks to be criminal behavior by Trump.

The QAnon claims burst into Republican popularity after Donald J. Trump was accused of sexual assault by two dozen women, after his taped bragging about committing sexual assaults, and after a long public history of being an eager pervert—whether it be the purchase of a top beauty pageant as apparent ticket to ogle nude teenagers or the mysterious and Epsteinesque "Trump modeling company." Instead, the movement holds Trump up as the mockingly dubious "hero" fighting against society's sex predators. He is alleged to be doing this secretly, with Good Genes and near-godlike powers, and the movement remains absolutely immune to news cycle after news cycle in which their own predictions prove to be fan-fiction bunk.

This week, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was revealed to have been secretly filmed (as part of a new Borat movie, of all things) fondling himself in front of a youthful female "interviewer." Without getting too far into a description of that particular chunk of nightmare fuel, it continues the pattern of 1) Republican 2) conservative 3) Trump-allied 4) powerbrokers revealed as tawdry often-sexual-assaulting ultrapervs. From Wynn to Epstein to Broidy to Falwell to Rudy, there is a very robust claim to be made that the QAnon suspicions of an enormously powerful cabal of sex freaks are indeed well-founded—and that they radiate from the Republican National Committee's finance offices, from Mar-a-Lago, or both.

All these real-world crimes and bizarre improprieties, however, are dismissed by the QAnon faithful. Nope: They are convinced that the True Pedophiles are "Democrats" and "globalists," and that four years of the nation's top Republican figures getting caught with their pants around their ankles are the fictional part.

It should be obvious from that history, then, that isn't a conspiracy base that gives a damn about pedophilia and child sex trafficking, and if anything the "movement" has sabotaged law enforcement's attempts to pursue sex traffickers by flooding lines with false claims pointing to everyone but the true culprits.

This is a group born to defend criminal acts by the powerful, not combat them. It does so using the precise playbook Trump himself uses when caught committing apparent tax fraud, foreign extortion, or embezzlement: The projection defense. It's not me, it was that other guy. It has always been that other guy. No matter how much the evidence proves it was me, the evidence is mere conspiracy and the truth is its opposite.

As Trump's charity foundation was revealed to be little more than a passthrough for the Trump family's personal spending—resulting in the family being barred from future charity boards—an organized effort to portray the Clinton's own family foundation as corrupt erupted from longtime conservative hoax-peddlers. As Trump personally profited off the presidency with the aid of his sons and favorite daughter, a new hoax emerged claiming that Actually it was the Biden family that was doing that thing. It is the far-right response to revealed Republican wrongdoing. Even Benghazi!, a far-right led claim that four American deaths in a terrorist attack were the result of something-something Hillary Clinton (it was never, even at the end, consistent in what the something-something was supposed to be) was a cheap version of the inquiries held after 9/11, probing what the Republican-led government knew in advance and why that information was not processed into action.

In that context, QAnon's relentlessly partisan far-right claim that a Republican Party visibly awash in corruption—with a series of Trump lieutenants and allies being led off in handcuffs for everything from sex trafficking to foreign influence-peddling to election crimes—is "actually" a group of heroes working to expose the corruption of their enemies looks less like a coincidence than a pattern.

Isn't this just a more spittle-flecked version of what Fox News personalities have been peddling for years? That the news as it is reported by your eyes and ears is false, promoted by "elites" in order to deceive you, and that the real news is how ingenious conservative figures are despite policies that have caused clear ruin, and how malevolent non-conservative figures are for opposing them? Is that not the very definition of Sean Hannity's evening broadcast? The theme of every conservative book?

There's not a lot of daylight between the QAnon version of reality and that promoted by Glenn Beck's now-famous chalkboards, or Tucker Carlson's parade of "alt-right" fascist-adjacent guests. The online versions of each conspiracy are always more vigorous than the versions the Fox hosts themselves provide, but they each grow from similar stock. They intertwine more often than not.

Then there is the other, deeper origin of QAnon claims. The movement's guides insist not only that there is a secret global cabal of child sex traffickers, but that the ultimate purpose of the plot, run by "globalist" figures, is to harvest those children's fluids for consumption.

There's not an educated person alive who doesn't recognize that theory. It is the blood libel conspiracy theory that has been promulgated by anti-Semites for literally hundreds of years, but made most famous in Nazi Germany for a variation very close to the Q version.

The QAnon claim does not bother to go too far afield from the versions peddled in the 1920s and 30s. "Globalists" is used to mean "Jewish," as it is by most modern neo-Nazi adherents; rather than "blood" of children, a specific compound is named this time around in near-comical pseudoscientific gibberish. The premise of a secret group of global "elites" running the world from the shadows is the claim from the Henry Ford-peddled hoax Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the omnipresent inclusions of George Soros and "Hollywood" as alleged conspirators are lifted directly from neo-Nazi fever dreams, anti-Semitic tropes that were willingly taken in as staples of Republican Party rhetoric long before Q-anything arrived on scene.

So it's clear that the originators of QAnon are well-versed in neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, and are particularly interested in repopularizing it for a modern audience. Why those messages reverberate so very strongly among the Fox News-watching Republican base, and the merging of these conspiracies to become inextricably linked to Trumpism, is not hard to imagine. That it would achieve true cult status, with some adherents willing to commit terrorist acts in deluded efforts to prove conspiracies invented in someone else's head, may only be evidence of the omnipresent undercurrent of good violence that has burrowed itself into the American psyche in a hundred other forms.

If anything, the rise of Q belief as increasingly mainstream Republican phenomenon, complete with its own candidates and in-movement codes, appears to be the natural culmination of multiple conservative trends, all balled together in one malevolent, hyper-cynical lump:

Fox News and conservative talk radio provided a large Republican base already trained to disbelieve news uncomfortable to the party, a base literally willing to deny reality in favor of pleasing fictions. A set of gullibles that could easily be transformed into deplorables.

The white supremacist and white nationalist movement provided the conspiracy itself, a bog-standard edition of "evil global cabal that has secretly undermined world governments" that has been a staple of neo-Nazi movements in this country and in others.

American militia movements are providing, in a literal sense, the ammunition: A far-right collection of malcontents who insist that violence against nonright citizens is essential, glorious, and nigh.

The Republican Party's own widespread embrace of corruption, nearly all of it centered around Trump, has all but required more and more outrageous conspiracy theories as official party defense.

That all of this would combine into kleptocratic fascism is not surprising. That its enablers did not, at any point along the way, reflect on the likely outcome of the combination is damning.

It remains vitally important to see QAnon for what it is, and no more. It is an amateur-led trolling effort based primarily on the same ambiguous nonsense-spewing used by fortune-telling hucksters, but one led by amateurs steeped in anti-Semitic claims and rhetoric popular among neo-Nazi and "alt-right" subcommunities. It is Alex Jones by way of fortune cookie, or Jim Jones by way of sudoku. It is a scam intended for the most gullible. Its adherents should be pitied. It is the fascist version of the hula hoop or the pet rock, a hip new trend that will someday be confined to your parents' attic, mysterious artifacts of pop culture tremors since vanished.

And mocked. As racism-embracing nitwits incapable of discerning truth from fiction despite having access to nearly all of human history tucked in the space before a single wandering thumb, its adherents should be mocked. There is not enough mocking of willful, self-absorbed, self-interested gullibility these days, which is why it spreads so prolifically. If you willingly listen to Fox News hosts lie to you night after night and become irate at contrary information, you are a self-built fool and should be treated as such. If you believe that Donald Trump, serial sex abuser, pedophile-adjacent thug is the good Christian hero who will secretly reveal that everyone aside from him is the dribbling pervert he appears to be, however, you are something closer to a half-sentient wart. You should be pilloried as one of the true suckers of the planet.

Congratulations, all those willing to fall for transparent anti-Semitic gobbledegook rather than admit you got played by a skeevy lifelong con man. You certainly have revealed yourselves.

Here are the questions that caused Trump to walk out of his ‘60 Minutes’ interview with Lesley Stahl

The reason President Donald Trump stormed out of a "60 Minutes" interview with Lesley Stahl was that she asked about the Michigan rally in which his supporters began chanting "lock her up" about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Trump held the rally over the weekend attacking her for not opening up the state back up when he wanted it.

"So you don't want to lock her up?" Stahl asked.

"That's such a vicious thing you just said," Trump claimed. "When did I say lock her up?"

Trump laughed when his audience chanted it and repeated the phrase. He then said that he hopes they "send her packing soon."

"I never said lock up the governor of Michigan," Trump disputed. "I would never say that. Why would I say that? Because she's doing lockdowns."

"You want to lock up the Bidens?" Stahl asked Trump.

"No, but they certainly should be looked at," Trump said. Over the past several days he's encouraged "lock him up" chants at rallies talking about the Biden family.

"You want to lock up Obama?" Stahl asked.

"No, I don't want to lock him up but he spied on my campaign," Trump falsely claimed. "You know what that is? Do you know what they did? Do you know how horrible it is what they did? You don't get it."

Trump never told Stahl what the FBI proved was done by Obama or Biden, but he did bring in a special counsel to investigate it and Trump's own Department of Justice hasn't been able to find anything.

Trump said that Biden likely will because he's "dishonest" and that Barr has been "very nice" and that he's ignored the "evidence." He didn't clarify what the evidence was.

"You know, I didn't want to have this kind of interview," Stahl then said.

"Yes, you did. Yes you did," Trump said. "Well, you brought up a bunch of subjects that were inappropriately brought up. They were inappropriately brought up. Right from the beginning. No your first question was, 'This is going to be tough questions.' Well–"

"You're president. Don't you think you think you should be accountable to the American people?" she asked.

"No, no, listen, your first statement to me, 'This is going to be tough questions,'" Trump said. "Well, I don't mind that. But when you set up the interview you didn't say that."

A staffer ultimately interviewed and said that they only had about five more minutes, but Trump said that they were finished and walked out.

See the video below – about the last five minutes.

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