As We Endeavor

I am pretty sure that this is the longest I have gone between posts since I began blogging in earnest in 2017. Adjusting our routine to the current normal, as well as performing customary tasks such as yard work and income tax returns, have consumed a surprising amount of time.  (I’m aware that we don’t need to file until July; but if – admittedly a big if – things are actually improving as summer dawns, who — unless one is glad of the opportunity to defer a significant payment — will want to do taxes then?)  I have, as I’m confident is true of all of us, a number of different reactions to the challenges we face, but they will wait a bit. One of the unexpected benefits of blogging is that one’s friends send you information and links that they find of particular interest. Several are included below:

For those looking for a practical manner to combat the virus and stay safe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFmaSNP6_z4

For those interested in many different views regarding how we as a people might come out of this crisis with new perspectives of our world:

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/19/coronavirus-effect-economy-life-society-analysis-covid-135579

Although the federal government has now extended its social distancing guidelines though April, for those that wish to indulge (perhaps a repeat, but well worth another few minutes) in one of the few light experiences occasioned by the crisis we face:

https://twitter.com/kenolin1/status/1242852430582341639

For those that would appreciate sustenance for the spirit:

https://youtu.be/3eXT60rbBVk

If you have the means – many of us do not — order from your favorite local restaurant. You want to help ensure that it’s still there when the crisis passes. Consider whether there’s anything you can do to assist other small businesses you appreciate that might have trouble surviving the next few months.

Use FaceTime (full disclosure: I can’t, but TLOML can). It will enable you to see, as well as hear, those to whom you need to stay most close.

Your phone and email accounts list a lot of contacts. Among those are people you care deeply about that, due to life’s demands, you haven’t been in contact with for a while. Communicate with them. You may never have a better opportunity.

The numbers of potential U.S. deaths projected yesterday by Drs. Fauci and Birx have been described as, “sobering.”  I understand why, in their positions, they have accompanied grim projections with restrained tones; I consider the numbers scary.  Stay healthy and safe.

Mr. Biden: Door 1, 2, or 3? Part II

[Since Part I of this post ran earlier this week, the rest follows; but inasmuch as the spiraling Coronavirus is what we now need to address, I’ll preface it with this unrelated note: right now, I most fervently wish that NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo was President of the United States. While other state and local officials are also aggressively addressing the challenge we face, Gov. Cuomo has seemed to me to stand apart through his combination of early understanding of the scope of the crisis, effective action, and projection of competent and reassuring leadership.  Meanwhile, President Trump declared yesterday, with regard to our health workers’ need for medical supplies, that the U.S. Government is “not a shipping clerk.”] 

Assuming Mr. Biden wins the Democratic Presidential nomination, whom, given his pledge to select a woman running mate, might he choose to address a gap in his own general election credentials? I would suggest that there are three doors:

Door 1: the Progressive Door, behind which stands Ms. Warren. No. Mr. Biden appears likely to win the nomination specifically because Democrats concluded that they cannot defeat Mr. Trump with a candidate that Republicans can paint as a crazy socialist. Mr. Biden will not wish to bear that baggage. He should bet that as long as he is perceived by progressives – as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not – as having won the nomination fairly, and he and his team proactively seek to assuage progressives’ disappointment and solicit progressives’ active participation in the Democratic campaign, progressives so vehemently detest Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden will be able to secure their strong support even if he doesn’t select an avowedly progressive running mate. U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, the clear leader of the progressive movement, has unequivocally stated that he will support Mr. Biden if Mr. Biden wins the nomination. Substantively, while Ms. Warren is unquestionably qualified, she is unabashedly contentious; she seems to me unable to speak for five minutes without using the word, “fight.” I would offer that Americans are weary of fighting.

Comment: Among prominent women candidates, Ms. Warren might also be considered the best alternative if Mr. Biden wishes to focus on securing millennial support. In my view, this is still not enough commend her. First, given younger voters’ less-than-projected turnout for Mr. Sanders, it seems doubtful that any Democrat can win in 2020 with heavy dependence on what is arguably an unreliable voting segment. Second, it appears questionable whether young voters will enthusiastically come out for Ms. Warren, whom they eschewed for Mr. Sanders. Finally, Mr. Sanders will be Mr. Biden’s most effective surrogate with young voters as he will be with progressives.

Door 2: the Ethnic Door. The most prominently mentioned female contenders behind this door seem to be U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris and former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. No. Although Mr. Biden unquestionably owes his nomination to African American support, he should not – as MSNBC Host Joy Reid recently suggested – pick an African American running mate because he “owes” the community. From a purely political perspective, it is clear that African American voters will wholeheartedly support Mr. Biden in November because they are – in Ms. Reid’s own words – “… very clinical about it. They just want to win. They want Trump gone.” If Mr. Biden does need a boost with this electoral segment, he can count on the best of all surrogates: former President Barack Obama. Specifically as to Sen. Harris: she comes from a state that any Democrat will win, and, as I have previously ventured in these pages, her best presidential campaign moments seemed planned and scripted, leaving the concern as to how she would react in the fall campaign when inevitably confronted by the unexpected. As to Ms. Abrams: I would submit that her native Peach State is Fool’s Gold for Democrats in 2020 whether or not she is on the ballot, and – sheepishly conceding that I sound more than a bit like President Trump with this next observation – I would prefer that Mr. Biden pick a running mate that has won. Ms. Abrams ran a stellar 2018 campaign for Georgia Governor, but fell short. Most importantly, since Mr. Biden would be 78 when he assumed the presidency, it seems vital that he select a running mate that could effectively discharge presidential duties from “Day 1”; I would suggest that neither Ms. Harris’ brief tenure in the Senate (notwithstanding her run for the presidency) nor Ms. Abrams’ experience in the Georgia legislature respectively sufficiently ready them for the challenge.

Door 3: the Electoral College Map Door, behind which most prominently stands U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Yes. Mr. Biden’s rationale in naming Sen. Klobuchar would be akin to Mr. Kennedy’s reasoning in selecting Mr. Johnson in 1960. As we have heard until we are numb (and as I myself have recorded in these pages), Mr. Trump prevailed in 2016 by winning three states no one thought he could carry: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The President narrowly lost Minnesota to Ms. Clinton, and given his multiple visits to the North Star State during his presidency, it appears to be a state he is targeting in 2020. Mr. Biden presumably reasons that as a long-term Senator of Delaware, and given his deep roots of union support, he can claim Pennsylvania; that his union and African American support should enable him to win Michigan; which leaves Wisconsin. Ms. Klobuchar, representing Wisconsin’s neighboring Minnesota, would provide reassurance and greater appeal for the tandem in the swing areas of the Badger State, would cement Minnesota for the Democrats, and could well make Mr. Trump work to hold Iowa. Despite the disapproval the following observation would probably provoke from the Woke Brigade, Ms. Klobuchar is, in addition to her significant qualifications, likeable. In her third term in the Senate, she is conversant with the issues we face and has been lauded by Republicans for her willingness to work across the partisan aisle. Her nomination would probably secure Ms. Warren’s avid advocacy and at the same time perhaps win support for the ticket (or at least depress turnout) from suburban Republican women in GOP strongholds outside Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Milwaukee repulsed by Mr. Trump’s personal behavior. Ms. Klobuchar’s year on the campaign trail would seemingly provide the ticket immediate additional name recognition and less potential for unanticipated political skeletons than other choices.

In Part I of this note, I commented that major party presidential candidates have traditionally claimed to select as their running mates the persons most qualified to be President if they could no longer serve, while in fact they picked the persons whom they believed would best help them electorally. If I was advising former Vice President Biden, I would offer that he has the rare opportunity to do both … by picking Sen. Klobuchar.

[Addendum: A suggestion made this week by Wall Street Journal Columnist Holman Jenkins, with which I agree: As “an insurance policy on behalf of the country,” Mr. Biden should “immediately” name Ms. Klobuchar as his running mate, “so she can step in” if circumstances require.]

Mr. Biden: Door 1, 2, or 3? Part I

[While our current national struggle against the novel Coronavirus obviously dwarfs political issues, former Vice President Biden’s announcement on Sunday regarding his intent to select a woman running mate made this seem the appropriate time to post a note (slightly edited to remove references to those no longer in the running 😉 ) prepared some time ago.]

It now appears almost certain that former Vice President Joe Biden will secure the Democrats’ presidential nomination. As almost all who care are aware, Mr. Biden indicated his intent to select a woman as his running mate in his most recent debate with U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders. Since that time, a number of articles have speculated on whom he might pick.

In the past, Mr. Biden specifically stated that would consider U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In a post earlier this year that found favor with several readers of these pages, I ventured that a Biden-Warren ticket might form a transitional administration that would let our people catch their breath and afford us the opportunity in 2024 to determine which way we wanted to proceed as a nation. That was before Ms. Warren so vehemently embraced Medicare-for-All, which clearly deflated her support and was an early indicator that the majority of Democratic voters perceive moderation rather than radical change as the path to victory in 2020.

We have traditionally hired our presidents in part with the expectation – notwithstanding the current White House occupant – that they have the capacity to think ahead. While all presidential candidates claim that they select the running mate most qualified to be President if they can no longer serve, in fact, most pick a running mate to address a vulnerability in their own general election resumes. Moderates Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford respectively selected Richard Nixon and Bob Dole to encourage Republican conservatives; New England Liberal John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson to win Texas’ Electoral College votes; Conservative Ronald Reagan selected George H.W. Bush to hearten Republican moderates; competent but lusterless John McCain selected the electric Sarah Palin in an attempt to counteract the excitement generated by Barack Obama; and Outsiders Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Mr. Obama, and Donald Trump respectively selected Insiders Walter Mondale, Dick Cheney, Mr. Biden, and Mike Pence to reassure their parties’ traditionalists. Mr. Biden and a couple of his trusted aides are clearly already considering which of a number of capable female Vice Presidential nominee candidates might best enable him to secure the White House. Assuming that Mr. Biden wishes to balance his ticket, whom might he select?

I see three doors Mr. Biden might open; but in an effort to keep this post to a somewhat manageable length, what remains of this note will appear in Part II.

Sen. Sanders’ Last Test

With the unknowns of the Coronavirus far outnumbering the knowns, right now it is actually a relief to talk about politics, even given what I consider to be our nation’s current perilous political state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s unexpectedly strong showing on March 4, buttressed by a strong showing on March 10, have made him the prohibitive favorite to win the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. Although U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign – indeed, movement – has been incredibly impressive, has generated by far the deepest passion within the Democratic electorate, and has injected new ideas into the American political mainstream, the young voters demonstrably haven’t come out for him in the numbers that he proclaimed they would, and the African American segment of the Democratic electorate has decisively turned toward Mr. Biden. Mr. Sanders’ crusade is effectively over.

In a recent note, I quoted reporter Jules Witcover’s observation that a campaign for president “… is a grueling, debilitating, and often dehumanizing ordeal,” and suggested that any candidate that successfully perseveres for months may develop a visceral feeling that because s/he has absorbed so much adversity, s/he deserves the presidency. I would venture that for Mr. Sanders, those emotions are likely buttressed by his authentic belief that the revolutionary overhaul to the American system he has come to personify is in the best interest of the vast majority of its people. Even so, this is not his time. I would submit that how the Senator conducts himself hereafter may well determine the outcome of Mr. Biden’s campaign against President Donald Trump.

Messrs. Biden and Sanders are scheduled to conduct yet another debate – the first “one on one” debate of the Democratic presidential campaign – on March 15. After the March 10 results, there was at least one voice calling for the Democratic Party to scrap the debate given Mr. Biden’s overwhelming lead in the race; I suspect such call was prompted to some extent by concerns that Mr. Sanders – the more emphatic debater – will demonstrably get the better of Mr. Biden, will continue the divide within the Democratic Party, or will cause Mr. Biden to express support for one of Mr. Sanders’ aggressive progressive positions, which would be exploited by the Trump Campaign.

Mr. Sanders has indicated that he will debate. I think Mr. Sanders should stay in the race through the debate, but – although he has shown no indication of doing so – bow out gracefully thereafter. There are three reasons. First, Mr. Biden needs the practice of going one on one against an emphatic debater; he will have to engage in several such debates with America’s most emphatic debater in the fall. Second, Mr. Sanders and his supporters deserve the opportunity for a last hurrah. Finally – and in my view, most importantly – if handled deftly, it will enable Messrs. Biden and Sanders to begin a healing and melding process between the Democrats’ moderate and progressive wings that is absolutely vital to defeating Mr. Trump in November.

The first Democratic Presidential Debates – which, as one will recall, featured 20 candidates over two nights — were conducted in a generally amicable manner, and did little more than express the consensus that Mr. Trump is a bad guy. Judging by the tenor of Mr. Biden’s speech on March 10, I suspect that he will attempt to maintain that tone on March 15. How will Mr. Sanders act? He has consistently declared his belief that it is imperative that Mr. Trump be defeated. He has steadfastly indicated that he would wholeheartedly support whomever the Democrats nominated. He has repeatedly referred to Mr. Biden as a friend and a good man. If he truly believes what he has said, and his advisors’ assessment of his chances of winning the nomination aligns with every assessment I have heard, for the good of America, it is time for Mr. Sanders to quell his criticism of Mr. Biden, and use the upcoming debate and the days following to soothe his supporters’ intense disappointment and focus them on the need to defeat Mr. Trump.

A close friend — a dedicated Sanders supporter — and I have engaged in a good-hearted back-and-forth in recent months that has echoed that taking place on the national stage. He strongly believes that Mr. Sanders’ prescriptions are necessary to address the degrading fortunes and despair being experienced by too many Americans. I have suggested that both political reality and our national financial constraints indicate that our people’s fortunes are more likely to be improved by modifications of traditional approaches than by trying to implement the drastic overhaul advocated by Mr. Sanders. Mostly what I have argued is: the country’s future literally depends upon defeating President Trump in the fall. If I thought Mr. Sanders was the best vessel to get that done, I’d be all for him despite my misgivings about his policy approaches. I don’t. It appears that the majority of Democrats don’t. It further appears that we’ll get to see whether we are right. I expect that all Democrats, moderate or progressive, recognize that their level of unity will be a pivotal factor against Mr. Trump.

Will some of Mr. Sanders’ ideas be implemented to some extent over the next generation? It seems more likely than not. If I was speaking with Mr. Sanders this week, I would remind him of an honorable and courageous American who espoused a political philosophy literally the polar opposite of Mr. Sanders’ own: the former Republican Presidential nominee and U.S. AZ Senator, Barry Goldwater. Mr. Goldwater – in no way a racist, but who adamantly advocated for states’ rights, Constitutional strict construction, lower taxes, and ardent opposition to the Soviet Union — lost the presidency in 1964 in a historic landslide. At the same time, his failed candidacy launched the political career of Ronald Reagan, who won the presidency 16 years later espousing, in the less-strident Reagan style, Mr. Goldwater’s positions. I would tell Mr. Sanders: you may not live to see it, but if your ideas have merit, America will ultimately adopt them. Right now, it’s time to beat Trump. It’s time to get behind Joe.

We’ll soon see whether – despite all current indications to the contrary — Mr. Sanders has it in him.

Coronavirus Information: Postscript

Following the posting of the note below on Coronavirus information, a close friend forwarded me the attached link to an interactive map of Coronavirus cases around the world. I understand that the map is generally no more than 12 hours behind the publicly available data. The user can obtain more detailed information on a given area by clicking on the corresponding red dot.
https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Admittedly Random Coronavirus Information

Since a number of those who read these pages are 60 or older, and those 60 and older have been consistently reported to be at greater risk of dangerous Coronavirus-related complications and death than the younger population, I sought to discover currently-indicated mortality rates for those over 60. The first citation below links to a piece indicating that the risk of dying for the more senior infected by the virus roughly doubles by decade: for those aged 60 – 69 it is 3.6%, for patients aged 70 to 79 years it is 8%, and for patients above 80 years of age it is 14.8%.

[NOTE:  The data related to the septuagenarians and octogenarians underlying the first link is apparently derived from a Chinese study based on 72,000 case records that I found cited on other sites (no links to those attached)]. [SECOND NOTE:  Since the information underlying the first link is dated in late February, I’ve searched for more recent data; the second link below is to a MarketWatch story updated as of this morning (March 9), which still appears to rely on the same Chinese study for mortality rates among those 70 and older.]  [THIRD NOTE:  It is seemingly arguable that the virus is accelerating much more quickly than the data.]

We have seen indications that the disease can be particularly dangerous for adults with “underlying health conditions.” I have seen two sites that indicated that about 60% of U.S. adults have at least one affliction that would be considered “an underlying health condition.”

Below are links to four sites addressing different aspects of the challenge. Although I obviously lack the knowledge or resources to verify their accuracy, I found them informative.

Age, Sex, Existing Conditions of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coronavirus-fatality-rates-vary-wildly-depending-on-age-gender-and-medical-history-some-patients-fare-much-worse-than-others-2020-02-26

How Does Coronavirus Kill?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okg7uq_HrhQ

A Reason Viruses Can Originate in China

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPpoJGYlW54

Kelly Gun Range Fundraiser the Day after Brewery Shooting

I mentioned last Friday that I wouldn’t be posting for a bit, but this piece was called to my attention and is worth abandoning my indication. Attached is a link to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reporting upon a campaign fundraiser run by Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly the day after five of our people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee. This is in a sense a useless post, since I’m fairly confident that no Wisconsin voter that supported former WI Gov. Scott Walker or his agenda reads these pages … but I don’t know how to reconcile in my head the level of wanton insensitivity Mr. Kelly is reported to have exhibited here.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2020/03/02/justice-dan-kelly-held-fundraiser-gun-range-day-after-molson-coors-shooting/4929200002/