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Opinion: Donald Trump could still win the US election


The convention’s host, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and other members of the Illinois delegation stood up and shouted insults at the senator from Connecticut. It was an electrifying moment, a rare case of the reality of the streets intruding on the packaged rhetoric of a political convention.

No such unscripted moment was allowed at this week’s carefully orchestrated Republican National Convention, despite the tumult occurring outside: the protests after the shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, culminating in the arrest of a 17-year-old charged with killing two protesters; the fierce hurricane slamming into coastal Louisiana; the wildfires consuming homes and forests in California; and the continuing march of a pandemic that has left more than 180,000 Americans dead.

Covid-19 is under control, Trump asserted, and America is reopening. As if to punctuate that message, he assembled 2,000 people on the White House’s South Lawn with few precautions to prevent it from becoming a super spreader event.

David Gergen called the political use of the historic grounds owned by all Americans “an abomination” and urged: “never again should a sitting president be able to commandeer one of the most sacred sites of our democracy and turn it into a political prop.”

It also presented a dangerous image to viewers, he wrote. “At a time when public health experts are trying to persuade Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing, they saw hundreds upon hundreds without masks and jostling close together.”

The convention’s narrative was jarring, wrote Frida Ghitis: “As America’s 2020 dystopia barreled ahead, the Republican National Convention offered its version of alternative facts, a bubble containing a phony reality where President Donald Trump is a champion of women’s equality, a protector of health care benefits, a defender of pre-existing conditions coverage, and a man of immeasurable compassion.”
Twelve Black speakers were featured on the main stage in support of Trump, noted John Avlon. “Contrast that stat with the number of African Americans who are senior level White House staffers. That would be one — Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to the President…What about Black Trump cabinet secretaries? That would be one as well: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.” Trump was lauded at the RNC for backing the careers of women too, but here also his record isn’t strong — it significantly lags presidents such as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Avlon wrote.

‘Quite a show’

In reality show fashion, Trump disrupted the tradition of political conventions by bestowing a presidential pardon, meeting with freed American hostages and staging a naturalization ceremony for prime-time viewers. These segments were designed to depict Trump as a man of empathy, wrote Jamie Poniewozik in The New York Times. “They also smear Vaseline on the lens of his policy positions,” he noted. “His administration has been boldly putting restrictions on legal, not just illegal, immigration — but just look at these five lucky winners!” Which raises the question: “After four years of belligerence, insults and Twitter rages, can you suddenly remake him as Oprah?
Maybe, wrote Jill Filipovic: “It was quite a show. The Republican Party seems to understand that liberal ideas — racial justice, women’s rights, health care access, diversity, welcoming immigrants — are actually pretty popular in the United States. But in practice they are also often antagonistic to these same ideals… they want to give the appearance of embracing them without actually having to live them.”

It just may work

Americans have seen Donald Trump up close as President for nearly four years and as a reality show star for a lot longer. Their view of him seems unlikely to change in the 70 days before the election. But branding — and rebranding — is what he does.

He particularly needed to after recordings of his sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, speaking damningly about her brother, surfaced a week ago, on the eve of the convention. Dean Obeidallah summed them up: “When a sibling says in confidence that her brother is cruel, lies, and is misleading his base with his phoniness, people should take notice.”

Nonetheless, the RNC featured a parade of people vouching for Trump’s magnificence. It “painted a picture of an administration that had completely eradicated myriad scourges, including Covid-19, ISIS, the Middle East conflict, unemployment, the opioid crisis, criminal over-sentencing, sexism, racism and a swamp that needed draining — and Trump alone deserves all the credit,” wrote SE Cupp. None of it was true, she noted, “nor does it tell the story of Trump’s corruption, incompetence, nepotism, cronyism, abuses of power and lawlessness.”

But many people don’t follow politics closely, and if they’re just tuning in, “they also would have heard speakers paying lip service to issues they care about…bad trade deals, disappearing manufacturing jobs, overregulation, endless wars, violence,” Cupp wrote. “And fear is a powerful motivator — sometimes more than the truth.”
Julian Zelizer pointed out that “much of the country has been worn down by the impact of the pandemic, and many voters may want a leader who can either assuage their fears that the virus still looms or who can divert their attention to other issues altogether.”
Republican strategist Doug Heye agreed: “Anyone who looks at the polls and says he can’t win despite being down a large margin, would be making a foolish mistake… we are divided into nearly equal tribes, with a small advantage to the Democrats, and as we see increasing violence win our streets, Trump knows that he, as President, is given a longer leash and benefit of the doubt if he quells the fiery images. His campaign is keenly aware that many of the voters most likely to respond to Trump’s message on this are the suburban voters he needs.”
To Keith Boykin, Trump’s acceptance speech “may have been the most overtly racist convention speech since Pat Buchanan’s infamous culture war speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention.” Boykin wrote, “Trump amplified the decibel level of what had once been quiet dog whistles into a loud and aggressive bullhorn, warning fearful white Americans that radical left socialists, anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners are coming to get you.”

For more on the campaign:

Search for a vaccine

In his acceptance speech at the RNC, President Trump promised to “produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.” And the Financial Times reported that the administration may bypass normal procedures to fast track the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, noted infectious disease expert Dr. Kent Sepkowitz.

“This tough-guy approach of pushing aside regulations to introduce an incompletely studied vaccine is an enormous mistake,” Sepkowitz wrote. “The Oxford vaccine, while promising, is still in the early stages of clinical development.” Possible side effects need more investigation, and we don’t yet know how the vaccine would affect the most vulnerable parts of the population, he said.

The stakes are huge: “Given the already vaccine-skittish nature of some in the US (including Trump himself not so long ago) a few stories of possible toxicity could sink the entire program, leaving us both unvaccinated and more vaccine-averse for the next promising product that comes along,” Sepkowitz warned.


On Sunday, a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. The tense days that followed didn’t surprise Denise Lockwood, who has covered the southeastern part of the state for more than 20 years. The city — and region — “has struggled with issues of systemic racism… mass incarceration, high infant mortality, lack of mental health care access, unequal education, unemployment and drugs.”

“When I covered Wilson Heights, where the shooting of Jacob Blake happened, I remember reporting on a gang-related shooting where an apartment building got shot up, and a bullet went through a wall, through the leg of a mother and into her daughter’s leg,” Lockwood wrote.

“They survived. But how do you live with that? Who pays for that untreated trauma?

The next 100 years

Wednesday was “Women’s Equality Day” and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s certification. A century after women gained the vote, many prominent voices answered Marianne Schnall’s question about what needs to be achieved by 2120.

“We must recognize gender violence as the national crisis that it is and use the franchise to ensure both our political and personal equality,” wrote Anita Hill.

Melinda Gates had sobering words about what happens if progress continues at its slow pace: “it will take another 208 years to reach gender equality in the United States. That means you won’t see it, I won’t see it and even a little girl born a century from today won’t see it in her lifetime either.”

One thing is for sure: “money equals power,” Billie Jean King said. “Women have not been taught to follow the money. We need to fix that and fix it now…With money comes choices and mobilization. With money comes freedom and equality.”

For more:

Swanee Hunt and A’shanti F. Gholar: In the next 100 years, women may dominate US politics

Big Friendship

Authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Since 2014, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman have hosted the popular “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast, and now they’ve published a book drawn from their own lives: “Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.” Jane Carr spoke with the authors. “The core truth their book reveals is how none of this comes easy — to them or to anyone else,” she wrote.

A popular view is that friendship “should be effortless” and that “the grit and striving of emotional relationships is most applicable to the work of marriage, siblings and child-rearing,” Carr wrote. But the authors have a more realistic approach: “Key to sustaining big friendships…is the ‘stretch,’ Sow and Friedman’s extended metaphor for the ways that both members of a ‘big friendship’ have to recognize that no friendship lasts on autopilot.”

Don’t miss


New York City, dead or alive?

Broadway theaters are closed. Many Manhattan skyscrapers are mostly empty. Restaurants and small businesses can’t pay the rent. So, it’s no surprise that a piece on LinkedIn by James Altucher titled, “NYC is dead forever. Here’s why,” drew a lot of interest.
Jerry Seinfeld pushed back in an article for The New York Times. He disputed the idea that “New York is over because everybody will ‘remote everything.’ Guess what: Everyone hates to do this. Everyone. Hates… Energy, attitude and personality cannot be ‘remoted’ through even the best fiber optic lines. That’s the whole reason many of us moved to New York in the first place.”

We asked economist Jeffrey Sachs, a New Yorker, who’s right.

“NYC will survive the Covid-19 pandemic, as it did the 1918-19 flu epidemic, 9/11, and other calamities,” Sachs wrote. “And as Seinfeld rightly notes, so too will other great cities such as Rome, which after all first became known as the Eternal City (Roma Aeterna) in the 1st century BC.”

It may take several years, but Covid-19 will subside. The world is becoming increasingly urbanized, as farms have grown more productive and need fewer workers. People prefer cities: “The services are far better, the entertainment is far more varied (Seinfeld and all), and the violent crime rates in US cities have plummeted, though with a spike this year,” Sachs wrote.

That doesn’t mean things will be easy for New York over the next few years, he added. The number of empty storefronts “will be staggering, indeed depressing.” To keep public services running, New York will have to turn to its super-wealthy — there were 111 billionaires living there last year.

But a drop in the cost of living will lure young people back. “Rents will go down, property prices will go down, commercial space will be converted. NYC is the place where meatpacking plants became high-end art galleries, garment factories became chic hotels, and a former railway spur became the much-beloved High Line outdoor walkway, residential and shopping area.”

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