The conventions are finally over, and it has come time to make the most boring and annoying political observation: They are unlikely to have an affect on the race. Sorry. I know you liked the fireworks.
Nate Silver argues that we should take a “wait and see” approach to both the conventions and the big news this week:
“There’s just not a lot of data that can help us understand how Americans are responding to what’s happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but as Perry Bacon Jr. wrote on Thursday, one thing we do know is that declining support for the Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t translated to a decline in support for Biden just yet.”
I think his latter point is important. There has been a lot of punditry suggesting that the unrest in places like Portland and Kenosha will help Trump. It’s worth noting that earlier this summer, videos of rioters and looters running around the streets of Manhattan were on the TV screens of most Americans and Biden’s support has remained stable. In some polls, he has a lead on handling crime over Trump. What we have, right now, is an incredibly boring race where Biden is roughly 8-9 points ahead and the favorite to win. Given that TV ratings were down for the conventions this year (and that the DNC did better than the RNC anyway), it is hard to see them having any substantive effect, even if the RNC was heavily focused on the “law and order” aspect of Trump’s campaign.
Speaking of boredom, how bad was Trump’s speech? When you think back to how “entertaining” he can be in press conferences, the speech was actually shockingly boring. By the end, he really seemed to be struggling to get through it. Contrast it with Biden’s speech, which speech was less than half as long, but seemed more energetic and the speaker more practiced. It felt very much like Trump was reading his speech for the first time at the lectern and that he wasn’t at all interested in what he was actually reading. Even his weird comments and asides seemed strained. Very “low energy.”
Susan B. Glasser has a “should-read” on Trump’s speech, which takes the right tone on all of his lies (also over at The New Yorker, Andrew Marantz calls it “manic denialism,” which is fun). As I was watching, I poured one out for the fact-checkers; what do you do with a claim like, “I have been the best President since Abraham Lincoln for black Americans?” I admit that I have sort of grown numb to the outlandishness of Trump’s lies. They don’t really shock me anymore, but what does shock me is the ability of his supporters to believe them. I see people say, pretty regularly, that Trump is a hardworking man fighting corruption “for the people.” With that, I want to suggest an actual “must-read” for the week:
The long and short of it: Trump has made somewhere around $900,000 off of American taxpayers as he has opted to stay at his own properties whenever he travels. A fun little bonus to this: The White House said it was compiling a dossier on one of the reporters - David Farenthold - because of his reporting on Trump (which is mostly focused on his finances). Farenthold won a Pulitzer a couple years ago for his stories on how Trump was using the Presidency to enrich himself and his family.
I think corruption is at the heart of any democracy’s decay, much more so than any pundit realizes. There is a long-standing assumption that the public does not care about corruption, so the media doesn’t report on it, so it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The public actually hates corruption, because whenever they see a politician getting a light sentence for something like insider trading or fraud, they think back to the time their local government hounded them over an unpaid parking ticket that was sent to their previous address. Some of the crimes by politicians become “too big to fail,” so to speak, but the government always seems to have time to harass you about an improvement to your sidewalk. When the public becomes cynical about accountability for those in public office, they eventually become disengaged from the political process due to their nihilism.
If “normal” people become disengaged (read: nonpartisans, like you and me 😉), then only the hardcore supporters are left and they will excuse any wrongdoing committed by their preferred candidate, even if it is benefitting financially from public office or dodging accountability for earlier decisions in the COVID outbreak.
It should not be hard for you to say that both Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump are corrupt and should be held accountable.
A final should-read: Andrew Sullivan’s substack, in which he addresses what he thinks is Biden’s vulnerability. He also links to other important pieces, such as the New York Times’ video analysis of the events in Kenosha.
I think it’s too early to tell if Sullivan is right about Biden, and some of the punditry surrounding this is from older white guys who remember 1968 too well (or have read too much about it). To put it simply: The country is a different place right now. A good example: A majority of Americans support the NBA’s protests following Jacob Blake’s murder. You read that right: Americans actually told pollsters that they support suspending sports to recognize state violence against a black man. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto, in 1968, 1998, or even 2008.
Lastly, Lawfare is doing a reading diary of the SSCI report that is an excellent follow. And for all my New York beautiful babies, there is a great piece on the Storm King sculpture park in the Hudson Valley.
The pic this week is from our balcony, where you can usually get some view of downtown, but it is currently obscured by haze due to the wildfires and also the dark clouds of a much-need thunderstorm. The rainbow peaking out from all of it seems like an apt metaphor right now.
Get that paper and flex on your haters.