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Posts published in “Day: October 30, 2020”

Atlas shrugged, Trump too


Having failed in his half-hearted effort to corral the coronavirus, Donald Trump has now pretty much given up and decided to let the virus run its course. The hope seems to be that he can keep his supporters convinced, at least until election day, that the country can be fully opened and the virus will miraculously go away. It won’t work that way, of course, but so long as the strategy gives him his best shot at re-election, who cares?

The plan is much like the so-called “herd immunity” concept employed by the socialist government in Sweden--fully open the country and let the virus do its thing. Responsible epidemiologists call it morally reprehensible because it could unnecessarily kill upwards of a couple million Americans. Experts say the Swedish Covid-19 response has been a disaster.

Trump has called Dr. Anthony Fauci a “disaster” and ignored his advice, while placing growing reliance on Dr. Scott Atlas, a person without epidemic expertise. Atlas has been instrumental in promoting the dangerous herd immunity concept. As daily infections increase at an alarming rate, Atlas merely shrugs and rails against protective measures like wearing masks, social distancing and increased testing and tracing to find and snuff out virus hotspots. Atlas is a cheerleader for unchecked virus spread, he has Trump’s ear, and hundreds of thousands of American lives are needlessly at risk as a result.

Trump continues to downplay the need for rigorous testing. He has refused to spend $9 billion appropriated by Congress to ramp up testing. A comprehensive testing program would reveal the true extent of coronavirus infections across the country, which Trump thinks would hurt his election prospects. He does not want to know and does not want voters to know.

Trump ignores the rapidly-climbing Covid-19 infection rate, claiming the end of the pandemic is just around the corner. Actually, the worst part of the pandemic is just getting started. The U.S. reported 85,085 Covid-19 cases on October 23, an all-time daily high, and daily infections will likely exceed 100,000 in short order. The U.S. is expected to suffer a half million Covid-19 deaths by the end of February, although 130,000 of those lives could be saved if all of us just wore masks.

Idaho is one of the states suffering a spike in cases. There were 1,139 new infections statewide on October 23. A University of Idaho model “estimates about one in 30 eastern Idahoans have Covid-19 and are actively spreading the virus.” Hospitals in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane are at capacity because of the coronavirus surge and hospitals are starting to fill up elsewhere in the state.

Most of the spread around the country is attributable to Donald Trump’s cavalier attitude toward the virus. Trump holds rallies with thousands of closely-packed, unmasked people, which is bound to result in heartache for many of his own supporters and their loved ones. If Trump would just ask that each of them wear a mask out of respect to him, it would go a long way toward giving them a measure of protection. Instead, his rallies have aided and abetted the virus--acting as super-spreader events--according to a USA TODAY analysis.

The experts repeatedly tell us that the main job of the government in a pandemic is to tell people the truth and act upon that truth. That is Trump’s greatest failing. A comprehensive Cornell University study of 38 million English-language pandemic articles found that our President was the “single largest driver” of coronavirus misinformation--about 38% of the overall “misinformation conversation.” The country will continue to suffer grievous injury as a result.

The vote spread


Nearly everything we’ve gotten, and had to endure, from this pandemic has been bad, and we will all be happy to be rid of it. But it has brought us a few good things, and we’re actually in one of them now.

In much of the country, this year is full of new rules and schedules related to when and how you vote. In some places, like Oregon and Washington, this whole business of “voting early” is nothing new. But in many others, like Idaho to some degree, there have been changes.

One key for how to consider the new form of voting - not entirely new in Idaho, of course, but much expanded in its reach - involves what’s often called “vote by mail.” But that’s a misnomer: Even when you get your ballot by mail, you don’t have to return it that way. A better way to think of the change from one-day polling-place voting (not that this has vanished from Idaho either) is to think of what we have now not as “early” voting but as “spread-out” voting. It’s not that all votes are cast a couple of weeks ahead of what we think of as deadline day - in this case, November 3. It’s that the voting takes across a period of weeks.

Two big advantages accrue to that: one in the bigger good government picture and, one that affords an asset to candidates and parties interested in taking advantage of it.

The first advantage is the relative quashing of late-breaking negative campaigning. I’ve seen it over the years, and if you’ve been around awhile, so have you: The news story or ad or mailer or flyer drop, or whatever, that contains some (hopefully) devastating attack against the opposition, delivered only two or three or four days before the day everybody votes, which would be on a Tuesday. That means weekends before election day (I’ve seen this notably in some church parking lots) can be sensitive times indeed … if everyone’s voting on Tuesday.

For a candidate, recovering from such an attack at that time can be hard: There’s often not time enough to get a rebuttal message out. People have time only to absorb the initial message and react reflexively, which often means emotionally and thoughtlessly. But such tactics can work.

Suppose, though, the voting is spread out over two or three weeks. There’s no one precise moment when dropping the bomb is going to help enormously.

Spread-out voting tends to make for more careful and reflective voting.

From a political organizer’s point of view, there’s a tactical advantage to spreading out the vote.

While the votes cast by a voter remain confidential throughout the process, the fact that a specific person voted becomes public information once the ballot reaches the county elections office. That means, ordinarily, that if a political organizer wants to determine who has voted, they can.

Why might this be important? Once a person has voted, you can scratch them off your to-do list: No longer any need to try to reach that person, by phone, mail or otherwise. They’re done. On the other hand, if you see that someone hasn’t voted, this is a person you still want to get after if you think they’re one of yours. If you’re a day or two out from election day and this batch of voters hasn’t been accounted for, you can go after them.

In theory that same principle can apply on election day, but there instead of days to learn who has and hasn’t voted and to act on that information, you have hours and minutes. You can go after those people, in theory, but there’s hardly any time to make a dent.

Don’t be surprised if spread-out voting catches on in a big way even after this Covid-19 year is done. A lot of people stand to benefit.

A note from last week: A reader pointed out that the totals I listed for party membership in the Idaho Legislature were out of date. They were. The current numbers are: the state Senate, 28 Republicans and seven Democrats, and in the House, 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats.