The 2020 Race Is Almost Over, but When Will the Nightmare End?
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure are looking forward to the end of the election –– and hopefully, of Trump’s presidency. But they’re divided between cautious optimism and outright anxiety.
With just days left in the 2020 race, and if the polls are to be believed, Biden has a commanding lead.
Despite his lack of a platform or any convincing argument about why he should be reelected, Trump is still a threat –– especially because he has stacked the courts in his favor.
As a third wave of COVID-19 spreads across the country, the Trump administration claims it has “conquered” the virus. Is Trumpism a cult? And is the country primed to escape its clutches?
By the time democracy-ish drops next week, we’ll have a new president, God willing.
“Or at least the election will be mostly complete,” says Toure.
“I think you're being super optimistic, but something will have transpired,” Danielle says.
More than 80 million Americans have already cast their votes ahead of the November 3 deadline, and with just days left, our long national nightmare could be over quite soon.
“For about nine months, Biden has held the largest lead of any presidential contender since Ronald Reagan landslided Walter Mondale,” Toure notes. “The numbers have been extraordinarily consistent across many major, stable, respected polls.”
One of the truisms of electoral presidential politics is that the incumbent president’s approval rating is reflected in the vote count. Trump’s approval numbers have rarely risen above the mid-forties, and aggregate prediction models suggest that’s what the popular vote will look like, too. As of October 29, FiveThirtyEight predicts a 53.3 to 45.4 race in favor of Biden (a 347–191 Electoral College victory).
“We are headed for a shellacking,” Toure says.
Danielle is skeptical. “I don't want people to get attached to these numbers, which really don't mean anything. We are dealing with the most criminal enterprise we’ve ever faced.”
Episode Highlights –– We Have Hope
Worst-case scenario: ‘fraud’ in a Biden blowout
Danielle’s wariness about poll numbers is warranted –– after all, Trump has repeatedly told us the election was rigged before it even began, and he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
That’s why, she says, if Joe Biden pulls off a blowout, Trump and his cronies will claim: We've never had this many people vote in an election; something must be wrong.
If it’s too close, they’ll say it needs to be kicked to the courts.
“If we were dealing with a party that believes in the Constitution and the rule of law, I’d say by the time that we air next week, we will know definitively who the president is,” she says.
But that’s not the world we live in.
“Do not underestimate these people. They are the absolute worst and will do the most.”
Right-wing swamp things and fever dreams
Toure agrees that the threat is real. “The Republican party's silence-slash-glee at the attempt to steal the election, while they steal a Supreme Court seat, just shows how craven, power-mad, and outside traditional democratic norms they are.”
It’s possible to cheat in a close election, but it's hard to cheat in a landslide, he adds.
But if it comes down to litigation, “it becomes a bit ridiculous when a lawyer has to try to make a coherent argument, absent of evidence, of a conspiracy that does not live for a millisecond outside of a Republican wet dream, fever dream, fever swamp, whatever you want to call it.”
The (evil) queen’s gambit
Toure hopes the Democratic party emerges from this election “stronger and tougher” –– but he doesn’t want it to engage in the same kinds of dirty politics Republicans have perfected over generations.
He uses an analogy: We're playing chess, and the right-wing is like, we’re going to move every piece like the queen. Dems say, no, let's play actual chess. We’re going to move this pawn one step forward. Republicans respond with: well, we just captured all your pawns.
“We're not playing the same game,” Toure says. “I want to see us play the game with more spine, just so that we can get to a sense of justice.”
Danielle thinks that, in order to effect real change, we'll have to play whatever game Republicans are playing.
“I don't understand this desire to think we’re somehow morally superior,” she says.
“We are morally superior,” says Toure.
Flipping out for democracy
The chess metaphors go on. Danielle wants Democrats to “flip the fucking board up … if we don’t say, either we're playing by the set of rules or we're not playing, we'll always be at a stalemate.”
Toure doesn't want anyone to flip the board: “Part of what it means to be a Democrat is to believe that government can solve big problems, that it can be a force for good in this country. In a lot of ways, the modern Republican ethos is that government is the problem.
Republicans want us to flip the board –– “it would prove their thesis and throw the government into chaos.”
But he admits they do it all the time, most notably through senatorial obstruction.
Toure hopes Joe Biden's reticence on the subject of expanding the Supreme Court –– “we don't use the word packing,” he notes –– means that he will, in fact, push for it as president.
“I don't need us to take the high road,” he adds. “I need us to do things that will change the structure of government so we get actual justice.”
Dems’ endgame: prevent ‘Trump 2.0’
Toure doesn’t think court expansion or statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C. (which would change the Senate and Electoral College) are board-flipping moves.
“I think they’re intelligent ways of reshaping the country that are constitutional, legal and reasonable. The majority of the country lives in cities, which puts Democrats at a disadvantage in the Senate. That disadvantage should be changed.”
“But Toure, that is flipping the board,” says Danielle. “Because it would mean the Democrats decide to actually do something different. That they’re not interested in collaborating with people who’ve shown us they don't believe in the rule of law.”
Democrats always “wait for some type of bullshit consensus,” she adds. “I don't want consensus. If they have power, I want them to ram all of the things through that we need to ensure that a Trump 2.0 never happens; that one man can't obstruct our entire democracy because he’s leader of the Senate.”
McConnell: sabotage over stimulus
Reforming the Senate itself would be nearly impossible, says Toure. It’s meant to be “the saucer that cools everything” –– by design, one senator can hold up legislation. But of course, McConnell and his Republican majority routinely abuse that power.
Why did they rush through Amy COVID Barrett’s confirmation, but adjourn until after the election without passing a stimulus bill?
“Because they think that Trump is going to lose, and a stimulus bill will help the beginning of the Biden presidency,” he adds. “They're already thinking, we’d rather sabotage the Biden administration than help millions of people who are struggling with Coronavirus.”
It’s a “disgusting” political calculus, he says, “and I don't think Democrats would do the same thing. The notion that both parties do the same shit is generally false.”
Republicans in power save mode
Republicans don’t seem to have any long-term legislative goals, says Toure.
“They're still fighting Roe v. Wade, but there's nothing forward-looking.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are highly invested in creating a modern, universal healthcare system. They’ve been thinking about it at the executive and congressional levels for years.
Danielle thinks the Republicans are after just one thing: concentrated power.
“These are craven human beings. They are political animals. They want to steal from the American people unabated. They’ve set up a system that is so incredibly rigged for the 1%, for their betterment. The Mitch McConnells, Matt Gaetzes and Trumps of the world only come into office … to secure what they think should be theirs.”
They don't want a majority of citizens to vote “because they don't think the American people are smart enough to choose their elected officials,” she adds. “Otherwise, they wouldn't try so hard to steal our votes all the time.”
‘Keep America Great’ doesn’t track in 2020
In 2016, Trump had a thesis, abhorrent as it was: Stop immigration, clean up Washington, restore the power of the white man.
“That's what ‘build the wall,’ ‘lock her up,’ ‘drain the swamp’ and ‘MAGA’ all add up to,” says Toure.
But in 2020, the campaign hasn’t come up with any meaningful new slogans that explain what Trump wants to do now.
“‘MAGA’ and ‘Keep America Great’ are absurd in the current climate,” he adds.
Danielle finds Trump’s lack of a slogan, a plan or even a platform as fundamentally disrespectful to the American people.
“We are in some of the most incredible crises–– the economy, climate change, racial justice. Every single one, and they don't even care enough to pretend to have a plan written down on paper. Not even five bullet points.”
She’s not sure what Biden's slogan is, “but at this stage, I don't know if it matters,” she says. “The slogan should be get rid of him.”
Trump: The Sequel –– SAD!!!
Now that Trump cannot run as an “outsider,” he doesn’t have a message.
“This is a rudderless campaign, and it's stark in that, as much as we hate Trump, his run in 2016 was one of the most effective presidential campaigns of all time –– in the way that he communicated with his people, got them out to vote, excited and energized them,” says Toure.
Danielle doesn’t think that campaign was so brilliant. “Trump was lucky to run against the most divisive person in America, Hillary Clinton … who a lot of Democrats didn't like. And her campaign thought [a win] was a sure thing.”
In any case, Trump 2020 has no substance –– like a Hollywood sequel without the energy the first movie had. On top of it, the campaign is nearly broke, Toure notes.
“Biden is outspending him four- or five-to-one in these final days. That is absurd. It should not happen to a president, especially someone like him, who needed it in an era of coronavirus, when you really couldn't and shouldn't be doing lots of rallies like he did last time. But he didn't raise enough money and his people squandered it. Now he’s struggling to get on the air.”
(Cult) leader of the free world
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign website crows: We conquered the coronavirus.
“This is their ‘mission accomplished’ moment,” says Danielle. “I'm afraid to think of what would have happened if he didn't get it. The ‘reality’ they’ve conjured around themselves is so insane. We are literally at historic numbers in the third wave.”
“It's going to be a terrible winter,” says Toure. “But Google is your friend, people. When Trump says we're turning the corner, without evidence, just Google it and see.”
When you tell your followers not to listen to the media –– and that you’re the only one they can trust –– “that sounds to me like a cult leader,” he adds. “If NXIVM is a cult, this [Trumpism] is a cult. It's quite frightening the way that people follow him.”
‘Get Out’ 2: Trump evicted from the White House
As he looks back on the last presidential election night, Toure notes that “the key hour is 9 o'clock. At seven, she was doing good. At eight, she was solid. But around 9 o'clock, I was like, hmm…”
It was then that the energy in the Javits Center began to fade. He was texting with pundit Krystal Ball, who was there. By 9:45, she said: The energy here is ghastly. I'm dying.
If we can make it to 10 p.m. with the states we want and need to come through, “we'll be good,” he adds. “I think it's going to be a good night. I'll be on the edge of my motherfucking seat like I’m watching a Jordan Peele movie, but I think it's going to be fun.”
Danielle isn’t so sure, but “your optimism is contagious,” she tells Toure. “It's something, I hope. I'll just keep all fingers and toes and eyes crossed you’re not wrong. But America, everyone, prepare yourselves.”
Toure signs off with gusto: “I mean this more than at any time we’ve ever done this show: We will be back next week. If Biden wins, there'll still be a country. If Trump is trying to steal it, I can't even call it. Is it still America? I don't know.”
“No, it won't be,” says Danielle. “It'll be Trumpistan.”
Put on your mask, VOTE –– and pray about it.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!