Trump dominates the news, and Democrats are losing

200,000 deaths from Covid-19

Tweet from Brian Klaas

Thursday update
New covid-19 deaths, yesterday:

Spain: 239
Italy: 12
Japan: 10
Canada: 5
UK: 20
Germany: 4

United States: 1,151

Population of countries above: 420 million
Population of United States: 328 million

(Spain is now really bad, but the US is still quite an outlier).



Trump dominates the news, and Democrats are losing

Democrats are losing.

One indication that they are losing is that the daily news cycle is being determined, and won, by Donald Trump.

News programs are focused on Trump’s latest outrage, and responses to it, not on discussions about the major themes Democrats could campaign on to win voters.

For example, while the coronavirus is a major theme for the Democrats, media attention has moved on from the story of how Trump told a BIG LIE to the American people, revealing to Bob Woodward on February 7 that he understood the threat from the coronavirus, while later telling the American people it was under control and would soon go away.

Today, the media are focused on the Congressional testimony of Robert Redford, Director of the CDC, that masks are critically important to control the spread of the virus, on the one hand, and Trump lying by saying Redford told him he must have misunderstood the question at the Congressional hearing, on the other.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in the background, almost nowhere to be seen.

Lazy journalists, who love how easy it is to engage in “he said-he said” journalism, don’t go to the trouble of looking up the studies, in many countries and the WHO, that demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt and based on hard data (facts) that masks are effective. Studies show that masks would save tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. if used by most of the population.

Journalists should write up those analyses, cite them in every story about Trump and masks, and then move on to the other significant issues and themes in the campaign.

These include:

1. Health care;

2. Covid-19 crisis management, and 200,000 to 400,000 deaths by January, 2021;

3. Economic support for working families and unemployed during the pandemic;

4. Russian influence over Donald Trump and his administration;

5. Science and climate change;

6. Abuse of power, and obstruction of justice; and

7. Decency and family values.


“Biden’s mistakes with Latinos may cost him the election,” The Trenchant Observer, September 14, 2020.

These are the issues on which the Democrats can make a winning case. To the extent Trump can divert attention from prominent discussion of them in the media, he is winning the daily news cycles, and the campaign. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris should be hammering on these issues in the media. But they aren’t, at least not in a way that brings them the attention they deserve.

Biden seems to have been lulled to sleep by his advantage in the polls.

Even in the polls, however, Trump appears to be within striking distance of victory in key electoral college states.

Moreover, he is the incumbent President, who retains vast powers to affect the race in the last days of the campaign.  He is is using those powers to do so today, e.g., by rushing some kind of approval for a vaccine before November 3, and telling BIG LIES about the timing of a vaccine and its availability.

Further, he can use right-wing militia to start violence in the cities, and then send in his “little green men”, the National Guard, or even federal troops (invoking the Insurrection Act) to put it down.

He can initiate a military incident with Iran or China (e.g., in the South China Sea), or even start a war.

Critically, he can also benefit from Russian intelligence services interfering in the elections and in news distribution.  They were probably responsible for blocking the Minnesota and Minneapolis computer systems during the critical week when the George Floyd riots broke out.  During and after election day, the Russians could hack major news sites like the Washington Post and the New York Times, and many other news sites, creating mass confusion regarding what is going on.  Today, I and others were blocked from accessing the Washington Post news site, in what could have been a rehearsal for the kind of information warfare referred to above.

Democrats are thinking in terms of winning at the polls. They need to be thinking more broadly, in terms of defending the Constitution and our democracy against the onslaughts that surely are to come, as Trump resorts to any and every action that might enable him and the Trump Republican Party to cling to power.  Regardless of whatever the real results at the polls might be.

Against this background, Biden appears to be conducting a low-energy campaign, one which contrasts unfavorably with the high-energy campaign of Trump who appears to be brimming with self-confidence, even as he tells huge lies every day.

For starters, Biden needs to find a way to get off an airplane without looking like a frail old man as he walks down the stairs. Maybe he should just surround himself with a lot of people, or find a way to walk off on a jetway.  Given his age, he needs to be careful.  A fall could tank his campaign. He just needs to be careful not to show he is being careful.  How about setting up a little news conference away from the plane?

When Biden and Harris could be hammering Trump on healthcare and Trump’s case in federal court to declare Obamacare unconstitutional–and throw out protections for pre-existing conditions–the media are focused on Trump-generated controversies about the wearing of masks.

While the pro-Russian candidate of the Republican Party threatens to subordinate American interests even further to Vladimir Putin, the Democrats have failed to find a powerful argument against such subordination that connects with voters on a deep emotional level.

If the Democrats are to win in November, they need to wake up, and start winning the daily news cycle.

Ads in swing states won’t make up the difference. Once you’ve been “Swift-boated”, it’s hard to catch up. Ask John Kerry.

Hokey ideas like having a “town hall” on CNN tonight (September 17) with people in their cars might seem clever to certain Biden strategists, but they lend themselves to ridicule and are not likely to change any votes.

Biden already has the votes of those who are worried about Covid-19. He could perhaps persuade more people. But health care more generally is the issue he should be stressing now. That’s where the big pay-off is to be found.

He needs to address several other issues as well, such as those listed above, and engage more energetically in the campaign.

Obviously, the debates are going to be huge. But aside from making sure he is prepared for the debates, and well-rested for each, Biden should leave no ounce of energy unspent.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.