The Sunday Driver: June into July

Good Sunday Afternoon to you and yours. Before we commence to tooling around the neighborhood and the nation, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. As of this writing, the US has amassed nearly 2.6 million Covid-19 cases. Among these, 128,152 patients have perished, 43,581 new cases were confirmed, and 512 new deaths were reported.

Closer to home, Michigan has tallied 63,009 total cases, 5,907 total deaths, 314 new cases as of yesterday, and 19 more families mourning the loss of a loved one. Although our state has generally garnered high marks for its public health management, we are part of a disheartening national trend, as 32 states experience growing case numbers, and 12 states press pause on reopening. Notably, even the Yosemite Sam-style governors of Florida and Texas have re-closed their saloons; indeed, the Sunshine State’s record of nearly 10,000 new cases in a day gives new meaning to the nickname “God’s waiting room.”

Let’s change the subject, shall we?

Polling, Polling, Polling

No matter which presidential candidate one supports, recent national and battleground-state polling should pique the interest of any sports fan. The generally reliable data from the site 270 To Win currently has Joe Biden at 248 electoral votes to Trump’s 204, with the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida all listed as tossups.

Moving over to the Real Clear Politics numbers, the current RCP Average for the period between June 11 through June 24 has Joe Biden up by 9.4 points, at 49.5 versus Trump’s 40.1. Perhaps even bleaker for Trump is the news from red states Florida and Arizona, where six out of six and four out of four in-state polls show Biden leading, respectively. So whereas late 2019 and early 2020 saw Trump and company suggesting the expansion of the electoral map to places like Minnesota, New Hampshire and the like, the President is on defense in once-reliably red spots including Ohio.

This dire direction has caused the Wall Street Journal to opine “As of now Mr. Trump has no second-term agenda, or even a message beyond four more years of himself,” and none other than conservative doyenne Peggy Noonan to wryly observe this week “We had wondered if Mr. Trump can lead in a crisis. He cannot.”

Divide and be Conquered

In 2016 Donald Trump deployed the age-old political tactic of divide and conquer, pitting similarly situated middle and working class folks against each other based on culture war, race and economic cudgels. While this method has been around in one form or another since Cicero, and has helped the GOP hold the White House for 24 of the last 40 years (keeping the myth of trickle-down economics alive and well), Trump took it to a vulgar art form.

Raising the stakes beyond all imaginable bounds of decency, Trump crafted a technique I once dubbed “shambolism . . . a chaotic, scatter-gunning, spit-balling attack on convention, consistency, facts and logic. In shambolism, two entirely opposite ideas occupy the same space, truthfulness is rare, swift-boating reigns supreme and the process operates as sound cannon of illogic aimed at opponents, the press and voters alike.”

After nearly 41 full months of feckless fog, we still don’t have a wall that Mexico paid for, we don’t have “insurance for everybody” which is “much less expensive and much better” than Obamacare, and we don’t have a disarmed and docile North Korea, one without bristling nukes aimed at the US. We do however have 47 million jobless claims, the highest infection rate on earth, rightfully calamitous unrest, Russian bounties on American soldiers’ heads and a Covid body-count nearing that of two Koreas and a Vietnam.

And yet, despite those objective metrics, shambolism still commands its adherents and suckers; Trump’s overall approval rating stands stubbornly at 41 percent, which may explain in part why the European Union is poised to ban Americans from their continent. It is a mortifying state of affairs for the once-mighty Land of Liberty, but as LBJ once wryly observed, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Going to the Dogs

So as we make a lazy turn for our final leg of the drive, we have to ask each other, WTF? How does the most incompetent and dangerous political leader in US history still have an enormous, flabby leg to stand on? Back in mid-April, the same week that Michigan’s GOP staged its astro-turf production “Operation Gridlock,” Trump did in fact make a brilliant, if diabolical, calculation.

If you’ll recall, Trump began the week of April 13 stating his intention to declare the nation reopened, proclaiming “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total . . . the governors know that.” However, by that Thursday, ever-sneakier voices prevailed upon Trump to pronounce the Dodge-magnum-opus of all divide-and-conquer campaigns, as he stated “You’re going to call your own shots . . . we’re going to be standing alongside of you.” IE, Trump was Master-Blaster, calling for a cage match between Covid on one side and common sense on the other. Putting a finer point on pitting state against state, and brother against brother, Trump followed the call for a deadly national food fight with tweets of “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Since those most cynical pronouncements some 10 weeks ago, death and infection rates have tripled, lives, families, hopes and dreams have been crushed, and the division of masker versus anti-masker, Trumper versus lib-tard, and science versus the stupid has turned every neighborhood into a rhetorical if not actual war zone.

So, on a final note, as Independence Day swiftly approaches, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous with this piece of Kid-Rock-ian wisdom regarding our nation’s birthday: “Your Dog Isn’t Afraid of Fireworks, They Just Hate Freedom. Time For a New Dog.”

Thank you for joining us, and until the next time we go for a drive, take care of the dogs.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

What say you, the people?