As POLITICO’s unofficial correspondent, I regret to say that not everything is great anymore. As you may have noticed, almost everything sucks.
The US budget deficit tripled this year to $ 3.3 trillion, by far the highest ever. The US economy contracted at an annual rate of 31.7 percent in the second quarter, by far the worst ever. The trade deficit is at its highest level in 12 years. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in six years. Unemployment claims, which had never exceeded 700,000 in the week before March, have exceeded 700,000 every week since March. Farm bankruptcies are on the rise, despite government payments to farmers at an all-time high. Murders rise in American cities after decades of decline, while a string of police killings of unarmed Black Americans has sparked fearful protests and riots. The west coast is on fire, and 2020 could turn out to be the hottest year in history. America’s reputation abroad is that It was the worst since then the Pew Research Center has been conducting international surveys.
In similar news, a virus that has already killed 200,000 Americans is still spreading across much of the country, despite being largely under control in most of the world. Now, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months before an election that has already sparked some frightening tension has sparked a potential constitutional crisis, while President Donald Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful change of power if he does so loses the election to Joe Biden.
Voters are already starting to vote, and the president is already announcing that the election will be fraught with fraud, which is not great.
On the other hand … let’s see … Hamilton is streaming on Disney Plus?
In 2014, I wrote a New Year essay titled “Everything Is Awesome,” after Republicans won a landslide in the midterm elections by proclaiming everything was terrible, the economy collapsed, and an Ebola pandemic near death stood us all. In fact, the economy grew at an impressive rate, Ebola killed two Americans in total, and statistically almost everything got better, which is why I stole the title The Lego films Theme song to highlight the huge gap between rhetoric and reality. I wrote new versions of the essay every year, my stupid way of adding some vacation joy to a gloomy political culture. Politics changed dramatically over the next few years. Donald Trump described America as a dystopian hell landscape as a candidate and then as the most spectacular economy of all time as president, but the statistical trend hardly changed.
The January 2019 edition was a little less optimistic and contained a warning that “this may be the definitive edition of this holiday tradition”. The economy was still pretty fabulous – the highest consumer confidence in two decades, the lowest unemployment in five decades – but it just felt like America was “creeping towards non-awesomeness”, as if “things were at a breaking point will achieve “. The headline read, “Yes, 2019 is the year you were worried about.”
Sue me, I’ve been gone for a year.
The main point of the Awesome tradition has never been politics. It was about gratitude, our inability to count our blessings. It was a data-driven version of the Louis C.K. Riff that “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” It was important to document the objective improvements in our national wellbeing given our national tendency to talk about spotty airplane WiFi rather than appreciating the wonder of flight. Most Americans are now looking at the state of the union through a partisan lens, as if economic growth under a president you don’t like isn’t really growth. But statistics and wellbeing should be apolitical.
Unfortunately things are no longer amazing – even Louis C.K. has been canceled – and the election is imminent. It’s hard to avoid the political ramifications of our national nightmare. After Trump made a blooming America sound like it was on the verge of death in 2016, it is now making a bleeding America sound the way it is have only one flesh wound He argues that Covid-19 is under control if it is still killing 1,000 Americans every day, that the economy is an incredible comeback story if it shed 11.5 million jobs this year – and pretty perverse, that what however chaos could break out on his watch only shows the dangers of Joe Biden’s America.
When presidents run for re-election, the key question is usually whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago. In 1984, 1996, and 2012 the responses under Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Obama were clear yes votes. In 1980 America said the hell no to Jimmy Carter; In 1992 and 2004 there were closer discussions with George H.W. Bush loses, but George W. Bush wins. The 2020 electoral landscape looks much more straightforward and much more frightening.
Presidents inevitably take too much credit for the good things that happen while in the White House, and their critics inevitably blame them too much for the bad things. But since this series has always been focused on the stuff itself, not the twist – and since Trump came to power as one of those pointing critics – it seems like a moment to take stock of where we have been and where we are last time now that the stuff hit the fan.
Let’s start with the good things because there are.
For example, the strength of the stock market reflects real investor confidence in the US economy, or at least in the large companies that make up major stock exchanges. It doesn’t necessarily reflect trust in the US president, even if he brags about it all the time. The Dow nearly tripled under President Barack Obama, while it rose less than 50 percent under Trump. But the positive trendline has continued into the Trump era, despite wild volatility reminiscent of the man himself and although the current bull market reflects the hyperaggressive interventions by the Federal Reserve to lend credit to corporate giants during the pandemic, is that a good thing, too. The Fed has done a great job propping up the economy, despite frequent complaints from Trump that it was not backed aggressively enough, and at a time when confidence in so many elite institutions is bleeding, it’s a relief to that smart money still trusts the Fed.
One difficulty in judging good things that have happened in the past four years is that Trump has a tendency to exaggerate his kindness to ridiculous levels while devising an alternate reality about how terrible things were before. But good stuff is still good. For example, the New NAFTA trade deal that Trump negotiated with Mexico and Canada looks very similar to the old NAFTA, which Trump routinely called the worst trade deal in history. But it contained some modest concessions from Mexico on labor issues and Canada on milk issues – as well as Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, which sank Trump, but still – and it prevented the catastrophic trade war that Trump had promised to do if it didn’t . The new U.S.-Korea trade deal also resembles Obama’s U.S.-Korea trade deal, which Trump blamed for hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, but it could help American automakers gain slightly better access to the Korean market and key stakeholders that seem to result to be okay compared to a descent into protectionism.
Similarly, Trump has hyped recent news that the Gulf states of UAE and Bahrain are entering full diplomatic relations with Israel as big steps towards peace in the Middle East, when they are quite small steps – and after Trump was taped Having bragged about Bob on Woodward for keeping the Gulf state of Saudi Arabia out of control after the murder of a Washington Post journalist, it is understandable that some critics are skeptical of US motivations. But small steps are still steps. And speaking of small steps, while Trump doesn’t talk much about criminal justice reform these days – he talks about unleashing the criminal justice system against protesters against police brutality and other political opponents – the bipartisan law was about the first step he took in The law has incorporated A real first step away from mass imprisonment.
The dark clouds overhead tend to overshadow the silver lining these days, but that doesn’t mean the good news silver lining genre is fake news. For example, the climate emergency is real and is constantly driving new fires and storms, as well as temperature records, but the clean energy revolution that can help alleviate the emergency is also real. Three-quarters of the world’s new generation of electricity last year was renewable, and the US shut down 60 percent of its coal-fired power plants in a decade. Despite Trump’s aggressive efforts to kick-start coal mining, it has disappeared even faster on his watch than on Obama’s. And the oil industry has written off $ 90 billion in assets this year – partly because of the unfortunate decline in short-term coronavirus-related demand, and partly because it has a greener long-term future ahead.
It’s even possible to see a few benefits in the coronavirus disaster if you blink. Now that the world has learned to zoom, there will likely be a lot less unnecessary business travel and a lot more part-time teleworking. It could also be the end of school cancellations on school days, which is great news for parents, if not students. And as cheesy as it sounds, the glitches and locks of the past six months have helped clear what is important in life and what is not, and has helped many of us appreciate common things we have in the past for could have taken for granted.
Including the United States of America. Even in these less than great times, many of us still owe a lot. Inflation remains low. The dollar has not suffered despite our government printing unprecedented amounts of dollars. Supermarkets are in stock and you can have almost anything you want delivered tomorrow with a single click. This may not be a great moment for public health or safety, our climate or our democracy, but we are not Venezuela or Belarus or Somalia or Bangladesh.
That is, let’s face it, a low bar for the nation that should be the beacon of the world. Enough with gratitude. Let’s get to suction.
“Great job numbers!” Trump tweeted after the U.S. economy created 1.4 million jobs in August. Unemployment had fallen to 8.4 percent, below the double-digit range for the first time since April. “Wow, much better than expected!” declared the President.
Yes, the Portland Trail Blazers did better than expected against the Los Angeles Lakers, but they still lost four out of five games. Corporations have reinstated some of the workers they laid off this spring, but overall, the U.S. economy still lost more jobs in 2020 than it did during the entire Great Recession. There are more Americans receiving grocery stamps than before Trump took office, despite the fact that his administration has made it difficult to qualify and pantries have still faced unprecedented demand. International travel to the US could be cut by more than half this year while Americans aren’t even allowed to travel to most other countries.
That’s not great, and the numbers would look even worse if Congress hadn’t used the national credit card to provide $ 4 trillion in economic relief this spring. Congress could improve the numbers by giving even more boost to the economy, and the Democratic House passed a $ 3 trillion bill in May to bail out financially troubled states and families, but the Republican Senate has nothing yet adopted. Gridlock rules Washington, which isn’t great either. State and local governments are bleeding cash. As the President likes to say: Sorry!
Trump and his supervisors keep suggesting that the pandemic-triggered recession shouldn’t really count towards his economic record, as it made a stagnant economy the largest economy in American history before COVID-19 temporarily disrupted all victories. In fact, the economy was growing at a decent rate, adding 200,000 jobs a month before he became president. During the first three years of its presidency, it continued to grow, adding jobs at a similar pace. The manufacturing sector, which he promised to revive, actually fell into recession In front The pandemic – and the number of Americans without health insurance, which had declined by 20 million in the Obama years, had increased by more than 2 million under Trump. Still, it’s true that unemployment, which had dropped to 4.7 percent by the end of Obama’s second term, continued to drop to 3.5 percent under Trump until the virus wreaked havoc.
In any case, the virus counts absolutely. The countries that did what they had to do to control it – like New Zealand and Taiwan and Germany and even Canada next door – have now scaled their daily deaths down to single digits and their economies more or less back. The US didn’t do it, so we don’t. We haven’t launched a massive public health campaign with on-demand testing, intense contract tracking, mandatory quarantines, and universal mask wear. It is significant that the National Basketball Association did all of these things in its Orlando bubble and none of its employees got the virus during the playoffs, but the rest of the country did not follow its lead, causing our daily deaths to quadruple digits . Trump believes that has nothing to do with him, but the leaders of the nations that defeated the virus did not downplay it as ordinary flu that would miraculously go away, or indoor rallies for exposed fans or pressure on state ones and local officials open schools and shops or cheer protesters who shouted coronavirus mandates are tyranny. And these leaders had plans.
The economic numbers are obviously better today than they were in April after the virus evaporated 20 million jobs. However, if you’re halfway out of a hole, you’re still in a hole. And when we get out – assuming we do contain the virus at some point – we’ll face some disturbing statistical hangovers. It is fair to borrow and spend during a downturn, but it is still worrying that for the first time since World War II, government debt will be larger than the economy next year. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to be insolvent in 2022, the Medicare Trust Fund may be in 2023, and the Social Security Retirement Fund by 2031This could lead to calls for austerity measures that could hurt the recovery. The Fed’s aggressive monetary stimulus has been appropriate in tough times, but its balance sheet has surged over $ 6 trillion. increased by 700 percent since 2007with no plan to wind it up.
For now, however, the virus is still the overriding economic problem as the recovery will take as long as it upsets the engine. Of course, it’s also a health problem with more than 7 million Americans already infected and a problem with child development, especially for low-income children who depend on school lunches and struggle to log into online classes.
In other sub-optimal news, 2020 is already the worst wildfire season in California history, burning more than 3.4 million acres in the state. Same goes for Oregon, which had the worst air quality in the world last week. Some westerners are now required to wear masks indoors as well. Meanwhile, last week the beleaguered National Hurricane Center tracked five Atlantic cyclones simultaneously for the first time in half a century. It had to grapple with so many named storms this year that there were no more letters in the alphabet to name them and it has started using the Greek alphabet. This is the new abnormality on a warmer planet where we keep getting words like “Firenado” and “Derecho”To our weather vocabulary. Trump insists the world is getting cooler soon – “Watch out. I don’t think science actually knows ”- but after any serious prognosis it is wrong. Carbon emissions will go down this year due to the pandemic, but that just means the earth is warming a little more slowly – and all of these forest fires are not only blasting forest carbon into the atmosphere now, but also reducing the capacity of forests to store carbon in the future .
As if things weren’t good enough in 2020, the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed African American people sparked mass protests and counter-protests that escalated America’s political culture wars into indelible moments of chaos from protesters in Kenosha by a white teenager from a suburb to tear gassing protesters in Washington so Trump could pose in front of a destroyed church during the unrest and looting in Chicago. All of the mess has certainly raised awareness of the routine injustices that people with color suffer in America, and many companies have pledged to do better on diversity, but it’s still a mess.
Our political culture is a mess too, and Ginsburg’s death makes it even more chaotic. Republicans who refused to consider Obama’s candidate for court because it was eight months late in an election have made it clear that two months before an election is not too late to stamp Trump’s candidates for being the Have power to do so. Democrats warn that if they seize power they could grab the court, abolish the filibuster, add new states, and otherwise rewrite the rules of Washington. It is an all-out political war in which both sides view the other as an existential threat to the nation. The rhetoric sounds a lot like an actual war, with Trump speaking openly about using the courts to end the vote count and using force to end any protests.
Not good! # 2020worstyear is a meme for a reason. For the same reason, Trump’s only consistent campaign message is that Biden would make things worse. He sometimes advocates making America great again, but even after telling 20,000+ lies, he rarely tries to pretend that things are great right now. Instead, he retweeted deceptively edited and fake videos of Biden looking clueless and dancing to gangsta rap while falsely claiming that Biden is a pedophile who disappoint the police, destroy the suburbs, remove borders, and confiscate your weapons Quadruple your taxes.
It is worrying that the President The former national security advisor described him as dangerously unfit and perhaps more worrying that the Justice Department is currently investigating this advisor. Of course, John Bolton isn’t the only Trump advisor to become a Trump critic and nasty tweet target for Trump. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former fixer Michael Cohen also wrote books, while former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who reportedly watched Trump refer to soldiers as fools, supported Bolton’s claim that Trump was pressuring Ukraine into an investigation to be announced by Biden. Most recently, former Homeland Security adviser Miles Taylor accused Trump of granting preventive pardons to border officials for committing crimes, withholding disaster relief to blue states and turning his homeland security division into an arm of his re-election campaign. Trump publicly destroyed them all as if they were intruders who infiltrated his administration.
This is not normal to reiterate the most revised phrase of the Trump era.
The normalization of the banana republic-style anomaly was the main reason the final year-end essay was so grim. The economy was fine, but it seemed ominous that the president would attack his own FBI, Justice Department, and intelligence agencies for failing to destroy his enemies. to reject investigating Russia’s interference in elections as “witch hunts” and to reject cooperating witnesses as rats; Labeling prominent African Americans as stupid and scapegoat immigrants as potential terrorists; and so brazenly illuminating the country that the Washington Post fact-checkers invented the “Bottomless Pinocchio” to categorize its most outrageous lies. It also seemed ominous that Congressional Republicans had no problem with it, or with revelations that his for-profit university and nonprofit foundation were fraud, or with his administration’s routine defiance of congressional subpoenas. Meanwhile, Trump’s relatively normal advisors, the “adults in the room” like Mattis and Kelly, were leaving en masse.
Trump’s willingness to break norms was a big part of his pull in 2016. He appeared to be an antidote to “politics as usual”. He told the establishment to go to hell. His base loved it because he dealt with the people they hated. But some of the norms he constantly violates have helped make America great in the first place – not just norms of honesty, courtesy, and propriety, but norms of service as well.
Presidents have always at least pretended to be trying to serve all Americans, but Trump is openly the president of Red America, who attacks democratic cities and states as anarchic hellholes controlled by the people’s treacherous enemies for disaster relief withholding and threatening to send troops During the protests, deaths from coronaviruses of the blue state were recently dismissed as if they had occurred in another country. No president has ever been so open about rescuing his political allies from legal trouble or so open about his belief that his government should torment his enemies. He has pardoned and intervened supporters such as right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza, right-wing insurgent Ammon Bundy and racist sheriff Joe Arpaio to keep his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and political guru Roger Stone out of prison. And even after he was charged with opening an investigation into Biden in Ukraine, he called for a further investigation into Biden in China, his allies established one of the Biden families in Congress and his Justice Department one of the Obama administration’s security nationals Team. When foreign leaders behaved like this in the past, the US State Department issued stern reprimands.
That brings us back to this 2020 electoral landscape. Trump is trailing badly on the polls, but he hasn’t done the basic things one would expect from a beleaguered incumbent eager for re-election. He hasn’t forced Republicans to give him more impetus to revive the dying economy, though voters tend to punish presidents for recessions that happen on their guard. He hasn’t moved heaven and earth to contain the virus – by running tests or tracking, or asking Americans to wear masks, or at least not contradicting his public health bureaucracy in public – though it is evident in his political Interest is to have that. The pandemic is subsiding. And he has made little effort to reach voters beyond his sizeable but less than majority base of white MAGA voters. He’s still trying to kill Obamacare in court, he still publicly complains about John McCain, and he didn’t even attend Rep. John Lewis’ funeral.
One possible explanation for this behavior recently discovered by the New Yorker’S Susan Glasser, Vox Ezra Klein, and the Atlantic’S Derek Thompson is that the American public is so irrevocably divided by party politics that it doesn’t make much sense to convince voters of anything. The impeachment and pandemic didn’t change Trump’s poor, but not terrible, approval ratings, and as Thompson pointed out, the implosion of the economy didn’t even change the public’s view of the economy. In a shirt-and-skins nation where Trump can always count on a friendly echo chamber on Fox News and conservative radio and QAnon Facebook groups, it may be more politically effective to deny awkward realities that are seldom based on hears as getting the job done to try to improve it.
The notion that the country is so polarized that nothing matters anymore is not happy, but less scary than the possibility that Trump is not trying to appeal to a wider range of voters because he has an alternative strategy for staying in the whites House. Aside from his message that Biden is a weak dementia patient who can barely speak and his secondary message that Biden is a terrifying leftist who will tear America to pieces, Trump’s main theme in the election is that it is safely rigged that it is impossible for him to lose, if not rigged, the ballots will be riddled with fraud and his supporters should vote twice … just to test the integrity of the electoral process. At the same time, a senior Homeland Security official alleged that Trump’s aides ordered him to stop seeking information about Russia’s interference in the elections and to prepare reports to support a narrative of China’s interference. The Trump dispenser, who heads the U.S. Postal Service, chose to lead this unprecedented pandemic election to “reforms” that include removing mailboxes and sorting machines that could make voting easier by mail. Some of Trump’s media allies, including the irrepressible stone, are generally calling on Trump to declare martial law, and the president has spoken a great deal about violence and strength.
It’s not a great situation. Even before Ginsburg’s death opened up the possibility that a right-wing court could block progressive legislation for a generation and turn back the regulatory state, the Democrats called Trump’s re-election the death of American democracy, while the Republicans portrayed the Democrats as forces that were scary enough to justify any violation of norms in the service, to keep them out of power. Long-time Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, whose new book It was all a lie destroys the GOP as a kind of mafia organization believing this is the most dangerous moment for American democracy since the civil war; Er befürchtet, dass Trump Bundesagenten schicken wird, um Wahlurnen in demokratischen Städten zu beschlagnahmen, und er glaubt nicht, dass ihn jemand aufhalten wird.
Es ist sicherlich richtig, dass die republikanische Strategie für 2020 weniger als erwartet auf die Gewinnung neuer Wähler und mehr als auf die Unterdrückung demokratischer Stimmen, die Unterstützung von Kanye West bei der Abwanderung demokratischer Stimmen und das Durcheinander mit den Mechanismen der Abstimmung zu beruhen scheint. Meine geliebte Hitze bot ihre Arena in der Innenstadt von Miami als geräumigen städtischen Wahlort an. Mein republikanischer Bürgermeister, der als Trump-Verbündeter für den Kongress kandidiert, sagte nein. Die University of Georgia, die ihr Fußballstadion für Fußball öffnet, weigerte sich, ihr Stadion zur Abstimmung zu öffnen.
Unabhängig davon, ob die schlimmsten Befürchtungen hinsichtlich der Integrität der Wahlen bestehen oder nicht, ist es sehr wahrscheinlich, dass die Zeit nach den Wahlen hässlich wird. Egal wer gewinnt, viele Amerikaner akzeptieren die Ergebnisse nicht und viele amerikanische Städte haben möglicherweise Momente vom Typ Kenosha. Dies war ein bitter gespaltenes Land, selbst im Jahr 2014, als die erste Awesome-Kolumne lief, aber es fühlt sich eher wie zwei verärgerte Länder an, die in zwei völlig unterschiedlichen Realitäten leben. Es wird sehr schwer zu regieren sein. Währenddessen ist China auf dem Vormarsch, unsere Verbündeten fühlen sich verlassen und Amerikas völliges Versagen, Covid zu kontrollieren, hat unsere globale Aura von Kompetenz und Fachwissen ausgelöscht. Egal wer gewinnt, es wird genauso schwierig sein, die amerikanische Führung in der Welt wiederherzustellen.
Trump stieg an die Macht, indem er vor nicht existierendem „amerikanischem Gemetzel“ warnte, aber jetzt haben wir echtes amerikanisches Gemetzel. Eine dauerhafte Lektion der Geschichte, die im Moment nicht besonders tröstlich ist, ist, dass es immer schlimmer werden kann. Eine bleibende Lehre aus der amerikanischen Geschichte, die Lehre aus dem Kauf in Louisiana und der Emanzipationserklärung sowie aus Bretton Woods und dem Frauenwahlrecht, dem Polioimpfstoff, der Bürgerrechtsbewegung und dem iPhone, ist jedoch, dass es auch besser werden kann. Amerika hat die Macht, sich selbst zu korrigieren und eine großartigere Union zu bilden.
Natürlich gab es in diesem Land nie wirklich eine Zeit, in der everything war großartig; Das war immer eine glatte Art zu sagen, dass für das Jahrzehnt nach der Qual der Großen Rezession die meisten Dinge für die meisten Amerikaner besser wurden und dass besser besser ist als schlechter. Aber diese Ära der Verbesserung ist jetzt vorbei, ebenso wie das Everything Is Awesome-Franchise. Hoffentlich wird Amerika eines Tages wieder großartig.