By Robert A. Vella
Today, we’ll focus on two topical news stories: 1) how the dynamics of U.S. presidential elections, and perhaps even elections in general, have shifted from the importance of candidates’ popularity (measured as a favorability rating in opinion polls) to their unpopularity among voters; and 2) a very sobering statistical projection of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
Up until the 2016 election, the prospects of presidential candidates was typically assessed by their popularity (i.e. favorability) among the electorate. Although this measure didn’t always predict the eventual winner, it did so more often than not and did otherwise reveal how Americans felt about each candidate. But, that dynamic changed dramatically in 2016. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were highly unpopular (see: Poll: Clinton, Trump most unfavorable candidates ever). Their favorability ratings were so poor that the news media and political pundits began to characterize the polling results as an unfavorability rating. As Trump seeks reelection in 2020, that characterization still applies, but there is a huge difference in the political dynamic this year. Four years ago, there was no incumbent president running for reelection and neither Clinton nor Trump were facing a national referendum on their record. Now, that dynamic is squarely confronting Trump amidst his egregious failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, his incendiary reaction to the massive racial injustice protests, and widespread condemnation over his thoroughly corrupt behavior, his gross incompetence, and his obvious unfitness for office. Conversely, his opponent Joe Biden enjoys the enviable position of not needing to be very popular, he only needs to avoid being unpopular.
So far, roughly 5-7% of the U.S. population (about 16-23 million people) is estimated to have been exposed to COVID-19. Almost 2.25 million have tested positive (.68% of the population), and nearly 121,000 have died (a fatality rate of 5.38%). However, unless a viable vaccine and/or more effective drug treatments become widely available (which still remains uncertain), the contagion will continue spreading through the populace until herd immunity is reached at an exposure level of about 50-70% of the population (165 to 231 million people). If that level of exposure is indeed reached, the number of positive cases will surpass 16.5 million and the number of deaths could rise to or even exceed 888,000. For comparison, the total number of American deaths in World War II was approximately 420,000.
The following graphs show the worrisome disparity in new infections between the U.S. and Italy (which is representative of western Europe except for the U.K. and Sweden). In other words, the first wave peak has come and gone in Europe but has plateaued (and beginning to rise again) in the U.S.:
Here’s the news:
Trump takes the less-popular side of issues that Americans right now say matter, such as the coronavirus pandemic and police reform, according to an analysis of Reuters/Ipsos polling data since March.
It also shows him steadily bleeding support among a broad swath of voters, even ones that have been most loyal to him such as rural Americans and white evangelicals.
Biden now has a 13-point lead over Trump, the biggest recorded by the Reuters/Ipsos poll since Democrats began their state nominating contests earlier this year, powered by substantial gains among suburban residents, independents and high-income earners.
Even traditionally Republican-leaning groups – men, white suburban women and those older than 55 – have recently flipped for Biden, the polling analysis shows. Trump led elderly voters until May.
From FiveThirtyEight: Our New Polling Averages Show Biden Leads Trump By 9 Points Nationally
Today we launched our general election polling averages, nationally and for all states with a sufficient number of polls. Recent polls show former Vice President Joe Biden with a solid lead over President Trump nationally, and in most swing states. Biden currently leads Trump 50.5 percent to 41.3 percent in national polls, according to our average — a 9.2-point lead.1
Biden also leads Trump in swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona — although his lead in many swing states are not as wide as his margin in national polls, suggesting that the Electoral College could once again favor Trump in the event of a close election.
Overall — assuming that states that haven’t been polled go the same way as they did in 2016 — Biden leads in states worth 368 electoral votes, while Trump leads in states totalling 170 electoral votes.2
A senior State Department official who has served in the Trump administration since its first day is resigning over President Trump’s recent handling of racial tensions across the country — saying that the president’s actions “cut sharply against my core values and convictions.”
Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, submitted her resignation Thursday. Taylor’s five-paragraph resignation letter, obtained by The Washington Post, serves as an indictment of Trump’s stewardship at a time of national unrest from one of the administration’s highest-ranking African Americans and an aide who was viewed as loyal and effective in serving his presidency.
“Moments of upheaval can change you, shift the trajectory of your life, and mold your character. The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions,” Taylor wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.”
WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) – Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most prominent and respected policy officials, is resigning after three years in the job after President Donald Trump dropped plans to nominate her for an intelligence post, sources tell Reuters.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wheelbarger, who is highly regarded by national security experts in Trump’s Republican Party and among Democrats, had been named by the White House on Feb. 13 to a senior intelligence position at the Department of Defense.
But in a surprise move last week, the White House instead announced plans to nominate Bradley Hansell, a former special assistant to Trump, to the position of deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
Growing up in the South, Robert P. Jones attended Southern Baptist churches, Sunday schools, even a Southern Baptist college.
But it was only in seminary, in his mid-20s, that Jones says he learned the full truth about Southern Baptists’ white supremacist roots. The denomination was founded to defend slavery and did not formally rebuke its past until 1995, when Southern Baptists voted to apologize for their history of racism.
Jones was a social scientist before he realized how stubbornly racist ideas can persist in white churches.
“White Christian churches have not just been complacent; they have not only been complicit,” he writes in his book, “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” publishing next month.
“Rather, as the dominant cultural power in America, they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy and resist black equality,” he writes. “This project has framed the entire American story.”
In the book Jones, CEO and founder of Public Religion Research Institute, blends church history, memoir and contemporary public opinion surveys. Together, they make a clear and compelling case for why white American Christians need to reckon with their past.
The White House coronavirus task force has been out of public view as President Donald Trump has shown an urgency to move past the pandemic, downplay recent surges in Covid cases in some states, and get Americans back to work.
But the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been warning Americans about the risk of further spread of the virus.
Fauci said “anti-science bias” in the country can be problematic.
“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are — for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable — they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority,” Fauci said.
“It’s amazing sometimes the denial there is. It’s the same thing that gets people who are anti-vaxxers, who don’t want people to get vaccinated, even though the data clearly indicate the safety of vaccines,” Fauci added. “That’s really a problem.”
Trump has frequently disregarded expert advice — and often the guidance of his own administration — during the pandemic.
The Air Force inspector general is investigating the use of military aircraft to monitor protests across the United States this month in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“Following discussions with the secretary of defense about shared concerns, the secretary of the Air Force is conducting an investigation into the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the chief Air Force spokesman, told ABC News in a statement. “The investigation is being led by the Air Force inspector general. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.”