By Robert A. Vella
After last night’s explosive assault on the nerves of people and pets alike in my locale, which masqueraded as Independence Day celebrations, I’ll try to compose myself enough to bring you this weekend’s Sunday topics. On the menu is the Grim Reaper disguised as the coronavirus pandemic, Vladimir Putin’s fraudulent portrayal of himself as a democratically elected leader, Donald Trump’s alienation of everyone on planet Earth except white supremacists, and some police reform/racial injustice news.
Regarding the Trump story, I’d like to provide further insight into what he is doing. Political analysts posit that Trump is playing exclusively to his fanatical base because they think he believes it is a winning election strategy as they think he believes it was in 2016. However, Trump’s campaign rhetoric four years ago was primarily populist and certainly not overtly racist as it is now. Since media pundits tend to avoid addressing this glaring discrepancy, I will offer my own perspective based on years of interactions with Americans who express or harbor white supremacist sentiment.
Such individuals adhere to the notion that, in the event of a race war, whites will rally around racial allegiance and cultural identity while subordinating their ideological and political differences. That is why violent white supremacist groups are so determined to start a race war. But, it is a fallacious belief. Throughout U.S. history, overt racism has always been vigorously opposed by the majority of the populace even though many tacitly accept it as a natural human condition (see: Discussion of the Day: White Silence = White Consent). What Trump is doing now goes far beyond simple pandering because he is defiantly rejecting countering advice from his own campaign officials. It indicates that Trump’s behavior has nothing to do with any rational strategy, but is instead a manifestation of his internalization of that racist notion. In other words, Trump actually believes what he is hearing from his rabid supporters. This shouldn’t be at all surprising. How many times over the last four years have we heard Trump say he “believes” what Putin and other dictators have told him despite clear evidence to the contrary? It is a consistent psychological pattern. Trump’s mind may be closed to his perceived enemies, but it is wide open to those he sees as friends.
The Grim Reaper
Worldwide, cases rose by 212,326 in 24 hours, the data showed, breaking the previous record of 190,566 set on June 28.
As July Fourth celebrations got into full swing, in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 57,718 daily new cases and 661 deaths on Saturday, taking the total to 2,789,678 cases and 129,305 deaths.
With 11,458 new cases of the virus reported Saturday, Florida shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus cases. It neared New York’s highest daily tally of 11,571 set in April, according to NBC Miami and the New York State Department of Health.
(Reuters) – Florida and Texas, two states that have emerged as the latest hot spots of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, both reported record daily increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday – with nearly 20,000 additional infections combined.
For a sixth straight day, Texas also registered an all-time high in the number of people hospitalized with the highly contagious respiratory illness – 7,890 patients after 238 new admissions over the past 24 hours.
By comparison, New York state – the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak months ago, reported just 844 hospitalizations on Saturday, far below the nearly 19,000 hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients at the peak of its coronavirus crisis.
Data scientists and independent election observers have claimed statistical analysis suggests there was massive falsification of votes in a referendum this week that overwhelming approved constitutional changes to grant Russian President Vladimir Putin the right to extend his rule until 2036.
The week-long referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that “reset” Putin’s term limits concluded in Russia on Wednesday with a result hailed by the Kremlin as a “triumph.” The official tally showed 77.92% of voters backing the amendments and 21.27% against, with a turnout of 65%.
But independent election observers and opposition figures have said the size of the result actually was the product of unprecedented fraud made possible because the vote was deliberately held without the legal safeguards typically applied to voting in Russia.
Roman Udot, who’s monitored Russian elections for two decades and runs Golos, a nongovernmental organization that collects reports of possible ballot fraud, told ABC News a day after voting ended: “The falsification that was found yesterday, it was the national record since the fall of the Soviet Union.”
The Kremlin bullied and bribed Russians to the ballot box again on Wednesday, the latest episode of what long ago became a painful mockery of democracy. Democracy means choices, and there has been no real choice in Russia for many years. All roads, all votes, lead to Vladimir Putin.
The plebiscite was on changing the Russian constitution to, among other things, allow Putin to stay in power until 2036. Of course, “allow” is a silly word to use when Putin was always going to rule the Kremlin until he’s carried out, no matter what any piece of paper says. Even this formality was a foregone conclusion; the new constitution was available for purchase on newsstands and bookstores for days ahead of the vote. Early analysis from statistician Sergey Shpilkin shows an estimated 22 million fake votes out of a reported 74 million cast.
It’s fair to ask, why bother with the pretense of democracy? Dictatorships are obsessed with the superficial trappings of legitimacy and democracy, both as distraction and to sully the meaning of these terms. And after decades of liquidating the opposition and crushing all dissent, a despot might even enjoy thinking that he’s as popular as the worthless polls, elections and state media say he is.
These sham votes aren’t only to provide Putin with cover in Russia, where civil society barely exists, but to give foreign leaders the pretext of treating Putin like an equal instead of confronting him like the autocrat he is. It also allows foreign media to continue calling him “president,” putting him on par with the leaders of free countries. As with every tyrant before him, Putin thrives partly due to the cowardice of those who could deter him but choose not to.
Related story: Democracy books disappear from Hong Kong libraries
For more than 70 years, the transatlantic alliance has served as the unshakable foundation of European stability and underpinned the values of the US-led Western order. In 2020, it appears that relationship is being rethought on both sides of the Atlantic.
Earlier this week, the European Union declined to include US in its list of “safe countries,” meaning that American travelers will be unwelcome inside the bloc for the foreseeable future, due to the eyewatering US coronavirus infection numbers. Controversially, the list includes China — the country where the virus originated — on the condition of reciprocal arrangements.
One of the ways Brussels thinks it can distance itself from DC is by engaging with China as a strategic and economic partner, decreasing its reliance on one of the world’s superpowers by balancing its relationship with the other.
In the past few years, Brussels has stuck to its guns on big, international matters as Trump tore everything up. Think of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Nuclear deal, 5G, and you start to see a pattern of behavior in which the EU could be perceived to have sided with China over its oldest ally. Sure, it might be a ungenerous read of the situation, given the deep, established bond between Europe and the US, but in this context, any perceived friendliness to Beijing punches a very real bruise.
This Fourth of July, amid the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, American patriotism has fallen to its lowest point in nearly 20 years. According to a new poll, less than half of Americans are “extremely proud” to be American.
According to Gallup, pride in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been since the analytics company first measured it in 2001. The survey shows 70% of U.S. adults are proud to be Americans in the new poll, but just 45% said they are extremely proud.
While most people still say they are proud to be Americans, this marks the second straight year that the number of extremely proud Americans fell below the majority level. Results held relatively steady for years — between 81% and 92% — before sharply falling in 2017 to 75% during President Trump’s first year in office.
Poll of the week: A new Monmouth University poll finds former Vice President Joe Biden with a 53% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump.
The average live interview poll conducted over the last month has Biden ahead by a similar 11-point margin.
What’s the point: Usually, this is the point where someone like myself says we have four months to go until the election and polls are a snapshot in time. Both of those statements are true, but they obscure an important fact.
Polls taken around Independence Day in an election year are actually pretty highly correlated with the November results in incumbent contests. That means Trump is in a lot of trouble.
Just like in 2016, a faction of the Republican party has emerged to try to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election.
But unlike the last presidential race, where the effort never truly took off, this time those rebel Republicans have formed better organized groups – and some are even openly backing Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.