Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weekend Roundup

The Democrats had their virtual convention last week. I didn't watch any of it live. For that matter, neither did my wife, who's got a much thicker skin for these things -- probably developed from hate-watching Fox News, although in fairness she mostly does that to watch them squirm on particularly embarrassing news days. I did watch Stephen Colbert's nightly post-convention monologues, so I got a taste of the virtual spectacle -- mostly selected for joke potential. I've also read (or at least skimmed) the pieces, both on the convention and on the Biden campaign, linked below:

  • Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Aaron Ross Coleman/Dylan Matthews/Nicole Narea/Ella Nilsen/Anna North/Andrew Prokop/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Emily VanDerWerff/Li Zhou]:

  • Zack Beauchamp: Andrew Yang said the smartest thing about Biden at the DNC: "The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable."

  • Fabiola Cineas: What it will take to fight the sexist, racist attacks against Kamala Harris. Interview with Niambi Carter, author of American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship.

  • Constance Grady: How politicians showed off their books at the Democratic National Convention. Something I'm always curious about, but Cory Booker didn't help himself by showcasing a David Brooks book.

  • Sue Katz: Rating the Democratic National Convention: Highlights & bummers: A friend's blog report.

  • Ezra Klein:

    • Joe Biden likes you. On his acceptance speech. The speech itself is here. Klein does some of his Why We're Polarized stuff, but his main point is this:

      The core of Joe Biden's politics is his talent at fulfilling the simplest of political and emotional needs: Joe Biden likes you. That was the message of this convention, and it's the message that has always been at the core of his politics. Joe Biden likes you if you're a Democrat or a Republican. He likes you even if you don't like him, because it's his job to like you, no matter how you vote.

      "While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president," Biden said. "I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will for those who did. That's the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party."

      If this sounds trite, consider the contrast it offers to the reality we live in, and the politics President Trump models.

      I must say I don't find that very reassuring. I get the contrast to Trump, and I believe that the most basic lesson of life is how necessary it is to respect other people (even ones very different from yourself). Still, putting likability above commitment runs the risk of losing the principles and allegiances that will get him elected in the first place, and make him ineffective. Obama didn't just want to make bipartisan deals. He was willing to make bad ones, just to look good to people who didn't care. Biden may want to be liked by everyone, but he won't be -- indeed, the depths of irrational invective and hatred Republicans direct at him during the campaign should make that point inescapable.

    • American carnage: "In 2017, Trump promised to end 'this American carnage.' Four years later, carnage defines his presidency."

  • Mike Konczal: Can Joe Biden unrig the economy? "Raising taxes on the rich would help stop the economy from simply channeling income to 1 percent."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: What everyone should learn from Michelle Obama.

  • German Lopez:

      Obama's Democratic convention speech gave a clear warning: Democracy is at stake in 2020: As he's done so often in his career, Obama grasps at the most anodyne, least objectionable position in a crisis. It is true that Republicans have no respect for democracy, and if given the chance will do anything they can to tilt elections in their direction. Still, it does little good to defend democracy in the abstract when you don't use of it to do popular things, or even practice the Preamble to the US Constitution (establish justice, promote the general welfare, etc.). When Democrats gained control of Congress and the Presidency in the 2008 elections, they did nothing whatsoever to fight back against the gross distortions of money in politics. They didn't even get rid of the anti-democratic filibuster in the structurally un-democratic US Senate. Don't get me wrong: it's good that Obama values democracy now. It's just a shame that he didn't make better use of it when he had the chance.

    • The Democratic convention highlighted gun violence. Here's what Biden plans to do about it. Gun control isn't an unpopular issue, but is is a polarizing one, so much so that I doubt it works as a political issue, so I don't see any value in the Democrats bringing it up.

  • Dylan Matthews: This is the future Joe Biden wants. Introduction to a series called A Biden Presidency: "The Democratic nominee's policy vision, explained." Other links in this series:

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Nicole Narea: A Covid-19 victim's daughter delivered a moving account of her father's death -- and a searing critique of Trump. This may be the sound bite of the convention: "My dad was a healthy 65 year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life."

  • Ella Nilsen:

  • Anna North:

  • Cameron Peters: Bernie Sanders just made the progressive case for Joe Biden.

  • David Remnick: Obama, Harris, and an unconventional convention.

  • Aja Romano:

  • Aaron Rupar: Fox News thinks Joe Biden's DNC speech was "a home run": "Trump won't be happy with Fox News's rave reviews of Biden's speech."

  • David E Sanger: Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for Biden: "In a letter released hours before Joe Biden delivered his nomination acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials called President Trump 'unfit to lead' and outlined their support for his opponent." Every vote counts, but some endorsements create associations you'd rather not have. These, in particular, remind us that Biden has faithfully supported decades of national security blunders and disasters. One note is that the names most closely associated with Trump, while sometimes being highly critical of him (e.g., John Bolton), are still unwilling to break party ranks and commit to Biden.

  • Dylan Scott: Biden's 2020 message rests on Trump's fundamental Covid-19 failure. Cites a major piece by Ed Yong: How the pandemic defeated America: "A virus has brought the world's most powerful country to its knees." Scott quoted this much:

    A month before his inauguration, I wrote that "the question isn't whether [Trump will] face a deadly outbreak during his presidency, but when." Based on his actions as a media personality during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and as a candidate in the 2016 election, I suggested that he would fail at diplomacy, close borders, tweet rashly, spread conspiracy theories, ignore experts, and exhibit reckless self-confidence. And so he did.

    No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about whether the U.S. had the pandemic under control; that a racist who gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to have a "natural ability" at medicine and display it by wondering out loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack of testing, "I don't take any responsibility at all."

    When I scanned the article, I missed those but picked out a few additional paragraphs, which struck me as germane, albeit less pointed at Trump:

    How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet's most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom. . . .

    The U.S. has little excuse for its inattention. In recent decades, epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, Zika, and monkeypox showed the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak. Health experts, business leaders, and even middle schoolers ran simulated exercises to game out the spread of new diseases. In 2018, I wrote an article for The Atlantic arguing that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic, and sounded warnings about the fragility of the nation's health-care system and the slow process of creating a vaccine. But the COVID-19 debacle has also touched -- and implicated -- nearly every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture, and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism. . . .

    Despite its epochal effects, COVID-19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar. . . .

    Compared with the average wealthy nation, America spends nearly twice as much of its national wealth on health care, about a quarter of which is wasted on inefficient care, unnecessary treatments, and administrative chicanery. The U.S. gets little bang for its exorbitant buck. It has the lowest life-expectancy rate of comparable countries, the highest rates of chronic disease, and the fewest doctors per person. This profit-driven system has scant incentive to invest in spare beds, stockpiled supplies, peacetime drills, and layered contingency plans -- the essence of pandemic preparedness. America's hospitals have been pruned and stretched by market forces to run close to full capacity, with little ability to adapt in a crisis. . . .

    The federal government could have mitigated those problems by buying supplies at economies of scale and distributing them according to need. Instead, in March, Trump told America's governors to "try getting it yourselves." As usual, health care was a matter of capitalism and connections. In New York, rich hospitals bought their way out of their protective-equipment shortfall, while neighbors in poorer, more diverse parts of the city rationed their supplies. . . .

    At times, Americans have seemed to collectively surrender to COVID-19. The White House's coronavirus task force wound down. Trump resumed holding rallies, and called for less testing, so that official numbers would be rosier. The country behaved like a horror-movie character who believes the danger is over, even though the monster is still at large.

    Yong has another piece out: Long-haulers are redefining COVID-19.

  • Walter Shapiro:

  • Alex Shephard:

    • Joe Biden has found his big idea: "It's not just about defeating Donald Trump, but providing an off-ramp from this all-consuming political moment." Still hard to get much of a grip on all this vacuousness. It doesn't especially bother me if Biden doesn't come up with plans or anything forward thinking until after the election, but the idea that everything will be just fine if only we don't have Trump driving us crazy almost daily seems a little myopic. While acting deliberately may be too much to ask of a politician these days, shit happens, and that means the president will have to react -- often, intelligently, with care and maybe even cunning.

    • A night of magical thinking at the Democratic convention: "Democrats are already in love with their future, in spite of the face that Joe Biden has glossed over how he will get them there."

  • Doreen St Félix: Michelle Obama's unmatched call to action at the Democratic National Convention.

  • Emily Stewart: Ordinary Americans stole the show at this year's Democratic convention.

  • Emily VanDerWerff:

  • Kara Voght/Rebecca Leber: Biden's pitch to voters: What America needs now is empathy: After Trump, a little empathy seems like a good idea. Still, remind me of the old George Burns quote: "The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Biden's been trading in empathy his whole career, all the while voting for special interests. What we really need is someone to show us that government is on the people's side, doing things that help everyone in tangible ways. Republicans deny that this is even possible, which gives them an excuse for being so awful at it. Democrats, including Biden, have often gone along, touting deregulation and "market solutions" and austerity. But the thing is, in a world as complex and interconnected as ours has become, you need institutions committed to the public interest, and you really need them to work. Empathy may give you motivation to do that, but there are other motivations available, like survival.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou:

On to the Republican Convention next week. For a preview, see Riley Beggin: The Repubican National Convention: Who's speaking and how to watch. Also not one but two hurricanes, one on Monday to open the RNC, a second (bigger) one for its climax: Hurricane warnings issued as Gulf Coast prepares for March and Laura. Neither are likely to come close to the RNC in Charlotte. Here's some early anticipation of the RNC:

Some scattered links on other subjects this week:

Kate Aronoff: Ban yachts: "They're floating castles of crime, polluting our air and water." By the way, there's a striking passage in Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal, pointing out that during the era of relative equality in the 1950s/1960s (what he calls, in a phrase that surely will not stand the test of time, "the great compression") when private yachts were virtually unheard of -- in stark contrast both to the "roaring '20s" and now.

Riley Beggin:

Jane Coaston: QAnon, the scarily popular pro-Trump conspiracy theory, explained. More QAnon:

Jason Ditz:

Dilip Hiro: Donald Trump is losing his tech war with Xi Jinping. Lots of interesting details here, but the big takeaway is that China has a national economic plan which invests in world-class high tech industries and is lifting itself to be a world leader, where the US has a system (loosely speaking) of crony capitalism, where privately-owned businesses (and not necessarily American ones) can buy government favors but also gain much of their profits by using low-cost labor and suppliers abroad, so their profits do little (if anything) to help American workers, who (if anything) get poorer in the bargain. One detail: in 2019, China applied for more patents than the US. Over the last few decades, the main thrust of American trade policy has been to force other countries to pay intellectual property rents (to companies, not really to America). China is now poised to capture the lion's share of that income stream. I am very firm in my belief that patents are bad, so my preference is to ban them everywhere. As the US sinks ever lower in the patent tribute system, Americans should realize that the patent system is a losing game. (Americans have long charged China with cheating at that game, although the US didn't recognize foreign patents back in the 19th century.)

Sean Illing: What MLK and Malcolm X would do today: Interview with Peniel Joseph, author of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., a dual biography.

One of the things I write about Malcolm is that Malcolm is Black America's prosecuting attorney, but he becomes the statesman. And Dr. King is the defense attorney who becomes this pillar of fire. He becomes this man on fire in the last several years of his life, and he's prosecuting and castigating in a way that we never think about King.

Umair Irfan: What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: "Dry lightning, extreme heat, and Covid-19 are all shaping California's efforts to contain massive, deadly blazes." Related:

  • Darryl Fears/Faiz Siddiqui/Sarah Kaplan/Juliet Eilperin: Heat is turbocharging fires, drought and tropical storms this summer.

    At least 140 Western weather stations notched record highs in the past 10 days as a thermometer in California's Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the highest temperatures measured on Earth. Eighty million U.S. residents are under excessive heat advisories. More than 35 wildfires are raging in California, burning 125,000 acres in the San Francisco Bay area alone, threatening 25,000 businesses and homes this week. Parts of the country are suffering drought conditions. And in the Atlantic Ocean, a marine heat wave is fueling what is becoming an unusually active storm season.

  • David Wallace-Wells: California has Australian problems now.

Colby Itkowitz/Amy Gardner: Tennessee adopts new law that could strip some protesters of voting rights.

Protesters who camp out on state property, such as the activists who have demonstrated for months outside the state Capitol against racial injustice, could now face felony charges punishable by up to six years in prison. Convicted felons are automatically stripped of their voting rights in Tennessee.

Ezra Klein:

  • What it would take to end child poverty in America: Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

  • The tragedy of Hillary Clinton. This piece probably belongs with the DNC pieces above, as it is based on her speech there, but if I couldn't banish her from the roster, at least I sequester her here. Even Klein admits, "nothing ensures ignominy like failure," and Hillary's failure was a monumental one: she lost to Donald Trump. What Klein doesn't admit is that she uniquely lost to Trump because her unacknowledged faults precisely clouded Trump's far greater ones. Take corruption for instance: Trump could paint her as Crooked Hillary because he had bought favors from her in the past. Clinton's Foundation underscored her nouveau greed because Trump had his own Foundation (one that did even less to disguise its crookedness). Klein dabbles in counterfactuals, suggesting we would be much better off had Trump lost to Hillary. But while he relishes the idea of Hillary holding press conferences filled with facts and sound advice, Hillary would have found herself on top of a broken government system she couldn't control, likely faced with a hostile Congress -- chances that her Democrats would have won the House in 2018 were close to nil -- and media, still saddled with scandals she could never explain away. So she handles coronavirus a bit better -- maybe 110,000 dead now compared to 170,000 under Trump -- and the economy a bit worse (Congress wouldn't have given her anything like the CARES Act Democrats gave Trump), and she'd wind up looking hopeless for reelection. Maybe that's all just so unfair. Maybe in a true meritocracy her talents could have won out. But Clinton's big break, which let her win a Senate seat in a state she didn't live in, parlay that into Secretary of State for the rival who beat her, and corner the 2016 nomination with no opposition (except for a Vermont socialist she almost lost to), was as unmerited as picking the right guy to fuck, and sticking with him while he goes out and fucks so many others. Their bond was always their addiction to power, and they've never escaped that scent. It even overpowered Trump's stink, and that's why she lost in 2016, and became useless to us forevermore.

  • Why Republicans are failing to govern: "Does Mitch McConnell want Trump to be a one-term president?" Republicans have proposed as a next stimulus step a "$1 trillion HEALS Act," but they don't seem to be serious even about that -- it just gives them some talking room as they try to blame their failures on the Democrats, who've passed a $3.5 trillion dollar package in the House. Seems like there should be a lot of room for compromise there, especially when the alternative is nothing. Klein posits "four theories for the GOP's governance crisis":

    1. It's Trump's fault.
    2. Conservative thinking has no room for Covid-19.
    3. They're worried about Tea Party 2.0.
    4. They've given up on 2020, and many are looking toward 2024.


    That brings me to the explanation for GOP behavior that is almost unanimous among Senate Democrats I've spoken to. They believe Republicans are readying themselves to run the strategy against former Vice President Joe Biden they ran against President Obama: Weaponize the debt -- which Republicans ran up by trillions during the Trump administration -- as a cudgel against anything and everything the Democrats want to do. Force Democrats to take sole ownership of an economic response that's too small to truly counteract the pain.

    If Republicans are behaving like an opposition party that primarily wants to stop Democrats from doing anything, that's because it's the role they're most comfortable playing, and one many of them expect to reprise soon.

Paul Krugman:

  • Stocks are soaring. So is misery. "Optimism about Apple's future profits won't pay this month's rent."

    On Tuesday, the S&P 500 stock index hit a record high. The next day, Apple became the first U.S. company in history to be valued at more than $2 trillion. Donald Trump is, of course, touting the stock market as proof that the economy has recovered from the coronavirus; too bad about those 173,000 dead Americans, but as he says, "It is what it is." . . .

    Take the example of Apple, with its $2 trillion valuation. Apple has a price-earnings ratio -- the ratio of its market valuation to its profits -- of about 33. One way to look at that number is that only around 3 percent of the value investors place on the company reflects the money they expect it to make over the course of the next year. As long as they expect Apple to be profitable years from now, they barely care what will happen to the U.S. economy over the next few quarters.

    Another way to look at that price-earnings ratio is that investors expect Apple to continue to make monopoly profits every one of the next 33 (or more) years. That's double the length of patents, so they're also betting capitalism won't be very competitive in the next 33 years, that the present cartelization will only deepen. There's nothing in history to justify such expectations. Or another way to look at it is that rich people today have way too much money, much more than they can invest in actually producing things, so their only option left is to bid up the price of assets only they can afford -- which offers the gratification of making them appear to be even richer. Economists have a term for that: bubble. Still, they only seem to be able to recognize one when it bursts.

  • Trump, the mail and the unbinding of America: "The Postal Service facilitates citizen inclusion. That's why Trump hates it." I suspect that credits Trump with more depth than he has. He started railing against the Post Office when he thought it was helping his arch-rival, Jeff Bezos, so initially just another tantrum. Of course, he got even more agitated when he discovered people could vote by mail. But Trump's deeper problem with the USPS is basic Republican dementia: government = bad; business = good; ergo hack government up and turn the pieces into businesses, so they can figure out better ways to rip off customers and feed the profits to the rich.

  • Trump's racist, statist suburban dream: "Racial inequality wasn't an accident. It was an ugly political choice." This refers back to Richard Rothstein's book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which is part of the story -- for more in that vein, see Ira Katznelson: When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold Story of Racial Injustice in Twentieth-Century America -- but nowhere near all of it.

  • Trump sends in the economic quacks: "Now he's prescribing hydroxychloroquine to fight recession."

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • Republicans have politicized almost every aspect of American life. I think this is true, and that it's had an adverse effect both on society and on politics. Republicans might counter that Democrats have been politicizing things too, but looked at case by case you'll find that's usually in response to Republican polarization. The big example is climate change, which an increasing number of Republicans doubt and deny because doing so has become part of their political identity. That wasn't the case 30 years ago, when the "ozone hole" was recognized as a common problem needing a technical solution.

  • Former DHS staff: Trump claimed "magical authorities" to break the law: Touts a group called Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), which have been posting videos of Republicans explaining why.

Eric Levitz: America is drowning in joblessness -- and swimming in cash: "Thanks to the CARES Act, Americans hae saved roughly $930 billion more in recent months than they were on pace to do before the pandemic."

German Lopez: Why Trump shouldn't compare America's Covid-19 outbreak to New Zealand's, in one chart.

Laura McGann: Melania Trump's changes to the White House Rose Garden, explained: "She dug up trees and put in paved walkways."

Bill McKibben:

Stephanie Mencimer: Judge orders Trump to pay Stormy Daniels $44,000 in legal fees.

Ashley Parker: The permanent outsider: "President Trump has no idea how to run for reelection as an incumbent.

Yumna Patel: Gaza's health sector at risk as Israel's week-long airstrikes continue: "Israel has been bombing Gaza for eight days straight, all as part of what Israel says is a response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza into Israeli territory." First I've heard about it, which gives you a measure of how Israel has routinized its arbitrary violence against Palestinians. No doubt there's more to link to here:

Gail Pellett: Out of China: An affair in a dangerous ditch. She spent 1980 working in China, chronicled in her marvelous book Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing, recapped here with further thoughts.

Paul R Pillar: Trump's schadenfreude foreign policy and its political appeal: The German word means to take joy in the suffering of others. Aside from highly touted arms sales, that's about the only return Trump has managed in foreign policy, and if/when those weapons are used you can count them too. Trump has dashed any delusions one might have hoped for based on his campaign. The author of The Art of the Deal seems consitutionally incapable of making any deals at all. (The only one so far has been the NAFTA band-aid.) What's the point of sucking up to Putin, Xi, and Kim except to negotiate deals to reduce conflict and stabilize relations? All he's managed to do with Russia has been to dismantle decades worth of arms limits agreements, leading to a renewed arms race. (Which seems, by the way, to be ok with Russia, as one of their few viable export industries is arms.) Elsewhere, he's repeatedly broken things, while encouraging "allies" like UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to break even more. His withdrawal from the Paris Accords shows that his Bad Neighbor Policy -- not official term, but the suggested as the polar opposite of Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, an attempt to build some good will that proved invaluable in WWII -- permeates all levels. Pillar is right to point out that foreign policy is not a zero-sum game: hurting other people and countries doesn't help America; it often hurts, and not just in loss of reputation, trust and prestige. So why does Trump do it? Pillar tip-toes around several theories, noting that his policies are more likely rooted in his understanding of domestic politics than in any concern for the rest of the world, and coming closest to the mark with "Trump supporters disproportionately exhbit traits that make them more likely to feel pleasure from someone else's pain." There's a much shorter word for Trump's syndrome: sadism. The only thing that restrains us from talking about his "sadistic foreign policy" is the sheer amount of indifference and ineptness, which blunts the pleasure sadists obtain from the pain of others. On the other hand, schadenfreude is a bit too kind, as it implies a degree of sorrow Trump is simply incapable of.

Andrew Prokop:

Steven Rattner: The economic recovery that isn't: "Don't believe the story that Trump will tell at the Republican convention." Related:

Kate Riga: Pelosi's Kennedy endorsement and why people are so mad about it.

David Roberts: Air pollution is much worse than we thought: "Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone."

David Roth: Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes in our shared reality with each passing day."

Dylan Scott: Kanye West is running for president -- seriously: He's getting on the ballot in places like Ohio and Wisconsin. From what I've been able to tell, his sole support comes from Republican operatives who won't vote for him but hope he'll split some black votes away from Biden. I seriously doubt he'll find many, or be any sort of a factor, but he could kind of work as a "fuck it all" alternative to major party candidates who are widely despised. Who he draws the most votes from is so irrational it's impossible to predict. More: Ben Jacobs: Kanye West's presidential campaign is both proceeding and unraveling.

Robert J Shapiro: How Trump may be plotting to stay out of jail:

Donald Trump has a serious dilemma. If Joe Biden loses in November, he can go home and settle in as a party elder stateman, as defeated nominees have often done. But if Trump loses, he faces years of intensive investigations by Congress and, assuming he pardons himself, years of investigations by state prosecutors, likely criminal indictments, and possible conviction and imprisonment. The investigations also could expose some of his children to legal peril. And Trump assets -- and those of the Trump Organization -- will be vulnerable to government seizure if New York state prosecutors and courts find that his past actions were part of an organized enterprise engaged in criminal activity. . . .

In Trump's view, this could be his ultimate deal. He agrees to accept the election results and retire peacefully, but only if Biden and Democratic congressional leaders agree to shelve future investigations and forgo federal prosecutions of him and his family and associates -- and call on state prosecutors and attorneys general to do the same.

If Trump loses non-trivially, I don't see that he has much leverage. I don't see how he can throw a fit and simply refuse to leave. I don't know that he can pardon himself, but I have entertained the idea that he might resign after November in expectation of a President Pence pardon, following the Ford-Nixon precedent, possibly extending to his family and company if not to all of his confederates. (I doubt he cares much about them anyway.) That still leaves possible state prosecution, and civil complaints. I'm not much impressed with the power of Congress to investigate Trump, so I don't see much worry there. On the other hand, Trump does have two pretty strong points in his favor. One is that although there is a lot he could be indicted for, it's almost inconceivable that he would ever be convicted by a jury that hadn't been rigged. The second is that it sets a rather nasty precedent for a new administration to criminally investigate its predecessor. As far as I know, that's never been done in the US -- well, until Trump, who currently has the DOJ investigating "Obamagate." Nixon deserved jail, but spared that spent the rest of his life out of politics and relatively harmless. (Not that eulogizing him didn't tarnish Clinton's reputation.) Obama never prosecuted anyone in the Bush administration, which effectively turned Bush's many faults into his own -- a huge favor to the Republicans, and a huge drag on his own ability to make changes. If Biden wins, he will inherit a mess even more huge than Obama did, so it's very important that he remind people how much this has been due to the mistakes and ill intentions of Trump and his gang. So whatever he does about prosecuting Trump, we need to make sure that the full extent of his crimes and scandals are aired. Perhaps this is time for some sort of "truth and reconciliation" commission? With it you could grant some degree of amnesty for honest testimony. You should be careful about how this is set up, but the emphasis should be on getting to the truth, and learning from it, and not on petty revenge. For a cautionary piece on why you need to keep people aware of truth, see Ari Rabin-Havt: We shouldn't have to remind people George W Bush was a terrible president. But we do.

Margaret Sullivan: Trump is 'Fox's Frankenstein,' insiders told CNN's Brian Stelter -- and here's the toll it's taken. Stelter has a book coming out next week: Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. It's hard to escape the conclusion that everyone involved deserve each other -- especially the ones who think they have scruples but don't act on them.

Trevor Sutton: How the US can fight corruption after Trump: Talking about foreign policy here, although one reason the US has never done much about limiting corruption abroad is that we tolerate so much of it at home. The other reason, which isn't much touched on here, is that buying off foreign officials is usually good for business (at least in the short term, which with business is the only term that matters).

Alex Ward:

Luke Winkie: 3 renters on getting screwed over by landlords during the Covid-19 housing crisis.

Joe Yerardi/Alexia Fernández Campbell: Fewer inspectors, more deaths: The Trump administration rolls back workplace safety inspections. Isn't this really what the Trump administration is all about? This is part of a Vox series called System Failure, a collaboration with Center for Public Integrity. Other pieces:

Mairav Zonszein: How this year's primary season demonstrated the waning influence of pro-Israel hawks: At least that's true within the Democratic Party, where AIPAC efforts to purge Representatives critical of Israel have largely failed. Most Democratic politicians are as obeisant as ever to the Israel lobby, but rank-and-file voters have been drifting away for years, partly as they recognize Israel as a racist warmongerer, and partly as Netanyahu has personally aligned with the Republicans. Biden was personally able to secure a pro-Israel plank in the Party platform, but a more representative platform would have been a good deal more critical.

Ask a question, or send a comment.