By Mel Mann
I am an individual with a lot of opinions, I know this to be true because I get told it so many times I have almost become deaf to the comment. I used to think that being opinionated was a privilege of being old, but clearly in our current society that is not reserved to folks my generation. Nevertheless, if there was every an opportunity to share a few unwanted and unsolicited opinions, the politics of this most recent election of November 2020 clearly qualify.
Nothing about 2020 should be considered fun or exciting for anyone. Pandemic, Politics, Protests, Polls and Prognosticators, Presidential election politics, the P’s clearly own years.
If you haven’t heard of the pandemic you must be doing a Ted Kaczynski back in the wood. Once the pandemic became a viable threat President Trump attempted to close the borders only to have other accuse him of being a xenophobe. Four months later the same politicians lambasted Trump for not closing the borders earlier. There was a little distraction called an impeachment that clearly interfered with focusing on real and viable threats. We learned a few new terms like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and ventilators. There was outrage that there was not enough of this equipment to go around, but storing supplies for every conceivable disaster is just not practical. It is interesting to note that the city of New York after the SARS outbreak of 2002 purchased hundreds of ventilators. New York found the ventilators too costly to maintain in storage and 10 years later sold them off at a public auction. With food processing and meat processing workers forced to stay home, we had shortages in our grocery stores for the first time since WWII. I don’t believe anyone could have foreseen the hoarding of toilet paper, though in hindsight we don’t have many alternatives for that function in western society so it makes sense.
Normally when there is a crisis in America there is also a temporary coming together of politicians and people as well. Whether driven by a blind hatred for President Trump, or just the new face of American politics and culture, there was no holding of hands and singing. We began the year with a supposed Russian conspiracy in the 2016 election finally fizzling out. All good circuses have clowns and dancing bears to fill in the gaps while the roustabouts set up the high wire act. That seems to be what the impeachment was about. It was clearly dead on arrival lacking any real evidence. Nevertheless, Jerrold Nadler talked for many hours on the innuendo and rumors, but did not have any facts after many months and by some reports spending as much as $40 million on the entire effort. When it came time to discuss a pandemic relief bills, they still managed to try adding pork such as $25 million for the Kennedy Center. The Smithsonian only got $7.5 million to sustain salaries. The debates on whose epidemiologist was smarter and whether to point a finger at China made good theatre, but failed to answer any real questions or get people back to work.
The death of George Floyd in May was the match in the powder room. Regardless of allegedly using a counterfeit bill, Derek Chauvin should not have held a knee on Floyd’s neck for well over 8 minutes. As it turns out, Chauvin had prior excessive force complaints including one that led to a financial settlement. In every job sector in the country, mail carriers, grocery store clerks, law enforcement, etc., there are always a few bad apples. Many police departments and their union contracts are very clannish and prone toward keeping those records private. There is clearly a need for transparency and the need to more easily and willingly fire those who hurt the credibility of others. I understand the protests, but the burning and looting has nothing to do with solving the problem of a small percentage of law enforcement being out of control. In my own community a bank was burned to the ground, a strip mall with a dozen businesses looted and the windows broken at a police station. What does looting a sports memorabilia shop have to do with George Floyd’s death? During the looting in Chicago a masked looter was stopped and asked on camera why he was taking a television, he said “they have insurance.” In Portland the protest went on for weeks with no clear goal except anarchy. Interestingly, in Portland the police gave up arresting anyone because the following day they were virtually all released without consequence. In Seattle the local authorities conceded a portion of the city to protesters until enough residents complained that police were finally encouraged to enter the area and clear out the disruptors. Protesting is an American right under the Constitutional protection of free speech. Destruction of private property and tearing down public monuments is simply criminal behavior. Short version: The protest are a Constitutional right. The dangerous behavior by a small percentage of law enforcement needs to be transparently handled to give police credibility. Looting and vandalism is criminal behavior. A failure and unwillingness to arrest and prosecute the criminal behavior is wanton failure by those trusted with authority and responsibility for our security.
It is difficult to say anything good about polls. When they failed to predict anything about the 2016 election there was a lot of hand wringing and retrospectives. The people I spoke with in the industry said they either failed to distinguish between policy and candidate or simply asked the wrong people. There was a lot of promises about how much better they would be at assessing the 2020 election. There is a certain comfort from good polling. All of us sleep just a little better when we know the sun will come up tomorrow. Leveraging what is supposed to be good scientific sampling techniques and statistical analysis polls are intended to show us the future. The less uncertainty we have about events around us and soon to come, the more at ease we are in our environment. Leading up to the election there were websites publishing side by side, the results of 21 different polling organizations. 95% of them showed Biden leading by 7-12%. Biden’s final margin in the popular vote appears to be less than 3%. This margin shatters any confidence in professional polling and likely means a lot of poly science and sociology majors are now trying to figure out if they held the wrong wet finger up in the cool breeze.
I used to believe we had too many liquor stores and tele-evangelists, but clearly prognosticators now top the list of too much. Some of them masquerade as journalist wearing a three-piece suit, with a video monitor over their shoulder and sitting behind a large acrylic desk. Despite the trappings, these are not the heirs to David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. The dictionary defines a prognosticator as “a person who foretells or prophesies the future.” The current crop of fortune tellers range from Sean Hannity to Rachel Maddow with at least a hundred others in between. All of them professed to have a direct channel to the truth and nothing but the truth. All those television courtroom dramas professed to seek the one and only truth. If there is only one truth, how can these prognosticators spout so many variations on what is supposed to be the facts we need to know? All of us want a little guidance and assurance on our choices. Accepting the word of one of the talking heads is supposed to relieve us of the burden of research, analysis and action. Just like the walking into a mall store to buy a pair of jeans, then being overwhelmed with the styles and choices; there are simply too many people who all profess to know how we should think. Considering the failed impeachment, the “unforeseen” election outcome, and a host of other events, most of these individuals have failed to foretell anything. I would hope they are polishing their resumes in preparation for a career change. I guess we will have to revert to thinking for ourselves.
The underlying story throughout 2020 has been the November 3rd Presidential election. Let me begin by saying that I think Biden did win, though there is clearly a chance for the results to swing the other direction. I am also confident that there was some election fraud, but it is doubtful if after investigating there will be enough to change the published outcome. There are states where the Secretary of that state has declared a winner while there are still votes to count. There are impending law suits where states have violated their own constitutions during the election process. The list just goes on and on. There is plenty of reason to believe that America is a divided country. The two coasts and the Great Lakes region generally vote Democrat, while the rest of the country leans more Republican. These are clearly not absolutes, many of the states split by less than a 5% margin in one direction or another. While Trump’s team will file protests, I don’t think even with the irregularities that may be found the election is going to change. Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States. It appears that Biden got approximately 50.8% of the vote to Trumps 47.5%. Getting 50.8% means Biden won, but it also means he inherits a “house-divided”. Winning by the narrowest of margins really means that the voting populist was not satisfied with either candidate and had to make a reluctant choice. I don’t have the ego to be a politician. The notion of being the “lesser of two evils” would not leave me feeling empowered to move forward in my new position and driving an agenda. Excluding the 2000 election with the Florida “hanging chad”, I cannot recall an election that has legitimately dragged out like this one. We will unfortunately have to wait a few more days or weeks, but this election was not Biden v Trump, it was really Trump or not Trump. 6 months of campaigns, insults and amending election policy in response to the pandemic and it is still not over. Many people would call this “political theatre,” that may be true. For me, good theatre has a hero and an uplifting moral theme. This election cycle seems to be just drama and indecision followed by more drama and indecision. Ultimately, whoever wins the election, I suspect the American people will be the losers.
2020 has been a really tough year and we still have weeks to go. All of us are experiencing things we never thought we would. After running out of things to watch on Netflix’s queue, politics became the next and most depressing program, thank goodness baseball made a late appearance as a pleasant distraction. I normally hate watching baseball, but 2020 with all its chaos left me feeling that baseball was the most uplifting thing on TV. Ultimately 2020 may be the year of wrong things. We are so bored we are actually following politics. Our brains are so numb we are listening to polls and prognosticators. We are so out of touch we are going to work in our pajamas.
If 2021 is better, I am sure a prognosticator driven by a poll will encourage us that a specific politician is who we should give all the credit to.
Mel Mann currently works as a software developer as well as dabbling in playing the blue grass banjo.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal