by Frank Schnittger
Mon Aug 17th, 2020 at 12:35:54 PM EST
Irish Times Columnist Jennifer O'Connell has an article up basically saying that Trump, like all bullies, is afraid of all those who are not afraid of him, and seeks to patronise strong women because he is afraid of them. He is afraid of Kamala Harris because he knows she can beat him. This has provoked two letters to the editor in response from Jim O'Sullivan and myself:
Online text version:
Sir, - There is a much more pertinent question than the one Jennifer O'Connell asks, "Why is Trump afraid of Kamala Harris?" (Opinion & Analysis, August 15th), and that is, why would any person not be afraid of Ms Harris given her record when she held high office?
Interested persons should really take time to look at that record. In the well-publicised case of Daniel Larsen, an innocent man wrongfully convicted, she fought tooth and nail to keep him in prison.
Having failed to overturn a decision to release him, at the last-minute she, as California attorney general, resorted to seeking his retention in prison "because his petition for release was lodged after a legal deadline". That he was an innocent man did not seem to matter.
Might that explain one of the most bizarre cases which saw her office argue that the state could not release some prisoners "because it would deplete its pool for prison labour"? All this led to the US Supreme Court finding, in an unusually forthright judgment, that overcrowding in California prisons on her watch was so bad that it amounted to unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment".
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the article is the implication that regardless of values and principles held, so long as the incumbent of high office is female, all is well. Have we not suffered enough from the incompetence of leaders ushered into key positions for all the wrong reasons? - Yours, etc,
Sir, - Accusing a bully of actually being an insecure weakling hiding his own failings is hardly an original line of attack, although it is probably consistent with Donald Trump's oft-described narcissism which is also a compensating mechanism for insecurity. But none of this tells us much about Mr Trump's actual re-election prospects in November.
If you look at how Trump is doing in the battleground states compared to 2016, he is currently doing slightly better than he was against Hillary Clinton, having been behind for most of July and August, as shown by an analysis of opinion polls. This means he is still behind in most of the battleground state polls, but by a slightly lesser margin than he was against Hillary Clinton at the same stage in 2016, and we all know what happened in the real poll afterwards.
This time around he has the additional advantage of being the incumbent and being up against an even older candidate generally perceived as being weak.
None of this means he is going to win again in November, but it is still all to play for, and by no means the slam-dunk Democratic win portrayed in some media.
Psychological analyses of candidates you disapprove of really tells us very little about actual voter behaviour in November. Perhaps Mr Trump's narcissism, insecurity, and bullying tactics really are an accurate reflection of much of Middle America in the battleground states that will decide this election.
Voter suppression, counting fraud, endemic voter insecurity, fear of change, racism, and dominance of the mainstream media Middle America actually watches may be enough to get him across the line.
Let's not start counting any chickens just yet. - Yours, etc,
Anyone who wants to climb the greasy poll of US politics probably has to be pretty ruthless, self-centred and career focused and so it should be little surprise that Kamala Harris has form in this regard. Public prosecutors make their name by getting lots of convictions and lawyers tend to be focused on making cases to the satisfaction of judge and jury rather than real world questions of guilt or innocence. After all, it is not their role to convict and sentence.
One would hope, however, that any prosecutor with a bit of humanity would not fight "tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct." Our standards for the office of Vice President should be a little higher than that. So, has Joe Biden, himself a flawed candidate, landed Democrats with a more than flawed Vice Presidential candidate?
One must be careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The presidential election is a choice, ultimately between Biden/Harris and Trump/Pence, not an opportunity to vote for one's ideal candidate. Hillary Clinton - almost no one's idea of an ideal candidate - ultimately lost because a lot of progressive voters could not bring themselves to vote for her, and so they got Trump instead.
Being a hard nosed prosecutor probably will help ensure that Democrats won't lose too much of the law and order vote - already riled by the lawlessness associated with some Black Lives Matter protests. So her candidacy may have plusses as well as minuses. But Biden and Harris will have to demonstrate they represent a real and worthwhile change from Trump/Pence, and the jury is still out on that. Basically they will have to resurrect the coalition which voted Obama into office and which failed to unite behind Hillary. Will Kamala - the opposite to Biden in many respects, be able to help achieve that?
My own letter focused more on the somewhat counter-intuitive evidence that Trump could yet secure re-election. It must be the first time that someone has written about Trump without mentioning either misogyny or his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. These things must be "baked in the cake" by now, and yet he continues to perform marginally better in battleground states than he did at this stage in the campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016 - if the Real Clear Politics poll averages are to be believed.
Yes, Biden is still 7.5% ahead in the overall Real Clear Politics poll averages, but it is the battleground states which determine the election, and these swung decisively away from Hillary in the final weeks/months of the campaign. Even a 2% lead in the popular vote wasn't enough to get her across the line in the end.
So my letter is more by way of a warning against complacency. No amount of printer's ink spent on analysing Trumps lamentable personality or performance in office may make much difference. The Irish Times letters editor actually replaced my term "psychologistic" with "psychological" which, while it may be a more usual term, doesn't actually capture my meaning as precisely.
The term psychologistic is used to describe attempts to explain social or political phenomena through individual psychology. In this case I was criticising Jennifer O'Connell's attempt to infer that Trump's psychological flaws would inevitably lead to his defeat in November. If the past 3 and a half years of Trump's Presidency has taught us anything, it is that psychological flaws or corrupt or incompetent government actually count for very little in most voters electoral choices: It is all a matter of which tribe you belong to, and Trump has reduced the USA to two warring tribes.
Far from making America Great Again, he has reignited the civil war and turned the US from being the world's pre-eminent power into an object of pity. But do the swing voters in battleground states care or even realise that? Let's not count any chickens...