Nightmare Nation

Countdown Journal: 40 Days To Go

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.” — Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Happy Thursday.

No, it’s not just you. Researchers say that vivid, bizarre dreams and nightmares have spread along with the pandemic. “We normally use REM sleep and dreams to handle intense emotions, particularly negative emotions,” explains dream expert Patrick McNamara, “Obviously, this pandemic is producing a lot of stress and anxiety.”

And then of course, there is this election.

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are now 40 days until Election Day, and then 78 days until the inauguration.

The night before last, I had a dream. That kind of dream. The one where you are lost and late and have forgotten something. You know that dream.

But in this dream, I’d also done something wrong: I had borrowed someone’s notebook, written in it, and then set it down on a table. When I went back to find it, the book was gone. A large crew of work men were re-arranging the entire room and I went from one to another asking them if they had seen the notebook. Nobody had.

Then my phone rang (in the dream) and it was the guy whose notebook I had borrowed. I don’t think I answered the call but I knew I was in a lot of trouble. This would be very bad.

Then I woke up and had to come down here to write a newsletter. Usually, I forget dreams, but this one was so sharp that I remembered every detail… and I felt hungover. Not in the technical sense (well maybe that too), but there was a fog that I suspect a lot of you will recognize, because, apparently, this is s 2020 thing. Earlier this year, a piece in National Geographic tried to explain what was happening to us.

Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious. Nightmares, on the other hand, can be warning signs of anxieties that we might not otherwise perceive in our waking lives.

All true. But then, what happens when we wake up, and reality is even worse?

Because, speaking of nightmares: “Trump Won’t Commit to ‘Peaceful’ Post-Election Transfer of Power.”

WASHINGTON — President Trump declined an opportunity on Wednesday to endorse a peaceful transfer of power after the November election, renewing his baseless warnings about extensive voting fraud before saying there would be no power transfer at all.

Surely, this was just a Trumpian troll? Or out of context? Actually, the context makes it much, much worse.

Question: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?

Trump: Well we’re going to have to see what happens.

You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster—

Question: I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?

Trump: We want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.

Even the balls and strikes anti-anti-Trumpers were (for the moment at least) gobsmacked by the raw awfulness of the thing. Undoubtedly, most of them will get over it after they see a video of Antifa or something. But for the moment there it was: a president saying something no president has ever suggested: that he might not accept the peaceful transfer of power.

Presumably, nearly every elected Republican was appalled, but Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney were pretty much alone in actually saying anything:

That will probably be it. And Trump knows it. Other Republicans may come forward with strongly worded tweets. Susan Collins will undoubtedly be “concerned.”

Other than that, expect crickets. So we continue to slouch toward a potential constitutional crisis.

Just yesterday, before Trump’s remarks, The Atlantic published its own nightmarish scenario for the election.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice.

Over the top? Catastrophizing? Ask yourself this:

Would he he dare to do it?

And if he did, who would stop him? The GOP?

Which Republicans senators would stand athwart a subversive president (you’re kidding, right)?

Who else? The courts? SCOTUS? Trump clearly thinks he has that angle handled.

President Donald Trump predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the outcome of the November election and argued the Senate should confirm his nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to break any tie.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” Trump said Wednesday at the White House, after criticizing the legitimacy of mail-in voting.

Make sure you read JVL’s jeremiad in today’s Bulwark. “[Trump’s] comments are not unhelpful,” he writes. “They are not worrisome. They are not irresponsible. They are the expression of a coherent worldview.”

But today, the internet is overrun by “conservatives” who want to reach once again for the mute button that allows them to ignore what Trump is saying here.

And so these people avert their eyes and hide behind euphemisms and hope to avoid the precipice without having to sacrifice their positioning.

But the precipice is here. Donald Trump just told you.

In fact, he’s been telling anyone who would listen for 30 years.

Maybe he won’t be able to pull it off. Maybe Roberts and Gorsuch will stand in the breach. Maybe he’ll wimp out in the end because he’s more of a man-baby than a strongman.

But just how much are you willing to bet on that?


White knuckle polling update. I asked one of my colleagues yesterday whether it was just me, or whether people were especially cranky this week. He wasn’t sure, but stress levels seemed to spike Wednesday after new polls raised the very real possibility that Trump could win both Florida and Arizona. And maybe Pennsylvania. There were a lot of 2016 flashbacks. So there was a lot of bed-wetting.

Today’s new NYT/Siena poll shows tight races in a bunch of states that Trump should be winning easily. “Close races in Georgia, Iowa and Texas show President Trump’s vulnerability and suggest that Joseph Biden has assembled a formidable coalition.”


A taste of what we are up against here in Wisconsin. Yesterday, I got an email from a reader who described herself as “A Wobbly white Biden supporter” in a Milwaukee suburb

Hi Charlie

I'm a white woman business owner who employs almost all minorities.  Although I never ask for political opinions, they are often volunteered.  Most are inner city residents, worried about how to make ends meet, have lost loved ones to crime and drugs. They don't feel safe in their neighborhoods.  Although mostly for Biden, but may not vote because they think nothing will change.

 Yesterday, as I brought supplies to a worker, she (white female) went into a rage of support for Trump's law and order. She's convinced black criminals will get too many favors and be excused. She will vote.

 I'm very concerned about safety too.  I strongly support community policing.  I want to vote Biden.  But when I hear Harris calling [James]] Blake a hero, I wobble.  Biden has got to stand stronger against violence, not just blame Trump for his hateful divisiveness.  Blame is the Trump game. Biden is leaning too much on the virus, he needs to inspire us to trust him to address the despair and helplessness of those without power.

But when I hear Harris calling Blake a hero, I wobble.

Blake is the black man who was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police. And Kamala Harris did, indeed visit him.

But she never called him a hero.

You can look it up.

This is what actually happened, according to lawyer Ben Crump: “In a moving moment, Jacob Jr. told Sen. Harris that he was proud of her, and the senator told Jacob that she was also proud of him and how he is working through his pain.”

Some of the usual suspects jumped on the story.

Within days right wing media began escalating the narrative, suggesting that Biden and Harris were treating Blake like “an heroic martyr. “Why is the Left Making Jacob Blake a Hero?” wrote one local talk show host.

So now the story that Harris called him a “hero,” is everywhere. I answered the reader’s email and pointed out what had actually happened. I’m not confident it will make much of a difference.


Breonna Taylor and the justice system. We’re in for more ugly days, but to understand how we got here, this is by far the best read:


Some personal news.

There are 40 days to go.

Share Morning Shots

Quick Hits

1. Donald, The TruCon

Writing in the Bulwark today, Tim Miller questions whether the SCOTUS fight will really help Trump with the voters he flipped in 2016

These voters like Obamacare and support legal abortion.

According to an analysis by Dave Wasserman of the 2016 CCES survey, 22 percent of Trump’s voters leaned pro-choice and 13 percent had mixed views. In some swing states the numbers were even higher.

Now they are being asked to support a president who has met with their approval by dunking on the cosmopolitan elite but who has been dropping the ball on the economic response to the coronavirus. And on top of that, he wants to force-feed them a big plate of TruConservatism. They didn’t sign up for Ted Cruz. They think he is weird AF.


2. Trump’s Desperate and Probably Illegal Ploy to Lower Drug Prices

James Capretta in today’s Bulwark:

Two points are worth emphasizing about this remarkable episode.

First, this extraconstitutional behavior would have shocked the political world had it been attempted in a previous era. The executive branch was trying to force a private industry to pay for direct assistance to public program enrollees, one month before a national election. It seems not to have occurred to anyone at the White House that perhaps this was a matter that required legislation and a legitimate federal appropriation. If Congress wanted to create such a program, and make the industry pay for it, it could do so by imposing a tax and using the proceeds for this purpose.

Second, Trump and his aides seem incapable of deciding what it is that they want on drug costs. If the reporting is accurate, the industry was prepared to pay for substantial pricing relief for seniors, and thus deliver a victory for the president at a crucial moment in his term. And yet the administration couldn’t take yes for an answer. Top White House officials insisted on a request that was so outlandish that the industry had little choice but to reject it. The collapse has left the president with nothing to tout on drug pricing.

Cheap Shots

1. When Do We Get To “Alarmed”?

2. Fauci Flames Rand

The doctor has had enough.

Deep Thoughts

1. What If He Doesn’t Concede?

Okay, I know I linked to this article above. But, frankly, it scares the shit out of me and you really need to read it.

According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.

To a modern democratic sensibility, discarding the popular vote for partisan gain looks uncomfortably like a coup, whatever license may be found for it in law. Would Republicans find that position disturbing enough to resist? Would they cede the election before resorting to such a ploy? Trump’s base would exact a high price for that betrayal, and by this point party officials would be invested in a narrative of fraud.

The Trump-campaign legal adviser I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people’s will. Once committed to the position that the overtime count has been rigged, the adviser said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters intended.