These are serious times.
Joe Biden’s official rollout on Wednesday of his vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, could hardly have gone more smoothly: The presumptive Democratic nominee showed unusual energy as the pair debuted their ticket in his hometown in Delaware. The US senator from California delivered a moving speech that also hammered Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic — and her accomplished performance instantly made clear that Trump will struggle to make stick his racially suggestive claims she is “mad” and mean.
But the Harris-Biden appearance also exemplified the haunting emptiness of the most joyless election campaign in generations. When pro sports play before empty stadiums these days, TV channels pipe in crowd noise to viewers at home. But fake fans don’t wash in politics, so Biden and Harris walked into the deafening silence of a school gym, before a group of socially distanced reporters.
It bore no resemblance to the moment that a beaming Biden, slapping palms, bounded onstage in Springfield, Illinois, to be introduced as Barack Obama’s running mate 12 years ago. Signs in the huge crowd crammed together in the sunshine defined what now seems a quaint and distant age, when “hope and change” seemed in reach.
In many ways, Wednesday’s event was a preview of the stripped-down and online party conventions to come. And in these quiet, socially distanced weeks, Biden and Harris’ message of steady, serious leadership may have an edge over that of Trump, who feeds off the angry energy of fired-up crowds at packed rallies.
In the White House Briefing Room on Wednesday, the President seemed tired, weighed down by the office, and he trotted out a familiar stream of misinformation on the virus. To borrow his own scathing critique of 2016 Republican primary rival Jeb Bush, Trump looked “low energy.” Given his perilous position in the polls, he can’t let his hangdog act continue for long.
‘If you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly’
The US Department of Energy on Wednesday released a proposal to roll back water efficiency standards for showerheads — just days after Trump had complained about troubles washing his “beautiful hair properly.” The President, who frequently frets over water flow in bathrooms, revisited his pet peeve last Thursday at a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Clyde, Ohio. “You go into a new home, you turn on the faucet; no water comes out,” Trump complained. “You turn on the shower — if you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly. You waste 20 minutes longer. ‘Please come out.’ The water — it drips, right?”
‘No place in Congress for these conspiracies’
The anarchic fringe is going mainstream.
QAnon, the baseless conspiracy cult fast gaining ground in Republican politics, is almost certain to land a new advocate in Congress, after Marjorie Taylor Greene won a primary for a safe GOP seat in Georgia.
Devotees of the conspiracy theory believe that dozens of politicians and celebrities are in league with governments around the world in a child sex-abuse ring and that a “deep state” is trying to down President Donald Trump. They follow an anonymous figure known as “Q” who claims to hold a high-level security clearance inside the US government, who drips out supposed wisdom in internet posts.
Q has a lousy track record — they claimed, for instance, that Hillary Clinton and a bunch of top Democrats were to be rounded up in mass arrests. And the FBI has identified QAnon adherents as a domestic terrorism threat. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory is a rising force in conservative politics. “Q is a patriot,” Greene said in a nearly 30-minute-long video in 2017.
Trump hasn’t openly backed the movement but Q signs bearing cryptic messages have appeared at his rallies and he’s retweeted QAnon propaganda. The President, always ready to fan falsehoods that delight his base, warmly welcomed Greene’s victory in a tweet calling her “a real WINNER” on Wednesday morning. He’s not bothered that the soon-to-be rookie representative also has a long record of extreme and hateful rhetoric, including anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim slurs.
The rise of QAnon reflects the wild influences that have a home in the Republican Party in the age of Trump — the conspiracy theorist in chief — and the way many GOP lawmakers, wary of the party base, try to look the other way. One Republican representative who did speak out was Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who tweeted that QAnon is a fabrication. “Could be Russian propaganda or a basement dweller. Regardless, no place in Congress for these conspiracies.”
His thoughts earned a rebuke from Matt Wolking, director of rapid response for Trump’s 2020 campaign. “When will @RepKinzinger condemn the Steele Dossier fabrications and conspiracy theories pushed by Democrats? That actually WAS Russian propaganda,” Wolking tweeted.
Sen. Kamala Harris’ new role as Joe Biden’s running mate is historic not only for Black Americans, but also for many voters of South Asian descent, who see themselves reflected in the story of Harris and her mother — who emigrated from India in 1958 — at a time when their political clout is growing.
As Neil Makhija writes for CNN: “Indian Americans are one of the great mobility stories of the 20th century. Those who came to the country in the years after restrictions were eased, worked hard, sought education, and succeeded professionally. But they and their families still faced bigotry and exclusion. A Biden-Harris ticket would send a message that no door is closed to Indian Americans in public life, at a time when we’re beginning to flex our political muscle. Asian Americans, more broadly, are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic voting bloc in the country.
“Around 1.3 million Indian Americans are expected to vote in this year’s election, with nearly 200,000 in battleground states like Pennsylvania and 125,000 in Michigan, according to the research firm CRW Strategy. Indian Americans register and vote at high rates, even though we remain underrepresented in elected office. In 2016, 77% of Indian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, according to stats by the same research firm.
“But Democrat support in 2020 is not assured — Trump has built an alliance with the populist and Hindu nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the pair have appeared together at packed rallies in both Houston, Texas and Ahmedabad, India.”
‘The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me’
Trump aims to grab suburban women by the vote, and he’s going about it with ham hands: In recent weeks, the President repeatedly cast himself as the defender of America’s wealthy, wide-lawned enclaves against poor people who might want to live nearby — a concern with clear racist undertones. “The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” Trump claimed Wednesday on Twitter, using an outmoded term for stay-at-home moms. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey (sic) Booker in charge!”
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