By Dennis King

1. Why couldn’t Judge Amy Coney Barrett understand that the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 would be an unsafe place for parading around her children without face masks?

President Trump presented Judge Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court at an outdoor Rose Garden ceremony on Sept. 26 attended by more than 200 people. Few wore facemasks and there was no social distancing—the chairs and rows were crammed close together.

Showing off the kids, all without masks.

Judge Barrett and her husband, Jesse, brought their seven children: one daughter 19, two daughters 16, three sons between 8 and 13, and a 9-year old daughter. None of them wore masks at the event.

According to the Washington Post (Oct. 2), Judge Barrett had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus during the summer and had experienced mild symptoms. CNN reported that her husband had also tested positive but had been asymptomatic. No evidence has emerged that any of their children had tested positive during the summer, but given the parents’ experiences alone, it is certainly odd that the family would disregard normal safety precautions.

Videos from C-SPAN and the Washington Post show President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, both mask-free, escorting the Barrett family–to the tune of “Hail to the Chief”–out of the White House and down the steps to the podium facing the Rose Garden audience. The family poses briefly with the President, and the First Lady then leads Mr. Barrett and the children around to the far end of the front row which they proceed to fill. (The presence of all seven on that row is confirmed by a New York Times photo in which the First Lady is shown seated beside the central aisle with three of the younger children to her left, followed by their father, the three older girls, the special-needs youngest child, and a babysitter.)

President Trump announced on Oct. 2 that both he and the First Lady had tested positive for Covid-19. Later that day, former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, who had been seated directly behind the First Lady at the Rose Garden event and thus in close proximity to three of the youngest Barrett children, would confirm that she too had tested positive.

The NYT photo identifies more attendees on the same side of the aisle as the children, and on rows very close to them, who tested positive. These include Riverside, CA pastor Greg Laurie and Notre Dame University president John I. Jenkins (both two rows behind the children) and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (three rows behind).

Seated on the second row directly behind the Barrett family was Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and his wife Patricia; the Labor Department would announce on Oct. 12 that Patricia (first seat to Ms. Conway’s left) had tested positive for the virus. (Her husband tested negative but announced he would be working from home.) Since the White House blocked contact tracing of the Rose Garden event and the Administration has been less than forthcoming about the timing of relevant positive and negative tests (including whether or not the President tested positive before his first debate with Joe Biden on Sept. 29), it is unclear if Patricia Scalia’s positive test is related to the Rose Garden event.

In the seating area across the aisle (to the First Lady’s right) the soon-to-be positives included Senator Mike Lee (UT) (seated in the second row aisle seat directly across from Ms. Conway, with his wife Sharon beside him), and Senator Thom Tillis (NC) (in the middle of the second row across from Ms. Conway and four seats to the right of Senator Lee). Also on that side was another positive, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in the fourth row aisle seat. Two McEnany aides, who would also test positive, were much farther back in the audience.

Five adults (four without masks) who would soon test positive can be seen in this picture along with three of the youngest of the Barrett children}.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top authority on infectious disease, would describe the Rose Garden ceremony as a Covid-19 “super spreader event” and the number of infected at the White House would rise to almost three dozen with at least 11 linked to the ceremony, which was basically a Trump campaign event using Barrett and her family as the pretext.

After the ceremony the children were escorted back to the podium, close to the President; then, the President and the First Lady escorted the family back inside the White House.

Thus we can see from the videos that the Barrett children were inside the toxic White House environment before the event and again afterwards. Did any of them wear masks inside? How long were they there, both before and after? Did anyone else wear masks inside? Who did the children interact with inside? How close did they get to the President and First Lady while inside? Did any of them interact with Barron Trump, the 14-year-old son of the Trumps, who testified positive for the virus at about the same time as his parents but whose condition was not reported to the public until Oct. 14?

And what was going through the head of Judge Barrett while this was going on? Apparently she was not thinking much about the risk that would have been obvious to any parent who accepted the consensus of the world scientific community about the virus. Indeed, from the viewpoint of infectious disease and public health experts, her decisions about the events of Sept. 26—both in the Rose Garden and inside the White House—can only be described as reckless.

According to CNN on Oct. 4, a reception was held after the Rose Garden Event in the Diplomatic Reception Room “and the adjoining hallway” and included “dozens” of ceremony attendees without masks or social distancing.

The New York Times had photographers at the reception and participating in the Oval Office photo op. The NYT article accompanying the pictures stated:

Experts say the more risky time spent that day was at a reception inside the White House, where President Trump met with a smaller group of guests.

There, Mr. Trump mingled with Judge Barrett, her family and prominent Republicans in the Oval Office and in the Diplomatic Room. Research has shown that transmission of the virus tends to happen indoors, and gatherings where guests are maskless and in tight quarters can be a recipe for “super spreader” events.

In the photos described below, no one is wearing a mask. The identification of individuals as “P” designates that they would test positive for the virus later. There is no evidence at this point that any of them knew they were positive at the time of the Rose Garden event, although they should have known that their behavior carried risks for themselves and others.

One photo shows the Barrett couple’s nine-year-old daughter standing about two feet away from Trump, who is apparently introducing her to several women, including Patricia Scalia (P), who is shown in Rose Garden photos as sitting next to Ms. Conway (P) and thus in very close proximity to three younger Barrett children seated between the First Lady (P) and their father Jesse.

A second photo shows Judge Barrett and her 11-year-old boy talking to Chris Christie (P), who was very close to them.

A third photo shows her eleven year old sitting beside Senator Tillis (P) with about a foot separating their faces. Although Tillis had worn a mask at the outdoor event, he did not do so when photographed at the reception. He would later acknowledge in an interview with WRAL-TV that this had been a mistake: “I let my guard down because we’d all been tested two hours before the event. It’s just another experience that tells me, even when you think you’re in a safe setting, you should always wear a mask.”

A fourth photo shows Judge Barrett, with her eleven year old beside her, talking with Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services. Azar, supposedly a major figures in fighting against the pandemic, is not wearing a mask and his distance from the boy is much less than the CDC guideline of six feet. Attorney General Bill Barr is also part of the maskless conversation. Barr had earlier spent several minutes talking up close with Ms. Conway (P) in the Rose Garden.

A fifth photo shows Judge Barrett talking with Senator Tillis without any of her children in the picture. Standing near them and apparently following their conversation, is Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Ms. Scalia, who appears to be close to or in her eighties, is not wearing a mask. It is universally known that seniors are at special risk—even Trump doesn’t dispute that. So why didn’t Barrett, who makes so much of her background as a law clerk for Justice Scalia, do something? Why did Maureen Scalia’s son, Secretary Scalia, with whom she sat in the Rose Garden, allow her to stroll into this indoor event without a mask? Why didn’t her daughter-in-law, Patricia, also in the room (in the blue dress), take action? Why didn’t Tillis or anyone else in the room do anything? Nothing could better show the collective psychosis in the circles around Donald Trump. No wonder that Barrett wasn’t doing more to protect her children.

A sixth photo shows Senator Lee (P) and Sharon Lee talking with Judge Barrett but without any of the Barrett children in the picture. The photo suggests that Sen. Lee was getting too close and making Barrett uncomfortable.

CNN and others posted pictures taken at the Oval Office photo op session, also mask free, where the President and First Lady posed with six of Barrett’s seven children as well as the parents. In the most formal picture posted, the nine-year-old daughter is positioned in front of her mother and directly beside Trump. At the end of the row on Trump’s right are White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who are both in constant close contact with the President. Pictures were taken from different angles as the President chatted with the children.

The White House blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from doing contact tracing after the Sept. 26 events, putting the White House Medical Unit in charge although it has neither the expertise nor the resources to perform this task. The unit, which has been evasive about the President’s medical condition ever since he took office (and most recently about his Covid-19 status), made no attempt to do contact tracing about the White House events of that day. We have only limited information, largely that gathered by the media, about the number of people infected, especially the invitees from outside the DC area who flew home immediately afterwards.

2. Does Judge Barrett support Trump’s ignorant, irrational and totally unscientific approach to the pandemic?

Trump’s viewpoint, discredited by experts on the pandemic throughout the world, is that the virus is not all that dangerous (except to elderly persons with special conditions), that face masks and social distancing are not necessary, that mass testing and contact tracing are a waste of time, that children don’t get the virus, and that letting the virus run its course without countermeasures will create “herd immunity” over time.

Some of the most extreme of Trump’s views come from Dr. Scott Atlas, a physician with no background in infectious disease or public health. Atlas appears on Fox News as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act. In August, Trump appointed Atlas as his new Covid-19 advisor; the result was an increase in White House censorship of the CDC and new efforts to keep Dr. Fauci out of the loop.

Trump’s crank views on the virus, as translated into official government policy and carried out in Red states by governors loyal to the President, have resulted in over 220,000 deaths in the U.S., the worse record in the world. And experts with decades of experience in immunology, infectious disease and public health have pointed out again and again:

Children do get the virus (almost 700,000 in the U.S., although the number of deaths has been small so far).

Although “herd” immunity can be achieved through vaccination, there are no cases in which in which it has been achieved by allowing natural infection with a novel virus to simply run its course; attempts to use this passive strategy would lead to catastrophic loss of life (millions of Americans) with no guarantee of any success. In addition, there is very scary evidence that people who have recovered from the virus can get re-infected.

Facemasks, social distancing, bans on large public gatherings, mass testing and contact tracing have been proven worldwide to be our best weapons against the virus until a vaccine is developed—and premature abandonment of these measures has only caused new outbreaks.

It may be difficult to believe that Judge Barrett would bring her children unprotected into a Trump event organized on a no-protection-needed basis unless she believed Trump’s claims, including his assurances that children are immune to the virus. If she does believe him, we must conclude that she has little respect for science, and that this will affect her future decisions relating to government policy on pandemics—and also on decisions about global warming and the need for environmental regulations to halt the use of cancer-causing chemicals. An anti-science bias so extreme that it is displayed even in regard to the safety of one’s own children should disqualify any nominee from appointment to the Supreme Court.

3. Did Judge Barrett bring her children to the outdoor and indoor White House events of Sept. 26 with the knowledge or strong suspicion that it was not safe to do so?

It would appear that Trump was doing what he usually does—offer someone a job that comes with a catch: they must show their loyalty to him by doing something that deeply compromises them. Just consider the many White House employees and cabinet members who, since the pandemic began, have knowingly put themselves, and their loved ones at home, in peril by not wearing masks in crowded White House offices and conference rooms because to wear a mask would (a) offend Trump, (b) call into question Trump’s infallibility, (c) result in ridicule of the mask wearer by Trump and his toadies, and (d) reduce the mask wearer’s chance of any promotion because of suspicions about his or her loyalty.

Did Judge Barrett decide that putting her children at risk (no masks, no social distancing, seats on the front row to give Trump a stage prop) was necessary to show gratitude to him and to assure him that she would remain loyal when and if legal challenges to the outcome of the November election are heard by the Supreme Court?

Showing one’s children to the public is something that any candidate for high appointment or election to public office might justifiably do, but under pandemic circumstances Barrett should have found a safe way to do it. That she didn’t, suggests she knew that any hesitation in accepting the family-as-performing-seals celebration in the manner Trump needed for his own virus-defying macho campaign purposes might have become a deal breaker on her nomination, and that she put her children in jeopardy in order to reassure Trump as to her pliability and loyalty. Does anyone think that if she’d said, “no, sir, I will not bring my children to this event unless it mandates facemasks and social distancing for all participants, including yourself,” Trump would not have withdrawn her nomination and found another candidate?

Barrett’s acquiescence in putting her children, especially her four underage children, in a crowded and mostly mask-free gathering of over 200 adults (an event that any real expert on infectious disease would describe as bonkers) and into an even more dangerous indoor event can’t be explained away. If not simply a matter of scientific ignorance (itself a cause for rejection of a nomination), it reveals a lack of moral judgment that would prevent her from ruling on the side of science whenever it clashes with corporate or Republican Party interests—yet another reason for the U.S. Senate to vote her down.

He puts some kids in cages; others, he uses for photo ops to show how child-friendly he is.

On the first day of Barrett’s confirmation hearing on Oct. 12, her husband and six out of seven of their children were present. In the wake of the Rose Garden debacle they were predictably wearing masks. The positive-testing Senator Lee was present in person. He praised the judge for having a large family but then chose a less than respectful attitude toward the family by  addressing the committee without his mask and also by his provocatively inconsistent wearing of it otherwise (even committee chair Lindsey Graham was seen to whip out a mask defensively when Lee came near). Meanwhile, Senator Joni Ernst (IA) waxed eloquent about Judge Barrett’s “precious family” but did not see fit to tell Senator Lee to drop his stupid posturing.

Judge Barrett herself could have insisted that Lee keep his mask on while speaking in the presence of her children, and also could have stated that she and her children would leave the room unless he either did what she requested or agreed to participate electronically from outside the room. Lee would have had to comply, especially since Sen. Ted Cruz was participating electronically that day while in self-isolation because of his own contacts with Lee. But Judge Barrett didn’t do what would have been so easy; she chose to let Lee, who had pranced around the Rose Garden after the Sept. 26 ceremony trying to hug and kiss people, use the hearing to show his ongoing Trumpian disdain for masks and for the safety of both children and adults.


I find it both bizarre and sinister that Barrett, presented by Trump and the Republicans as an all-American poster mom, has been so willing—in the midst of the worst pandemic in U.S. history—to let her children be used as pawns of a cynical campaign to put her on the Supreme Court so she can vote to take away health care from millions of other people’s children.

Redefining Security during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 crisis should change our country’s consciousness when it comes to how we define security. 

It’s revealed our flaws in terms of defense spending and the conflict between private profit and the public good. The working people of America, first responders, healthcare workers, and retail workers deserve much credit. Information technology, partially developed in our country’s technology centers but also built on the back of government-sponsored research and development, has also played a positive role in the crisis. It would be a much tougher crisis without personal computers, cell phones, and internet access. Some are even able to work at home and earn a paycheck using these technologies.  

The internet is so important that it can’t be left in the hands of the private sector. It’s a public good and using it shouldn’t depend on one’s ability to pay for it.  The digital divide has been a political issue in our country for some time.

The Covid-19 crises makes municipally owned WiFi more important than ever. Some cities, New York City and Tampa, Florida in the United States, and Paris in France and Tel Aviv in Israel, have already introduced municipally owned WiFi. A reporter who is delivering important information on a pandemic or a health care worker who must communicate with a superior quickly shouldn’t have to worry about how or if they can connect to a WiFi network.

A segment of the old Socialist Party, Socialist Party of America, defined themselves by a program called “sewer socialism.” This approach supported city-owned sewers, water systems, public parks, public libraries, and improved education systems. The aim of the sewer socialists was to make city life livable for the industrial working class. Mayor Frank Zeidler in Milwaukee and Mayor James Maurer in Reading, Penn. represented this school of politics. A new sewer socialism would provide public parks, libraries, and city owned WiFi for the expanding class of service workers.  Internet access will be a right and not a privilege.

During President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, the government created the Rural Electrification Administration and the Lower Colorado River Authority. These agencies started cooperative utility companies for rural Americans, many didn’t have any electricity at the time. A new Municipal and Rural WiFi Administration would set up consumer cooperatives for cities and rural areas and deliver public WiFi. The security of Americans depends on this public good.

Some will wonder how our government will pay for something like this. Lt. Col. Daniel Davis recently penned a wonderful story “How Covid-19’s Fiscal Impact Might Ironically Strengthen National Defense.” Lt. Col. Davis said that cutting back on our obsolete defense structure – designed to fight a ground war with the Soviet Union in a post-Soviet world – is essential to fund the war against Covid-19. He warned that the defense industry, sometimes filed under the category military-industrial complex, will use the weapon of fear to try and prevent this from happening. He also advocated ending the foreign wars our county has been engaged in for so long.

Fighting the power of private interests – the military-industrial complex and private interests that oppose municipal WiFi – and defending the public interest will be a priority in the fight against Covid-19!

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.


A potential spoiler effect in 10 close races for the House, the Senate and Governor’s seats

Over 200 Green candidates are running in the midterms in at least 30 states. A large majority of them are running either for local or state legislative office or for higher offices that are not competitive, because either the Democrat or Republican has a very strong lead over his or her chief opponent. There is no reason, this year, for any special concern about Green involvement in such contests.

But there are three Senate, five House and two gubernatorial contests—all very close—in which a serious Green Party spoiler effect could occur. Even if this effect is manifested in only one or two cases, it could have a pivotal effect on who controls Congress if the Blue Wave is less than expected or the Red counter-wave is stronger than expected.

Note: Green Party members and people who sometimes vote for Green candidates—and often vote Democratic in a particular race if there’s no Green on the ballot or if they think the Democratic candidate is better than the Green candidate—should think twice before voting Green in the below races. This is not because these Green candidates are bad people, or that you should automatically discount them in an ordinary election season. But this is not an ordinary election season. We are, from now through the 2020 presidential election (and perhaps beyond), in a “special period.” As most liberals, progressives, and moderate Democrats—as well as the majority of voters in most minority communities—are now painfully aware, each in their own way, we need to focus on stopping Trump, his Congressional puppets, and their horrific agenda. This is clear to leading progressives such as Bernie Sanders, Rev. William Barber, Jr., Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I would hope that many Green activists and voters are also beginning to understand the clear and present danger we face. 

10 Candidates, 10 Conundrums 

Some of the contests below are fascinating in what they reveal about the Greens, about the Democrats, and about the vagaries of the spoiler effect. I have thus inserted some commentary (and a dash of polemics) into the descriptions. The basic facts of each race and the polls thereon are taken mostly from Ballotpedia.

In three of the cases below, the Green is the only minor party candidate on the ballot; in others, the ballot includes at least one other minor party candidate and/or non-party independent candidate. This is spelled out in each case. When the Green is the only one, his or her spoiler effect would be easy to recognize whether or not it succeeded in providing the full margin of victory for the Republican candidate. There is one case where the combined votes of the Greens and a pro-medical marijuana party (or in another case, where the combined votes of the Greens and an independent candidate) might together take enough votes from the Democrat to produce a Republican margin of victory.

U.S. Senate:

In Missouri, incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill is neck and neck with the state’s Republican Attorney General, Josh Hawley. The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball (hereafter, “Cook” and “Sabato”) both judge the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30. McCaskill is the type of moderate that some progressives scorn, but if she and other moderate Democratic Senators lose their races, stopping Trump’s dismantling of our democracy will remain extremely difficult even with control of the House. The minor candidates are Jo Crain of the Greens, Japheth Campbell of the Libertarians and also a non-party independent. Crain, a retired Sprint technical services worker, mother of three and grandmother of six is also a longtime political activist and the organizations she’s supported are not very different from those backed by tens of thousands of progressive Democrats who’ve thrown themselves into this year’s fight to take back Congress. (Cain’s positions on issues that appear on her web page, however, are pretty much the same as those of any Democrat running in a relatively conservative state or district.) With the Green label and her personal commitment to activism, she could siphon off enough votes from progressive Democrats and left-leaning independents to provide a tiny margin of victory for Hawley if the difference between the two main candidates narrows to a razor’s edge.

In Arizona, where the possibility of picking up a Senate seat became possible for the Democrats after Jeff Flake announced he would be retiring, the race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema (currently the House member for Arizona’s 9th CD) and Republican Martha McSally (House member for the 2nd CD) has been close from the beginning. Cook and Sabato both called the contest a toss-up as of Oct. 30. Sinema was once a Green but after joining the Democrats she became more moderate and in the House she has sought to work with Republicans on some issues. The Greens who scorn her for this, might ponder her words on universal health care in a 2014 interview: “I used to say that I wanted universal health-care coverage in Arizona, which went over like a ton of bricks. Turns out, Arizonans hear the world ‘universal’ and think ‘socialism’…But when I say that I want all Arizonans to have access to affordable, quality health care, Arizonans agree wholeheartedly. Same basic idea, different language.” Some of the Green candidates profiled here use a not dissimilar semantic caution from time to time (like Michael White in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race).

Angela Green, a mortgage loan officer who was going to run for Lt. Gov. with gubernatorial candidate Angel Torres, became the Green’s Senate candidate after the petitions of a former candidate were successfully challenged. The platform on Green’s campaign website is quite good: net neutrality, more financial help for Arizona teachers, organic farming tax breaks, defense of freedom of the press, and a nuanced position on gun control. I was taken aback, however, by her statement claiming to represent those who are “tired of having to deal with the antics of Red and Blue,” as if the Democratic resistance to Trump can be equated with the President’s politics of hate and fear. But on Nov. 1, according to Ballotpedia, Angela Green “withdrew from the race and endorsed Sinema.”

I am keeping this example on my list since Green’s name is on the ballot regardless of her announcement; early voting has been in process since Oct. 10; and many if not most voters will be unaware on Election Day that Green has withdrawn her candidacy. Polls in October gave Green 1% to 3% of the vote—that might just be enough for a classic spoiler effect. Even if not, the results for the Green Party, as the only minor party in this race, may be useful in studying the Greens’ potential for triggering a spoiler effect in the Presidential and Congressional races in 2020.

In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez is in a close battle with Republican Bob Hugin, a pharmaceutical executive. As of Oct. 30, Cook says it’s a toss-up, while Sabato says it’s likely Democratic. Menendez’s reputation was tarnished by a federal indictment on corruption charges (2015) and a trial (2017) that resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial followed by a Justice Department decision (January 2018) to drop all charges against him. Hugin has hit Menendez hard on the corruption issue, and voters may not listen to the Democratic public figures now rallying to Menendez’s support. The Green candidate is Madelyn Hoffman, recently retired director of New Jersey Peace Action, in which capacity she long worked with New Jersey Democrats and admired Menendez for his vote against the Iraq war. (She also has a long relation to the Greens, having run as their candidate for governor in 1997.) In an August interview with Insider NJ, she expressed a jaded but not especially hostile attitude to the Democrats—and she supports ranked choice voting (a proposed system under which Green voters could choose to have their vote go to the Democratic candidate once their first-choice Green is bumped for insufficient votes).  Also on the ballot are Libertarian candidate Murray Sabrin and four independents with the non-party designations “New Day NJ,” “Make It Simple,” “For the People,” and “Economic Growth.” Polls show that the percentage of voters in this race who are willing to expend their vote on a minor party is down around one percent. But in an extremely close race, that might be enough (remember Florida in 2000). The choice for voters in Blue State New Jersey is clear: cast your ballots based on allegations of corruption in a single race (as the Republicans wish you to do) or vote to win a Senate majority that could put a check on the most corrupt administration in U.S. history—an administration that Hugin, not Menendez, is pledged to support.

U.S. House of Representatives:

In New York’s 19th CD (Hudson Valley and the Catskills), Green candidate Steve Greenfield, a professional musician and a resident of college-town New Paltz, where he is a former school board member, may siphon votes away from Democrat Antonio Delgado, who is challenging incumbent Republican John Faso. As of Oct. 30, the race between he two main candidates is regarded as a toss-up according to both Cook and Sabato. The Monmouth University Polling Institute regards the 19th as a “pivot” district—it voted for Obama in 2012 but then voted for Trump in 2016. Faso won it by 8 points as an open seat in 2016 against progressive Democrat Zephyr Teachout, and is attempting to defeat Delgado via coded racist attacks on his past in hip-hop music. Greenfield, a professional musician as well as a former local school board member, demolished Faso’s “dog-whistle attacks” in an essay on his website that also included a restrained dig at Delgado’s record as a corporate attorney. Greenfield’s platform includes standard Green policy goals (single-payer healthcare, a “Green New Deal,” cutbacks in defense spending) but he also appeals to his district in a manner not very different from a moderate Democrat; e.g., he’s described as a leader in the “fight to eliminate property taxes as the primary source of public education funding.”

Greenfield is an example of the quandary that will face many independent-minded voters (both this year and in 2020) when faced with an appealing Green candidate in a neck-and-neck Democrat-Republican contest where there’s just too much at stake to vote Green. The same might be said regarding the independent non-party candidate on the ballot, TV actress Diane Neal, who is best known for her roles in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS. Neal says she’s disillusioned with today’s professional politician class and stated on a Ballotpedia questionnaire that she wants to turn NY19 into the “Silicon valley of renewable energy resources” and that her heroes are RFK, MLK and Carl Sagan. Judging solely by their public statements, I would say that if Greenfield and Neal haven’t found a home in Democratic politics, the party has only itself to blame.

In New Jersey’s 7th CD, Democrat Tom Malinowski is challenging incumbent Republican Leonard Lance for a seat Lance has held since 2008. Cook and Sabato both call the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30, but a Siena College poll (Oct. 28-31) of the likely electorate found that 14% of voters are “undecided/other.” The other candidates on the ballot are Gregg Mele, the “Freedom, Responsibility, Action” candidate (endorsed by the Libertarians) and Green Party candidate Diane Moxley, a Legal Services attorney in Newark for over 14 years. Moxley told the New York Times at the national Green conference in July that she thinks there’s “no difference in New Jersey, between the two major parties.” Her Facebook page depicts a campaign utilizing door-to-door canvassing and yard signs for herself and Madelyn Hoffman, the Green candidate in the Menendez-Hugin Senate race. She also publicizes her campaign through live-streaming with Real Progressives, a video community. Malinowski, the supposedly no-different-from-the-Republicans candidate from whom she will be siphoning votes, was the Washington director of Human Rights Watch from 2001 to 2013, fighting to end the Bush administration’s use of black sites and torture. From 2014 to 2017, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Obama administration, working to help religious minorities brutalized by ISIS, defending LGBT communities around the world, and pushing human rights sanctions against North Korean and Russian officials. (The point here is not to compare Malinowski with Lance or even with Moxley, but to show the difference in this case between the real candidate and his extraordinary track record, on the one hand, and the stereotype about Democrats in the heads of so many Greens, on the other.)

In a Nov. 1 statement on her campaign Facebook page, Moxley presented a list of all the good things she’d fight for and urged the reader to “give serious consideration to voting for your values instead of from a place of fear.” Moxley’s use of “fear” (aka “hysteria”) is Greenspeak for the Democrats urging people to vote for their candidates—not Green candidates—to win back Congress from Trump’s control. But the people who are really using fear are the Republicans, and they are doing it—through their bigoted attacks on minorities and immigrants—to polarize the country and keep power. The Democrats have a rational message: what the Republicans and Trump are doing to America needs to be fought back against hard with the most effective weapon we have at this point—our vote at the ballot box to achieve a Democratic majority in Congress. Any clear-headed progressive should be fearful—for the survival of democracy in our country. If the Greens aren’t, it suggests they have a narrow cultish focus on their own organization’s unrealistic ambitions at the expense of everyone else.

In Illinois’s 12th CD, Democrat Brendan Kelly—a prosecutor and former Navy officer—is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Bost, a former Marine and owner of a nail salon business. Before Bost’s election in 2014 (which was preceded by redistricting in 2011), the seat had been Democratic since 1993. Cook and Sabato both rated the contest a toss-up through mid-October but as of Oct. 30 rate it “Lean Republican.” A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll of the likely electorate taken Oct. 18-22, however, found 11% of the likely electorate still undecided. On Oct. 27, Trump staged a rally in the district, at Murphysboro, to help Bost and several other Republican candidates. Democrat Kelly presents as a moderate Democrat and emphasizes fixing up and expanding the district’s infrastructure; he pledges to go after “Big Pharma” and its lobbyists in Washington, holding the drug companies responsible for the opioid epidemic and giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices of medications. The only minor party candidate in this race is the Greens’ Randy Auxier, a professor of Philosophy and Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who has written or edited several books in philosophy, also writes on popular culture and Protestant theology, and is a United Methodist Church Sunday School teacher. In his replies to a Belleville News-Democrat profile questionnaire, Auxier goes into considerable depth on the local and national economy, focusing especially on the steel industry and trade policy. On healthcare, he’s for replacing the ACA with a single-payer universal healthcare system, which he believes would make it easy to get a handle on the opioid epidemic. Auxier says, “I’m running and I aim to win.” But there is no Illinois B in which he might actually win. The moderate Democrat Kelly is at this point the only choice for those in the 12th CD who want to take back our real Congress.

In Iowa’s 3rd CD, the race is a toss-up between Democrat Cindy Axne, a small business owner, and incumbent Republican David Young. Young has held the seat since 2014. Obama won the district by 4 points in 2012, Trump by 4 points in 2016. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll of the likely electorate conducted Oct. 25-27 puts Axe ahead of Young by two points with 11% percent of respondents undecided. Cook and Sabato both say the race is a toss-up as of Oct. 30. There are four minor candidates on the ballot: Rev. Paul Knupp of the Greens, Mark G. Elworth Jr. of the Legal Medical Now Party, Bryan Holder of the Libertarian Party, and an independent who ran unsuccessfully against Young in a prior election. Knupp is a Protestant minister who has lived in Iowa for over 40 years and has served 11 churches in the state, seven of them in rural settings. He has also worked as a mental health counselor at public hospitals. He grew up in a “union family” and is a strong supporter of the labor movement and an advocate of the social gospel and liberation theology. According to his Ballotpedia survey responses he is in favor of “Medicare for all,” “unions for all” and “clean water for all,” and pledges to “caucus with the Democrats” if elected.

Democratic candidate Axne is a fifth generation Iowan, a parent and a community activist. She and her husband own a small business but she also has a decade of experience working in state government. Her platform includes a plan for moving towards universal health care while protecting the ACA. She says climate change is real and Iowa can best help combat it by developing renewable energy industries. She also calls for overturning Citizens United, standing by our unions, protecting social security and Medicare, defending the LGBTQ community, and halting the closure of hospitals in rural areas. She supports equal pay legislation and a National Paid Family Leave Act. I read this platform and wondered: why would the Greens want to target her? If she were an incumbent with a secure seat, I could see them running one of their educate-the-voters type campaigns and prodding her on her failings. But why now? Do they really think there’s no difference between her and the Republican Party of Trump?

Ohio’s 12th CD, as of Oct. 30, is a tossup according to Cook and leans Republican according to Sabato; however, two polls earlier that month (Oct. 11-13 and Oct. 20-22) showed 6% of the likely electorate as “Undecided/Other.” In the special election last August, Republican Troy Balderson narrowly won against Democrat Danny O’Connor. Green candidate Joe Manchik, a self-employed telecommunications engineer, was the only minor party candidate. He gained 1,129 votes, 436 votes short of providing Balderson’s margin of victory. Such can be the effect of the “Green” label, even with minimal campaigning. Although the Manchik vote amounted to only 0.6% of the total vote, it should be compared to the 3.6% (13,474 votes) he won in 2016 for the same seat. In that year, however, Republican incumbent Patrick Tiberi had a huge lead over his Democratic opponent—just the kind of race that has none of the sense of urgency (on either side) that usually prevents voters in a tighter race from “wasting” their votes. Manchik is also on the ballot in November’s replay of the Balderson-O’Connor battle and is again the only minor party candidate. He says in his platform that “we need to overthrow the corporate-capitalist and corporate owned Democratic-Republican Duopoly Party” (as good an excuse as any for letting Trump continue to control all three branches of government). Manchik won brief notoriety after the special election because of a statement on his Facebook page that he had “distant relatives” who “originally came to planet Earth from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus.” I personally regard that view as benign and relatively sane in comparison to the utterly unhinged beliefs of the Christian Dominion dystopians, white supremacists and Alex Jones-loving conspiracy addicts who flock to Trump rallies.

Gubernatorial races:

These contests are important because a Democratic governor will hopefully be able to rally the party and many independents for the Democratic candidate for President in 2020, and can offer strong resistance to Republican attempts at voter suppression. I do not include races in which a Green candidate for governor is running in a state that is safe-Democratic-incumbent or safe-Republican-incumbent on the gubernatorial level (e.g., New York and Maryland, respectively). Lack of time prevented me from examining races in which the Greens have offered candidates for Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and other statewide offices. As we can see in what’s happening in Georgia and Kansas now, Republicans in positions such as Secretary of State are not above using their power to engage in egregious voter suppression.

In Ohio, the governor’s seat is open, because term limits prevent popular Governor John Kasich (R) from running again. As of Oct. 30, Cook and Sabato both regard the contest as a toss-up between Richard Cordray (D), former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so hated by the Right (prior to that, he was Ohio’s Attorney General from 2009 to 2011) and Ohio’s current Attorney General Mike DeWine (R). Drawing votes away from Cordray will be the co-chair of the Ohio Green Party, Constance Gadell-Newton, an attorney who practices criminal defense and juvenile law. Probably drawing from the Republicans will be Travis Irvine, the Libertarian candidate. Gadell-Newton’s “Constance for Ohio” Facebook page shows evidence of vigorous campaigning at parades, forums and house parties, and at county Green Party events to whip up the faithful, as well as through canvassing and getting supporters to put up yard signs. The energetic Gadell-Newton may do unusually well for a Green, especially via campaign planks such as universal, single-payer health care, clean energy to combat global warming, and protections for low-income workers. But articles in the Toledo Blade and Cincinnati Inquirer suggest that her main aim is to get 3% of the vote in order to keep, under Ohio law, the party’s status as a recognized minority party and thus its guaranteed ballot access in Ohio elections. But if Gadell-Newton ends up in a spoiler role, she may destroy something far more important than her party’s ballot status. For it is Cordray, not the Green candidate, who is poised to break up the Republicans’ trifecta control of the state and squelch their plans to (a) intensify their voter suppression efforts and thus guarantee that Trump wins Ohio in 2020 and (b) gain an unbeatable gerrymander advantage from the 2020 census. And what will Gadell-Newton’s 3% of the vote give us? An opportunity for the Greens to repeat their 2016 spoiler role for Trump in 2020?

In Wisconsin, incumbent Governor Scott Walker is in a very close race with Democratic challenger Tony Evers, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Cook and Sabato both rate the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30. The Green candidate is Michael J. White, a former U.S. Air Force physician now in private practice in La Crosse. The ballot also includes two other minor party candidates, Phillip Anderson (Libertarian Party) and Arnie Enz (Wisconsin Party) as well as an independent candidate. From an interview with White that I watched on YouTube, he comes across at first as an impressive candidate with detailed mastery of the issues facing his state, pragmatic, willing to work with both major parties, agilely fielding questions on property taxes, gun laws and fracking—for all the world a Democratic moderate. On opiates he acknowledges that “we physicians” are a big part of the problem. On global warming, he recognizes the “existential” nature of the threat and has proposals for what could be done about it in Wisconsin.

But when he gets on the question of spoilers and the 2016 election, suddenly we’re in Jill Stein country: the Democrats want us to “vote our fears” [precisely what Trump is doing, and with the implication that we should be more concerned about the Democrats than Trump]…the Democrats and Republicans are like two “tribes” and “I don’t belong to either tribe…” [note the implication that both parties are equally responsible for the tribalism that in fact evolved from Fox News and rightwing Republican politics and was brought to a head by Trump, not the Democrats].

It would appear that White, in spite of his ability to package his message for maximum effect among voters who are far from being radicals, is trapped in the cognitive box that for three decades has doomed the Greens to ineffectualness in U.S. politics, except in the one thing they are in denial about—how their plague-on-both-houses ideological stance has steered them into being unwitting Republican enablers at the worst historic moments. He admits he can’t win, so what is he doing siphoning votes from Evers in a manner that could only help produce a third term in office for Scott Walker—the infamous union buster and driving force behind some of the harshest voter suppression measures in the nation?


It may be that the Blue Wave will be larger than I think and will render the spoiler effect of the Greens, Libertarians, etc. in the above races meaningless (I certainly hope so). But whatever happens, I want to make it clear that (a) I’m concerned here with potential Green spoiler effects under the emergency conditions of this election and of the elections in 2020 and thereafter until the Trump regime of hate is brought down, not with what the Greens might do thereafter or in any races today or in 2020 that lack a clear potential for a spoiler effect; and (b) I don’t think the Greens sat down and plotted to help Trump by entering the races described above. The Greens are a federation of autonomous state organizations each of which makes its own decisions about who to run (often it boils down simply to who is willing to run) and for what office. Some of the state Green organizations, as in Florida, did not put up candidates for the Senate or the House, and almost certainly many if not most of their members and voters will vote Democratic in the Congressional races and gubernatorial races, while voting Green in local and state legislative contests.

The problem here is a set of beliefs that, although not universally held in the Green movement or among its voters, is influential among many of its leading activists. The central belief is that the Democrats and Republicans are equally bad and corrupt, and to vote for the Democrats as the lesser evil is to sell out. Thus if the Greens put up a particular candidate for Congress they may simply not care if their candidate is going to undermine the Democrats’ fight to win back Congress. They don’t share the urgency the rest of us feel about achieving this goal. Green Party national co-chair Gloria Mattera, in a telephone interview with me, referred sarcastically to “Blue Wave hysteria.”

Green activists who have absorbed this mindset are not helping their party. They are keeping it blind to the possibilities of joining the vast movement now uniting liberals, progressives, centrists, minority communities and women across this land to save our democracy, and instead are retreating into a tunnel focus on how to position their candidates to win just enough votes in a particular state to gain or keep automatic Green ballot access for four more years. Not much different from what the Greens have been doing in the U.S. for the past 30 years and never really gaining much traction (Jill Stein with all her media attention in 2016, got only 1.07 percent of the national vote).

After Nov. 6, I’ll post a follow-up article about the views that motivate the Greens and why they continue to set themselves apart—in a strange ideological bubble—from the huge and exciting mass resistance movement to take back America, step by step, from the increasingly authoritarian Washington trifecta.

There is no Planet B.

There is no America B.

Green supporters should vote Democratic in all close congressional and gubernatorial races on November 6.



Most Republicans see nothing wrong with Trump’s collaboration with Putin–why?

It would be easy to say that the Republicans are “disloyal” to America, but I think the truth is much more complicated than that. Because the very meaning of loyalty has changed.

I remember back when the movement against the Vietnam war was in full swing, NIxon called on the “silent majority” to strike back and indeed there was a period when the majority did support the war, including some Democrats who later became “Reagan” Democrats. The silent majority regarded themselves as the patriots and many of them regarded the protesters as traitors outside the pale.

What has changed today is that the grassroots Republicans have a new definition of what it means to be an American, and hence of what patriotism, as well as loyalty, involves.

Many whites–not just the white working class but many who are college educated and in middle class jobs, as well as many small business people and farmers–have come to see THEIR America, white America, as under siege by hostile invaders: blacks, Hispanics, other nonwhite people, immigrants either undocumented or documented, the LGBT community, and women who refuse to be dominated and mistreated.

Over the eight years of Obama the lurking bigotry in the minds of Republicans turned hard and cruel–Obama became the symbolic focus of their hate, which was cynically brought to a pitch by skilled racist operatives. Now Trump’s Republican followers deeply feel that THEIR America is being taken away from them. This is far more important to them than any cerebral issue of national security, the Atlantic alliance and NATO as defined by the Washington “elite.” They want THEIR America back–the America they delude themselves into thinking they once controlled, as if the banks and the billionaires never had, or don’t still have, the upper hand.

The Christian Right feels the same way but they have a pop-theological overlay to it: They believe that not only is America being taken away from whites but it is being taken away from them AS Christians. They too want America back, they want THEIR Christian white America back, and many of them want Dominion over believers and nonbelievers alike.

So when they are told by the media “elite” that Trump is collaborating with Putin, that is not a negative thing to them. Trump is giving them what they want. And Putin is helping Trump to do it. Putin is supporting their patriotism (as they define it) by helping Republican candidates win elections. Putin is helping them keep their guns and he’s helping them outlaw abortion and gays, and he’s helping Trump stay in power. Thus many Republicans will say openly that Putin’s a great guy and others will think it privately.

Most of them are not going to change on this point. Supporting Trump and defending Trump’s collaboration with Putin is “patriotic” and “Christian.” It is the immigrants, the blacks, the gays, and the liberal women who support Planned Parenthood who are the REAL enemies of white America and of the Bible. Not some guy thousands of miles away in Moscow.

The Trump base has upended the traditional meaning of patriotism so that the Democrats and progressives, not Putin, are the true enemies of America.

Expect no help from the Republicans in taking steps to stop Russian interference in the November elections. Trump’s base will not allow it; indeed his base will regard doing so as the very OPPOSITE of protecting America.

Dan Rather said after Trump’s election that some day there will be better news. He didn’t say “soon,” he said “some day,” like we had entered an extended period of travail. But there is a window of opportunity to lessen that period. All Americans alarmed about the future of our country under Trump and his far right allies need to turn out this November (and make sure their friends and family turn out and get the ID they need not to be turned away at the polls) to help take back Congress. Likewise we should all donate to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to groups such as the NAACP, Planned Parenthood and the labor movement that are rallying the public in support of the issues and values traditionally defended by the Democrats. And if you know people who are unable to get to the polls, either because of illness or because their boss won’t let them take time off to vote, make sure they send in a ballot by mail.

If we take advantage of this brief window of opportunity, we will have a fighting chance to take back at least the House. But this will require a turnout like never before, because the Russians and the Mercer family’s newest tech crew will be cherry picking districts for ballot deletion and the Christian Right will be mobilizing on a huge scale to kill Roe v. Wade.

If we do win back the House and make big gains on the state level, the other side will still have the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the millions of assault rifle owners and the money of billionaires such as the Kochs, Mercers and Murdochs. But we’ll be able to start limiting Trump’s damage, in some policy areas, thanks to the Democrats gaining this toehold of power.

And toeholds, if they are held tenaciously (as in a rather obvious example from 1944), have a tendency to eventually burst the doors wide open.

Will the Russians help the GOP again this year? What can we do about it?

The Democratic lead in the race to control the House has lessened in recent months, and it is unclear if the Dems can mobilize core voters on a level that will compensate for the advantage the GOP has gained from recent gerrymandering and racially targeted voter suppression laws. I have a suspicion that the Christian Right, thanks to Trump’s Supreme Court picks, is going to mobilize its base this November in the most spectacular manner ever seen in midterms–the 20 percent asserting its Dominion over the 80 percent while the 1 percent laughs all the way to the bank.

As to the rest of the Trump base: even their idol’s appalling performance in Helsinki, operating like Putin’s lapdog, is unlikely to have a sobering effect. It is obvious from the performance of the crowds at recent Trump rallies that they will for the most part be unmoved by appeals to the national interest or to patriotism and the importance of the Western Alliance in the wake of Helsinki. For they have replaced national interest in their minds with the white nativist interest, patriotism with white nationalism, and the Western Alliance (insofar as they have any knowledge of the outside world) with the insurgent Putin-financed international movement known as “populism.” And most other Republicans stand and will continue to stand with Trump on the basis of an ersatz conservative ideology, desire for higher profits resulting from deregulation, or a cowardly conformism.

The race will probably be close. All Democrats should therefore be concerned that Russian government hackers will find a a way to influence the outcome in swing districts by just enough to maintain Republican House control and even help the GOP increase its majority in the Senate. Already the Russian GRU intelligence agency has attempted to hack the computers of  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who is one of the chief targets of Trump and the Republicans in their fight to maintain control of the Senate.

Our intelligence community keeps warning that Russian cyber warfare in this country continues on a massive scale, but no one is doing much about it. The majority of states are expressing little concern over the possibility of new electoral attacks. And in many states there are no paper ballots, so no easy way to challenge suspicious results.

The Russians may do the hacking directly or provide cover for the Mercer family to once again use its own mercenaries with a little outside help. The hacking may eventually be discovered (or may not, as in the case of the suspected ballot machine tampering in the 2000 Presidential election) but before that the Republican candidates who benefited will be safely occupying their seats–and no one will be able to unseat them (or indict those in the United States who were involved) since the Republicans, flush from victory and continuing to control all three branches of our government, will support Trump in firing Mueller and dismantling the Russia investigation, and in dismissing questions about the November results as “fake news” or a deep-state “witch hunt.”

The GOP leaders may already anticipate that Putin will bail them out, but they don’t frame it as unpatriotic or treasonous to accept Russian support, because they think the Democrats are FAR WORSE than Putin. Same with the Christian Right, which has been allying with Russian Orthodox rightists (backed by Putin-linked oligarchs) for years.; it is more concerned with taking away a woman’s right to control her own body and the right of LGBTQ people to marry–issues more important to them than any abstract and relatively trivial (as they see it) national security or integrity of the ballot issues. For both the Republican legislators and the Christian Right fanatics, the enemy of our enemy is our friend and the Constitution is to be interpreted as whatever keeps the Trumpublicans in power.

The federal government under Trump is not going to ride to the rescue on ballot security this November. Nor will Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. Nor will the intelligence community. And certainly not Kirstjen Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security.

The hour is late, but perhaps not too late for the following measures:

1. The Democratic National Committee and/or civil rights groups should file suits in every state without paper ballots, demanding immediate steps to protect the integrity of the computerized elections in those states; and where a state board of elections is not moving in an aggressive manner on this danger, the plaintiffs should ask the court to appoint an outside trustee to manage the election process.

2. The DNC should encourage computer scientists and highly skilled programmers, specially those with expertise in security issues, to join in a volunteer Save the Vote Corps to help any state board of elections in protecting its computer system. (Something similar is already being done to help protect the computers of Democratic congressional candidates.) Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech giants should be asked to provide experts for this volunteer corps.

At the least, these measures would help us to accumulate more knowledge of the background of any suspicious results, and thus make it easier to challenge such results in the courts, in the media, and in the streets.