Editorial: Five of Mike Pence’s Aides Have COVID-19, but the Campaign Must Go On

This weekend, at least five aides and advisers to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for COVID-19. The White House tried to keep the development under wraps, since this news contradicts what Donald Trump really wishes we believed: that we’ve “rounded the turn,” and that the coronavirus is disappearing in the U.S. In support of the White House strategy of denial, Mike Pence is continuing to campaign in person, eschewing the 14-day quarantine recommended for anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

When Mike Pence was appointed to head up the White House Coronavirus Task Force, a lot of Americans suspected he may not be the best choice. As it turns out, Pence has been little more than a “yes” man to Trump’s coronavirus agenda, downplaying and politicizing the pandemic. And as Pence, directly exposed to COVID-19 himself, ignores the public health guidelines put forth by his own task force, he confirms those doubts about his qualifications for leading a team whose job has ostensibly been to protect the American public from a deadly virus.

It is inconvenient that a second White House wave of the coronavirus should occur now —just a week from Election Day. The White House would like to distract voters’ attention from the virus, and focus it instead on the economy, which Trump insists was the best ever until the Chinese sent the virus this way. The subsequent economic crisis, he wants voters to believe, is mainly the fault of China, but also the fault of Democratic leaders who insisted on lockdowns in efforts to protect their constituents from the spread of the virus.

Nevertheless, the coronavirus remains as the issue that is topmost in voters’ minds. And many—or, according to polls, most—voters see the Trump administration as having failed at protecting Americans, or advocating for them, during this pandemic.

Trump’s response to the pain, worry, and fear that most people outside his base have been feeling this year is to continue to pretend that it’s a non-issue; barely acknowledging the widespread suffering, scoffing at those who observe safety guidelines, and downplaying the seriousness of it all.

“That’s all I hear about now,” said Trump at a rally in Lumberton, North Carolina. “Turn on the TV, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.”

Yet Mike Pence defends his boss’s handling of the coronavirus, insisting that no one has done more to protect the American people than Donald Trump. He still touts Trump’s travel restrictions on China (which he calls a “ban,” but which was only a set of limited restrictions) early in the pandemic, as if it were the single most important thing anyone has done to stop the spread of the virus. (It wasn’t. Though Trump has claimed that but for his “travel ban,” “thousands and thousands” more people would have died, it’s not known how impactful that move really was, since the virus had already arrived in the U.S. by then.)

As if it weren’t absurd enough that Mike Pence is still keeping up his busy campaign schedule in light of the COVID-19 outbreak among his close aides and advisors, the White House is using the excuse that Pence, as a campaigner, is essential personnel.

“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley on Saturday.

Essential personnel are medical staff and first responders; they are key transportation employees, food workers, and public works personnel—the people who are suffering, as a matter of fact, under the failure of Congress and the White House to pass a second economic stimulus bill.

“I don’t see campaigning on the list,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins University and former Maryland State Health Department chief. “Anything that does not have to be done in person and anything not related to his job as vice president would not be considered essential.”

The degree of disregard for others, including trusted White House staff, when it comes to observing coronavirus safety guidelines, is breathtaking. Nothing, however, can top the apparent admission by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday that the administration has essentially given up on trying to control the spread of COVID-19 until, or unless, there is a vaccine or a medical breakthrough.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows told an incredulous Jake Tapper on CNN. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

Other countries, in fact, have been successful in controlling the pandemic. New Zealand, for example, had a total of 827 cases, with no recent new cases. Barbados has had a total of 227 cases, with no new recent cases, and Vietnam has had a total of 1,168 cases, with just four new recent cases.

The Trump administration is so bent on denying its failure to manage the coronavirus pandemic that it has become a panel of gaslighters. As Meadows made clear, the knowledge that they didn’t do what they needed to early on, has become the narrative that it’s not controllable, and therefore, we shouldn’t even try to control it.  We should continue crowding thousands of people together, without masks, to spread disease and spray respiratory droplets while yelling and cheering for the re-election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Is Mark Meadows, in his statement that America can’t control the pandemic, conveying a narrative that “herd immunity” is a real solution? (It’s not. According to Dr. William Haseltine, Chair and President of ACCESS Health International, if the virus is allowed to spread freely without a vaccine, “we are looking at two to six million Americans dead – not just this year but every year… Herd immunity is another word for mass murder. That is exactly what it is.”

“Trump to America: Drop dead,” said Paul Begala, political commentator and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Mike Pence, chair of the now-phantom White House Coronavirus Task Force, chooses to ignore the opportunities for a platform where he could support public health guidelines, set a good example, and help keep thousands of people safe from the spread of COVID-19. Instead, Mike Pence opts to enable Donald Trump, as together, they gaslight their base and continue to endanger the lives of White House staff.

Five Of Vice President Mike Pence’s Aides Test Positive For COVID-19 | TODAY [2020-10-26]

Pence continues rallies despite 5 aides testing positive for COVID-19 |
ABC News [2020-10-26]

Editorial: Voter Intimidation and Suppression are Illegal, and Our President Openly Encourages Both

Voter intimidation and suppression are illegal, as is election tampering. Yet our current president continues to openly support and encourage all three, evidently in fear that those are the only ways to ensure that he wins re-election. In few areas are Trump’s authoritarian ambitions more apparent than in his efforts at voter suppression and intimidation, as well as election tampering; and even if some guns, harassment, or violence happen to be in the mix, so be it.

Donald Trump has insisted that the only way he will lose the 2020 presidential election is if the Democrats cheat. Having already nursed his supporters’ distrust of anyone but himself and those associated with him, Trump has also persuaded his base to believe his narrative about election results. Trump’s desperate crafting of such an outcome expectation has set the stage for his supporters to refuse to accept any election outcome other than Trump’s re-election. This, in itself, is election tampering by Donald Trump. Cheating, even.

When it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic would stretch beyond the summer and into the time of the presidential election, it also became apparent that polling venues would be risky places to be on Election Day. Consequently, many states decided to make it easier for their residents to vote by mail in order to protect them from contracting the virus while voting, as well as make voting generally more accessible for every voter.

Donald Trump has used the situation as another opportunity to meddle with the election by insisting that voting by mail leads to widespread voter fraud. Though it’s true that more Democrats than Republicans vote by mail, both Republican-led and Democrat-led states have successfully carried out past elections that were largely by mail-in ballot, with negligible voter fraud. Trump, however, continues to try to promote mistrust in voting by mail, and his administration has initiated several lawsuits to try to stop voting by mail. If more voters vote (and more mail-in voting ensures that more voters will vote), it is a threat to a Trump victory.

Over the summer, as if to reinforce his scheme to prevent successful mail-in voting, Trump appointed top campaign donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General of the U.S. Postal Service. DeJoy soon issued “cost-savings measures” that included reductions in service; decommissioning of hundreds of mail sorting machines; removal of numerous blue mailboxes across the country; and abolishing the overtime needed to ensure that all of the day’s mail is processed and delivered in a timely manner. DeJoy’s actions brought into question whether he would, intentionally or unintentionally, prevent mail-in ballots from arriving in time to be counted in the election.

Following challenges by Congress and by consumers, DeJoy pulled back on his plan to continue decommissioning postal machines and removing mailboxes. By that time, however, many machines had already been taken out of service, and many mailboxes had already been removed. Further, many Americans’ faith in the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots on time had been eroded.

For those who will not be casting their votes by mail, the polling places have begun to open for early voting. As evidenced by the hours-long lines of voters waiting to cast their votes, Donald Trump’s efforts have not squelched voter enthusiasm, nor have they prevented votes from being cast in any fashion.

As Donald Trump has seen that nothing will deter voters from voting in the 2020 election, he has now called for an army of his supporters to deem themselves “poll watchers,” and go to voting places to “watch very carefully” as voters exercise their right to vote.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” Said Trump at his first presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden. “I am urging them to do it.”

Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections program, has said that many states have laws that dictate who is allowed to be in a polling place at a given time, including who is permitted to be a poll watcher, and what a poll watcher is allowed to do.

“There are laws like this in many states,” says Morales-Doyle. “Regular citizens can’t just take it upon themselves to engage in this kind of poll watching, and for good reason, because it opens up the possibility of voter intimidation, of vigilantism, which the president is seemingly encouraging. But it is illegal.”

Many Democratic leaders and election officials, including Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, also fear voter intimidation, and particularly, suppression of Black voters and other voters of color. Ford tweeted that Trump wasn’t referring to standard poll watching, but instead was calling for “voter intimidation.”

“Voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted,” said Ford.

“The President is openly urging his supporters to congregate at polling places, go inside, and ostensibly harass and intimidate voters,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “While there are authorized ‘poll watchers’ who monitor polls on Election Day, their duties are clearly laid out, and they do not include what President Trump has suggested.”

During early voting at one location in Fairfax, Virginia, a group of about 50 Trump supporters gathered, waving Trump 2020 banners, wrapping themselves in American flags, and shouting, “Four more years! Four more years!” Though the group hadn’t violated any election laws, some voters felt threatened, and requested escorts into the building.

In Michigan, fearing that unauthorized “poll watching” by Trump’s supporters could turn violent, the state has banned open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day, as well as at places where absentee ballots are counted.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said that the Michigan directive prohibits the open carry of firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

Donald Trump would like to abolish “liberty and justice for all” by using his supporters, the very people who claim to wield their guns in support of “liberty and justice” (at least for some), to help him accomplish his goal. He has shown that he would do anything to prevent an election result that is not in his favor, including stopping the mail, and even postponing the election (which can’t be done without an act of Congress).

Trump may fantasize about winning re-election, no matter what, and he may fantasize even more about being an authoritarian leader, but Americans in large numbers have shown how dogged they are when it comes to the standing up against the attempts by the president and his enablers to prevent them from casting their votes in this election.

After all votes are counted, may the total be against the one who wanted to suppress and intimidate voters, and may it be in favor of the candidate who will work for “liberty and justice,” not just for some, but for all.

Trump’s “poll watcher” comments raise concerns about voter intimidation |
CBS News [2020-10-06]

Trump Supporters Disrupt Early Voting in Virginia | Now This News