Saturday, October 24, 2020

Trump's Waukesha Rally Will Probably Become A "Superspreader" Event

ON SATURDAY NIGHT, President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was an event that brought out his most ardent supporters in one of the reddest parts of the state.

Naturally, even though coronavirus continues to rage on in the U.S. (and in Wisconsin in particular), the event was a mostly maskless affair. As freelance reporter Ethan Duran noted, hundreds of individuals were packed in tight at the event without donning any protective covering whatsoever.

Not everyone was maskless, however, because the Trump campaign has determined it doesn't do them any good to actually SHOW people not wearing masks. So, as has become their modus operandi as of late, people who were on the stage behind Trump were wearing masks — you know, so that the cameras could show he takes this pandemic seriously.

Of course, Trump doesn't take any of this seriously, as was evident during his speech. At one point, he told revelers standing before him that the virus is "going away" and that it's "rounding around the turn."

That's not even true within his own administration. As he was speaking in Waukesha on Saturday, it was announced that Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short, as well as another aide in the VP's office, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Some have observed the way that coronavirus has traversed through Trump's White House staff, and have described it as being akin to a "superspreader" event on its own. Which begs the question: will his event in Waukesha put people at risk, too?

Undoubtedly it will. Waukesha itself, known for being stubborn in the early months of the crisis by staging protests against the state's stay-at-home order, is already a hotbed of coronavirus activity. That will continue, if not get worse, because of Trump's presence this weekend.

Thanks, Donald.

We know this will be true with near certainty, because we've already seen what happens when Trump visits Wisconsin during the pandemic — the virus spreads, and rates of death increase

Trump held a rally on September 17 in Mosinee, Wisconsin. On that date, the percentage of all tests ever taken that came back positive for coronavirus in Marathon County was at 4.94 percent. Two weeks later, at the start of October, the rate increased to 7.70 percent.

The positivity rate has, sadly, continued to grow since that time, sitting at 13.43 percent as of this past Friday.

The number of deaths in Marathon County, similarly, has gone up since Trump's visit. When he came to Mosinee, there were 14 deaths recorded from coronavirus. Now, 39 individuals have died from the virus.

That number may sound minuscule to some, but one has to remember: Marathon County is sparsely populated compared to other areas of the state. If you extrapolated that county's population to the size of the city of Madison, those 25 recorded deaths over the past 37 days would equal 47 deaths. And if you compared Marathon County's death rate during those two weeks to the U.S. population overall, it'd be equivalent to seeing more than 60,000 deaths over that time period.

The U.S. saw about 27,000 COVID-19 deaths from September 17 to October 23 — a terrifying number, to be sure, but much smaller than what Marathon County experienced in a per capita comparison.

Are these numbers out of Marathon County all attributable to Trump's campaign rally? It's hard to say for sure. But he certainly played a role in getting people to come out to that event, to (mostly) not wear their masks during it, and continue to believe well after that rally in Mosinee that social distancing and facial coverings were unimportant. 

The president is, at a minimum, mainly to blame for encouraging dangerous beliefs about coronavirus, including in Wisconsin. Beyond that, he may also be to blame for the recent uptick in the spread of the virus here due to hosting campaign events in the state.

It's not a hard guess to make to say that Waukesha County will likely see similar spikes in the next few weeks. 

Featured image credit: image of Trump, via Gage/Skidmore/Flickr; image of COVID-19, via public domain.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Reason Why Joe Biden Should Commit To "Packing" The Court — If Barrett Gets Confirmed, That Is...

ONE QUESTION THAT DEMOCRATIC presidential nominee Joe Biden seems stuck on during the waning weeks of the campaign is whether he'd "pack the Supreme Court" or not if he's elected, meaning would he increase the size of the bench in order to create a better balance of liberal and conservative justices.

So far, he's not made his views clear on the subject.

But he absolutely should "pack" the court, with one extra justice, if Amy Coney Barrett is appointed.

President Donald Trump has had three Supreme Court vacancies during his presidency. Only one came in the middle of his term, with the first nomination coming about due to Republicans blocking President Barack Obama's choice the year before Trump took office.

Republicans insisted that Obama's pick not be heard since it was so close to a presidential election. Now, they're inconsistently rationalizing that rule doesn't matter anymore.

Any way you slice it, the hypocrisy makes clear that Trump should not have been able to appoint either the first vacancy that happened under his watch (as soon as he entered office) or this most recent one.

He got an extra nomination to the court that he shouldn't have received, if the rules had been carried out consistently. Either GOP senators should have let Obama make his pick back in 2016, or Republicans should refrain from going forward on Barrett's nomination.

It's more than likely that Barrett will get appointed. So Biden absolutely should commit to one extra member on the Supreme Court, if he wins office. Doing so would negate the negative effects of a seat being stolen by the GOP and Trump.

If Barrett's nomination doesn't go through, however, through some miraculous circumstance, there's no need to rectify the problem. Biden should not add another seat to the court, but fill the vacancy that would still remain.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo explains it more succinctly, in a series of tweets he made on the issue over the weekend (bolded emphases added):

For the last decade Republicans have used an escalating mix of aggressive and corrupt means to stack the federal judiciary in order to entrench power they believe they will no longer be able to win in majority elections. If Democrats control the Congress and the White House, they must take steps to undo this harm and corruption and the most viable, logical path is to add additional seats to the Supreme Court. This is no more than undoing bad acting by Republicans, a remedial, reactive action to ensure that democratic government can function.

If Democrats are pressed on whether they support expanding the Court, the obvious answer is it's up to the GOP! The rushed confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is the culmination of this effort to stack the judiciary via corrupt means. If Republicans give Democrats no choice, the consequences are on them. Will Democrats expand the Court? The substantive answer should be, absolutely. The political answer is, we’ll have to see what Republicans do. If they continue to abuse their power we’ll have no choice.

The one worry about this idea that I have is that it would create a precedent that might allow for increasing the size of the court for future presidents. But so long as it's framed in such a way as to explain it's a one-time deal — as a means to correcting a problem created by the corrupt and hypocritical Republican senators/Trump over the past four years — then those fears should be alleviated.

On top of this, reforms to the court should also be considered, to ensure such corrections will never be necessary again. And a commitment to lowering the number of justices to nine, within a year or two, should be made.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr; AscendedAnathema/Wikimedia