To Worry or Not To Worry

When I used to work as a judicial pissboy in New York City Housing Court, standing in the broken shoes of tenants too shaky to defend themselves from eviction and homelessness, I often found myself trying to reassure the more nervous of them. I did this with the great confidence born of experience and knowledge.

“I know this is very scary to you, terrifying even. Anyone would be shaken up at the prospect of being evicted from their home. It’s natural to be worried, but there is no reason to worry, and I tell you this with complete confidence. Please try not to worry unless I tell you there’s reason to be worried, and there won’t be. I know the outcome of your case because I’ve done this hundreds of times, I’ve had this identical situation many times and never was anyone evicted. Under the law, before you can be evicted, the judge has to (blah blah blah). This will not happen. My role is to get us enough time to get the small grant needed to end the case against you. The grant will come, 100% though it will take time. I will get the time for the grant check to be released, I’ve done it countless times, I’m an expert in getting more time. I can get more time even in the worst case scenario, when the marshall posts an eviction notice on your door– something that won’t happen in your case. I mention this because even if it does happen, I can stop it. There’s nothing legally unusual about your case, it’s very straightforward, a good outcome is a 100% certainty. So I understand it’s hard not to worry, but please try not to worry unless I tell you there’s something to worry about. In this case, you won’t hear that, since there is literally nothing to worry about.”

Sometimes they’d seem reassured, other times I’d get calls every other day from them, beside themselves with terror. My words were probably true, they acknowledged, but, to the nervous ones, there was always a first time, the unforeseen, the terrifying deathlike long-shot that would find them cringing in a doorway, dirty and unhoused, on the coldest day on record. In their worry they could even believe every word I’d said, but, the thought that would have them bolt upright in the middle of the night was “OK, but what if anything happens to this guy? What if he has a stroke and they replace him with someone who has not done this dozens of times?” There is no answer to that kind of worry. It’s not even, strictly speaking, unreasonable. It’s useless though, and constitutes a kind of self-torture. But I can see their point, suppose I’d died and an inexperienced guardian ad litem was appointed?

I once heard of a case where the tenant had not brought up an obvious defense and was evicted. The defense was so obvious that a reasonable judge may even had a duty to bring it up — but this judge didn’t and nobody knew to appeal her silence. The tenant was evicted, though he should not have been, under the law. I questioned the colleague who told me about this case, an Israeli-American lawyer with a substantial Israeli accent. I was surprised to learn that the tenant had been represented by a lawyer. A lawyer who did not raise the obvious, winning defense, the defense that would have prevented his client’s eviction.

“What was the lawyer, a schmuck?” I asked him.

Schmoke,” he said in a singsong cadence, with a beautiful little shrug, pressing the button for the elevator.

I’m not saying the world is not filled with schmokes, people too stupid to know how stupid they are. The stupider the person, we find, the more confident and unshakable they are in their opinions and beliefs. You can pile all the evidence you like on one side of the scale, you can prove your case, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with no reasonable argument on the other side, and a person impervious to a factual argument will dismiss it with “so you say…” Facing this kind of stupidity is generally not a major problem in life, we can learn to recognize it, remain neutral when stupid people begin to argue and get away from them as soon as possible. The stupidity of others only becomes a problem when they have any kind of power over us.

So if, the other day, when we have the highest number of COVID-19 infections in a single day, and over 1,000 COVID deaths, your candidate boasts confidently “we have defeated COVID, COVID, COVID!” — you might be able to excuse your candidate’s obscene and obvious lie (because he’s protecting the unborn, giving you a million dollar tax break, whatever) but you will have a hard time defending it as a truthful statement. Which doesn’t matter, of course, if everybody else you know is in the same kind of patriotic denial you are. You might all sneer, and laugh and agree “like the man says, just more pure Socialist Democrat Antifa bullshit propaganda– nobody died from COVID-19, ever! We had fifteen cases, it went down to zero, like the president said, done.”

There are millions of unreasonable people in our great land, millions of stupid people, sad to say. They will vote in great numbers for Donald J. Trump, no matter what. He speaks directly to their emotions, he wants vicious revenge on the same people they hate (did you know American citizens of limited income who had at least one immigrant in their household with no Social Security number got nada when those onetime $1,200 relief checks went out? [1]). He announces his vitriol openly, without dancing around the point like some double-talking pussy politician afraid not to be “politically correct”. He’s as true as the North Star the same as he was as a ten year-old millionaire with a fist full of grievances against an unfair world where entitled Negroes, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans get every break — where the white man doesn’t stand a goddamned chance!

As far as I can see, there are millions more Americans who can make a basic cause and effect connection. The president’s mishandling of the pandemic, alone, should cost him the vote of every American who is not either dumb as a pile of turds, too full of hatred to see past his rage, or is making a ton of extra money because of this rich man’s president. The number of American’s with at least some discernment, I have to believe, exceeds the number of people who absolutely don’t give a shit about anything but their grievances. I have to believe this.

The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s COVID-19 cases — a 500% disparity. We lead the world by an impressive margin in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. This is directly attributable to the president’s abdication of responsibility for a coordinated national response to controlling the pandemic. He put the problem of controlling a wildly spreading, deadly worldwide disease squarely, and ridiculously, on each of the states and the several “territories”.

He appointed a religious fanatic and his own unqualified son-in-law to head the team in charge of the federal response. The unqualified son-in-law brayed like a challenged six year-old about who owned the federal stockpiles of equipment (PPE) desperately needed to control the spread of deadly disease, at a moment when states were competing for a very limited supply of PPE. It doesn’t belong to the states, the young man at the podium insisted indignantly, those are our stockpiles. Our’s.

Thousands upon thousands of American died (and continue to die) brutal, solitary deaths they didn’t need to die, from a disease they didn’t have to catch, in part because one spoiled billionaire, appointed by another, was pouting about who owned what instead of addressing what needed to be addressed to prevent massive exposure and deaths during what his father-in-law correctly called a plague We now know Trump was aware of the severity of this deadly airborne disease as early as February 7th when he told Bob Woodward about it, for the record.

America’s 614 billionaires have collectively increased their wealth, over the course of the pandemic, by almost a trillion dollars. They can vote for whoever the hell they want at this point, you would think. A bunch of vocal, prominent ones, and a cabal of more secretive ones, want their golden boy back for four more years. Why not? They’re making out like bandits. Current technology allows them to engineer razor thin Electoral College majorities to get their candidate into office by margins of 0.02% and 0.07%. The Electoral College is designed to foster minority rule, if it comes down to it.

But these are all dumb, boring facts, and we live in an alternative-fact, faith-based universe now.

So why shouldn’t you be worried?

There has been record early voting for the next president, much of it in person. Young people are voting in record numbers. This appears to be a tidal wave of votes against the wildly incompetent, cruel incumbent, though we can’t really know one way or the other at this point. I know 2016 was a sickening shock to 60% of America, and a seeming proof that the “popular vote” makes no difference in the outcome in our system rigged for the super-wealthy, but the political landscape this time is much different.

For one thing, the president has spent four years actively telling tens of millions of people in “Democrat” states to go fuck themselves, over and over, including during this pandemic. He hasn’t done much for most people in Republic states either, outside of billions of taxpayer dollars to farmers he screwed during his lost trade war with China (I know, I know — we own China now, which is why they are helping Biden…) particularly when it comes to minimizing deaths from this awful disease.

39% love Trump no matter what, they always will. As he said, he could shoot somebody in front of his multimillion dollar tower on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose any votes. His lawyers made the same argument in federal court, managing to keep straight faces. They stated that he couldn’t be arrested for shooting somebody in the face on Fifth Avenue

39% love him. At least 50% do not. In this election it appears that much closer to the 60% who hate this guy, for his actual record, for what he has shamelessly done, for what he does and promises to do more of, how he provokes, lays out a feast of divisive hatred at every infectious rally he holds, violating health regulations in state after state, are turning out to vote against him. Millions of first time voters are coming out of their indifference to vote this clown out. Women, who unaccountably voted for this misogynist, white women gave him a majority of his votes (maybe he’s right about them…) against Hillary Clinton, as a group seem to have finally had enough of Trump. At this moment we can’t know how these millions of votes have been cast, but to me the signs look pretty positive.

Can he still win? Yes. The Electoral College, an eighteenth century constitutional compromise to protect the institution of slavery, may be again surgically tweaked to award this modern day would-be slaveholder the presidency again. It can only happen in a fairly close election — assuming the voting machines in multiple states are not hacked and massive numbers of votes flipped. We are told the states are zealous about guarding against this kind of hacking. The courts can rule that any ballot not arriving promptly by 8 pm on Election Day is invalid. They can invalidate millions of legal votes and fights will continue in court over this, but this will only be a factor if the margin of Trump’s defeat is not decisive and undeniable.

The reason Republicans are in court in over 300 cases in 44 states to limit voting is that they know they are going to suffer a major electoral ass whipping, based on their candidate’s record. It appears they are in the midst of this ass whupping, with record-shattering early voting poised to exceed the total votes cast in 2016. It is crucial for the anti-majoritarian tyranny party to win court cases to limit the votes of people rightfully outraged by too many outrages to count. They will be unable to overcome a tsunami of votes, even if the courts refuse the counting of millions of otherwise valid ballots that come after 8 pm on November 3, no matter when they’re post marked.

Trump has already actively sabotaged mail-in voting, used violence against peaceful protests, illegally withheld funds from “Democrat” “anarchist jurisdictions” during the economic hard times brought on by the pandemic, attacked the governor who was the intended victim of a kidnapping, “trial” and execution, exhorted armed followers to show up at polling places to intimidate enemy voters. He’s not a very nice person (I’ll take a higher road than Keith Olbermann, who finally, and repeatedly, referred to our president as a “piece of shit”).

Trump is also an increasingly desperate guy. He’s at least $400,000,000 in personal debt, and facing numerous state lawsuits, and even the possibility of prison time for tax evasion, once he’s no longer president. He constantly calls on violent supporters to not allow a “rigged election” to be called against him. He actively supports killers on the right and dramatically vilifies any hint of violence during lawful protests — gunshots by his supporters are always justified, broken windows are acts of sick and dangerous anarchists.

Are there reasons to be worried? Yes, certainly. If Trump is president on January 21, 2021, this democracy is over. He has openly violated too many laws and norms to count and will, as is his only way, double down on his brazen lawlessness. The laws he has violated, laws like the Hatch Act, that at one time forced people to resign for violating it, will never be replaced. All norms for civility, decency and basic fairness will be permanently cancelled. We will have open oligarchic autocracy and by rights someone like me, opinionated, reasonably well-spoken, a reader of history who thinks he’s so fucking smart, and has a big fucking mouth, will get what he fucking deserves.

But like I told the worried tenants in whose smelly, worn-out shoes I used to stand, now is not the time to worry.

[1] This bit brought to you by the vicious xenophobes who cannot find the parents of 545 children separated from their parents at the southern border, the same folks who wouldn’t renew the CARES Act:

And one of the biggest populations that was excluded was children and adults in immigrant families. And about 15 million, it’s estimated, individuals in immigrant families were left out. And, you know, most of these kids would have been U.S. citizen children. But the exclusions were particularly harsh here, because if just one adult in the family did not have a Social Security number, no one in the family, regardless of citizenship status or green card status, were able to receive the payment. And so, that has huge applications for families in every state.

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