President Trump is in deep trouble in the midwest, which edged him over the top into the White House, and things can only get worse by November.
The second quarter of 2020 was the worst in history. Worse than Herbert Hoover’s days, and we know how that ended. Jobless claims are rising while benefits are expiring. No sleight of hand can turn things around in three months.
The pandemic is flaring up in Wisconsin, which Trump won four years ago. Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for election, is trailing her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in most polls and in fundraising. Two years ago, Ernst’s approval rating was near 60%. Now she is among the least popular senators, suffering the weight of one Donald Trump. In Ohio, the Republican speaker of the House was recently arrested and charged with taking a $60m bribe from a power company; the Ohio needle is moving steadily in Joe Biden’s favor. Polls of rural voters in swing states show Biden winning. He even has the edge in Texas – I’m not holding my breath, but who’da thunk? Is the Armageddon near?
Trump started trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada that have flattened manufacturing up and down the Mississippi River. Corn prices are at their lowest level in a decade. Meatpacking workers across the midwest were ordered on to unsafe kill floors, shoulder to shoulder, sending fear shuddering through communities as the coronavirus rages. It is all deeply unsettling, and the polls reflect it. Here in Storm Lake, Iowa, the police chief took a knee with Black Lives Matter protesters in Chautauqua Park. This is for real. This is not 2016.
Democratic women stirred up a blue wave in 2018 that started by taking over the House and is building into a tsunami that could topple Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Sen. Susan Collins is running behind in Maine. How does Senator Martha McSally make up a deficit against Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut married to former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, an Arizona hero who survived an assassination attempt? Montana Governor Steve Bullock is running strong in his Democratic bid for the Senate, and cattlemen are restless under the big sky as big meat racks up record profits at their expense.
Meanwhile, McConnell is inching away from Trump. Their differences were exposed when they failed to come up with an unemployment benefits extension by the deadline on Friday. Millions will feel the pain, landlords and tenants alike. When Trump, in sheer panic, said he might delay the election, McConnell was quick to rebut him. Ernst would not comment. She is terrified.
Biden has offered voters a steady rollout of plans to solve big problems, and with a heavy dose of decency and respect
On the day Trump was suggesting redlining in the suburbs, Barack Obama took the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta to eulogize John Lewis and deliver a forceful defense of voting rights. Clearly, Obama is intent on playing a more active role than he did in 2016, particularly in mobilizing black voters. Obama is hardly done talking. Perhaps he might even help turn Georgia.
The pandemic is pretty much out of control. The economy is a wreck, with interest rates near zero. China finally bought some of our corn because it’s so cheap. We are in the grips of a drought that has farmers sweating low yields with low prices. Wildfires are spreading from Arizona to California along with Covid. Our one bright spot, baseball, might even have to shut down just when the Minnesota Twins are on a roll. No way Trump wins Minnesota, one of his flip targets. George Floyd looms large.
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Trump says the only way he can lose is through election fraud. In fact, it seems more likely that the only way he can win is through fraud. In April, Wisconsin Republicans tried to stop voters in a key Wisconsin election for a supreme court justice that was a proxy on Trump – and Trump lost, as stubborn cheeseheads stood in line for hours at great personal infection danger to vote. He desperately needs Wisconsin. But the paper mills are shutting down, dairy operators are drowning in a glut of corporate milk, and furious teachers are organizing like never before.
In a series of legal opinions this spring, US supreme court chief justice John Roberts made clear that he is no presidential patsy. Trump’s abusive tweets came home to roost as the court declared its independence. Roberts had to endure presiding over that nauseating impeachment trial. He will not let Trump steal the election.
People are fed up with being cooped up and knocked down. They want some security right now. Biden has offered voters a steady rollout of plans to solve big problems, and with a heavy dose of decency and respect. His climate agenda is truly bold. He says he wants to be a “transformational” president, not just transitional. He will follow science to respond to the pandemic. That’s what people want to hear, not whining. “Why don’t they like me?” Trump wondered aloud. Because they don’t. That should be good enough to set this country right.
So long as everybody votes.
Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is a Guardian US columnist and author of the book, Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope from the Heartland