The Hidden Danger of Safety

The need for safety during Covid has caused a withdrawal from public life. We’re not participating in communal events like church, school, and family gatherings. Our institutions are going through the motions in zoom meetings, waiting for the pharmaceutical companies to save the planet. The recent presidential election made government seem important, but once it was over, a lot of the issues that had folks fighting in the streets have receded from our consciousness. Look at the Fayetteville City Council’s Agenda this month. Hard decisions on the future of the Market House have been pushed off to 2021. It’s just zoning changes for the rest of the year. The North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t done anything since Covid began besides spend some federal money. Don’t get me started on Congress.

It’s stagnant.

But I need to look in the mirror. Maybe I’m projecting? Although writing a political blog is a hobby, I feel a sense of responsibility to point out the truth on local issues as I see them. But I’ve withdrawn to my little covid safety routine, as I’m sure many of you have. I quit writing for a while. Once you stop putting in the work, it’s harder to start up again.

Death Spiral?

A recent article that popped up on my newsfeed got me thinking about the dangers of sitting in our safe, private spaces.

The Death Spiral of Public Life

It’s worth a quick read. It argues that our withdrawal from public life will permanently degrade our public institutions. Public schools are hit the worst, as many upper-middle class families are leaving for private schools (that are actually open). These families aren’t coming back. Public transportation isn’t being used because people aren’t going to work or travelling. Each of these public services will lose funding and each will suffer long term ramifications that will last well beyond the pandemic.

The result is this:

  • An increasingly large (and increasingly expensive) à la carte menu of necessary private services for those that can afford them.
  • Crappy government services for the poor.

Income inequality widens. America suffers.

The C.S. Lewis Answer

I’m going to throw some religion on this fire:

In his famous book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a demon, Screwtape, writing to his nephew (also a demon), giving him advice on how to capture a man’s soul. In a relevant correspondence, Screwtape offers the following:

The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.

Feel numb to it all lately? You’re not alone.

You’ve been told to stay indoors, cover your face, hide your kids, hide your wives! Don’t do anything! Just sit there! A vaccine is on the way, next year! Your little county is now code level burnt orange due to rising positivity rates, so don’t even think about seeing your elderly parents this Christmas!

What active habits that don’t involve a screen have you actually done more of? Are even those becoming dull? Thought of writing a book about it? A blog post?

Inherent Design Flaw?

When I was in public school, I did have some screen time, and we got to play “educational” games. The best was the Oregon Trail. Your mission was to get your party from Missouri to Oregon in a covered wagon. The worst thing that could happen in the game was disease.

You have died of dysentery,” and what the Oregon Trail video game still  teaches us about health | by Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District | Medium

But you kept going. Sitting still wasn’t an option. A wagon is made to roll. Similarly, a human being is not made to sit still for years at a time. We’re designed to create, to move.

I would argue that the American political system is built on the recognition of this truth, and maybe that’s why we’re so bad at pandemics. The constant strain of personal freedom vs. the public good combined with a lack of leadership has caused a spiritual sickness in this country. We’ve lost our ability to act and our ability to feel is right behind it.

We’ve got to get moving soon. It’s who we are.

The Final Sales Pitch (Trump’s Exit)

Our President is a salesman. He’s sold everything from steaks, to wine, to online college. His latest pitch is getting his supporters to pay him 150 million dollars to “litigate” his claims of “election fraud.”

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

Trump has no chance of winning these claims and has lost in every state he’s tried.

But he tried.

He tried to overturn an American election, in a pandemic. This should not be forgotten.

Donald Trump mocked for giving Thanksgiving speech from tiny desk | South  China Morning Post

There is a lot of debate in the political sphere about Trump’s influence in the Republican Party after he leaves office. Will he still “control” the party? Will he be a gatekeeper in Republican primaries with his army of loyal supporters? Will he run again in 2024?

I’m of the opinion that America will move past Donald Trump. Ex-Presidents are powerless figureheads in the American political system. They are irrelevant. The system is bigger than one man. It has been that way ever since George Washington stepped down after eight years in office.

But Washington left us with a warning:

Early Imprint of George Washington's "Farewell Address" Booklet, | Lot  #25691 | Heritage Auctions

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=15&page=transcript

Our election was fair.

The President lost.

The President knows that once he leaves office he will become the man he was before he got a free house and a free plane. He’ll just be the man who sleeps with Stormy Daniels and sells steaks on T.V.

That’s why he’s trying so hard to hold on.

In trying to hold on, he’s shown a willingness to destroy the American democratic system. It’s not even throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s taking a wrecking ball to the house.

He is the enemy Washington foresaw.

But fear not. Our democracy remains the “main pillar” of the edifice of your independence, tranquility, peace, safety, prosperity and liberty. Don’t let 2020 “weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

Washington Monument reopens after years of construction | CNN Travel

We’re going to be alright, and we have a lot of brilliant men to thank for that.

The First Rule of Politics

One of the wonderful things about a Republic is that a national politician’s interest often varies by state. It’s a check on power.

Exhibit A:

After all the talk from Donald Trump about ending the vote count on election day, we have arrived here:

This map is very possible, maybe even probable. Biden may take the presidency because he won a single electoral college vote in Nebraska.

All of this is a bit ironic and made me think of this:

Fortunately, we’re not in 17th Century N.Y.C., though our President looks to be headed there in January.

“Tie Goes to the Runner” – 2020 Predictions

If you played kickball or baseball in the 1990’s, you quickly learned one of the schoolyard’s most basic principles: “Tie goes to the runner!”

The gist is this: if the ball and the runner reach the base at the same time, the runner is safe.

Tie goes to the runner, dude!" Or . . . maybe not - MLB | NBC Sports

A few days ago, the idea popped in my head to apply this rule to politics.

Political “Field”

First, some basics to set up the analogy:

The “runner” is the challenger. He’s trying to score.

Kelly Leak Topps (1976) Bad News Bears | The bad news bears, Movie card,  Bad news

The incumbent is on defense. The incumbent controls the field and generally has more money and people trying to help his/her campaign. These advantages pay off. The incumbent generally wins. It’s aggravating at times.

Derek Jeter's number retirement ceremony was peak Yankees

Sometimes, for various reasons, an incumbent will face a close race for re-election. Here, we can infer political momentum because the incumbent’s inherent advantage must have dwindled for a reason. Perhaps the incumbent did something wrong? Perhaps the incumbent is swept up into national partisan trends? Or, perhaps, the particular challenger happens to be a bad ass.

Recent Media tagged bad news bears - Skymeteor

A general rule emerges: If a race is close as election day approaches, you should bet on the challenger. The reason: the momentum that he/she used to close the gap will more than likely carry him/her to victory.

“Tie goes to the runner”

The 2020 Ticket

We’ll start at the top:

President: Biden has not only closed the gap on the incumbent, he’s favored in every poll. Biden’s going to win. So you’ll know I’m consistent, I wrote a post in July called “Trump is Going to Lose.” It’s the most unoriginal title I ever came up with, but my feelings haven’t changed. Unless something drastic happens in 2020, we’ll have a new President in 2021.

  • WINNER: RUNNER (BIDEN)

US Senate: This is a race where my theory gets put to the test. Cal Cunningham was leading in most polls against the unpopular incumbent, Tom Tillis. You had to like Cunningham’s chances. Then, Cal got caught sexting with a woman in a different state. Cal’s basically in hiding now, refusing to answer questions. He’s trying to run out the clock.

I still like his chances. Why? He’s in a close race with an incumbent that’s coming down to the wire. People obviously didn’t like Tillis to begin with, and Cunningham’s personal mishaps aren’t going to change that. “Tie goes to the runner.”

  • WINNER: RUNNER (CUNNINGHAM) by less than 2 points.

Governor: This race has never been close, so our theory doesn’t apply.

  • WINNER: COOPER

U.S. House (District 8): Incumbent Richard Hudson faces his most serious challenger yet in former NC Supreme Court Justice and Fayetteville native, Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

The partisan makeup of the 8th District favors a Republican. The middle, rural parts of the district are solidly “red.”

8th District.png

For a Democrat to win, they have to drive up Democratic vote on the “ends” of the District (Cumberland and Cabarrus).

If Trump keeps imploding, he could turn “lean Republican” races like this one into “toss-ups.” Tie goes to the runner in toss-ups.

The cracks are forming in the Trump foundation, but there’s a whole lot of MAGA in the middle of NC’s 8th District that will fight (and vote) to the end.

As a side note, this race is somewhat personal to me. My old man ran for this seat in 2002 when I was a senior in high school and lost in the Democratic Primary. In addition, I clerked for Justice Timmons-Goodson while I was in law school. She’d be an excellent Congresswoman and Fayetteville would benefit substantially from having a resident member of Congress. Hudson has never held a real job outside of politics and lives in Washington D.C. Let’s get Hudson some work in the private sector.

Please vote for Timmons-Goodson.

  • WINNER: TRUMP SAVES OR KILLS HUDSON

If Trump implodes and loses nationally by >8 points, then this race goes to the “runner,” Timmons-Goodson. If not, Hudson keeps his seat.

NC Senate District 19

Kirk deViere vs. Wesley Meredith, Part II.

This one is always fun to cover, and I’ve written about it extensively. This seat is the epitome of North Carolina’s purple politics and produces close and expensive races.

I never miss the chance to remind folks that I called this race within .03 of a percentage point in 2018, and I kept the receipts:

https://crosscreekdivide.com/2018/11/16/dont-get-caught-watchin-the-paint-dry/

Surprisingly, the race seems quieter this time around. I keep waiting for a bombshell that hasn’t materialized from Meredith, the king of attack ads. From what I can tell, its been mostly a mailbox battle. Maybe Meredith’s not getting as much money from the Republican Party this time around?

Regardless, the race is likely to be close again, but it’s hard to say if our baseball theory applies this time. Meredith’s only been out of this seat for one term and held it longer than deViere prior to losing in 2018. Who’s the runner? Who’s in the field?

I think this one ends up a lot like 2018, with deViere gaining a little more ground due to Democratic enthusiasm. I’ll call it to the 10th of a percentage point to see if I can re-create my crystal ball magic:

  • WINNER: Kirk deViere 51.3%, Wesley Meredith 48.7%

Wrap-Up

After I wrote this post, I googled the “tie goes to the runner” rule. I came across a post on a blog for umpires. There’s a blog for everyone nowadays.

It turns out that “tie goes to the runner” isn’t an actual rule.

There’s no such thing as a tie in baseball. You either beat the ball to the plate, or you don’t.

Umpires have to make the call.

You can make the call starting tomorrow with early voting.

Fee free to yell at me in the meantime.

Baseball leslie nielsen 32 GIF - Find on GIFER