The Math of Politics

Life in the U.S. these days is dispelling a number of previously accepted “truths”–and not just the widespread belief in American “can-do” spirit and competence.

Those of us who have spent a significant portion of our adult lives in politics, for example, have generally accepted the “math” of politics–the belief that political success is an exercise in addition. Successful campaigns are those that add supporters to whatever base the campaign started with.

One of the reasons so many of us were stunned by Trump’s victory (even recognizing that it was an Electoral College squeaker, and a significant loss in the popular vote) was that his entire strategy was based upon subtraction and division. That first surreal trip down the golden elevator (you really can’t make this shit up) was followed by a speech calculated to repel Latino voters.

His subsequent behaviors were similarly offensive exercises in subtraction. I doubt that disabled folks were charmed by his cruel and demeaning imitation of a disabled reporter. His declaration that there were “good people on both sides” of the racist and anti-Semitic riot in Charlottesville reminded  black and Jewish voters, among others, why David Duke and the Neo-Nazis had endorsed Trump.

It has been three-and-a-half years of constant subtraction.

Political pundits are fond of pointing out that Trump’s popularity has never been good–he has been “underwater,” with negatives larger than positives throughout both the campaign and his dismal presidency. I’ve been appalled by the number who do continue to support him, but it’s true that his base has never been close to a majority. (The lesson here is the importance of turnout, and the need to fight voter suppression–it doesn’t matter that a majority hates you if enough of them don’t vote.)

Thanks largely to his pathetic performance during the pandemic, there are emerging signs that his internal polling is tanking, posing a real dilemma to the down-ballot sycophants running in 2020.

Dozens of media outlets are reporting that US intelligence agencies held more than a dozen classified briefings beginning in January, warning Trump about the emerging threat of the coronavirus. Trump ignored them (as, evidently, he ignores everything in those briefings…). Voters who cared only that their 401Ks were growing–who dismissed the obvious corruption and incompetence and international embarrassment because the only indicator they found meaningful was the one on the bottom line–are suddenly less forgiving.

Speaking of numbers and math–Trump’s pursuit of political victory has always rested on his belief in division. Dividing immigrants from citizens, blacks from whites, Muslims and Jews and mainstream Protestants from Evangelicals, rich from poor, rural from urban residents and  more recently, Red States from Blue.

The concept of “American” seems entirely foreign to him. Playing on fears and resentments  has been his “go to” instinct, and in 2016 that (barely) worked for him.

There’s plenty to fear about a pandemic, but very few people are looking to the “bully pulpit” for direction; a “pulpit” from which we get only rambling diatribes, seething animosities and evidence of Dear Leader’s monumental stupidity. (True, some people are actually asking health authorities if it’s okay to drink bleach…Those people are beyond help.)

Right now, Americans need reassurance that our government is in the hands of competent people who will see to it that we’ll eventually be all right.

We need empathy–expressions of concern and human-kindness and connection.

We need to believe that we have a President who is more concerned with our health and wellbeing than with himself. (Amazingly, the braggart-in-chief– a consummate liar–somehow can’t manage to lie about that.)

Above all, we need a President who knows how to add–and stops dividing.


  1. For most of us, 2 + (x) 2 = 4. For Trump, 2 + 2 = (I + me) x (mine + more). Good reasoning, Sheila. I enjoyed your post. Democrats work on multiplication while Republicans work on division.

  2. Norris,

    It’s not about math. It’s about death. To deal with TRUTH in the U.S. right now will mean DEATH. It’s the same situation that arose in Germany about 100 years ago with the beginning of the Nazi movement. Those who tried to change the direction died. Just remember Bonhoeffer, Oster, Canaris, etc. etc.

    If you’re not willing to die, then you can’t play the game. It is as simple as that.

  3. 45 may have clearly shown that he is unfit for office, but please don’t take it for granted that he’s headed for the garbage heap of history. We need everybody to turnout and vote blue. We also need everybody to pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has to hold on until at least January 3, 2021, when the new Congress takes its seats, hopefully without Mitch McConnell.

  4. Once again, Marv has hit the proverbial nail squarely on it’s head.
    Bravo Marv!!!

  5. Great blog Sheila. You didn’t have to reference anyone else’s article or rant. The #1 subtraction our Constitution and citizens need to see is the exit of Trump from the White House…whatever it takes to make that happen. The #2 subtraction our Constitution and form of government needs to see is the removal of Moscow Mitch McConnell from the Senate….whatever it takes to make that happen.

    Marv is correct. People must be willing to step up and be prepared to do their patriotic duty to save the Constitution and the Congress from any further destruction at the hands of Trump, his cultists and the cult of the Republican party.

    We haven’t a moment to lose.

  6. We need to understand the guiding principles of Sun Tzu the great Chinese warrior which were written 2,500 years ago:

    * Prevent conflicts before they arise

    *Peacefully and quickly resolve conflicts when they do arise

    *Act with courage, intelligence and benevolence in adversarial situations

    *Convert potential enemies into friends

    *Control your emotions before they control you

    “The Art of War: Spirituality for Conflict” by Thomas Huynh (Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2012).

  7. Sheila writes, “Right now, Americans need reassurance that our government is in the hands of competent people who will see to it that we’ll eventually be all right.”

    That sounds a lot like Obama’s progressive campaign slogan of “Hope” and then “Hope and Change.”

    Coming off the lying GWB years, people were believers in “hope and change.” They got more Neoliberalism and trickle-down economics. That’s why 2016 was the year of populism. People were angry for being lied to once again.

    The GOP populists chose Trump who decimated an extremely large field of party loyalists. The DNC picked a party loyalist who happened to also be a Neocon hawk and forced her down voter’s throats. The worst presidential credentials for the time who eventually lost to Trump.

    Why is the supposed Left or capitalist opposition party so scared of progressive policies? Why do they insist on identity politics when they don’t offer any real policies which help those people?

    The answer is simple; both political parties offer the same policies which pad the capitalist’s pockets who then kickback donations to both parties. The parties are the same they just use rhetoric and propaganda differently.

    It’s just like laundry detergents…they all wash your clothes the same but companies use sophisticated marketing campaigns to tell you their product is different and package the product in ways to make you think you’re paying more for something much better. It’s called a scheme.

    And, if we’ve all agreed that Big Money in politics is ruining our government, why does the DNC insist on supporting Big Money in their party?

    Do you really think the DNC is going to recommend any changes to Citizens United? They’ll give you lip service…that’s it.

    It’s all theater for the voters who make choices based on the options presented in a rigged system but somehow feel when their candidate wins…they’ll win. It’s a pathetic game to watch.

    From The Intercept:

    “Lobbyists have stepped up a campaign to make sure professional influence peddlers are eligible for the PPP, or P3, funds. The push also includes a demand for an additional $25 billion for canceled events and other lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic. Senior Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, plan to accommodate the demand and change the eligibility standard so that small business bailout money can flow to business advocacy groups.”

  8. Who in his RIGHT MIND would ever follow Donald Trump into battle? I’m afraid many of our potential enemies are aware of that frightening reality also.

  9. Okay so we know the occupant of the White House did not move fast enough to address the impending invasion of COVID 19. What about the governor of Indiana? Any comments?

    Governors are getting far higher favorable poll ratings than the president.

  10. Again, Marv is correct!

    Why do you think the government is hoarding all of the PPE, absconding with orders paid for by states and healthcare organizations, all the while telling those states that they need to get their own PPE and other supplies. One hand confiscates, the other hand points a finger and lays blame!

    In Nazi Germany, they used the Jews and others as slave labor, human life was just a commodity to be used up and thrown away. Kind of like what’s happening to the front line workers and most importantly, those in meat and food processing plants. Because hunger will drive people to revolt quicker than anything, so those immigrants working in these meat and food processing plants, are dying by the gross, and they refused to enforce testing to see how much the virus has spread in those plants. So they are dropping over, and they bring in the next person in line!

    And just like Nazi Germany, where the Jews and others had no recourse except death, it’s the same with these workers in the meat processing and food processing plants. Workers cannot file complaints, as the processing plants have been insulated against lawsuits by the administration. So there you have it, make sure the meat gets processed, because hunger is the quickest way to start revolt, remember Marie Antoinette ” let them eat cake?” The guillotine wasn’t far behind!

    We ourselves have had to order masks and sanitizers and other things from vendors who deal mostly with China! Why?!? We don’t have the capability here? Why?!? Why doesn’t the president invoke the wartime production act that he claims as his panacea? Start producing hand sanitizers, and masks, and gowns, and facemasks, instead of having colleges use their 3-D printers to try and donate items to the front line 1st responders. People are making masks on their sewing machines for the veterans administration (VA), the fire department, the police department, supermarket employees, and others! Because these items are not available, they’re either being confiscated by the government after being paid for by others, or other countries are bidding a higher amount for these goods that are still being churned out by China! The amount of alcohol that was produced by these energy companies, the grain alcohol, is the perfect thing for hand sanitizer, then why can’t you buy hand sanitizer?

    I think this administration doesn’t want this to slow down, they wanted to keep going even though they are trying to make it seem they are working to stem the flood so to speak. There’s something more nefarious at work, and who knows if it will be successful or not! One thing we do know, this administration, the GOP, and others that are related to this group, including specific CEOs and corporations, life is disposable as long as you can reach your goal! So, our current messianic maniac has not figured out how to resurrect folks yet! So they are still digging ditches with bulldozers and burying the dead!

    “As regards King Bel·shazʹzar, he held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in front of them. 2 While under the influence of the wine, Bel·shazʹzar gave an order to bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his concubines and his secondary wives could drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his concubines and his secondary wives drank from them. 4 They drank wine, and they praised the gods of gold and silver, of copper, iron, wood, and stone. 5 At that very moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace opposite the lampstand, and the king could see the back of the hand as it was writing. 6 Then the king turned pale and his thoughts terrified him, and his hips shook and his knees began to knock together.” Daniel the 5th chapter, the 5th chapter is an interesting read!

    What’s happening now is so inexplicable, it seems that there is something else driving it! It makes no sense at all, incompetence doesn’t even explain it! I’ve mentioned it before, as it states in Ecclesiastes the 3rd chapter, if it’s time it’s time!

  11. john,

    “What’s happening now is so inexplicable, it seems that there is something else driving it! It makes no sense at all, incompetence doesn’t even explain it!”

    I have a painting of it resting against the wall behind me. It’s called the TAKEOVER. It was completed in the late ’90s by a renowned, German artist who was living in the U.S. It pictures a giant squid with its tentacles “grabbing” all our major institutions.

  12. we listen to numbers with hilary, duh! so much for numbers. of course we could just literally come out of the woodwork in november. a massive vote by all, the only defense..besides, if trump wins,there may never be another vote again…

    but it seems the return to,work,orders,we have been now demanded to die for,only says, we broke the wall streets bank, and heres the retaliation. so, does that mean most of the poiticians are broke to?

    best wishes,washdapaws.

  13. The allusions to “war” today are not very informative, as in, with whom, between whom, and on what grounds? Where’s the Pearl Harbor? Is Trump the “Pearl Harbor?” His cult? Let’s define both the actors and the rationale for war. If it’s war as I understand it, whether domestic (Lincoln) or foreign (FDR – one in which I participated), what are the grounds for the “war” suggested by some today? Ignorant vs. elite? Rich vs. poor? Left wing vs. right wing? What?

    I do not agree that we are “headed for war” or that a few dozen armed idiots in Michigan equal a general uprising or a Fort Sumter, or that definition of such groups as good folks by a narcissist in chief equals a vote for me or else situation. I think instead that there are cooler heads who will prevail, including a military who are under no obligation to obey a demented commander in chief or his illegal orders (e.g., missiles for Wuhan).

    Let’s cool it – and have our “war” in early November.

    Whatever one thinks of such as Trumps and McConnells running amok, there are

  14. I sense significant subtraction and division in today’s responses to Sheila’s blog.

    Unfortunately our next President (our first President in four years) will take charge of a broken government. It is what it is. The most important job for the President is to heal the broken electorate and to establish a new shared vision of who we are in the world which we must adapt to as a diminished participant. A term that many authoritarians rankle at, new world order, is a necessary consequence of the Trump era. I personally would ask Hillary to consider a repeat performance as Secretary of State.

    I imagine by the time Jan 20, 2021 comes around a longer term goal will be to re-establish a working relationship between business and government to get those unemployed by the pandemic back to work but in ways that all stakeholders in business, workers, customers, the environment, the future, communities, supply chain partners, investors, and government are all adequately represented in corporate decisions. On the short term a higher priority must be to create unemployment among lobbyists by ridding politics of corporate money.

    The methods to achieve a sustainable business model are similar challenges for government and corporate leaders. It’s a matter of the establishment of a new corporate culture by the combination of laws from government and policies by corporate leaders. Why not collaborate on a “chain of collaboration” that starts with the appropriate Cabinet Secretaries, goes through any appropriate congressional committees, and through corporate leaders. Get everyone on the same page without money changing hands.

    There are no simple prescriptions, it’s a matter of establishing a new vision and short term actions that lead to the eventual achievement of it.

  15. In his daily press conference today Gov Cuomo said that he considers the opening the economy OR saving lives a false either/or choice. Of course we have to do both in ways that respect both problems, not one or the other.

    He also emphasized that his only means of directing how to accomplish both rely on science and his principles and measures of progress in both directions.

    It’s a refreshing change to see governmental leadership.

  16. “Right now, Americans need reassurance that our government is in the hands of competent people who will see to it that we’ll eventually be all right.”

    Breaking News on MSNBC 5 minutes ago; the Justice Department has asked Judge to drop Mike Flynn’s prosecution.

    No need for further comment other than we have been expecting this from Trump’s administration.

  17. Gerald,

    “The allusions to “war” today are not very informative, as in, with whom, between whom, and on what grounds? Where’s the Pearl Harbor? Is Trump the “Pearl Harbor?”

    “I do not agree that we are “headed for war” or that a few dozen armed idiots in Michigan equal a general uprising….”

    You mean you’re having trouble understanding what I was alluding to? Very strange, others didn’t seem to have any trouble with “war.”

    You’re just betting everything on an election that has a good chance of never taking place. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And you’re willing to bet it all on the November election without covering your bet.

  18. Todd, thanks for the ALEC article. That would explain a lot of the “Astro-turfing”.

    Pete, I agree that Cuomo is a real leader with the welfare of all of his people in mind.

  19. There is a war! With all due respect, I think Marv really is on to that! In this day and age, someone doesn’t have to drop a nuclear device on the seat of government as a first of Volly in a war!

    A cyberattack is considered an act of war, sedition is considered an act of war, treasonous behavior can be considered an act of war, all of these referring to spies and or agents cultivated by internal or external forces.

    There are wars between good and evil, there are wars between right and wrong, there are wars between the haves and have nots, there are wars between ethnicities, personal wars of conscience, there are a lot of wars, much more than are listed here. And every war has its casualties.

    The impenetrable city-state of Babylon was conquered without a shot fired so to speak, because King Cyrus diverted the river and marched underneath Babylon’s unlocked Gates!

    Most of the war that is going on right now is below the visual line, and the war will be lost before people wise up to those transgressors and their machinations. and there will be a lot of questions on how this could have happened, and how come nobody saw it coming! Except, there were those that saw it coming.

  20. john,

    “Most of the war that is going on right now is below the visual line, and the war will be lost before people wise up to those transgressors and their machinations. and there will be a lot of questions on how this could have happened, and how come nobody saw it coming! Except, there were those that saw it coming.”

    Exactly. You couldn’t say it any better. In this case, and others like it, you must take pre-emptive action or everything will be lost, because of the overwhelming COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.

    The Germans were warned and failed to save themselves. We are far along on that same dead-end road. It appears that we have already SURRENDERED.

  21. Marv – Apparently our divergent views depend upon our definition of “war.” I see your definition of war as a kind of sub-war preparation for the kind of war I envision; you see them as wars of another kind, broken down into sub wars and yes, I am banking heavily on the election come fall, knowing there will be Trumpers galore afterwards who will be screaming rigged, fake etc. When and if that happens, then both of us could be simultaneously correct with our definitions, but I doubt it. Other than isolated incidents, I expect to see such furor dissipate over time as some sense of normalcy returns. All of the foregoing, of course, depends upon whether our democracy will survive the November and January dates, and beaten and bruised as it is, I think it (and we) will survive in an era reminiscent of our postwar years following the Civil War. I have been both right and wrong with my predictions before; let us hope I am right on this one.

  22. Gerald,

    ” I have been both right and wrong with my predictions before; let us hope I am right on this one.”

    I hope you’re right and I am wrong. But I won’t bet on it.

  23. Sheila, your blogs are wonderful and right on target. I must admit that I understood why people initially supported 45 because he was not a politician. However, I am utterly amazed at the number of people that I always believed to be intelligent that find it so easy to support this man since he took office. He is only interested in himself and feathering his own nest…not even his children’s nests. There are so many issues that one can point to that prove his incompetence and yet these “intelligent people” don’t see it. I, truly, fear for this country if this man is allowed to win another four years as the leader of this great nation, even if we are a bit tarnished right now. Thanks for allowing me the forum to comment.

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