The Crowding-Out Effect

Tomorrow is the most important Election Day in my lifetime. Among other things, the results will tell me whether my longtime faith in the common sense and goodwill of my fellow Americans has been justified or misplaced.

Hopefully, after tomorrow, this blog can return to discussions of rational, albeit debatable, policy proposals, commentary on interesting research results, and occasional forays into legal disputes and political philosophy. Hopefully too, we will have occasion to use a phrase introduced by Gerald Ford: “our long national nightmare is over.”

One aspect of that “long national nightmare,” of course, is the incredible amount of destruction it will leave in its wake–regulations that must be reinstated, laws that must once again be enforced, corrupt people who must be held accountable, and a return to public health directed by medical scientists rather than politicians, among many other things.

The opposite of “nightmare” is a good night’s sleep, and if all goes well, we can once again look forward to days when we haven’t had to think about the President of the United States, followed by nights when we can once again sleep soundly because–whether we agree with administration policies or not– a sane and honorable person is in charge.

If there is one word I have heard over and over during this political season, it is “exhaustion.” Trump’s desperate need for constant attention, his bizarre tweet-storms, insults and various insanities have sucked the oxygen out of our public life. He has been in our faces, on our television screens, Facebook feeds and comedy routines. As several columnists have recently noted, he has crowded out so many activities that we would otherwise enjoy–books of fiction, works of art and music, conversations with friends that didn’t give rise to disappointment when we discovered their willingness to look the other way so long as their 401K stayed healthy…

Last Thursday, at the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about all the things we’ve lost.

After listing the “big” things–the lives lost to COVID, the children whose parents can’t be located, the people whose livelihoods have disappeared, and after acknowledging the greater significance of those losses, she speaks for so many of us:

When I think back, from my obviously privileged position, on the texture of daily life during the past four years, all the attention sucked up by this black hole of a president has been its own sort of loss. Every moment spent thinking about Trump is a moment that could have been spent contemplating, creating or appreciating something else. Trump is a narcissistic philistine, and he bent American culture toward him.

I’ve no doubt that great work was created over the past four years, but I missed much of it, because I was too busy staring in incredulous horror at my phone….

Conservatives love to jeer Democrats for being obsessed with Trump, for letting him live, as many put it, rent-free in our heads. It’s a cruel accusation, like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames. The outrage Trump sparks leaves less room for many other things — joy, creativity, reflection — but every bit of it is warranted. The problem is the president, not how his victims respond to him.

If the polls are right, if Biden wins convincingly, Americans will nevertheless be on pins and needles until January 20th. We won’t be out of the woods until this blot on our nation and our history is gone–and even then, we will be left with the alt-right haters and know-nothings who have spent the campaign brandishing guns, refusing to wear masks and cheering ugly pronouncements at Trump rallies– voters motivated by fear and grievance who want only to “own the libs.”

Buckle up. We’re about to see how this horror show ends.


  1. And let hope that China and Russia do not get adventurous in the next three months. We are in a vulnerable position right now. .. and they know it. Hang on tight.

  2. Your belief in common sense leadership is shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans. I believe America has seen enough destruction by this administration and the number of early votes tell us this. There will be no question where America stands in a few days – progressive.

  3. “like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames.”
    The above line hits the bull’s eye in describing the “bubbas for Trump” crowd. Their continued support for Trump is the ultimate middle finger given to society, the society that they blame for all of their own failures. Like mad arsonists they drive around Taliban style in flag bedecked pickup trucks looking to set new fires, and like their leader, fan the flames of hate and fear.
    It’s Adolf Hitler and the Brown Shirts all over again. Really. Really, that is what we are watching.

  4. After the 1964 crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater a Yale history professor opined it was the death of the Republican Party. I don’t remember his name. Nixon, Reagan, “W” and the host of conservative leaders who seized control of GOP didn’t give up and bury the party. They chose abortion as a clarion call to resurrect their goal of obtaining control of the government even as a minority. They chose control of the Judiciary as the method. They have won. Our two great-grand daughters, born in January and September, will live their lives under the shadow of that victory. Even if there is a Blue Tsunami this week, repairing the damage done by the GOP to our society since Nixon will consume energy which could have been better spent moving forward the ideals of the Constitution.

  5. @Theresa Bowers, The crowd blames the society for their own failures is exactly their point. The problem is that the systems they helped put in place to govern the society are rigged to favor the wealthy, white few, not the poor, blue-collar, white collar middle class who were sold the idea that they were entitled to the superior privileges of the upper crust. All they had to do was work hard. But for whom? It turns out that it wasn’t for themselves or their families, their communities or country. The end game by those in power has always been to rule absolutely.

    They are very Taliban like in that rigid adherence to ideology, the violent intolerance and willingness to kill and be killed to enforce their beliefs on everyone else.

    The next 2+ months are going to be a time of acute peril for our country. He will not go quietly and his handlers/owners will use every vicious and underhanded means to keep him in the mix in order to achieve their dominance.

    Putin and Xi are much smarter than he is and clearly know how to manipulate him and his lockstep adherents who jump when he barks any dangerous and deranged orders. Doctor Strangelove is in the House. Let’s hope we don’t have to head for the bunkers.

  6. It seems we have brought to fruition every dystopian imagining of every fictionalist who ever wrote in the English language. We should be ashamed that we allowed it to happen again.

  7. First of all, we need to quit worrying about China and Russia as the bogeymen in the house. That was a fictional story concocted by our IC and spread by the enabling media. Our media must be held accountable for what they’ve become since they are the problem.

    Press freedom was an essential component of our democracy. We need a free and independent press to hold the government accountable. As Sheila and others will note, there is plenty of regulations that were rolled back. None of those rollbacks, EOs, or laws passed were to help the working class. Our government failed to provide for the people during the WORST physical and economic crisis of our lives, and it’s far from over.

    The constitution established checks and balances against power. The government holds capitalists accountable for all the power that goes with the money. The press holds the government accountable for all the power we bestow upon to hold the rich and powerful accountable.

    Those levers, or checks on power, are broken completely. I’ve not witnessed either political party wanting to address this problem because we are an oligarchy. The Oligarchs control the government and the press. They use both to enrich themselves and manipulate the masses.

    Until those underpinnings are corrected, we are a rudderless ship just changing captains. And, one of those captains is barricading himself in the White House, calling in the National Guard, closing businesses in downtown D.C., and erecting an unscalable wall.

  8. I also look forward to discussing subjects that don’t result in nausea but I think we need to be patient. We have to prevail over Trump first and then endure the lame duck remainder of his term, where I hope many of his anticipated executive orders and pardons are ignored and/or challenged in court.

    In a conversation the other day with a Never Trumper Republican I shared that the one thing I dislike the most about Trump and Trumpism is the extent to which it has unleashed and fanned general mean-spiritedness. The full-embrace of the politics of hate and division by 50 million or so Americans is not something that will disappear in January and I am of two minds as to how to address it. One uses an olive branch and one uses a cudgel. I suspect it will require some of both. ☮️

  9. You really feel Kamala will be a better president than Trump? I mean let’s be honest, VP Biden will not see a full term. I am astonished that someone who seems so bright can be so naive. Even if Biden was able to mentally handle being president he is compromised by being in the pockets of China, so way one or another, the left will have him removed. We do agree this is the biggest election in history, it’s between law and order, or lawlessness and unemployment. There is a reason businesses are boarding up in fear of riots and its not because they are feeling confident abide. will win and conservatives will riot and burn cities down…’s the exact opposite……Vote wisely…….

  10. Sheila, I think Vladimir Putin was reading the animal intrals er tea leaves, when he said, Joe Biden had done nothing wrong! So, you can see that Vladimir Putin is concerned, and, China might be relieved!

    With the permission slip Donald Trump handed out to all the self-aggrieved and self-deluded whiners out there; Whether they are wealthy and just like the bigger Grift checks or, openly racist and stupid, without any consequences, they will never abandon their support for this Authoritarian, who is actually an insecure and cowardly infant.

    They are going to be uprisings and incidents for a while. More than just civil disobedience, it’s going to be a time with much more societal sabotage by those who continue to carry the torch so to speak. These are the individuals that want the revisionist history taught in schools, the ones on Facebook that want folks to repost their flag posters and mentally ill message boards that make no sense. I call them pocket patriots! They talk big and think they have even bigger values, but fit in a thimble.

    There is real danger here! And, more than likely, Biden is going to have to be a little on the radical side himself, to combat all of this subversive activity! The whipsaw is going to be quick and mind-numbing for those who feel they have their thumb on the scales!

    The previous 8 years before these last four, have proved how subversive many have become! Those who actively fight against the values they claim to support! This will not just disappear, and more than likely, there will be blood.

    In the end, one would hope intellect would come out on top! But that’s going to be a slog in of itself!

    If, and that’s a big if, the tea leaves are correct, this country is going to be forever different! I really believe that religion is going to be relegated to back rooms and whispers of history!

    The corporate welfare is going to be over with, and, they will have to pay their Fair share, there probably will be competence and capability boards for many of these judges appointed in the past 4 years, and the supreme Court will either willingly stay out of politics and interpret a living breathing document, or under the threat of expansion, have an epiphany.

    Yep, things have just gotten started! I would suggest everyone buckle up because it’s going to be a wild ride.

  11. Thought it would be fun to watch Dr. Strangelove on Halloween after not having seen it since it came out…WRONG…it was VERY SCARY!

    I see that TCM is showing it again tomorrow night – such savvy scheduling…

    “America, love it or leave it…” I have never in my life seriously considered leaving until now. Nor have I seriously considered that those who blindly support this administration ought to leave….they should go to Brazil….and receive monetary support from the government to do so.

  12. As much as possible I plan to stay home after the election because I fear there will be violence in the streets. I am so saddened by all the political vitriol in our country, frustrated as well. There was violence after Trump was elected.

    When I look at the Trump truck calvacade that surrounded the Biden’s campaign bus in Texas, I wonder where the police were.

    Biden will have a huge mess to clean up just like Obama. Lately it seems the Republicans create a mess that a democratic president has to clean up. I hope Biden wins and that the Senate becomes democratic as well so that there is a clear referendum on Trump’s presidency. History will not have nice things to say about Trump, no doubt.

    Sadly, for Indiana, it is likely the Republicans will continue to dominate our state legislature and continue to engage in gerrymandering that disenfranchises many voters.

  13. Once it became obvious the 2020 elections primary and general would see a massive outpouring of absentee voting the GOP went into their full court press. The GOP besides the usual voter suppression tactics, i.e., removing people from the registered voter lists, reducing the number of voting sites, etc.

    The Trumpet echoed loudly the cliche of voter fraud. It did not take long for the Trump Cult to seize on this message. Many of the Trump Cult Memes threw out the idea that you should vote in person after all people are accustomed to standing in lines at big box stores or so the Memes went. Naturally, people do not stand for hours in line at the big box stores in the middle of a pandemic.

    The Trumpet, the GOP and Trump Cult went looking for voter fraud. Like the searches for the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or bodies of space aliens – They came up with little or no proof of voter fraud. Yet, they still believe Big Foot is out there.

    The Trumpet has one quality the ability to create Chaos. When the hunt for the voter fraud monster came up empty, the postal system was sabotaged by The Trumpet’s had picked saboteur to head up the Post Office.

    “‘Don’t trust the electoral system, don’t trust the CDC, don’t trust your neighbor because they’re probably antifa, don’t trust the left,’” Claire Wardle, the executive director of First Draft, a group that researches and combats disinformation, said of Trump’s re-election message. “It’s not about persuading people one way or the other, it’s about making them scared and causing confusion and chaos,” she added.

    The Trumpet’s main message is you cannot trust the government because it is riddled with Deep State Moles that seek to take him down. Anytime the courts stand up to some Trump order, it is proof positive to the Trump Cult of the existence of “The Deep State.”

    The Trump Cult views themselves as the defenders of the Alamo surrounded by hostiles.

  14. Trump steals by creating chaos to cover up what else is going on as well as constantly building his name brand. Neither the chaos nor the pandemic has peaked yet. Will either peak by Jan 20, 2021?

    Both will leave lasting change in their wakes but we all have a role in how much we learn from them.

  15. We are fortunate in that Trump is not very bright and lacks common sense. Trump could have become a dictator were it not for his own substantial inadequacies. Imagine what damage Trump could have done if he were shrewd and cunning? His manipulation of his cult is pretty pedestrian. The majority of people see right through it.

    What worries me much more than Trump is the Trump cult. How could a group of people become so brainwashed that they could be taken in by an obvious two bit con man? And Trump didn’t initiate the brainwashing…he just took advantage of people who were already brainwashed. How do you break through to those people…deprogram them…when they live in an alternative universe when it comes to the facts? I wish I knew the answer to that. I’m such an optimistic person, usually, but I don’t have an answer as to how you bring them back to reality.

    I agree. This is the first issue in my lifetime that is not about issues. It is about what kind of country we want to be. Do we want the grand American experiment to continue? Our democratic Republic is quite literally on the line.

  16. Robin,

    I would remind you that it was not that long ago, Democrats gerrymandered the Indiana House so well that they had a strong majority of seats despite regularly having a minority of the vote for the State House every election.

    Democrats and Republicans both gerrymander to benefit themselves when given the opportunity. Gerrymander is not something that just Republicans do.

  17. Robin,
    Texas highways are graced with few law enforcement people,with like many a state that has had its ,win the election with promised tax cuts,,(for who) have left little to hire more.. wage theft has made sure the tax base is poverty level..the city cops are way overworked, the sheriffs like a gun owner, and the highway patrol wont bother unless there is contact between two vehicles.. as far as texas goes, they could care le ss about minorities or someone threatning another vehicle.. unless you have a vid or they see it, it didnt happen, your a liberal whiner.. i drive truck 6 months of the year between NoDak and texas,, and personal experience plays here, ive been questioned by the 911 operator for my call,about such acts, over the status of the issue.. i dont even bother to report anything in texas, since i feel,im going to be placed in some pigeon hole as a liberal whiner..
    p.s. ever see a 75 MPH sign on a 2 lane in heavely wooded areas,with limited sight distance?
    welcome to texas…

    John, good view of things,,,

  18. Paul,

    Yes, the president is not bright, but the folks who started all this long ago….the Kochs, etc. have both brains and money. And the evidence (control of state legislatures, our Federal court system stacked by the Federalist society, etc. is clear that by standards of ROI, they are at least billionaires.

    Just sayin’

  19. Let’s stay home tomorrow night after a convincing Biden win (though perhaps the final numbers are subject to mail-in count and I am in a minority who predict that we will know who won before dawn the next day), and let’s take down our Biden and other signs at sunset – no need to invite the possible fury of disaffected thugs who have just been taken to the electoral woodshed.

    While no one can perfectly predict what will happen in the highways and byways after Biden is elected, I think that law enforcement agencies are on the alert and that we will see only some major conflagrations beyond the usual fistfights and taunting matches after the verdict becomes clear. We will handily win both the raw and electoral vote in the presidential sweepstakes, and if so this is America. We win, irrespective of the antics of the sore losers (a description that fits me on many occasions over the past 70 years), and we will collect our executive prize January 20, 2021 and somewhat earlier for our Senate takeover, thus ending the McConnell dynasty whether he is reelected or not tomorrow in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

    As for fears of what will happen with an angry loser in the Oval Office during the interim between his defeat and January 20, 2021, I think as a loser he has little to offer congressional Republicans who must accommodate to the reality of a Democratic sweep and that (finally!) they will develop a political spine of sorts and restore some give and take to the political process while relegating Trump back to his narcissistic playpen, there to nurse his grievances and meaningless lash outs of those who have thwarted his dictatorial ambitions, outbursts from the playpen which even Fox may not cover.

    We can thank the young and women of all colors for rejection of those who would ignore statutory and constitutional norms in their lust for power. Trump plainly detests women and (finally!) the young who will have voted in droves after taking a belated hand in deciding to take a hand in the only future they will ever have, and better late than never.

    Predicting political outcomes and reactions thereto may be a fool’s errand, but there have to be some who tell it as they see it and hope to have guessed right. I am one of them. Let the corrections begin!

  20. Paul wrote,

    “What worries me much more than Trump is the Trump cult. How could a group of people become so brainwashed that they could be taken in by an obvious two bit con man? And Trump didn’t initiate the brainwashing…he just took advantage of people who were already brainwashed.”

    Like you I am astonished at he level of brainwashing among the Cult. I do not believe it was brainwashing in the sense of the movie Manchurian Candidate. Rather there are a substantial minority of people who are for various reasons are hospitable to the messaging. It was something they believed that with The Trumpet has had an additive effect, piling on more grievances until they have persecution complexes.

  21. Something else that has been crowded out by Trump is intelligence. Jay Leno had a routine on the Tonight Show in which he or a surrogate put questions to pedestrians outside his studio about, for example, the name of the vice president, the number of branches of government, whether Hawaii was east or west of Arizona and who the president was during the Civil War. Contestants seldom knew the right answer, but things really got funny when they volunteered some piece of information drivel they believed might be correct. Those people have all gone on to join the Trump Brigade, and now have absolute certainty about their precise answers on all matters political. The fact that Hannity and Trump and Trump Jr. fed them lies which they then quoted verbatim has not shaken their confidence.

    While I take little joy in criticizing such ignorance, I have yet to hear a Republican provide an answer to the question of why they admire the president which doesn’t fall into the hopelessly gullible category. Even when they cite his economic accomplishments, they focus on the stock market where they have no money (except possibly in a 401K) invested or on how Trump got all that tariff money from China which, in truth, was paid by the American consumer. Some Republican somewhere must be able to explain how Trump’s ignorance has proven valuable to America, but time is running out to let us know. My seven year old granddaughter could have walked into the Oval Office and said, “Get rid of every regulation that might stop some capitalist somewhere from making money,” and she would have had the same effect on the economy as Trump. She might, I admit, have been confused at achieving his other accomplishment – finding lawyers to serve as judges whose minds were made up in the precise way Trump requires.

  22. Assuming Biden wins [yeah, yeah, I’m biting my tongue, going outside, turning around three times and spitting, tossing salt over my left shoulder, calling up visions of 2016 and doing it all again —– but, ASSUMING] my big fear is that he will follow President Obama’s lead and say, “We must look forward,” and give a pass to the scores of criminals who have spent four years trying to destroy the US.

    Please, not this time, Joe.

  23. Paul; Trump is not smart enough to equal Putin’s level of dictatorship but Mitch McConnell is the intelligence behind what Trump has accomplished in deconstruction of our government. I will still not feel safe in this country if McConnell maintains his stronghold on the United States Senate even if Trump is voted out.

    Downtown Indianapolis is boarding up businesses as if Katrina was due to reappear tomorrow rather than a political election. How safe will downtown workers be, or shoppers, and how safe for those who live in the gentrified historic neighborhoods downtown? We have become a third world nation in only four years; the final outcome if Trump is reelected will be the next step down to a shit hole country not worthy of help from our allies of many years. And we aren’t eligible to become immigrants in foreign countries; Americans aren’t allow across their borders due to our Pandemic status. An unexpected turn of events for once the safest, strongest, most trusted country in the world.

  24. Twocrows and Sheila – that makes three of us

    Lester – you reminded me of a Halloween party in the DC area in the late ’70s. There were many elaborate costumes, but the scariest costume winner had no costume – just a Nixon mask.

    Let’s hope that next year, a Trump mask at a Halloween costume party will be funny scary, and not the real thing.

  25. My late night and parting comment before the election tomorrow > I think Biden will win in a mini-landslide (around 330 electoral votes, that we will add to our House majority, and that the Senate will become Democratic 52-48. There! I’m on record and can’t try to weasel out of it after all the votes are counted. Good night. . .

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