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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 10/8/20

Good morning!



I don’t think we learned much new last night in the Vice Presidential Debate. Both candidates more or less hit their marks.

Kamala Harris overcame the “she isn’t presidential” rap, demonstrated a facility with the issues and the confidence and poise that should satisfy those voters who may not have been too sure. She successfully distanced herself from the far left. She answered most questions well (in some cases, refreshingly briefly). She ran a good defense, taking no risks and preserving the lead.

Mike Pence did a credible job of demonstrating that there may actually be a few adults in the White House. He had a tough row to hoe defending Mr. Trump, particularly Mr. Trump’s performance on Coronavirus and climate change, both of which involve a suspension of belief in science. He made a decent argument for traditionally conservative principles (taxation, job growth, right to life) and landed a solid punch asking about court-packing. While he interrupted and repeatedly went over time (and answered different questions than were asked), he did so with the “feel” of the Oxford Debating Society, versus Mr. Trump’s abusive “Streets of New York” style.

All Ms. Harris had to do was maintain their lead and appear in command. She did. I would have liked her to push a little harder, but that wasn’t necessary tonight. She did what she had to do. Mr. Pence had to defend the Supreme Leader. He did the best he could with what he had to work with. This debate didn’t accomplish much. The polls won’t move appreciably. If anything, the undecideds saw a calm, collected, “presidential” woman who seemed in command. The Republicans saw someone hold his own and exude a command of the issues and a fealty to their principles.

The candidates did not embarrass themselves or our country. These days, I’ll take any small victory.

I would be stunned to see the debate happen next week. Mr. Trump would have to text negative for at least 10-14 days and agree to masks for the audience and plexiglass shields on stage. Their presence alone would be a political statement for Mr. Biden. I’m betting the debate is postponed by a week.



If you’re a glutton for punishment and want to look up past Musings, they’re available at: Also included are recently published articles.

People have asked whether there is a “master list” of movies or books. There is a drop-down menu that has all the movie recommendations and book recommendations. It will soon also have policy proposals. I only “cut and pasted” the books and movies, so they are presented more-or-less chronologically as they appeared. I will try to sort it more logically when I have time. It’s a lot… Most of the daily memes can be seen under the heading “Blog,” without opening up the respective Musing.



The response to my issues with the ethnic studies curriculum met with nearly universal agreement. Here is a thoughtful postscript from Mark DiMaria:

“I believe that treating all ethnicities together in a single class is essential to the ultimate point of such undertakings -- to realize the commonality of all "groups" of Americans that emerges from a fact-based exploration of our history, in that they all came from somewhere else (other than Native Americans), faced barriers, and made invaluable contributions to the wonderful stew that we are today. I also think that, as you emphasize, focusing on the positive contributions of Americans from all of the various communities of ethnicity is the best way to frame such studies in an over-arching way…[G]iven our shameful past acceptance of slavery, there simply is no equivalence between the historical experiences of people of African descent and everyone else in our country. And to help all students become better citizens and gain a more full appreciation of the circumstances in which all we find ourselves, it is important for them to be shown the echoes of that evil system that reverberate today.”

Bruce Ramer says:

“The melting pot, which never concluded that differences were to disappear into a pot of porridge, was and should still be the goal. Chunks, not slop. The motto, E Pluribus Unum, had and still has meaning. But it, too, did not mean to eliminate the differences with a distinction.”

Along that same vein, Nathan Hochman notes:

I like Alex Haley’s description of the melting pot like a salad bowl… Alex Haley doesn’t like to think of America as a melting pot or a “mixing bowl” of people. Haley added, “because that conjures up a bowl of oatmeal. I prefer the term ‘salad bowl’” to describe all the racial ingredients that make up the United States.”

All of this suggests that many of us concur that we are at a juncture when we need to elevate the discussion and celebrate the diversity that is this country. Certainly we need to do so within the context of a real appraisal of our successes and failures…not in the interest of separating ourselves into camps, but in an effort to improve ourselves, our country and those less fortunate than we.



From one of my favorite people…

To be famous, you have to stand out. In entertainment, being shocking or extreme is often effective. The same for politics (which is sometimes referred to as “show business for the less attractive”). Interestingly, a large part of your professional, administrative and operational success is the opposite. To be asked to run a company, a non-profit, a board or most any organization (outside politics and show business) you have to subscribe to the theories of “don’t take it personally” and “assume the good faith of others.” You know that getting things done requires alliances. And to gain alliances, successful people work with others w/whom they don’t agree with on everything. Let’s say a CEO has 10 people working for her and she quits her job suddenly – who among her reports replaces her? The answer: the one person 9 other people are willing to work for. The lesson is relatively simple – for most of us, success depends on building alliances and having enough humility to work with those with the audacity to disagree with us on some issues.

Food for thought…

Have a great weekend,


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