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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 8/27/20

Good morning!

It’s Thursday, so lots of feedback ahead…



I’ve been admonished by Simon Furie and Howard Kroll about a few omissions from the list of best movies that take place in Chicago…

While You Were Sleeping

Risky Business

Ordinary People



I still struggle how to understand how some very bright people I know can support President Trump and amidst his attacks on NATO, the intelligence community, the free press (the “enemy of the people”), the postal service, free elections, peaceful protests, science, and on and on. Here is a Facebook post from a highly educated friend regarding his support of the President:

“America is big enough. Most elections are 50/50. Even landslides. We need an America that wants to pay more taxes, have more riots, have more abortions, house more illegals and homeless, have more restrictions on free speech, be socialists and Marxists, pay more in taxes that the government steals, more taxes, more sanctuary cities, more destruction and no police. Let them all tax each other and not work hard and create a Venezuela for themselves and steal from each other. Let them have that America. Then, we need an America for the rest of us. Who want to work hard, invest, live by law and order, have freedom of speech and not be worried about stupid political correctness and wokeness, and build, and innovate, and be patriotic to our flag. #Trump2020 #WalkAway The choice is as clear as the day.”

Notice that higher taxes are mentioned three times. No other comments necessary.



It has become a parlor game to try to predict exactly what untoward attacks on the upcoming election may occur, each presenting its own horrific series of outcomes. They are all based primarily on this President’s willingness to utilize every lever of power available to him and to completely ignore the legal guardrails and the norms of behavior. Given that the President has been trying to delegitimize the popular vote count in the 2016 election, which he WON, and his early and repeated denunciation of the legitimacy of the upcoming 2020 election, these concerns are legitimately fevered. It’s even gotten to the point that scholars and government wonks have staged “war games” of the possible directions this could go:

David Lash presents this thoughtful analysis from the New Yorker that touches on the Transition Integrity Project:

The other day, I was speaking with a constitutional law professor about the most likely disaster case. He suggests the most plausible scenario is one in which the Republicans can claim that “all they were doing was following the Constitution.” His argument is that a fair number of these scenarios are unlikely (e.g., sending the National Guard to put down dissent, refusing to physically leave the White House, impounding ballots that are in the Postal System [this is one of my worries], endless recounts, rejection of absentee ballots).

We all know that the Secretaries of State must certify the election of the electors to the Electoral College. What if, he says, several key Republican Secretaries of State in swing states simply refuse to certify the results? In that instance, the Electoral College meets without that State’s representation. They are unable to come up with the 270 electoral votes for either candidate. Then it’s thrown into the House of Representatives to decide. In that case, each State delegation is entitled to a single vote (regardless of population or number of electoral votes). And in that instance, the number of Republican-leaning states outweighs the number of Democratic-leaning states. So the House anoints President Trump. It all sounds constitutional…and avoids the complications of federal impounding of ballots). It gives the President’s supporters to say they “just followed the rules in the Constitution.”

This result happened before, in the election of 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes effectively stole the election from Samuel Tilden (who required only one electoral vote from all that were in dispute). It didn’t end well for the country. The price that Hayes paid was the abandonment of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.

November 3 is the first big date—the election. December 14 is the next key date—the Electoral College meeting. And then there’s the January 20 Inauguration Day.



In response to my musing about why people buy into conspiracies, from Marc Rosenbach:

I share both your opinion and your frustration about polling results. More people buy into conspiracy theories today, no doubt aided by social media companies and their technological prowess to not only spread these theories, but to lock onto a target audience of willing participants who are more likely to buy into and share these conspiracies. There’s a cognitive bias that may be at play here known as proportionality bias which, simply stated, is the tendency to assume that big events must have big causes. One such big event is coronavirus. Some call it a hoax while others are certain it was manufactured in a Chinese lab with the intent of weaponizing the deadly agent. Still more troubling is what happens this November. Applying the same logic, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where, if Trump loses the election, he will say the election is rigged. It’s conceivable that tens of millions of Americans who either can’t accept or reconcile this outcome will buy into the theory of a rigged election. I pray this doesn’t happen, but that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.



I was pleasantly surprised to see that others enjoy the genre of alternative history. Russ Chittenden recommends a book by journalist Jeff Greenfield, entitled Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan. I haven’t read it but have heard good things about how he takes a single event and assumes it went “the other way” than it actually turned out and then riffs on how that could have shaped a different history since then.

Happy days,


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