Justin’s annual list of election predictions 2020

Unlike many people, I don’t share in the same kind of gloom or elation about the current or future White House occupant. I get why a lot of people do, but I don’t get worked up over it because the United States has fought for its life, undergone one of the world’s worst civil wars, slavery, and has had all manner of Presidents. I find comfort in that, even when things seem grim. It’s worth remembering we’ve gone through harder things.

And we’ve had all manner of personalities in the White House.

Calvin Coolidge barely did anything at all, on purpose. Some people like that, some people don’t. James Buchanan is arguably the worst President in US history on account when he was still in office states began to secede from the Union. Say what you will about Trump and how divided this country feels, at least we’re still holding on to Charleston.

Lincoln and Kennedy both benefit from having died at, for lack of a better word, what was the “right time” for the benefit of their legacy.

Harry Truman was a far better President than people thought for nearly fifty years after his time ended. Eisenhower’s status was always great, and grew even higher.

John Adams has the distinction of being the only Founder-turned-President to not own slaves, likely because his wife Abbigail was vehemently opposed. (Ben Franklin also never owned slaves, one of the few among Founders.)

Theodore Roosevelt was so charismatic he established the modern template for being a progressive (he ran under the Republican label, a tag modern Republicans like to claim, a la Lincoln.). T.R. almost narrowly became America’s only third-party President under the Bull Moose banner, but lost and threw the election to Woodrow Wilson, who would be less-than-ready for the job. A job that included dealing with a pandemic and a World War.

Thomas Jefferson thought the ideal America would be everyone owning and farming their own land. James Monroe was the right man at the time, but was derided for being old-fashioned. He was the last of the Founders to become President.

Andrew Jackson was a real figure. Andrew Johnson was saved from impeachment by 1 vote. Nixon, of course, resigned in disgrace. James A. Garfield only served as President for 90 days, most of the time spent dying a slow death from an assassin’s bullet. It’s arguably the best thing he did. A native of Ohio, he was respected and liked by northerners and southerners and his death galvanized a nation still healing from the Civil War.

We’ve had conservatives and progressives, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Many were and are racist and sexist (looking at you, Harding), many were and are not. Some were just the product of their time.

People’s beliefs and the country’s policies toward social issues have vacillated all over the place for a long time even when public opinion seemingly hasn’t.

Corruption used to be far worse, at a greater scale, and more rampant. Theodore Roosevelt only became President after McKinkey was shot, and he was VP only because party bosses in New York didn’t like his honesty and wanted him to go away.

Vote-stealing and campaign trickery is as old as the country on all sides and parties, like with Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Warren Harding. Many have committed things that are arguably impeachable offenses, like Trump, Obama, Bush, Regan, Cleveland, Johnson, Buchanan, and Jackson.

Tonight’s results

I don’t think tonight’s going to be a real drawn-out affair. We may not know who the President is by tonight, but I bet we do within 24 hours. And I believe that’ll be Joe Biden.

Nationally, Republicans will retain control of Governorships. I doubt there’s many switches in the House and Democrats will retain a narrow margin. The Senate is likely to be an even narrower margin of Republican control, by about a seat or two.

In Indiana, Holcomb will win comfortably, as will most Republicans in the State House’s top seats.

President Kamala Harris

A few years ago I read Write it When I’m Gone, a book Gerald Ford sat down for with Newsweek reporter Thomas DeFrank. Ford allowed DeFrank open access to him multiple times with the caveat he couldn’t publish anything until after Ford’s death.

In it, Ford revealed as early as Bill Clinton’s Governorship that Hillary was “going to run for President someday, probably in 2004.” He was very close. And he said she’d lose “because America won’t be ready for a woman president” even though he thought she’d be a good one.

Likewise, he mused that America’s path to a female presidency would be through the Vice President’s office. Ford was very sure that a woman would become VP, the President would die, and then she’d be ushered into the Oval Office. “And then the gates will be open,” he said.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are both old at 77 and 74 respectively. No matter which one of them wins, they’ll be the oldest Presidents in office ever. Trump was already the oldest in 2016 at 70.

If and when Joe Biden wins, he’ll be the oldest still. And while I wish no ill on anyone, Ford’s eerily good predictions stick out to me and make me think we’ll be seeing President Harris soon.

Police reforms and the problems they face

On Twitter a few days ago I wondered what some of the demands of protestors are. Thinking about successful protests in history, the ones that had specific policy, legislation, or actions as their end goal are the most successful. Whether that’s LGBT people and equal marriage rights through legislatures and courts, suffrage for women and blacks both culturally and legislatively, or a new country like in the Revolution.

I’m still mulling these thoughts over. But I’m starting to hear and learn about some of the demands of protesters that go beyond broad cultural issues.

Formal apologies from police departments for past abuse and transgressions

This is going to be a challenge for many departments, I think, because of the obvious notion that individual officers are likely to feel attacked for practices that go back to protecting the slave trade. But, it’s necessary and one that should come from everyone in every department.

Improved training to identify biases and weigh the use of force

Departments are heavy on training and continuing education. In the Academy, training no doubt focuses a lot on firearm skills, physical fitness, and defense. The rest, I gather from my recent ride-along with officers, is training that is often online and an annoyance.

Officers are tasked with taking ongoing training like many professions. And like many professional attorneys, insurance agents, etc., that training is less, uh, “deep and attentive” on the “academic” stuff. It’s more akin to how most of us felt about homework in elementary school: a thing to whisk through as quickly as possible to get it done.

For officers, this means online training that’s easy to click through or ignore. Much of it is likely to be a brief, boring video they let play while driving around responding to calls. To be fair, this isn’t just a problem for or about officers. Most professional continuing education is done like most people do most work most of the time: scatterbrained, multi-tasked, unfocused, and ‘a required thing someone makes me do’.

Training should be paid, offered in settings that are conducive to the subject matter, and rigorous.

Respond like fire and EMS

Credit to this idea to my friend Tim Maguire, who has long advocated for police responding to emergencies like police and fire departments: park at the station and go respond when called.

I’m sure it happens, but we know that most of the time officers are unlikely to stumble across a crime in progress. It probably wouldn’t impact response times much if we just dispatched officers from stations.

However, during my ride-along, it became apparent that most officers are always responding to a call. And when there isn’t a call, driving around knowing neighborhoods does have benefit. Seeing the same car door open for a couple of days in the row, an out of place car that never moves, and other “Hm, that’s odd” moments are the norm.

So I’m conflicted on this. There’s also the matter of traffic safety, something Indianapolis sorely lacks and without cops driving around no one would ever get caught.

Re-aligned funding

A surprising number of government units can raise fees to support themselves. Courts, police, the BMV, and many others have enough leeway or connection to raise a fee or fine that gets directed at itself without anyone noticing. For police that’s writing tickets that go back into their budgets. This should stop and instead be directed to general funds without circling back around to departments.

Also, police body cameras are a given. My ride-along experience with IMPD was an indication that officers want them. Because good officers who do their jobs with professionalism want the ability to show they acted appropriately. In Indianapolis, this is supposedly coming soon. But as we see in Louisville, police seem to find ways of disabling them.

Incredibly high standards

Indianapolis has some of the highest-paid officers in the country. Starting salaries around $40k that run up to $70k annually in just a few years. It’s dangerous work, and like their colleagues at IFD, I have no problem paying the individuals a healthy chunk of money for it. In Indianapolis, $70k goes a long way. Not every department is like that, however.

Ultimately, we should hold police officers to the standards we have for plane mechanics or pilots, elected leaders, doctors, and those running our public institutions like schools. You have to be truly excellent and of utmost character and standing.

There can’t be a time where you’re “Eh, I didn’t do so good on that surgery” or “That plane crashed a couple of times with that guy.” We have to be all in on clear, documented, standards of conduct, behavior, and professionalism. And when those standards aren’t met, like a doctor with too many malpractice issues, you have to be able to move on somewhere else.

The president will lead us back from the brink

Pennsylvania Avenue is now quiet. The swans drift along without interest in the canal. Sitting in the White House at 73 years old, the President is responsible for keeping Americans alive. He will come on television and radio soon and make a series of announcements. Summoned by destiny and fate, he will prepare the nation for sacrifice.

To reduce the amount of people walking around at night, all street lights will go dark nationwide. Mailboxes will be coated with special paint so if the virus is nearby it will change color. You must keep calm and do not carry on.

Rapid construction of trench graves have been ordered to bury the dead. The ideal depth is 8 feet.

Sentries and guards will be placed around key cities and industrial areas as the manufacture of new equipment and supplies must be prioritized if our nation is to have a chance at survival.

Watchers will be tasked with identifying potentially compromised individuals. Anyone suspected of being compromised will be detained.

Masks will be issued to everyone. You should sleep with it nearby and carry it on you at all times.

In the event you are traveling and suspicious individuals come near you or you see the light signals overhead, immediately disassemble your bicycle. If you are driving, remove the spark plugs and carburetor. If you do not know how to do this, go to your nearest garage and learn how.

Shelter your house by placing cardboard over the windows or use blackout curtains. Use paint and other supplies to seal every possible crack around doors and windows.

Volunteers of women and able-body children and seniors are needed to move much-needed supplies into transport across the nation. Contact your nearest police, fire, or health department for information on where to proceed.

Children will be placed on trains and sent away from the cities and into the countryside. Your local train station will have details starting tomorrow.

The above account, with a few changes by me for our current medical crisis, is what Winston Churchill did to prepare Britons for the inevitable air bombardment of the island.

It’s remarkable how similar our current situation is to May 1940. Instead of gas masks we need face masks. Instead of painting mailboxes to change color in the event of gassing, we need flu tests. Instead of sentries looking for paratroopers and bombers, we need people looking for the sick.

Within hours of becoming Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had established most of his government. Within days he had prepared the nation with what German propaganda minister Joseph Goebels called, “Perhaps the best messaging of the war.”

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” said Churchill.

It was a sentiment that dated fifty years earlier to Theodore Roosevelt, whom Churchill admired:

“Every man among us is more fit to meet the duties and responsibilities of citizenship because of the perils over which, in the past, the nation has triumphed; because of the blood and sweat and tears, the labor and the anguish, through which, in the days that have gone, our forefathers moved on to triumph.“

Donald Trump is no Churchill, and he sure as hell is no Theodore Roosevelt.

In London, people tripped over sandbags and curbs as the city went dark at night to prevent pilots from identifying the layout of the city.

People carried masks with them, issued by the government, wherever they went. In the countryside, farmers and residents left heavy equipment scattered through their fields to deter gliders and enemy aircraft landings. Everyone knew their duty.

As the nation and world swings violently economically and pushes ahead confusingly and without direction or leadership right now, it’s nice to think about what could have been with the right leadership.

With leadership that treated Americans as patriots, intelligent, and with as much to lose as we stand to gain. Ironically, America wasn’t much of a world leader then, either.

Real leadership in turbulent times means preparing your citizens for what is likely to happen. It means devoting all of your attention to the problem at hand. While you maintain the big picture strategy in your head, you give clear instructions to the nation about what is expected, and what is expected of each person.

We’ve not had that. Governors and sometimes mayors have tried to step in to fill the gap, but this is what Americans elect Presidents to do. Nixon remarked that “most of the job is just foreign policy”. The domestic stuff only came to pass in emergencies.

The British were prepared for the Germans. They knew what was coming and they made sure the public knew it, too. But they weren’t always right.

Churchill and Neville Chamberlain before him had developed strategies that relied on the French. Britain could defend herself only if the Germans had to continually fly from and back to bases all the way in Germany. The French, with their well-trained and well-armed army were there firewall. It was unthinkable to them that they could fall so fast, or at all.

We’re in the same situation with COVID-19. It’s unthinkable to us that we might fall so fast, or at all. But we can’t rely on the imagined firewall of our doctors or healthcare sector. There is no Maginot line for viruses.

Americans need to be told the reality of the situation and prepared for war. Treated with respect and recognition for the labor we have done and have yet to give in debt, time, energy, and tears.

Coronavirus is like a really lousy snow day

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and it’s not every generation that gets to fight a global pandemic. So, it’s time to immortalize some thoughts on this blog.

Like most of the news today, I find solace in knowing this isn’t entirely new. In the 1918 Flu Pandemic people would drop dead in the middle of the street and no one knew why. It might seem silly to think we’re reminding people to wash their hands, but at least we have the good sense to wash our hands. Our understanding is vastly improved. And we’ve learned how to manage health before we totally overrun our healthcare network.

I see rumblings of people irritated that if they can work from home now, clearly we always could and “capitalism wouldn’t let us”. That strikes me as a little self-serving. An immense amount of value is brought into the world through collaboration, teamwork, and just bumping into other smart people. Also, to say nothing of the fact we all know work is different at home. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but rarely has purposeful. There’s a big difference between sitting on the couch with Netflix on in the background vs. the conference room.

Likewise, much of humanity’s greatest works of art, literature, science, and math came from people who sequestered themselves off from humanity for long periods. But no one operated in a total vacuum. They relied on spouses, kids, and the collaboration of others before and after their best work.

Unlike 1918, our ability to work remotely at all is itself a remarkable bit of progress. Cities ground to a halt and entire economies just stopped when cities closed schools, public gatherings, and quarantined themselves 100 years ago.

We’ve experienced all parts of this COVID-19 situation before. Just never all at once. This is like if we had the flu of 1918 and the stock market crash of 1929 at the same time. But it’s all overseen by Harding’s total incompetence, Andrew Johnson’s racism, combined with Nixon’s fragile ego and paranoia.

What’s more remarkable is if this situation continues for several weeks or months, and it looks like it will, this will be the first time a generation of Americans will have to live with scarce resources.

It’s one thing to talk about a dwindling social safety net, but most Americans haven’t had to live without access to on-demand toilet paper, dining out, and other supply shortages in a long time. Our parents surely remember the gas lines of the 70s, but gas is cheaper than ever right now. Prior to that, this nation hasn’t had to “do without” something since the 40s.

It is fruitful timing considering this nation continues to debate healthcare, too. As reports from the BBC have noted, “America does not have a health system. They have a health sector.” That’s about the best description I’ve heard of how we choose to operate healthcare.

Indiana working to protect you from your money, education, and food

It’s time for my annual review of absurd, ridiculous, and ”Haven’t they done enough?” of proposed Indiana legislation.

Sen Houchin has introduced a bill targeting car share programs. I’m not too familiar with these services, but they’re like Air B&B for cars: you rent out your car to someone else while you’re not using it. This places the same tax as existing rental car services on them. In Indianapolis, we have the highest car rental excise tax just about anywhere in the US. It adds up to about 10%.

Senator Holdman has introduced a bill to repeal a bunch of tax breaks you’ve never heard of. This includes a bunch related to coal.

Because TIF districts are such a smashing success, Senator Taylor has an idea to expand that to food deserts. But this just places an additional tax on the food desert, so that should work out great.

Senator Kruse has heard your bellyaching and decided, yes, the children should learn civics and pass a test in order to graduate from high school.

Hat tip to Doug Masson, Senator Niemeyer has proposed legislation to protect kids from civics by shielding them from voting.

Senator Sandlin has introduced a statewide three foot passing law when overtaking a cyclist. We can add this to the list of laws no one can enforce, will know about, or actually bring justice if you murder a cyclist in your metal death machine. If a law is passed and no one knows about it, did it get passed?

Senator Ruchelshaus has introduced another jobs program to get kids who don’t know what they want to do a job they won’t like. It’s called the Let Indiana Work for You program. Everyone loves a program!

Senator Ruchelshaus, Bohacek, and Ford are, however, doing God’s work by establishing a redistricting commission. Look for this to die or get twisted into some perverse tool for a majority.

As if people in Louisville needed one more reason not to pay the toll on that fancy new bridge no one uses, Clarksville would be authorized to adopt a 1% sales tax on food and beverages if Senator Grooms gets his way.

Senator Bohacek has introduced a bill to let the President of a county council to be paid more than other members. Except in Marion County, because I’m sure that has a solid, logical, reasonable, totally not political or racist reason.

Senator Leising is back from her time machine trip to Mayberry. She’d like to prohibit schools from starting school before August. Because it’s important that kids not learn too much too fast. She also thinks cursive writing should be mandatory.