From a tech exec pal:

“Hi, my name’s Dan and I’m a volunteer for the Democratic Party. Is Annette there?”

The call started like the hundreds of other calls I’ve made for the campaign, and half the time I barely get that sentence out before I hear the *click* of a hangup or a brusque “No, don’t call again.” But Annette was polite from the start.

“Yes, dear, this is Annette, what can I do for you?”

I explained that I was calling to ask if she was planning to vote for Joe, Kamala, and other Democrats down the ballot. “Well…” she paused, and I got nervous. Then she sighed. “Well, my husband just passed.”

My stomach fell, and I stammered out something about how terribly sorry I was.

“I’m sorry, too, especially because now only I get to vote for Joe.  My husband would have been right there with me filling out his ballot to get that monster out of the White House.”

I laughed softly and said that I wish he was around to vote this year as well for exactly that reason.

“And what’s worse, my income just got cut in half. I want to support Joe but I can’t really donate. I’m sorry, dear, I’m sure that’s why you’re calling.”

I explained that no, I wasn’t calling for money, just to see if she needed information about early voting.

“Oh yes, I’ve already requested my ballot—don’t worry about me, I need to make sure I don’t have to move to Canada in November. I’ve got friends in Canada! They’d love to have me. But I don’t want to have to move.”

I told her I hoped she wouldn’t have to move, either, and that I was glad she was on top of getting her ballot in on time. I started to say something again about how sorry I was about her husband.

“Don’t worry about me, dear. You need to call the rest of the people on your list, not spend all night talking to an old lady like me.”

I told her how much I appreciated that, but that I hoped she was OK.

“Dear, it’s awful—I was married to my husband for 57 years. But I honestly don’t know what I’ll do if we don’t win. Please keep making the calls—it’s wonderful what you’re doing and every little bit helps.”


So I second your frequent exhortation: VolunteerContribute. Recruit poll workersVote!

Do it for Annette.

From Mike Martin:

Your posting Friedman’s argument about humiliation Monday ties in with this article on White pride.

[“. . . By denying and failing to validate the existence of “white pride” — not in the white supremacist sense, but in a more basic sense of alienation and disenfranchisement — the Democrats have handed Trump and the Republican Party a powerful tool of emotional persuasion similar to Hitler’s power over alienated Germans in the wake of World War I, a power that pulls at the core identity of voters and takes logic and factual persuasion totally off the table. . . .“]

I think it is deeper. The reality is that everywhere in the United States we structure our high schools in such a way that going to college is success and everything else is failure. More importantly, this means that throughout the U.S. the most talented young adults leave their communities to go off to college. After college these people become professionals and go to large cities where they pursue lucrative careers.

Meanwhile, the communities have had their top talent stripped away.

Those who remain seek out careers without college education. They thus actually live in an environment where there is little esteem. They know, because they’ve been indoctrinated in it, that not being able to graduate from college makes them lesser. Society has created a psychology of failure for those without college degrees. Literally, when you go through high school there is one acceptable goal: go to college.

If you don’t go to college you are left behind as refuse.

These people know this. They live this. When I worked in education I argued against this psychology and proffered that if you look at salary data, the college graduates always have higher average or median salaries than non-graduates, but as a statistician I looked at the percentiles and although the 50th percentile was almost always higher for college graduates, there usually was a large overlap with non-graduates. People who excelled at careers that did not require a college degree frequently had higher salaries than the bottom third of those who had degrees. To me, it was important to publicize that good careers could be achieved without going to college if people focused on careers that they enjoyed doing and thus would excel in doing. But it was anathema to the education community to incorporate this. I became ostracized because people did not even want to hear this. It was college or nothing.

I argued that two-thirds of high school graduates would not really succeed in college and should pursue other careers. Some might acquire community college courses with an AA or less and still do well in society. A large percentage, maybe even more than half were going to leave high school with only that diploma, or maybe lacking even a high school diploma, because that was their level of expertise and intelligence, but they still could pursue a successful career. They were still going to have families and live in the community.

I gave examples of people who went to college but could not graduate and instead ended up with debt and no degree. I argued that only about a quarter of high school graduates should go to a four-year college.

Another third should go to community college because they would be exposed to a wide spectrum of alternative careers. A four-year university student in pre-med could very well fail and drop out, whereas the same student in a community college would find career choices as medical technicians, and other fields that they could shift into without failure. AND, as I mentioned, if they were better suited to those careers they would likely earn higher salaries than a career requiring a college degree that they really were not suited to.

I think the people in rural communities resent being considered lesser just because they didn’t go off to cities with college degrees. I think they also know and associate with people who did go to college and failed while acquiring debt burdens. We portray college attendance as if everyone graduates and passes the bar or gets some other professional certificate. But that isn’t true. There are people who graduate from law school and don’t pass the bar. Conversely, the world is full of examples of people who didn’t go to college but succeeded spectacularly: they wrote a novel, they invented a mechanism, they performed music, they did valuable things based on creativity and innovation that do not involve intelligence and scholastic aptitude. They can do that in local communities, in rural communities.

I think there is a reality that is more than simply feelings of humiliation, but actually consists of actively denigrating people based on structural misconceptions. I have a college degree, but I only got my degree because my landlord didn’t pay the gas company and my heat was turned off in January. I went to college on the G.I. bill because it provided a way to get income and improve my situation. I see the advantages of having a degree but know I only have one because my landlord screwed up.

In my opinion, the situation has become so distorted that people in rural communities intentionally act stupid as a way of building community. This is why Republicans always act stupid: in order to appeal to that community. In the Marines we used to say “if they give you the name, then play the game” rather than try to fight denigration.

Republicans only do something if it is stupid because being stupid is their brand. That is how they signal to each other that they belong together. Logic, science, truth, and evidence are Democrat brand signals. The Republicans don’t want to be confused with them because it is based on a humiliation that begins in high school.

From Michael Maslansky, passed on to me by one of you:

September 17, 2020

Dear friends,

I am sending you this note because you are among a group of friends of my parents who I have known for most or all of my life. You’ve supported me at different stages and maybe even followed my career. I respect you as a person, a parent, and a professional, and I’d like to think you respect me as well.

I don’t know how you plan to vote in November, but I do know that some of my parent’s friends plan to vote for President Trump and plan to do so in Florida. Because every vote in Florida has the potential to decide the election, I am writing to you to share my perspective on the election.

I realize you may have made up your mind already. I’m asking for a few moments of your time. I have spent parts of my life in politics and have worked for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. But I am not writing this as a partisan. I am writing as an American, a Jew, and a parent – three traits I know I share with you.

If you plan to vote for President Trump in 2020, you probably voted for him in 2016. In 2016, there were many reasons to support candidate Trump. He positioned himself as a straight-talking, business-friendly, Israel-friendly, New Yorker who could fix a dysfunctional Washington. It was quite reasonable to dismiss his most outrageous statements as Trump being Trump. Few on the left could understand this decision, but to me, the calculus was quite reasonable.

Is the same true in 2020?

A vote for President Trump in 2020 still may be the right decision for you and your family from a short-term economic perspective. And a vote for Trump may also be the best way to show support for Israel.

But 2020 is not 2016. In 2020, a vote for President Trump is also a vote to support President Trump’s America and a vote in support of his values. Because I know these are not your values, I ask you to consider what support for Trump in 2020 represents.

By supporting Trump, you are supporting a President who seeks to undermine our democracy to become an autocrat. This is not an exaggeration. A free press is critical to a functioning democracy. He attacks any journalist who says anything he does not like. He actively spreads disinformation to create doubt about all news. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. This President solicits foreign interference, openly works to suppress the vote, publicly says he may reject the results of the election, and has already used the military on American soil to fight dissent. He does this in full daylight. This is not about Fox News vs. MSNBC – this is a deliberate and consistent effort to weaken our system of government. Please think about the impact of these actions. Our democracy is strong, but it has never been attacked from the White House like this.

By supporting Trump, you are supporting white nationalism. President has repeatedly taken actions to support white nationalist groups and their messages. And he has repeatedly refused to disavow his support. Trump may support Israel, but it is not because he supports Jews. His consistent support for white nationalist groups has already led to a record level of anti-Semitic crime in America. Before every major outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in history including the Holocaust, Jews underestimated the potential that it could happen there or then. Please don’t underestimate that potential here.

By supporting Trump,  you are saying that corruption and cronyism are acceptable. In less than four years, eight Trump appointees, advisors, or employees have been arrested or convicted for crimes that include conspiracy against the US, witness tampering, money laundering, and paying hush money. Our President serves as a role model to my children and your grandchildren. He celebrates this behavior. Reelecting him sends a message that you think this behavior is acceptable.

By supporting Trump, you are rejecting science. Since his inauguration, President Trump has deleted scientific data from government websites, stopped collection of data he disagrees with, and repeatedly undermined the evidence-based opinions of respected scientists and medical professionals. It is one thing to debate the merits of a scientific study or opinion. It is another to attack the idea that science is important. Imagine a world, where science and data can no longer be used to help us understand our world and how to make positive change.

That is the world a vote for Trump is supporting.

By supporting Trump, you are hurting your grandchildren and threatening your health. I am not trying to be dramatic. Trump made a public health crisis political. It did not have to be this way. If your grandchildren are not in school, it is because of Trump’s actions. If you don’t get to see your family as much as you would like, it is because of Trump’s actions. This is America, and our response should be the best in the world. But our response to the virus is worse than many developing countries, and by voting for him you are supporting a continuation of this approach.

By supporting Trump, what legacy are you leaving your grandchildren? Only you can decide what you want that legacy to be. You may decide that what matters most is passing along the biggest possible inheritance. At the same time, I’d ask you to consider the legacy that another four years of Trump will leave. Your grandchildren are witnessing gun violence, racial violence, and the impacts of climate change that are only likely to increase. They may be forced to reckon with a true constitutional crisis.

Your vote is not just a vote for lower taxes or a continued bull market. Your vote is a referendum on Trump’s America. President Trump has made it very clear what he stands for.

Because I don’t think these are the things you stand for, I ask you to vote against him. And if you cannot vote against him, please consider not voting for him.

With respect,


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