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Today’s read: 8 minutes.
The Bernie-Biden dynamic, a question about coronavirus in New York City and the future of work for all of us.
There will be a big announcement in Tangle tomorrow. Please keep an eye out for a special Friday edition hitting your inbox around noon!
What D.C. is talking about.
Bernie Sanders. The 78-year-old Democratic socialist and independent from Vermont dropped out of the 2020 presidential race yesterday, handing the reins over to the new presumptive nominee Joe Biden. Sanders launched a live stream to address supporters and announce his decision, vowing to continue to fight for the ideas he mainstreamed through his campaign: Medicare for all, tuition-free college, a $15 dollar federal minimum wage, the Green New Deal, massive reforms to our immigration system and an increase in taxes on the wealthy. “I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said. “While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.” The New York Times reported that part of Sanders’ decision to drop out stemmed from a belief that Biden and his team will move closer to Sanders on critical issues like health care and student loans, something Sanders aides believe could happen this week. After Sanders dropped out, Biden published a lengthy statement on Medium thanking him. “Bernie gets a lot of credit for his passionate advocacy for the issues he cares about,” Biden wrote. “But he doesn’t get enough credit for being a voice that forces us all to take a hard look in the mirror and ask if we’ve done enough.”
What the left is saying.
It’s as divided as you might expect. Many Bernie surrogates are blaming the “Democratic establishment” for destroying his campaign. GQ’s culture writer Gabrielle Paiella said Sanders “has more integrity in one wagging finger than the rest of the Democratic establishment combined and never forget that they would rather see Trump re-elected than give the American people an inch.” Kyle Kulinski, the popular YouTube host and Sanders supporter, said he will only vote for Biden if he becomes convinced he’ll fight for at least one or two of Sanders’ main goals (medicare for all, free college, living wage, ending wars or Universal Basic Income). Other Sanders supporters applauded and cheered him for moving the party to the left and vowed to continue to fight to end Trump’s presidency. Moderate Democrats and Biden supporters pleaded or mocked the most cynical of the Bernie backers. Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the popular liberal website The Daily Kos, said “I’m not voting for Biden” actually translates to “I want Trump to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Wajahat Ali, a New York Times contributing writer, made a plea: “Bernie fans who are threatening to sit out, please think about the rest of us,” he wrote. “Your political absolutism has a tremendous cost that will be borne by people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, the poor and the climate. There are no both sides here. Not even close. Please vote.”
What the right is saying.
The fire quickly turned to Biden. “Is Joe Biden ready to lead this country?” Tucker Carlson asked on Fox News. “Could he find his car in a three-tiered parking garage? Could he navigate a salad bar? And by the way, what exactly is his position on the coronavirus pandemic? Those are the mysteries Democrats now face.” Carlson then ran a clip of Biden struggling to put together a coherent sentence. Others noted that Biden is already preparing to concede to Sanders on his most radical policies, and will likely move further to the left than he already is before the election to appease Bernie Bros. “Bernie Sanders may not appear on the ballot in November, but the last four years have made it clear that his radical socialist ideas will be,” Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) tweeted. The New York Post editorial board argued that it was clear Bernie’s momentum in 2016 was about anti-Hillary sentiment, not any particularly strong support for his ideas. “It’s now clear that his success then was more about being the only alternative to her — the only practical protest vote against her coronation — than about the appeal of his blame-the-rich, grow-the-government message,” they wrote. Dan McLaughlin wrote that rather than spurning a movement toward his envisioned future, Sanders inspired the party to come together “with startling speed and cohesiveness to reject him in favor of a man who has been in D.C. for half a century and lives and breathes the old Senate norms of bipartisan centrism and corporate fundraising.”
Sanders has absolutely pushed the party to the left over the last few years, but it’s disingenuous for either side to try to tie Biden’s agenda to his. The two have markedly different views for the future of the country, and I expect Biden to flounder as he tries to court Sanders voters. Expect some cringeworthy youth outreach and some progressive olive branches, like a pledge to legalize marijuana or a promise to include a progressive icon in his cabinet. There is no chance Biden ever ties his campaign to Medicare for all or free college — and anyone expecting that of him would be unreasonable. He just smoked the competition in the Democratic primary by specifically running against those things, instead campaigning on a pragmatic “get things done” approach that really amounts to a presidency a half-step to the left of Barack Obama.
Still, if you’re a Sanders supporter, there is cause for some hope. Yes, the party has shifted left. Yes, Sanders is staying on the ballot going forward, which means he could earn enough delegates to have some power over the rules of the party at the Democratic convention. And yes, there seems to be reliable reporting out there that Biden is committed to keeping Sanders happy, which means some melding of agendas is possible.
Sanders’ decision to drop out now shouldn’t surprise anyone. He was on his way to losing in states like West Virginia or Indiana, which would have destroyed his credibility when pitching his policies as something rural Americans and the Appalachia or the Rust Belt would want. Frankly, by dropping out now he maintains a good deal of the aura and power that he had heading into the race, and he may be more influential from the sidelines. His failure to break through this time was not unlike 2016: he could not muster support from black voters, he didn’t court any major endorsements from the Democratic establishment, and there was no huge youth turnout surge. As Harry Enten noted, aside from an uptick in his Hispanic support, Bernie really didn’t improve anywhere this time compared to 2016 — a primary race he lost by over 10 points.
I’m using this section to just give you some quick hits about what’s happening on the coronavirus front, as non-coronavirus news has periodically taken center-stage over the last week.
Johns Hopkins heat map showing where coronavirus cases are prominent in the U.S.
There is growing momentum inside the Trump administration to “re-open” the country by May 1st. Trump and members of his administration are becoming increasingly encouraged by numbers showing that rates of infection are peaking in hotspots and they want to act on it. They are “not close” to making a decision, one admin official told Axios, but that date is when the latest 30-day social distancing guideline ends.
One plan is to defer to governors or local leaders. So far, coronavirus is hitting certain regions differently. Trump and other White House leaders seem warm to the idea of opening parts of the country up or giving state and city leaders the power to decide how they bring their regions back online.
Health experts are far more pessimistic. Opening up one place means allowing people to travel freely, which means intrastate movement, office gatherings or large group gatherings that could cause an outbreak in areas that have benefited from social distancing guidelines. Then you get both the economic injury of the last few weeks and ultimately the negative health outcomes, too.
A debate is raging about whether coronavirus deaths are being undercounted or overcounted. An emerging narrative on the right is that the coronavirus death toll is inflated because anyone who tests positive and dies is tallied as a “coronavirus death,” even if an underlying condition was the root cause. Many on the left say, if anything, we are undercounting the impact: lack of testing means fewer positives, people being sent home means fewer hospitalizations, and people dying at home means fewer official death tolls.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, a reliably conservative perspective, published a scathing op-ed on Trump’s “wasted briefings” this morning. The board wrote that Trump’s daily briefings have become “less about defeating the virus and more about the many feuds of Donald J. Trump,” adding that they went from a serious spectacle with guidance and important information to a replacement for his campaign rallies and that his poll numbers have suffered accordingly.
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: Reader questions are a big part of Tangle. To ask a question, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in. Give it a try!
Q: I have a question about New York City vs. other cities and the [coronavirus] numbers: we had a lot of deaths reported (according to NYT, the largest one-day increase) after two days of apparent "flattening." Based on what you've been reading/seeing, should other cities expect to see this rollercoaster style of numbers? Or is this because of the mixed messaging from our local government and civilian neglect to social distance early on...?
- Lindsy, New York, NY
Tangle: I think most other cities should see a different trajectory, given that no place is more vulnerable to this kind of thing than New York. Outside of the Big Apple (and Los Angeles, Seattle and New Orleans), a lot of major urban areas put in social distancing measures before the outbreaks had been too visible or too bad. That’s a great thing, and with any luck, it’ll show up in the data. But the “rollercoaster” style of numbers that you’re seeing in New York is actually a feature of our response, not a flaw.
Think about it this way: the flattening of the curve represents the spread of infections, which is great. It essentially means we think that we’ve hit an “apex” in how many people are being newly infected each day. There are some reasons to be cautious, though, namely that our resources for counting these infections are being strained and the fact we are still not testing enough people to have a totally clear picture of the spread (i.e. we know a large chunk of coronavirus-positive people are asymptomatic, but right now the only people getting tests have serious symptoms). That being said, if we have in fact hit the apex in the spread, we should expect to see the death totals continue to rise for at least the first two or three weeks after that apex.
Unfortunately, that’s just how this virus works. There is something called the “second-week crash” that doctors have seen in seriously ill patients, and it essentially amounts to people feeling like they are on the rebound before the virus comes back with a fury. It’s also important to note that many people who succumb to the virus die in the second week of having it. For instance, when New York City saw that huge surge of daily deaths, Dr. Deborah Birx on the coronavirus task force said: “What we’re seeing today are the people who were infected two or three weeks ago.”
We’ve seen this abroad as well. As for the way the trends are moving, again, New York is unique. We are both very, very densely populated and were on the frontlines of the virus. New research suggests it was here as early as mid-February and actually came primarily from Europe, not China. Given how many people here are international, and how many New Yorkers travel back and forth from Europe for work compared to other cities, and how many Europeans travel here for tourism, and how many people come through New York to get to and from being abroad on their way home… it’s just a recipe for disaster.
I think what most other places will see is likely to resemble Seattle more than New York. There, cases grew slowly then exploded, and now the daily rate of new cases has waned. But, again, the numbers in Seattle are also questionable because it’s taking so long for test results to come in and they are struggling to test all the people they want to.
Ultimately, the numbers on all of this are liable to change. Some of the most trusted models on where the total U.S. death rate will land change daily, and just got a huge revision downward. Competing models have predicted everything from 60,000 to 2.2 million deaths. FiveThirtyEight explained last month why modeling the COVID-19 outbreak is so difficult, and why we will have radically different outcomes based on the geography and timing of outbreaks.
Take a simple hypothetical: one month from now, the country is back “up and running.” New York is still on lockdown as the virus wanes, but a city like Chicago, which put stay-at-home orders into place before a huge outbreak, is fully restored. Then there’s an outbreak there. Will Chicago be able to turn back off and revert to closing everything down again a week after it re-opened? It seems unlikely. So what then? The city probably puts out a bunch of preventative measure requests like wearing masks, gloves, washing hands frequently and avoiding public transportation while simultaneously not restricting people with stay-at-home orders. In that world, I suspect an outbreak would last longer though may not be as severe. But it’s incredibly difficult to model that — so the outcome there may differ entirely from an outbreak in New York, where things shut down in the course of a week but the virus spread rapidly before the city went into quarantine.
When it comes to “mixed messaging,” I’ve noted before the New York City officials deserve scorn for downplaying the virus just like Trump does. Notably, most of their “everything is going to be fine” language came in early or mid-February, before it was really clear how serious this was. Trump kept that language up into March, which is why he gets a particularly poor rating for his response. But there’s no doubt NYC was slow to move on this, and no doubt the language from top officials — especially Mayor Bill de Blasio — cost us precious time and resources in slowing all this down.
A story that matters.
Last night, the White House released new guidance on how Americans could return to work. The guidance pertains specifically to essential workers who had been exposed to COVID-19, and requires them to take their temperature before work, wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing as much as they can. The guidance also advises them to avoid breakroom or lunchroom gatherings, avoid sharing equipment or headsets, and stay home if you are ever sick. This came just 12 hours before a new jobs report showed another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total to 17 million over the course of three weeks. This story matters because it appears to be the White House’s first run at trying to get workers back to their jobs, and it could serve as a preview for how millions of us are going to be slowly encouraged back to work in the coming weeks or months. That means when social distancing guidelines are lifted, we may be subject to similar guidelines in order to return to the office, restaurant, factory or wherever many of us perform our day jobs. Click.
42%. The percentage of coronavirus deaths that were black Americans, according to a new analysis of the demographics of 3,000 coronavirus deaths.
47%. The percentage of Americans that believe it will be on or after Christmas before the economy and the American way of life return to mostly normal.
11%. The percentage of Americans who believe the American way of life and the economy will never return to normal.
$2 million. The price a Hampton’s developer rented out his 11-bedroom Sandcastle home for through Labor Day, the most expensive East End rental ever.
13%-14%. The estimated unemployment rate in America now, after nearly 17 million people applied for unemployment in the last three weeks.
3.5%. The unemployment rate in America as of early February.
432,554. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, as off 11:00 a.m. EST.
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Have a nice day.
72% of the new energy used in 2019 came from renewable sources, a new report says. Around 90% of all the new renewable energy capacity across the globe came from solar and wind, though hydropower still remains the biggest source of renewable energy overall. It was the highest proportion of new energy coming from renewables since 2001, when the report’s data began. 34.7% of all energy on the planet now comes from renewable sources. Regardless of how you feel about climate change or your personal interests in energy-based jobs, the growth in renewables means we can savor what’s left of the planet’s resources to create power. It also means most citizens should see the cost of their energy consumption decline as the renewable market competes with itself and more traditional energy sectors. Global Citizen has the story here.