Trump battles trade and Covid effects, but stokes a bigger battle

It looks like Donald Trump has an uphill battle to retain the presidency. Contracting Covid has been an obvious setback, but trade tariffs imposed by Trump as well as his general behaviour had already made re-election difficult for him.

But militia style battles, encouraged by Trump, may pose major problems post-election.

FiveThirtyEight currently forecasts a 15 in 100 chance of Trump winning in Biden is favored to win the election – and this has dropped from 30% on 1 September, 24% on 15 September and 20% on 1 October just as he tested positive for Covid.

There does appear to be a Covid effect. Reuters: With pandemic dominating U.S. election, older voters turning away from Trump

Many older Americans have turned away from President Donald Trump this year as the coronavirus ravages the country, eroding an important Republican support base that helped propel him into the White House in 2016, Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows.

Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden now split American voters aged 55 years and older almost evenly: 47% say they are voting for Biden on Nov. 3 while 46% back Trump, according to Reuters/Ipsos national surveys in September and October.

Trump won the 55-plus age group by 13 percentage points in 2016, according to exit polls. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, achieved the same margin.

Biden is beating Trump among older voters in Wisconsin by 10 points and drawing about the same amount of support as Trump is with that demographic in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Arizona, according to the state polls conducted in mid-September and early October.

Four years ago, Trump won older voters in each of those states by 10 to 29 points.

But before Covid Trump already had problems in some key states that helped him win the 2016 election.

Reuters: Trump steel tariffs bring job losses to swing state Michigan

President Donald Trump promised a new dawn for the struggling U.S. steel industry in 2016, and the lure of new jobs in Midwestern states including Michigan helped him eke out a surprise election win.

Trump’s strategy centered on shielding U.S. steel mills from foreign competition with a 25% tariff imposed in March 2018. He also promised to boost steel demand through major investments in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

But higher steel prices resulting from the tariffs dented demand from the Michigan-based U.S. auto industry and other steel consumers. And the Trump administration has never followed through on an infrastructure plan.

Biden leads Trump in Michigan by 8 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos state opinion poll of likely voters conducted from Sept. 29 – Oct. 6, widening his lead from a few weeks earlier.

Nationally, the steel industry has been shedding jobs for the past year – since before the wider economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and now employs 1,900 fewer workers than it did when Trump took office, according to U.S. Labor Department data. 

While the tariffs failed to boost overall steel employment, economists say they created higher costs for major steel consumers – killing jobs at companies including Detroit-based automakers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.

The tariffs had a profound impact on steel consumers, industry experts say. All three Detroit automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – have closed a plant in Michigan since January 2018, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. Both General Motors and Ford reported $1 billion each in increased steel cost in 2018.

Nationally, steel and aluminum tariffs resulted in at least 75,000 job losses in metal-using industries by the end of last year, according to an analysis by Lydia Cox, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, and Kadee Russ, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis.

In all, they estimated, the trade war had caused a net loss of 175,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by mid-2019.

Trump made similar 2016 campaign promises to revive the ailing coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations. But that industry’s employment has dropped 9% since 2016, to about 46,000, as 66 coal plants – nearly a fifth of the U.S. total – have closed. The economic losses come despite the administration’s moves to ease restrictions including limits on carbon emissions and dumping coal waste into streams.

One (loose) group of voters does seem to support Trump.

FiveThirtyEight: How Trump And COVID-19 Have Reshaped The Modern Militia Movement

While established militias are kind of like a heavily armed scout troop — formal organizations with ranks and membership dues and training programs and regular meetings — some academics argue that many people who are falling into the militia movement’s orbit these days are more like loosely affiliated individuals.

So a crowd like the one that showed up in Kenosha can be made up of individuals, even strangers, with little connecting them except a shared interest in gun rights and a sense that they’re the only ones who can protect their community. And in these trying times — amid a pandemic and protests against racial injustice, plus a president who is giving them more public support than they’ve ever had from the national political establishment — those individuals are taking a collective turn in a direction that, experts fear, is likely to result in more violence.

The rise of President Trump, and the tumultuous events of 2020, have made it even more difficult to untangle what militias are doing and what their individual adherents believe. From the beginning of his candidacy, Trump’s rhetoric — his attacks on the “deep state” or the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant insults that peppered his tweets and speeches — have resonated with and garnered public responses from people within the militia movement.

When Trump tweeted about an impending civil war or warned about threats from the left, it brought extremist theories and conversations into the national conversation. 

The pandemic — and the racial injustice protests that have roiled cities throughout the summer — appear to have brought even more people into the militia movement’s orbit. Suddenly, people were at home all day, feeling anxious and fearful about the future and spending a lot more time online. Many in the militia movement chafed at state lockdown orders, and started appearing, heavily armed, at state capitols across the country to protest what they saw as an assault on their individual freedoms. 

Fear and anxiety are predictors of people — particularly young people — turning towards extremism and violence, said Miller-Idriss. In that context, the conditions of the pandemic are a perfect culture for radicalism to grow. “We know from the research that unemployment itself does not lead to greater risk of engaging in extremist behaviors but economic precarity does,” she said. For the last six months, the entire country has lived on the edge of economic and social precarity. What if our institutions crumble? What if we can’t get our normal lives back? Extremist ideologies can offer meaning, purpose and a narrative of control when everything feels out of it.

The president’s rhetoric has fed into that, experts say. By the time he was elected, Trump was a hero to many in the militia movement. “Donald Trump has succeeded in being at once the head of government and the head of anti-government,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a remarkable thing, actually.”

With Trump saying both implicitly and explicitly that militias or even just armed individuals are the only thing standing between America and the chaos of a leftist takeover of the country, the promise of control becomes even stronger. It becomes a call to arms — one that more young Americans, sitting at home without school or even work, may try to answer.

This is a real problem for the US.

Inquirer (1 September): Trump’s promotion of armed militias risks stoking civil war

Claiming to be the law-and-order president, Trump is stoking racial tensions rather than seeking to calm them. He is encouraging armed supporters who show up in racially troubled towns and cities with their rifles at the ready.

He cheered on a pro-Trump caravan of trucks that drove into downtown Portland, Ore., Saturday as “GREAT PATRIOTS,” even though video showed them hurling paintballs and pepper spray and driving into protesters, leaving one dead from an unsolved shooting.

The Atlantic: A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans

Stewart Rhodes was living his vision of the future. On television, American cities were burning, while on the internet, rumors warned that antifa bands were coming to terrorize the suburbs. Rhodes was driving around South Texas, getting ready for them. He answered his phone. “Let’s not fuck around,” he said. “We’ve descended into civil war.”

…Rhodes had been talking about civil war since he founded the Oath Keepers, in 2009. But now more people were listening. And whereas Rhodes had once cast himself as a revolutionary in waiting, he now saw his role as defending the president. He had put out a call for his followers to protect the country against what he was calling an “insurrection.” The unrest, he told me, was the latest attempt to undermine Donald Trump.

In Trump, the Patriot movement believed it had an ally in the White House for the first time. In 2016, when Trump had warned of election fraud, Rhodes put out a call for members to quietly monitor polling stations.

When Trump warned of an invasion by undocumented immigrants, Rhodes traveled to the southern border with an Oath Keepers patrol. He sent members to “protect” Trump supporters from the protesters at his rallies and appeared in the VIP section at one of them, standing in the front row in a black Oath Keepers shirt.

When Trump warned of the potential for civil war at the start of the impeachment inquiry last fall, Rhodes voiced his assent on Twitter. “This is the truth,” he wrote. “This is where we are.”

The race riots have happened since then.

As Rhodes told the people in the crowd to be ready for war, I sized them up. Some looked hardened, but many more did not. One man rested a hand on a cane. When Rhodes asked what their concerns were, several said they feared that rioters would show up in their neighborhoods.

His comments became more inflammatory as he began to warn about antifa and protesters. “They are insurrectionists, and we have to suppress that insurrection,” he said. “Eventually they’re going to be using IEDs.”

“Us old vets and younger ones are going to end up having to kill these young kids,” he concluded. “And they’re going to die believing they were fighting Nazis.”

It could start with a protest gone wrong, he said, or shots from a provocateur. Someone mentioned a young mother in Indiana who’d been shot and killed after reportedly shouting “All lives matter” during an argument with strangers.

“We talk about being attacked,” another man said. “Now, I have a question. What if you’re attacked in subtle and consistent ways over a period of time?”

This was a different kind of crowd than Rhodes had drawn to the VFW hall. Many were in their 20s and 30s and had come in uniforms—some Three Percenters wore black T‑shirts and camouflage pants, and members of another group stood together in matching woodland fatigues. From the latter, a man climbed onto the flatbed and introduced himself as Joe Klemm, the leader of a new militia called the Ridge Runners.

He was a 29-year-old former marine and spoke with a boom that brought the crowd to attention. “I’ve seen this coming since I was in the military,” he said. “For far too long, we’ve given a little bit here and there in the interest of peace. But I will tell you that peace is not that sweet. Life is not that dear. I’d rather die than not live free.”

“Hoo-ah,” some people cheered.

“It’s going to change in November,” Klemm continued. “I follow the Constitution. We demand that the rest of you do the same. We demand that our police officers do the same. We’re going to make these people fear us again. We should have been shooting a long time ago instead of standing off to the side.”

“Are you willing to lose your lives?” he asked. “Are you willing to lose the lives of your loved ones—maybe see one of your loved ones ripped apart right next to you?”

Guardian: ‘Our worst nightmare’: will militias heed Trump’s call to watch the polls?

In the final minutes of last week’s televised presidential debate, a few days before he tested positive for Covid-19, Donald Trump was asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, whether he would call on his supporters to stay calm and desist from civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of next month’s election.

Trump pointedly declined the invitation. Instead, he replied: “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it.”

For those who monitor the activities of far-right militia groups and white-supremacist paramilitaries, Trump’s remarks were as welcome as jet fuel being used to quell a wildfire.

“The militias will absolutely seize on [Trump’s comments],” said Steven Gardiner, who tracks militias at the progressive thinktank Political Research Associates. “The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling.”

FBI background checks – a direct indicator of gun sales – almost doubled year-on-year this summer, a reflection of the jitters that abound. As America arms itself, deadly weaponry is increasingly finding its way on to the streets, borne by self-styled private militias and culminating in violent clashes that have caused bloodshed in several US cities.

With the most ferociously-contested presidential election in modern times now less than a month away, there are signs that heavily-armed militia groups, many of them finely attuned to Trump’s every whim, are setting their sights on the ballot.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

It’s not just the rightwing paramilitaries that pose a mounting danger. Anti-fascist and radical left groups have shown a growing recourse to guns too, as was seen with the shooting by a self-styled anti-fascist activist, later himself killed by police, of a member of the pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer in Portland last month.

The arming of African American and anti-fascist factions has contributed to the volatility of the times. But the overwhelming bulk of militia activity falls firmly on the other side of the country’s widening racial divide – with the overwhelmingly white far-right.

It’s a daunting task, made none the easier by Trump. “When he talks about ‘poll watching’ and fraud, and refuses to urge his followers not to engage in civil unrest, that’s a thinly-veiled dog-whistle for armed groups to coalesce.”

It isn’t just an election at stake in the US. It isn’t just democracy at stake.

And the risks are real. Reuters: F.B.I. Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Authorities charged 13 men, some of whom were accused of plotting to storm the State Capitol building and planning to start a civil war.

Storming the State Capitol. Instigating a civil war. Abducting a sitting governor ahead of the presidential election.

Those were among the plots described by federal and state officials in Michigan on Thursday as they announced terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men. At least six of them, officials said, had hatched a detailed plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has become a focal point of anti-government views and anger over coronavirus control measures.

The men spied on Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, even looking under a highway bridge for places they could place and detonate a bomb to distract the authorities, the F.B.I. said. They indicated that they wanted to take Ms. Whitmer hostage before the election in November, and one man said they should take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin for a “trial,” Richard J. Trask II, an F.B.I. special agent, said in the criminal complaint.

That’s quite alarming. Sadly, predictably, the stoker-in-chief continues fomenting devision.

And:

It could become a very ugly election, and it could also get a lot worse, especially if Trump loses the election.

Blog armies and militia

I don’t know if whale Oil does their ‘Whale army’ thing much any more but they included a reference in The Whaleoil Dictionary last year:

Oilers One of a number of names for WO readers, followers and fans. (Alternates: Whale Army and Ground Crew)

Earlier last year in A winning strategy for social justice warriors:

Milo Yiannopoulos, who reminds me so much of a gay, fashionable, fabulous version of Cameron (he doesn’t have a Whale army but he talks about the Milo army)…

Is organising an army of helpers a Breitbart thing?

The Daily Bog is trying something similar, but of course needed a different name – Don’t forget to join our social media militia and spread the views this election

Comrades, as the Daily Blog gears up to cover the 2017 NZ Election, we want to send out a reminder for you to join us on our social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter so that you are able to share and retweet blogs you want to spread.

Please join us today to keep up to date with the election this year.

Cheers

TDB crew

Does this mean war between the WO Ground Crew and the TDB crew? Perhaps fighting amongst themselves is all they have left, they have both become toxic to parties and their campaigns.

Like WO The Daily Blog claims to be an alternative to traditional media but are looking more like political activists.

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