Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson: Will Democrats keep up the momentum?

Aug 18, 2020

Columnist Eugene Robinson will be online every Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern for Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson, where he'll talk about the latest political and cultural developments. Catch up on the transcript of his latest chat below.

Read Eugene Robinson's columns or catch up on past Eugene Robinson Live chats.

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Hi, everybody, and welcome to our chat. What did you think of the virtual Democratic Convention's first night? The format takes a little getting used to, doesn't it -- no crowded arena, no funny hats. No real atmosphere. But there is one big advantage: The speeches are necessarily short and sweet. I thought the sweetest last night was Michelle Obama's devastating takedown of Trump and Trumpism. A close second was Bernie Sanders's full-throated call for his progressive followers to vote for Joe Biden. President Trump's meltdowns on Twitter and in remarks to the press suggest that the Democrats scored a direct hit last night. But there are three nights to go, and one wonders whether this literally made-for-tv convention can keep up the momentum -- and keep its audience. We'll see. Let's get started. 

Given Trump's reaction and incoherent rants, I suspect that the first day was very difficult for him, especially Mrs. Obama's speech. Listening to her, I felt like I was sitting across from a dear friend having coffee. Your reaction to the first day?

As I said in my intro, I thought it was a successful first night. Obama's speech was especially effective, because, as you say, it was like sitting down with her in your living room. She really has a talent for making human connection. She will be a hard act to follow.

What is the impact of Trumpets replaying this old strategy with Kamala Harris? The 1st Lady is an immigrant, no one barked at that.

I think you wrote "birtherism" where you meant "racism."

This is regarding the painting of the young black men which has been behind your shoulder during your appearances recently on Morning Joe and other programs. I love it so much and have tried every way I know to find out who the artist is and any information at all about it. I love it so much. Please let me know something about this wonderful piece of art. I’ve tried everything I can and have been unable to get any information from every source I’ve tried.

I get a lot of questions about this, so here's the answer: What you're seeing is part of a painting by my wife, Avis Collins Robinson, who is an artist.

Why isn't Trump being walked out of the white house in handcuffs , for what he is blatantly trying to do to the Postal Service ?

According to a Justice Department opinion that predates the Trump era, a sitting president can't be charged or tried in criminal proceedings. So he can't be walked out in handcuffs. No matter; just so he gets walked out in January, even if it's without cuffs.

should democrats do a daily briefing w respected medical expects to counter misinformation and spin from WH briefing ? 50% medical 50% political thanks

That wouldn't make much sense, since President Trump is in charge of the executive branch and Democrats lack the power to (for example) tell the CDC or NIH to do anything. Truth-telling doctors get plenty of exposure in the media. And there's no way to stop Trump from lying. The only thing we can do is make his lies inconsequential by defeating him in November.

Why is the government so slow to adopt new technologies? Instead of relying on the USPS to deliver paper ballots, why not adopt email voting? Corporations have been doing this for decades to tabulate the election of board members and other proposals. It would speed up the collection of ballots and not be so dependent upon the over-taxed postal system. Keep up the good work Gene.

Cybervoting is probably destined to become the norm whenever we get to the point where we are confident it can't be hacked. But we're not anywhere near there at this point, and having a paper trail seems to many to be the best way to ensure an honest vote count.

Scenario: I vote early for candidate A, but before Election Day he becomes incapacitated and is replaced on the ticket. What happens to my vote? I assume it is discarded and doesn't count, which would be a disaster especially if I am trying to unseat the incumbent. And would my other down ballot votes still count, or does everything get tossed? I can't imaging I would be allowed to revote, and I also can't fathom that my vote would automatically be counted for the new candidate. This concerns me and leans me towards voting in person on Election Day, or at least handing in my ballot very close to it. Thank you and keep up the good work.

The answer is that it depends on where you live. Check the rules in your state. Some people were in this situation during the primaries, as various candidates dropped out.

Is there anything we can do to stop Trump’s attempt to kneecap mail delivery in the middle of a pandemic?

Let your members of Congress know how you feel. My sense is that Republicans -- especially those endangered senators -- are ready to put a stop to the sabotage. Turns out that Americans like getting their mail.

Good morning, Gene. Sure, the polls have Biden up substantially. But that means nothing to me. If you want a real indicator, just look at football. Ohio State fans already blame Trump for not being able to see their beloved Buckeyes play in the Big Ten this fall. And I hope I'm wrong, but I predict the NFL season will be canceled after no more than 7 weeks into the upcoming season. If that happens Trump will certainly be doomed at the polls on November 3rd. Americans can forgive a lot of things, but don't mess with their football.

When people tell pollsters they overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic, I think the need to cancel sports figures into their attitude.

Trump says that the problem is we have too many tests. It seems to me that the real problem is that we have too many autopsies.

True. And too many cases of covid-19.

how do we get the word out - that people should vote early by mail by October 20th.. That way the USPS via trump's henchmen become powerless to cause any trouble..

Your post is a start.

Honestly, I feel it works better without the hoopla, signs, crazy hats and raucous crowd. It's a more intimate and thoughtful conversation, allowing viewers to give better consideration to the arguments speakers make. Meanwhile, I'm betting Repubs will go for glitz and spectacle - in the middle of a devastating pandemic and economic collapse, not necessarily what concerned Americans want or need.

I agree with your prediction that there will be a vivid contrast. I obviously don't know what that contrast will be, but I think your prediction of glitz and spectacle sounds pretty sound.

I was pleasantly surprised. I expected dull, but it was anything but. There were many outstanding moments. You've covered Michelle Obama's exceptional speech and I agree wholeheartedly. The moment that keeps coming back to me today though, is the short, but mighty, appearance of the young woman whose father died from COVID-19. "His only pre-existing was trusting Donald Trump." There is no topping that and I'm wondering if it will resonate and how Trumpers will deal with it.

The woman's name is Kristin Urquiza. Her father was Mark Anthony Urquiza, whose "only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump." Indeed, tragic and powerful.

After watching last night's Dem convention I was impressed by the use of tehnology but thought the presenter was a little info-mercial-like. I kept waiting for cages of neglected dogs to come up on the screen. That aside, I was impressed with all speakers and videos and it left me thinking that the Dems are fortunate to get in the first blow. I don't know what the Republicans could possibly do to present a feel-good program about what they are proposing to do for the country for the next 4 years. What could the Republicans possibly present that would be attractive and energizing to voters?

An alternative slate of candidates, maybe?

Where can citizens realistically exert pressure? The House wants to do the right thing, but the Senate is AWOL. It seems to me that the GOP Senators are more than willing to let problems with the Post Office hurt their constituents (disenfranchisement, not getting critical medication) in hopes of squeaking by in a reduced turnout election. Then there’s their total surrender to Trump. What can make them do their jobs? I’m from TX and regard my Senators as lost causes. I will at least be voting against one in person.

This is why it's so important to flip the Senate as well as capture the White House. So yes, be sure to vote. And make sure your like-minded friends, relatives and neighbors vote as well.

When did the GOP stop being the GOP? It first tied itself to the Evangelicals -- then the the Tea Party -- then Sarah Palin (and to a lesser extend George W. Bush) with the dumbing down of conservatism (anti-science, alternative facts, and against education) -- then Trumpism and Republican Senators' and Representatives' Faustian deal -- then tax cuts for the wealthy while convincing their working class base that this was helpful -- then Right extremism (KKK, Neo Nazis, the Breitbart ilk, and 'good people' on both sides) -- then blatant racism and white grievance -- and now QAnon (which believes in bizarre conspiracy theories). Since all these "movements" seem to subsume the GOP I am left to wonder what the GOP stands for and why anyone would vote for them?

The GOP itself is equally ignorant about its own identity, at this point. The party is united only in its desire to keep itself in power. It deserves to be defeated and banished to the political wilderness.

Cross posting. Sometimes when I read questions calling you by your nickname, I think I've switched over to your hilarious colleague Weingarten's chat. Are you often confused with him or is it just literal minded me that trained myself seeing "Eugene Robinson"?

You mean that all this time, I've been getting his questions and he's been getting mine? That would explain a lot...

Why is congress so incompetent in their ability to keep Mr. Trump in compliance with the Constitution of the United States?

Congress used its most powerful tool -- impeachment. Senate Republicans (except Romney) refused to vote to remove Trump from office. So we, the voters, will have to do it. We're the last line of defense.

Voldemort (aka POTUS) has suggested that he may declare any votes not counted on Election Day as illegitimate. Is this something he can do?

No.

My biggest concern is how we can turn out the vote in large enough numbers, when so many have not taken the time to fill out the Census and return it, something that takes less time and effort than voting?

The Census is vitally important, but it's understandable that many people don't consider it as urgent as a presidential election. Kind of an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Do you think the polls are starting to tighten, or do you think the CNN poll is an outlier?

The CNN poll is by definition an outlier, since three other contemporaneous polls show a much bigger Biden lead. The CNN poll has also shown unusual volatility this year, as in ten-point swings from month to month in both directions. It might be right, of course. But it looks much likelier that it's wrong.

Do you think Michelle should run for POTUS in 2024?

No, because she isn't kidding when she says she hates politics. I don't think she has ever wanted to run for office, and I don't think she will change her mind. 

Hi Gene. How big a story is the bipartisan report out from the Senate? My guess is that in any other environment, it would be the story of the day, if not the week. Now it's just one of many scandals and outrages that we see everyday. In the end, how big of an impact on voters will it have, if any?

I think it's a very bog deal. But I fear you're right that it will mostly get lost amid the blizzard of "breaking news" stories that assails us every day. 

Do you think it's time for the Democrats to make a more forceful case that Obama/Biden built the last economic recovery, that Biden was intimately involved in that, and, as someone mentioned last night, trump drove it into the ground like he did everything else he inherited?

Sounds like a good idea. I think they will make this point.

I try not to get too far ahead of my skis, but there were plenty of qualified women going for the VP job. Odds on Susan Rice as Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State?

She's my candidate for State.

So is this the catchphrase for 2020?

Let's not, if you don't mind. It'll get real annoying, real fast.

 

And that's all for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks for participating, as always, and I hope to see you again next week!

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2009, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America" (2010), "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson lives with his wife and two sons in Arlington.
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