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Commentary: Short Takes


Every Saturday the St. Louis Post Dispatch does what they call “Short Takes” instead of a lengthy editorial.  This week’s commentary is short takes.

Your guess is as good as mine about what President Trump’s Covid means.  Of course much depends on how sick he is, how well he recovers, and how long it takes.  There are a number of constitutional convolutions in play and the situation is fluid.  It is possible everything changes between the time this commentary is recorded and when it airs.  One fascinating side drama is that the fast-track Supreme Court nomination may get derailed because several Republican senators are positive with Covid as well.

Initial impressions about the first presidential debate (which I listened to but didn’t watch, which was a mistake in retrospect):

·      Trump’s belligerent, rule-breaking tactic was predictable;

·      I wonder how many Trump supporters saw this and said: “You know, his act is getting old;”

·      Disturbingly, Trump ratcheted up the “May not accept the election results” rhetoric;

·      Biden won by being steady and mostly not rising to Trump’s bait.

As I’ve said recently, a Trump loss, along with the GOP loss of the Senate, would be historic.  Only once in the last 100 years has a president won his first election while his party held both houses of Congress, but then lost reelection while his party lost control of both houses of Congress.   That was Herbert Hoover, also a Republican and a businessman, in 1932.

You will hear more about the Electoral College as we approach November 3.  It is 231 years old and, like so many of the important parts of the Constitution, a patchwork compromise.  Had it not been amended after the election of 1800, Hillary Clinton would have become Donald Trump’s vice president.  Its rules have produced a different result than the popular vote twice in the last five elections.  Its rules allowed a Democratic Elector to cast an Electoral Vote for Faith Spotted Eagle in 2016.  In my next commentary I’ll try to sort out some of the subtleties and nuances of how we actually elect a president.

Sometimes I’ll quote from books I’ve been reading and occasionally recommend them.  This is the first piece of fiction I’ve recommended. Carl Hiaasen writes adult (some might say raunchy) satire about the absurdities of life and culture in Florida.  His most recent yarn, Squeeze Me, is a ripped-from-the-headlines novel about a president and first lady who vacation at their club in Palm Beach.  Among other problems, the club has a Giant Burmese Python infestation.  Hilarity ensues.  These days it feels like a luxury to have a hearty laugh.

Dr. Terry Smith is a Political Science Professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics