The Monday Morning Teaser

Two big pieces of news happened this week. The first was expected: Joe Biden announced his vice presidential choice. We didn’t know for sure that it would be Kamala Harris, but she had been the leading candidate since speculation on the topic began. Her selection was met with a wave of racist and sexist comments from Republicans high and low, which shouldn’t have been a surprise either. If you had ever imagined that Republicans look back at their racist attacks against Obama with shame or regret, clearly you were wrong. They’re doing it all again, up to and including Birtherism.

The second big story was more shocking: Trump admitted in so many words that he was disrupting the Post Office in order to influence the election. It had already become clear that the newly installed Trump crony running the postal service was slowing down the mail, and that his actions made voting by mail more precarious. But Trump himself connected the dots.

That admission puts us in entirely new territory. Presidents have long used the powers of the presidency to help their re-election chances in indirect ways: The ribbon-cutting on your town’s new bridge might happen to coincide with your state’s primary, for example; a diplomatic tour might happen precisely when a president needs to point out his opponent’s lack of foreign-policy experience; and so on. But this is arguably the first time since the Bad Old Days of the spoils system that the everyday machinery of government has been tied to a president’s re-election campaign. That something as historically apolitical as the Post Office could be harnessed to pull the election one way or another — and that the President takes this to be a legitimate use of his power — is completely new.

At least it’s new in the United States. But it’s business as usual in autocratic countries, which we are more and more coming to resemble. And that’s the subject of this week’s featured post “What Makes Trump an Autocrat?”. That still needs work, so I’ll predict it to appear around 11 EDT.

The weekly summary will cover Harris and the attacks against her, the continuing angst about the looming school year (including the loss of Big 10 and Pac 12 football), the inland hurricane that hit Iowa without the rest of the country noticing, an appeals court’s startling gun-control decision, the government letting methane leaks run wild, and a partial Middle East peace deal that leaves the Palestinians out in the cold. I’m still looking for a closing, but let’s say that appears around 1.

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