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A Week for Optimism

An Insider Exclusive

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Senator Kamala Harris and Vice-President Joe Biden
Senator Kamala Harris and Vice-President Joe Biden

Since we are never far away from a sound bite, tweet, or video clip of the Psychopath-in-Chief, and since the epidemic continues to take a thousand-plus lives daily, it might seem extravagant, even reckless, to mention the word “optimism” at this time. Yet this was a good week, one that brought us closer to the end of our national nightmare. Three things give me optimism.

The first, of course, is Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris for vice-presidential nominee. I’ve testified before Senator Harris in a Senate Committee investigating climate change. As is plainly evident, Harris is very smart, tough, and ready to help Biden lead the U.S. in the right direction. I was also delighted with the highly positive reaction in favor of Harris across the country in the following days. Trump couldn’t come up with anything other than foul-mouthed insults of Harris that lacked the slightest wit or bite, all a good sign.

Second, the prediction sweepstakes and betting markets are all pointing in the right direction. The Iowa Electronic Market gives Biden a probability of 72 percent of winning the popular vote. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a 72 percent chance of winning the presidency. Real Clear Politics’ betting odds puts Biden’s probability of victory at 58 percent to 39 percent for Trump, not as high as Nate Silver, but not all that bad.

Third, we have also been reminded repeatedly in recent weeks that Trump’s base of older, white evangelical males is on the way out. Peaceful, multiracial protests this summer have belied the claims of pervasive white racism. Racism is out there to be sure, in Trump’s base, but that base is not the U.S. population. Even James Murdoch bailed out of his father Rupert’s despicable propaganda machine for Trump. James sees the writing on the wall.

The Murdoch media vitriol on Fox News is a sign of desperation, not strength. Young whites born into fundamentalist households are walking away from the divisiveness and hatreds of their elders. A fantastic article by political scientist Ronald Inglehart (University of Michigan – yeah!) in the new September issue of Foreign Affairs confirms a sharp decline in U.S. fundamentalism in the past decade. The Pew Research Center found the same in its survey data last year, reporting that the percent of white evangelical Protestants in the U.S. population fell from 19 percent to 16 percent, and noting a huge shift of young people away from religious affiliations.

Donald Trump is cornered, and no doubt dangerous in this final stretch. He will try anything to hold on to power, including attempts to disrupt voting and vote counting, including a Post Office debacle he’s scheming in full view. We will have to be on guard, most importantly by turning out a massive vote for Biden and Harris, but also by making certain that our votes are duly counted. People will likely have to be on the streets this time to defend the democracy. The endgame will be dangerous, but we are getting close to the glorious moment when Trump is carried out of the White House kicking and screaming. I’m indulging in a little sweet optimism this week, though I acknowledge that the biggest battles lie ahead.


Jeffrey D. Sachs

University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development in the Earth Institute, Columbia University



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