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This Isn’t the Campaign Joe Biden Wanted – The Atlantic

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Andrew Harnik / AP

WILMINGTON, Del.—In a diner not far from here, in April 2016, Joe Biden was on one knee, looking into the eyes of a girl with Down syndrome, talking with her so quietly that only she could hear. He was locked in, like he couldn’t see or hear anything else, for a few seconds at the end of a campaign stop that could not possibly have produced enough votes to justify the amount of time he spent there. He held the girl’s hands. Then, gently, he said, “I’ve got to talk to Mom and Dad about something,” and as he stood, he leaned in and kissed the girl on the forehead. Then he got back to promoting his candidate ahead of a Senate primary the next day.

On Wednesday night, after Kamala Harris finished her speech and the former vice president popped onstage for a scripted “surprise” visit, Biden remembered the pandemic enough to refrain from actually embracing his new running mate. But he forgot about it enough that he was halfway through blowing her a kiss before he caught himself and turned the gesture into a hands-raised cheer.

Biden is a retail-politics virtuoso. People call him the last of his kind, but that doesn’t quite nail it. He’s pretty much the only politician of his kind. He’s the complete extrovert. No one in American politics feeds off of human energy like he does. (The physical closeness with which he approaches people has led to several women saying that he went too far in touching them, though most have said that he wasn’t intentionally going too far.)

Biden stood at his son Beau’s wake for more than 10 hours, accepting other mourners’ condolences while much younger aides rotated to recover in the pews. When he was vice president, the Secret Service would often cover up the windows of rooms he was in while he was on the road for events—not as a safety precaution, but to keep Biden from catching sight of the crowds outside and insisting on going out to greet the people who had lined up to see him.

This week, Biden finally got the presidential nomination he’d been chasing for more than 40 years, across three campaigns he ran and three more he almost ran. But he got it under conditions that forced him to be something less than his full self.

Because of the quirks of the primary calendar, the pandemic shutdown began at just the moment when Biden became unstoppable in the primaries. He had a big rally in Detroit on March 9, then landed in Cleveland on March 10, only to get right back on the plane and fly home, abiding by the Ohio governor’s advice that the rally he had planned for that night was too risky.

As Donald Trump and his allies like to note, Biden has been mostly stuck in his basement since. And though he’s committed to being careful—for his own sake and to set an example for others—aides and others who have been talking with him tell me that he’s sad and frustrated to be sidelined. Trump stopped by a pizza place in Pennsylvania yesterday and showed off the pie he bought. It was striking to see a man who almost never does retail politics decide to give it a whirl. In a normal campaign, Biden would probably have been stopping for food and handshakes and selfies (he likes to work the iPhones himself) at every stop. There would, most definitely, have been a lot of ice-cream cones. He’d be sliding into restaurant booths next to old ladies, talking about cars and jobs and Tastykakes. On one of the last nights before February’s Iowa caucus, when he and everyone else on his campaign knew he was about to get crushed, I saw him happily working the bar at an American Legion hall in Ottumwa, next door to the room where he’d just delivered a listless, useless speech. Biden heard that a man on a stool at the end of the bar was in his 90s, and made him take out his license to prove it. It must have been the most fun a lifelong teetotaler could have around a beer tap.

Biden didn’t get balloons dropping from the ceiling at the end of his convention speech. He didn’t even get to have his family in the room to watch. There was no crowd. There were no cheers. All Biden got was about 20 reporters, sitting on chairs in the dark, staring at the halo of light the producers put around him for his speech.

The Democrats did organize fireworks in a parking lot outside the convention center where Biden spoke on a special little stage assembled for a makeshift attempt at near-normalcy. For a moment, Biden forgot himself and grabbed Harris’s hand, lifting it up in the traditional candidates-in-unity pose—precisely the kind of touching they have carefully been avoiding at events since he picked her. He quickly realized his mistake, and dropped her hand. Then, right as the fireworks finale was letting rip, he decided to just go for it, and deliberately grabbed her hand to raise it again, this time holding it up for all the time the photographers needed to get the shot.

In front of Biden were rows and rows of cars with people cheering, honking their horns, and waving American flags, part of the drive-in audience for the rare part of this pandemic convention that was actually live. He couldn’t go out to greet those people, though—because he would risk infection, and because the Secret Service protection he now has would never be able to keep him safe in a lot full of cars.

So Biden and Harris went back inside, away from the people he wanted to see.

Just before they walked away, Biden looked down at the clump of reporters, all of us tested three days in a row for COVID-19, none of us more than about six inches away from one another. This wasn’t the convention he had dreamed of, but it was the only way he was going to get a national political convention in his hometown. He pulled down his mask for a moment, talking to us because we were the only Americans he could get close enough to talk to. “Welcome to Wilmington!” he said, and he smiled.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Edward-Isaac Dovere is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

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Politics Briefing: Legault to address rising COVID-19 cases as Quebec, Ontario see surge – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

COVID-19 cases in the country’s two biggest provinces are of great concern to health officials.

Ontario is reporting a surge in new cases of COVID-19, with nearly half of them in Toronto.

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The province reported 700 new cases on Monday that included 344 in Toronto, 104 in the Peel Region, 89 in Ottawa and 56 in York Region.

As of Sunday, Quebec had reported 896 new cases of COVID-19, which amounted to its highest jump in a single day in months.

Quebec’s Premier François Legault is to hold a news conference this afternoon.

Ontario and Quebec have been most affected by COVID-19 and represent close to 80 per cent of all cases in Canada.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, usually written by Chris Hannay. Kristy Kirkup is filling in today. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The Liberal government is asking Parliament to fast-track its latest COVID-19 economic recovery package. Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez proposed Monday to limit debate on the bill which establishes more flexibility to qualify for employment insurance. It would also set up three new benefits for Canadians who won’t qualify for EI but are still affected by the economic crisis generated by COVID-19.

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The parliamentary budget office says Veterans Affairs Canada can clear its backlog of disability benefit applications in a year if it hires nearly 400 more people. The number of pending applications for benefits reached almost 50,000 by the end of March, up from about 21,000 in March 2017 and almost half the applications were considered complete and were waiting only for decisions by the department.

The Correctional Service of Canada is suspending visits to its institutions in Quebec to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in federal prisons and community correctional centres. The agency said it is also stopping inmate work releases and temporary absences except for medical and compassionate reasons and the rules apply to 16 facilities in the province of Quebec.

Warren Fernandez (contributed to The Globe and Mail)on why real news matters amid the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and fake news: “At a time when so much has been turned on its head, this much has become clear: Real news matters. The truth matters. Objectivity matters. Balance and fairness matter. In short, quality journalism matters.”

Dr. Stephen Hwang (contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why it is possible to end chronic homelessness if we act now: “The pandemic has forced us to confront the consequences of having allowed homelessness to persist in our cities for far too long. Canadians living on low incomes in crowded conditions have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19. In Toronto alone, more than 500 people experiencing homelessness have been infected with the coronavirus. As case numbers rise and the colder months move us indoors, adequate shelter is more important than ever.”

David Shribman (contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why the presidential debate won’t be a game changer: “They will clash on Washington’s response to the coronavirus. They will battle over tax rates. They will scuffle over health care, climate change, federal regulation, race, the Supreme Court and the fate of the American middle class. They will trade barbs over whether one is a business-hating socialist and the other a power-loving tyrant. But don’t expect Tuesday’s debate between the two men running for the U.S. presidency – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden – to make much of a difference to the election outcome.”

The Globe Editorial Board on why the carbon tax is on trial at the Supreme Court, with the Trudeau government’s green plans at stake: “As a matter of science, greenhouse gases are clearly a national concern. But as a matter of constitutional law, a federal victory at the Supreme Court is far from assured. Our Constitution, and more particularly the way it has been interpreted over 153 years by the courts, has created a highly decentralized federation.”

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Colby Cosh (The National Post) on the B.C. NDP and federal Greens showing sharp contrast in styles: “We have the B.C. NDP, who showed little bashfulness in perpetrating what any New Democrat would call racial and sexual discrimination in any other context, and the Greens, who are dedicated enough to democratic principles and written rules that they immediately repaired a mistaken application of them.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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New EU Asylum Rules: Even the Bare Minimum Will Require Radical Politics – World – ReliefWeb

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BY
Claudia Meier
Julian Lehmann

For the past five years, European Union leaders have tried but failed to reform the block’s rules on asylum. The main bone of contention was the Dublin Regulation, in particular the rule of first entry, which specifies that the first EU member state that an asylum seeker enters is responsible for hosting them and processing their asylum claim. Because of fundamental disagreements on how to reform ​“Dublin”, all other reform proposals have gathered dust on shelves in Brussels. Meanwhile, thousands of asylum seekers still languish in dangerous camps at Europe’s borders.

On Wednesday, the EU Commission finally unveiled the Union’s new reform ideas. On responsibility for asylum applications, they aim to replace the rules of the Dublin Regulation by – drumroll – the rules of the Dublin Regulation. In other words, the basic rules will continue to apply, with some tweaks like member state cooperation in the event of numerous asylum seekers arriving at one member’s borders at the same time. Fundamentally, the proposal cements the sad truth that the EU’s asylum policy has become a sinister race to the bottom on who manages to host the least asylum seekers. Even this lackluster proposal on distributing responsibility was met with immediate and fierce opposition in some member states – including by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who declared it dead on arrival.

But the EU has few alternatives to reform. In 2015 and 2016, when the numbers of asylum applications spiked, illiberal political parties all over Europe were swift to exploit them for political gain. And they will do so again if member states fail to break the deadlock and sensibly reform the Dublin Regulation. Indeed, the current system leads to frustration everywhere: the EU’s border states like Greece will repeat their mantra of being left overburdened, while others like France or Poland will complain that most asylum seekers who end up further north should have been accommodated in the countries of their first arrival.

Given this protracted situation, the upcoming negotiations on the proposed new laws will have to address two questions: What is the bare minimum that would make a reform better than no reform? And how can the champions of this bare minimum mobilize a majority for it? We think that, above all, a new governance would have to stand the test of being a more solidary system. But reaching – and salvaging – such a compromise will require radical political action.

Call the bluff with a different resettlement option. The EU Commission proposes that states who are unwilling to host asylum seekers as part of a relocation effort ​“in times of crisis” can instead contribute to collective effort by organizing returns of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected (“return sponsorships”). This idea could prove a slippery slope into a situation where virtually every member state wiggles out of a commitment to admit asylum seekers – a recipe for more disasters and human rights violations like the ones the world is currently witnessing in Moria, Greece. To prevent this, the EU should cap the total number of such ​“return sponsorships” to 10 percent of all asylum seekers who are being relocated in the EU. Member states that still refuse to accommodate asylum seekers could be offered the alternative to accept the equivalent of their share of recognized refugees from outside the EU. Refugees are recognized as such by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, so that this compromise would call the bluff on the argument that redistribution creates a ​“pull factor”, as well as popular claims that only the most resourceful people manage to reach the EU.

Push through a low threshold for mutual support. The pact is vague on the criteria that would trigger any new mechanism in support of an overburdened EU state. For instance, it does not define the kind of ​“crisis” that would oblige member states to support each other. To address this flaw, the EU should set a threshold for each member state, depending on its economic power. This would send a signal of serious intentions to the states at the EU’s external borders. In addition, any mechanism for mutual support would have to kick in automatically. Anything else would be an invitation for anti-EU governments to blame the European Union once the numbers of asylum seekers go up.

Up the stakes for spoilers. The single most important leverage the EU has over its member states is its budget. EU leaders have just adopted a new budget for the next seven years, following a 90 hour-long summit. The ball is now in the European Parliament’s court – MEPs have yet to accept the carefully hatched proposal. One of the main points of contention is budget conditionality: many parliamentarians want the EU to be able to withhold funds when a member state does not comply with the principles of democratic rule of law. The EU parliament should explicitly include systematic violations of the rights of foreigners under EU jurisdiction – including during returns procedures – as part of its definition of democratic rule of law. This would finally give the EU leverage when a member state undercuts its minimum standards on asylum. It would also help to address the perverse incentive structure of the current system in which member states are ​“rewarded” for sub-standard asylum systems, because such systems bar the returns of asylum seekers who have traveled onward to other EU states.

Hammer home the message of international credibility. The EU’s current treatment of asylum seekers is harming its international standing when advocating for principles like cooperation on migration policy, democratic rule of law and human rights. In several African states, EU officials have had to deal with rebuttals and accusations of hypocrisy when trying to argue for upholding the human rights of migrants. In private, German Chancellor Merkel has shared how China’s President Xi – of all people – has also confronted her with the failings of EU migration policy. A new, more humane compromise on asylum policy is a crucial step for the EU to regain some of its credibility on the international stage.

The chances are slim that the ​“pact’s” proposal on the Dublin Regulation will lead to concrete reforms worth fighting for. But the moment is more promising than it has been for a long time. The numbers of asylum applications in the EU have shrunk by almost 50 percent when compared to their peak in 2015. Since then, governments should have learned that the EU cannot afford a perpetual political crisis on asylum – and asylum seekers even less so.

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Politics and relationships – Newsroom

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Podcast: The Detail

Can you date, marry, or even just be friends with someone who holds the opposite political views to you? In the US that’s generally a hard ‘no’ – here, it’s a bit different

An Auckland political psychologist says New Zealand’s become more polarised in the Covid-19 era.

We’re not quite as divided along blue-red lines as the pro and anti-Trump brigades in the US but Danny Osborne says the tone of the debate has definitely intensified.

Osborne was born into a poor, Republican-voting family in a right wing city in California.

But when he discovered punk music as a teenager he switched politics.

It’s made for some awkward meals.

“You’re basically born into a party in the US,” says Osborne, associate professor at the University of Auckland’s school of psychology. “I’m a black sheep.”

He’s been in New Zealand for nine years, teaches political psychology, and is part of the team working on the 20-year-old Attitudes and Values study of 60,000 New Zealanders.

“Politics are all about identities,” he says. “So people are National supporters, they’re Labour supporters, they’re Green supporters. Same thing with the US which is an exponentially more polarised environment.”

Osborne talks to The Detail‘s Sharon Brettkelly about the growing polarisation of politics, what happens to families and friends when politics becomes more divisive, and the impact of the pandemic on attitudes.

The latest Attitudes and Values research, looking at political segmentation in the last 10 years shows that until 2018 there was very little polarisation, says Osborne.

But there are signs of Covid’s impact on peoples’ attitudes.

“Everything from managed isolation, to how we’re dealing with debt etc, it has really taken on a partisan flavour that I haven’t seen since I’ve been in New Zealand,” Osborne says.

“I think what the Trump election in 2016 shows us is that democracy is incredibly fragile and you know within the period of four years you can just completely change your way of thinking.

“We used to view the US as this paragon of democracy and in one administration that’s all changed. So I think the same thing can happen in New Zealand, we can very much see these issues start to polarise.”

Studies show that families tend to stick with the same party, says Osborne, though he fits with the small percentage who break the mould. His own close family members are Trump voters and Osborne says he was “a bit of an outcast” growing up in right wing towns in California. Any visits home to the family avoid political discussion.

Osborne cites a study published after the 2016 election which looked at cell phone data from people over the Thanksgiving holiday. It showed that people who had voted for Hilary Clinton, who were returning home to see family in Trump-voting counties, spent on average an hour less at the family home before they headed back to the “blue” counties.

He says as a general trend people are uncomfortable with cross-party conversations but he urges voters to keep having them to keep the debate alive.

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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