Study: Colorado River’s Flow Decreases 9 Percent With Every Degree Of Warming ~ KNAU radio, Northern Arizona University

FEB 21, 2020

A new paper published today in Science shows a rising risk of water shortages in the Colorado River Basin. Scientists say diminishing snowpack from climate change plays a critical role—not just because snow supplies the river with water, but because it acts as a protective shield against evaporation. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with lead author Chris Milly of the U.S. Geological Survey.


The Colorado River at Navajo Bridge

Melissa Sevigny: Your study was about what’s going to happen to the Colorado River as the world continues to get warmer. What did you find out?

Chris Milly: We wanted to know what to expect about the future for the Colorado River since it is the major source of water supply for the U.S. Southwest….We analyzed historical data for streamflow, climate, that is, precipitation and temperature, we even looked at satellite observations from the last couple of decades which allow us to see how white the basin looks, that is, how much snow can be seen from space. After all that analysis we were able to determine how sensitive the flow of the river is to rising temperatures.

I have the number here with me, so you found the river’s flow decreases about 9 percent per every degree Celsius of warming.

That number is not the highest number that’s been reported in the past… The range goes from 2 to 15. We were able, we think, to nail down what this number really is, and why previous studies have had such a wide dispersion of their estimates.

So one of the unique things about your approach was looking at the reflection of sunlight off the snow affects the environment, can you talk about that?

That’s right. That’s the thing I found most fascinating about this study. As the snow cover dwindles due to warming, it’s reflecting less sunlight back to the atmosphere. So the basin’s absorbing more sunlight. That sunlight is powering evaporation out of the basin. Now when that evaporation—the water is taken out of the basin due to the evaporation, there’s less water flowing down the river to the 40 million people that are waiting for it.

So on our current track of warming, what do you think the Colorado River is going to look like a couple of decades from now?

Going into the future, there’s a large degree of uncertainty of how the climate is going to be changing… If we take the changes in temperature alone, something we’re pretty clear about what’s going on, the effect of those warming temperatures by the middle of the century, the year 2050, are expected to decrease the flow of the river from its historical levels by anywhere from 14-31 percent. If precipitation is brought in, that range becomes bigger on both ends. We might see in the very, very best case, a couple percent increase in the flow, but if you look at the range of projections for precipitation changes they take you down to as much as a 40 percent decrease in flow when combined with the warming that’s going on.

Chris Milly, thank you so much for joining me today.

Pleasure to be here.

Warmest January Ever Puts 2020 on Track to Be One of Top 10 Hottest Years ~ NYT

The Charles River Esplanade park in Boston in January. Temperatures climbed into the low 70s in many places in Massachusetts. 
Credit…Steven Senne/Associated Press

It may only be February, but 2020 is already “virtually certain” to be among the 10 warmest years on record, and has nearly a 50 percent chance of being the warmest ever, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

The predictions follow a January that was the warmest ever in 141 years of record keeping, Karin Gleason, a climatologist with the National Centers for Environmental Information, said in a conference call. Global average temperatures last month were 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit (1.14 degrees Celsius) above average, slightly higher than in January 2016, the previous record-holder.

In comparing this year with previous years, Ms. Gleason said, one way to look at it is “we completed the first lap in a 12-lap race, and we are in the lead.”

“According to our probability statistics, it’s virtually certain that 2020 will rank among the top 10 years on record,” she said. Their analysis also showed a 49 percent chance of this year being the warmest ever, and a greater than 98 percent likelihood it will rank in the top five.

The forecasts are in keeping with a long-term trend of global warming that is occurring as a result of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. All of the 10 current warmest years on record have occurred since 2004, and the past five years have been the hottest five. Last year was only slightly cooler than 2016, the hottest year ever.

The record warmth in January was all the more remarkable because it occurred when the world was no longer in the midst of an El Niño event.

An El Niño, which is linked to warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can affect weather patterns worldwide and also lead to generally warmer temperatures. A strong El Niño during the first half of 2016, for example, contributed to the record temperatures that year.

But the latest El Niño ended last year, and ocean temperatures in the Pacific have returned to much closer to normal. “We’re in sort of new territory here with a record in a non-El Niño month,” Ms. Gleason said.

2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade
Antarctica Sets Record High Temperature: 64.9 Degrees (A uncomfirmed 70 Degree high was reported a few days later.)

March Temperatures in Alaska: 20 Degrees Hotter Than Usual

January temperatures were much warmer than average across most regions of the world, with Eastern Europe and Russia having the greatest departures from normal. Australia and Eastern China were also much warmer than usual. Central India was one of the few regions with cooler than average temperatures.

Temperatures last month were also warmer than average across the contiguous United States and much of Canada. Alaska was cooler than average, but NOAA forecasts for the next few months call for a return to the above-average warmth that has been the norm in Alaska in recent years and that has led to a large decline in sea ice, particularly off the state’s west coast.

NOAA is forecasting warmer-than-average temperatures into May across most of the country, from the West through the Southwest, Southeast, Midwest and into the Northeast. There is also a likelihood of a wet spring across most of the eastern half of the country.

California and the Southwest are expected to be dry, likely leading to the return of drought to California and intensification of drought in the Four Corners of the Southwest, NOAA said.

Flat-earth society president dies

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 7.47.30 AM.png

Video shows daredevil Mike Hughes and his self-made rocket falling to the ground and crashing in a desert near Barstow, Calif., shortly after launch on Feb. 22. (Spectee/AP)
Feb. 22, 2020 at 9:19 p.m. MST


BARSTOW, Calif. — A self-styled daredevil died Saturday after a rocket in which he launched himself crashed into the ground, a colleague and a witness said.


“Mad” Mike Hughes died after the homemade rocket crashed on private property near Barstow about 1:52 p.m. near Highway 247, the Daily Press of Victorville reported.

Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, said Hughes, 64, was killed.

“It was unsuccessful, and he passed away,” Stakes told The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

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“The Day Democracy Died” ~ pretty cool video sung to “The Day the Music Died”, by songwriter Don McLean

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 4.24.50 PM.png

~~~  WATCH  ~~~

Some of the Founders and Framers of the Constitution did more than turn over in their graves… they actually resurfaced to sing “The Day Democracy Died.” That, plus they “dig those rhythm and blues!

Review: As ‘Better Call Saul’ Returns, ‘Breaking Bad’ Comes Into View ~ NYT

In the fifth season of AMC’s esteemed drama, Jimmy McGill completes his transformation into Saul Goodman and the show’s separate story lines also start to converge.

Credit…Greg Lewis/AMC



“Better Call Saul” begins its fifth season, per established practice, with a black-and-white, vérité-style peek into the grim future of the shady lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Fearing that his cover as an anonymous fast-food manager has been blown, he’s descending into paranoia, camped in his dark apartment, peeking through the blinds.

These season-opening scenes serve as a kind of narrative relief valve, alleviating some of the sense of determinism inherent in a show that’s a prequel to a series, “Breaking Bad,” whose events and characters tended to have big, bold outlines. This time around, though, the flash forward offers an unexpected bit of fan service: an appearance by the vacuum cleaner repairman Ed Galbraith, played, as he was in “Breaking Bad” and the film “El Camino,” by the great character actor Robert Forster, who died in October.

Forster’s brief, characteristically businesslike turn in “Better Call Saul” is like a blessing, and it reinforces a tone: laconic, no-nonsense, amused by life’s absurdities but rarely taken by surprise. As with so many of Forster’s roles, you suspect he is there to show you how the creators (in this case Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould) would like to see themselves and their story.

So in Season 5, which begins Sunday on AMC, the best thing about “Better Call Saul” is still its minimalism, its quiet spaces, its willingness to linger on details, like a frazzled prosecutor’s struggle to get a bag of chips out of a courthouse vending machine.

But “Better Call Saul” is also on a clock. We know where Jimmy is headed, and in the opening episodes of the new season (four were made available) the springs of the narrative start to tighten more noticeably.

Jimmy’s assumption of the even smarmier, less scrupulous persona of Saul Goodman, begun at the end of Season 4, is quickly completed, over the protests of his girlfriend and fellow lawyer, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). And Jimmy’s story arc, focused through four seasons on his problematic law career and his relationships with Kim and his overbearing older brother Chuck (Michael McKean), finally definitively crosses over with that of the drug-dealing rivals Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton).

Jimmy McGill’s ethical decline, symbolized by his new Saul Goodman persona, complicates his relationship with his girlfriend, played by Rhea Seehorn.
Credit…Greg Lewis/AMC


A hiccup in the Salamanca supply line, detailed in the style of studiously deadpan comedy at which the show excels, brings Jimmy in, and as the cartel lieutenant Nacho (Michael Mando) tells him, “When you’re in, you’re in.” Once there, he encounters a pair of DEA agents, Hank and Steven (Dean Norris and Steven Michael Quezada). And voilà, the outlines of “Breaking Bad” start to come into focus.

All of this is presented with the show’s usual high degree of technical and dramatic accomplishment, and its alternately peppery and dreamlike evocations of the Southwestern landscape, urban and desert. There may be a downside, though, if a slight one, to the approach of the show’s inevitable conclusion and a perceived need to lock in on its themes. In the new season it pauses occasionally to spell out Jimmy’s reasons for becoming Saul (as Jimmy, he’d always be Chuck’s loser brother), as if the flow of the story itself isn’t enough to persuade us, which might be true.

A comic montage shows a couple of stoners going on a spree of petty crime, drug use and general life wastage because of Saul’s offer of a 50 percent discount on legal services. A subplot involves Kim’s being forced to leave her pro bono work to do a job for her corporate employer, Mesa Verde, forcing an old man out of his house. (The codger is played by Barry Corbin, another instance of the show giving work to accomplished veteran actors.)

Both of those sequences are handled faultlessly, but they’re also a little more on the nose than we’re used to from “Better Call Saul” — they push us just a little harder than we need to be pushed toward appreciating Jimmy’s corruption and Kim’s ambivalence. (The same could be said of a repeated motif in which episodes end with scenes of broken, castoff objects — a garden gnome, an ice cream cone, bottles of beer.)

To repeat a contrarian view that I’ve advanced before, my attention is more likely to flag during the Jimmy-Kim American-dream scenes than it is during the scenes from the drug plot, which may be more formulaic but are imbued with humor, tension and their own nuances of feeling. (For the other side of the argument, read my colleague James Poniewozik here.)_

Part of this has to do with the presence, on that side of the show, of engaging performers like Esposito, Jonathan Banks as the steadfast enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut (having his own moral crisis now, after the killing of the gentle German engineer, Werner) and especially Dalton as the charismatic Lalo, a wonderful creation whose menace is ever-present and hardly visible. The more we see of them, as the story lines converge, the better for “Better Call Saul.”


‘Better Call Saul’ Season 5 Premiere Recap: Just Chilling

Finally, an appearance by the title character (and his wardrobe), in the best season premiere of the series to date.

Jimmy McGill’s alter ego, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), made his long-awaited series debut in the Season 5 opener of “Better Call Saul.”
Credit…Warrick Page/AMC, via Sony Pictures Television

Welcome home, Saul-a-holics. It’s been a long time since we gathered here to unpack the rising and falling fortunes of our favorite con man turned corporate lawyer turned mobile phone dealer turned plaintiffs’ attorney. But judging from this first episode, the wait has been worth it.

Let’s just say it: That was the best season opener to date.

We commence, as ever, in the future and in black and white. Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is a Cinnabon manager in Omaha named Gene Takovic. As miserable as his new life and identity appear, Mr. Takovic wants to keep it, despite the somewhat terrifying sense that a menacing cabby named Jeff has discovered Jimmy’s previous iteration as Albuquerque’s own Saul Goodman. It’s the same Jeff, played by Don Harvey, who gave Mr. Takovic a lift in last season’s opener, and this time it’s clear that the guy isn’t just trying to drum up fares.

Either Jeff is looking for a bounty or to shake down Saul — probably the latter. We leave this predicament after Saul calls the Disappearer, played with his understated gravity by the great Robert Forster, who has since passed away. Initially, Jimmy/Saul/Gene wants to buy yet another identity, his fourth. Then he decides to save his squirreled-away diamonds and “fix it” himself.

Here’s hoping we don’t need to wait an entire season to learn what happens next. Though that seems likely.

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‘Better Call Saul’ Season Premiere Recap: Magic Man

Jimmy McGill’s got a new name and a new client base as the penultimate season’s premiere begins the endgame

Bob Odenkirk, left, in the Season Five premiere of 'Better Call Saul.'

Bob Odenkirk, left, in the Season Five premiere of ‘Better Call Saul.’

Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Better Call Saulis back for its fifth season. A review of the premiere, “Magic Man,” coming up just as soon as I hear good things about the new vending machine over by family court…

“See, this is why this works. I go too far, and you pull me back.” -Jimmy

Jimmy McGill.

Saul Goodman.

Gene Takovic.

One man, three names. Or is it three different men rightly using three different names?

Going back to when we first met Saul on Breaking Bad, Bob Odenkirk has played the character under multiple aliases. (And that’s not even counting “Viktor with a K,” Jimmy’s moniker whenever he and Kim/Giselle run a short con together.) This prequel seriesbegan with poor Gene trudging through his lonely, paranoid days at Cinnabon, then introduced us to Jimmy McGill, who turned out to be something more complicated than a pre-combover Saul Goodman. Though he eventually began using Saul Goodman as a work name while producing commercials and selling drop phones, he was still clearly the Jimmy we had come to know and love. It wasn’t until midway through last season that we briefly saw the true Saul Goodman, frantically preparing to exit his Albuquerque life near the end of the events of Breaking Bad.

So what separates these three, exactly? How much does it matter? And when will Jimmy McGill fully become Saul Goodman in this series’ present?

Gene is easy to carve off from the other two. He values survival above all else, and has divested himself of anything that might get him identified as Saul or Jimmy, even though those character traits were what once made his life worth living. We only glimpse him for a few minutes at the start of each season, but we can see how painfully empty his time in Omaha has become, and how simultaneously thrilled and terrified he feels whenever he lets one of his old identities slip out for a moment.

Saul, we know relatively well from his time on Breaking Bad. As Odenkirk has pointed out, we only saw the guy when he was involved in Walt and Jesse’s business, meaning it’s entirely possible that he went home to the wonderful Kim Wexler every night. But it doesn’t really seem that way, does it? The Saul Goodman we meet in Breaking Bad Season Two is a blithely ruthless individual, willing to sell out anyone and everyone who threatens him, and baffled that his most important clients aren’t prepared to do the same. He’s not a monster to the degree that Walt or Tuco or Gus are, but he is someone who fundamentally cares about getting and keeping what he feels entitled to above anything else. He is a fairly two-dimensional (if very entertaining) character, and those dimensions are extremely selfish ones.

Jimmy, though? Jimmy contains multitudes. He is a survivalist like Gene, and has done some terrible things in the name of self-preservation (and, occasionally, in the name of protecting people he cares about like Kim). And he is a con man at heart like Saul, often finding his greatest pleasure in getting over on his social superiors. But he’s also more empathetic and fundamentally kinder. He took genuine pleasure in talking with his eldercare law clients. He was a devoted caretaker to Chuck, despite how obviously his brother disapproved of him. His instincts still trend towards chicanery and other shortcuts, but there is a capacity for goodness and shame in him that’s utterly absent from Saul on Breaking Bad.

Throughout the run of Better Call Saul to this point, it’s been pretty easy to keep the three iterations separate. Gene is Gene. Jimmy is Jimmy. Saul is Saul. That’s how the writers refer to them in the scripts; even when Jimmy was calling himself Saul in recent seasons, the scripts still referred to him as Jimmy. The “Ozymandias”-era teaser from “Quite a Ride” was the only time so far the dialogue markers and stage directions used the name Saul.


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America’s Parasite ~ NYT ~ Op/Ed

Frankly, Trump doesn’t give a damn.


Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and author of three New York Times best sellers, became an Op-Ed columnist in 1995.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times (left); David Swanson/EPA, via Shutterstock



WASHINGTON — It’s funny that Donald Trump doesn’t like a movie about con artists who invade an elegant house and wreak chaos.

He should empathize with parasites.

No doubt the president is a movie buff. He has been known to call advisers in the wee hours to plan movie nights at the White House for films he wants to see, like “Joker.” And, in an early sign of his affinity for tyrants, he told Playboy in 1990 that his role model was Louis B. Mayer running MGM in the ’30s.

Trump interrupted his usual rally rant Thursday night to bash the Oscars, saying: “And the winner is a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year?”

He added: “Can we get ‘Gone With the Wind’ back, please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is from South Korea. I thought it was best foreign film, right? Best foreign movie. No. Did this ever happen before? And then you have Brad Pitt. I was never a big fan of his. He got upset. A little wise guy statement. A little wise guy. He’s a little wise guy.” (When he accepted his Oscar, Pitt complained that the Senate did not let John Bolton testify.)

This year’s Oscars made the president long for movies about a time when America was great in his mind.
Credit…Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Popperfoto, via Getty Images


Our president is nostalgic for a movie romanticizing slavery and a movie about an aging diva swanning maniacally around a mansion, living in a vanished past. (I am big. It’s the party that got small.)

Trump’s xenophobic movie criticism, combined with his mocking pronunciation of the name “Buttigieg,” harked back to the days when George H.W. Bush ran in 1988 wrapped in the flag, saying he was on “the American side,” while his celebrity endorser Loretta Lynn complained that she couldn’t even pronounce the name Dukakis. Too foreign-sounding.

It also echoed a segment on Laura Ingraham’s show, in which it was suggested that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an American war hero who immigrated from Ukraine, might be guilty of espionage.

And in his Vegas rally on Friday, Trump was again calling his predecessor “Barack Hussein Obama.”

This was another bad, crazy week trapped in Trump’s psychopathology. No sooner was the president acquitted than he put scare quotes around the words justice and Justice Department and sought to rewrite the narrative of the Mueller report, whose author warned that Russia was going to try to meddle in the U.S. election again.

Philip Rucker wrote in The Washington Post: “As his re-election campaign intensifies, Trump is using the powers of his office to manipulate the facts and settle the score. Advisers say the president is determined to protect his associates ensnared in the expansive Russia investigation, punish the prosecutors and investigators he believes betrayed him, and convince the public that the probe was exactly as he sees it: an illegal witch hunt.”

Trump, who moved from a Fifth Avenue penthouse to the White House, is sinking deeper into his poor-little-me complex, convinced that he is being persecuted.

His darker sense of grievance converges with a neon grandiosity. Trump is totally uncontrolled now. Most presidents worry about the seaminess of pardons and wait until the end. Trump is going full throttle on pardoning his pals and pals of his pals in an election year.

The Republicans have shown they are too scared to stop him and won’t. The Democrats want to stop him but can’t. (Although if they win the Senate back, Democrats will probably end up impeaching him again and this time have plenty of witnesses.)

Now, in a frightening new twist, the president is angry at his own intelligence team for trying to protect the national interest. He would rather hide actual intelligence from Congress than have Adam Schiff know something that Trump thinks would make him look bad politically.

As The Times reported, the president’s intelligence officials warned House lawmakers in a briefing that Russia was once more intent on trespassing on our election to help Trump, intent on interfering in both the Democratic primaries and the general. (They also told Bernie Sanders that the Russians were trying to help his campaign.)

News of the House briefing caused another Vesuvian eruption from the mercurial president, who is hypersensitive to any suggestion that he isn’t winning all on his own.

The Times story said that “the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place,” especially because his nemesis Schiff was present.

A few days ago, the president replaced Maguire as acting director with Richard Grenell, the sycophantic ambassador to Germany whose qualifications for overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies include being a former Fox News commentator and Trump superfan who boasts a gold-level card with the Trump Organization.

As the Democrats sputter and spat and fight over federal giveaways and N.D.A.s, the unfettered president is overturning the rule of law and stuffing the agencies with toadies.

Nothing is in the national interest or public good. Everything is in the greater service of the Trump cult of personality.

In “Gone With the Wind,” Atlanta burned to the ground. In Trump’s version, Washington is aflame.




Bernie Sanders Is George McGovern ~ The Atlantic

George McGovern
Let me begin with a confession. When I started to report out and write this article, I had a simple thesis: Bernie Sanders is not George McGovern. The catastrophic loser of the 1972 presidential election, McGovern has become a convenient bogeyman for any moderate or conservative arguing that leftism is a fatal disease in a general election. McGovern won just one state, Massachusetts, while the incumbent, Richard Nixon, commanded 96 percent of the Electoral College vote. It was then the largest Republican landslide in U.S. history.

Surely, though, I thought, the McGovern analogy was just glibness masquerading as historical analysis. America in 1972 was a different country—before personal computers, Star Wars films, 40 years of rising income and wealth inequality, and the electoral gender gap.

But the more I read about McGovern’s candidacy, the more I realized that the spirit of ’72 is alive today—just not necessarily in the way that most Sanders critics think.

To start, let’s play a game of “Name That Year.” Here are four clues.

  1. A profoundly unethical Republican sits in the White House during a fairly strong economy.
  2. In the Democratic primary, the early front-runner and establishment favorite is a veteran East Coast senator.
  3. But after months of leading in the polls, he falters in the early primaries, soon after the GOP president and his cronies concoct a scheme to undermine him —part of a dirty-tricks campaign that ultimately figures in an impeachment inquiry.
  4. Rising at the perfect moment to steal his momentum is a left-wing senator from a small, lily-white state. This senator advocates for single-payer health care and calls for the redistribution of wealth to the middle and lower classes. Over time, he consolidates the left-wing vote and bypasses an apoplectic Democratic elite with a grassroots campaign that—somewhat ironically, given his age— depends on the enthusiasm of young voters.

This is clearly a fitting description of the 2020 political landscape. Clues one through four refer, respectively, to Donald Trump, Joe Biden, the Ukraine scandal involving Burisma and Hunter Biden, and the thriving campaign of Bernie Sanders.

Every word of this description applies just as equally to 1972. Nixon was the incumbent. For much of the Democratic primary, his most likely challenger seemed to be Edmund Muskie, the long-serving senator from Maine, who had been nominated for vice president four years earlier. In February 1972, operatives for the Nixon campaign placed a forged letter in the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper, claiming that Muskie was prejudiced against French Americans. (The forgery is now known as the “Canuck letter.”) Muskie’s downfall provided an opening for McGovern. The left-wing senator drew enthusiastic support from newly enfranchised teenagers and won the Democratic nomination—before getting trounced by Nixon in November.

The similarities between McGovern and Sanders go far beyond the plot points that connect the stories of their ascendance. In matters of policy, rhetoric, and demographics, there is little doubt that McGovernism animates the Sanders campaign.

Many of Sanders’s policy priorities were central to McGovern’s platform 48 years ago, starting with health care. “McGovern called health care a human right and backed a free-at-the-point-of-service single-payer health-care plan,” says Joshua Mound, a historian at the University of Virginia who has written about the similarities between Sanders and McGovern. “He also proposed increased Social Security benefits, boosting union rights, steep hikes in taxes on the rich, and a universal basic income,” which he ultimately reworked into a jobs-guarantee proposal. Sanders’s policy platform includes all of those measures, right down to the federal jobs guarantee. It’s also worth pointing out that while McGovern’s pacifism (which was core to his rise to prominence on the left) finds its clear echo in Sanders, the Vietnam War made his foreign policy position more salient in 1972.

McGovern’s rhetoric—with its constant references to FDR’s legacy and the modern scourge of corporate greed—was effectively a first draft of Sanders’s standard riffs. Both men were explicit about their ambitions to extend the economic promises of the New Deal. Here is McGovern in 1972 (emphasis mine):

Working men and women have been in the front lines of political progress, in all the great reforms sponsored by the Democratic Party since 1932, including civil-rights reforms in the middle 1960s. The party works for the people, and the people support their party. That has been the key to a better life for millions.

And here is Sanders in 2019:

Over 80 years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped create a government that made transformative progress in protecting the needs of working families. Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion.

These similarities extend to the way the two men juxtaposed corporate profiteering and the plight of the working class. Here’s McGovern in the same 1972 speech:

Mr. Nixon cannot help working people even if he wants to, for his basic constituency is corporate power and corporate interests …

The Democratic Party gains its chief numerical strength from working people.

And Sanders in 2019:

Decades of policies have encouraged and subsidized unbridled corporate greed

In opposition to oligarchy, there is a movement of working people and young people who, in ever increasing numbers, are fighting for justice.

Finally, McGovern’s rise within the Democratic Party relied on small donations from a young and ethnically diverse grassroots base, rather than the support of party elites. His ability to win over black voters late in the primary was key to his victory at a fraught Democratic convention. Despite his loss, McGovern won 62 percent of Hispanics and 82 percent of African Americans in the national election.

Again, the parallels with the Sanders campaign are profound. Rejected by party insiders and resented by Obama, Sanders has nonetheless built a grassroots fundraising machine. And like McGovern, his leap to the front-runner spot has been partly powered by his steady increase in support among African American voters. Despite recently running 32 points behind Biden among black voters, he has collapsed that gap over the past two months to a mere eight points.

This is where I have to tell you that while Bernie Sanders is a lot like George McGovern, 2020 is not 1972.

What most distinguishes the Democratic front-runner from his lefty predecessor are not policies and rhetoric but rather campaign tactics and the unpopularity of the incumbent.

No comparison of Sanders and McGovern is sufficient without acknowledging that McGovern’s campaign in the summer of 1972 was a one-of-a-kind disaster. At the national convention, McGovern faced widespread opposition from major Democratic figures, including future President Jimmy Carter. After securing the nomination in a messy war for delegates, he struggled to find a prominent Democrat to serve as his running mate. Senator Ted Kennedy, widely seen as the most popular choice, rejected multiple offers. When the convention finally agreed on Senator Thomas Eagleton, it was so late that McGovern famously didn’t take the stage to deliver his acceptance speech until after midnight on the East Coast. And this was all for naught: Within days, it was reported that Eagleton had received electroshock therapy for severe depression, and party officials urged him to quit the race. Eagleton withdrew from the ticket, the first vice-presidential candidate to ever do so, and McGovern went into late August down one running mate and 20 points in the polls.

McGovern was deeply unpopular within certain quarters of his own party, but there’s another reason nobody wanted to serve on his ticket: Richard Nixon. Strange as it may sound today, Nixon was a popular incumbent in the summer of 1972. His approval rating hovered above 60 percent for most of the year, higher than Barack Obama or George W. Bush ever achieved in the fourth year of their presidencies. Since the 1950s, every president who has reached 60 percent approval in a reelection year has won in November.

A strong electoral map only reinforced Nixon’s advantage. After the Democrats backed the Civil Rights Act, Republicans broke through in the South and dominated presidential elections for the next quarter century. From 1968 to 1992, Democrats won just one presidential election, when in 1976 Jimmy Carter triumphed over Gerald Ford, the unelected president who immolated his election odds by pardoning one Richard Milhous Nixon.

While today’s Electoral College advantages Republicans, Democrats in 2020 are fighting on more even terrain than they were in 1972. The country has moved to the left on a host of issues that McGovern championed, including gay rights, health care, and income support for poor workers. And Hispanic and black voters, who broke hard for McGovern, account for a larger share of the electorate.

Most important, Trump enters the general election as a much weaker candidate than Nixon did in 1972. According to many election forecasting models, strong economies make strong incumbents; and, to be fair, a growing economy may ultimately put Trump in the White House. But despite record-high consumer sentiment and record-low unemployment, Trump has been one of the least popular presidents in modern history. Since the 1950s, no president has been as unpopular as Trump throughout his entire presidency. This weakness is already evident in head-to-head polling. Nixon was projected to beat McGovern by 20 points in the summer of 1972. And although Sanders’s selective sympathy for the Soviet Union may haunt him in a general, for now, Trump runs several points behind Sanders even after pollsters tell voters that the Vermont senator is a socialist.When commentators tell you that Bernie Sanders is another George McGovern, the correct response is: You’re not wrong. Sanders is another establishment-torching, grassroots-organizing, free-health-care-promising, working-class warrior, whose ascendancy to front-runner status has eerie parallels with that of the big loser of the 1972 election. But the most important thing about the upcoming election is where those similarities end. America in 2020 is not America in 1972. And Donald J. Trump is no Richard M. Nixon.

DEREK THOMPSON is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.
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