LeDuff: Democrats' cracks could show if something awful happens to Biden before Election Day

August 13, 2020, 11:24 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Photo: Adam Schultz for campaign)

Let us imagine just for a moment – heaven forbid – that Joe Biden dies before Election Day.

Terrible, but worth considering. After all, Joe is 77. And Covid-19 is all around. That's why we've paid so much attention to his VP pick, an event that is usually garners as much notice as navel lint. (Quick: who was Hillary Clinton's running mate?)

If Biden dies, who'd take his place as the presidential nominee? The Democratic National Committee's charter and bylaws state that some 400 party bigwigs would meet to pick a successor.

Would their choice be Kamala Harris, Biden's VP pick?

Or should it be Bernie Sanders – the runner-up -- who won 1,073 delegates, second only to Biden's 2,671. The next-closest candidate was Elizabeth Warren with 63. And remember, Harris won exactly 0 delegates, having dropped out of the presidential sweepstakes last December while polling at a measly 3 percent.

Donald Trump would have you believe that Harris is a far-out, hairy-legged Bolshevik. But compared to Sanders, Harris could pass as a moderate Republican from the bygone Reagan days.

It's Sanders' platform that echoes in the American streets: government-paid health care, free college, more social programs, tax the rich, feed the poor, defund the police. It's the very stuff that caused the Democratic establishment to label Sanders an unelectable radical.

The truth is, cracks within the Democratic Party are as wide as those in the GOP. The well-fed elites versus the hungry hoi polloi. What much binds it together besides “anybody but Trump?”

I wish Biden and Harris the best. But I would say to my friends on the hard left: Don't expect much.

Cancer clouds 

The demolition in question

The federal government has demanded the City of Detroit to repay nearly a third of a million dollars after allowing a contractor to demolish an abandoned apartment building without first removing the equivalent of three football fields of asbestos – releasing a veritable mushroom cloud of poisoned dust into the neighborhoods.

Calling the demo job “arbitrary” and the contracting process “insufficient” and the costs “extraordinary,” the Department of Housing and Urban Development ordered the city to repay $312,620 to its federal line of credit.

Detroit argued that the decrepit 35,000-square foot building at Woodward and Woodland was so dangerously unstable that the contractor could not safely remove the cancer causing material before demolition. Local residents were never notified. 

Now, after months of review, the feds say Detroit cut corners on record keeping in an effort to spend federal dollars that were set to expire.

“Timeliness does not justify missing steps in the procurement process and insufficient record keeping,” the agency wrote in a letter to the city dated July 16. The city insists it did no wrong, has minimized the issues and says that it will get back the forfeited money for another project.  But let's face it, the feds take this serioiusly and put procedures in place to maintain transparency and protect residents' well being.   

It is the latest example of incompetence and scandal in the demolition program under Mayor Mike Duggan. Hizzoner now asks Detroiters to vote this November for a $250 million bond for more demolition. This after his administration has previously squandered $250 million dollars in federal demolition money, bringing with it multiple audits and criminal investigations.

Finger puppet theater

Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: State of Michigan)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week declared racism a public health crisis and announced the formation of yet another blue ribbon commission to get at the root of the problem. 

Let us hope that she places Danny Loepp on the board. Loepp is the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the largest health insurer in the state. Loepp is also the political benefactor and fundraiser for Whitmer, who replaced Gretchen's father Dick as head of Blue Cross and encouraged her to get into politics.

Under Loepp's stewardship, the insurance company in 2014 changed from a 'benevolent trust' and insurer of last resort for all citizens of Michigan to a customer-owned, nonprofit, mutual insurance company with less oversight and the ability to set rates without state appproval.  

Blue Cross turned a nice profit of $818 million last year. And Loepp over the past five years has pocketed a cool $56 million in compensation.

Access to good affordable medicine? With friends like hers, don't expect the governor's new commission to be recommending universal healthcare.

Show me the money 

Dan Gilbert with Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones (File photo) 

Dan Gilbert is super rich! The papers are really happy about this. And why not? Hometown guy does good.

Gilbert is now estimated to be worth more than $30 billion after last week's IPO of Rocket Companies, of which he owns 73 percent. 

That's nice. So how about Dan doing the right thing and cutting us a check for the hundreds of millions we the taxpayers gave him in cash and tax breaks for all those development projects he doesn't seem able to finish? We could fix a couple of schools with that kind of money.

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