October 28, 2020

Biden vs. Trump: It’s A Greg Fogle Campaign Moment

Joe Biden leads 2020 race by 16 points nationally (CNN) and is ahead in swing states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

BENZONIA — With less than a month from Election Day, we’ve come to the Greg Fogle moment of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Fogle was a big, bullying energy industry executive who unwittingly served as an ally in a grassroots campaign I helped organize in Michigan in the mid-1990s. Donald Trump is now playing the same role in the 2020 campaign.

Let me explain. Back in the mid-1990s, when the natural gas industry was clearing trees for thousands of new well pads and tearing big holes in Northern Michigan’s conifer forests, Greg Fogle was a senior executive of Oilfield Investments Ltd. A Traverse City-based energy developer, O.I.L. was one of the important wildcat companies conducting the most aggressive drilling campaign on the continent at the time.

I was a young journalist and founder of a citizens group, the Michigan Land Use Institute, that advocated less ecologically damaging development practices. We never said don’t drill. We said just do it better. The Institute organized a series of very well attended community meetings in the small towns and forested counties affected by the gas development. Often more than 150 people showed up — a big crowd in these parts. Landowners, business people, and local leaders attended to learn about leasing strategies that would gain them more money, technical guidance about noise and safety, and measures local governments could take to require more transparency from O.I.L. and its competitors about development plans.

Greg Fogle attended one of the first meetings. It took place in the tight confines of the 111-year-old Pleasanton Township Hall in Manistee County. I noticed him right away as an oil guy. Fogle was tall and lineman stout. He wore his dark hair short and his face was tight like a sail in a fuming wind. Fogle was ready for confrontation and it came straight away. After hearing our appeals for fairness, transparency, and reasonable changes in township land use policy, Fogle rose to have his say. His brow dropped like dark gutters above angry eyes. He pointed his big index finger my way and roared his objection to an outsider telling Michigan what to do, his disapproval of what I proposed. He lied about the effects it would have on gas field jobs and income from royalties.

Believing his belligerence and right to mislead was convincing, Fogle completely misread his audience of township trustees, farmers, landowners and local leaders. They saw Fogle as a study in scorn and disrespect. When the meeting ended people approached to tell me how much they appreciated the information I delivered and expressed how disgusted they were with what Fogle said and how he behaved.

That was the moment I learned the power of message and messenger. Subsequently, every time Fogle showed up at one of our community meetings, I said something I knew would provoke him. And every time Fogle responded, rising from his seat like a grey cloud, his voice raised in a thunder of anger and falsehoods, I knew we would gain our objective.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have arrived at the same moment in the 2020 campaign. Donald Trump is a dangerous coward. He has, in a word, been unmasked. Trump is unable and unwilling to brave his responsibility in causing the mess that America has become. He insists in flaunting in our faces lies that we know are lies. He does so in odious, childish tantrums that are broadcast in real time on his self-produced reality TV show called the Trump campaign. Except for the 40 percent of Americans who have clearly lost their collective mind, the 60 percent of Americans who retain their sanity see the president’s weird, dispiriting, dismal collapse for what it is. Trump is being crushed by real events and an aware electorate more than ready to bring his presidency to an end.

It’s the Greg Fogle moment. The more the public sees him lying, angry, maskless and misbehaving, the wider the lead Biden and Harris gain in national and swing state polls. This morning it was 16 points. That is one of the widest percentage gaps this late in a national election in the television age. Biden is winning in Arizona, Nevada, the Upper Midwest states, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio. He’s behind by just 1.4 points in Texas — say it again — 1.4 points in Texas, for crying out loud.

So bring on the debates, the town halls, the cult rallies, the news conferences. Put Trump in front of the cameras. He wants to schedule a national address this week. Let him talk. Every event is a win at this point for Biden and Harris. America has finally understood the con and is preparing to throw this guy out of office.

— Keith Schneider

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