On Sunday, Donald Trump said “our country has to go back to being our country again. . . We have to go back to work.”
He also said, “You have people who are not going to stand for this and I understand that very well.” By which he meant “If you kill someone who is trying to keep you from your job, preventing you from eating at Old Country Buffet, or forcing you to wear a face mask, I will call you a very fine person and may even pay your legal bills.”
This is my sixth week living in our new paradigm. For the most part I’m doing okay, but there are times I feel an overwhelming emotional exhaustion. It isn’t brought on by fear of contracting COVID -19 or anxiety for the future or even the demands of social distancing. It’s because I feel like we’re walking a long road while at the same time those who should be leading us forward have tied a rope around our waists and are pulling us backwards. It’s like swimming against the tide. An uphill climb. Or walking into a headwind. Pick your metaphor. But it’s wearing me out.
Once again, Trump has proven that he was absent from school when they learned that our Founding Fathers took steps to ensure that our country was not ruled by a monarch and that the powers of the President and the federal government aren’t unlimited. Some days it’s hard to decide whether he doesn’t know that he’s not actually King of America, or whether he just doesn’t care.
Last week’s news was filled with reports that Trump was told back in January of the potential spread of the new coronavirus in the US and that millions of lives would be in peril unless he took immediate action to keep Americans home. Which, of course, he didn’t. Instead, he downplayed the threat and told us that everything was under control. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Unbelievably, in March when he finally admitted that this was serious stuff, he seemed “baffled” (according to his associates) by how events had played out. He said “no one could have predicted” such an epidemic. Which, of course, plenty of people did. These news reports were accompanied by logical, factual, unassailable evidence in the form of emails, memos, and quotes from administration officials as well as analysis of the results of his failure to act.
What do you say to people who tell you that universal health care doesn’t work? What do you say when people tell you that private insurance and for-profit health care is the best alternative?
What do you say when they argue that systems like Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) or Canada’s public system are inefficient, unsustainable, produce substandard results, and that people hate it?
What do you say? You say this:
If anything positive can come of this terrible COVID pandemic, let it be that the United States has finally learned that universal health care works. Every person deserves health care. Universal coverage is the only morally acceptable solution.
Chuck Todd wasn’t mincing words last week when he suggested that Donald Trump has blood on his hands. Lots of people are making the case that the responsibility for many of the American deaths from COVID-19 can be laid directly at the feet of Donald Trump. And not in an esoteric “the buck stops here” kind of way.
Of course, no one is blaming him for the virus, but Trump’s actions delayed and weakened our country’s response in the early days of the epidemic. His lies and incompetence caused many (including some state and local officials) to question and even flout the advice of the medical community. He has failed to competently use the power of the federal government in a coordinated and effective way, leaving states to fend for themselves; it certainly hasn’t helped that he’s made federal assistance to states contingent on governors kissing his butt. Trump’s early characterization of the virus as a hoax, his administration’s slow response to news of the growing threat, and his public downplaying of the severity of the situation, all coupled with his daily barrage of lies, exaggerations, and misinformation have made a deadly situation deadlier than it had to be.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some bungle greatness when it’s handed to them on a silver platter.
There’s no question: this is a scary time. In a worst-case scenario, millions of people across the globe could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s economy may be crushed, plunging us all into a dire situation. These are truly frightening thoughts. But it also presents us with an opportunity to step up into the moment and be great. To take personal responsibility for our actions and to look out for one another. To come together as a community at the local, regional, and global level. To make sacrifices. To show leadership. And to potentially save millions of lives.
Ever since Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential primary run, there’s been a deluge of articles analyzing what went wrong with her campaign. After all, on paper at least, Warren was the ideal Democratic candidate for 2020: brilliant, capable, experienced, compassionate, and female. She had real policies for fixing many of the problems that plague hard working Americans. She had a plan for everything. And after the near-miss in 2016, America seemed ready to put a smart, capable, qualified woman in the White House.
Political analysts looked everywhere for the reason Warren never placed higher than third in any primary — why she didn’t even win her home state of Massachusetts. Some argued she was doomed out of the gate by the mishandling of her claim of Native American ancestry and by allowing Trump to bait her into taking a DNA test. Others argued it was her public feud with Bernie Sanders over whether or not he told her that a woman couldn’t be elected president. One analysis laid the blame squarely at the feet of her chief campaign strategist Joe Rospars for softening her edges and trying to hide her image as a fighter, arguably her most compelling quality.
But most pundits came to the conclusion that, just like in 2016, the true reason for Elizabeth Warren’s failure was that we just don’t like women. Call it sexism, misogyny, testimonial injustice, or a double standard, the only logical explanation for why, in a campaign that began with a historically diverse field of candidates, the putative Democratic nominee for president in 2020 is an old white man.
But it wasn’t sexism that sank Warren’s campaign. Or Amy Klobuchar’s. Or even Hillary Clinton’s. It was invisibility. Elizabeth Warren’s problem isn’t that she’s a woman per se; it’s that she’s a middle-aged woman. And in our society, middle-aged women are simply invisible.
You can add Attorney General Bill Barr to the list of people happily enabling Trump’s demagogic tendencies. After blatantly mischaracterizing the results of the Mueller investigation, Barr’s most recent move has been to intervene in the sentencing of Trump loyalist, convicted liar, and self-proclaimed dirty trickster, Roger Stone. Barr’s interference has officially ended any pretense that American justice in the Trump era is fair and impartial, or that our criminal justice system is immune from political influence. This move has dramatically undercut one of the foundational tenets of the American system.
Like a crocus tentatively emerging through the late-winter snow, I have begun to awaken from the darkness of Impeachment Season, and as the blustery winds of the Democratic Primaries pummel my delicate spirit I search desperately for some warmth which will encourage me to bloom. Fortunately I see some rays of hope, and I turn gratefully towards them. The hope that I cling to is that, like the long dark winter nights, voter apathy is receding into the past.