• On the eve of its anniversary, Heather Cox Richardson presents a heartbreaking reminder of the events leading up to the tragic massacre at Wounded Knee in her December 28 Letters from an American post. Heartbreaking indeed.
For those of you who need a little cheering up because you’ve been watching DJT play golf while the pandemic rages, businesses go bankrupt and unemployment benefits lapse, treat yourself to some good news from the folks at Future Crunch – 99 Good News Stories from 2020 You probably Didn’t Hear About. It made me feel better, at any rate…
• Richard North Patterson’s essay on the future of Republicanism, The Ghost of Conservatism Future, is definitely worth a read.
Vaccines may help bring a gradual end to the coronavirus pandemic – if we are smart enough to use them. The case surge in the US suggests we may not be – and makes me wonder yet again where our national leadership is on the issue. Focusing on disenfranchisement, I guess.
The graph id from David Leonhardt’s The Morning newsletter at the NY Times. Sources: Hospitals and health agencies, World Bank
• The destructive behavior of the White House’s current occupant has provoked a number of thoughtful pieces on the corrosive effects of the widening gap that exists between political affiliations in the United States. Some examples:
Bret Stephens, Donald Trump and the Damage Done: “But the catastrophe of Trump’s presidency doesn’t mainly lie in the visible damage it has caused. It’s in the invisible damage. Trump was a corrosive. What he mainly corroded was social trust — the most important element in any successful society…it’s hard to think of any person in my lifetime who so perfectly epitomizes the politics of distrust, or one who so aggressively promotes it. Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all.
He has detonated a bomb under the epistemological foundations of a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods, evidence and fantasy. He has instructed tens of millions of people to accept the commandment, That which you can get away with, is true.”
Thomas Edsall quotes Stephen Pinker in his America, We Have a Problem column: “Humans can believe things for two reasons: because they have grounds for thinking they’re true, or to affirm a myth that unites and emboldens the tribe,” Pinker wrote. “Any fair-weather friend can say that rocks fall down, but only a blood brother would be willing to say that rocks fall up. But usually, reality imposes limits on how far we can push our myths. What’s extraordinary about the present moment is how far most Republicans have gone in endorsing beliefs that are disconnected from reality and serve only to bind the sect and excommunicate the unfaithful.”
Jamelle Bouie, in his Six Weeks of Republican Shamelessness Have Done Real Damage: “In short, Republicans are establishing a new normal for the conduct of elections, one in which a Democratic victory is suspect until proven otherwise, and where Republicans have a “constitutional right” to challenge the vote in hopes of having it thrown out.”
Finally, I highly recommend this essay, Political Sectarianism in America, written by a group of 15 scholars and referenced by Edsall: “Political sectarianism consists of three core ingredients: othering—the tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself; aversion—the tendency to dislike and distrust opposing partisans; and moralization—the tendency to view opposing partisans as iniquitous. It is the confluence of these ingredients that makes sectarianism so corrosive in the political sphere. Viewing opposing partisans as different, or even as dislikable or immoral, may not be problematic in isolation. But when all three converge, political losses can feel like existential threats that must be averted—whatever the cost.”
It’s a very troubling trend.
The first doses of an approved SARS-CoV2 vaccine to be administered in the US are being given today, December 14. It’s hard to overstate what an incredible achievement this is for the scientific community that rapidly identified the culprit virus, quickly identified and published its genome, determined its means of cellular entry, identified target proteins for vaccine development, produced a number of apparently functionally protective vaccines, and then rapidly began manufacture, all in less than a year. This could not have happened so quickly even a decade ago. Thank you to everyone who made these efforts first possible, then come to fruition, and to the health care workers who have striven so mightily to keep people alive while awaiting what will hopefully be a solution to the pandemic. We owe you all an enormous debt.
From the NY Times’ Decency Agenda series, expressing yet another way DJT has damaged our country: “Presidents are role models. Their words and comportment influence their supporters and, more generally, set the tone for the national discourse. Mr. Trump has not merely normalized cruelty and boorishness; he has given it the imprimatur of the Oval Office.”
The multitude of reprehensible, self-centered, and self-evidently false tweets and statements issued by our current president regarding the November presidential election are by any standard destructive and un-American. That they have been met by a most conspicuous silence on the part of Republican leadership is yet another striking example of their hypocrisy, lack of empathy and fixation on their idiosyncratic goals rather than those of all Americans. So kudos to Georgia’s voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling, who finally called out his leadership for their failures (reported by the NYT here):
“This is elections,” Mr. Sterling said. “This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much. Yes, fight for every legal vote. Go through your due process. We encourage you, use your First Amendment, that’s fine. Death threats, physical threats, intimidation — it’s too much, it’s not right. They’ve lost the moral high ground to claim that it is.”
He continued: “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. And every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.”
Thank you, Mr. Sterling.