GOP: CANCEL CULTURE ON STEROIDS

Cancel Culture has, until now, been pretty much the exclusive signature weapon of the far-left wing of the Democratic Party and, to some extent, of the hallowed halls of the academy. It has served as a coup d’état administered to those whose conduct the left has considered to be beyond the pale. Not anymore.

Now comes the new vindictive Republican cancel culture, which condemns to oblivion any Republican who, essentially, has displeased Donald Trump, the current ringmaster of the party. Sadly, the targets of the new Republican cancel culture are invariably found among those Republicans who put the country ahead of party and who vote conscience rather than fealty.

The Wyoming Republican Party voted last weekend to refuse to recognize Rep. Liz Cheney as a Republican. That bears repeating. Liz Cheney has been banished from the Republican Party in Wyoming. She was also expelled from party leadership in Congress for condemning the January 6th insurrection, for which former President Trump was cheer-leader-in-chief. What folly!

Surprisingly, Republicans from the Equality State didn’t also formally name her a RINO (Republican In Name Only); so bizarre was their action. Liz Cheney is as true-blue a Republican as there is. Few Republicans can match her solid Republican voting record, nor, sad to say, her sense of honor. Liz Cheney is an American first and a political party member second. She is a true American hero who understands that sometimes party loyalty demands too much.

Liz Cheney and a pitifully small group of Republicans (think Representative Adam Kinzinger, Senator Mitt Romney, former Governor, John Kasich, the late Joint Chiefs Chairman and Secretary of State, Collin Powell, Governor Larry Hogan, and, indeed, others) understand that our Country and our Constitution come before party and before allegiance to a former angry and vindictive Republican president who was decisively voted out of office. But why stick with the likes of Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Larry Hogan when you can embrace the likes of Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Gaetz.

Apparently, infrastructure is not good for the Country when a Democratic congress enacts and a Democratic President signs the enabling legislation. Trump, who in the past, changed party affiliation five times, incurred near-trillion-dollar deficits as President, established job-killing tariffs, and produced greater trade deficits during his four years as President than his immediate predecessor did during his last four years in office, quickly labeled all of the Republicans who supported the infrastructure bill enacted this week as RINO’s. Really?

Think of it. In March of 2020, Trump supported a $2Trillion infrastructure program, writing that, “This is the time to craft an infrastructure overhaul…It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” But that was then when he sat in the oval office. Now, he races to condemn and cancel Republicans who voted for the $1Trillion infrastructure bill enacted and signed into law by President Biden last week.

Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, didn’t mince words. “Trump cancel culture needs to end,” he said. “This kind of purging and silencing of dissent in service to The Dear Leader is what happens in socialist dictatorships and authoritarian regimes—not in America.” Hogan was unequivocal in his criticism of Trump. “Republicans would have taken back the House and won the Senate without Trump and his losing record weighing us down. We need more – not less – of these (Republican) candidates winning in 2022… If we attack candidates who can win, we lose. It appears Trump would rather bring down the Republican Party with him than see the party succeed without him. If we let him, then we deserve the result.”

In the interest of full disclosure, Governor Hogan’s father, the late Larry Hogan, was my dear friend and business partner many years ago when his son, the current governor, was still in junior high school. The senior Hogan, like his son, always put principle before politics. The conservative congressman was banished by his own party (as he knew he would be) when, in 1974, he became the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to vote for all three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. He called me the night before that historic vote to tell me he had no choice but to vote to impeach and that it was going to end his congressional career. Only one other Republican in the entire history of Maryland’s 5th congressional district had ever won any elective office. That was for one two-year term during an Eisenhower landslide. The very conservative Republicans in Maryland’s 5th congressional district were certain to turn him out in the next primary, the senior Hogan said. And, indeed, they did. No Republican has held that congressional seat since.

Just as so many of today’s Republicans are willing to sublimate principle in the service of power, so too will the party reap what it has sown. In America, sooner or later, principle prevails…Doesn’t it?

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Perfect Storm Bearing Down

Under normal circumstances, politics in America can be rough and tumble and enthusiastically raucous. We, traditionally, rather like it that way.

But, today, circumstances are anything but normal. Troubling realities are gathering like so many storm clouds that could blow political stability far and further adrift. Even under normal circumstances, the political party in power generally faces strong headwinds in off-year (mid-term) elections. The Democrats are riven with dissent, and the GOP, relative to the principles for which it once stood, is in tatters. The gathering storm on the political horizon should give the Democrats night sweats and real Republicans nightmares.

America has faced troubling times and troubling circumstances many times in the past. Fortunately for us, presidents who came to power during troubling or uncertain times often brought political vision and communication skills that instilled confidence and, sometimes, calmed troubled waters (think Washington, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan).

Americans, today, and for several years, have not enjoyed the solace that inures from steady and calming presidential leadership. The Trump presidency nursed and used divisiveness as a presidential prerogative to the immense disservice to the country. President Biden, unfortunately, does not possess the calming influence, nor, perhaps, the political skill or judgment to calm a restive electorate that is rapidly losing confidence in America’s sense of direction.

For the first time in our history, one major political party has adopted a strategy of discrediting an American election. For the first time in our modern history, a presidential candidate refused to concede a lost election, having declared before the voting began that he could only lose through fraud. For the first time in our history, the Capitol of the United States was violently attacked by supporters of a defeated president.

Tens of millions of Americans have been persuaded by a defeated president that his successor is an illegitimate president. No American president has assumed office in the face of such vitriol since 1861. Abraham Lincoln, however, turned out to be one of the strongest, decisive, and most effective presidents in American history.

President Biden’s approval rating, however, struggles to tread water at 38% in some polls and no better than 42% in others. Vice President Kamala Harris, today, offers no positive counterweight, with approval ratings languishing at 28%. A recently popular Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, was handily trounced by a Republican neophyte with no prior experience in elected office, Glenn Youngkin, who effectively ran against the cancel-culture wing of the Democratic Party.

Stability in America has continuously resided at the proverbial middle. Political wisdom has consistently demonstrated that politicians veered too far from the center at their peril. Americans generally became uncomfortable with politicians who flirted with those who resided comfortably at the far right or far left of the political spectrum. That, sadly, does not seem to be the case today. Americans who have traditionally identified as center-right or center-left are now more apt to find comfort with politicians who campaign closer to their party’s left or right extremes. The moderate center is becoming an increasingly lonely place to call home.

The voters who elected Biden nationally are not the same as those who elected Ocasio-Cortez and her squad sisters locally. Indeed, most center-left Democrats are no more comfortable with the squad than are traditional center-right Republicans. The Biden Administration is in real trouble without the firm support of the broad swath of those who identify as traditional Democrats.

As Mark Penn, a Democratic strategist, recently opined in The New York Times, Biden can’t connect with the conventional Democrats in his party without distancing himself from the more radical leftist progressives in the party. Even the widely popular infrastructure bill could not have limped to the President’s desk without the help of 16 Republicans. The so-called progressive wing of his party would have left Biden empty-handed if the vote on infrastructure had depended only on Democratic votes.

As political rhetoric becomes more extreme on either side of the center, Americans react by overreacting and coalescing around the extremes within their respective parties. Today, for the first time in memory, Americans appear to be vacating the middle. And that does not auger well for our liberal constitutional democracy.

The wide arc of history has been steadily moving leftward. The basic needs of the governed have been steadily addressed by those who govern. Democrats generally address those needs more aggressively than Republicans, but both sides have, to varying degrees, been responsive to the legitimate needs of the people. Laissez-Faire Capitalism has been dead for over 100 years in America. The primary difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats admit it, and Republicans do not.

Nonetheless, more Americans today self-identify with the more extreme poles of their parties. According to Gallup, Democrats who consider themselves liberal have doubled to 51% in the last generation, while those identifying as conservative have halved to 12%. Conversely, 58% of Republicans identified as conservative a generation ago, while today, 75% consider themselves Conservative.

For most of my life, Democrats and Republicans generally agreed on America’s overarching historical priorities. The political debate in the country generally focused on how best to achieve those priorities. That isn’t the case today because there has emerged a substantial dichotomy about (as the expression goes) what America is all about.

According to a Pew Research survey conducted right after the last presidential election, 80% of Biden voters and 77% of Trump voters believed we not only had different political priorities, but we also fundamentally disagreed about core American values.

America is in the midst of an unofficial stress test. The people are watching and listening and making judgments accordingly. So, Americans took temporary comfort when the President and other Administration officials quickly dismissed rising prices as a passing blip, owing to temporary shortages and increased demand resulting from the COVID pandemic.

However, this week, there has been an onslaught of economic reports suggesting that inflationary pressures are more severe than initially reported (a very short time ago). Now, many economists suggest that significant inflationary pressures will be with us for at least a year or more. Most Americans just assume that no one really knows. They tune out the Administration’s talking heads, and confidence in our leadership suffers accordingly.

While Biden cannot be blamed for a twenty-year war in Afghanistan for which nothing beneficial was attainted, he has inherited much of the resentment the nation feels about that lost cause. The colossal and deadly mayhem that accompanied our withdrawal was on President Biden’s watch and that is where the buck stops. Small wonder then that President Biden’s poll numbers continue to slide ever lower. The USA/Suffolk University Poll completed last week confirms that the President’s approval rating continues to sink. According to those surveyed, just 38% of Americans approve of the job the President is doing, while 59% turn thumbs down on his performance. More disturbing for Democrats, two-thirds of Americans do not want to see Biden run for a second term.

Simultaneously, and most ominously, China is taking note. So is Russia. And so, concurrently, we see tensions deliberately ramp up in the Taiwan Strait in the East and on the Ukraine-Russian border in the West. Is there anyone who doesn’t think this increase in tension is anything more than a test of American presidential resolve? The potential for a hot test of American resolve and leadership is very real and, perhaps, likely. The outcome is entirely uncertain.

All of this portends rough sailing ahead. The political weather front appears unstable, leaning toward stormy—Batten down the hatches.

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Going for Broke with Woke–A Really Bad Idea.

So, perhaps, now we can answer Rosalind’s question to Orlando in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “Why then, can one desire too much of good thing?”

Answer: When the pursuit of the desire defeats the very thing desired. Or, put another way, when you freak out the electorate with overreach and start losing elections.

Terry McAuliffe’s loss in Virginia and Phil Murphy’s near loss in New Jersey was a shot over the bow for Democrats. So was the resounding rejection of high-profile Defund the Police movements around the country in this week’s just-concluded elections. The far-left, progressive wing of the Democratic Party is on the verge of torpedoing Democratic election aspirations in 2022 and 2024, and, perhaps, for years to come. That’s a shame because the Republican Party will become the home for those whose cause is not republicanism, but rather illiberal authoritarianism. A Democratic party perceived as radically left is making the Republican Party an attractive harbor for illiberal politicians, and liberal democracy will be the loser.  

Now, to be sure, candidates generally have an uphill battle anyway in an off-year election when their party is in power. For instance, the party controlling the White House has lost 11 out of the last 12 off-year elections in Virginia. Nonetheless, that hard reality was really compounded when exit polls in the Old Dominion State showed that education was the second most important issue. How come?

Well, the Republicans made it an over-wrought political issue, and McAuliffe’s statement during a debate with Republican Glen Youngkin, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” was, well, inopportune. The widespread perception that Critical Race Theory is being foisted upon American public-school students is anathema to most families, even though that perception is, overwhelmingly, a myth. Republicans have so successfully conflated any discussion of racism in American history courses with so-called Critical Race Theory that school board members in some cities are facing irate crowds protesting something that, generally, really isn’t happening.

Wokeness and the cancel culture that is its handmaiden represent a bridge too far for most American voters. Progressive zealots do not seem to know the difference between a headwind and a tailwind. They don’t merely put their progressive agenda at risk, but also the candidacy of moderate consensus builders, who are, today, the only real hope of the Democratic Party. It took thirteen Republicans voting with the Democrats to send the infrastructure bill to President Biden’s desk this week. The cancel crowd within the President’s own party would have stopped the much-needed infrastructure bill dead in its tracks.

The Woke crowd learned or should have learned a hard lesson this week. The country has had enough Defund the Police and other cancel culture nonsense. The country knows better than to embrace cancel culture as a solution to our most pressing issues. Voters in liberal Minneapolis rejected by double digits the nonsensical proposal to convert the Police Department into a non-descript Department of Public Safety overseen by the city council.

Fast forward to liberal Seattle, where a liberal candidate for Mayor, Maria Lorena Gonzalez, was defeated handily by Moderate Democrat Bruce Harrell after Gonzalez supported cutting (canceling) police funding by fifty percent. Harrell seized on Gonzalez’s “defund” position and walked away with the election. Equally dramatic and telling was Seattle’s race for City Attorney, where Republican Ann Davison won in one of the bluest of blue cities in the nation. Her opponent, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy ran on a platform to abolish the police, and while at it to do away with the city’s jails as well. This cancel nonsense is devastating to democratic aspirations, and to serious candidates for public office, especially given that the party’s standard-bearer, President Biden, isn’t winning any popularity contests.

When Democratic politicians even allude to sympathy for wokeness or cancel culture they hand their Republican opponents a road map to victory. Republican campaign strategists do not have to prove or demonstrate that a Democratic opponent advocates extreme curricula in public education (think critical race theory), or is sympathetic to reducing or doing away with community policing. They just have to emphasize that Republicans are opposed to such extremism in public education and community law enforcement. Ergo, the Democrats must be for it.

Far-left cancel culture has been all the rage in some high-profile circles, and a strong and warranted backlash to it is emerging throughout the country. Zealots, sooner or later, ruin almost any cause, and the cause they are in danger of ruining today is liberal democracy and anti-authoritarianism.

Democrats must recognize that being woke is not widely perceived as simply being well informed or up to date. While that might be how the Oxford Dictionary has defined the word since formally recognizing it in 2017, it carries a very different political connotation today. Today, it is largely synonymous with far-left-leaning political correctness, if not far-left radical orthodoxy.

The sooner the Democrats wake up to that reality, the better.

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On the Matter of Thomas Jefferson

It’s complicated. It is, for many, difficult to rationalize redemption for Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner. It is also, for me, difficult to imagine American history without Thomas Jefferson.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine American history at all without the twelve presidents of the United States who were slave owners, eight while they served as President.  Four of the first five presidents of the United States owned slaves while they were President. Of the first twelve Presidents of the United States, only the Adams’, John and son John Quincy, were never slave owners. Of course, the first President to have owned slaves was George Washington, who won the Revolutionary War, and the last President to have been a slave owner (though not while President) was Ulysses Grant, who won the Civil War. Of all the Presidents of the United States who owned slaves, only Washington provided for the freedom of the slaves he owned.

Jefferson authored our Declaration of Independence, Madison, also a slave owner, our Constitution. To expunge these men from history is to largely expunge America from history. It can’t be done. Instead, we must simply recognize the often enormous baggage great men often carry to the detriment of their reputation, but not to their role in history. 

Slavery was America’s original and scandalous sin. The institution of slavery in America far predated the birth of any of America’s early presidents. It was the milieu into which their generation and generations before them were born. Jefferson was, in a sense, addicted to the very institution of slavery he bemoaned and yet, was too weak and too selfish to disavow. Slavery was established in America nearly a century before his father, Peter Jefferson, was born. Thomas’s father owned over sixty slaves when he died in 1757, leaving 52 of them to his fourteen-year-old son. Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law, John Wayles, bequeathed him another 135 slaves. Slavery had been an institution in the American colonies for over a century before Jefferson’s father-in-law was born.

Thomas Jefferson was not a defender of slavery. He lamented its existence while depending on its accessibility. In that sense, his weakness far overshadowed his strength. His disgust with slavery, and perhaps with himself, is well documented. It is as essential to understanding this American founder as it is vital to understanding his extraordinary role in America’s founding.

We can and must condemn the sin of slavery and spare no criticism of those sinners who indulged in the cruel institution of slavery, but we cannot cancel their contributions to the making of America. The milieu into which America was born included slavery, and there is nothing we can do about that. Ironically, Jefferson had no illusions about the evil of this wretched institution. I have always been fascinated by the words he chose in writing the Declaration of Independence. One might view his remarkable choice of words as a confession as much as a statement of fact when he penned (and therefore acknowledged) that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among those; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was both an acknowledgment of fundamental truth and very public condemnation of his disregard of that truth.

Jefferson, both brilliant and flawed, left little doubt about his view of slavery. He was strong enough to condemn its very existence but too weak to disengage from its reality. While Jefferson, sadly, avoided the subject of slavery during his presidency, his repeated acknowledgment of its evil is explicit. He was, before becoming President, an opponent of the slave trade, and he was opposed to the extension of slavery into the new Northwest territories.  He had called slavery “a moral depravity and a hideous blot.”  It was, of course, to become the greatest blot on his place in history.

Jefferson, who did so much to give voice to the promise of America, believed slavery represented the greatest threat to the fledgling American experiment.  His writing on the subject of slavery, that it was contrary to the laws of nature, was anathema to his fellow Virginians, who, by the time Jefferson became President, were making as much money selling slaves as they were selling crops.

Jefferson was an enormously consequential American and an enormously consequential American President. He doubled the size of America with the Louisiana Purchase, my choice as the greatest real estate deal in recorded history. Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their remarkable land trek to the west coast.  He abolished the slave trade. He wrote the radical Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. He created the United States Military Academy at West Point. He successfully faced down the Barbary Coast Ottomans and the Sultanate of Morocco to end the scourge of Mediterranean piracy.

Jefferson was, sadly, a racist as probably were most of his fellow citizens at that time in history. He believed whites were simply inherently intellectually superior to blacks, and he couldn’t conceive of the two races living in harmony in the same country. He was spectacularly wrong about that. He could not have envisioned an America with Barrack Obama as President or Kamala Harris as Vice President, Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, or Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense. There would have been no place in his wrong-headed assumptions for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou, General Ben Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, NASA scientist and physicist, Katherine Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas, Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, August Wilson, and a veritable pantheon of other great black contributors to the success of America. There is no contradiction in liberally recognizing his accomplishments as an American statesman even as we condemn his failures as a product of his time.

So, I believe that Thomas Jefferson and the other slave-owning presidents, with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson, would look down and rejoice at how wrong history proved them to be. I believe they would celebrate the spectacular accomplishments of once enslaved people who they thought to be inherently inferior. They were wrong. We can recognize that as we also recognize their unique contributions to establishing the great American paradigm; “Out of many, one.”  

NOTE: an earlier version of this essay was mailed with Vice President Kamala Harris’s name misspelled. We regret the error.

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Bannon, Trump and The Fourth Turning.

Donald Trump had his own Svengali. His name is Steve Bannon.

As it turns out, Donald Trump was, and probably still is, the key to Steve Bannon’s Fourth Turning apocalyptic vision of America. Steve Bannon, a strident determinist, is besotted with the ruminations of the late William Strauss and futurist Neil Howe as detailed in their 1997 bestseller, The Fourth Turning. The book postulates that history is divided into cycles of 80 to 100 years, each of which comprises a saeculum. Each seaculum consists of four turnings, the last of which is characterized by upheaval and chaos. We are, according to the book, well into the fourth turning of the current saeculum.

As such, Bannon believes the future is pre-ordained and that we’re all spectators, indeed, victims of a chaotic future. Bannon believes that an apocalyptic future is bearing down on us, and we can do nothing except, perhaps, help bring it about and shape its aftermath consistent with his view of what America should be. In that sense, Bannon looms as a menacing persona eager to play a major part in a surreal drama in which a new America emerges from the ashes of an old, and in his view, decrepit and misguided order.

He does not see the ebb and flow of momentous events and the continued and sometimes torturous evolution toward a more enlightened, inclusive, and prosperous society in America. He sees, instead, a downward slide toward disintegration. So, believing that chaos and disorder in America are inevitable, Bannon saw in Trump an opportunity to incite and guide the inevitable disorder to an outcome consistent with his notion of a better, more authoritarian, America. Something on the order of Hungry or Poland, or, perhaps, Turkey would, I suspect, do just fine.

True, Trump angrily fired Bannon early on as his Chief Strategic Advisor because the former Breitbart News chief was such a divisive presence in the west wing, a media lightning rod, and, viewed by many, as a sort of Svengali puppet-master, with Trump playing the puppet.  

However, the former President had and has, knowingly or unknowingly, embraced Bannon’s vision of, and enthusiasm for, chaos and the politics of destruction. That’s what his election-hoax strategy is all about. He began telegraphing the election hoax strategy before the first vote was cast. In fact, he telegraphed an election hoax strategy before the Trump-Clinton election in 2016, which he assumed he was going to lose.

Trump lambasted Bannon when he dismissed him but has since described Bannon as “one of my best pupils.” Bannon, however, was, and probably still is, far more the teacher than the pupil, although the pupil would never admit or even understand that.   

Bannon and Trump (actually, Trump because of Bannon) both believed that January 6th would (or could) be the pre-ordained penultimate event that would usher in the crisis and chaos that The Fourth Turning predicts is inevitable and which would presage a new authoritarian paradigm for America. While Trump has referred to the book as “too dark,” he has pursued the chaos predicted by The Fourth Turning with enthusiastic zeal. Just listen to the gleeful rantings of both Trump and Bannon before the deadly January 6th insurrection.

Trump: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election… “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there. It will be wild!”

Bannon: “All hell will break loose tomorrow. It will be quite extraordinarily different. I’ll tell you this it’s not going to be like you think it’s going to happen. OK, it’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in. Tomorrow is game day. So many people said, ‘Man if I were in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.”

It certainly seems Bannon was envisioning something more than a hail, hail, the gangs all here peaceful protest. Steve Bannon has fully embraced the apocalyptic predictions laid out in The Fourth Turning and has worked zealously as a catalyst to accelerate the implosion of social and civic order in America, as predicted by Howe and Strauss. That Bannon saw January 6th as the linchpin for America’s fourth turning into darkness seems inescapable, and his “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” broadcast on the eve of the insurrection certainly suggests there was nothing spontaneous about the deadly attack at the Capitol.

This is how Strauss and Howe described the great American collapse: “A sudden spark will catalyze a crisis mood… remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire.” Sometime before 2025 (Strauss and Howe wrote, a quarter-century ago), “America will pass through a great gate in history” and “the very survival of the nation will feel at stake.”  And so, an election hoax strategy was conjured, and a Stop-the- Steal-Rally was meticulously planned and unleashed. Indeed, the nation’s very survival as a constitutional democracy was at stake at the January 6th insurrection that was kicked off at the Bannon-Trump Stop-the-Steal Rally.

This reasoning has become holy grail to Bannon. For the new order to take root, the old order has to come crashing down, and it seems clear that he believed January 6th could be the catalyzing event that ended American constitutional democracy. As Linette Lopez wrote in The Insider, “Bannon demonstrated…that he’s willing to advise Trump to enact policies disruptive to the current order to bring about what he perceives as a necessary new one.” In this sense, he was trying to bring about the Fourth Turning.

Because I am not a determinist, I am not overly impressed with The Fourth Turning. While judgments can be made and should be made based on historic trends and cycles, the certainty with which Strauss and Howe forecast apocalyptic collapse in America is extreme and, to the extent it energizes people like Bannon to influence people like Trump to bring about such a calamity it is both creepy and dangerous.

I question whether Donald Trump would knowingly or deliberately participate in an effort to cause mayhem as envisioned in The Fourth Turning, or the widespread collapse of civil order in America, but I certainly do believe he was willing to aggressively promote the negation of an election that didn’t go his way. Bannon saw the overthrow of the election as part of a much more significant historical event. He saw it as an essential requisite to the total collapse of America as we know it and the establishment of a new American order as he envisions it.

The Trump-Bannon phenomenon is alive and well, but January 6th did not turn out as they planned. Their efforts to corrupt the 2021 election failed, but they won’t stop trying. And you can bet the battle plan for 2024 is in place.  Either Trump or his hand-selected candidate wins, or we’ll be traumatized with yet another attempt to overthrow an election.

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PROFILES IN POLTROONERY

Or, simply stated, the opposite of Profiles in Courage.

Poltroonery is an old word, befitting some old men or younger men with an ossified sense of ethics and a diminished sense of honor. Chuck Grassley, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Scalise come to mind. They qualify as profiles in Poltroonery, or, let’s just say it, self-centered, self-interested political hackery, who will do what they have to do, and say what they have to say to get re-elected. Conversely, Liz Cheney and a pitifully small group of Republicans will undoubtedly be remembered by history as genuine Profiles in Courage.

There are only two reasons for a public figure to dance around the affront that January 6th was, and is, to American constitutional democracy; malignant partisanship or rank political cowardice.

lt is of no particular surprise that McCarthy and Scalise have turned out to be Toadies for Trump. They are relatively young, exceedingly ambitious, and will do whatever they have to do to pander to the former President. He holds sway over their once honorable party for the time being, and rather than honorably fight that sad reality, they pander to it.

Senator Grassley is another matter. Political ambition can’t be his motivation to pander. He’s an old man who will be pushing 100 by the time his next Senate stint ends, assuming Iowa voters return him to the Senate next year. There’s no mystery why Grassley joined former President Trump at his Iowa rally earlier this week. He told us why. “If I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”

This, from the same man who only months ago said of former President Trump, “he continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims,” and “belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way…. encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count. There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible,” Trump, he said, “must take responsibility for their destructive actions that day.” Well, that was smart. What he had to say at the Iowa rally, however, wasn’t smart. It was simply craven.

What is really tragic about Senator Grassley’s genuflect to Trump is that it wasn’t essential to his re-election. Grassley enjoys exceptionally high approval ratings in Iowa. He was the ideal Republican to stand up to Trump, the man he called irresponsible and the man he said had demanded that his Vice President take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions on January 6th.

Then again, so many members of my old party have turned out to be craven toadies, or as Merriam-Webster would put it, “lacking the least bit of courage, or contemptibly fainthearted.”

Grassley and the others have, with eyes wide open, chosen to make a Faustian bargain with the former President. In effect, we won’t publicly admit that you lost the election or encouraged the deadly insurrection on January 6th, which was a blatant attack on American constitutional democracy. In return, you will praise us, and you won’t endorse or support whoever might run against us in the next election cycle. Such Faustian bargains never work out well in the long run, but as the late economist John Maynard Keynes once famously said, “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.”

Most Republicans cringe at Trump’s anti-democratic nonsense and demagoguery and his outrageous penchant for lying with such complete abandon. They rationalize that putting up with such behavior is an acceptable price to pay to stay in power. Elsewhere today, and in the past, others have made the same mistake. Never poke the bear, they rationalize, and we’ll stay in power. Other American politicians knew better. As John Kennedy reminded my generation sixty years ago, “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

But sadly, we’ve seen this craven pandering before. It has become the Republican game plan, and it may well yield a short-term tactical advantage. However, it is likely to result in long-term strategic disaster for them and, quite possibly, for the rest of the country as well.

Seventy years ago, Polish-American poet Czeslaw Milosz described in his international bestseller, The Captive Mind, how the political toadies of the day behaved in the presence of the authoritarian strongmen on whose good graces they had hitched their wagons. “Some were recalcitrant; some tried not to show how much his favor meant to them; some were openly servile. In a short time, he was surrounded by a court of yes-men who frowned when he frowned or guffawed loudly whenever he deigned to tell a joke.”

Sound familiar?

General Mark Milley’s Contretemps

 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, in consultation and coordination with other top Defense Department officials, took steps to guard against a possible Wag-the-Dog attack on China by a defeated, irrational, and erratic American President. General Milley’s decision has generated a lot of heat, especially among Trump followers, but among others as well. While the precedent for stopping an illegal order is well established, interfering with a hypothetical illegal order that hasn’t been issued is, well, a sail into somewhat uncharted waters.

However, in light of the failed Trump-encouraged insurrection at the Capitol, as well as Trump’s refusal to acknowledge defeat, and intelligence reports that the Chinese were growing concerned about the stability of American governance, erring on the side of Milley’s actions is a reasonable call. After all, some military attack orders can’t be called back once missiles are hurtling toward a target.

Concern about a rogue order by a rogue president to launch nuclear missiles hasn’t been contemplated in our country in the last forty-five years. Former President Trump declared before the election that he could only lose if the election about to take place was rigged. Military intelligence knew the Chinese were growing very nervous about the Trump-caused chaos leading up to the election and following the election.

General Milley in consultation and coordination with other top Defense and State Department officials made two calls to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng. The first call, On October 30th, was at Secretary of Defense Esper’s direction. Eight people sat in on that call with General Milley. On December 31st, the Chinese requested another call with General Milley. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific helped coordinate that call, which was then scheduled for January 8th.

Eleven Defense Department staff were on that call and readouts of the call were provided to the participants. Then General Milley personally informed both Secretary of State Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Meadows about the call. Acting Secretary Miller was also briefed on the call.

General Milley, assured Gen. Li Zuocheng, that the United States was not planning to launch an unprovoked attack against China. It is good that these men know and trust one another. And it is reasonable that General Milley called upon that trust to calm Chinese jitters. Far-right suggestions that General Milley was, in effect, acting alone and plotting with the enemy are ridiculous.

General Milley’s concern as well as that of other Defense Department officials was not without justification. Never before in our history had a President, without a shred of justification, gone to war against the result of an election by refusing to concede, by calling, without a shred of credible evidence, an American election a hoax, and by inciting a deadly insurrection at the Capitol to stop the constitutionally mandated tabulation of electoral ballots that had been duly certified by every state in the nation.

While certainly controversial, General Milley’s instructions to the brass at the pentagon are also certainly defensible. An order to nuke another nation, once implemented, can not be called back or undone. General Milley’s instructions were simply to ensure that such an unprovoked order was not issued by the defeated and highly agitated President for his own political purposes.

When the January 6th mob stormed the Capitol of the United States with the encouragement of former President Trump and with the intent of interfering with the peaceful transfer of power, General Milley took steps to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. He did the right thing because his oath of office is to do just that—to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. General Milley’s cause was just, and the steps he, in coordination with other key Defense Department personnel, took were measured and appropriate, given the irrational and unprecedented behavior of a defeated president in the waning days of his administration.

From General Milley’s vantage point, and that of other Defense Department officials, there was genuine concern that former President Trump, who refused to acknowledge his defeat, was capable of doing something catastrophic and something that could not be called back once initiated. After all, he was openly calling for his Vice President, Mike Pence, to refuse to do his constitutionally mandated duty to announce the electoral votes that had been unanimously certified by every state in the country. The former President was cajoling a crowd to fight like hell to stop the constitutional counting of electoral votes and inciting his followers that the country was being stolen from them. And before the day was over, the Capitol of the United States was stormed and sacked by a mob of rioters, many carrying Trump banners, who believed the defeated President sent them. Indeed, the defeated President gave them ample reason to feel they were doing his bidding.

Other military officers have, on occasion, and with justification, also given orders for which there was little or no precedent. When their judgment was justified, they were not punished by their superiors nor condemned by publicity-hungry politicians. When their cause was just, they were, instead, honored and decorated. Readers, at least as old as me, might remember Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson. He was an American warrior who disobeyed orders. He even threatened to open fire on American troops if they carried out orders at My Lai, Viet Nam, 54 years ago. He was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions. Okay, former President Trump hadn’t ordered an unprovoked attack on China or any other nation, but there was real concern that he might.

His outrageous and unprecedented behavior in encouraging participants at his Stop the Steal Rally to fight like hell to stop the constitutional process underway at the Capitol and his promised “wild day” in Washington was a clear and present danger to our constitutional democracy. Our intelligence people were reporting that the Chinese had become very concerned that Trump would do whatever he had to do to stay in power. Milley took steps to assure the Chinese that no hostile action was being contemplated, nor would such an unprovoked sneak attack be undertaken.

This is not the first time orders were given out of concern that an enraged president would initiate a wag-the-dog war to serve his personal interests. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger did precisely that in 1974 when President Nixon was also acting irrationally. Schlesinger instructed the military not to follow any presidential nuclear order without first checking with him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Unprecedented and bizarre circumstances sometimes might require unprecedented judgments.  

Our system works when men of honor hold our highest offices. When self-interest and self-aggrandizement, rather than honor, are the driving and motivating forces that bring men or women to leadership in America, the entire American experiment is at risk.

James Madison, at the Virginia Ratifying Convention on June 20, 1788, gave wise counsel. It was true then, and it is just as true today. Listen to him: “But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation…”

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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FAKE NEWS: IT’S MIND-BOGGLING.

Of course, it is. It is intended to be. And it is working. It is boggling minds

First, let’s try to agree on a few basics. News coverage of people or movements with which one vehemently disagrees is not, by definition, fake news. Legitimate news outlets often have strong editorial points of view, some strongly conservative and some strongly liberal or progressive. That’s just healthy journalism, and while one might disagree with a given news outlet’s point of view, opinionated editorial content does not constitute fake news.

Conversely, news that is simply fabricated to persuade people to believe what the fabricator wants them to believe is fake news. The real danger lurks in this age of world-wide-web connected social media when spurious and deceptive information can be packaged to look authentic and be instantly and widely distributed. Fake news is pernicious, deceitful, and a danger to our democracy. Democracy depends on ready access to factual information. It atrophies when smothered in deliberately and widely distributed false information masquerading as news.

As the old and often misattributed saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on. Actually, it’s much worse than that. Today, information (including misinformation) can travel all the way around the world about as fast as the speeding bullet used to analogize the speed of an old Action Comics superhero.

With a nation besotted by the power of social media, we have a perfect storm on our hands. Machine-learning algorithms that enable unscrupulous political tacticians to refine messaging to appeal to fear, uncertainty, and even anger, along with irresponsibly ambitious politicians and an obscene flow of cash, all conspire to manipulate public opinion and our elections.

Today, most Americans consume their news online. Research shows that over two-thirds of adults use news websites, and about 65% rely on search engines such as Google. Slightly more than half draw their news from social media and about 25% from various podcasts. We rely on various electronic devices for our news. That’s fine as long as everyone knows who is feeding their devices and what their motives are. But few people do.

NewsGuard, one of several sources I use to check and corroborate information I receive online, shows that people are increasingly, and unsuspectingly, turning to sources that peddle unreliable content. Misinformation masquerading as news or real insight is polluting the flow of information in the United States.

BuzzFeed found in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election that the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from established major news outlets. While Facebook began identifying phony and malicious news distributors before the 2020 election, it was too little, too late.

The US-based online activist network Avaaz found that if Facebook had tweaked its algorithm and moderation policies in March of 2020, instead of waiting until October, it would have prevented an estimated 10.1 billion additional page-views on the 100 most-read pages it has now classified as repeat spreaders of misinformation. Think of that. And think of this—Facebook reported last March that it took down 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December 2020 and that it had over 35,000 people working on tackling misinformation on its platform.

Here are some examples of fake news presented as legitimate news on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election:

         “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,” attracted 960,000 engagements, meaning “likes,” “comments,” or “shares.”

         “Wikileaks Confirms Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS…Then Drops Another Bombshell! Breaking News” 789,000 engagements on Facebook. 

         “It’s over: Hilary’s ISIS email just Leaked, and It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined.” 754,000 engagements.

         “Just read the Law: Hillary Is Disqualified from Holding any Federal Office” 701,000 engagements.

         “FBI Agent suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apartment Murder-Suicide” 567,000 engagements.

These five false stories are a small indication of the massive traffic in misinformation speeding along the social media highway. They generated nearly four million engagements on Facebook, not counting the enormous number of Facebook users to whom these stories were shared.

During those critical months of the 2016 presidential campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. As the election drew closer, engagement for fake content on Facebook skyrocketed and surpassed that of the content from major legitimate news outlets.

Partisans on the left are as active as partisans on the right in generating fake news. This from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC): “It [fake news] affects both the right and the left. It affects educated and uneducated. So the stereotypes of it being simply right-wing and simply uneducated are 100% not true,” says Jeff Green, who is the CEO of Trade Desk, an internet advertising company that was recently commissioned by American TV channel CBS to investigate who is reading and sharing fake news online.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that Google serves up 48% of ad traffic on “fake” news sites. Google has issued a statement acknowledging that it has removed ads from “more than 1.3 billion pages” that breached its policies last year.

Social media platforms are, belatedly, taking steps to remove posts that they deem to be irresponsibly and chronically purveying fake news. Good for them. That isn’t censorship, as the purveyors and consumers of fake news complain, but simply responsible management. No newspaper is obligated to run any advertisements, letters to the editor, or opinion pieces submitted for publication that the editors deem inappropriate, untruthful, or simply not worthy of publication. It is entirely appropriate that social media platforms are setting standards as well.

People have contacted me with the “news” that the American Medical Association had changed its position on hydroxychloroquine, having found it to be an effective treatment for COVID-19. Because I try to corroborate any information I receive that seems the least bit questionable, I searched what the American Medical Association had to say about this revelation. Sure enough, they had already issued a statement in their official publication, Lancet, debunking the false assertion that had been circulating on social media and talk radio. It was phony. The Lancet rebuttal presented research that showed that hydroxychloroquine had not demonstrated any meaningful benefit.

Massive misinformation about Dominion Voting Machines had been trafficked on social media, and in the mainstream news, especially by former Trump attorney Sidney Powell. When Dominion filed a billion-dollar defamation suit against Powell, her defense was, “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were true statements of fact.” Think of that. Anyone who was sucked into the misinformation campaign about Dominion Voting Machines should remember that the person who sucked them in now pleads “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were true statements of fact.”

Sadly, many people simply seek out “news” that merely affirms their point of view. Critical thinking is enfeebled in the process. Yes, the enormous traffic in fake news is, indeed, mind-boggling. Tens of millions of Americans have been, and are being, mind-boggled.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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Entropy and American Democracy

A Clear and Present Danger

Benjamin Franklin, whose formal education ended at age ten, was America’s first world-class scientist and a wise and beloved statesman. He wouldn’t have known about the law of entropy in physics because the term didn’t come into use for another seventy-eight years following his death in 1790. But his perceptiveness was on sharp display when he told the nation you have a Republic if you can keep it.

 The “if” in his pronouncement was both remarkably perceptive and immensely foreboding. Whether we can keep our republic, our democracy, is very much open to question. There seems to be a principle that over time, man-made and conceived order often devolves into disorder or chaos. In physics, the law of entropy teaches that a closed system gradually declines into disorder. Every galaxy, indeed, even the universe itself, has a finite life according to the laws of physics. Perhaps, that is equally true of any system conceived by man that relies on human nature to determine the durability of a society’s political and social life.

Fortunately, the survivability of our democracy is not independently preordained by the laws of physics or thermal dynamics. That is, we can protect our democracy for as long as we choose or, of course, abuse it at its (and our) peril.

Sadly, abusing our democracy has become political sport. It is a game in which everyone who cherishes our republic will eventually lose. And no, the abuse about which I write is not the exclusive franchise of the Left or the Right. American democracy is facing a clear and present danger. Like an out-of-control virus, malevolent political behavior is slowly but surely eroding the very sinews of our democracy. These excesses are not new in our history. What is new are the tools to exploit these excesses and the abundance of self-aggrandizing politicians and other power-seekers eager to exploit these means for their own selfish and destructive gain.

On the left, we have a growing and aggressive cancel culture that tolerates no deviation from the demands of the priests and priestesses of the prevailing woke ethos. The wholesale denigration of the great American experiment has gained favor because there was, and continues, a stubborn residue of intolerance and inequity in its story. America is the wealthiest country in the world, but its riches have always resided in great concentration, and exceptionally so today. Upward mobility has always been a hallmark of America, but the upward trek has grown much steeper, the path narrower and the obstacles abundant.

Laws are enacted and enforced to protect civil order, and they are essential to the orderly functioning of a sane and safe society. Our society must insist on the fair, consistent and dedicated administration of justice in America. That probably means enhanced, not diminished, funding for law enforcement so that the compensation provided for those enforcing and administering the law will attract the very best candidates available for this essential public service. Demands to defund law enforcement only contribute to societal entropy and do nothing to strengthen civil order or respect for the very laws that are enacted to protect us.  

Many cities were slow to react to extreme urban disorder following the murder of George Floyd and arson and looting were rampant in many American cities. This, too, represents a body blow to civic law and order, without which the American experiment is greatly diminished.

Conversely, on the far-right, there is an unhealthy obsession with, and pursuit of, power—the coveting of it, and the no-holds-barred determination to capture it and hold on to it by any means, including demagoguery and, if need be, it seems insurrection as well.

To be sure, both political parties covet power, but never in our history have we seen such an attempted abuse of political power. Never before in our history has a defeated president referred to his lost election as a “third-world-country election like we’ve never seen before.” Never before in our history has a President acquiesced, indeed, urged such anti-democratic, illegal, and unamerican behavior as when former President Trump told his January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally, “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.”

Think of it; we had a president who had decisively lost an election, urge a crowd to go to the United States Capitol, and “fight like hell” to interrupt the constitutionally mandated counting and certification of the election results. Results that had been duly certified by each of the fifty states and attested to by every state governor, the majority of whom were (and still are) Republicans.

This, after his own Department of Homeland Security and his own Department of Justice, failed to find any case of election fraud that would have altered the results of the election. In fact, the official at the Department of Homeland Security responsible for election security considered the 2020 election the most secure election in our modern history. Indeed, not one of the sixty-one judges, many of whom were Republicans, found sufficient reason to indulge Trump’s attack on our constitutional democracy.

Furthermore, nearly all of the Republicans in Congress, after fleeing from the assault on the Capitol on January 6th, now pay homage to former President Trump who called for the insurrection in the first place. This fealty to a defeated President who insists that he was the victim of the greatest election hoax in history in the complete absence of any credible evidence of any hoax at all is unprecedented in American history. It represents nothing less than an assault on our democracy by a former President of the United States and his enablers in Congress.

And, finally, we have the unprecedented degree to which demagoguery had permeated the language of the oval office.

Harry Truman, one of our most underrated presidents, once mused aloud, “I sit and shiver… at the thought of what could happen with some demagogue in this office I hold.” Indeed!

In physics, entropy, the second law of thermal dynamics, is considered immutable. Let’s pray political entropy isn’t as well.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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The covid monologues: Recalcitrance versus reason

People have a right to be recalcitrant about vaccines and mask mandates, and to be left alone. So, yes, they should be left alone. Very alone.

As of yesterday morning, 4,634,549 people had died of CO VID worldwide, 677,037 in the United States. With 4% of the world’s population, we account for nearly 15% of the entire world’s COVID fatalities. Well over 40 million Americans have caught COVID, and over 1,100 Americans a day are dying of the largely preventable disease. Make no mistake about it, our COVID score is miserable, and frankly, disgraceful. We’re rushing toward 700,000 COVID deaths in the United States. Last week alone, we logged over 7,000 new deaths. Too many cases and too many unnecessary deaths.

Now, perhaps, we shouldn’t force people to get vaccinated or to wear masks. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are entitled to their views and are entitled to be left alone…very alone. Every school, or business, or airline, or government office, or venue where people gather should respect every anti-vaxxer’s and anti-masker’s right to be left alone and should, in fact, insist that they be left alone. Every venue can and should augment that right by doing their part to leave the unvaccinated and unmasked alone by keeping their venues anti-vaxxer and anti-masker free.

Recalcitrance versus Reason

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan liked to remind us, but no one is entitled to their own facts. A mighty wide gap yawns between many of the widespread and unfounded opinions regarding COVID and the verifiable facts regarding the disease. It represents an information chasm that has claimed, and is claiming, too many lives every day. Some of the misinformation is simply misunderstood reality. Much of the misinformation, however, is carefully nurtured by media personalities and politicians who seek a following for power or for money and who prey upon those who are fearful or distrustful, or both.

Make no mistake about it, there is power and wealth to be mined from fear and uncertainty, and it seems we have no shortage of prospectors eager to mine the nation’s miasma. That is what happens when politics pollutes reason; when politically motivated people see benefit or gain by tapping into people’s fear and uncertainty. The misinformation and the suffering it has caused in our country is heartbreaking, and much of it is deliberate, and, sadly, it continues unabated.

NewsGuard, a truth-in-reporting service, founded by Gordon Crovitz, former Wall Street Journal Publisher, and Steven Brill, prolific best selling investigative author, reports that of more than 6700 websites it has analyzed, 519 publish false information about COVID-19, some of which publish dubious health information or political conspiracy theories, while others were “created specifically to spread misinformation about COVID-19.”

These deliberately placed misinformation stories disguised as news are then shared and multiplied millions of times. “It has become virtually impossible for people to tell the difference between a generally reliable site and an untrustworthy site,” Crovitz says. “And that is why there is such a big business in publishing this information.” Of the sites on NewsGuard’s list, 339 cater to American-based readers. having an audience predominantly based here. Some such as InfoWars and Mercola.com, have, according to NewsGuard, a history of promoting conspiracy theories and dubious health claims. Some try to confuse readers by using domain names similar to real news outlets, such as WashingtonPosted.news and Ussanews.com, Small wonder tens of millions of Americans refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks. For these people, recalcitrance trumps reason.

Many people believe the vaccine was developed too fast, and therefore isn’t safe. Actually, most of the work in developing this vaccine was painstakingly done over many years. Researchers have been developing and researching an mRNA vaccine for coronaviruses for more than ten years. When COVID-19 appeared, its genetic sequence was quickly determined and it took just a short time to make the mRNA vaccine for this new coronavirus.

Many of the routine sequential functions that are usually followed in approving a new vaccine were conducted simultaneously to expedite the process. The data accumulated from tens of thousands of people participating in double-blind studies were extraordinarily affirming of the efficacy of the new vaccine, and a very effective vaccine was made available in record time. It has saved thousands of lives. Those who are being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 today are almost all unvaccinated people.

Some people believe it would be better to get and survive COVID-19 than it would be to be vaccinated against the disease. There have been conflicting reports regarding this question. According to a HealthDay report in US News and World Report, “Vaccinated individuals had the highest antibody levels, nearly three times higher than that of convalescent individuals recovering from symptomatic COVID-19.” What’s more, according to one study conducted in Israel, 99.4% of vaccinated people tested positive for COVID-fighting antibodies in blood samples just six days after their second dose of vaccine, while the number of these “seropositive” people fell to just under 76% for people recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Other data from Israel indicates that antibodies generated from COVID-19 represent a stronger defense against the disease. Nebraska Medicine, earlier this week, cited a number of studies strongly indicating that vaccinations create more effective and longer-lasting immunity than natural immunity from infection. It appears that the jury is still out on whether one gets better protection from the disease-generated antibodies or from the vaccine-generated antibodies. It would appear, however, that many survivors of the disease may have longer-term residual health issues with which they will contend long after the disease itself has run its course. The strong consensus within the medical community is certainly for individuals over the age of twelve to be vaccinated. (This paragraph has been updated to include reference to the information published by Nebraska Medicine this week).

Facebook, which is caught up in a maelstrom of its own has, according to Monika Bickert, Vice President of Content Policy, determined that over 3,000 of its accounts, pages, and groups have repeatedly published more than 20 million pieces of content that were simply vaccine misinformation and have, belatedly, been removed. The number of times this calculated misinformation has been shared and copied is all but incalculable. Small wonder vaccine recalcitrance has, for millions of Americans, become a badge of honor. Recalcitrance trumping reason.

As Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, of George Washington University Medical School, observed regarding the tens of millions of Americans who have been convinced not to get vaccinated, “We live in a country that has some basic rules. You can’t smoke in most buildings in the United States, and you can’t drive drunk. You can’t smoke on planes, and you can’t blow viruses into my face. That’s how it has to be in this country. And if you’re going to be a persistent threat to public health by refusing to get vaccinated, well your actions have consequences.”

Sadly, the unvaccinated represent just about all of the active COVID cases in America, and it is only in these active COVID cases that variants such as the deadly Delta Virus and the other variants that are certain to follow can emerge.

We have many legitimate issues to debate in our country. Whether or not to wear a proper mask, or to be vaccinated against a terribly virulent, mutating, deadly disease aren’t really issues over which we should be fighting. Reason over Recalcitrance!

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

Invite friends, family, and colleagues to receive “Of Thee I Sing 1776” online commentaries. Simply copy, paste, and email them this link—https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/ILPzgKS  –and they can begin receiving, free of charge, these weekly essays every Sunday morning.

Ideas and commentary with allegiance to neither the left nor the right, but only to this sweet land of liberty.