And good riddance. May we never again see a repeat of such a tragic and politically divisive year.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the election were, of course, the two major events of 2020. How the American people, collectively, responded to the historical challenges these events imposed is also a story of major consequence. Historians, and social and political scientists will study 2020 for a long time and render their assessments of the lasting impact of these events. To a great extent, the pandemic, which saw the year in, and the election, which saw the year out, demonstrated the best and the worst to be found in the American body politic.
That we, as a nation, have already begun the process of inoculating the public against this deadly virus that has infected more than 20 million Americans, and killed approximately 360,000 of our fellow countrymen is a great tribute to science and human ingenuity. We owe so much to the men and women of science and to the medical workers who toiled frantically to defeat this deadly virus—this non-living, sub-microscopic capsule of non-human genetic material that, once introduced to a human host, begins furiously replicating and spreading from one unsuspecting person to another. In breathtaking speed, COVID-19 was transported by pre-symptomatic travelers to every continent, infecting with lightning dispatch nearly 100 million people worldwide.
While scientists, medical personnel and other health-care workers throughout the country have acquitted themselves magnificently, the same cannot be said of the political leadership in Washington and in many of the states. National political leadership was largely a clown show, an embarrassment to any reasonably discerning observer. Aside from the commitment to buy enormous quantities of a successful vaccine from any pharmaceutical companies that came up with one (warp speed), there was little commendable about the political response or direction from Washington. Much of it was breathtakingly cavalier, clumsy, embarrassingly ignorant, and unworthy of a great nation.
The President’s reluctance, if not outright resistance, to promoting the wearing of masks long after medical science settled on the efficacy of this simple precaution was a disaster. It resulted in millions of his followers elevating resistance to masks to some warped notion of independence, patriotism and individual rights. The President’s penchant for mass rallies served as a not-so-subtle contradiction to the admonishments of virtually all medical authorities for people to avoid crowds. The number of Americans who were lost to the incomprehensively poor direction and example provided by the President can probably never be reliably determined. But one thing is certain, his behavior didn’t set an example that saved anyone’s life.
The election, or more succinctly the President’s determination to undermine it, is the story that will dominate political discussion and study for generations to come. Courts and jurists at every level and representing the judgments of authorities from both political parties, even the Supreme Court of the United States and the just departed Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, have made it clear, the ginned-up protestations of widespread election fraud are without merit.
In America, politically motivated allegations are neither evidence, nor proof of anything. There are, and have been, myriad idiosyncrasies in every election in the nation’s history. According to election officials, both Republican and Democratic, at the state and federal levels, there actually were fewer in this election than in other elections, notwithstanding the President and his sycophants fulminating to the contrary. The President’s game plan in this recently concluded election as well as the election in 2016 was always to claim fraud in the event the election was decided against him. To this President, anything that is decided against him is wrong, fraudulent, corrupt or, in his words, nasty or not nice.
By charging, with no evidence or proof, that the election was stolen from him, and encouraging his minions to come to Washington next week to demonstrate against congressional confirmation of the Electoral College’s certification of Joe Biden as President-Elect, the President is engaging in a very dangerous enterprise. It is a danger to civil order in and by itself, and it is an immense danger to American democracy.
In 1974, the incredibly brave Russian writer and dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote that in the Soviet Union the lie had actually become a pillar of the state. He may as well have been warning we Americans as we start a new year, that calculated and systemic lying by officialdom eventually jeopardizes everyone’s liberty.
There is little to feel good about in the just concluded year. So Long 2020—Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu…and Goodbye!