“Come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter.” So said President-Elect Joe Biden tonight as he laid out a plan for a $1.9 trillion emergency vaccination and relief package to get the country through and past the coronavirus. The Trump administration created no federal program for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, leaving us woefully behind where we need to be to get our population vaccinated. And the virus is spreading fast. Over the past week, we have had an average of almost 250,000 new cases a day of coronavirus, with daily deaths on either side of 4000. We are approaching 390,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19.
Thanks so much! Many, many of us were brought up in families in which the New Deal was held sacred. Our fathers left their homes to fight in a world war, an incredible thing to ask of young men who had grown up in the Depression. But when they returned to civilian life, the GI Bill provided many of them with paths to education and housing which would not have existed without the protections of the New Deal. Lots of us white kids who are now on Medicare grew up in homes built with GI mortgages, with Dads in good Union jobs, attending excellent public schools and enjoying what American freedoms were supposed to feel like. Unfortunately, these benefits were not for all Americans - black or mixed neighborhoods were redlined, de facto school segregation was rampant in the North, and the tremendous opportunities available to the white population were denied to Blacks. Interstate highways tore through minority communities, inner city schools were allowed to deteriorate physically and educationally, and a hopelessness reciprocal to the enthusiasm of us white kids embedded itself in at the lives of our Black citizens. So it is with great faith in the basic goodness of humanity that we approach Wednesday, when we can believe again that We the People - ALL of us this time - through our government, can attempt to rebuild what was right, and to correct the very wrong. Thank you, Dr. Richardson, for being such an incredible teacher, always prepared to lead the discussion and to prod us to something beyond this incredible anger so many of us hold in our souls.
Wednesday was not a day for jubilation.
Wednesday was not a day for celebration.
One week after fomenting a violent insurrection, based on a completely false narrative, Donald J. Trump became the first US President ever to be impeached a second time. To those who opposed his four-year, vindictive assault on our democracy and its institutions, it could be viewed as a victory over tyranny, a cause for celebration. But it's not.
No, the final chapter(?) of the Trump presidency is a sad reminder of what we've become over the past two generations. The predicament which we find ourselves in today was birthed in the arrogance of the 1980's, when hippies morphed into Yuppies, when "Make love, not war" became "Make money, more money!", epitomized by Gordon Gecko's phrase, "Greed is good!"
It is said that the social and economic cycles are much longer than we imagine, from forty to eighty years long, a long wave rather than a seismic shift. The past four years have not seemed that way. the ground under our feet seemd to be moving. So when last night, when Joe Biden announced, "Come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter.", it soothed and reassured us.
But will it be only that, just a chapter? Or will it be an inflection point? Will it be the pendulum reversing it's motion and moving in a new direction. We yearn for it to be that. We are tired, of the virus, of the violence, and of the assault on our American values. When as a people will we feel joy again?
Three successive Wednesdays: Insurrection Wednesday, Impeachment Wednesday, and next week, Inauguration Wednesday. All three begin with "I", but Wednesday begins with "We". After forty years of the greedy "I", let's return to collective "We", as in "We the People".
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday. Here's one of his positive messages: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
It should be noted, I think, that what Biden proposes is only what most other developed nations are already doing. It's normal, not radical.
Q for readers in the US: What are some effective ways to de-escalate crazy tribal calls to fight "socialism" at all costs -- in a context where many Americans don't seem to connect with what government care and safety nets actually are?
(I live in France, where there's an actual Socialist Party, plus universal health care, creches, public transport, etc. all as a matter of course, all supported by political parties across the spectrum. Even gilets jaunes demonstrations call for *more* gov action, not less.)
Apologies if this sounds naive, but the venom and rage as US populists spit out dire "socialist!" warnings is astonishing seen from here.
I continue to offer my greatest respect to Dr. Richardson. Her analyses and contextualization of where we stand as a nation and how we got here are a balm for my mind in these fractious times.
It is hopeful to hear Joe Biden's words laying out an inclusive vision of shared prosperity and responsibility. But my hope is tempered with the understanding that saying the right words is only the first step on a difficult road. That said, it's a tremendous relief to think we finally (almost) have a leader who is holding the map right side up!
I am still worried by all those many people who found in trump an answer to the problems they see in our nation. The inability to even define reality and understand the root causes of these problems, let alone find solutions, is troubling beyond measure.
I am convinced we are seeing the effects of a "big lie" strategy played out over the last 50 years at least. The lie being that poverty is the result of defective people not having the discipline or ambition to survive by their own means and are solely animated by looking for handouts from hardworking "patriots." This dovetails into racism, since centuries of structural and institutional inequality have put people of color disproportionately at the bottom of our economic ladder. But, since there are plenty of white people down there too, it gives plausible deniability to condemnations of racist intent behind bad policy choices.
The battle ahead will be about exposing this lie to the light of day, and making those who defend it fully explain their logic, while forcefully refuting the distractions, half truths and shifting of blame they will inevitably deploy in their defense.
This is why I value this newsletter so much. Thank you.
Government needs to operate from a moral base. If Trump had just followed CDC guidelines about the pandemic tens of thousands of people would still be alive.The damage to our economy would be mitigated. Can you imagine if he had worn a mask in public, encouraged everyone to practice social distancing and mask wearing, and promoted competent policies; And provided reassurance that we’re all going to get through this? Instead destructive tweeting of lies and a malicious disregard for science has led us to the worst domestic tragedy since the great depression, and maybe since the Civil War. Difficult times require leader ship a kin to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Let’s all pray that Biden and Harris can return America to a sense of civic morality and shared commonwealth.
While Biden was behaving like a national leader, Trump staffers were carrying "mementos" out of the White House, including what looked like a bronze bust of Lincoln. I'll look for it on eBay.
Take what you want if you must, just get out.
Thank you, HCR, for the history lesson and the insight into current affairs.
Another widely popular, and incredibly successful, "socialist" government program started in the FDR era was the GI Bill; millions of soldiers returning from WW II went to college more or less for free and then got a cheap, government-backed mortgage with their diploma. Speaking in cold-blooded capitalist terms of dollars and cents, the return on that investment was likely on the order of 1 to 100 in tax dollars invested and tax dollars returned from higher incomes and the increased economic activity that results from higher incomes. (Why is this simple economic principle so difficult to get across to some people?!!) The social benefits of expanded middle class wealth, though more difficult to measure, were more profound.
So, back to reality, we have a new national leader with a rational, thought-out plan to get the nation out of the ditch, and an opposition party, literally wrapped in the flag, screaming "radical socialism!", digging in to to do what they can to make the plan not work, so they can put the man who drove us into the ditch back in power.
Biden’s speech today brought me tears of relief. My God, we have a President-Elect who is compassionate, intelligent and who plans to lead our country for all of us.
The painful losses Mr. President-Elect suffered as a young man clearly shaped him, and prepared him to include both intellect and compassion in his decisions.
Much difficult and painful work is needed to bridge the numerous and deep divides in our nation; this is a promising start!
I'm optimistic, even in the climate of divisiveness. We should press for subsidization and restoration the US POST OFFICE's operation, and Biden understands how government infrastructure programs is a good jobs program, and can be funded or promoted with public private partnerships and loan programs to tamp down private sector opposition, where repayments of the loans can be loaned out again for new projects.
Great letter, as always. Two observations:
First, for me the difference betwen the incoming Biden administration's vision, and the vision (if you can call it that) of Republicans from Goldwater onwards, is summarized in this paragraph:
"The Democratic defense of an active government was popular—people actually like government regulation, social welfare programs, and roads and bridges. But Republicans continued to be determined to get rid of the liberal consensus once and for all, insisting that true liberty would free individuals to organize a booming economy. Trump’s administration was the culmination of two generations of Republican attempts to dismantle the New Deal state."
This Republican attack on the "liberal consensus" identifies "liberty" with "a booming economy". Liberty is, basically, getting MORE of what you WANT. This deification of the economic has done untold damage to the American, and indeed the human spirit over the past 500 years. Gross Domestic Product is not anywhere near a complete measure of a meaningful human existence. This should be obvious, but isn't even to many who claim to adhere to the Democratic vision of a juster, kinder society (e.g., the Clintons). The "more" you are wedded solely to the pursuit of what Hobbes called "felicity" -- i.e., getting "more" of your wants satisfied -- you may find yourself attaining not felicity but a kind of misery. The more you chase after goods and things, the less time you have to enjoy them and goods that aren't things; the more you engage in social practice as a winner-take-all event, life becomes a draining, dehumanizing battle which everyone eventually gets to lose on their deathbed. This is alienation, not freedom. There are many defects in the social theory of Karl Marx, but as a social critic he was spot-on when he observed that capitalist society "fetishizes" money, changing it from a socially-constructed medium of exchange-value to a kind of luminous false god. It "re-enchants" a disenchanted world, but does so by promiting a kind of idolatry. And as a result we collectively become Jacob Marleys, chained in purgatory to the symbols of economics, whether we prosper from the market or merely dream of prospering. Biden does give hints of a moral-political vision where economics is given its due attention, but is not idolized. I hope he follows through on this.
Second, I think you are also right on target when you observe:
"The idea of a government that supports ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy was first articulated by Abraham Lincoln in 1859 and was the system the Republicans first put in place during the Civil War."
IMHO it was with Lincoln that an America worth our allegiance actually began. The Founders spoke eloquenty of Liberty and Equality and the common good, but their political deeds compromised their words. Until Lincoln, the Republic seems to me to have been a competition between competing oligarchies: the financial oligarchies of the North and the slave-holding oligarchies of the South. (And as you point out in your book, the Southern oligarchy disguised itself, moved west, and snuck back in with the failure of Reconstruction.) Lincoln had no patience for oligarchy. He was honest in his loyalty to Liberal Republican Democracy. Any American History worth venerating begins with him, and has been brought back into vision by the likes of the Roosevelts, Obama, and hopefully Biden. They were all fallible creatures, morally and politically, as is everybody. But when they spoke of liberty, equality, and (let us hope) solidarity, and what these ideals require of us as citizens, they meant it. Unlike the scoundrels of the last four years.
Once again Heather nails it ... today’s situation within historical context. Right now it feels like we are crawling to the starting gate while simultaneously being pulled back. Leadership always matters and that is the starting point come January 20th. It is such a relief when Biden speaks and not have to run for cover. He, Harris, and the administration they are putting together have incredible challenges. But, with their leadership, the light at the other end of the tunnel is not another train!
And, I have no doubt Congress will be able to handle the responsibilities of carrying out the dual tasks of approving Biden’s cabinet choices and impeachment proceedings. After all, two highly skilled, multi-tasking women hold the gavels in the house and senate! 😉
What a wonderful community! So many excellent ideas! This is what's great about America.
Jeff Cartwright's slogan "We the People - ALL of us this time" needs to go viral -- memes, t-shirts, bumper stickers, bill boards, TV ads, etc. I see the iconic Uncle Sam surrounded by faces of every shape and color.
Who's a graphic artist? Who has the time? Perhaps funds raised can support a cause?
Not too long ago, a FB friend posted that she finally understood "We the People" means all people. More than a few of her friends had to remind her that when written, the phrase referred only to white men who owned land. As a 3rd gen Mexican-American woman, I'm grateful that "We the People" has grown to include others; but there's still more room to grow.
I read opposing views from mine in an attempt to understand the misinformation being shared. I watched a video on Oann.com which stated the proof of election fraud is growing and cited the usual “dead people voting, election numbers not adding up with numbers of registered voters, more young people...ad nauseum” raising questions by those reading this insanity. Has any public, nonpartisan site literally taken and listed these raised concerns to systematically address them? We all know that those seeking proof of “fraud” truly believe the election was rigged and the division is actually appearing to escalate. Comments about “Corruptocrats” (Democrats OR non-Trumper Republicans) who are focused on 1/6 to deflect from the “blatant election fraud” accompanied by “we must fight” are getting more persistent, not less. We all know humans tend to surround themselves with people/news/resources that support their views and in this era of social media targeting, they (we) get fed more of the same. Even if such a site was available, they wouldn’t frequent it. “The Cult of Trump” (Dr. Steven Hassan) addresses this reality. I wish there was an Easy Button to push here. Sigh.
As we all seem to hold our breath waiting for next Wed or for the next shoe to drop or both we need to remember something that many of us, my self included at times, seem to perpetuate. The MAGA people are not all bubbas or gun-toting women. Sadly many of them are well-educated and well-spoken individuals who have gone down the rabbit hole of trumpism for whatever reason. We fashion our changes at our own peril if we do not take that into account and work tirelessly to overcome that mindset.
I don't mean to completely jump the track, but I quickly read an article today discussing Trump's move and it mentioned something about gathering his "Library". Say What? We know he didn't read, so what would be in a President Trump Library?