October 8, 2020
I’m going to be brief tonight, folks, but here are the main stories I'm watching:
On October 8, 2020, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, appears to be melting down. Over the course of the day, he has called for the imprisonment of his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, as well as his own predecessor, President Barack Obama, and called Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris a “monster” and a “communist.”
This morning, he announced that he would not take part in the planned October 15 town hall debate if it were turned into an on-line event. But then, after Biden said he was willing to postpone the debate so Trump could take part, said he would participate in another debate on October 22.
He released a video addressed to seniors, who are leaving him in droves, calling them "my favorite people in the world," and speculated that he could continue to hold rallies as early as this weekend, before his quarantine period is over. He called into the Fox News Channel twice, ranting. Of his bout with coronavirus, he said: “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young.”
He is erratic enough that tomorrow, the House will begin to consider a bill seeking to enforce the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, designed to provide an exit ramp for a president who is experiencing physical or mental impairments that make him unable to lead the nation. The bill, advanced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will not pass, but it will keep focus on what seems to be the president’s precarious mental state.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was supposed to go to Indiana to vote tomorrow, after campaigning in Arizona, has cancelled his scheduled events and is headed back to Washington, D. C.
Everything emerging from the White House today is murky and confused, but there is one event that is crystal clear: the FBI announced today it has stopped a terrorist plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and put her “on trial” for treason. Six men have been charged in the plot, and are now facing life in prison if convicted. Another seven have been charged with planning to storm the state capitol building and start a civil war. They face up to 20 years in prison.
This afternoon, Whitmer called out Trump for refusing to denounce such domestic terrorists. At last week’s debate with Biden, Trump told the white supremacist neo-fascist Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by.” In April, after Whitmer shut down the state to combat coronavirus, Trump tweeted: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and at least three of the thirteen men now charged were among those who entered the state’s senate chamber with guns on April 30 to protest Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.
Tonight, rather than express sympathy with Whitmer or denounce the terrorists, Trump attacked Whitmer on Twitter. Attorney General William Barr, who has been out of the public eye since last the coronavirus super spreader event at the White House Rose Garden in honor of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, has not commented.
Many people are grateful for the day you were born and all in your life that has helped you become who you are today. I hope you derive immense satisfaction for the incredible ways in which you make this world a better place.
A comment on your freewheeling birthday chat ... you observed that Lenin, Mussolini, James Henry Hammond, Senator Mike Lee, etc., all have a common thread that democracy is dangerous and that people need someone or some group to lead them. You mentioned the challenge of why people vote against their own self interest ... how to make progress when people don't "come along".
You did not offer a solution ... and perhaps as a historian, that is not your role. Nevertheless, I think we do need to find our way to a solution ... and I view the Nordic social democratic systems as systems to help guide us. What is important is what the Federal Government "Country Study" series observed regarding Finland:
" ... the social security system was an outgrowth of the traditional Nordic belief that the state was not inherently hostile to the well-being of its citizens, but could intervene benevolently on their behalf. According to some social historians, the basis of this belief was a relatively benign history that had allowed the gradual emergence of a free and independent peasantry in the Nordic countries and had curtailed the dominance of the nobility and the subsequent formation of a powerful right wing."
Interesting to contemplate this regarding the news today. What a concept, that government could be "of the people, by the people, for the people" ... the Nordic countries with their basis of public health, public education, partnership among labor, employers, and government ... seem to be much more "democratic" than us, yet because of their parliamentary systems are "republics" because each district is about 30 thousand people and there are no massive marketing campaigns to influence millions of votes by (negative) ads.
The Finnish writer Anu Partanen has an interesting book and several interesting articles on the topic of correcting the misinformed idea that the Nordic countries are not capitalist; an excellent article is her NY Times Sunday Review article from last December ... "Finland is a Capitalist Paradise" ... in large part because citizens are supported in their education, healthcare, etc. because people and corporations pay taxes for services to make a more free and equal society.
Perhaps a review from you as a historian on why this country seems so opposed to the sentiment of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization". We as a country seem to hate taxes so much that we fail to support basic services or unlike the Nordic countries where everyone is entitled (to healthcare, education, etc.) we focus on providing benefits to citizens as a form of public charity and consider those needing public services as "unworthy" or "lessor" people. This sentiment does not exist in Nordic countries because everyone is entitled ... benefits are universal, government and society has an interest in supporting people, helping them to be free to achieve what they may be able to accomplish.
Back to my question to you regarding a solution to the problem of people voting against their self interest ... perhaps this is part of the cultural difference between the Nordic countries where there is much focus and interest on working together instead of rugged individualism ... ???