Democrats won the White House and a (tenuous) Senate majority thanks to runoff victories in Georgia. In both cases, it would probably be more accurate to say Donald Trump singlehandedly lost the White House and the GOP majority in the Senate. Beyond that, the Democratic Party’s performance in 2020 was almost shockingly poor.
Another shockingly poor aspect of the Democratic Party’s performance of late is leadership at the state level. The Democratic governors of the biggest, most reliably blue states are an especially sordid cast of characters. Nevertheless, they are an appropriate reflection of the party’s character.
The following five white dudes have received more votes than almost any other Democratic politician over the past four years. They represent almost 90 million Americans and are significantly more consequential than their grandstanding colleagues in Congress. They are the Democratic Party in 2021, and they’re doing a heckuva job.
California: Gavin Newsom
The governor is likely to face a recall after Newsom’s opponents appeared to gather the more than 1.4 million signatures required to place the measure on the ballot. Proponents of the recall point to the governor’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which involved some of the most onerous lockdown restrictions in the country, and widespread dysfunction in the early stages of the vaccine rollout.
Earlier this week, Newsom attempted to identify with California parents enduring the “brutal” difficulties of virtual learning as many of the state’s schools remain closed. Newsom told CNN’s Jake Tapper he has been “living through Zoom school,” even though his own children returned to in-person learning at their Sacramento private school nearly five months ago.
Newsom has repeatedly come under fire for flouting his own COVID-related guidelines. In November, the governor attended a maskless birthday bash for a longtime lobbyist friend at a posh Napa Valley restaurant. Around the same time, he blamed the state’s rising caseload on residents “letting their guard down” by “taking their masks off” and gathering “outside of their household cohorts.”
Last month, Newsom did not wear a mask while taking part in an indoor bill-singing ceremony at a Sacramento restaurant still banned from serving patrons indoors. He is, perhaps most notably, the ex-husband of Kimberly Guilfoyle, paramour of Donald Trump Jr.
New York: Andrew Cuomo
Where to start? Democrats love political dynasties. The Cuomo family has governed New York for 22 of the last 38 years. Andrew Cuomo would like to do what his father couldn’t by winning a fourth term as governor, but first he’ll have to stay in office long enough to stand for reelection in 2022.
Cuomo is under fire on multiple fronts. State officials are investigating his administration’s deliberate undercounting of COVID-related nursing home deaths in the state, as well as its controversial policy directing nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients into their care.
Cuomo, aka the “Luv Guv,” is also being investigated for sexual harassment after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior. He hired Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer to lead his legal defense. He has a longstanding reputation for fostering a toxic workplace environment and for bullying just about everyone who crosses his path. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) are among those calling on Cuomo to resign.
All of this is taking place just months after mainstream journalists (and other Democrats) elevated Cuomo to celebrity status based on his PowerPoint presentations in the early days of the pandemic. He published a book on leadership, won an Emmy Award, and at one point was considered the frontrunner to secure the Democratic nomination for president in the event of a Biden brain malfunction.
Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds of New York Democrats continue to support him, according to a recent poll.
Illinois: J.B. Pritzker
Who better to lead the nation’s third-largest reliably blue state than a multibillionaire scion of a Big Hotel? Before becoming governor in 2019, Pritzker (net worth: $3.5 billion) served as national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s first failed presidential campaign in 2008 and led a special innovation council at the behest of Rahm Emanuel, the controversial former mayor of Chicago.
During his campaign for governor, Pritzker was excoriated for removing all the toilets from his second Chicago mansion to avoid hefty property taxes by having the residence declared “uninhabitable.” Federal investigators are currently looking into whether his actions constituted tax fraud. He is at risk of becoming the seventh Illinois governor to be charged with a crime during or after his time in office.
Pritzker’s Democratic colleague, Mike Madigan, recently ended his 36-year tenure as Illinois speaker of the house amid allegations he accepted bribes and favors from ComEd, the state’s largest utility.
New Jersey: Phil Murphy
Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who previously served as finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, has presided over the worst COVID-related death rate in the country. (Cuomo is a close second.) His controversial immigration policies—establishing New Jersey as a “sanctuary” state, providing college tuition and legal support to undocumented immigrants—sparked a recall effort that ultimately failed in 2020.
Murphy led the Goldman Sachs Asia office in the late 1990s, when the firm was raking in profits from a shoe manufacturer notorious for inhumane labor practices. He compared his role at the “elite” firm to that of a Marine serving in combat. Most damningly of all, Murphy has served on the board of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Virginia: Ralph Northam
It’s been more than a year since Northam apologized for appearing in a medical school yearbook photo wearing either a blackface costume or a Ku Klux Klan robe—he did not specify which. During the first press conference after the photo surfaced, Northam also acknowledged darkening his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume at a dance competition. His poor wife had to stop him from showcasing his “moonwalk” in response to a reporter’s question.
Nevertheless, he’s still the governor. That is mostly due to the fact that the person who would have succeeded him, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D., Va.), has been credibly accused of sexual assault. Fairfax didn’t lose his job, either. In fact, he’s running for governor. It’s no wonder Cuomo thinks he can simply run out the clock and avoid facing consequences for his actions.
As inaugural speeches go, Joe Biden‘s will be remembered (if at all) for its forgettability. Its best line was borrowed. It lacked the soaring rhetoric of a Reagan, Roosevelt or Kennedy calling us to search within ourselves to find the strength to make America the nation most of us believe it can be. It was, instead, as workmanlike and pedestrian as the man who gave it.
In and of itself, this is not an especially bad thing. Biden’s reputation as an orator was irreparably damaged by the plagiarism scandal that destroyed the then-senator’s 1987 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. After four years of flash and sass, the American people may be ready for a president who operates at a consistently lower frequency.
Trump fatigue will only get Biden so far. He’s going to have to produce, and quickly, to show the American people their decision to change horses midstream was the right one. So far, he’s not doing it. His heavy reliance on executive orders to set policy is rankling the remaining constitutionalists within his own party who upbraided his immediate predecessor for doing what the new president himself once referred to as dictatorial. Through executive orders he’s killed jobs, reapplied the heavy hand of federal regulation and readopted radical theories that keep the nation divided into camps. So much for the unity he supposedly called for in his address.
But was he really calling for unity? If Trump was the polarizer, as the conventional wisdom has accepted, then Biden is the unifier whose main job is to bring America together at a time when our differences threaten to rip the very fabric of our democracy apart—at least, this is how the folks on MSNBC and CNN and at The New York Times portray it.
And that’s the tack Biden took in his maiden presidential address. The need to bring the country together, addressing the problems as he defined them would require “that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
Biden used that word 11 times in the speech—mostly erroneously. His repeated calls for unity were actually appeals for uniformity which, as any student of democracy will tell you, is among the most undemocratic things that can be found anywhere on Earth. The absence of dissent, the absolute sameness of opinion and direction, is deadly to truth, to scientific inquiry, to progress, to entrepreneurship and to liberty itself.
Biden isn’t alone among the Left and progressives, either in his desire for uniformity or his willingness to disguise it in more noble terms. For years now there’s been a concerted effort to push conservative voices out of the public square. What started on college campuses has spread to the business community, to social media and to the national conversation itself. Progressives believe their analysis of what the problems are and where they came from is conclusive—while efforts to dispute those conclusions are not only disharmonious but dangerous to everyone.
It’s not enough for large groups of people to be woke. Those who are not must be, in the minds of progressives, still asleep. How else does one process the calls from prominent persons for the “deprogramming” of Trump supporters and the suppression by Big Tech of what it all too easily and without basis labels misleading information?
The survival of the American system depends on room continually being made for rigorous, civil, constructive debate, even over topics people find unpleasant. Yes, we must all come together to fight the evils that exist—as Mr. Biden called for us to do in his speech—but who gets to pick what those evils are? This is not an anodyne question. The one who takes it upon himself to define the terms and identify the problems has the advantage when it comes to proposing the solutions.
The sense of oneness Mr. Biden invoked in his calls for “unity” may be benign rather than threatening if he’s leaving room for a broad diversity of opinions and approaches to confronting “the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.” If he’s not—and it’s clear that important leaders in his party and the movement he leads are not—then the nation’s political polarization will continue at an accelerated pace.
America is a big place with room for the big ideas that will see us through our current conflicts. Rather than focus on unity or uniformity, Mr. Biden would do better to approach the challenges before him from the perspective that he needs to build a consensus and not simply expect people to fall in line behind him. There needs to be space for lots of voices—not just his.
With safe and effective vaccines starting to be distributed, the public can see light at the end of the very long and dark COVID-19 tunnel. Not so fast, our moral betters are starting to say.
In recent days, as people start to benefit from the modern medical miracle of a vaccine developed within a year, so-called experts are lining up to warn people against thinking that they can begin to resume normal activity soon.
“Just because you get vaccinated with that second dose does not mean you should be participating in things like traveling in the middle of an out-of-control pandemic or that you’re liberated from masks,” Vin Gupta, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said on MSNBC. “Everything still applies until all of us hit the two-dose regimen, and we don’t think that’s going to happen until June/July.”
Similar warnings are starting to proliferate in the scaremongering news media.
Even now, many of the restrictions on activity are arbitrary, and often, the most sanctimonious leaders are the ones caught abusing their own draconian measures. Schools remain closed in much of the country despite a mountain of evidence showing that children have low odds of getting seriously ill or widely spreading the virus, and that remote learning is having a devastating impact on educational and emotional development, particularly among the least privileged.
To be clear, there is no doubt that we are now in a difficult stage of the pandemic, with outbreaks throughout the nation and a daily death toll of around 3,000 people. It is conceivable that we’ll end up with a half-million COVID-19 deaths by the time vaccination has become widespread.
But we will be in a much different place a few months from now. Based on the commitments already made and the expected speed of distribution, it is anticipated that roughly 100 million members of the public will be able to be vaccinated in this country by the end of March. That should be more than enough to offer protection to the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
There are about 50 million people aged 65 years and older, and that group has accounted for about 80% of coronavirus deaths. So, not only should there be enough doses to vaccinate everybody in this group as well as medical workers in the coming months, but there will still be tens of millions of more doses available to administer to those under 65 who have some sort of health condition that leaves them more vulnerable to the disease.
On top of that, there are tens of millions of people who have already had COVID-19, and over a million a week are getting it. That means in addition to the 100 million vaccinated by spring, there will be millions of others who have developed antibodies from having survived the virus.
By the end of March, the worst of winter will be over, and most parts of the country will start to see warmer weather.
None of this means COVID-19 will be eradicated or that we will have achieved herd immunity. But it does mean that, barring any setbacks in vaccination, the virus should cease by April to be the danger it was when the whole country was shut down.
If we flashback to March, the original justification for draconian lockdown orders was that it was necessary to flatten the infection curve so there wasn’t a huge spike at any given time sufficient to overwhelm the medical system. Severe restrictions persisted well beyond that, and the justification was that the disease still posed too much risk to older and vulnerable populations.
If the older and vulnerable are vaccinated by the spring, however, there is absolutely zero reason to justify maintaining public restrictions until everybody gets vaccinated, a process that could spill into the fall or later.
If you take 100 million of the most vulnerable people out of the equation, the fatality rate will plunge, and the virus will start to resemble the seasonal flu in its effects, which we endure without shutdowns.
Political leaders keep shifting the goal posts on COVID-19. It was about flattening the curve. It was about slowing the spread. It was about protecting the most vulnerable. Now that we have a vaccine that carries the promise of protecting the most vulnerable within months, the goal post must not be allowed to shift again to universal vaccination.
As of Sunday, most Californians are under strict stay-at-home orders. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) lockdown shutters businesses, bars and cultural centers; makes restaurants takeout-only; and sends religious services outdoors. Gatherings with people in other households are banned — through Christmas.
That’s a lot for authorities to ask — especially when they appear so out of touch with the people they’re trying to govern.
Many residents are furious over being asked to make sacrifices that state and local officials themselves won’t. Newsom is by now notorious for his minimum $350-a-plate meal at the ultra-elite French Laundry in violation of his own guidance to Californians, exacerbated by his lieclaiming the meal followed outdoor distancing policies.
The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, had her own coronavirus-noncompliant dinner at the same tony venue. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was spotted dining alfresco at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica not long after voting to ban outdoor dining for her 12 million fellow Angelenos. San Jose’s mayor had to apologize after traveling to his parents’ house for a Thanksgiving dinner in violation of state requirements. When five state lawmakers were busteddining out in Sacramento this week by a reporter, one asked, “Can we not have dinner?” before pulling his mask out of his pocket.
Why are these officials so flagrantly violating rules they expect their own voters to follow? Is it arrogance? Delusion? Indifference? All of the above?
Perhaps. But I have another theory: The tone-deafness is what comes from living in a bubble where political competition is scant. In California, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1. Only two Republicans have won statewide office since 2000. Newsom, Breed and Kuehl received 62 percent, 71 percent and 76 percent of the vote, respectively, in their last races.
In other words, it is precisely because California is so heavily Democratic that Democratic officials don’t feel the need to be responsive to their constituents. But there is mounting evidence that even in this one-party state, voters are no longer unquestioningly swallowing what their leadership is feeding them.
In the case of the pandemic crackdown, residents are mounting resistance to lawmakers’ hypocrisy. One county plans to challenge Newsom’s covid-19 policies in court. Cities are exploring forming their own public health departments to avoid county-level restrictions. Sheriffs are refusing to enforce state curfews. Business owners are planning open rebellion.
This year’s ballot initiatives, too, should raise alarms, as measures that Democratic tail winds should ordinarily have swept to victory instead went down to surprising defeat. One was Proposition 15, which sought to hike commercial property taxes, ostensibly to fund public schools (the state’s teachers’ union spent $20 million trying to push the measure through). Proposition 16, meanwhile, would have reinstated the use of affirmative action in California public university admissions and public sector hiring.
Both measures enjoyed overwhelming support from progressive activists, state Democratic elected officials and Newsom. And both should have benefited from anti-Trump turnout. But Prop. 15 received nearly 2.9 million fewer votes statewide than President-elect Joe Biden did. Prop. 16 trailed Biden by almost 3.9 million votes.
Newsom and state Democratic leaders were also embarrassed by Proposition 22. In September 2019, Assembly Bill 5 — a law mandating that companies treat “gig workers,” such as Uber and Lyft drivers, like full-time employees — passed easily in the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature, with a 29-11 vote in the state Senate and a 61-16 vote in the Assembly. The measure was eagerly signed into law by Newsom. Then Prop. 22 took the matter to voters, who decisively rejected their Democratic overlords — 59 percent to 41 percent.
These measures failed, in part, because their Democratic champions were clueless about where voters actually were on the issues. Prop. 15, for example, rested its hopes on an ambitious media blitz featuring teachers railing against corporate loopholes that allegedly deny schools deserved money. But at a time when shuttered schools and substandard virtual learning are shortchanging millions of California kids, was a plea for sympathy for teachers’ unions a wise tactic?
These rebukes point to an unsettling phenomenon. Because relatively little is demanded of them, California’s elected leaders have an easy time getting elected, but haven’t yet mastered the part that comes after — leading.
Newsom, for example, was nurtured, educated and sent up the political ladder in a deep-blue range from Marin County to the southern end of Silicon Valley — coasting from one Democratic-friendly post to another, never having to develop shrewd professional and personal judgment. He and his fellow state and local lawmakers apparently still need to master the arts of convincing and persuading, of finding the right policies that appeal to broad coalitions, of being the role models they expect voters to follow.
In a few months, the embarrassments of failed ballot propositions will probably have faded. But in the case of the covid-19 resistance, Democratic officials’ alienation from their voters could prove deadly. If there’s a silver lining to the crisis, maybe it will be that it finally prompts complacent politicians such as Newsom to look beyond their own whims to what their voters actually want and need.
Considering the Supreme Court’s rejection of New York state’s restrictions on religious gatherings during the pandemic . . .
. . . and California governor Gavin Newsom’s dinner at The French Laundry, and the mayor of San Francisco dining in the very same restaurant the following night, and the Los Angeles County supervisor dining in a restaurant after voting to ban outdoor dining as well as indoor dining, and the mayor of Denver flying off to see family after telling residents to avoid unnecessary travel, andNancy Pelosi visiting a hair salon in violation of local restrictions, and the mayor of San Jose breaking his own restrictions by attending a big Thanksgiving dinner with multiple households present, and the mayor of Washington, D.C., attending a Biden victory party in Delaware after barring all nonessential interstate travel, and [insert all subsequent examples of politicians violating their own quarantine restrictions here] . . .
. . . maybe it’s time for governors and mayors to get out of the lockdown-by-decree business and get back into the recommendation business. Americans have been through a terrible ordeal of a year, and they’re not going to just stay home behind closed doors with Christmas and Hanukkah and New Year’s coming up. Clearly, these sweeping restrictions are far too strict, because otherwise elected officials wouldn’t be breaking their own rules all over the place.
The first vaccinations in the U.S. will start in about two weeks. Until the vaccine is widely available, we’ve got another month or two (or three?) of frequent handwashing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks when indoors, and maybe throw in taking some Vitamin D or other vitamins and supplements to keep our immune systems at tip-top shape. Americans aren’t going to stay away from restaurants or religious services entirely, so tell them to space the customers or worshippers out as much as they can and keep hand sanitizer plentiful and ubiquitous. Americans aren’t going to stay away from their elderly relatives entirely, so tell them to get tested before and try to minimize exposure until the gathering. Take the precautions that you can, where you can, when you can. This is not a perfect or risk-free system; perfect and risk-free systems don’t exist. As the Christmas carol goes:
Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow,
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
In short, mayors and governors, don’t ask your citizens to make any sacrifice that you’re not willing to make yourself.
Because if another bunch of fat-cat politicians try to decree that no one should get together for Christmas, and that everyone should stay out of restaurants and church and so on, the reaction from much of the public will be a metaphorical middle finger, and that reaction will be entirely deserved. Elected officials didn’t start this pandemic with a ton of trust and respect for their authority, and the worst among them have destroyed what was left in the past few weeks.
It’s not Trump supporters who are living in a fantasyland, but members of the corporate media who sense their power and influence waning.
With the end of Donald Trump’s presidency fast approaching, we’ve seen a surge of columns and posts asserting that Republicans and Trump supporters have lost touch with reality. After four years of marinating in “falsehoods” and “disinformation”—a term that really just means “information I don’t like”—Trump’s backers are all turned around, we’re told. They believe much that isn’t so.
David Brooks of The New York Times explains that these poor saps, most of whom, he says, are uneducated, uncredentialed people who don’t live in prosperous cities, have retreated to conspiracy theories to explain their misfortune and unhappiness. “People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers,” he writes. Trump, QAnon, and Alex Jones “rose up to give them those stories and provide that community.”
Over at The New Yorker, editor David Remnick ponders the grave costs of Trump’s “assault on the press and the truth,” asking how many COVID-19 victims “died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was ‘rigged.’ What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign?”
These are just representative samples, but across the mainstream commentariat the gist is all the same: if you support Trump, you’re likely a poor person who believes conspiracy theories and is dangerously disconnected from reality, partly because you resent successful people like Messrs. Brooks and Remnick. You live in a fantasyland because it assuages your feelings of inferiority, which are mostly justified. You’re paranoid because you’re powerless, and the alternate reality you’ve constructed for yourself gives you a sense of power and agency in a confusing, unsettled world.
But here’s the thing. Everything these media elites say about Trump supporters can more properly be said about media elites themselves. Who really has been living in a fantasyland these last four years? Is it the ordinary Americans—including a lot of educated, white-collar professionals—who voted for a president they felt would shake up the sclerotic status quo in Washington, or a press corps that perpetuated an actual conspiracy about Trump-Russia collusion for years?
It was Remnick’s New Yorker, after all, that published a serious-seeming essay in September 2018 that claimed Facebook had been weaponized by “Russian agents who wanted to sow political chaos and help Trump win” in the 2016 election—an effort, the author said, that had an “astonishing impact.” Never mind the preposterousness of claiming that a couple hundred thousand dollars in Facebook advertising had an “astonishing impact” on the outcome of the 2016 election, there has never been a shred of evidence that “Russian interference” changed or altered even a single vote in 2016.
A New Yorker staff writer named Evan Osnos wrote that article. Osnos won the National Book Award in 2014 and in 2015 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He’s won many other prizes and worked all over the world, and, just before the election, published a flattering book about former Vice President Joe Biden. Osnos is the sort of fellow Brooks has in mind when he talks about “professional members” of the “epistemic regime”—the people who know what’s real and tell us so, a job for which they are richly rewarded.
What else has this supposedly enlightened member of the epistemic elite told us? In June, he compared Trump’s White House, which had a temporary fence around it after Black Lives Matter protests turned into riots, to the Zhongnanhai, the seat of China’s communist government in Beijing, where “people are more accustomed than Americans are to the notion of leaders who live and work secluded from the public.”
Earlier that month, Osnos dashed off a post that described—falsely, as it turned out—protests in Lafayette Square on June 1 as “peaceful.” We all know, even if the media refused to report it, that the protesters were not at all peaceful, and in fact were hurling “bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at police.
This isn’t really about Osnos, his hackery notwithstanding, but about his professional class—a class that fervently believes much that isn’t so. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, members of Osnos’ class still believe that Trump got substantial help from Russia in 2016. They believe, still, that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian who might just destroy the republic. They believe, still, that the only reason tens of millions of Americans would support Trump is that they are racists or rubes, or both.
Osnos and Remnick and the rest of our media elites believe these things for the same reason Brooks thinks Trump supporters are conspiracy theory-addled suckers: they are becoming irrelevant, they are losing power and influence, their status as members of the epistemic regime is uncertain—indeed, their entire regime seems to be collapsing, and they know it.
It’s not too much to say, quoting Brooks, that “people in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers.”
So we will continue to see stories and commentary from the epistemic regime that soothe men like Brooks, Remnick, and Osnos, assuring them all is well, that credulous, mendacious Trump supporters have been put in their place, and that after a harrowing four years, all is once again as it should be.
In its first-of-its-kind “whole-of-DHS” Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides a comprehensive look at the major domestic threats to the American homeland. Among them, it cites: Cyber, Foreign Influence Activity, Economic Security, Terrorism, Transnational Criminal Organization, Illegal Immigration, and Natural Disasters.
Unfortunately, the majority of media has only focused on one subset of one of those threat categories – White Supremacists. Right-wing extremism is a serious and growing danger, as highlighted today by the FBI’s arrest of several “militia members” for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Governor.
However, the media ignores the DHS report’s concerns that this threat is also being exacerbated and fuelled by the violent racial chaos incited by the radical Left.
By exclusively and selectively highlighting one clause, in one line, in the 25-page report, the media made it appear this was the only threat in the entire report. Instead, it is only one part of a large range of domestic threats the report covers. More importantly, the media totally ignores DHS report’s concern over how recent anti-police and racial rioting may fuel and provide cover for violence in these other groups.
In context, the report states that “Ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups pose the most likely terrorist threat to the Homeland, with Domestic Violent Extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat.”
It then goes on to note that, “Among DVEs [Domestic Violent Extremists], racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”
The HTA continues by saying, “Spikes in other DVE threats probably will depend on political or social issues that often mobilize other ideological actors to violence, such as immigration, environmental, and police-related policy issues.”
This means that domestic extremists other than White Supremacists – such as Leftist environmental or pro-immigrant and anti-police extremists, could pose a greater threat, depending on circumstances.
To support its assessment on WSEs, DHS focuses on life-threatening homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) attacks in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 – a fairly limited timeframe and crime definition. Excluded from this are violent, yet, not immediately “life-threatening” incidents such as riots.
Of these past two years, the report says, “2019 was the most lethal year for domestic violent extremism in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.” According to the DHS data, Violent Extremists conducted 16 attacks, killing 48 people. Of those, “WSEs conducted half of all lethal attacks (8 of 16), resulting in the majority of deaths (39 of 48).”
While all killings are tragic, these numbers are far less dramatic considering that over 500 people have been murdered on the streets of Chicago so far this year.
Still, the threat is real, and should not be ignored.
What should also not be ignored are the next bullets in the report about how “Other racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists [other than White Supremacists] could seek to exploit concerns about social injustice issues to incite violence and exploit otherwise peaceful protests movements.”
This appears to refer to how the current wave of violent, unchecked Leftist BLM/Antifa racial and anti-police protests and riots are encouraging and inciting others to violence as well, while also being pushed by foreign state actors.
The HTA states:
ANOTHER MOTIVATING FORCE BEHIND DOMESTIC TERRORISM THAT ALSO POSES A THREAT TO THE HOMELAND IS ANTI-GOVERNMENT/ANTI-AUTHORITY VIOLENT EXTREMISM.
Yes, DHS rightly notes that a subgroup of American extremists, White Supremacists, pose a significant threat of lethal attacks in the U.S., but they are far from the only threat, as the media has portrayed.
Meanwhile, the media ignores DHS concerns about the significant role that current Leftist-incited chaos, rioting, and violence are playing in increasing all these threats.
Reporters love to play “Gotcha” with politicians. It’s in their DNA. A story about a politician caught doing something that conflicts with his or her platform is editorial gold. Sometimes.
What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. A conservative “family values” Republican caught in an affair or a self-described “pro-life” politician who is rumored to have paid for a girlfriend’s abortion becomes national news with remarkable speed. And it’s not just the politico involved who must deal with it. It becomes an issue in other races when fellow Republican candidates and officeholders are asked about it, as they invariably are.
The same is not true for Democrats. Exhibit A is the extramarital dalliance of the very married former U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards not only had an affair with a campaign aide but fathered a child out of wedlock. The rumors about all this were rampant—and relevant, considering how he made the strength of his marriage to his dying wife Elizabeth a centerpiece of his personal narrative. Yet no mainstream media outlet would go near the story until it broke in the National Enquirer and everyone had to cover it.
Admittedly, those running on the GOP platform who make themselves vulnerable to such charges generally deserve what they get. What’s odd—or at least worthy of comment—is how hard it is to call out Democrats who are caught committing economic hypocrisy.
Democrats who campaign on a platform urging more social spending and trumpeting their concern for the poor, but whose tax returns show they gave little to charity, have never had to deal with a media firestorm over the issue.
One good example of an economic hypocrite is businessman Tom Steyer, who made billions investing in oil and natural gas. He ran for president on an anti-oil and gas platform that heavily promoted renewable energy (after he’d made his money and was spending it freely) so he could prevent anyone from doing what he’d done in the future. If that sounds to you an awful lot like “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” you’re not wrong.
Steyer’s not the only Democrat with this problem. Candace Valenzuela, a Democrat running in Texas’ open 24th Congressional District, has attracted national interest because she’d be the first Afro-Latina in Congress if she wins. She’s made attacks on corporations and “corporate social interests” a central theme of her campaign, evading discussion of how she personally profited from the oil and gas industry thanks to the job her husband once held at a subsidiary of Caterpillar, one of the country’s largest manufacturing concerns.
Valenzuela’s positions on the environment and American energy production are to the left of even the Green New Deal. She’s on record opposing American fossil fuel production and calling for a stop to all oil and gas permitting. Not good for Texas, not good for Caterpillar, but good for her because the economic benefits she reaped from the oil and natural gas industry are already in the bank.
Valenzuela’s not the only Democrat whose positions are at odds with their personal economic narrative.
Arizona’s Tom O’Halleran, running for reelection in the state’s First Congressional District, likes to tout his work getting federal funding to clean up polluted uranium mines on land belonging to the Navajo Nation. Yet his family has bought, sold, and still owns thousands of shares in different mining companies, one of which abandoned more than 75 uranium mines on that same land. Is O’Halleran seeking tax dollars to clean up his own mess? One could argue he is.
Then there’s Rep. Gil Cisneros, who has for years been invested in and profited from “Big Pharma” but is running for reelection calling for lower prices for prescription drugs. And there’s a whole bunch of Democrats in the campaign finance reform and corporate social responsibility crowd who’ve broken their pledge to refuse corporate PAC dollars.
Somehow none of that rises to the level of interest in the hypocrisy shown when a “family-values” congressional Republican is accused of an affair with a staffer. And, when a similar case involving now-former California Democratic congresswoman Katie Hill came to light, it was a race to see who could find the best excuse for her behavior and the most effective way to shift blame (and the story) onto someone else.
As a matter of policy, economic hypocrisy is just as big an issue as those that arise in matters of personal conduct. It’s obvious to the people, at least when they know about it. It should be just as obvious to the press.
Leave it to Michael Barone to point out to us all what should be obvious: It’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are being hypocrites when it comes to filling the latest vacancy on the United States Supreme Court.
Up to now, all you’ve heard from the mouthpieces of the mainstream media and the Democratic Party is that, under rules established by the Republicans during the Obama administration, the Senate should not vote on President Donald Trump’s nomination of a judge to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this close to a presidential election.
This is wrong on many fronts. First, there is no such rule, at least none formally adopted by the Senate as part of its procedures. Second, any such rule would conflict with the president’s Article II authority in the Constitution to nominate members of the High Court. Third, the last time a nominee was confirmed close to an election when the presidency and Senate were controlled by different parties was in the late 19th century.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea. In this case, with the GOP and the presidency both in the hands of the Republicans, it is natural, even essential that both move to nominate and confirm a new Justice as quickly as possible. Leave it to Barone, who knows more than just about anyone else writing today about American politics that “Democrats are the ones being inconsistent.”
“If you think a president’s nominee is entitled to a vote from an opposition Senate, then a fortiori, you must think the nominee is entitled to a vote from the [president’s own] party’s Senate,” he wrote correctly. The hypocrites in this instance are every current Democrat in the U.S. Senate who demanded the GOP majority allow the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the High Court following the untimely death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Those like Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who demanded Garland get a vote and are now trying to find a way to block the Trump nominee—expected to be announced at 5 p.m. Saturday—are playing a desperate political game designed to convince their funders and their base that they’re on top of the situation.
There’s little they can do to stop the process from moving forward. That’s because former Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided to abolish the filibuster for judicial nominations below the level of the Supreme Court. That allowed Barack Obama and the Democrats to pack the nation’s second most important court—the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit—with judges who favored their view of the Constitution. Once in the majority, and to no one’s real surprise, the GOP went on to abolish the filibuster for nominees to the High Court as well.
The Democrats, whose frustration is causing them to lash out, are promising to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to upend Trump’s coming nomination. It’s almost certain they’ll find ways to slow its progress through the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, perhaps in hopes some last-minute bombshell might delay the vote until after the Nov. 3 election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has threatened to launch impeachment proceedings against the president if he moves forward—a further lowering of the bar her party will live to regret—while other members of the House are contemplating the introduction of legislation reducing the tenure of a Supreme Court Justice to 18 years.
That last idea would require a constitutional amendment, something its proponents seem not to have figured out. If they wanted to be clever, they could perhaps enact a law saying Justices could continue to serve but could no longer be paid after 18 years—which would be within Congress’s purview but would likely be ruled unconstitutional.
The most damaging threat, one that many Democrats have made, is the one that involves “packing the Court.” Fearful of losing decisions on controversial issues like abortion, health care, unionization, taxes and gun rights by 5-4 or 6-3 margins for at least the next few years, there are some calling for the size of the Court to be increased to twelve or sixteen members, which could be accomplished by a change in the statute and would not require a constitutional amendment.
Again, the hypocrisy of this proposal is staggering. Back in the 1990s, Republican House majority whip Tom DeLay proposed that the House take up the impeachment of several federal judges who had issued rulings that were, in his opinion and the opinion of others, outrageous. For this DeLay was slammed by the liberal press and by the Democrats who attempted to unduly influence the independence of the judiciary. Yet many of those who complained about that then are cheerleading, if silently, the talk of creating an insurmountable liberal bloc on the Supreme Court that will lock in as constitutional anything Democrats from Joe Biden to Bernie Sanders to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can come up with. If America ever does become a “banana republic,” as some liberals have charged it has become under President Trump, it will be because the progressives first took control of the Court by special means and not through the exercise of the democratic process.
Why politically correct institutions cave to Communist China
Last week a few sharp-eyed members of the audience for Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan noticed something ugly in the credits. The film’s producers thanked, among others, the publicity department of the “CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee” as well as the “Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security.” These are the same political and disciplinary institutions that oppress China’s Uighur minority. Disney cooperated with them without batting an eye.
But Disney is more than happy to call attention to human-rights abuses in the United States. Since George Floyd died in police custody earlier this year, the corporation and its subsidiaries, including ABC and ESPN, have issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter. The House of Mouse has reaffirmed its commitment to the ideology and practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Nor is Disney the only film studio to ignore repression in the People’s Republic of China while embracing the cause of social justice at home. They all do it. The question is why.
Part of the reason is parochialism. Americans just don’t care very much about what happens in other countries. Another motivation is profit. All companies desire access to the largest possible markets. Angering the Chinese Communist Party, or violating the tenets of political correctness, endangers the bottom line. Meanwhile the legitimacy of political, cultural, and economic institutions, including the corporation, has come into question. To ensure their survival, corporations must conform to the values and regulations of host societies and governments. That means playing nice with China, embracing “stakeholder capitalism,” and adopting the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi.
Selective indignation is not new. What’s striking about this latest version is its zones of prevalence. The sectors of the economy most wedded to the view that American society is systemically racist—entertainment, sports, media, tech—are the least concerned with the real and concrete injustices of the antidemocratic and hostile Chinese regime. This is the woke dialectic: dissent in America, acquiescence to China.
Just as people became aware of Mulan’s complicity in injustice, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promulgated a complicated set of ethnic, racial, and sexual quotas that films must meet in order to become eligible for the best picture Oscar. “The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is committed to building an antiracist, inclusive organization that will contextualize and challenge dominant narratives around cinema, and build authentic relationships with diverse communities,” read part of the statement announcing the rules. But the Academy is less interested in contextualizing and challenging the absence of civil and political rights elsewhere. In 2013 it was happy to accept $20 million from one of China’s largest multinationals.
The NBA is no different. Its front offices, coaches, and athletes are among the most progressive in the country. Social justice messages adorn players’ uniforms. “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the court. LeBron James has leveraged his celebrity to earn further political concessions from the league, including the transformation of arenas into polling places on Election Day. But James has also made embarrassing comments regarding the conflict between democracy and autocracy in Hong Kong. And the league itself carries the shameof having operated training facilities in Xinjiang.
The Washington Free Beacon has shown that the same newspapers that devote so much space to advancing America’s racial reckoning (and whose foreign desks often report on the foulness of China’s dictatorship) also accepted millions from the Chinese government to run propaganda. The same company, Alphabet, that earlier this year announced millions in donations to social justice nonprofits expressed no qualms in 2017 when it opened an AI research center in China.
In other words, the same businesses that promote the progressive reconstruction, radical reform, or transformation of the United States are intertwined with the revisionist great power that aims to replace the United States as global hegemon. This synthesis of the woke dialectic lends an additional meaning to the term “allyship.” And it is why champions of individual rights, equality under the law, due process, and pluralism stand athwart both political correctness at home and authoritarianism abroad.
The pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. This means something else big: Their hard opposition to school reopenings is politically devastating for Democrats.
Prominent Democrat politicians have started making huge concessions on reopening schools. Back in May, Democrats pounced after President Trump supported reopening. Despite the data finding precisely the opposite, it quickly became the Democrat-media complex line that opening schools this fall would be preposterously dangerous to children and teachers.
In July, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to put the city’s 1.1 million school kids back in schools half the week and “online learning” the rest of the week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a public fight with him, saying, “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the school in September, that would be reckless and negligent of that person.”
Then on Friday, Cuomo cleared schools to open this fall, just a few weeks after making uncertain noises about the prospect as teachers unions breathed down his neck. That same day, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s minority leader, joined the Democrat messaging reversal:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tucked the posture shift into a Saturday response to Trump’s latest executive orders, saying “these announcements do…nothing to reopen schools,” as if Democrats have been all along supporting school reopenings instead of the opposite. Just a few weeks ago, Pelosi was on TV bashing Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for encouraging school reopenings, saying, falsely, “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science and they ignore governance in order to make this happen.”
What gives? For one thing, New York’s richest people have fled during the lockdowns. If their kids’ tony public schools don’t offer personal instruction or look likely to maintain the chaos of rolling lockdown brownouts, those wealthy people have better choices. They can stay in their vacation houses or newly bought mansions in states that aren’t locked down. They can hire pod teachers or private schools.
And the longer they stay outside New York City and start to make friends and get used to a new place, the less likely they are to ever return. Cuomo is well aware of this.
“I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hamptons house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, ‘You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!’” Cuomo revealed in a recent news conference. “They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? ‘If I stay there, I’ll pay a lower income tax,’ because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge.”
Reopening means swimming against their anti-Trump base and teachers union donors’ full-court press to amp school funding and slash teacher duties. That means the below-surface financial and political pressure Cuomo, Pelosi, and Schumer are under to make this kind of a reversal must be huge. It’s likely coming from not only internal polling but also early information about just how many people have left New York and New York City, as well as interpersonal intelligence from their influential social circles.
This means three things. First, the pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. Second, Democrats’ hard opposition to school reopenings has been politically devastating. Third, all the push polls and media scaremongering promoting the idea that most parents shouldn’t and wouldn’t send their kids back to school have failed.
One of the most significant reasons it failed is that parents’ experience with online pandemic schooling was a horror show. Another is that private schools have clearly outpaced public schools’ response to coronavirus. That’s both in offering quality online instruction when forced to close, and in seeking to remain open as much and as safely as possible, all while teachers unions have been staging embarrassing tantrums over people on public payroll actually having to do their jobs to get paid, even though epidemiologists have noted “there is no recorded case worldwide of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil.”
Public schools have been so clearly shown up by private schools during the coronavirus panic that state and local officials have begun to target them specifically, and have carefully included them in all onerous government burdens on school reopenings, to reduce their embarrassment and bring private schools down to the public school level as much as possible.
The most prominent recent example is in Maryland, where a local bureaucrat in one of the nation’s richest counties specifically banned private schools from safely teaching children in person, and is now battling with the state’s Republican governor over the edict. In North Carolina, many private schools are offering safe, face-to-face, five-day instruction, while most public schools are not.
Part of this is just that government bureaucrats hate individuals making their own decisions based on their own circumstances (a major reason for mask mandates, by the way). But also they’re scared because the coronavirus panic is expanding the massive fault lines inside public schooling. And public schools are a feeder system for Democrat support.
Before coronavirus hit, a near-majority of parents already thought a private school would be better for their kids than public school. People really are not happy with public education. Mostly they do it because they think it’s cheap.
But politicians’ handling of coronavirus has shown that public education is actually very expensive. The instability, the mismanagement, the lying, the public manipulation, all of it has tipped many people’s latent dissatisfaction with public schooling into open dissatisfaction. It’s a catalyst. Now many more people have decided to get their kids out of there, either by homeschooling, moving school districts, forming “pandemic pods,” or finally trying a private school.
Like all the rich people leaving locked-down locales, parents removing kids from locked-down public schools have scared public officials. If just 10 percent of public-school kids homeschool or join a private school for two years, that is a watershed moment for the social undercurrent of animosity towards public schools. That is especially true in the government funding era we’re entering, in which government debt and health and pension promises are set to gobble up education dollars faster than ever, a dynamic that was already ruinous before it was accelerated further by the coronavirus.
This is dangerous to Democrats’ political dominance because the education system tilts voters their way through cultural Marxism, and because public education is a huge source of Democrat campaign volunteers and funds. Now Democrats have detached people from their conveyor belt. The consequences will be huge.
Reopening public schools the way Democrats are doing is not going to stave off this tsunami, either. New York City’s “reopening,” for example, includes several days per week of distasteful online instruction, as well as a rule that a school will close for two weeks any time two inmates test positive for COVID. That’s a recipe for endless school brownouts that will drive parents and kids nuts. Humans simply can’t live under this manufactured instability, by the pen and phone of whatever self-appointed petty little dictators feel like changing today.
Democrats are trying to have it both ways. They’ve learned that parents are not going to put up with putting school indefinitely on hold when everything from swimming to climbing stairs is more dangerous to children. But they also want to maintain the fiction that coronavirus is an emergency situation that requires tossing trillions of dollars in deficit funding out of helicopters, keeping people cooped up and restive as an election nears, and purposefully choking the nation’s best economy since before Barack Obama got his hands on it.
Democrats are their own worst enemy. The problem is, the rest of us are so often their collateral damage.
Politicians and public-health authorities reveal their hypocrisy — and reduce the chances of the public taking them seriously again.
The universal lockdown of the country following the COVID-19 outbreak raised tensions through every segment of American society. The social and economic disruptions sparked protests all over the country, most famously in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These protests were quickly denounced by media personalities, medical experts, and politicians who claimed that the risk of spreading the virus made it foolish to gather in such ways.
Consider Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said that those protests were risking the health of the people of her state, that they “make it likelier that we are going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” and that anyone with a platform should encourage others to “do the right thing” and remain home. Or consider Deborah Birx, the lead doctor on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, who said: “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.”
Such concerns were completely reasonable. The nation had just passed the peak of the virus surge in hot spots such as New York and Michigan, and fear of further spread was legitimate. The entire scientific logic for the lockdowns, after all, was to suppress the peak of the surge of the disease, in hopes that our health-care system would have time to learn and adapt.
However, everything changed on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed. The outrage over this cruel killing by an officer of the state inflamed the passions of the country, sparking protests, violence, and looting, in the Twin Cities and across the United States. People surged onto the streets, primarily peacefully, to display their full displeasure, fear, anguish, and sorrow.
This time, the response from national pundits and experts to the protest movement was starkly different. Dan Diamond’s excellent article in Politico provides a full accounting of how the medical community has responded to these protests. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, admitted that physicians were grappling with conflict between the science, and their emotions:
“It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance.” . . . Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus. . . . “At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans.”
“Disorienting” is a very kind way to paint the shift from outright disgust and hatred that many Americans faced when they challenged the logic of the lockdowns to the ongoing celebration of the current protests. Don’t forget just how vitriolic the earlier outrage was: On social media, people were outright called murderers and terrorists; numerous governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, literally said people would die because of those protests; and media personalities behaved even worse, with Julia Ioffe of GQ calling the protesters selfish and demanding they stay home originally, and Soledad O’Brien calling Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel a “Grandma Killer.”
Suddenly, with the eruption of protests in the name of the murder of George Floyd, those concerns conveniently disappeared. Some former critics, such as Ioffe, have reversed their positions on mass gatherings and openly support them. Others remain silent, demonstrating their cowardice by barely mentioning the threat of the coronavirus to the public at large as thousands of people congregate in protest.
Consider, again, Governor Whitmer of Michigan. Whitmer has been very slow to reduce restrictions on the lockdowns. She and her attorney general, Dana Nessel, famously pursued a barber in the city of Owosso, Mich., who refused to close during the pandemic; the barber has since won his case in court. Whitmer has continued demanding strict masking and social-distancing rules for everyone in the state well into June. Yet when the BLM protests arrived in metropolitan Detroit on June 4, Whitmer was there to greet them. She wore a mask but rejected all social-distancing regulations, marching side-by-side with protesters. Whitmer was more than happy to violate her own executive orders.
Such hypocrisy is not unusual from journalists, or even politicians. However, a much more serious ethical and professional issue arises when doctors and scientists show such blatant hypocritical bias. As scientists, we have sworn to the public that our recommendations would depend on the science and the data, and reject the whims of emotion and personal opinion.
Sadly, this has not been the case. Former head of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden tweeted that he was concerned about losing the community trust by having physicians voice the risks of the virus to protesters. However, back on May 3, he stated, without any fear, “We’re not just staying home in the magical belief that the virus is going to go away. It won’t. Staying home gives us the opportunity to strengthen our health-care and public-health systems.”
Did the virus change in the last month in ways that staying home now doesn’t weaken our system? Frieden is now making the same arguments that lockdown opponents were making a month earlier! In a tweet on June 2, Frieden stated: “The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health.”
The facts and reality are that the science and data have not substantially changed. We don’t have a good quantification of the risk of viral spread outdoors: the common consensus is the risk is low, but that consensus existed a month earlier as well, and no conclusive, landmark studies have emerged. Nothing about our fundamental understanding of the disease has changed, but Frieden has done a 180-degree reversal of his position regardless.
Many physicians and scientists have likewise let their partisan leanings overshadow the science. An epidemiologist on Twitter stated: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” What absurd scientific standards were used to make that remarkable statement?
The short answer is: none. Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed a total of 7,666 people, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. That data shows that relative to their share of the general population, blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be killed by police; since 2015, 1,252 African Americans have been shot and killed by police, using the Washington Post’s database. These are obviously horrific numbers, and we should stipulate that no citizen of the United States should be complacent about these obvious abuses.
But science shouldn’t deal with emotion or fundamentals. It deals with facts and data. And the facts are these: As of May 26, 2020 (the last date for which race-based data is fully available), the APMResearch Lab documented a total of approximately 88,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. Of those, 21,878 were African-American. African Americans were shown to die of the coronavirus 2.4 times as often as whites, and 2.2 times as often as Hispanics and Asians. To put that into better perspective, 1 in 1850 black Americans in the entire country perished, versus 1 in 4400 white Americans. African Americans represent 13 percent of all Americans, but have suffered 25 percent of all viral deaths.
These are incredible, and tragic, numbers. And medical science can give us some clues as to the reason for the disproportionate effect. African Americans are less likely to have family physicians, are more likely to have co-morbidities that lead to high risk of complications with coronavirus, and are more likely to use mass-transit systems. Additionally, more African Americans live in multi-generational homes, with possibility of infection from their children and grandchildren. All of these factors likely made them far more susceptible to the disease than the average American. But ultimately what this shows is that the coronavirus is somewhere in the range of 200 to 300 times more deadly than all of the police in the entire country — as a conservative estimate.
To be sure, reducing this complex issue to basic numbers fails to capture the complexities of dealing with racism in our society. These are emotional issues that cannot be distilled scientifically. It is perfectly reasonable for the public to deal with these issues by contemplating the larger context of society, racism, and historical connotations.
But scientists and physicians are supposed to be immune to political or emotional whims. Too many are showing themselves not to be. And the dangers extend beyond hypocrisy. Distrust between the public and the medical community makes it harder for the public to make sacrifices in the name of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians fundamentally rely on trust; the doctor–patient relationship is one of the fundamental philosophical cornerstones in medicine. So, too, do public-health officials, whose recommendations can be disruptive to ordinary people’s lives.
It took a Herculean effort to institute the lockdowns. But many experts have totally refused to speak up about the risk of these protests to cause future surges of the disease, while they were violently opposing similar, smaller protests a few weeks ago. The narrative is clear: They are willing to stand up for the science, as long as it is politically and emotionally convenient.
Not all experts have stayed silent about the risks that persist to this day. Anthony Fauci has remained consistent in warning about the likely consequences of mass gatherings. But, from the beginning, plenty of people in the public-health and medical communities have expected ordinary Americans to listen to their recommendations while failing to admit their own scientific and knowledge limitations. In a piece in April, I stated that we would need sympathy and empathy nationwide to get through this crisis. We should now add humility to the list as well.
Students of history will no doubt recall how Marie Antoinette, when told the French people were starving and asking for bread, supposedly said: “Let them eat cake.” It is a tale, albeit possibly apocryphal, that has come to symbolize unfeeling leadership in a time of crisis that leads to revolution.
The political elites in Washington would do well to remember the story, especially now. The Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses weather the economic consequences of the COVID-19 shutdown has run out of money, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lackeys like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are blocking Congress from appropriating additional funds, while people from all walks of life are facing ruin.
Pelosi seems to regard this crisis as an opportunity to force the Republicans to agree to the adoption of her left-wing agenda. And, as she has already shown once during the COVID-19 crisis, she is willing to make struggling Americans wait until she gets her way.
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Consider what she wants in exchange for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. Among her demands is a bailout of the U.S. Postal Service, designed to help the Democrats’ long-held desire for federal elections conducted by mail be made a reality. She and her party have stated that, as far as they are concerned, voter fraud is a figment of the collective conservative imagination. It’s not, as journalist John Fund has amply demonstrated in his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.
But this isn’t the only wrench Pelosi has tried to throw into the recovery. She and her friends have tried to drop into the stimulus packages, sometimes successfully, measures that would allow unions to organize worksites without companies being able to show why that might be disadvantageous for workers, require airlines to adhere to new emissions requirements, mandate racial and gender diversity on corporate boards and give $25 million in emergency funding to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Looking over that list, and there’s lots more than could be on it, it’s as though Donald Trump didn’t win the election. Pelosi’s behaving like her party and its agenda are what carried the day in 2016, and she’s determined to cram it down our throats, consequences be damned. Some might call that leadership, but it’s more like tyranny.
Notice as well how the Republicans—who have their own long list of wants, including the abolition of the Davis-Bacon Act, a national “right to work” law, the retroactive indexation of capital gains to remove inflation from the calculation of what constitutes a gain, the repeal of Obamacare, tort reform and an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood—aren’t using the coronavirus crisis to push these issues on the American people. They’re focused on keeping the economic liquid and keeping businesses from failing.
None of this seems to be getting through to the American people. Hopefully, they’ll catch on, thanks to Pelosi’s considerable hubris, which, when she’s winning, causes her to misstep badly—as she did the other night, while she was being interviewed by James Cordon on his late-night CBS talk show.
Standing in front of shiny, expensive appliances, Pelosi showed off her ample supply of designer ice cream, gelato and other frozen treats. Perhaps she thought that sharing her social distancing diet would make her relatable, but what it showed is how far out of touch she is. She’s buying ice cream by mail and restocking her supply for Easter when many Americans can’t even find a decent roll of toilet tissue. It’s her version of “Let them eat cake,” and hopefully she’ll be made to pay the price for her insensitivity later this year.
As the nation edges toward full-blown panic over the spread of the coronavirus, there are people and institutions upon whom we depend for leadership and information who should be ashamed of themselves for feeding it. Their response, loaded as it has been with worst-case scenarios and predictions of dire consequences, only compounds the fear many Americans are now experiencing.
So far, the virus has killed more than 6,500 worldwide, according to Monday’s report from the World Health Organization, and there have been about 165,000 confirmed cases. There are likely many more that are unconfirmed, as people can be ill and not show any symptoms. A large study in China found that more than 80 percent of confirmed cases had fairly mild symptoms, and under 5 percent of cases were critical.
That’s insufficient reason for rational people to panic. “Caution” should be the word of the moment. Thought leaders, politicians and medical professionals should be doing their best to prepare people for what might happen rather than pronouncing our doom—and attacking the president, as we saw in Sunday night’s debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, neither of whom had anything positive to say about the steps taken by the administration thus far.
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President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday that could free up $50 billion to help fight the virus. On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised his response to the outbreak in the state, as Governor Gavin Newsom did with regard to California.
Nevertheless, most of the folks who have never quite adjusted to the fact that Trump is the president of the United States are quick on the trigger with their criticism no matter what he does. They continue to overstate the lack of response by the U.S. government and blame the president for it.
That’s fair, at least to some degree. As Republican communications expert Rich Galen, my old mentor and former boss, used to remind me back when I was doing politics for a living rather than writing about it, the president gets to take a lot of credit he doesn’t deserve when good things happen, and he has to take a lot of the blame for things well beyond his control.
But remember: Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus and didn’t cause it to spread.
While the president is trying to act like the adult in the room, his opponents are going after him like vultures feeding on roadside carrion. It’s unseemly, and, more than that, the attacks on him undermine the public’s confidence in the national systems we’re depending on to keep us safe and help us manage our lives at a time when many of us can’t go to work, can’t go to our places of worship and can’t send our kids to school.
Recall, for example, Senator Chuck Schumer’s press conference last month in which he called the administration’s response to coronavirus totally inadequate. He also has been demanding expanded free coronavirus testing for anyone who wants it when he knows full well not enough test kits are available.
Likewise, new legislation negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took the president’s request for $2.5 billion in emergency funding and blew it up into an $8.3 billion aid package, passed the House on Saturday. Democrats initially failed to ensure that abortion services weren’t eligible to receive funds, and they reportedly attempted to establish a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for all families, a longtime Democratic Party desire. What former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel once said about not letting a crisis go to waste is fully on display, and it’s shameful.
To be sure, caution is in order—along with hand washing, avoiding crowds, staying home if you’re sick, covering coughs with your arm and other sensible measures. As for panic, why don’t we ask a person who has had the coronavirus? A 37-year-old woman in Seattle was reportedly “surprised” to learn she’d had the virus, after thinking it was the flu and treating it with over-the-counter medications, rest and plenty of water. Her message: “Don’t panic.”
Or consider what Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His fellow Democrats and a more than few Republicans would do well to remember those words at this time, given that all they seem to have to offer now is fear.
As comedian Ricky Gervais said so pointedly at the most recent Golden Globes, Hollywood is full of people with no experience in the real world who think they should tell the rest of us how to live. Movies, once our best form of entertainment, are more and more becoming reality plays intended to shape our attitudes.
A perfect example of this is Dark Waters, a film now down to about 100 screen across America in spite of an A-list cast that includes Mark Ruffalo (who also served as producer), Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway, Bill Pullman, and Tim Robbins, a liberal’s liberal probably best known as Susan Sarandon’s former longtime lover. The film’s global gross is just over $11 million according to IMDb.com which is probably less than it cost to make and market. But there are potentially billions on the line, so the folks behind it probably would think it cheap at twice the price.
The storyline – corporate lawyer becomes do-gooder battling an evil corporation secretly poisoning groundwater in the Ohio River valley – is supposedly “based on a true story.” To translate, that means everything in the movie looks like it’s true to life even if the actual facts won’t sustain the storyline.
In this case, that’s important. The chemicals talked about in the film have not been shown to be cancer-causing or toxic to humans but, because they’re widely used (in everything from the manufacture of frying pans to fire-fighting equipment) by a company with extremely deep pockets, there’s a concerted effort underway to suggest they are in order to get into court with major damage claims generating big settlements.
As we’ve seen time and again, the lion’s share of those payouts – if they happen – will go to the lawyers and politically active groups that helped push the narrative. They won’t go to the poor people whom they claim were adversely impacted by the damaged environment. For the trial lawyers and others involved, it’s their return on investment, which will do a lot to make up for the film being overlooked by the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
No one involved in Dark Waters (or any other of these new messages movies) intended for the film to flop. It got largely positive reviews from the critics – who tend to be politically liberal, just like most of the rest of the entertainment industry – and was a boon to the folks pushing for the U.S. House of Representatives to move on legislation requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to come up with an aggressive plan for dealing with the family of chemicals labeled in the film as being so destructive despite plenty of solid science saying they’re not.
There was a time when a 126-minute, slickly produced cinematic achievement like Dark Waters would have been labeled propaganda. Now it’s just socially-conscious filmmaking, funded generously in this instance by the taxpayers. The State of Ohio provided an estimated $2.5 million in tax credits to help the film get made despite how bad it makes people living along the Ohio River look.
As study after study has shown, these special interest tax breaks rarely generate enough revenue for the state to justify them. Ohio and every other state that wants to attract filmmaking as an industry would be better off eliminating them and lowering the state income tax or some other tax rate if they’re looking to boost economic growth.
Against the advice of legendary producer Sam Goldwyn – the “G” in MGM – more and more of the film colony regard their products as an opportunity to influence the attitudes of the American public. To them, movies aren’t supposed to entertain; they’re supposed to right wrongs and address injustice. Which means the folks behind Dark Waters probably didn’t ever worry about hitting the break-even point between what they spent and what the film grossed. Its network of well-heeled, politically savvy backers likely overlooked the potential loss in order to popularize the issue and potentially taint any future jury pool in states where future lawsuits may be filed.
IndieWire may have called Dark Waters, “A didactic, sometimes listless thriller,” and the East Bay Express may have shown better judgment than some of the New York critics when it said it, “Makes for a dreary, warmed-over-Erin-Brockovich drama,” but as a tool for helping the trial bar open up new avenues to great riches, it’s a four-star effort that’s sure to launch many sequels if it works.