Saturday, March 28, 2020

Race for the White House # 65

Well, writing these entries once a week has been part of my normal routine but not a whole lot feels normal in America or around the world. Even the commercials on television have quickly adapted to take on a reassuring tone for Americans stuck at home and worried about their finances. Thankfully, I am pretty lucky to be able to endure all of this now, even as watching the news becomes sadder and sadder by the day. I just am uncertain whether I will be continuing to go to work at a large office complex that has far less people around these days or if I will be joining them in working from home, perhaps at a very different set of hours in order to preserve limited resources. Needless to say, many people are out of a job right now and that is not a good feeling.

The Presidential election mostly seems to be an afterthought now. The states that have yet to hold primaries have pushed them back in the hopes that thing will be safer then. Joe Biden is the de facto nominee of his party but remains largely invisible. Even as he does some television interviews and gives speeches from the basement of his home, it is hard for him to do anything to compete with attention being given to the federal government and a roster of Governors that are  now practically household names such as Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York. The Biden "appearances" seem to also not be without their typical share of gaffes and awkward moments.

As someone who has always loved being the center of attention, Donald Trump is reveling in this to some extent. He has moved the massively long daily White House press briefings in which he is joined by a recurring cast of officials to the 6 o clock hour on the East Coast, all but preempting Fox News' "Special Report" on a daily basis. He also does not have to compete with the already closed for the day Dow Jones, which could take a downturn based on things he says. These are now Trump's
"rallies" and his way to communicate to his base. He cannot help but put emphasis about how much good things the Administration is doing. There is certainly reason to include much of that, but for the most part, Trump continues to paint a more optimistic short term picture than the leading medical officials on his team. He at times is playful with the media during these exchanges and criticizes them at others. He heaps praise on some Governors and is very critical of others. Yesterday, he claimed that he was so mad at Michigan's Governor that he did not want anyone in his Administration to call her. Afterwards, Vice President Mike Pence did so anyway.

There is a sense that like many other times in American history, the public is "rallying around the flag" and thus Trump's numbers are as high as they have ever been as Americans were shown in some polls to be very approving of his job handling this crisis. I will note however that other polls show a different story on that question. Interestingly enough, when it comes to the "horse race" matter of Presidential politics, views on Trump seem largely "baked into the cake." For instance a Fox News polls which shows Trump at 48 percent overall job approval also still shows him trailing Biden nationally by a 49-41 margin. Americans may just determine that Trump is doing the best that he can do, but they will want better from someone else. I am curious what a Trump vs. Cuomo national poll would like like about now.

After more than a week of partisan wrangling and a ton of procedural drama, Congress did finally pass a relief measure yesterday designed to give some economic piece of mind to taxpayers and business. Nonetheless, that is not going to do much to put at ease those who fear they or their loved one may be next to get the virus. It will also not do much to stop the still significant portion of Americans who scoff at the concept of social distancing and are continuing to venture out of their homes when not necessary or congregating with others. State and local governments are increasingly trying to enforce the mandates they have put into place where Covid 19 is deemed a serious issue, and that is pretty much everywhere in America right now.

Of course I could not possibly begin to cover all aspects of this past week or how it relates to Presidential politics, so I will be wrapping this up shortly. One of the main questions in America right now is "when will things go back to normal" and if the steps we are being told to take is worth the cost with so many Americans now out of work, at least temporarily, and our everyday freedoms curtailed in ways we have never anticipated for what we are told is the greater good.

Trump, whom of course wants everyone to love him, said this week that "the cure can't be worse than the disease." Well, if what we were being told to do was forever or maybe even for many, many months that would be true to an extent. We cannot "shut down" our country for good, but every medical expert is stressing the important of social distancing now in order to not cause massive hospital overruns if so many people get sick at once. That is what happened in Italy and we already seem to be seeing it start in New York and other urban areas. Our economy is simply not going to recover under those set of circumstances, no matter what Trump says and thankfully just about all government executive figures at levels below him, of both parties, get it.

This past week, Trump has said that he hopes that he can "reopen the country" at Easter in a couple weeks. He likes the symbolism of the day and  envisions Americans worshiping together at crowded church services. I would love if that would be possible to, but it is almost certainly not going to be and that is why Trump quickly stopped talking about his plans for "resurrecting"  the economy. Crowded church pews on Easter Sunday will lead to solitary funerals a short time later. That will never be worth the price. Maybe next year, all Christians can have the most meaningful Easter ever. For now, it is  more like we are living through a modern day version of the Jewish holiday of Passover. We all want our families and households to be spared but there is no lamb's blood to place on our doors to prevent risk. We just need to stay behind those doors as much as possible.

America should never be willing to see a lot of people die just to help the economy, even if they might disproportionately be the oldest among us. This week the soon to be 70 year old Lt. Governor of Texas made some absolutely ghoulish comments about how he and people his age and older should be willing to die in order to save the economy for the rising generations. Other voices on the right have said similar things and it all seems to be tied to Trump's narrative of not wanting to be blamed for recession. After all, Presidents presiding over recessions would find it hard to win reelection. Nonetheless, the Governors who have put stay at home orders in place are unlikely to lift them too soon regardless of what Trump wants. So, he will blame them for the recession and unemployment. In doing so, he may be right, but will the American people reward him for that? It seems like most Americans would rather do what is necessary to defeat the spread of the Coronavirus before they truly panic about the economy. They may consider this recession to be patriotic and they would tend to be absolutely right.

Those who share the views of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick really cede any claim to the label "Pro Life." For some of us, that principled position continues to actually mean something. Taking part in something that will lead to the death of many is never acceptable even if it means that our own lives must be inconvenienced in some temporary way. If you really want to look at it philosophically, it is not much different than the abortion debate.  We all understandably want to control our own bodies and should be able to do at all circumstances that do not involve actual life or death. The sanctity of life should guide us all though, if not necessarily what is practiced by our government, but what what we should feel in our hearts. All lives should matter from the new life in the womb to the old life on a ventilator. All should be worth saving.

Let's be clear. What Trump seemed to suggest in terms of a premature lessening of guidelines is nothing short of surrendering during a war when times got tough. He is of course a man who went out of his way to avoid military service and who declared several bankruptcies during his business career. As President he lavishes praise upon Kim Jong Un and believes peace with the Taliban is possible. For better or worse, he is the biggest peacenik to perhaps ever be President. If he cannot fight with an enemy on Twitter, his instinct is to surrender. We deserve leaders with a little more fortitude. Americans must be called to do what many generations of Americans have done before, to fight for a cause greater than one's self-interest.  We read about patriots throughout our history who took on the British Empire in the name of independence, sacrificing their "lives, liberties, and "scared honors." More recent American heroes stormed beaches and a cockpit in order to do whatever they could to put down a threat. We cannot see the enemy among us this time, but this generation of Americans has the same "rendezvous with destiny" that others had. What we are being asked to do, in the grand scheme of things, is really not that hard, and surrender should never be an option.


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