Whatever made those Founding Fathers think we could govern ourselves?
After the first attempt sputtered out in Greece, no one dared to try democratic self-governance again for 2,000 years.
Little wonder. Just look at our failure, as individuals and political leaders, to control this pandemic. We blew it. Bigly.
“America drank away its children’s future,” says Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, aptly summing up a tragedy we’ve driven from bad to worse by personal carelessness and premature re-openings of public venues such as bars. The ensuing COVID-19 explosion makes safe school openings questionable.
Masking up could have helped save enough lives to permit the safe re-opening of our economy and schools. But life-saving masks morphed into death threats to freedom. Yet there is no more legal “freedom” to infect others than there’s a right to drive drunk.
Have alien beings seized our brains? Or are we just too stupid to govern ourselves? If we cannot connect these simple dots, how will we survive self-rule? Hello?
Too few of us seem to have what it takes to suck up a bit of inconvenience for the public good. The “public good” — the essence of healthy nationhood — has fallen into disrepute. Donald Trump’s calculated cultivation of a culture of hatred of Americans by Americans has seen to that.
So who’s to say the self-governance doubters were wrong?
Surely not us, with our cratered economy, millions of unemployed, 150,000 pandemic deaths, unending White House malfeasance and incompetence, personal irresponsibility and a toxic overlay of gleeful hatred of our fellow Americans that diminishes our republic and poisons our nation’s political landscape.
If this is what comes of self-rule, we’re done here.
There’s no shortage of opportunists slithering about among us who happily would relieve us of the burden of governing ourselves.
Trump and his oligarch wannabes seek liberation from accountability to an egalitarian government — that is, accountability to We the People. To succeed, they need us to believe we are harmed by our government’s protections — be they for consumers, the environment, or by our judicial, health care and social services systems.
They wish us to consent to strip ourselves of our sovereign power and give it to them. To pull that off, they need us to believe that it’s us, not them, they’re liberating when they eviscerate laws that protect us. This dupery is a shopworn trick of fascists everywhere. They never mention that it’s we, not they, who always pay the price of this “liberation.”
In Portland, we see what fascism looks like. Trump’s extra-judicial, unidentified paramilitary storm troopers run unbidden through the streets, escalating confrontations by violently attacking and kidnapping peaceably protesting citizens rather than tending to their knitting by guarding a perimeter around federal property. Trump claims the protesters want to destroy the government.
But it’s Trump and Co. who actually are dismembering our government, which they paint as a scary, alien “Deep State.” With their “Starve the Beast” strategy, they de-fund government programs that ordinary Americans depend on and undermine legal reforms that protect them.
Why? Because these mostly Democratic reforms in the 1930s and 1960s reset the unfair balance of economic and political power between the wealthy and the rest of us and imposed federal controls to prevent business behavior that harms the public good.
Trump’s peddling backward, gutting more than 100 environmental regulations, for example. He’s showing us once more that to his cohort, “the business of America is business.”
Trump refuses to fund coronavirus testing and tracing even as the pandemic roars out of control. This isn’t just an attempt to evade responsibility for his treasonous failure to lift a finger to protect the nation from a pandemic that’s compromised our nation’s health, economy and security. (Correction: Trump has lifted a finger to the nation, his middle one.)
Trump strives to persuade Americans to mistrust their government because nothing would serve his ilk more — and the rest of us less — than a federal government shorn of the means to protect its citizens against the demonstrably deadly whims of the civically irresponsible wealthy who’ve enabled Trump.
Weakening the government
The United States of America is a nation, not 50 nations. National problems require a unified national strategy. But Trumpists seek to weaken the power of a federal government that constrains them.
To drive home the message that we should not rely on the federal government, Trump walked away from the pandemic, deliberately leaving each state to its own desperate devices. As a result, tens of thousands needlessly die.
This catastrophe showcases the folly of leaving each state to sing from its own songbook. As late as July 22, barely half the states had mandatory mask requirements. And because of Trump’s failure to perform his sworn duty, the states’ urgent necessity to test and trace is cripplingly underfunded.
Germany has four times the population of Florida. This month Germany averaged fewer than 400 new cases per day while Florida reported 15,300, the highest ever single-day total of any state. C0VID-19-ravaged Italy reduced new daily cases to 200 while Texas, with half Italy’s population, was reporting 9,000.
Yet Trump insists schools open this fall, arguing that Europeans are opening theirs. But Europeans did the work: They made school openings possible by doing what Trump refused to do, testing and tracing.
Why does Trump resist testing? On May 15, he explained:
“If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.