Biden Reaches Out, Trump Lights Fires

Alan Zendell, November 26, Thanksgiving Day, 2020

President Elect Joe Biden approached the microphone with a somber, stately bearing. The day before Thanksgiving in this horror show of a year needed his special brand of calm, almost spiritual reassurance. Some will undoubtedly call his remarks a political speech, but what most Americans heard, along with the rest of the world, was a heartfelt plea to re-unite the country under a wide banner of inclusion. It was a low-keyed, optimistic pep talk for a weary nation that has suffered terribly under the mis-administration of its pandemic response by a lame duck president who continued to attack the structure of democracy as Biden began the monumental task of cleaning up the mess of death and disease he will soon inherit.

Biden’s words of hope and encouragement were a combination of a loving patriarch supporting his family through a terrible ordeal, an optimistic message of renewal for a better future, and a sermon from the pulpit. There was no live audience, no sound at all other than Biden’s soothing, emotional voice pleading for calm and determination to stay safe while the government prepares to distribute COVID vaccines. It didn’t require a sound track, but I could easily imagine The Byrds singing Pete Seeger’s timeless Turn, Turn, Turn in the background. I can’t think of anything more fitting than those words from Ecclesiastes:

To everything
There is a season
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.

It’s not too late. Things happen the way they do for a reason. Maybe Biden’s previous runs for President failed because the universe knew they were happening too soon. He is a special kind of leader, someone who should have been saved for the moment we most needed him. That time is now. Biden is the perfect anti-Trump.

As he spoke yesterday, his age, the tiredness we sometimes saw during the brutal election campaign was replaced by a calm, avuncular charm. After two years in which Trump attacked his family, accused him of preparing to lead us in to Communism, and exacerbated the divisiveness that has been his trademark, the was no anger in Biden’s appeal, no rancor in his demeanor. The majority of Americans heard that, as did our traditional allies overseas. In most of the world, people breathed a sigh of relief at the words, “America is back.”

Preventing another quarter million Americans from dying of COVID will be daunting. Trump continues to lay down a mine field of obstacles out of pure spite, heedless that every day that passes without convincing Americans to wear masks and stop gathering in crowds costs thousands of lives. The contrast between Biden’s message and the small-minded, petty Trump, who is willing to extend a fight to overturn an election he cannot possibly win, while businesses fail, Americans depend on food banks and fall behind in rent and mortgage payments, and our children’s education is disrupted, is simply appalling.

Six months, a year, a decade from now, we’ll be looking back at all this wondering how we ever got to such a pass, asking ourselves how the United States could have become the object of pity and concern by the rest of the civilized world. How could the divisions in our country have been so deep and so long ignored that we retreated into an isolationist reality evolving toward fascism, racism, elitism and misogyny?

There will be time for all that later. Today, we can safely focus on famiy and friends, and truly give thanks that the nightmare of Trumpism, if not completely behind us, is at least on hold. In eight weeks we will have a president who cares about people, and treats everyone with dignity regardless of who they are. He cares about our planet, and he will undo the reckless abandonment of environmental regulations. General Motors, once the symbol of American industrial prowess, yesterday rejected Trump’s disdain for the environment, announcing that they were all in on restoring reduced emissions standards and on track to go all-electric with their future vehicles.

Timing is everything. While Trump continues to prove how truly unfit he is to lead, alienating those Republicans who want to see their party return to its core values, we can ignore him today. Celebrating with our families on Zoom isn’t the same as hugging them, but as Joe said, we’ve been through worse, and we only have to hang on a little longer.

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A Personal Note to the President

Alan Zendell, November 23, 2020

Dear Donald,

When you finally leave Washington, your name will be hallowed along with all the other wannabe dictators who had their moments in history end none too soon, to be relegated to the scrap heap of things we wish we could forget. But fear not, Donald, we won’t ever forget you. To forget you and everything you represent would be a tragic error. The dark times we fail to remember are the ones we’re most likely to repeat, and the United States of America might not survive a repeat performance.

Maybe we’ll find an open space on that mountain you revere in South Dakota, where you can be remembered properly. But not with your face – most Americans would be happy to never see it again. Rather, we will commission a calligrapher to carve a tablet into the mountain, like the one Moses left for his people after leading them out of the darkness. The twist, of course, is that it will commemorate the darkness you caused.


In painful but necessary memory, we dedicate the following:

Deaths, a third of a million of them by Inauguration Day, most of which resulted from The Hallowed One’s criminal neglect

Oligarchs, whose ranks The Hallowed One longed to join, but instead wound up their puppet, in debt to them to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars

Narcissism, the stuff from which dictators and sociopaths are made, with which we had only a passing acquaintance until The Hallowed One enlightened to the truth that it is a disqualifying attribute for all future presidents

Alternate Realities, which thankfully can now be returned to the realm of science fiction and fantasy, where they belong

Lying, which along with hyperbole and insane conspiracy theories became the norm for disseminating official information during The Hallowed One’s administration

Defeat, a critically important concept that most of us learn to deal with as children, but something The Hallowed One’s mental illness prevents him from grasping without lashing out like a rabid animal.

Jared, who was heralded as a brilliant voice of sanity capable of keeping The Hallowed One’s baser instincts in check, but turned out to be just another enabling sycophant

Television, which along with Twitter, was once a source of information, recreation, comfort, and entertainment, but is now indelibly stained with the thousands of hours co-opted by The Hallowed One for spewing lies and hate

Recession, most of which could have been avoided if The Hallowed One gave the tiniest damn about doing the job to which he was elected, and which through his ongoing negligence, may yet evolve into a Deperession

Ugliness, the single word that best sums up The Hallowed One’s presidency

Money, which may or may not be the root of all evil, but is an obsession for The Hallowed One that dominates everything else

Pandemic, a word relegated to medical books, novels, and sensationalized Hollywood films, until it dominated our lives in 2020. It didn’t have to, and it wouldn’t have if The Hallowed one cared a fig about anyone but himself.


I must include a personal note, a special thank you to President Donald A. Trump. Thank you for corrupting the very meaning of truth, and infecting so many others in powerful positions who clung to your coattails. Thank you for the intimidation racket that locked people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis securely into your orbit. Thank you for teaching DeSantis that the proper role of an executive is to eschew any form of meaningful leadership in an emergency. Thank you for setting an example of malfeasance in office for him to follow.

Thank you for creating an environment in which half the population of Florida treats mask wearing and social distancing as part of a Communist, Anarchist plot. And most of all, thank you for allowing the pandemic to spread exponentially, especially to the school attended by my grandchildren. Thank you for not taking a single action to reduce the chances that their entire family would wind up quarantined with a four-year-old-infected with COVID.

Assuming you care, Donald, don’t worry. He’s recovering just fine, no thanks to you.

Thinking about that innocent child makes me realize that the whole point of this piece is absurd. What we really should do is enshrine Anthony Fauci on Mount Rushmore, with all the honors he deserves.

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The Loss of Objective Truth

Alan Zendell, November 20, 2020

If you’re old enough to have read 1984 in high school (well before 1984 actually arrived) you probably remember how chillingly reasonable it sounded. Writing in the years immediately after World War 2, George Orwell meant it as a warning, the same alarm Sinclair Lewis sounded a decade earlier with It Can’t Happen Here. Both men were cautioning against complacency, the belief that nothing would ever threaten the American republic. Fascism, they told us, is a seductress, sneaking up on democracy, waiting to take advantage of any crack or weakness in its foundation.

Last evening, journalist David Gregory said it perfectly. Orwell’s dystopian Britain as seen from 1949 was enabled by “the loss of objective truth.” Orwell coined the terms “Doublespeak” and “Doublethink” to explain what that meant. As I wrote in April, 2017, three months into Donald Trump’s presidency, they both undermine objective truth in different, complementary ways. Doublethink means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accepting both as true. Doublespeak means using words to conceal or misrepresent the truth by disguising, distorting, and reversing their meaning, and the use of euphemisms.

Donald Trump seems to have incorporated both words in his limited vocabulary. He is a master of Doublespeak, in fact, it may be his singular talent. Doublespeak occurs through deliberate action, but Doublethink is more complicated. Trump haters explain the ease with which he flips from one point of view to its opposite as evidence of his lack of respect for the truth, but I wonder if he is aware that his words contradict each other so frequently. His behavior is so feral, I question whether he is even capable of acting rationally. Is he a fearless counter-puncher who never shrinks from a fight or is he an out-of-control child who can’t control his impulses?

We’ve had these debates ever since Trump exploded on the political scene, but they’ve never been more meaningful than they are now. His behavior since losing the election to Joe Biden has literally been an attack on objective truth. In one sense, it’s the same thing he’s always done, using phrases like fake news and alternate facts to obscure reality. But in another, it’s far more dangerous. Four three-and-a-half years, he has chipped away at the Constitution and long-established political and social norms. Even his supporters don’t deny his lies and his disregard for the rule of law. He lost the election largely because millions of politically unaligned Americans were horrified enough by his behavior to turn against him.

But nothing he did prior to the election compares to what he is doing now. The curtain has been pulled aside, there’s no pretense any more. With the lives and health of millions of Americans in the balance, with our economy desperately in need of financial support for small businesses and the workers they employ, Trump is involved in his most cynical behavior yet. Showing no interest in the business of being a real president since November 3rd, he has devoted all of his energy to hamstringing the Biden administration before it begins. So what if another quarter of a million Americans die, if 100,000 businesses fail, and if lines of cars at food banks extend for miles?

Even more important, what if he actually succeeds in undermining Americans’ confidence in the legitimacy of their government? The idea that Americans didn’t consider Trump a legally elected president is a paranoid fantasy straight out of Trump’s twisted psyche. We may have hated the idea, but we accepted it, and if Trump had shown any inclination to preside over all Americans instead of just his base, we’d have applauded him. But for Trump, the only way to compensate for his baseless fantasy is to spitefully try to delegitimize his successor’s election.

This is not reality TV. Nor is it a game of unbridled competition in which the only objective is to win. I believe the people who supervised the election did so with complete integrity. Every Secretary of State who has spoken about the election, Republican or Democrat, has said the same thing: all legally cast votes were counted and there was no evidence of significant fraud. I don’t believe it will happen, but if Trump is able to bully or bribe Republican legislators and Governors to reverse the results in states he lost, it will be a mortal blow to the Constitution and every ethical standard of behavior.

I am long past hoping that Donald Trump is either capable of or willing to do the right thing. I hope Mike Pence has the stones to do what’s necessary if Trump crosses any more lines.

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Charismatic Leaders: Saviors or Devils?

Alan Zendell, November 18, 2020

Most people associate “charismatic” with “good” or “positive,” but the dictionary definition includes no such qualification. Charisma is simply an almost spiritual quality that enables its owner to influence and persuade, even mesmerize others. Charismatic leaders have been good and bad, inspirational and demonic. Consider this list, borrowed from a popular website: Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela. I wonder why there are no women on the list.

I’ve never met anyone on that list, but I have felt the power and magnetism of people like them. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have the kind of charisma that allowed them to jump from relative obscurity, nationally, to the presidency on their first tries. It’s a powerful force. My wife and I met Clinton on two occasions. Each time, he shook our hands and looked into our eyes. We both felt an amazing energy flow through us. It was easy to imagine being convinced to do almost anything he asked. Being close to Obama was similar, but more uplifting. I felt his aura, his allure drawing me in. It would be easy to get lost in the feeling.

When Obama’s populist wave swept over the country, I wasn’t immediately on board. I felt his charisma, but it was the very fact that I felt it so viscerally that made me mistrust his words. I remained ambivalent on the sidelines, because aside from his magnetic attraction and his message of unity and inclusion, I had no idea who he was or how he might govern. John McCain was a good man, someone I could have accepted as a leader. It was Sarah Palin who overcame my resistance to Obama’s charisma. One look at her was enough.

Donald Trump has his own brand of charisma. It’s not the warm fuzzy kind exuded by Clinton and Obama, and it inspires entirely different kinds of people. It’s anger- and rage-based, more like the attraction of a cobra than a force for good; if we’ve learned anything, it’s that Trump is able to cast a powerful spell. Spewing hate and racism, bragging about having no moral center and no respect for laws or rules, he still managed to attract 73,000,000 voters, keeping his followers in tow like a corrupt evangelist. The good news is that Joe Biden’s gentle faith and empathy garnered 79,000,000 and counting, but it would be a serious mistake to discount the power and danger Trump’s appeal represents.

Trump is a snake in the grass. Like the serpent in the Garden, he seduces promising unrestricted personal freedom and riches, but neglects to mention they’re only available to those who march in lockstep with him. He behaves like the worst kind of tyrant, savaging and destroying everyone he perceives as an obstacle. His only currency is unqualified obedience and support. Everyone who questions him is a liar, a cheat, or a criminal. Only people who vote for him can submit their ballots without being intimidated or concerned that their vote might be nullified.

Trump’s success in 2016 may have simply been about none of his opponents in either party possessing any charisma at all. Combined with his uncanny ability to recognize weakness and vulnerability in other people, and his willingness to shamelessly pander for votes in the darkest places, he swept aside his opposition like an incoming tide washing away sand castles. In office, however, it was soon clear that under his veneer of nativist charm was a darkness that was truly a threat to the nation. We learned that there is a huge difference between being a president and just playing one on TV. Charisma makes us want to believe a candidate will be a spiritual leader, but he could just as well be an emissary of the Dark Side

The part of Trump’s base that remains in his thrall has shrunk, but it’s still formidable. They buy everything that comes out of his mouth for reasons that many of us find unfathomable, but that makes them no less dangerous. Whether or not Trump ever concedes defeat, his attempt to hold on to power by any means necessary can irreparably damage our way of life.

Like any would-be tyrant, Trump would be nothing without his cheering crowds. If we’re going to fix the divisions he has exposed, we need to cut through his emotional appeal and address his supporters. If we can figure out exactly what they see in him, if we understand what generates their anger and frustration, maybe we can begin to heal.

Uncharismatic, low-keyed Joe Biden may be just the leader who can accomplish that.

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The Spectacle of a Spiteful President

Alan Zendell, November 17, 2020

As if our nation hasn’t been through enough this year, we now find ourselves counting down for another sixty-four days, crossing our fingers that the transition to a Biden presidency takes place without calamity. With a spiteful, infantile president still riling up the most radical, ignorant segments of his base, nothing is certain. As we have done many times in the past four years, we hope Donald Trump will change. We hope, because there’s nothing else we can do, that just once in his presidency he acts the part.

His behavior since the election two weeks ago suggests otherwise. That means we will get to watch the predictions of public health experts like Anthony Fauci and Michael Osterholm, and the forecasts of math models like Chris Murray’s at the University of Washington become self-fulfilling prophesies. Between now and Biden’s inauguration, we will likely see a million more COVID cases and 10,000 new deaths every week.

Before the election, Trump used the pandemic as a political weapon, peddling the false narrative that wearing masks, maintaining safe distances from each other, and curtailing normal activities as necessary would crash our economy. Those same public health experts argued that the surest way to crash the economy was to allow the pandemic to spread out of control and overwhelm our health care systems. But that was then. As hateful as holding American lives hostage to win an election was, there is even less justification for it now.

Donald Trump’s refusal to fall in line with CDC recommendations to slow the spread of the virus and reduce deaths, now that there is nothing to be gained politically by refusing to do so, is pure spite. Like a child who smashes his toys rather than share them with anyone, he would rather burn the country down than admit he has been rejected by the voters. Refusing to allow the Biden transition to begin planning its fight against the pandemic, if he won’t do it himself, is the most cynical, sociopathic decision of Trump’s presidency.

Mitch McConnell could reverse this course in a second. All he has to do is free his caucus to act on their consciences. Half its members have already said privately that they despise what Trump is doing, but they need his base to win the two Senate runoffs in Georgia. If their only priority is maintaining a majority in the Senate, they will continue to enable Trump’s ability to hold them hostage. Where does it stop? When will saving American lives take precedence over political expediency and personal power? If we can’t answer that question satisfactorily, our future as a nation will be in serious jeopardy.

And that may not be the worst thing we face. Nine weeks is more than enough time for Trump to cause all kinds of mayhem. Talking heads endlessly debate why he refuses to concede, instead embarrassing himself, his party, and the nation with ridiculous charges of election fraud that are denied by state election officials of both parties and consistently rejected by conservative judges. Do they really not understand? All they had to do was ask me.

Donald Trump is incapable of behaving like an adult much less acting presidential. His oft-demonstrated lack of empathy, his narcissistic personality disorder, and his need to win no matter how much collateral damage he causes are all playing out now before the entire world.

The explanation for Trump’s behavior is simple. If he can’t be in charge, he will do everything he can to sabotage the next administration. He is refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team, so the first couple of months of the new administration will be chaotic and confused. Rather than enable the smooth, peaceful transition of power we need, he will create an obstacle course. He needs Biden to fail, because he thinks it will benefit him in the future, and if another half-million Americans die, what of it? After January 20th, he will continue to stoke emotions in his base, attacking everything Biden does. Putin and Xi are ecstatic.

All we can really do now is hope. Hope that Trump can be prevented from activating his heavily armed vigilante militias. Hope that our military, which is on record as opposed to a rapid drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, are able to restrain him from creating a bloodbath. Hope that if as he has been reported to be considering, Trump orders military strikes at Iran because his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal enabled that country to increase its uranium stockpiles, his generals will refuse. Hope that if it becomes necessary, Vice President Pence and the Cabinet have the moral courage to use the 25th amendment to shut him down before he does irreparable damage.

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The Painful Demise of a Would-Be Autocrat

Alan Zendell, November 14, 2020

He began as merely an annoying gadfly. With an ego large enough to fill a stadium, he believed the world was hanging on his opinions. He flouted social norms, bragged about his alleged prowess with women, tweeted racist opinions about criminal cases he knew nothing about, and promulgated the Barack Obama birther conspiracy. Most of us just ignored his insults and total lack of class back then, but then he announced he was running for president.

He began his campaign by demonizing Mexicans, his name for people from any of the twenty-one countries in South and Central America. He attacked Democrats as Socialists and Communists, and assigned each of his Republican opponents an offensive, insulting nickname. He offended Gold Star families, mimicked the disabled, and questioned the patriotism of anyone who refused to kneel at his feet. He reached out to White Supremacists and other assorted racists, trashed the traditional media, and encouraged gun nuts to rise up and defend him against them.

He displayed a ruthlessness rarely seen in American politics, a bare-knuckled, take-no-prisoners approach to everything he did. He lied, slandered, and libeled, demonstrating a complete lack of compassion for anyone but himself as he created and exacerbated divisions in American society that had lain dormant for decades. He conspired with Roger Ailes, creator of the Fox News Channel to create and disseminate a narrative of alternate facts and conspiracy theories, which metastasized the seeds of discord he planted into a cancer that began eating our country apart from the inside.

Paying no heed to the damage he was doing to American society, he locked children in cages, attacked the Constitution, the Rule of Law, the Judiciary, and the Congress, treating the separation of powers on which our form of government depends like an unfortunate technicality limiting his freedom of action. From his first day as President, he behaved like a fascist bully, purging anyone who disagreed with him who lacked a constituency strong enough to defy him.

He consistently attacked women’s rights and attempted to strip the poorest quartile of Americans of essential services like food assistance and health care. We saw it and shook our heads. When it came time for Americans to write his report card in 2018, they took back their majority in the House of Representatives, flush with optimism, thinking he’d learned a lesson in humility.

Such was our naïvete. We should have realized there was no limit to the depths to which he would stoop to retain power, and with his own party cow-towing at every turn and Democrats unable to agree on a candidate, as 2019 became 2020, it looked like he might somehow win again. Then the pandemic hit; he would have to change his tune, wouldn’t he? His disregard for science had thus far manifested in withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords and slashing environmental regulations at home without regard for the health of our planet.

Now he had a more immediate choice. Would he act to protect Americans from a raging pandemic, or to foster his self-interest? We know now, that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of the people he swore to protect, to assure his re-election. He added to the misery of divisiveness and hate he had spawned by fighting against every measure that might have saved lives. 2020 has been a year of daunting challenges, all of which were made worse and intensified by a president who simply couldn’t care less as long as he could indulge his out-of-control narcissism.

He turned the 2020 election into a gladiator fight to the death, except that his opponent refused to play his game. Still, he put us through a kind of Hell we hadn’t seen since Vietnam. In many ways, it was actually worse. Vietnam was the result of a misguided foreign policy, paranoia with regard to China and the Soviet Union, and a collection of bad decisions by many actors. But 2020 was a Donald J. Trump production intended to maximize ratings and attention.

On November 4th, the majority of Americans danced in the streets, the huge weight of Trumpism finally off their backs, or so they thought. Trump will leave the White House in less than ten weeks, but he will continue causing grief and anxiety until the final moment. And even as there is no longer any political gain to ignoring the advice of medical experts, he continues to set the worst possible example for Americans, knowing it will result in at least 100,000 more deaths before a Biden administration can begin to get hold of the pandemic. Donald Trump will be remembered by historians in the same way as Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Un, someone whose lust for power and wealth always took precedence over the lives and health of his citizens.

If that doesn’t qualify as murder and treason, I don’t know what does.

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The Horrifying Aftermath

Alan Zendell, November 13, 2020

Ten days after the November 3rd election our nation is in a surreal place. If Steven Spielberg wrote it up and tried to sell it to Hollywood, they’d laugh him out of town. The spectacle of an American president who was clearly defeated in what the Department of Homeland Security described as “the cleanest, most secure election in our history,” behaving the way Donald Trump has is too bizarre even for Hollywood.

Here are some facts. In the first nine days since the election:

– Trump has refused to concede or acknowledge Joe Biden as the President Elect, instead filing baseless lawsuits around the country that are being routinely dismissed by judges of all political stripes;

– Trump has shown no interest in the business of being president;

– the United States has recorded 1,281,000 new COVID cases and 9,602 COVID-related deaths (with a number of states including Florida refusing to report);

– Trump has tweeted lies and debunked conspiracy theories nonstop and has embarked on a purge of senior officials in the Homeland Security and Defense Departments, inserting loyalist sycophants in their places;

– Trump ordered the General Services Administration to withhold transition funding mandated by federal law from the Biden team;

– the administration has blocked messages directed to President Elect Biden from foreign leaders;

– President Elect Biden has been denied access to security briefings.

All of these actions have been sanctioned and enabled by the Senate Republican caucus, in particular, by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But the red wall in the Senate has begun to crack in recent days as individual Senators realized the national security implications of Trump’s actions. And unlike the president, many Senators are actually embarrassed by the international spectacle of the nation tolerating Trump’s spiteful attack on its fundamental principles.

Polling late this week revealed that more than 80% of Americans accept the result of the election, and only 3% support Trump’s behavior. That means that even among his base of support it is only an extreme fringe that approves of his actions, which makes my head spin when I try to make sense of it all.

It’s obvious that Senate Republicans are focused on the two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, 2021. Those elections will determine who controls the Senate. In our hyper-partisan environment, Mitch McConnell’s motivation is clear. He’s still terrified of Trump’s ability to mobilize his followers. If they stay home on January 5th, the Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the Senate go way up.

Annoying as that reality sounds, it really makes no sense. McConnell fears that if he doesn’t support Trump’s ongoing tantrum, the president’s base will turn on him. It’s the same extortion racket Trump has been running since the 2016 election, but McConnell doesn’t seem to realize that most of Trump’s base has already accepted that Biden won. Moreover, if McConnell wants to maximize Republican turnout in Georgia, his strongest argument is to accept Biden’s victory and warn about the consequences of losing control of the Senate in a Biden administration.

Even Lindsey Graham, a long-standing hawk on national security says Biden should receive daily security briefings, while continuing to enable the President’s tantrums. That makes the picture even clearer. Republicans are catering to Donald Trump as if he were an out-of-control five-year-old with the ability to blow everything up. That pretty much speaks for itself.

It has been well-documented that many of the 71 million people who voted for Trump were people who found his behavior childish and offensive, but who “liked his policies.” That’s an unsubtle code for having bought the lie that Biden would increase their taxes. We all know voters who’ve said that. Putting aside the reality that only the Congress has the power of taxation, is that sufficient reason to allow this madness to continue?

Millions of Americans are in serious trouble because of the pandemic, yet the government has no clear policy aimed at controlling the virus, and McConnell won’t let the Senate consider desperately needed stimulus legislation. Even as Bush-44’s Chief of Staff, Andy Card reminded the nation of the 9/11 Commission finding that the delayed transition caused by the Florida recount in 2000 may have significantly reduced our preparedness, the message hasn’t sunk in. With actors like Iran and North Korea, not to mention Russia and China alert for every weakness in America’s standing in the world, when are the Senate Republicans going to take away Trump’s Twitter privileges and lock him in his room?

I guess I should apologize to my well-behaved, almost five-year-old grandson for comparing Trump’s behavior to his. It’s a good thing he can’t read yet.

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Winning and Losing

Alan Zendell, November 9, 2020

If you’ve ever been a parent or a child you know how important it is to learn how to win and lose. When kids play team sports, we teach them to high five every member of the other team after a game, win or lose. We discourage taunting by the winners and crying by the losers. We permit celebrations in the end zone after a touchdown or at home plate after a grand slam, but we penalize players who celebrate too hard or too long or too distastefully.

Have you watched two siblings playing a game recently? At first, the older one wins, and you catch her teasing her little brother. You give them both hugs and ask the winner if winning feels good. When she says “yes” you ask if making her brother feel bad made winning feel better. At first, she doesn’t understand the question but watching him wipe away his tears, she finally gets it.

Then you ask your son if it felt bad to lose. He nods, trying to keep from crying again, and you ask him if throwing a tantrum made him feel better. His eyes flare as if he’s about to start again but you hug him harder, and he figures it out too.

A few years later, your daughter makes her high school basketball team. In a key playoff game, her team trails by a point with seconds to go. She races for the basket and sinks a layup to win the game only to be called for a charging foul for crashing into a defender. The horn sounds. They lose. You see an instant of rage and disappointment cloud her face, and then she reaches down and helps the girl she knocked over to her feet. You beam inside. You’ve done your job well.

My guess is that Joe Biden’s parents were a lot like you. In a long life of alternating successes and tragedies, wins and losses, he has never failed to act with grace. When he lost he fell back on his faith and his values and picked himself up again. When he won he reached out, no matter how grueling the battle was. If he believes in grudges, you’d never know it from watching him. Not coincidentally, that’s how true statesmen behave in a free society.

Consider his opponent, the current president (I can’t make myself say his name today.) When he wins he exaggerates his victory and brags about what losers his opponents are, as he begins to purge his ranks of people who were not sufficiently obeisant. He crows incessantly about how he vanquished his opponent, never giving a thought to adjusting his tone from the venomous hatred he routinely spews. And when he loses? That’s when that five-year-old who could never be taught how to behave comes out. He whines, he accuses everyone else of cheating, he calls foul at every turn. And when the time comes to retreat, he does so like the Nazis leaving Italy after the Allies defeated them in 1943, burning and destroying everything in their wake, whether it had military value or not, just for spite.

His niece, Mary, a PhD psychologist, and his sister, Maryanne, a retired federal appellate judge, warned us he would behave this way. “He has no principles,” Maryanne told us. “He has never been loved,” Mary told us. “He only cares about himself,” everyone who ever knew him told us. The man who based all of his hateful rhetoric on the phrase, “Make America Great Again,” shows us every day how little regard he has for us. Yes, I know, 70,000,000 of those people he couldn’t care less about voted for him last week. I can’t explain that. I expect it will be debated by historians for the rest of this century.

And now, as we come to the end of what is the most difficult year most of us have ever faced, when most of us have done our best to follow the rules and did our duty to assure that our votes counted, when it’s time to melt our swords into plowshares, Donald *#*#* (I still can’t say it) would rather throw his infantile tantrum. He is being enabled by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who may have once possessed a shred of integrity, and by Jared Kushner, whose real estate companies are engaged in attempting to evict people from their homes after the pandemic bankrupted them.

That is what currently inhabits the White House. I hope the transition cleaning staff has a ton of disinfectant left.

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Post-Election Reality Check

Alan Zendell, November 8, 2020

Americans who hate Donald Trump’s presidency had a day of euphoria on Saturday. People who never fully recovered from the shock of his victory four years ago danced in the sun and waved signs. Most wore masks, and there was a noticeable lack of hugging compared to pre-pandemic days, but the joy was palpable. My wife and I felt it as did most of my friends and family. After four years of depression and anxiety, the dragon had been slain and life in America was normal again.

This morning, though we still savored the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we returned to a more restrained reality. The election results yielded conclusions that didn’t have to be explained by pundits. A nation often embarrassed by low voter turnout in the past set records this time. Biden received more votes than any president in history, but Trump received more votes than any losing candidate ever did.

A majority rejected Donald Trump’s divisiveness and hateful rhetoric, but it wasn’t the majority predicted by the polls. Biden won by three percent, a clear victory, but not close to a landslide. To put it in terms easier to grasp, if you fill a room with 200 randomly selected voters, the Biden people will outnumber the Trump voters by 103-97. That’s a cold-water-in-your-face reality check. We remain a terribly divided country.

When the news channels finally stopped obsessing over the election long enough to take a breath, we faced another reality check. The COVID pandemic is spreading unchecked at the highest rate since it began. In the four days following the election the United States reported a half million new COVID cases and averaged over a thousand COVID-related deaths per day. The exponential rise in hospitalizations supports the CDC forecast that deaths will exceed 2,000 per day just in time for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. Trump was defeated, but his deadly legacy lives on.

Our allies all expressed relief that Joe Biden’s America will re-affirm its support for NATO, and every human on the planet who breathes is happy that we will rejoin the Climate Accords. But their joy is tempered by the realization that Biden’s margin of victory is no guarantee that we won’t flip back again four years from now. Europeans know the divisions in the United States make us an unreliable partner.

Joe and Kamala have a daunting task ahead, but no more so than the one that Biden and Obama faced on their first inauguration day. Lest we forget, the world’s economy was on the brink of collapse, financial markets had crashed as a result of the banking crisis, and millions of American jobs were threatened. Obama and Biden were up to that challenge. They saved the American automobile industry and set us back on a course of steady economic growth that extended into Trump’s term.

Remember how frightening that was? Our jobs, savings, 401-Ks, and the stability of the country were in jeopardy, yet today we barely even remember it, though it was only twelve years ago. That gives me hope. If Biden and Obama could bring us back from the edge, Biden and Harris can, too. The sooner they get started, the sooner Americans will stop dying of COVID. The sooner they get started, the sooner the rest of the world will see America behave responsibly again.

That cannot happen until our current president does what his predecessors did. Al Gore could have fought the 2000 election in court until January, but he chose stability in the country over pride and ambition. Richard Nixon, for all his faults, did the same thing in 1960, in an election that many historians believe he should have won.

Trump can either accept the reality of his defeat or continue to salve his ego and do what he has unfailingly done in the past. He can accept the inevitable – only Trump and Rudy Guiliani seriously believe there is any basis for claiming the election was stolen – or he can continue to enflame and divide us. He can ask his supporters to stand down as Gore and Nixon did, or he can continue to challenge the mental health of nation by staging an excruciating struggle that will accomplish nothing except further harming our country and the way the rest of the world views us. Remember when that mattered?

Most Republican leaders are taking their cues from Mitch McConnell who has chosen to remain silent on who won the election, thereby enabling further Trump mayhem. Cooler heads have suggested that McConnell understands what’s at stake, and he’s just giving Trump time to have his tantrum. The media reported that Trump’s son-in-law, senior advisor Jared Kushner is attempting to convince him to concede, yet Trump tweets about legal battles and purging those who he perceives as disloyal, and Lindsey Graham cheers him on.

Trump still has the power to hold the nation hostage. He will only submit when his Republican supporters finally step up.

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You’re Fired!

Alan Zendell, November 6, 2020

The American people have spoken. By the time all the votes are counted, Joe Biden will have received five million votes more than Donald Trump. In most countries that purport to be democracies, that’s all we would need to know. In this country, the archaic Electoral College plunged us into this latest abyss of wild accusations of election stealing. After months of hearing Trump attack mail-in voting as illegal, fraudulent, another fake news hoax – I’ve lost track – it is the Electoral College that has yielded a badly misleading result that enables Trump to continue to divide us.

We knew how serious the divide was, but even with 150 million votes cast, a five million margin of victory represents three-and-a-half percent of the electorate, not a landslide but a clear win. And the fact that other Republicans did passably well in this election tells us the repudiation was aimed directly at the president. Republican voters are still out there, but they want their party back.

Donald Trump will continue to be a thorn in the side of business as usual, continuing to try to divide us almost as if he were a Russian sleeper agent. But his voice will be relegated to fringe media. I don’t see Fox News championing him in the future. He was great for their ratings for five years, but Ruppert Murdoch made it clear to Trump that Fox will no longer support his baseless rants and attacks on our institutions.

When America said, “You’re fired!” it wasn’t saying that Democrats have all the answers and hyper-partisanism should continue with the Blue side in control. It was ending the populist, racist, mysogynistic experiment of Trumpism. It was asserting that the Constitution and the rule of law must be protected from charismatic leaders who lack both a moral center and the understanding that only a truly united United States can thrive and prosper.

President Elect Biden knows that. Many of the Republicans in the House and Senate know that. Most Democrats know it too, though it may take a while to shake off the desire for revenge. Call me an optimistic fool, but I think we will right this ship, because there are enough people in Congress willing to put ideology aside and work together for progress.

The fact that many Republican leaders like Chris Christie, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio have refused to support Trump’s desperate, baseless attacks on the election, and advocate counting every vote might be taken as an act of contrition. They know they allowed Trump to divide and conquer their party, and it was their inability to unite against him and their fear of his base that enabled him to reach the White House. They’d never seen anything like Trump before, and were ill-equipped to deal with someone who was so shamelessly immoral, who had no respect for truth or law. They won’t let him undermine the election because they’re eager to be rid of him, to put their own shame and embarrassment in the past.

The truth is that reality has overtaken them. The pandemic proved that insanity cannot be allowed to overrule science and some form of comprehensive health care is vital, not only to the nation’s physical and moral well-being, but to its economy. They know Trump’s self-serving mishandling of the pandemic severely weakened our competitive stance in the world. Stopping the virus and restoring Americans’ confidence that it’s safe to go back to work and school, and fill restaurants, bars, and stadiums is priority one, but that can only be achieved with unity and a consistent, medically sound message from the top.

Fiscal conservatives understand that running up trillion-dollar deficits to increase the wealth of billionaires is not a sustainable policy. Both sides understand that addressing the tax code and the health of Americans requires compromise and commitment to a common goal. They know something must be done to heal the divide in this country, much of which is based on misinformation and crazy conspiracy theories. And they know that our days as a world leader other countries look up to are numbered if we don’t re-engage with our allies and get back to protecting the health of our planet.

Joe Biden will set the correct tone from the White House. There will be no more wild attacks on the media, the courts, and the Constitution. Just as Trump’s constant whining about hoaxes and charges of being undermined convinced his base he was right, Biden’s consistent message of calm and unity will begin to restore order. It won’t be easy, but now we have a chance.

Not having one party completely in control of government may be a blessing. It offers all our elected leaders the opportunity to demonstrate that country is more important than ideology and personal prejudices.

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