Pre-Holiday Jitters

Alan Zendell, December 20, 2021

Christmas is five days away, the beginning of 2022 only twelve. It’s normally a joyous time for most people, but the news today is shockingly depressing. I scanned the CNN website this morning as I do most mornings. I also look at the Washington Post and New York Times. It’s hard to trust any media outlet these days, because even those that believe in unbiased reporting can’t escape the financial realities of dependence on sponsors and advertising, but those are the sources I trust most.

What I saw was bleak. There’s so much negative news, it’s hard to know where to begin, but we might as well start with something about which we’re not powerless – COVID. “Dr. Francis Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health, [said] on Friday that the Omicron variant could result in as many as a million new cases a day.” The first thing you hear when you repeat that is a chorus of “yes-buts.” Early indications are the Omicron is far more contagious than other COVID variants, but results in many fewer hospitalizations and deaths – for now, at least. Even if that holds true, a million new cases a day? With hospital systems and health care workers already strained to the breaking point, how much more stress can they survive?

The one bit of positive COVID news was that the half-dose booster of the Moderna vaccine increases antibodies against Omicron thirty-seven fold, while the full-dose booster increases them eighty-three fold. Yet, anti-vaccine politics has become a cynical tool of right-wing extremists and Trumpers. The degree to which millions of Americans have been influenced by negative propaganda about vaccines is staggering. Only sixty percent of American adults are fully vaccinated, a level that allows the virus to continue to spread and mutate. Any disease expert will tell you that it’s impossible to predict what the next variant will be like. It could be far deadlier, and the only way to avoid it is to prevent the virus’ spread. Is America truly that ignorant and stupid?

There’s also ominous COVID news from Europe. Cases are spiking in the UK, and other European nations are trying to prevent British travelers from infecting their populations. Germany requires every traveler from the UK to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival, and France has temporarily banned all travel to and from the UK. The Netherlands has instituted a near total shutdown. Greece and Italy require a negative COVID test for every traveler entering their countries. Denmark has closed all of its public entertainment venues, Norway has a less restrictive but similar policy, and Sweden is requiring proof of vaccination from all travelers from neighboring countries. Does that sound like the pandemic is over and we can all ignore it?

Barbara Walter of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego, has spent thirty years, including four years on a CIA task force studying the causes of insurrection and civil war. The two most important causes are democracies sliding toward autocracy and the use of racial tropes for political advantage. She concludes, after six years of the Trumpism influencing our politics, that both those conditions exist today in the United States. Using the same criteria that our intelligence services apply to evaluate the risk of civil war in other countries, the task force now places the risk here at “approaching very high.” When identical conditions are observed elsewhere, those countries are placed on a high-risk watch list for political unrest, instability, and civil war. We’re going to hear a lot of talk about love and brotherhood in the coming days. Unfortunately, most of it will be complete hypocrisy.

Depressed yet? We’re not done. The Republican caucus in the Senate, using the voice of Chuck Grassley has made it clear that they will block any appointment to the Supreme Court made by President Biden if they win a majority in the 2022 elections, this, after nineteen states controlled by Republican legislatures have spent 2021 attempting to rig all future elections in their favor. How would you describe a situation in which a radical wing of a minority party is able to force its will on an entire nation, and their goal is to undermine democracy for their own political gain? I call it the beginning of a long slide into autocratic Fascism, one that will be unstoppable if it isn’t halted before it gains any more momentum.

The most important thing the Biden administration must accomplish is the passage of a strong voting rights bill that negates states’ attempts to undermine our Constitution. That means that every Senate Democrat must be willing to suspend the filibuster to get it done. Are you listening, Senator Manchin?

Happy holidays, everyone.

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