Troubling Times

Alan Zendell, May 18, 2022

Sometimes, it pays to take a step back and widen our perspective. Recent polls indicate a majority of Americans, especially those who didn’t live through Watergate, Vietnam, or the Cold War, are seriously concerned about the direction the country is moving. a CNN poll published today put that number at 65% with another 23% reporting that they are scared for our future. Why? While most people in the poll cited the economy, the border with Mexico, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and losing focus on combating climate change, three of those things have been with us for decades, and Russia’s belligerent stance internationally has been a reality since 2014. We’ve experienced them before, and none of them send shivers down my spine the way Trumpism and what has been dubbed “Christian Nationalism” do.

What worries me is the nationwide push to restrict voting to favor right-wing candidates, the rise of evangelistic politics, the enabling if not outright encouragement of White Nationalist groups and hate crimes, and the brazen misrepresentation (which many characterize as perjury) of ideological views and intentions by Trump’s three Supreme Court justices during their confirmation hearings. Whether you view these issues as a re-fighting of states’ rights battles that began 250 years ago, or a deliberate attempt to undermine our Constitution, if the Trumpers and evangelists win, America will soon bear very little resemblance to the country I grew up in.

Blaming an incumbent president and Congress for rising inflation, supply chain problems, and energy and food shortages is standard fare approaching midterm elections. But negative campaigning is exacerbated by news and social networks that spread lies and misinformation, and enable bad foreign actors to manipulate our domestic politics. The failure of platforms like Facebook to responsibly manage their content and the impunity with which Fox News, Newsmax, and America One disregard the rules of professional journalism are the real threat to our future.

Today, Twitter estimated that one in five of its accounts are fake. The constant din of negativity and outright lies combined with a growing trend among Americans toward intellectual laziness makes it nearly impossible to imagine a way out of America’s political gridlock. It’s even more difficult to imagine our government functioning at all if it continues.

I am shocked that Americans disapprove of President Biden’s administration at the same rate they disapproved of Trump’s. That is proof positive of the toxic effect of hate politics and irresponsible reporting. While his intentions in withdrawing from Afghanistan were good, and he was boxed in by agreements with the Taliban signed by President Trump, Biden must own the intelligence failures that made the withdrawal resemble a clown show. The death of thirteen American servicepeople in a terrorist attack that should have been stopped nullified the positive end of our misguided military involvement and the successful evacuation of more than 100,000 civilians from a perpetual war zone.

Unfortunately, in the minds of American voters, it also nullified Biden’s economic stimulus plan which put money in the pockets of millions of Americans who were left destitute by the COVID pandemic. Almost every dollar went straight back into our retail economy, reducing unemployment to fifty-year lows, beginning a new trend of rising wages, and sparking an unprecedented boom in financial markets.

The right-wing noise has blinded Americans to President Biden’s success rebuilding NATO, which history will likely show was the only thing standing in the way of Vladimir Putin’s attempt to reconstruct the Soviet Union and preventing his war in Ukraine from engulfing all of Europe and probably the world. The deafening chaos has also made it difficult for Americans to realize the importance of Biden’s stance on isolating Russia, particularly extracting Europe from dependence on Russia’s oil and natural gas. Both Europe and the United States have announced ambitious plans to expand the use of wind, solar and hydro power, which coould ultimately result in complete energy independence. Not incidentally, they are also the most effective ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Upset about inflation and shortages of critical items on store shelves? Recall that during the worldwide COVID lockdowns, farmers and ranchers could not bring products to market, resulting in crops and herds being destroyed. Agricultural spokespersons warned that although prices plummeted during the pandemic, there would be a huge price to pay when herds and crop productivity needed to be rebuilt. The sole cause of the inflation in the cost of energy is Russia’s attack on Ukraine is, and as it disrupts the production and export of food, the entire world will pay more to feed families and many countries are at risk of famine. That’s the reality, no matter what you see and hear in the media.

Trumpism’s most dangerous impact on our lives may have been encouraging hate and racism. Trump himself, far from exerting any trace of moral leadership, turned our nation into a selfish, uncaring parody of what it once was. You may disagree with Biden’s policies, but to my mind, having a decent, moral leader in the White House was the most important change resulting from the 2020 election.

As the midterms approach, will Americans succumb to hate rhetoric or wake up to the danger of enabling Trump’s candidates to dominate Congress?

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