Inflection Points

Alan Zendell, August 16, 2022,

President Biden often says we are at an inflection point in our history. In mathematics, an inflection point defines when a downward trend turns upward, or vice versa. That sounds very technical, but applied to our lives and history, it couldn’t be more profound. An inflection point can be the moment when despair turns to hope, when the half empty glass suddenly appears half full, when dawn breaks after a long, dark night.

The first half of 2022 felt like a period of encroaching darkness. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, out-of-control inflation, an obstructionist, dysfunctional Congress, a Supreme Court set on undoing much of our social enlightenment, a Party appearing unable to support its own president, the revelations of the January 6th hearings, increasingly violent threats against law enforcement by right wing extremists – the list of depressing events seemed to grow longer every day.

For the first time in my long life, I feared for the future of our country. Then, something changed. It was as though the massive organism that is our country had reached a critical mass of negativity and decided it had had enough.

The oil companies, reacting to disclosures that their windfall profits and stock buybacks were the primary cause of the huge rise in fuel prices, realized they’d been caught red-handed. Gas prices dropped more than 21% from their June highs. Voters in one of our reddest states overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have set women’s rights back fifty years. Congressional Democrats started behaving like lawmakers, stopped squabbling among themselves, and passed a major piece of Biden’s legislative agenda which will make serious strides toward mitigating climate change and assuring our energy independence without the use of fossil fuels. Congress will finally take on the most egregious price-fixing practices of the pharmaceutical industry and begin to repair some of the harm done to our veterans. And the inevitable downward spiral into recession now looks far less certain, as the job market is booming and unemployment is the lowest in seventy-three years.

The January 6th committee, spearheaded by Republican House members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and testimony almost exclusively from law enforcement and Republicans who were in former President Trump’s orbit exposed horrifying details about a president willing to overthrow our constitutional democracy for his own selfish ends, and worse, is still being supported in his lies by politicians clinging to his coattails. After excruciating months of investigation, Georgia appears ready to indict Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and likely, Trump himself for election fraud; New York appears equally likely to indict Trump’s senior people for fraudulent business practices and tax evasion; and Attorney General Merrick Garland is investigating Trump for major violations of our espionage laws, leading an insurrection, and the attack on Congress.

We see, too, that Biden’s efforts to re-unite and strengthen NATO have paid off in a huge way. NATO support for Ukraine has stymied Russia’s invasion and severely weakened Russia’s influence in the world, including the prestige of Vladimir Putin. Future historians may well view standing up to aggression by a major power with the threat of nuclear war a real possibility as a major inflection point in the evolution of a new world order that goes hand in hand with pushing back against the rise of nationalism and right-wing populism. Standing up to a serious threat like Russia’s disregard of international norms and its willingness to risk major conflicts may also have taught us a more important lesson.

Donald Trump awakened and empowered the very same kind of dangerous, anti-democratic elements of our own society. Celebration of an unregulated gun culture, White Supremacy, racism and bigotry, xenophobia, the abrogation of women’s rights, anti-semitism, and attacks on the LBTGQ community have all increased sharply since Trump entered the political scene seven years ago. And now, some of the most dangerous groups in our country are threatening revolution and civil war, openly encouraging violence against law enforcement, politicians, and judges with whom they disagree.

As the Biden administration recognized that regardless of the risk, standing up to Russia was an existential necessity, drawing a line in the sand against fascist, autocratic politicians here at home, and standing up to those who support them with threats of armed violence is equally important to our survival as a nation. Perhaps the hypocrisy of Trumpism’s pretense that its followers believe in law and order will finally energize traditional Republican conservatives to stand up and take back their party.

Biden is correct that we are at an important inflection point in our history. He is also right that the policies he has pursued and been able to execute have reversed the trend of negativity and restored hope in the future.

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