Positive Signs

Alan Zendell, September 13, 2022

As 2022 began, everything seemed to be trending in the wrong direction. Congress was hopelessly deadlocked. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had re-aligned himself with Donald Trump, tying his future to the former president’s. Democrats were unable to captialize on their razor-thin Senate majority which was stymied by two Senators who would not go along with our current president’s agenda, and Biden appeared mired in quicksand, with a dismal approval rating and a storm of criticism from both the right and left. Pundits predicted a midterm tsunami, a red wave led by Trump-dominated Republicans, while investigations of Trump’s involvement in the January 6th insurrection were being stonewalled by former White House officials and lawyers.

Russia massed troops along its border with Ukraine, and Biden faced his greatest challenge: restoring American leadership of NATO and re-uniting Europe against the threat of Russian aggression. Russia and OPEC had found common interest in limiting oil production to drive up prices. Predictions of recession were rampant, and the Omicron variant of COVID reminded us that the pandemic wasn’t over, it had simply evolved to a new phase. COVID didn’t dominate the news, but so many hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients, there was little room for anyone else.

When it seemed things couldn’t look gloomier, Russia invaded Ukraine, inflation exploded, the Supreme Court reversed Roe v Wade, warning that other rights we consider settled by decades of precedent were in jeopardy, and red states began passing laws threatening the objectivity of our elections that the courts seemed inclined to let stand. Perhaps worst of all, efforts to offset the effects of climate change seemed dead.

In March, however, two miracles unfolded. Joe Biden’s understated leadership and the relationships he had established with our allies as Senator and Vice President paid huge dividends. Even his supporters were startled at his success in creating solidarity among NATO and EU leaders, though we are routinely warned that it might collapse any time. The Ukrainian people showed the same mettle against a massive Russian military that they had eighty years earlier, when Hitler invaded. The success of Ukraine’s armed forces, the massive influx of arms and other essential equipment from NATO countries, and Ukrainian leaders’ ability to work smoothly with U. S. and European intelligence shocked almost everyone, not least, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Teachers, historians, economists, and politicians tell us the forces that influence our lives are mostly cyclical. It’s easy to lose faith waiting for the pendulum to swing back, but it always does, and it’s doing so now. Gas prices are down thirty percent from their June highs and are lower than when Russia invaded Ukraine, proving that we were victimized more by the oil cartels’ greed than Putin’s blackmail. Special elections, especially in red states, show that voters are inclined to reject the extremism of the Trump-dominated courts, and Trump’s success in forcing his candidates through the primaries may backfire in November, as many of those he supported are clearly not ready for prime time.

In June, the incompetent, dysfunctional Democrats got their act together and managed to do so under the radar, averting a flood of counter-propaganda from the right and enabling Congress to pass landmark legislation. We are repaying veterans (and their families) who suffered grave illness and death due to our policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re enabling our government to negotiate drug prices for seniors, taking a chunk out of the monopoly control pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed for a century. We’re returning manufacturing of essential goods and components like computer chips and electric vehicles to the United States, ending our dependence on not-always-friendly governments and weakened supply chains.

We are finally taking significant action to offset the effects of climate change, reduce carbon emissions, and bring the dream of energy self-sufficiency to fruition. And most remarkably, thanks to the leadership of President Biden and his Department Chiefs at State and Defense, the flow of weapons, humanitarian aid, and overwhelming diplomatic support has helped Ukraine achieve remarkable success hardly anyone thought possible in pushing Russian forces out of occupied territory. And we’re learning, today, that our unified action has energized Russian opposition to Vladimir Putin.

As the House Committee investigating January 6th, the Department of Justice, and law enforcement officials in Georgia and New York continue to uncover shameful and likely criminal actions by Donald Trump, Americans are waking up to the reality that Trump was intent on destroying our democracy and President Biden is the leader many of us hoped he would be. His approval ratings have risen from the high thirties to the mid-forties, and the trend in forecasts for the midterm elections no longer portends domination by Trump’s extremism.

Everything could go south again, but the forces of decency and reason in America are in the ascendancy. Our job is to maintain that momentum. Our future depends on it.

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