Our Dickensian Moment…

Image courtesy of pikrepo.com

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

I was struck by how appropriate Dickens’ famous opening words are to our current American crisis. Dickens, however, was speaking of A Tale of Two Cities. Our situation can, sadly, be described as “A Tale of Two Countries.”

In a divided nation in which a majority of Republicans still believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump, President Biden is doing quite well.

True, the American Rescue Plan was passed with no Republican votes, but polls showed public support for it as high as 77%. Biden is receiving high marks for his handling of the pandemic, and his handling of the economy has been gaining support.

Many people are feeling a new sense of optimism due to Biden’s calm, steady, substantive leadership. When he addressed the country, he justly claimed credit for making significant inroads in beating back the pandemic with a remarkably successful vaccination program and providing vital financial aid to suffering Americans.

The American Jobs Plan is appealing to Democrats and Independents: 56% of Americans approve of it, according to a mid-April NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist survey, including 65% who approve paying for it by taxing earners above $400,000. But Republican voters largely oppose it (though 19% say it should address more, and 13% say it’s “on target.”)

President Biden is moving ahead with determination and, I believe, wisdom—to seize what has been one of the lowest times in our nation’s life and turn it into an opportunity.

To date, Biden’s overall approval ratings exceed his disapproval ratings. According to the polling organization 538’s average of polls, at Day 107 of his administration, he had garnered 53.3% approval and 40.1% disapproval.

At this point in former President Trump’s administration, his approval rating was 42.4%, and he never reached 50% throughout his four years.

Nevertheless, Trump’s shadow has led to the Republican party’s continued descent into his world of unreality—accepting and often embracing conspiratorial thinking and white supremacy.

As you probably know, the House GOP leadership is in the process of ousting the ultra-Conservative Liz Cheney from her number three position because she has bravely insisted the party must break away from Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen—and his encouraging the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Her likely replacement is New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a well-educated woman who clearly knows better.

Despite her voting with Trump less frequently than Cheney did (78% compared with 93%), this former moderate has jumped on the runaway Trump lyin’ train unreservedly. The clothesless emperor has bestowed his blessings upon her.

After President Biden spoke a few days ago about plans to help the decimated restaurant industry, which affects a great deal of our economy, a reporter asked him what he thinks of the current Republican Party.

The real President said our country needs a Republican Party, but this one is trying to decide what it is.

“It’s taking them longer than I thought it would,” Biden said. “I don’t understand the Republicans.”

I won’t belabor all the anti-democratic efforts under way in the states and in the Congress by Republicans who are still in Trump’s sway.

I’m just relieved we have a Department of Justice that has seen fit to investigate the bizarre goings on in Arizona, where the state Republican majority has turned over the election ballots to a conspiracy-oriented private group that’s going over them with ultraviolet lights looking for shreds of bamboo.

Why? To prove that 40,000 Maricopa County (Democratic) votes were imported from China. This is what today’s Republicans are doing in their quest for power for its own sake.

But it’s useful to note that the Republicans’ diffidence toward majority rule has been ongoing. Recall that when Donald Trump was nominated, the Republicans did not even bother to develop a platform specifying what they stand for.

And I think it’s clear, despite how tempting it may be to buy into the bipartisanship that Biden really believes in, that such bipartisanship simply does not exist—and he knows it. Biden instructed Joe Manchin and anyone else who has said the Democrats must only pass bills with Republican support to find him ten Republicans to come negotiate with him.

We’ll know next week if the Republican Senators who have agreed to negotiate with him on the infrastructure portion of the American Jobs Plan are serious. I have my doubts.

The magical thinking behind such a scenario should have been quashed by Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s response when asked about Liz Cheney.

Though McConnell’s comments after January 6 had laid the blame for the insurrection directly on Trump and echoed the Democrats’ impeachment findings (despite his refusal to vote accordingly), he ignored the Cheney question and said pointedly:

“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.”

McConnell insisted the Republican Senators are united behind his goal.

So here we are. The Democrats, with support from most Independents, are backing the Biden plans to address urgent problems the US has now, including those it has failed to face concerning racial and economic inequality since our nation’s founding.

The Republicans are offering no plans of any sort and are dangerously undermining our democracy with gerrymandering, voter suppression, and laws that move election results into the hands of partisans who—whether or not they believe the Big Lie—are continuing to follow the disgraceful and disgraced former President.

“Trumpism” appears to have taken on a life of its own, independent of the former guy.

Passage of S.1, the “For the People Act of 2021,” in the Senate is absolutely critical to enable a response to these bogus laws–aptly called Jim Crow laws because of their intended targets of people of color (and young people, and other likely Democrats). But I’m concerned how S.1 will pass.

The stakes could not be higher. The visions for America could not be more starkly different. And the balance of power is far closer than it would be if we had unfettered free elections and nonpartisan groups drawing up Congressional district lines in the states. (Michigan now has one; it should be a national model.)

Just a change of a handful of seats will shift the House control to the Republicans. One seat will do it in the Senate. Seats in state legislatures are crucial.

A recent primary in an area of Texas that might have been picked up by the Democrats drew only 14% of Democratic voters, so no Democrat made the cut. This loss is a lesson we dare not ignore—and was the impetus for my writing this post.

Even with majority support for Biden’s programs, we remain a divided nation, and there is no telling what will happen in 2022.

It may be that Republican pollster Frank Luntz is right. He says it’s possible the former President’s adherence to the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him due to widespread fraud, which more than two-thirds of Republicans believe, could persuade Republicans from voting in 2022, ensuring Democrats retain control of Congress.

“What Donald Trump is saying is actually telling people it’s not worth it to vote. Donald Trump single-handedly may cause people not to vote. And he may be the greatest tool in the Democrats’ arsenal to keep control of the House and Senate in 2022,” Luntz said.

On the other hand, the normally upbeat New York Times columnist Tom Friedman sees matters much more darkly.

“We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

“Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly….

“…To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

“What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

Unfortunately, our nation’s fate is tied to the GOP’s devolution.

So the time for citizen action is now. For those who care about preserving our democracy and helping the Biden administration—and the majority of Americans it represents—toward success, there is no rest for the weary.

Confirm that you’re registered to vote! Give money if you can to the candidates of your choice and the organizations helping to get out the vote. Volunteer if you can. If you’re in a state that’s now battling new election restrictions (or even if you’re not), contact your elected officials and tell them how you feel.

Citizen activism has never been more important.

Let’s make sure that these coming years are, in Dickens’ words: “the age of wisdomthe season of light…the spring of hope…”


15 thoughts on “Our Dickensian Moment…

  1. Trump would be nothing without Fox and Murdoch. The GOP changed the rules years ago to allow Murdoch to buy a tv network devoted solely to propaganda. Those who watch Fox are hopelessly lost to democracy.The Dems need to concentrate on getting out their base and the suburbanites, They need to organize to help young people, minorities and working people registered and to the polls. It can be done.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Add FaceBook and Twitter to the list of the forces that enabled trump to expand on his Apprentice phony “rep” as a successful businessman and feed into festering resentment and fears, Joseph.

      I agree with you: we need a massive voter effort. That was the reason for this post. It not only CAN be done; it MUST be done!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The ascendancy of trumpism was coming for a very long time. Both parties are responsible for this because of their failure to address the major structural changes that have been occurring due to the rapid increase in technology. The number of blue collar workers that have either been permanently replaced by computerization or have had to accept lower pay in order to keep their job has resulted in an entire class of disaffected Americans.
    Only recently have we seen a concerted push to retrain those mentioned above. Community colleges must be the key for this. Both the private and public sectors have to step up financially in order to effect these changes. The Republicans have been very effective in promoting cultural divisions and the Democrats have been willing participants with their “all talk but little action” together with their wokeness.
    The sad fact is that I’ve just scraped the surface in attempting to define the crises that we now face. Unless we begin to get real in identifying the needed solutions, liberalism will be replaced by autocracy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate your background info, Steve. This post was intended to focus on the NOW. If we’re going back in history to look at grievances, I trust you agree that we must begin with slavery and the decimation of indigenous people —all done while fueling poor white people’s fears and elevated sense of self-worth in contrast with the “others.” I recommend Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us as a brilliant exploration of the zero sum game that continues today.

      I believe Biden’s large plans are carefully thought out approaches that could do much to redress our economic and social inequities. Those approaches—and his kindly persona—are making him a hard target for the Republicans to demonize.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” actually addresses a couple of Steve’s points, right now.
        The specific points are:
        * “Blue collar jobs”, in quotes, because he mentioned them in the speech before congress – maybe since this article was posted.
        * Two years of community college tuition free. Two years can get you retraining into, for example, Wastewater Management – a relatively new blue collar field.

        There are a lot of things from the past that are biting us right now. If this AJP bill takes some of the air out of the MAGA hot air balloon we’ll have a better chance of addressing the next things instead of sliding back toward fascism. I remember your article about the kids from the right wing cults helping to deprogram others sucked into those cults, but if the impact of these two things is addressed it might stem the flow of new blood into Right Wing Watch candidates.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this information, Matthew. It is indeed unfortunate that the UK is being infected with the same disinformation virus that we’re battling here.

      We are starting to see signs that the overreaching may backfire. That’s my hope.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks very much, MDavis. I’m glad you pointed out two of the many important and carefully considered societal advances in the AJP. Similarly, the American Families Plan could do much to address real grievances among suffering Americans, thereby reducing dangerous animus in some of these people. That’s my hope as well.

    Biden’s approval rating is climbing—now in the 60s.
    Whether that will convince some Senate Republicans to move from their sinking ship to firm ground is a key question. But then there’s Mitch…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. He is one of my most favourite writers. We grew up reading his stories and could relate to them in 1980s and 90s in India. I think his writing will always have an appeal and relevance as you have rightly said.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree that Fox News is a problem. I used to think that if Mike Bloomberg really wanted to help democracy, instead of pouring money into his ill-fated campaign, he could have bought up Fox and closed it. (I presume you saw the New Yorker issue with Fox News on the cover overlaid on the White House). Anyway, wanted to say thanks for this piece. LOVED your intro.


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