Why Are Women World Leaders Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic So Well–and What Does This Tell Us About Leadership?

With the world caught in the vortex of the pandemic, it’s clear that some of the best results to date have occurred in countries that have elected women as their leaders. Indeed, an article in The Guardian bore this headline:

“The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Coronavirus: Women.”

I find this phenomenon intriguing and have been wondering what lessons might emerge to help us going forward. There seem to be several commonalities among these women.

First, Let’s Look at Some of the Notable Success Stories.

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Tsai Ind-Wen, President, Taiwan

There’s Tsai Ing-Wen, who was elected President of Taiwan in 2016. Although Taiwan is close to mainland China, where the virus first surfaced and rampaged, her rapid actions resulted in fewer than 400 confirmed cases and six deaths out of a population of about 24 million people. 

Working with her vice president, an epidemiologist, she ordered all planes from Wuhan inspected when she first heard about the virus in December. She then restricted flights from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, created an epidemic command center, and increased production of personal protective equipment (PPE).

These efforts were so successful that Taiwan has actually been donating masks to the US and 11 European countries.

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Katrin Jakobsdottir, PM, Iceland

Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland, has overseen testing of nearly 12% of her country’s population, a much greater percentage than any other country. She’s done so by collaborating with a biotech company that offers free tests to anyone who wants one—regardless of whether they have symptoms or believe they’ve been exposed to the virus. Iceland also does in-depth contact tracing to locate and isolate people who may have been exposed.

Although there hasn’t been a countrywide lockdown, they’ve banned gatherings of more than 20 people. I’m assuming that with a population of just over 364,000, that degree of testing and tracing inspires some confidence that greater restrictions aren’t needed.

In fact they’ve screened five times the number of people as South Korea. As of April 17, Iceland had 1,739 known cases, with eight deaths.

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Sanna Marin, PM, Finland

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, is the youngest female leader in the world, at age 34, and has a largely female cabinet. Finland recently increased its testing capacity by 50% and began nationwide antibody testing.

With a population of about 5.5 million, Finland has seen 3,489 cases and 75 deaths. According to The Christian Science Monitor, a Finnish Broadcast reporter said:

“Her performance at press conferences and in parliament has been just what works best for Finns–clear, concise, unemotional; but with an undertone of warmth.”  

A recent poll showed that 85% of Finns approve of Marin’s handling of the pandemic.

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Erna Solberg, PM, Norway

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, announced recently that the contagion curve has been sufficiently leveled so that her country “has managed to gain control of the virus.” She began lifting the strict controls by reopening some businesses and kindergartens. The known incidence in Norway, with a population of nearly 5.4 million, is 6,905 cases and 157 deaths.

Solberg has followed the scientists’ advice in her actions and comforted her people: she said in a news conference that “It’s okay to be scared,” and that she missed hugging her friends, words she felt were especially important for young people to hear.

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Jacinda Ardern, PM, New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, closed the borders immediately, prepared people for self-quarantine, and implemented widespread testing; to date, there have been 1300 cases and just one death in a population of 4.8 million people. The fact that New Zealand is an island has been a factor in her success, but Ardern has also received high marks for the clarity of her leadership and her compassion.

She’s appeared in streaming videos at home, reassured kids that she counts the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny as “essential workers,” and announced that she and her cabinet would take 20 percent pay cuts for six months. She’s been said to demonstrate that a head of state can actually lead with both resolve and kindness.” 

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Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany

And then there’s Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. There have been more than 148,000 infections among its 83 million people, but very low deaths per million (fewer than 5000 as of April 17)—considerably lower than other European countries. Germany has the most large-scale testing program in Europe and the most intensive care beds.

Merkel’s popularity has skyrocketed because she’s handled the crisis so well. She told the public:

“I’m absolutely sure we will overcome this crisis. But how many casualties will there be? How many loved ones will we lose?…We are a community in which every life and every person counts.” 

A Guardian account reported:

“As one wag on Twitter joked: if you’re asking why death rates are so low in Germany and so high in America, it’s ‘because their president used to be a quantum chemist and your president used to be a reality television host.”

Merkel, whose title is chancellor, has a doctorate in quantum chemistry.

Why Have These Women Been So Successful?

According to The Guardian reporter,

“Correlation is obviously not causation. Being a woman doesn’t automatically make you better at handling a global pandemic. Nor does it automatically make you a better leader; suggesting it does reinforces sexist and unhelpful ideas that women are innately more compassionate and cooperative.

“What is true, however, is that women generally have to be better in order to become leaders…held to far higher standards than men…you have to be twice as good as a man in order to be taken half as seriously. You have to work twice as hard.”

It seems fairly obvious that what makes a successful leader is a combination of strength, effective decision-making, and compassion. That doesn’t necessarily describe a woman.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reputation has soared, despite the delay in aggressively confronting the threat, because his tough guy persona has been substantially softened by what appears to be genuine compassion. 

But the effective women leaders are the result of a specific environment, says Kathleen Gersen, a sociology professor at New York University.

“Female leaders are also likely to be nourished and supported within societies that themselves have a certain culture.”

For Gersen,

“If you have a political culture in which there’s a relative support and trust in the government, and it’s a culture that doesn’t make stark distinctions between women and men, you’ve already got a head start.” 

She also thinks that women who reach such lofty positions feel less tied to traditional methods of leading.

“There are so many ways that men are expected to behave when they’re leaders that I think it sometimes makes it difficult for them to step over those boundaries and act in a different way from the norm.” 

Though Gersen offers Governor Cuomo as an example of this breakthrough, we’ve seen one terrible—and several poor—examples of male leadership, or lack thereof, that involved differing from the norm. 

These bad examples show us in the negative why the ways the women have acted have been successful. 

In fact, the pandemic forces leaders to face the vastness of unknowns, so they must rely on their inner strengths and creativity more than on existing norms. They have acted promptly and forcefully.

They have also sought expert advice and relied upon the science. And, importantly, they have brought along the people they serve by communicating with them with honesty, clarity, and compassion.

Looking Forward…

If, Gersen says, women leaders can demonstrate that strength and compassion are not conflicting traits—that they actually complement one another and are both essential for good leadership,

“I think not only will society benefit. but so will men. Maybe then we can begin to open up the scripts for roles that leaders play”—regardless of gender. 

What do you think? Women presently make up only 25% of the world’s leaders, but they’ve been the shining lights in this darkest of times.

Do you agree with Kathleen Gersen’s belief that women succeed where there’s relative support and trust in government and not the stark distinctions between men and women?

If so, what does that assessment say about our future in the US—or wherever else you, my thoughtful readers, reside?

Annie

Continue reading “Why Are Women World Leaders Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic So Well–and What Does This Tell Us About Leadership?”

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic

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Image courtesy of health.mil.

Catastrophic delays
Of equipment for patients and carers
Reveal huge flaws in America’s design.
One thing I do
Not hear discussed
Applies to the “have nots’”
Vying for their tiny share of
Income from the supposed stimulus:
Registering their presence without
Use of computers and Internet?
Shadowy reminders of those we forget.

Small businesses
Tethered lightly to viability
In line for loans
Must wait months to see $$
Urgently needed, as
Life savings go out padlocked doors
Unless some Cuomo-esque souls
Snip through the bureaucracy…

Relying on small amounts,
Each home health aide, waiter,
Likely most in gig economy, live
In fear of dislocation,
Eviction, illness, as the
Fat big business cats purr in delight.

Phase 4 bill? The Dems want more $$ to
Aid states/locals still fighting virus,
Care via family/medical leave,
Keep first responders safe,
Add to Fed food aid,
Gird pensions for stability,
Extend more checks to meet great need.
(See below…)

_________________

The three bills were bipartisan, a remarkable accomplishment at this time that meant both sides compromised. To date, the Republicans say no more stimulus is needed–except Lisa Murkowski, who wisely notes that serious mental health needs arising from the pandemic will have to be addressed.

The Democrats improved the Republicans’ bill, but said they’d be back for more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the first two bills were for emergency relief; the third for mitigation. The fourth will be for recovery.

In this fourth bill, the Democrats will plead for all in Phase 4 above, plus virus-revealed issues: money for Internet services, now a necessity; money for states and the Post Office for vote-by-mail to ensure our democratic processes can continue despite the pandemic.

(Will the President sign this bill? Speaking of the previous bill’s funding request for vote-by-mail, which is expected to enable more Americans to vote, he stated:
“The things they had in there were crazy…that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”)

Two parties; two different wish lists.

For Phase 4 to pass, We, the People, must loudly say we agree. Do you? Will you?

Annie

Continue reading “CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic”

More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together

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COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

Events are moving very rapidly. Less than a week after I published my post about life in self-quarantine in an epicenter of the pandemic, far more Americans are in similar situations—some in mandatory lockdown, which I suspect will arrive in my community soon. (Update: we’re now in mandatory lockdown.)

In my previous post, I described being in a hard-hit area with a local hospital whose CEO was profoundly worried about running out of ventilators for patients and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital staff. When staff members become ill, obviously, there’s no one to treat patients.

Our community arranged a teleconference for residents to hear from all the relevant local, county, and state officials, as well as our member of Congress. Both my husband and I felt good about what we’d heard. These people knew what they were doing. They were competent and dedicated, and would do whatever was humanly possible to keep us safe.

One person who wasn’t on the call was the hospital CEO.

Today we learned that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Just days before, he’d been at another meeting with all the folks above. So possibly, the entire entourage whom we’re depending upon may now be harboring the disease. This concept takes a little getting used to— and much deep breathing.

Now our governor has taken over these local operations. The governors have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic—from Jay Inslee in Washington state to Mario Cuomo in New York.

They’ve struggled to gain the attention of a President who just weeks ago was declaring the pandemic a “hoax” perpetrated by the Democrats to oust him from office. We lost valuable time while he lived in denial/conspiracy land, bolstered by his friends on Fox TV.

But faced with a free fall in the only indicator he seems to care about, the stock market, Trump has finally awakened and declared himself a “Wartime President.” And then he went missing in action before our eyes. “Mr President,” the exhausted governors pleaded “we desperately need federal help.” His response: “Find your own ventilators. We’re not a shipping clerk.”

It’s so ironic that the President many of us have worried has shown dictatorial tendencies—who has, in fact, declared that as president he has the right to do whatever he wants—is now being so reluctant to use the power he has for the greater good.

The New York Times observed “Mixed Signals From President Sow Confusion.” First he said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which dates to the Korean War and “grants the president extraordinary powers to force American industries to ensure the availability of critical equipment.”

The very next day, he made his “We’re not a shipping clerk” comment. Apparently, some business leaders who didn’t like the idea of being “forced” to do anything got his ear. But will they do enough, quickly enough, to provide the vital protective equipment to ensure that our health care workers aren’t decimated, and that enough  life-saving respirators are on hand so that those working won’t have to perform triage to determine who gets one and who’s left to die–as is currently the case in Italy?

Meanwhile, in Italy, the total death rate reached 3405 on Thursday, exceeding that of China at its highest, according to an article in Bloomberg. The next day, Bloomberg reported 627 deaths, “the highest daily toll since outbreak hit.”

The Prime Minister is weighing even greater restrictions than those covered by the current “near-total lockdown,” Bloomberg reports. “The decision depends on factors including the spread of infections and the fact that many Italians aren’t respecting the rules, the official said.”

And this is happening in northern Italy, which has more and better hospitals than the southern part of the country—and has been overwhelmed. If the virus spreads south, it could be disastrous. The second article cited provides information about Spain, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I am also getting reports about India from my fellow blogger, the Controversial Indian, who provides her thoughts daily from what she calls “house arrest.” She observed on Day 19 that she is suspicious of the low number of cases reported to date—236—and says “the government still refuses to acknowledge that there is any community transmission of the disease in the country.” There’s also very little testing.

You’ve seen the curve of increased cases in Italy? Our curve bears an eerie resemblance to that one, and experts report that at the speed at which the cases are multiplying, we have about two weeks before we’ll be facing comparable conditions.

That’s why it’s so important to try to “flatten the curve” of the incidence of infection by having us remain in our homes. At this point, the number of confirmed cases in the US has climbed to more than 17,000. The lack of adequate testing suggests that number is considerably higher.

Dear Readers:

It appears that more of you have begun to take these events seriously. But if you are still tempted to disregard this threat, please reconsider. I get that the pandemic is affecting various parts of the country differently, but this nasty virus knows how to cross state lines—big time.

And as a country, we have varying degrees of quality and quantity in the health care services and facilities we can access. If New York City, one of the nation’s foremost medical meccas, can be approaching the breaking point, I fear the Italian analogy will be appropriate. Other areas will be hard hit and won’t have the resources and expertise they’ll need.

So I am speaking to you, the Spring Break Invulnerables yukking it up on Florida beaches, oblivious to the threat.

And to you, those who didn’t think twice about going to a large wedding in Brooklyn, NY, that had to be broken up by the police.

And to you, the Self-Styled Immortal Boomer Parents who are in the “most vulnerable” category, but refuse to adapt while their 30-something children scream at them and weep at their heedlessness: “Don’t take that cruise!” Why are you going out to dinner again?” (See The Atlantic article, Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously.)

And to you, bloggers who have expressed disdain at the “stupidity” of people who are going like sheep into their homes as requested—or ordered.

As I and many others have pointed out, we are all interconnected and interdependent. We are in for a rough period unlike anything we’ve seen in the US in our lifetimes.

We will get through this, but we’ll do it more quickly and with fewer casualties if we’re willing to put up with the dramatic changes to our daily lives that the experts insist are essential.

One more thing. A friend forwarded to me a video of a lecture on the coronavirus for health professionals, which was given by Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious diseases specialist at the Santa Barbara (CA) Cottage Hospital.

I found the 1-hour lecture fascinating. One tidbit that I felt important to convey here is Dr. Fitzgibbons’ suggestion, based on findings, that the distance the virus can travel through sneezes or coughs is closer to 13 feet, rather than the 6 feet we’re currently told to observe in social distancing.

For now, social distancing must be our mantra.

There’s a cute little public service announcement made by Max Brooks and his father, the comedian Mel Brooks, age 93. Max is visiting his dad while standing outside his home, talking through the closed window. “If I get the coronavirus, I’ll probably be ok,” he tells us. “But if I give it to him, he can give it to Carl Reiner, who can give it to Dick Van Dyke…and before I know it, I could wipe out a whole generation of comedic legends.”

The PSA concludes with Mel nodding his head in agreement, knocking on the window, and telling his son: “Now go home.”

Very good advice for us all.

And in accord with my ongoing belief that we must keep laughing, I bring you the wise words on social distancing from Pluto, a four-legged. (Also courtesy of my friend Fran Kaufman; thank you, Fran!)

Note: Pluto doesn’t mean to offend with his straight talk; I hope you’ll keep that in mind.

Annie

Continue reading “More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together”

How Bernie Sanders Can Rise From Politician to Statesman

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Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio defied a state Supreme Court decision and cancelled his state’s primary election on March 17, citing “health concerns.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, whom I greatly respect, said he’s been working with DeWine, knows him well, and is confident that his decision was based on the right reason: the desire to protect the health and safety of the people of his state.

So although there’s plenty of political shenanigans around, the Ohio primary cancellation doesn’t seem to have been one of them. That’s the good part.

The bad part is that DeWine’s decision sets a dangerous precedent—as historian Michael Beschloss confirmed on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show. When we get into the business of cancelling elections, we’re entering new territory fraught with negative implications for our democracy, which has been suffering mightily in the past several years.

The coronavirus has demonstrated that we are all interconnected and interdependent: We’ll have to work together to get through this pandemic that is threatening us now—and to deal with the unprecedented dilemmas it is posing.

Based on nearly all sources, who now include a recalcitrant President Trump (!), the pandemic will surely worsen over the next several months. Louisiana and Georgia have already postponed their primaries. It seems to be time to consider how important the remaining primaries are to our democratic process.

There is only one person who should make that decision: Bernie Sanders. 

As of March 18, he faces a nearly insurmountable delegate deficit. Former Vice President Joe Biden has won 1165 delegates; Sanders’ tally is 880. The odds of his success are slim to none. After losing the primaries in Illinois, Florida, and Arizona by large percentages, Bernie is now “reassessing his campaign,” according to current reports. 

If he decides that it is irresponsible to continue seeking delegates through the primaries because people’s lives will be at risk going to vote in primaries that won’t change the outcome—and suspends his campaign—he will be demonstrating a degree of reality-based unselfishness that will earn him a solid place in history. 

In contrast, if he continues to campaign in whatever way he can, he will divert Biden from focusing his sole attention on President Trump’s massive failures, delay whatever reconciliation is possible between his supporters and Biden, and increase the chances that the most inept and harmful president ever may somehow win another four years. 

Bernie’s place in history may then be as the spoiler who increased the possibilities of our democracy failing. I’m sure that is not the legacy he wishes. He has committed to voting for and campaigning for Biden, stating that defeating President Trump is the most important issue.

He can still play an active role in pursuing his ideas and ideals; he has already moved Biden to the left on education. But I hope he realizes that the primaries—and Biden’s increasingly large victories—have demonstrated that this is a center-left country.

Based on all the votes cast in the primaries to date, it’s now time for the battle of ideas among Democrats to cease in order to form a cohesive strategy to defeat Trump, hold the House, and retake the Senate.

Biden recognizes where he must be to forge what has so far been a winning coalition. If Bernie pushes too far, he risks validating those among his supporters who will refuse to vote for Biden because they view him as too much a part of the “corrupt establishment.”

I hope, therefore, that Bernie will soon announce the suspension of his campaign and devote his energies to ensuring that the Senate passes substantive legislation that will provide immediate and ongoing assistance to Americans in need due to the impact of the coronavirus. 

And I hope that along the way, he will be able to convince many (most?) of his supporters that their vote for the man he calls “my friend Joe” is right and necessary. 

We have Republicans in the Senate today sounding like Socialists (shhhhhh!), saying they’re ready to send dollars to the public. 

We have a public that, after decades of accepting the Republicans’ fraying of the safety net, finally realizes due to the absence of good management and wise decision-making how very important the federal government is. 

(With regard to the above point, I urge you to read this extremely important article in the Washington Post by Stuart Stevens, a now contrite Republican consultant, on the damage his party has wreaked on this nation, leading inevitably to our current crisis.) 

In the midst of the horror we’re experiencing, if Bernie now declares he’ll no longer participate in the primaries, he can take pride in the role he’s played in changing people’s views. He just hasn’t succeeded to the point that they’re ready for his revolution.

Annie

Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Our Quarantine Begins

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COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

This wasn’t the post I’d originally planned to publish. That one can wait for another time. This post is more timely. And since my story may become your story—if it hasn’t already—I thought I should tell it to you now.

I live in a medium-sized community in the eastern US. Yesterday, our mayor requested that we move beyond this new status we’ve just learned about: social distancing.

We’ve now been asked to self-quarantine, voluntarily at this point. We should stay at home, going out only to buy food or medications. We are suddenly activists in the effort to flatten the curve and slow the exponential increase in disease incidence. 

The community officials have been acting very responsibly—closing the municipal buildings and library and encouraging people to conduct their business online. (Woe to anyone without functioning computer and Internet connection, but that’s a story for another day.)

They’ve even stated the number of people who will be permitted to enter the food markets at one time: 50 for the largest; 25 for each of the smaller stores, with only one family member permitted per visit. I’m all for these restrictions, which seem well thought out to me.

As my husband and I are past 60, we are considered part of the vulnerable population. We don’t have the other conditions that would increase our odds of becoming severely ill—such as heart or lung disorders or diabetes—but our well-worn immune systems are better off not being called into combat against this particularly nasty bug.

I’ll note that we’re careful about our health and diet, don’t smoke, and are both gym rats. One of the hardest things about this quarantine is that even though we’d decided it was probably not a good idea to continue going to our gym, the gym announced today that it’s closed until further notice.

That deprives us of the most important man in my life: the personal trainer we work out with together once a week. (I’ve told the trainer that in my husband’s presence.) He has really strengthened us and made us feel we’re up to all sorts of challenges.

I had assumed that under the circumstances, even if I got the damn virus, I would be sick for a week or so and then recover. But I’ve since learned that it’s quite tricky, and even when people seem to be recovering, it can do a sneak attack that brings them to an ICU needing a ventilator.

My purpose in telling you this is not to create panic; I feel amazingly calm myself considering my basic catastrophizing nature. Mindfulness meditation works wonders for me: I don’t dwell on what may happen.

Similarly, I see no point in checking the balances on our rapidly crumbling retirement accounts—or spending more than a fleeting moment pondering potential breakdowns in our food supply chains and the availability of medicines I must take. 

But there are plenty of people who either aren’t getting or aren’t hearing the facts about COVID-19. The messages from the White House and the CDC are conflicting and confusing. Putting out a blanket limit on 50 people congregating in a single spot does not take into account the size of the spot (unlike my local regulations) and how much “social distancing” is possible therein. 

Such ambiguity may lead people to continue taking advantage of not having to be at work to meet with their friends in a bar; that’s definitely not smart. This is not your grandmother’s flu. It’s spreading more quickly than other viruses in the past. It’s also more lethal.

On March 14, our local hospital had 11 cases, and 6 of them (all younger than 60) were in the ICU. Another 40 patients were under observation. Those numbers are increasing rapidly, and they somehow haven’t made it into the state’s official count.

You know those N95 masks many people are talking about, which can be used only once and are essential to protect health care workers as they tend to infected patients? The hospital’s CEO said in an interview that those masks are running low statewide. His hospital had gone through 795 of them by 7 pm in a single day.

He described the past week as something he’d never before seen, even though he’d fought cholera in Haiti after the earthquake, when there were no medical supplies, and “even when we ramped up for Ebola.” He called this crisis “unprecedented.”

The CEO said a number of things that were quite concerning. One that disturbed me the most was that he’s given up on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had yet to confirm his hospital’s first case.

In his view—and this is something he wants people to know—testing is problematic. It’s more complicated than it’s been described. To be effective, it must be done under strict conditions with a sample taker appropriately outfitted with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and differing RNA assays make test sensitivity questionable. 

So at best, the tests are 90% accurate, whereas flu tests are 99.999% positive. He fears drive-through testing that shows someone is negative will give that person “a false sense of security.” He said he told the Governor his concerns. 

There are many experts with differing views; I’m noting his because he’s a highly regarded individual who’s working with labs—not to suggest that his opinions necessarily be used as guidance in individual decision-making. 

Testing in the US has certainly been botched, by nearly all accounts, but many point out, as this Atlantic article states, that knowing how many people have been tested would give us some sense of how far the disease has spread and “how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering.” Hmmmm….

Though our hospital CEO doesn’t want to incite panic, he does want people to take this disease seriously because in infected patients

“things can turn around very rapidly. We had a patient that we were thinking about releasing—he seemingly was recovering—and then, two days later, he was put in the ICU. The flu isn’t like that. People need to know this.” 

He encourages people to be responsible: stay home, avoid malls and theater and group activities for now.

“We need to sort of hunker down at home. Go outside if the weather’s nice in your backyard. That’s healthy and good. But we shouldn’t be out and about.”

That’s what we’re doing. Going into stores for food only when they’re not crowded. Avoiding situations where we’ll have to stand on line. Bringing our rapidly disappearing hand sanitizer with us when we’re out of the house, and swabbing our door knobs on the outside and inside with Lysol when we return.

(We’ve also made some hand sanitizer by mixing alcohol with aloe vera, but both ingredients are no longer available.) 

I heard one virologist say COVID-19 is most likely to linger for up to 9 days on metal and hard smooth surfaces. Clothing and porous surfaces seem not to be a concern. I haven’t found confirmation of this statement, however.

What else are we doing? Agonizing over whether to buy two or three small packages of tissues (8 each pack): they were going fast, and we felt we could use them to open doors once our hand sanitizer was gone. But was buying three packages selfish? 

We’re wiping down our cell phones (Apple said Chlorox wipes are OK) and other surfaces. Lifting weights and exercising at home, and taking walks in the late afternoon when few people are around. And yesterday we toured our small garden, buoyed by the sight of the first crocuses pushing their way through the mesh we’d placed over the hard soil to allow them to get a head start before the feeding faunas’ visits. So those back-aching hours planting bulbs last fall paid off! The appearance of those young green shoots couldn’t have come at a better time.

And we’re washing, washing, washing our hands. I find it so interesting that this devastating organism can be vanquished by plain old soap and water.

Finally, we’re still remembering to laugh. (See my previous post.)

My sister-in-law sent this cartoon today.

PHOTO-2020-03-14-07-32-36

My response was: “Gee, do you know where he got it? I could use some.” 

Do you have stories to tell about how you’re coping? I’d love to hear them. I hope you all stay safe.

Annie

Continue reading “Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Our Quarantine Begins”

Chaos in America…BUT… We Can End It! (A Near- Acrostic Poem for Our Times)

Candidates flailing arms in the air, bent
on talking, one over another
Hapless moderators—too many, too
weak to control the mayhem
Another Democratic debate,
Offering less light than heat
Seemingly not laser-focused on our
closeness to the abyss.

In the far too-White House, a lawless
President—unrebuked by his
tarnished party—
No-nothingly claims the gathering
pandemic will soon be gone

And helter-skelterly seeks funding only
after a ka-chinging Stock
Market dives into waters darkened
by viral uncertainty…
Even as he tears away our protective
Intel and
Rebukes/replaces experts and judicious
judges,
Instead producing pattern-setting
pardons of those justly
Convicted of crimes against the State…
As back in Russia, Vladimir does his
happy dance with wanton abandon.

BUT…

When an aroused people stands together
Elevating our shared goal beyond our
individual predilections,

Change of the most positive nature can
unfold
As we become Citizen Activists as never
before:
Noting the work ahead, and
enthusiastically signing on

Exercising our right to vote for whoever
we think best—but
Not turning away if the nominee is other
than our choice,
Determined to banish the unclothed
emperor above all.

In this nation of great promise and
hard history
This is our time, finally, to get
things right!

__________________________
Note:

In my previous post, I cited the free newsletter by RB Hubbell of California (rbhubbell@gmail.com). His February 26, 2020, issue (No. 380) is a treasure trove of action steps we can take, with links to organizations focused on the important issues of voter registration, turnout, and voter protection, among others.

They include several I’d never heard of, such as Changing the Conversation Together (in which volunteers have issue-oriented discussions with people in their homes), Vote Forward (you sign your name to letters on a template sent to under-represented voters), and one I found particularly interesting:  Payback Project, dedicated to defeating ten Republican Senators (including Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Mitch McConnell), and thereby taking back the Senate.

And in today’s newsletter (February 27, 2020, No. 831), Hubbell adds another compelling possibility: Sister District Project, which tries to turn states blue by winning state legislatures, thereby helping to end gerrymandering. The organization says it has teams “across the country.” With the 2020 Census under way, leading to redistricting in 2021, it is vital that we have Democratic Governors and state legislators involved in this effort to ensure that representation is accurately apportioned.

Annie

Continue reading “Chaos in America…BUT… We Can End It! (A Near- Acrostic Poem for Our Times)”

Some Positive Thoughts…and Actions to Save the House of Representatives

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Image courtesy of pikrepo.com

After watching the pre-Nevada caucus Democratic debate, I began writing this post with feelings of frustration approaching despair. There were many things to criticize, and I was emptying my angst onto this page, and thus preparing to send it on to you. 

With the latest evidence—which we already knew—from the Intelligence briefing to the House that reiterated Russian meddling in the 2020 election, which was followed by the President’s replacement of the acting intelligence chief with someone with less than zero qualifications for the job, I cannot and will not deny that we are living in increasingly perilous times. See The New York Times article here.

The question I’ve been pondering is this: as we search for someone who is best able to defeat Donald Trump, how do we handle ourselves? And that question makes me feel more closely attuned to my more optimistic, better self—the one that really believes we can find common ground. 

What brought me to this more positive place? Meditation helps, but my “recovery” was nurtured by a very calming, cogent newsletter that a friend who had just subscribed to forwarded to me. Its author, RB Hubbell, is based in California. The daily newsletter is free and can be obtained by sending your email address to rbhubbell@gmail.com.

A Voice of Reason

I don’t know how large Hubbell’s subscriber list is, but he began his discussion of the aftermath of the debate by saying his inbox had “exploded” with emails that “exhibited a level of angst, anger, and disgust I have not seen before.” 

He then said he wanted to share readers’ reactions, because he’s been told that hearing from others helps his readers “ground their feelings and test their own reactions to this crazy mess in which we find ourselves.”

There’s nothing wildly original about Hubbell’s message or his readers’ reactions. Maybe I was just ready to hear his words, but they hit me exactly right. Here’s a sampling:

“Before we get to the details, let’s say the important things first: We must stick together. We are on the same side. If we do not stand together, we will fall together. Whatever passion or disappointment or anger you feel, it cannot cause you to withdraw from the process or give in to feelings of hopelessness or lash out in anger at fellow Democrats. We are facing a grave threat to democracy. Our personal preferences for president are subordinate to the need to ensure the election of the Democratic nominee—whoever he or she is.

“A secondary point is the need to focus on the long-term. Yesterday’s debate was freighted with expectations and led to disappointment. Accept that fact and move on. We can’t freak out every time something bad happens; otherwise, we won’t make it to the Democratic convention in July, much less the general election in November. If ever there was a time in our history when we needed to toughen-up, hunker-down, and keep our eyes on the horizon, now is that moment.”

It’s Okay to Withdraw, But Not for Long

Hubbell’s readers include many people who told him they’d withdrawn from the fray for the sake of their mental health. I can relate to that feeling. My last three posts were about goldfinches and squirrels; solar railways and my carbon BigFootprint, and guidance on comforting the sick and dying. 

But I knew I had to return to politics because this is an “all hands on deck” moment. 

Interestingly, although Hubbell probably wouldn’t reveal his preferred candidate under any circumstances, he notes that he’s mostly filled out his own ballot for the California primary but has not yet determined which candidate he’ll support.

He concludes in a way that ties in with my primary objective with this post, referencing a Twitter thread by Walter Shaub, the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics (when there was such a working institution in our government!). A “snippet”: 

“ Take Action. Any action. It’s not big things that will save us. It’s persistent small actions carried out by one individual, and another, and another and another across the nation…Make a very small donation, even just a dollar, to something, sign up to volunteer for one hour, go learn how to register voters.”

I wish I could include the entire thread because there’s lots of wisdom there. If you’re on Twitter, go to @waltshaub and you can read through it.

A Valuable Way to Make a Difference

Many of us have been repeatedly sending money to the Presidential candidate(s) of our choice. That’s important. But my action at the moment is to focus our attention on the House of Representatives. We must, must, must maintain the Democratic majority in the House. 

All the members of the Class of 2018, those moderates in either swing districts or districts that Trump won, have been targeted for extinction—in good measure because they flipped formerly Republican seats AND had the courage to vote for impeachment. Many won by a single vote.

They are among the more than 50 House members being targeted for defeat by the National Republican Campaign Committee. According to Roll Call, the NRCC Chairman, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, enunciated the slogan the Congressional Republicans plan to run on:

“Freedom or socialism—that’s the choice in 2020.”

These targeted Democrats need our help, as their opposition is often flooded with cash and a revved up base. I’m listing their names, districts, and web sites in the hope that if you feel strongly that it is imperative to retain a Democratic-controlled House, you’ll be able to support their reelections in whatever way you can, including volunteering and importantly by contributing, no matter how small the amount.

In addition to donating to them directly, in most cases you can also go through ActBlue. I’m planning to work my way down the list, eventually giving modest donations to all of them.

Remember: each one of these individuals did what he or she believed was right for this country and upheld that oath—knowing that vote might well end their careers.

Let’s begin with the seven brave souls—all with national security backgrounds—whose OpEd in the Washington Post was instrumental in changing Nancy Pelosi’s mind about the need for an impeachment inquiry. They are:

*Gil Cisneros (CA-39): cisnerosforcongress.com

*Jason Crow (CO-06): jasoncrowforcongress.com

*Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06): chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com

*Elaine Luria (VA-02): elaineforcongress.com

*Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11): mikiesherrill.com

*Elissa Slotkin (MI-08): elissaforcongress.com

*Abigail Spanberger (VA-02): abigailspanberger.com

Here are the others:

*Cheri Bustos (IL-17): cheribustos.com [NOTE: the current Democratic Congressional Committee Chair]

*Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01): tomohalleran.com

*Anne Kirkpatrick (AZ-02): kirkpatrickforcongress.com

*Josh Harder (CA-10): harderforcongress.com

*TJ Cox (CA-21): tjcoxforcongress.com

*Katie Porter (CA-45): KatiePorter.com (I’ll explain my bolding below.)

*Harley Rouda (CA-48): harleyforcongress.com

*Mike Levin (CA-49): mikelevin.org

*Stephanie Murphy (FL-07): stephaniemurphyforcongress.com

*Charlie Crist (FL-13): charliecrist.com

*Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26): debbiemucarselpowell.com

*Donna E. Shalala (Fl-27): donnashalala.com

*Lucy McBath (GA-06): lucyforcongress.com 

*Lauren Underwood (IL-14): underwoodforcongress.com

*Sean Casten (IL-06): castenforcongress.com

*Dave Loebsack (IA-02): loebsackforcongress.com

*Cindy Axne (IA-03): cindyaxneforcongress.com

*Abby Finkenauer (IA-01): abbyfinkenauer.com

*Sharice Davids (KS-03): shariceforcongress.com

*Haley Stevens (MI-11): HaleyStevensForCongress.com

*Angie Craig (MN-02): angiecraig.com

*Dean Phillips (MN-03): phillipsforcongress.org

*Susie Lee (NV-03): susieleeforcongress.com

*Steven Horsford (NV-04): stevenhorsford.com

*Chris Pappas (NH-01): chrispappas.org

*Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05): josh4congress.com

*Andy Kim (NJ-03): andykimforcongress.com

*Tom Malinowski (NJ-07): malinowskifornj.com

*Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02): xochforcongress.com

*Anthony Brindisi (NY-09): brindisiforcongress.com

*Max Rose (NY-11): maxroseforcongress.com

*Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18): seanmaloney.com

*Antonio Delgado (NY-19): delgadoforcongress.com

*Kendra Horn (OK-05): kendrahornforcongress.com

*Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04): defazioforcongress.org 

*Susan Wild (PA-07): wildforcongress.com

*Matt Cartwright (PA-08): cartwrightforcongress.com

*Conor Lamb (PA-17): conorlamb.com

*Joe Cunningham: (SC): joecunninghamforcongress.com

*Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07): lizziefletcher.com

*Ben McAdams (UT): benmcadams.com

*Jennifer Wexton (VA-10): jenniferwexton.com

*Kim Schrier (WA-08): drkimschrier.com

*Ron Kind (WI): ronkind.org

*Christy Smith (CA-25): christyforcongress.org

[update: Christy Smith is running for the seat vacated by Katie Hill. Though she wasn’t in Congress for the impeachment vote, she is being targeted–hard. This is a hard-fought effort to retain a Democratic seat that needs money and votes immediately–before May 14th!] 

__________________

Note: Jared Golden (ME-02): jaredgoldenforcongress.com has also been targeted by the Republicans, but the Democrats aren’t happy with him either: He voted to impeach the President on Article 1, but not for obstruction of Congress.

Missing from my version of the list is Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), who switched his party affiliation and is now a Republican.

On this list of valuable legislators, one who has impressed me deeply is Katie Porter of California, who asks the tough questions and seems fearless in speaking truth to power. She is under particularly strong attack. I believe it is extremely important that her voice continues to be heard in Congress; thus, I’ve highlighted her information.

I’ll conclude with RB Hubbell’s closing remarks in the newsletter issue I referred to above:

We are in the fight of our lives, but we are in it together. That should give us all comfort.”

That fight demands that we act positively and don’t despair. And make sure you’re  registered to vote!

Annie

Continue reading “Some Positive Thoughts…and Actions to Save the House of Representatives”

Here’s the Path for a Big Democratic Win in November

In case you didn’t see/hear or read about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, it appears below.

I believe her focus here is the path the Democrats must take to win the Presidency, House, and Senate in November. It was the successful path to retaking the House in 2018, and there are many reasons to believe it will work again.

I’ve added emphases to several points, but I hope you’ll read the entire speech.


 

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.

Good evening. I’m honored to be here and grateful that you’re tuning in.  I’m Gretchen Whitmer, the 49th governor of the great state of Michigan.  Tonight, I’m at my daughter Sherry and Sydney’s public school East Lansing high school.  We’re here today with families and parents, teachers, and most importantly, students.  I want to thank you all for coming.

But tonight I’m going to talk to those of you who are watching at home.

I’d need a lot more than 10 minutes to respond to what the president just said.  So instead of talking about what he is saying, I’m going to highlight what Democrats are doing. After all, you can listen to what someone says, but to know the truth, watch what they do.

Michiganders are no different from Americans everywhere.  We love our families and want a good life today and a better life tomorrow for our kids.

We work hard, and we expect our government to work hard for us, as well.
We have grit and value loyalty, and we still root for the Detroit Lions.

We and all Americans might be weary of today’s politics, but we must stay engaged.  Our country, our democracy, our future demand it.  We’re capable of great things when we work together.  

We cannot forget that despite the dishonesty and division of the last few years, and that we heard tonight from the President of the United States, together we have boundless potential.

And young Americans are proving that every day by taking action.  That’s what I want to focus on tonight.

Monte Scott is 13 years old and lives in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.  Monte’s street was covered in potholes. They were ankle deep and he got tired of waiting for them to get fixed, so he grabbed a shovel and a bucket of dirt and filled them in himself.

During my campaign, people told me to fix the damn roads, because blown tires and broken windshields are downright dangerous, and car repairs take money from rent, child care or groceries.  And we, the Democrats, are doing something about it.

In Illinois, Governor J. B. Pritzker passed a multibillion dollar plan to rebuild their roads and bridges.  Governor Phil Murphy is replacing lead pipes in New Jersey.

All across the country, Democratic leaders are rebuilding bridges, fixing roads, expanding broadband and cleaning up drinking water.  

Everyone in this country benefits when we invest in infrastructure.  Congressional Democrats have presented proposals to keep us moving forward, but President Trump and the Republicans in the Senate are blocking the path.

When it comes to infrastructure, Monte has tried to do more with a shovel and a pile of dirt than the Republicans in D.C. have with the Oval Office and the U.S. Senate.

Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges, it burns them.  Our energy should be used to solve problems, and it’s true for health care, too.

 For me, for so many Americans, healthcare is personal, not political.
When I was 30, I became a member of the sandwich generation.  That means I was sandwiched between two generations of my own family for whom I was the primary caregiver.

I was holding down a new job, caring for my newborn daughter, as well as my mom at the end of her brain cancer battle.  I was up all night with a baby, and during the day I had to fight my mom’s insurance company when they wrongly denied her coverage for chemotherapy.

 It was hard.  It exposed the harsh realities of our workplaces, our health care system, and our child care system.  

And it changed me.

 I lost patience for people who are just talk and no action.  So as a state senator, I worked with a Republican governor and legislature to expand health care coverage to more than 680,000 Michiganders under the Affordable Care Act.  

Today, Democrats from Maine to Montana are expanding coverage and lowering costs.  In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly is working across the aisle to bring Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands. In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham enshrined ACA protections into law.

Every Democrat running for president has a plan to expand health care for all Americans.  Every one of them has supported the Affordable Care Act with coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

They may have different plans, but the goal is the same.  President Trump sadly has a different plan.  He’s asking the courts to rip those life-saving protections away.  It’s pretty simple.  Democrats are trying to make your health care better, Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away.

Think about kids like 17-year-old Blake Carroll from Idaho, who organized a fundraiser to pay for his mom’s colon cancer treatment, or 19-year-old Ebony Meyers from Utah, who sells art to help pay for her own rare genetic disorder treatment.

No one should have to crowdsource their healthcare, not in America.

But the reality is not everyone in America has a job with healthcare and benefits.  In fact, many have jobs that don’t even pay enough to cover their monthly expenses.

It doesn’t matter what the President says about the stock market.  What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs.

American workers are hurting.  In my own state, our neighbors in Wisconsin and Ohio, Pennsylvania and all over the country, wages have stagnated while CEO pay has skyrocketed. 

So when the president says the economy is strong, my question is, strong for whom?  Strong for the wealthy who are reaping rewards from tax cuts they don’t need?  

The American economy needs to be a different kind of strong. Strong for the science teacher spending her own money to buy supplies for her classroom. Strong for the single mom picking up extra hours so she can afford her daughter’s soccer cleats. Strong for the small business owner who has to make payroll at the end of the month.

Michigan invented the middle class, so we know: if the economy doesn’t work for working people, it just doesn’t work.  Who fights for working, hard-working Americans?  Democrats do.

 In the U.S. House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats passed a landmark bill on equal pay, another bill to give 30 million Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage, and groundbreaking legislation to finally give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices for America’s seniors and families.  

Those three bills and more than 275 other bipartisan bills are just gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.  Senator McConnell, America needs you to move those bills.  

Meanwhile, Democrats across the country are getting things done.  Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf is expanding the right to overtime pay.  Michigan is, too.  Because if you’re on the clock, you deserve to get paid.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper are working to give hardworking teachers a raise. And speaking of the classroom, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers unilaterally increased school funding by $65 million last year.

In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has enacted free all day kindergarten, and in 29 states, we’ve helped pass minimum wage hikes into law, which will lift people out of poverty and improve lives for families.  That’s strength.  That’s action.

Democracy takes action, and that’s why I’m so inspired by young people.  They respond to mass shootings, demanding policies that make schools safer.  They react to a world that’s literally on fire, with fire in their bellies, to push leaders to finally take action on climate change.

They take on a road filled with potholes with a shovel and some dirt.  It’s what gives me great confidence in our future, and it’s why sometimes, it feels like they’re the adults in the room.  But it shouldn’t have to be that way.  It’s not their mess to clean up.  It’s ours. The choices we make today create their reality tomorrow.

Young people, I’m talking to you.  And your parents and grandparents.  Democrats want safe schools.  We want everyone to have a path to a good life, whether it’s through a union apprenticeship, a community college, a four-year university, without drowning in debt.  

We want your water to be clean.  We want you to love who you love, and to live authentically as your true selves. And we want women to have autonomy over our bodies.

We want our country welcoming, and everyone’s vote counted.  2020 is a big year.  It’s the year my daughter Sherry will graduate from high school.  It’s also the year she’ll cast her first ballot, along with millions of young Americans.

The two things are connected.  Because walking across a graduation stage is as important as walking into the voting booth for the first time.  Her future, all our kids’ futures, will be determined not just by their dreams, but by our actions.

As we witness the impeachment process in Washington, there are some things each of us, no matter our party, should demand.

 The truth matters.  Facts matter.  And no one should be above the law.

It’s not what those senators say.  Tomorrow, it’s about what they do that matters.  Remember, listen to what people say but watch what they do.  It’s time for action.  Generations of Americans are counting on us.  Let’s not let them down.

Thank you for listening. God bless America. Good night.


I will note that I do miss the voices of Cory Booker and Julian Castro, reminding us of all the folks who haven’t made it into the middle class.

What do you think?

Annie

Continue reading “Here’s the Path for a Big Democratic Win in November”

We Need to Prevent the Democratic Party–and the U.S.–From Being “Berned…”

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Image courtesy of needpix.com

I just can’t seem to help myself. Pretty soon I’ll get back to happiness and haiku. I’m much more comfortable seeking common ground and expressing optimism—and not preaching against a particular Democrat (or Independent running as a Democrat). After this post, I hope to leave this topic.

But for now, with the President’s awfulness mounting, and the chances of his removal from office practically nil, I feel I must use my little platform to try to help prevent a giant case of Buyer’s Remorse.

I think the evidence is strong that if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, we will see him lose—big time. And with the very nature of our democracy hanging in the balance, that’s a scenario I feel compelled to address.

My overarching goal, like most Democrats and a goodly number of Independents and former or current-but-disgruntled Republicans, is to defeat Donald Trump. But I will vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination for President—unlike some of the above. And there’s the problem.

In my previous warning about Bernie Sanders, I concluded by saying I hoped the press would do their job. Well, some of them are. You may not be seeing these stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or on CNN, but there are writers out there warning us quite clearly.

Here are links to a sampling of the articles, which I encourage you to read in their entirety:

—“Bernie Is the Opponent Trump Wants,” by William Saletan, Slate, January 28, 2020.

“Bernie Can’t Win,” by David Frum, The Atlantic, January 27, 2020. (Frum is a very thoughtful guy, a former conservative Republican, now a “Never Trumper.”)

—“Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity,” by Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, January 28, 2020.

These articles stress that Sanders’ past has never received the scrutiny it will get from Trump, that his present includes some questionable decisions, that most voters aren’t zeroing in on the implications of his socialist plans (as distorted by the Republicans, who call every Democrat a socialist, and now would have a real one to attack), and that the victorious 2018 women elected to Congress show where this election can be won.

In The Atlantic, Frum elaborates on a point that was the focus of the 2016 Newsweek article I cited previously.

“Bernie Sanders is a fragile candidate. He has never fought a race in which he had to face serious personal scrutiny. None of his Democratic rivals is subjecting him to such scrutiny in 2020. Hillary Clinton refrained from scrutinizing Sanders in 2016. It did not happen, either, in his many races in Vermont.”

Frum refers to a 2015 Politico profile by Michael Kruse, asserting that Sanders had

“benefited from ‘an unwritten compact between Sanders, his supporters, and local reporters who have steered clear’ of writing about Sanders’s personal history ‘rather than risk lectures about the twisted priorities of the press.’

(That sounds a bit Trumpian, doesn’t it?)

But there will be no such niceties from Trump and his campaign, Frum writes.

“It will hit him with everything it’s got. It will depict him as a Communist in the grip of twisted sexual fantasies, a useless career politician who oversaw a culture of sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign.

“Through 2019, Donald Trump and his proxies hailed Sanders as a true voice of the people, thwarted by the evil machinations of the Hillary Clinton machine.

“They will not pause for a minute before pivoting in 2020 to attack him as a seething stew of toxic masculinity whose vicious online followers martyred the Democratic Party’s first female presidential nominee.”

And if you think Trump won’t get away with such charges because of his own horrendous behavior, you are applying rationality and a sense of justice to a man who has successfully defied both.

That toxic masculinity charge lurks not far beneath the surface: Sanders appears at best to be indifferent to misogyny (a trait that’s fairly apparent in some of the devoted Bernie Bros).

Frum cites the Sanders’ campaign’s video celebrating the endorsement of “the mega-podcaster Joe Rogan,” apparently an icon among white men who are pretty sensitive about their status these days.

The Sanders’ embrace came despite Rogan’s mocking of many of the causes dear to the left, as well as “dancing around conspiratorial thinking of the left and right fringes: 9/11 denialism, Obama birtherism, and speculation about dark deeds concerning Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.” (emphases mine throughout)

Is this Sanders’ idea of how to reach the Trump voters? If any of his fellow candidates had embraced such an endorsement, would he have simply shrugged and said, “OK, ya gotta do what ya gotta do”? I think not.

And how will that play with the angry white suburban and African-American women who were such an important part of the 2018 Democratic House victory? They won’t vote for Trump, but will they stay home in disgust?

Jonathan Chait notes in New York Magazine,

“the totality of the evidence suggests Sanders is an extremely, perhaps uniquely, risky nominee. His vulnerabilities are enormous and untested. No party nomination, with the possible exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964, has put forth a presidential nominee with the level of downside risk exposure as a Sanders-led ticket would bring.

“To nominate Sanders would be insane.”

He notes that because the socialist label isn’t as unpopular as it had been [especially among young people], “many people have gotten the impression ‘socialism’ is actually popular, which is absolutely not the case.”

Saletan, writing in Slate, makes the same observation, noting that Trump uses the word socialism at every rally to make the Democrats look “radical and scary.” As an avowed Socialist, Sanders is the opponent of Trump’s dreams.

Saletan cites poll after poll in which voters as a whole state their opposition to socialism. In a HarrisX survey asking “Would you ever vote for a Socialist for elected office?,” liberals said they would, but 72 percent of registered voters, including 64 percent of Democrats, said they would not.

The term “Democratic Socialism,” which Bernie espouses, draws fewer negatives (52 percent) but they include 25 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of voters who “lean liberal.”

[I stress here that I personally see the urgent need for greater government intervention to redress our current shameful economic disparities, which are the worst they’ve been since the 1930s.

There were compelling reasons for the New Deal, and too many Americans are hurting today. I do not regard socialism as the incarnation of evil. But I’m looking at the larger picture here, and I strongly believe Trump will persuade enough Americans of that supposed evil to defeat Bernie.]

Chait discusses Sanders’ “web of creepy associations” that will make it easy to depict him as a dangerous radical, reinforcing “attack narratives” that will stick in portraying his world view just as surely as pictures of Dukakis in a tank or Romney’s dismissal of the 47% did for theirs.

He adds:

“Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him. Nor, for that matter, has he had to defend some of his bizarre youthful musings (such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer) or the suspicious finances surrounding his wife’s college.

“Democrats are rightfully concerned about attacks on Hunter Biden’s nepotistic role at Burisma, but Sanders is going to have to defend equally questionable deals, like the $500,000 his wife’s university paid for a woodworking program run by his stepdaughter.”

Interestingly, after my previous Bernie post, a Vermont friend (a progressive who said no one she knows supports Bernie), wondered why there hadn’t been discussion by the media of Jane Sanders’ financial fiasco, which some in Vermont regard as mere stupidity, but others view as fraud.

Most important to me is Chait’s exploration of the 2018 winning of the House. Citing various progressive voices claiming how wrong the Dems were to run the kinds of candidates they did, he notes the following:

“As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. Tellingly, while progressives managed to nominate several candidates in red districts…any one of whose victory they would have cited as proof that left-wing candidates can win Trump districts, not a single one of them prevailed in November.

“Our Revolution went 0–22, Justice Democrats went 0–16, and Brand New Congress went 0–6.* The failed technocratic 26-year-old bourgeoise shills who were doing it wrong somehow accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains.”

And here I think Chait makes an interesting observation. If the Democrats hadn’t won the House, their critics on the left would have said they’d been vindicated.

But instead of considering their broad losses in various geographical areas, they focused on the left-wing candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “who defeated center-left Democrats in deep-blue districts.”

In this effort, they were helped by the conservative media, seeking to make AOC and her small band the face of the Democratic party.

“The fact that the party had just run a field experiment between two factions, and the moderate faction prevailed conclusively, was forgotten.”

Chait emphasizes that:

“Trump has serious weaknesses on issues like health care, corruption, taxes, and the environment, and a majority of the public disapproves of Trump’s performance, but he does enjoy broad approval of his economic management.

“Therefore, his reelection strategy revolves around painting his opponents as radical and dangerous. You may not like me, he will argue, but my opponents are going to turn over the apple cart. A Sanders campaign seems almost designed to play directly into Trump’s message.”

How do we address the electorate, then? Are there lessons we can learn from Bernie that will help elect a more broadly acceptable nominee?

Frum has some important points for the Democrats to consider. The issues that matter most to “highly online and very well-informed anti-Trump voters”—such as preserving our democracy, cleaning out corruption, applying the law to those in power—are easier to focus on when you have good health insurance, a solid middle class job, and the potential that your kids will get a college education.

But millions of Americans lack those things, and they may well decide the election. That’s something that Sanders has recognized and to which he’s given voice. Thus, says Frum:

“If the Oval Office is to be cleansed of Donald Trump, it will not suffice to defeat Sanders’s candidacy.

“The ultimate winner will have to plagiarize from his campaign, copying not Sanders’s literal ideas, but his themes: the practical over the theoretical, the universal over the particular.”

In a nutshell, I think that means stop fighting over whether the key health care issue is improving Obamacare or Medicare for All. Focus instead on how many people who had health insurance have lost it under Trump, and that he wants to take away your protection for pre-existing conditions.

Emphasize that his promises not to cut Medicare and Social Security are now being revealed as questionable. Stress that he never built those roads and improved those bridges. The needs are great; the list is long.

So maybe this time around the operative slogan is not “It’s the economy, stupid.” Rather, it’s “How well are YOU doing, you who are not among the 1 Percent?”

Annie

Continue reading “We Need to Prevent the Democratic Party–and the U.S.–From Being “Berned…””