E Unum Pluribus

US television viewers’ deeply disparate responses to the daily Trump coronavirus briefings means it’s time. Time to update the motto of the US, “e pluribus unum”, Latin for “out of many, one”; to “e unum pluribus”, out of one, many.

Out of one country, many factions with diametrically opposed perspectives on reality.

Exhibit A. How large swaths of liberal Democrats, like your favorite blogger, think about the pressers as described in The Trump O’Clock Follies by Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker.

Her opening paragraph:

“During the Vietnam War, the United States had the Five O’Clock Follies, nightly briefings at which American military leaders claimed, citing a variety of bogus statistics, half-truths, and misleading reports from the front, to be winning a war that they were, in fact, losing. Richard Pyle, the Associated Press’s Saigon bureau chief, called the press conferences ‘the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd,’ which, minus the ‘Southeast Asia’ part, is not a bad description of the scene currently playing out each evening in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, in the White House. We now have the Trump Follies, the nightly briefings at which President Trump has lied and bragged, lamented and equivocated, about the global pandemic that poses an existential threat to his Presidency. Just as the Vietnam briefings became a standard by which the erosion of government credibility could be measured then, historians of the future will consult the record of Trump’s mendacious, misleading press conferences as an example of a tragic failure of leadership at such a critical moment. There will be much material for them; the transcripts from just the first three days of this week runs to more than forty thousand words.”

Shortly thereafter, Glasser adds:

“The disconnect between Trumpian reality and actual reality has never been on starker display than in the past few days, as the true face of the horror we are facing in the United States has shown itself, in New York City, with overwhelmed morgues and emergency rooms, a governor pleading for ventilators and face masks from the federal government, and heartbreaking first-person accounts reminiscent of the open letters sent from Italy a few weeks back, which warned Americans: this is what is coming for you—don’t make our mistakes.”

But there’s a problem with Glasser’s analysis. Many, many of the Presidents’ supporters see a completely different reality. In ways I don’t understand, they literally do not see “horror” or “overwhelmed morgues and emergency rooms” or “a governor pleading for ventilators and face masks”. What do they see?

Exhibit B. How large swaths of conservative Republicans think about the pressers as described by the President’s daughter-in-law in “Trump’s handling of coronavirus crisis shows America what real leadership looks like”.

Lara Trump takes a little longer to warm up. From her second paragraph:

“Unprecedented times call for a strong leader. My father-in-law, President Trump, is showing what leadership looks like in a time of crisis. He is taking bold and historic steps to combat COVID-19.

While Democrats and the media were obsessing over impeachment, the president took early and effective actions to stop the spread of coronavirus. He ordered travel restrictions on China and Europe and restricted our southern and northern borders. Less than a month after learning of the virus, the CDC began working on a vaccine. By March, the president announced that the first potential vaccine entered a “phase one” trial, breaking records for the speed it moved to trials.

While these scientific developments were taking place, the president and the administration led efforts to support states, small businesses, jobs and American families. They’ve waived interest rates on federally held student loans and afforded borrowers the option to suspend payments. They have prioritized the health care of our most vulnerable veterans, and deployed tens of thousands of masks, gowns and other medical devices to states in need.”

Liberals will laugh this off much more quickly than they’ll acknowledge that the President’s approval ratings have gone up quite a bit since the daily pressers began. You can tell the President knows his ratings are trending up as he grows more informal, verbose, and cocksure with each passing one.

How will the (dis) United States resolve this dilemma of its citizens seeing things so differently? Through the electoral college on November 3rd, 2020. I just hope not too many people die unnecessarily between now and then.

 

 

 

I’m Like Fox News, Fair and Balanced

I dedicate this to Travis and Mike who are convinced I’m being even less fair and balanced about the current administration than normal.

From Arnold Kling’s blog post “Calibrating anger”.

“I don’t think that anger toward President Trump is well justified. It is true that he reacted more slowly than many people who are more technically oriented and better able to read exponential processes. But almost every other leader around the world reacted just as slowly. And he was badly served by the FDA. . . Some of those FDA folks are still taking their case to the press, attacking President Trump for breaking out of their regulatory straitjacket.

No doubt that there were some officials somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy who saw this coming and tried to send warnings up the chain of command. Perhaps some of those warnings made it all the way to the Oval Office. But suppose that Mr. Trump had understood and been ahead of the curve. Had he told people back in February that they needed to change their behavior, I am skeptical that he could have brought the country with him. The left, rather than respecting such a judgment, would more likely have denounced early measures to stop the virus as a fascist takeover. As it is, they can call him an idiot for being too late. Fine.

I don’t recall leading Democrats putting much pressure on him to act sooner.

Where I am inclined to fault Mr. Trump is in what I see as a lack of ability to attract and retain outstanding personnel. I think that his circle of trust is too narrow. If my intuition about this is correct, then this shortcoming is quite consequential.”

I’m trying really hard to make nice so I will not say a narcissist is incapable of “hiring only the best” because their smarts and competence would accentuate his relative shortcomings.

Dammit, so close.

Friday Assorted Links

1. The Queer Opposition to Pete Buttigieg, Explained. Masha Gessen explains the two divergent tracks in L.G.B.T. politics:

“One kind of queer politics is rooted in ideas of liberation, revolutionary change, and solidarity. The vision of this politics is a society that is radically changed by many kinds of people fighting many kinds of injustice, a society in which economic, social, political, and sexual relationships have been transformed. The roots of this politics are acknowledged in an open letter authored by a group called Queers Against Pete. (The letter was signed, according to the organizers, by more than two thousand people.) They wrote, ‘We are clear that LGBTQIA people are directly and disproportionately impacted by police violence, incarceration, unaffordable healthcare, homelessness, deportation, and economic inequality among other things.’ The strategy of this brand of politics is to work across differences to bring about change.

The other, more mainstream, and often more visible kind of L.G.B.T. politics aims to erase difference. Its message to straight people is “We are just like you, and all we want is the right to have what you have: marriage, children, a house with a picket fence, and the right to serve in the military.” The vision of this politics is a society in all respects indistinguishable from the one in which we live now, except queer people have successfully and permanently blended in. To be sure, all kinds of queer people have been involved in both kinds of queer politics. But the politics of being “just like you” leaves out the people who cannot or do not want to be just like conventional straight people, whether in appearance or in the way we construct our lives and families.”

I’ll give you one guess on which one is Pete’s track.

2. For more than a year, a violent tow truck war has been raging across the Greater Toronto Area. Damn, I don’t like it when my idealized view of one of my favorite countries is challenged. You’re better than that Canada. Aren’t you?

3. Why Exactly Does Putin Love Bernie? No, it’s not because he’s a socialist.

“. . . helping Sanders helps Trump.”

4. Compassion-based Strategies for Managing Classroom Behavior.

“If you’re assuming the best about the kid, that they want to learn appropriate behavior, they want to be positively connected to you, but they somehow can’t, there’s something in the way. What can you imagine the invisible subtitle is for ‘I don’t care?’

‘For me, the invisible subtitle for ‘I don’t care’ is, Mrs. Dearborn, I really, really care, but I can’t tell you that. Do you care?’

Reading the ‘subtitles,’ as she calls them, has helped Dearborn to stop perceiving misbehavior as disrespect. That doesn’t make her a pushover, she said. It makes her an advocate for the student.

So now when kids say, ‘I don’t care’ to me, I say, ‘That’s OK because I care, and I can care for the both of us right now, so let’s do this.’”

“I can care for the both of us right now.” Beautiful.

5. Mike Pence, who enabled an HIV outbreak in Indiana, will lead US coronavirus response. “Only the best people.”

6. Analyzing the “Big Five” Women at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials. The race is Saturday at 9a PST on NBC. I’m going all in on Jordan Hasay.

Our Spiritual Malaise

I took a class in college on the history of religion in the United States. About all I can recall from it was being intrigued by the unwieldy, far out nature of one of the “Great Awakenings”.

Here’s how the internet encyclopedia’s entry on The Great Awakening begins:

“The Great Awakening refers to a number of periods of religious revival in American Christian history. Historians and theologians identify three or four waves of increased religious enthusiasm occurring between the early 18th century and the late 20th century. Each of these “Great Awakenings” was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations. The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ.”

What’s the opposite of religious revival? A secular surrender?

A Secular Surrender is when we talk about public health threats in the context of stock market volatility and don’t think of it as sordid.

A Secular Surrender is when “leaders” ignore religious violence like that perpetrated by Hindu mobs against innocent Muslims in India this week.

The Guardian explains:

“It has been the bloodiest days of protest in India since Modi’s government passed a new citizenship amendment act, which grants citizenship for refugees of every major South Asian religion except Muslims, in December.”

In fairness, Modi did take to his keyboard to tweet an appeal for “brotherhood and peace” (that was sarcasm).

The Guardian describes the violence:

“The death toll from the worst religious violence in Delhi in decades has risen to 24, as Muslims fled from their homes and several mosques in the capital smouldered after being attacked by Hindu mobs.

The deathly clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups that began on Sunday continued into their forth consecutive day, with reports of early morning looting on some Muslim homes which had been abandoned out of fear.

More than 200 people were admitted to hospitals for injuries mainly from gunshot wounds as well as acid burns, stabbings and wounds from beatings and stone pelting. Several of those who died had jumped from high buildings to escape the attacking mobs.”

You would never know it by evangelicals’ enthusiastic embrace of President Trump, but his and Modi’s words and actions contribute to The Secular Surrender.

Wikipedia again on The Great Awakenings:

“The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ.”

I’m uninterested in guilt and my notion of salvation is far more funky than Whitfield’s, Edwards’, and Tennent’s, but I would like to live in a world where we think and talk about public health without any reference to stock market volatility. And in one where political and religious leaders condemn violence perpetrated by Hindu mobs against innocent Muslims.

Is that asking too much?