THE TYRANNY OF FALSE EQUIVALENTS
America has just concluded a cataclysmic election day and its immediate aftermath. What was supposed to be our quadrennial celebration of democratic institutions is instead a reflection of what happens when unprincipled and corrupt leaders are given access to the national stage to promote disorder, distrust and chaos. It seems likely that the outcome of the vote will be finalized in the days ahead and that Joe Biden will have won the election. But until Trump is chained in his White House bunker without public access, the peaceful transfer of power remains at risk.
Add to the equation that there is a deep sense among progressive activists, people of color, the underprivileged and the under-represented that over 70,000,000 votes for Trump** was a direct repudiation of their demands for a dynamic push forward for social, economic and racial justice in America. And this doesn’t even get to the immediacy of confronting a rampaging pandemic at home and an abundance of global challenges.
Amid the chaos, let me be clear that I hope that armed confrontation can be avoided and that there will be enough leadership and institutional integrity to force an orderly transfer of power. However, the election results make clear that many more people voted for Trump this time than last time. Targeted right-wing messaging works, and there is no apparent antidote. Those 70,000,000 votes for Trump are a terrible outcome for a nation at war with itself and in which only the right-wingers have the guns.
As Biden’s victory sets in, there will be those who cheered on Trump and his toxic message who will not rest until they try to blow something up along with the country itself. As that unfolds, there is likely to be the first foundational test of America’s political and military institutions since the Civil War. I am not sure that those institutions will hold. It is certainly not clear that those institutions can ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
At some point, something will have to give. At that point, a crippled America will harvest the rancid fruit of decades of delusion about how “exceptional” the nation was as it grew intellectually lazy, willed its future to greedy and corrupt capitalists, and utterly failed to invest in a sustainable system of governance that could meet the challenges of an evolving world. Picking up the pieces will not be easy.
The fifty-state solution so beloved by those wallowing in the 19th century simply must be discarded, and some new foundation for national governance must be designed and implemented. Unfortunately, with the pandemic ripping its way through the populace and a court system packed with those 19th century wannabes, the time for wishful thinking will have to wait. The fifty-state solution will have to be urgently junked to address the pandemic with a national plan and national mandates. Maybe afterwards, America can study the results of the coordinated national response and find the way to a new, vibrant, 21st century federal system.
Meanwhile, there will be an enormous amount of focus on how America got to this point, but I want to get out front that years of “false equivalency” disguised as “balance” or “fairness” has poisoned the nation’s well of fact-based knowledge from which any democratic nation would hope that its citizens could draw. Much has been said about willful ignorance, but not enough about the fountains of falsehoods that feed those unwilling to learn much of anything that requires factual focus. Repetition of belief is no substitute for acquisition of knowledge.
The impending national convulsion has just begun. A reckoning with collective ignorance and the arrogance of ignorance is essential as the starting point for a meaningful national dialog about how America so completely lost its way. The responsible mainstream media and social media outlets have to stop honoring falsehood with repetition and that most ludicrous of questions – “What’s your response?” And to try to rebuild lost credibility, real and transparent sourcing of news reporting has to again become the rule.
Then, if government institutions are to be resurrected and strengthened, there must be some measure of accountability for those who worked so diligently to undermine governance, often to enhance their own wealth and power. Today’s list of the corrupt is really long. Trump is a sick symptom, a tool used by so many others to achieve corrupt ends. But he is also symbolic of so much of what is so wrong that his accountability is an essential component of any national reckoning.
It is important that Trump be charged with the crimes he has committed both in office and in his corrupt life that led to his election in the first place. It is equally important that those in his inner circle, including his family, his enabling aides, his Attorney General and his Secretary of State, all find themselves under criminal investigative scrutiny.
This will surely further divide the nation. But it will be impossible to begin the healing if there is no accountability for the intentional wrongdoing that has led to so much suffering and dysfunction. Those who corruptly profited from the past should have to pay in the present if there is to be a future with the rule of law restored to its proper place in the national pantheon of virtues.
However, the critical first task ahead is to ensure Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. Unfortunately, that date is over ten weeks away. Ten weeks of an angry and “victimized” Trump still empowered to “govern” will bleed so much more blood from the nation. He will have to be thwarted at every turn each and every day, so that the hard work of restoration can begin now.
This must start with a national plan to confront the cononavirus pandemic that is raging across America and much of the globe. This cannot wait ten more weeks. There is no need for “balanced” discussion, because we have no choice. We have seen how a venal leader can lead so many to their demise and so many more to a participatory march to more death and disease.
Biden must try hard to convince those participatory marchers to turn around, look at those they care about and start protecting themselves and others. This will be a hard sell, and those of us who have already seen this light will have to step up our game as well. It is no longer fine for corporate sloths and all those endangered small businesses to wink at their “no mask, no entry” signs. It is time for local governments to publicly out those businesses that do not enforce mask mandates and social distancing in their community and publicly support those that do.
I am hardly certain where any of this will end. But I am certain that the false narrative of a caring, giving, and committed people has now finally been ripped from our delusional midst. America is not now, nor has it often been, much of anything to be proud of.