The Unraveling of America  – Anthropologist Wade Davis | Rolling Stone 

How COVID-19 Signals the End of the American Era

Anthropologist Wade Davis | Rolling Stone 

Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the same, as yet unrealized, promises of medical science.

In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.         

Our interventions to date have largely focused on mitigating the rate of spread, flattening the curve of morbidity. There is no treatment at hand, and no certainty of a vaccine on the near horizon. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years. COVID-19 killed 100,000 Americans in four months. There is some evidence that natural infection may not imply immunity, leaving some to question how effective a vaccine will be, even assuming one can be found. And it must be safe. If the global population is to be immunized, lethal complications in just one person in a thousand would imply the death of millions. 

Pandemics and plagues have a way of shifting the course of history, and not always in a manner immediately evident to the survivors. In the 14th Century, the Black Death killed close to half of Europe’s population. A scarcity of labor led to increased wages. Rising expectations culminated in the Peasants Revolt of 1381, an inflection point that marked the beginning of the end of the feudal order that had dominated medieval Europe for a thousand years.

The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes.

COVID’s historic significance lies not in what it implies for our daily lives. Change, after all, is the one constant when it comes to culture. All peoples in all places at all times are always dancing with new possibilities for life. To be sure, financial uncertainty will cast a long shadow. Money in the hands of all the nations on Earth will never be enough to offset the losses sustained when an entire world ceases to function, with workers and businesses everywhere facing a choice between economic and biological survival. 

Unsettling as these transitions and circumstances will be, short of a complete economic collapse, none stands out as a turning point in history. But what surely does is the absolutely devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America. 

IN A DARK SEASON OF PESTILENCE, COVID HAS REDUCED TO TATTERS THE ILLUSION OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world. 

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. FOR MORE THAN TWO CENTURIES, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: PITY.”

No empire long endures, even if few anticipate their demise. Every kingdom is born to die. The 15th century belonged to the Portuguese, the 16th to Spain, 17th to the Dutch. France dominated the 18th and Britain the 19th. Bled white and left bankrupt by the Great War, the British maintained a pretense of domination as late as 1935, when the empire reached its greatest geographical extent. By then, of course, the torch had long passed into the hands of America.

In 1940, with Europe already ablaze, the United States had a smaller army than either Portugal or Bulgaria. Within four years, 18 million men and women would serve in uniform, with millions more working double shifts in mines and factories that made America, as President Roosevelt promised, the arsenal of democracy. 

In the wake of the war – with Europe and Japan in ashes – the United States with but 6 percent of the world’s population accounted for half of the global economy, including the production of 93 percent of all automobiles. Such economic dominance birthed a vibrant middle class, a trade union movement that allowed a single breadwinner with limited education to own a home and a car, support a family, and send his kids to good schools. It was not by any means a perfect world but affluence allowed for a truce between capital and labor, a reciprocity of opportunity in a time of rapid growth and declining income inequality, marked by high tax rates for the wealthy, who were by no means the only beneficiaries of a golden age of American capitalism.

BUT FREEDOM AND AFFLUENCE CAME WITH A PRICE. The United States, virtually a demilitarized nation on the eve of the Second World War, never stood down in the wake of victory. To this day, American troops are deployed in 150 countries. Since the 1970s, China has not once gone to war; the U.S. has not spent a day at peace. President Jimmy Carter recently noted that in its 242-year history, America has enjoyed only 16 years of peace, making it, as he wrote, “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.”

AS AMERICA POLICED THE WORLD, THE VIOLENCE CAME HOME. On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the Allied death toll was 4,414; in 2019, domestic gun violence had killed that many American men and women by the end of April. By June 2019, guns in the hands of ordinary Americans had caused more casualties than the Allies suffered in Normandy in the first month of a campaign that consumed the military strength of five nations.

More than any other country, the United States in the post-war era lionized the individual at the expense of community and family. It was the sociological equivalent of splitting the atom. Only six percent of American homes had grandparents living beneath the same roof as grandchildren; elders were abandoned to retirement homes. 

The collapse of the working-class family has been responsible in part for an opioid crisis that has displaced car accidents as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. 

At the root of this transformation and decline lies an ever-widening chasm between Americans who have and those who have little or nothing. But when all the old certainties are shown to be lies, when the promise of a good life for a working family is shattered as factories close and corporate leaders, growing wealthier by the day, ship jobs abroad, the social contract is irrevocably broken. For two generations, America has celebrated globalization with iconic intensity, when, as any working man or woman can see, it is nothing more than capital on the prowl in search of ever cheaper sources of labor. 

For many years, those on the conservative right in the United States have invoked a nostalgia for the 1950s, and an America that never was, but has to be presumed to have existed to rationalize their sense of loss and abandonment, their fear of change, their bitter resentments and lingering contempt for the social movements of the 1960s, a time of new aspirations for women, gays, and people of color. In truth, at least in economic terms, the salaries of CEOs were, on average, just 20 times that of their mid-management employees.

Today, the base pay of those at the top is commonly 400 times that of their salaried staff, with many earning orders of magnitude more in stock options and perks. The elite one percent of Americans control $30 trillion of assets, while the bottom half have more debt than assets. The three richest Americans have more money than the poorest 160 million of their countrymen. Fully a fifth of American households have zero or negative net worth, a figure that rises to 37 percent for black families. The median wealth of black households is a tenth that of whites. The vast majority of Americans — white, black, and brown — are two paychecks removed from bankruptcy. Though living in a nation that celebrates itself as the wealthiest in history, most Americans live on a high wire, with no safety net to brace a fall. 

With the COVID crisis, 40 million Americans lost their jobs, and 3.3 million businesses shut down, including 41 percent of all black-owned enterprises. Black Americans, who significantly outnumber whites in federal prisons despite being but 13 percent of the population, are suffering shockingly high rates of morbidity and mortality, dying at nearly three times the rate of white Americans. The cardinal rule of American social policy — don’t let any ethnic group get below the blacks, or allow anyone to suffer more indignities — rang true even in a pandemic, as if the virus was taking its cues from American history. 

Trump’s performance and America’s crisis deflected attention from China’s own mishandling of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, not to mention its move to crush democracy in Hong Kong. When an American official raised the issue of human rights on Twitter, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, invoking the killing of George Floyd, responded with one short phrase, “I can’t breathe.” 

The current American president lives to cultivate resentments, demonize his opponents, validate hatred. His main tool of governance is the lie; as of July 9th, 2020, the documented tally of his distortions and false statements numbered 20,055. If America’s first president, George Washington, famously could not tell a lie, the current one can’t recognize the truth.  

The American cult of the individual denies not just community but the very idea of society. No one owes anything to anyone. All must be prepared to fight for everything: education, shelter, food, medical care. What every prosperous and successful democracy deems to be fundamental rights — universal health care, equal access to quality public education, a social safety net for the weak, elderly, and infirmed — America dismisses as socialist indulgences, as if they are so many signs of weakness. 

How can the rest of the world expect America to lead on global threats — climate change, the extinction crisis, pandemics — when the country no longer has a sense of benign purpose, or collective well-being, even within its own national community? Flag-wrapped patriotism is no substitute for compassion; anger and hostility no match for love. Those who flock to beaches, bars, and political rallies, putting their fellow citizens at risk, are not exercising freedom; they are displaying, as one commentator has noted, the weakness of a people who lack both the stoicism to endure the pandemic and the fortitude to defeat it. Leading their charge is Donald Trump, a bone spur warrior, a liar and a fraud, a grotesque caricature of a strong man, with the backbone of a bully. 

Over the last months, a quip has circulated on the internet suggesting that to live in Canada today is like owning an apartment above a meth lab. Canada is no perfect place, but it has handled the COVID crisis well, notably in British Columbia, where I live. Vancouver is just three hours by road north of Seattle, where the U.S. outbreak began. Half of Vancouver’s population is Asian, and typically dozens of flights arrive each day from China and East Asia. Logically, it should have been hit very hard, but the health care system performed exceedingly well.

Throughout the crisis, testing rates across Canada have been consistently five times that of the U.S. On a per capita basis, Canada has suffered half the morbidity and mortality. For every person who has died in British Columbia, 44 have perished in Massachusetts, a state with a comparable population that has reported more COVID cases than all of Canada. As of July 30th, even as rates of COVID infection and death soared across much of the United States, with 59,629 new cases reported on that day alone, hospitals in British Columbia registered a total of just FIVE COVID patients. 

When American friends ask for an explanation, I encourage them to reflect on the last time they bought groceries at their neighborhood Safeway. In the U.S. there is almost always a racial, economic, cultural, and educational chasm between the consumer and the check-out staff that is difficult if not impossible to bridge. In Canada, the experience is quite different. One interacts if not as peers, certainly as members of a wider community. The reason for this is very simple. The checkout person may not share your level of affluence, but they know that you know that they are getting a living wage because of the unions. And they know that you know that their kids and yours most probably go to the same neighborhood public school. Third, and most essential, they know that you know that if their children get sick, they will get exactly the same level of medical care not only of your children but of those of the prime minister. These three strands woven together become the fabric of Canadian social democracy. 

Asked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi famously replied, “I think that would be a good idea.”

American politicians dismiss the Scandinavian model as creeping socialism, communism lite, something that would never work in the United States. In truth, social democracies are successful precisely because they foment dynamic capitalist economies that just happen to benefit every tier of society. Their social democracy will never take hold in the United States may well be true, but, if so, it is a stunning indictment, and just what Oscar Wilde had in mind when he quipped that the United States was the only country to go from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization. 

Evidence of such terminal decadence is the choice that so many Americans made in 2016 to prioritize their personal indignations, placing their own resentments above any concerns for the fate of the country and the world, as they rushed to elect a man whose only credential for the job was his willingness to give voice to their hatreds, validate their anger, and target their enemies, real or imagined.

One shudders to think of what it will mean to the world if Americans in November, knowing all that they do, elect to keep such a man in political power. But even should Trump be resoundingly defeated; it is not at all clear that such a profoundly polarized nation will be able to find a way forward. For better or for worse, America has had its time. 

For the moment, we have only the kleptocracy of Donald Trump. Between praising the Chinese for their treatment of the Uighurs, describing their internment and torture as “exactly the right thing to do,” and his dispensing of medical advice concerning the therapeutic use of chemical disinfectants, Trump blithely remarked, “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” He had in mind, of course, the coronavirus, but, as others have said, he might just as well have been referring to the American Dream.  

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • David Dee  On 08/14/2020 at 1:56 pm

    You’re so misinformed and happy to spread your misinformation. Any sentient being who possesses a little capacity to think for themselves, would know that COVID-19 was planned more than a decade earlier, could have read it on the Rockerfeller Foundation website, could glean from the unbridled efforts to censor any information counter to the propagandist narrative peddled by fully subservient Mainstream Media that C19 plan is tantamount to a crime of the century by maniacal Elitists hellbent on imposing a surveillance state, dictatorial 1 world Gov’t, 1 world religion with open-borders patterned after the CCP. However, ignorance is bliss so you may succeed in ensnaring dumbed down masses with your fallacious words.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/14/2020 at 2:40 pm

    As This Presidency* Unravels, the Looting Will Begin in Earnest

    We’re going to keep an eye on what it might be smuggling out under its coat on the way out the door.

    Charles P. Pierce | Esquire


    The natural extension of this, of course, is that, if the president* actually loses in November, the year will end with an orgy of outright looting. Out in North Dakota, the affiliated tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation have taken the Department of the Interior to court, because it is the position of those tribes that the administration* is trying to swipe the rights and royalties to mineral deposits on the Fort Berthold reservation.

    The memo filed May 26 by Daniel Jorjani, solicitor for the department, said a historical review shows the state is the legal owner of submerged lands beneath the river where it flows through the Fort Berthold Reservation. The tribes argue that three previous federal opinions dating back to 1936 have confirmed their ownership of the Missouri River riverbed, including a 2017 memo by former solicitor Hilary Tompkins.

    Gee, a potential profit center protected by an Obama administration memo? That’s the ultimate twofer for this pack o’ thieves, who wouldn’t abide by a treaty even if they believed in them, which they don’t.

    At stake is more than $100 million in unpaid royalties and future payments certain to come from oil drilling beneath the river, which was dammed by the federal government in the 1950s, flooding more than a tenth of the 1,500-square-mile (3,885-square-kilometer) reservation to create Lake Sakakawea.

    The issue now sits with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the U.S. District Court judge who’s handled many of the legal cases involving the inmates of Camp Runamuck, including matters involving Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Recently, Jackson froze all oil and gas royalty payments deriving from the disputed land until this all gets sorted out.

    Few people are more familiar with the high-handed attitude of this administration* toward laws, regulations, and norms than is Judge Jackson, so the tribes may have a shot here. As things get worse for this presidency*, we’re going to keep an eye on what it might be smuggling out under its coat on the way out the door.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/14/2020 at 2:59 pm

    The foregoing essay deals with FACTS, REALITY and about a FAILED STATE as opposed to Conspiracy Theory:

    In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.



    Our interventions to date have largely focused on mitigating the rate of spread, flattening the curve of morbidity. There is no treatment at hand, and no certainty of a vaccine on the near horizon.

    The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years. COVID-19 killed 100,000 Americans in four months. There is some evidence that natural infection may not imply immunity, leaving some to question how effective a vaccine will be, even assuming one can be found. And it must be safe.


    Unsettling as these transitions and circumstances will be, short of a complete economic collapse, none stands out as a turning point in history. But what surely does is the absolutely devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America.

    [under the current administration]

  • wally n  On 08/14/2020 at 3:49 pm

    TRUMP in three years did all of that???? man did not have enough time to change underwear.
    WOW….. hopefully Barr jails all those thieves/crooks, you know millionaires on government salary…..
    Me I am waiting…it’s coming …around the corner

    BUCKLE UP!!!!!!!!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/14/2020 at 7:56 pm

  • David Dee  On 08/14/2020 at 8:29 pm

    Hilarious. Do you really seriously expect intelligent persons to believe MSNBC, CNN, and the rest of the Lamestream Media?

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2020 at 4:07 am

    Trump Earns A New Title: Terrorist-In-Chief

    He is Sabotaging the Postal Service When a Real President Would Be Making It Work Better

    By Terry H. Schwadron | DCReport Opinion Editor

    OK, we’ve managed to find ourselves in another governmental tempest in a substantial teacup. Donald Trump is working overtime to undercut the U.S. Postal Service just as he is railing on mail ballots.

    It’s a pairing that just makes no sense.

    As The Los Angeles Times editorialized this week:


  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2020 at 5:48 am

    UN Security Council Votes for Iran Arms Embargo Expiry, Rejecting US Demands

    US resolution to extend weapons ban resoundingly defeated; Pompeo says Israel, Gulf states expect Tehran to ‘spread chaos and destruction’ after embargo lifted in October

    By Edith M. Lederer | Times of Israel

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council resoundingly defeated a US resolution that sought to indefinitely extend the UN arms embargo on Iran.

    The vote in the 15-member council was two in favor, two against and 11 abstentions, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption. Russia and China strongly opposed the resolution, but didn’t need to use their veto.

    The Trump administration received support from only the Dominican Republic.

    The Trump administration has said repeatedly it will not allow the arms embargo provision in the Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers to expire as scheduled October 18

    The United States announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal” or the “Iran deal”, or the “2015 Nuclear Agreement” on May 8, 2018.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2020 at 2:17 pm

    Iran Arms Embargo: US has ‘Never Been So Isolated’

    Iran’s FM spokesman Mousavi says despite US ‘pressure and the hawking’, it could not get enough support for its motion.

    Eleven members on the 15-member body, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, abstained.


    “In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted.

    “Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilise a small country to vote with them,” he added, in reference to failed efforts by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for a US resolution.

    The embargo on conventional arms sales to Iran is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the 2015 Nuclear Deal between Tehran and world powers.

    Also reacting to the vote, Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi said that the Council’s message meant “no to unilateralism”.

    “The US must learn from this debacle. An attempt to snapback sanctions is illegal, and was rejected by international community, as was evident today,” he added.

    Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said Iran considered the vote a “diplomatic victory over the US”, adding that Tehran would have reacted strongly if the arms embargo was extended.

    “President Hassan Rouhani had promised a crushing response if the arms embargo was extended. Foreign minister Javad Zarif said the US’s approach was feckless and unpredictable,” he said.

    “The Iranians therefore see this vote as a victory and will use it to show how little support the US has in its approach to Iran.”

    Ahead of the vote, Iran issued a warning to the United States after it circulated the resolution that would indefinitely extend a UN arms embargo on Tehran.

    Rouhani told a televised meeting of his cabinet that “We have great hopes that America will fail. We have great hopes that America will realise its failure and see its isolation.”

    President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018, escalating tensions between the long-time rivals.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/15/2020 at 4:56 pm

    American Passports Are Useless Now

    I can go just about anywhere with my German passport. But almost no one wants to let in Americans these days.

    Yascha Mounk | The Atlantic


    German by birth, I had come to feel at home in America, and to love it. For all the deep injustices that shape this country, I remained convinced that the United States was more likely than just about any other place in the world to build a thriving, diverse democracy. And when I wrote about the danger that right-wing populists like Donald Trump pose to the American republic, I cherished being able to speak about his assault on our, as opposed to your, values and institutions.


    It granted access to just about everywhere, and escape from just about anywhere. Which country — Germany or the United States — would be more likely to rescue me if I got stuck in some foreign country in the middle of a perilous political crisis? Would the last plane to evacuate foreigners from Chad or Chile or Canada before that country devolved into civil war be sent by the Bundeswehr or the U.S. Air Force?

    U.S. citizenship not only ensured that I could choose to live in New York or San Francisco or any place in between; it also seemed to offer the freedom to roam the world in the assurance that, as my passport’s old-fashioned preamble promises, “the Secretary of State of the United States of America” would see to it that I could “pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need [enjoy] all lawful aid and protection.”


    My German passport, which I was able to retain when I naturalized, currently entitles me to travel almost anywhere in the world. My American passport can gain me access to only a handful of countries — not including Germany or the majority of developed democracies in Asia, Europe, Australia, or South America.


    My assumption about which country would go to greater lengths to repatriate its citizens in a time of crisis appears to have been wrong, as well.

    Germany would welcome me back with open arms from this COVID-addled land, though I could be asked to self-isolate. But a draft proposal now circulating in the Trump administration indicates that the U.S. may seek to stop its citizens and legal permanent residents from returning to America from abroad if a border agent “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease.”

    Such a proposal would, despite its cruelty, at least have a certain practical utility in countries such as Australia or New Zealand, which have had barely any COVID-19 cases in recent months. But if the plan becomes a reality in the United States, which is discovering some 50,000 cases a day without any help from the outside world, it will add idiocy to injury.

    When I became a citizen, back in March 2017, I knew that President Trump would seek to destroy many of the American values I admire. I did not imagine that he would also fail to “leave no man behind”. Shouldn’t that credo hold special appeal to a man who claims to care about protecting America from a dangerous world?

    Instead of using his office to protect Americans, Trump has capitulated to the coronavirus at home; now his administration may also try to betray Americans abroad.

    • David Dee  On 08/16/2020 at 11:04 am

      Your senseless fear IS the Virus and the cure is simple: Disconnect from Mainstream Media and their constant Lies and Propaganda. Unless, of course, you support the the sinister intentions of the Satanic Cabal in which case I fully expect you to continue disseminating your fallacious messages meant to further fear instead of embracing the Divine’s Light.

  • wally n  On 08/15/2020 at 5:07 pm

    What a jackass, America would lose nothing if he gets back to Germany, printing any anti Trump nonsense now???
    This is as bad as it can get. bub bye

    • Brother Man  On 08/16/2020 at 2:24 am

      “What a jacket.”

      Where’s the jackass? Have you looked in the mirror recently?

      Yascha Mounk is 100% spot on. Only the severely handicapped would fail to appreciate his brilliant essay, his mournful lamentation.

      Brother Man

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/16/2020 at 11:58 am

    Brother Man: Wally n obviously failed English comprehension …. he DUNCE

    • Brother Man  On 08/16/2020 at 1:47 pm

      haha — de man dunce bad, brother Clyde. It’s no surprise.

      Look at his idol — biggest dunce on de world stage who can’t find Finland on de map. And de Spanish flu probably ended WW2. hehe – the dunce man must be sniffing too much Lysol.

      Me doubt whether both a dem could find Mexico on de map.

      Brother Man

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/16/2020 at 7:33 pm

    Voters Can Replace a Party That Knows How to Fight With One That Knows How to Govern

    Robert Reich | The Guardian UK

    As America heads into its quadrennial circus of nominating conventions – this year’s even more surreal because of the pandemic – it is important to understand the real difference between America’s two political parties at this point in history.

    Instead of “left” versus “right”, think of two different core competences.

    THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS BASICALLY A GOVERNING PARTY, organized around developing and implementing public policies.

    THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS BECOME AN ATTACK PARTY, organized around developing and implementing political vitriol.

    Democrats legislate. Republicans fulminate.

    In theory, politics requires both capacities – to govern, but also to fight to attain and retain power.



    Richard Nixon’s “dirty tricks” were followed by Republican operative Lee Atwater’s smear tactics, Newt Gingrich’s take-no-prisoners reign as House speaker, the “Swift-boating” of John Kerry, and the Republicans’ increasingly blatant use of racism and xenophobia to build an overwhelmingly white, rural base.

    Atwater, trained in the southern swamp of the modern Republican party, once noted: “Republicans in the south could not win elections by talking about issues. You had to make the case that the other guy, the other candidate, is a bad guy.” Over time, the GOP’s core competence came to be vilification.

    The stars of today’s Republican party, in addition to Trump, are all pugilists: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia’s Brian Kemp; Fox News’s Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson; and attack dogs like Rudolph Giuliani and Roger Stone.

    BUT REPUBLICANS DON’T HAVE A CLUE HOW TO GOVERN. They’re hopeless at developing and implementing public policies or managing government. They can’t even agree on basics like how to respond to the pandemic or what to replace Obamacare with.

    MEANWHILE, THE CENTRAL COMPETENCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS RUNNING GOVERNMENT – DESIGNING POLICIES AND MANAGING THE SYSTEM. Once in office, Democrats spend countless hours cobbling together legislative and regulatory initiatives. They overflow with economic and policy advisers, programs, plans and goals.


    Their presidential campaigns proffer policies but are often devoid of passion. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid was little more than a long list of detailed proposals. DEMOCRATS SEEM STUNNED WHEN THEIR REPUBLICAN OPPONENTS PILLORY THEM WITH LIES, RAGE AND AD HOMINEM ATTACKS.

    This has put Democrats at a competitive disadvantage. Political campaigns might once have been about party platforms, but today’s electorate is angrier and more cynical. Policy ideas rarely make headlines; conflict does. Social media favor explosive revelations, including bald lies. No one remembers Hillary Clinton’s policy ideas from 2016; they only remember Trump’s attacks on her emails.

    As a result, the party that’s mainly good at attacking has been winning elections – and pushed into governing, which it is bad at.

    In 2016, the Republicans won the presidency, along with control over both chambers of Congress and most governorships. On the other hand, the party that’s mainly good at governing has been losing elections – pushed into the role of opposition and attack, which it’s bad at. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, however – the exception – seems to have a natural gift for it.

    This dysfunction has become particularly obvious – and deadly – in the current national emergency. Trump and Senate Republicans turned the pandemic and economic downturn into American catastrophes. They have no capacity to develop and implement strategies for dealing with them. Their kneejerk response is to attack – China, Democrats, public health officials, protesters, “lazy” people who won’t work.

    Democrats know what to do – House Democrats passed a comprehensive coronavirus bill in May, and several Democratic governors have been enormously effective – but they’ve lacked power to put a national strategy into effect.

    All this may change in a few months when Americans have an opportunity to replace the party that’s bad at governing with the one that’s good at it. After all, Joe Biden has been at it for most of the past half-century.

    Trump and the Republican party will pull out all the stops, of course. They’ve already started mindless, smarmy attacks. That’s what they know how to do.

    The big question hovering over the election is whether Democrats can summon enough fight to win against the predictable barrage. Biden’s choice of running mate, Kamala Harris, bodes well in this regard. Quite apart from all her other attributes, she’s a fierce fighter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s