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AMERICA IN 2020: LIVING AT A CROSSROADS

BY JON NELSON

 

Living in the United States in 2020 is vastly different than it was four years ago.  Everyone living here recognizes this, at one level or another.  This article will list the crises that confront us, and I will show that none of these existed prior to the Trump administration or at least to the same degree.  This does not mean that every single crisis listed below is the fault of Trump and/or the Republican party, but the overwhelming majority are in fact the consequence of right-wing ignorance and misguided policies.  A full-length expose is beyond the scope of this article, so with this understanding, here are some of the more obvious:

1) We are living in the midst of a health pandemic that, as this is written, has claimed over 100,000 American lives.  No other country is experiencing similar death rates, and this is largely due to Donald Trump and the Republican party who at first attempted to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic, and then, as the situation worsened,  tried to shift the blame to the Democrats.  Trump’s own words show the complete ineptness of his response (to say nothing of his constant stream of lies).  Consider his words on January 22: “We have it totally under control.  It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.  It’s going to be just fine.”  On February 10, he said: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”  By February 24, global markets had fallen precipitously, but Trump ignored this with one of his more blatant lies: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”   Three days later, he said: “It’s going to disappear.  One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”  By March, even Trump had to acknowledge that the virus was spreading, but still insisted the public was not in danger.  This despite the World Health Organization’s clear warnings that the virus was spreading at alarming rates.  Trump’s eventual response was to withdraw support of the WHO, and blame them for failing to warn people!  And, on March 9, he began his predictable attempts to shift the blame by instigating attacks on his perceived opponents, blaming them for exaggerating the dangers of the pandemic: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power…to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”  Finally, on March 17, he actually had the gall to say: “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”  Clearly this man has no shame.  Despite his incompetence and outright criminality, he still has a large number of supporters.  An email sent out on May 31 by Social Security Works hits the nail right on the head: “If the Trump administration were as dedicated to fighting the coronavirus as they are to destroying Social Security and Medicare, we might not have 40 million newly unemployed and more than 100,000 deaths.”

2) More and more people are homeless and out of a job.  In the city I lived in until January of this year, I noticed the number of people living on the streets had greatly risen since the end of the Obama administration.  In addition, America has also seen a sharp rise in graffiti and the crime rate.

3) Racial tension has raised its ugly head since 2016.  His infamous 2017 reference to “very fine people on both sides” was in response to the neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville Virginia.  And, after George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by a white police officer (since arrested), riots broke out, first in Minnesota and then, by the end of May, to other parts of the country.  Trump’s reaction was to say: When the looting starts, the shooting starts” which, if literally followed, would result in the deaths of countless innocent bystanders and civilians.  In addition to being a complete violation of the Constitution, this is nothing less than a call for a police state.  And of course, Trump was among the “birthers” who claimed that president Obama was not born in the United States.  While one cannot condone the violence of the protesters, their anger is certainly understandable.  During the crisis, Trump turned out the lights in the White house and cowered (like his fascist predecessor in the last days of the third reich) in an underground bunker.  After Trump appeared on TV, waving a Bible, his hypocrisy reached a new low.  Here is a quote from When Democrats Turn Out that describes the situation: “‘They turned holy ground into a battleground.’ That’s how one reverend described the scene at St. John’s Church—the site of President Trump’s Monday night photo-op.  According to The New York Times, police began using tear gas and flashbangs to clear out the crowd of peaceful protesters surrounding the church so that Trump could get his photo taken with the Bible.  Some demonstrators caught in the violence yelled that they’d been shot.  Others cried out in pain as grenades exploded around them.  After about 17 minutes in front of the cameras, taking no questions and addressing no protesters, Trump decided to return to the safety of the White House—possibly back to the bunker he spent the weekend hiding out in.” (June 3, 2020)  Here is another quote that sums up Donald Trump perfectly: “This is an awful man, waving a book he hasn’t read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies, wielding a military he dodged serving, to protect power he gained via accepting foreign interference, exploiting fear and anger he loves to stoke, after failing to address a pandemic he was warned about, and building it all on a bed of constant lies and childish inanity.”  Robert Hendrickson, Rector, Saint Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church.  Add to that at least twelve blatantly obvious violations of the U.S. Constitution and you have a pretty good idea of why this country is in the mess it’s in.

4) Attacks on minorities.  An increasingly totalitarian America is taking place before our eyes as this administration has launched full-scale attacks on women, gays, people of color, Muslims, Latin Americans and anyone else who doesn’t fit into their notion of a far-right American republic or, should I say, dictatorship.  Prejudice has reared its ugly head in ways that haven’t been seen in more than fifty years, since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.  But it’s not just minorities that the ultra-paranoid Trump hates: Anyone who dares disagree with him automatically becomes an enemy.  He will do anything in his power to destroy anyone who dares criticize him in any way.  Rest assured that if Trump wins re-election and the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, you will not be able to read articles like this in the near future.

5) Attacks on voting rights.  Trump and the Republican party know that their fanaticism isn’t popular among the majority of Americans, and so they have launched a full-scale assault on voting rights.  Trump himself even acknowledged that if everyone votes, Republicans will lose: “The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”  These “things” included voting by mail, which Republicans condemn at every opportunity, making false claims about how it will lead to voter fraud, which is certainly not the case.  Daily Kos notes in a May 30 article: “He is threatening to use the power of the presidency to deny federal funding to key swing states like Michigan and Nevada if they attempt to expand vote-by-mail.  He even signed an executive order initiating legal action against social media companies in response to Twitter for fact-checking his tweets about vote by mail.”  Question Trump in any way, and you risk losing your livelihood—and possibly much more; this is exactly how totalitarian dictatorships operate.  The article also notes how the Republicans are gearing up for the November election: “…the Republicans’ $20 million plans to suppress voter turnout in the November elections by recruiting 50,000 volunteers to challenge votes.”  Trump is even trying to make voters choose between their health and the health of their communities.  Again quoting the Daily Kos article: “Now he is threatening to hold up federal funds for the key swing states of Michigan and Nevada because their Secretaries of State are making it easier for people to vote by mail.  Republicans don’t make it harder for people to vote just for the heck of it.  Republicans make it harder for people to vote because they know that the higher voter turnout rises, the lower Republican chances of winning elections sink.  That’s why they recruit armies of people to challenge ballots, mount legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act, close polling locations, and even force people to choose between their health and their right to vote.”  Despite Trump’s hysterical claims to the contrary, there is no link whatever between voter fraud and mail-in ballots.  This is yet another example of this administration’s use of “alternative facts”, which basically means invented lies which suit its own purposes.

6) Corruption at all levels of government.  Trump is so paranoid that he goes into fits whenever anyone dares disagree with him about anything.  This overall attitude is both childish and dangerous; his administration has seen the highest turnover rate in history.  Rather than focus on addressing the seriousness of the pandemic, Republicans are playing political games at the cost of human lives.  Ramming through unqualified, extreme right-wing judges at the federal and state levels is an indication of how much they fear losing the presidency and the Senate in November.  There are so many scandals associated with this administration that this article would assume book-like proportions were I to list them all.  Here, I will discuss a couple of the more egregious examples.  One of these is Trump’s profiting off of the presidency, a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids this kind of activity from occurring.  I once mentioned this violation to a Trump supporter who (apparently) in all seriousness made the ridiculous claim that Trump is losing money by being president.  I then asked him if this is true, why is Trump so adamant about refusing to release his tax returns?  At this point, the Trump supporter tried to change the subject and then showed his true nature by attempting to provoke a physical altercation with me.  The second example is how Trump and the Republicans had no problems whatever with Russia’s interference in the 2016 political campaign.  It was obvious as this scandal unfolded and the irrefutable facts emerged that they were not the least bit interested in protecting the electoral process; for them, protecting the interests of the Republican party are what is paramount.  They will do anything in their power—legality be damned—to maintain control.  Attorney General William Barr is only one who has disgraced his office; he acts as Trump’s personal attorney rather than representing the interests of the American people.  It was Barr who orchestrated the police attack on peaceful demonstrators which I already discussed in point number 3.  This is only one of numerous transgressions which, in a normal political environment would have led to his firing, or even imprisonment.  But these are not normal times.  As further proof of how fascism has reared its ugly head since Trump’s election, the president himself posted a tweet by a supporter who said: “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”  This is the gutter level the Republican party has descended to.

7) Corruption of big business has been going on for years, but under Republican leadership, the richest Americans have received over a trillion dollars thanks to the 2017 tax scam.  In the interest of brevity, I am going to focus on just one of these industries, the pharmaceutical industry.  This industry is raking in obscene profits and can charge anything they want for their products—with the unquestioned support of Republican leaders.  Along with other mega-businesses, this industry has been able to pay less and less of their fair share of taxes.  On May 26, Americans for Tax Fairness sent out an email which noted in part: “Now, in the midst of a pandemic, the Trump administration plans on allowing pharmaceutical companies to use monopoly power to charge high prices for a novel coronavirus vaccine.  Trump’s own Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress, ‘we can’t control the price’ even though our laws allow the president and Congress to break pharmaceutical monopolies to lower costs.”  As if this weren’t bad enough, consider what the group reported three days earlier: “When Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was asked during a congressional hearing whether the government could assure that a Coronavirus vaccine would be available and affordable to all Americans, he stated plainly that it could not.  When the FDA Commissioner was asked about the government’s plan to distribute a vaccine he said the cost of a vaccine is not the FDA’s responsibility.  And then this week, Trump picked an ex-drug company executive to lead the strategy to distribute a future COVID-19 vaccine…When this administration claims they have no control over the price of prescription drugs and vaccines, it is nothing but a lie.  Under an existing law called government patent use, our leaders have the ability to break pharmaceutical monopolies to bring down drug prices.  But rather than lowering drug prices—especially now in the middle of a pandemic—the Trump administration is preparing to help Big Pharma profiteer off of a COVID-19 vaccine.”  Of course, the pharmaceutical industry is far from being the only group exploiting the pandemic: A study conducted by Americans for Tax Fairness reports that more than 600 billionaires have seen their profits reach record levels during the pandemic.  The group also reported on May 31 that: “In 2017 and 2018, Amazon paid $0 in federal income taxes, paid just a 1.2% tax rate in 2019 and will likely pay $0 again this year just as it’s breaking all sales records.”  Clearly, protecting rich special interests at the expense of the health and well being of the American people is one of this administration’s top priorities during this crisis.

8) Republicans have a profound hatred and fear of science.  This goes back decades, and in some areas well over a century.  For years, right-wing Republicans have been actively trying to replace evolutionary theory with their story of creationism—in science classes, of all places!  But proven evolutionary theory is far from being their only target.  These days, we see this hatred manifested in Trump’s repeated attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, an expert who is trying to use his expertise to lead the country out of the Covid-19 health crisis.  Trump has attacked him at every turn and wants to get him fired so he can appoint another lying sycophant in his place.

9) Destruction of the environment with unprecedented rapidity is another aspect of the war on science conducted by the Republican party.  Trump and his cronies have given the green light for oil companies to build toxic pipelines through environmentally protected areas.  To make this happen, he has auctioned off millions of acres of public land to oil profiteers.  He wants to open Yellowstone National Park to hunters.  He is so gung ho on allowing big corporations to do whatever they want to do, at the expense of the health of every American, that he steadfastly refuses to admit the reality of climate change, saying in one of his infamous tweets: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  Although he later said that this quote was made as a joke, his subsequent actions are anything but funny: On May 20, the New York Times ran an article entitled “The Trump Administration is reversing 100 Environmental Rules.”  The article goes on to list them.  Here are but a few: **Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules. **Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. **Revised a program designed to safeguard communities from increases in pollution from new power plants to make it easier for facilities to avoid emissions regulations. **Relaxed air pollution regulations for a handful of plants that burn waste coal for electricity.**  Trump’s administration rejects the findings of every authoritative institution on the threat of climate change.  He rejects thousands of studies by leading scientists that involve no less than thirteen federal agencies that conclude that emissions of carbon dioxide are caused by human activity and have already caused long standing damage to the economy.  One of Trump’s anti-science strategies is to fire legitimate scientists (who refuse to tell him what he wants to hear) with non-experts who cater to his whims and replace them.  The Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to be the guardian of our country’s richest farmlands, reacted to global warming by forbidding the use of the term.  Out of sight, out of mind.  And of course there is the much-publicized withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty.  Inside Climate News reported on Jan 2, 2020: “In almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health, Trump selected top officials who dispute the mainstream consensus on the urgency of climate action.  People with little scientific background, or strong ties to industries they would be regulating, were appointed to scientific leadership positions.  One of the administration’s first actions was to order scientists and other employees at EPA and other agencies to halt public communications.  Several federal scientists working on climate change have said they were silenced, sidelined or demoted.  At least three—a senior employee at the Department of Interior, one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another at the National Park Service—invoked whistleblower protections.  Independent science advisors, such as members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors, have also been sidelined.  Scientific content on government websites has been altered and the public’s access to data reduced.  Climate data from the government’s open portal website was removed.  So was the EPA’s climate change website.  The words ‘climate change’ have been purged from government reports, and other reports have been buried, including by officials at the Department of Agriculture.  The administration even edited a major Defense Department report to downplay its climate findings.  Through speeches and tweets, the president has repeatedly spread misinformation to the public through his climate denial and denigration of renewable energy.”  If all this weren’t enough, the UN report that up to one million animal species may face extinction unless something is done was completely ignored by Trump and Senate Republicans.  The similarities between what the Republicans are trying to do with science and the Nazi’s similar strategies during the Second World War, are both striking and ominous.  Given all this, it should be obvious where Trump and his supporters loyalties lie.  Their attack on science in general and the climate threat in particular may be this administration’s greatest crime of all, since it affects the very survival of our species—and of all other species.

Trump could not have caused all this damage by himself.  I have not mentioned Mitch McConnell yet, so I’ll give the reader two timely quotes on the role he has played, and continues to play in leading our country toward a fascist state and possible oblivion.  The first is from Ditch Mitch Fund: “When you look at how democracies devolve into autocracies, the pattern is frequently the same.  Often it starts with economic downturn, disruption, or growing inequality.  New leaders come to power by promising to fix everything while demonizing a minority group or groups.  They attack the independent and free press along the way.  Once in power, they pack and politicize the courts with judges who will side with them.  They manufacture emergencies and crises.  They begin to outlaw dissent and erode civil liberties, even employing the power of the military against their own citizens.  And when their slow erosion of norms and consolidation of powers are challenged through the judicial system, the judges they picked defend them and declare their actions as constitutional.  The similarities to what Mitch McConnell has done over the past decade are stark.” (Ditch Mitch Fund, June 3, 2020) When Democrats Turn Out adds these telling remarks: “McConnell has said he feels no ‘urgency’ to act on relief, though jobless numbers are as bad as they’ve been since the 1930s. He has—incorrectly—said Barack Obama left no plan for a pandemic, even as Trump left the previous administration’s guidance on the shelf.  And, when asked about his first priority in the reconvened Senate, McConnell has said, ‘We will go back to judges.  My motto for the rest of the year is leave no vacancy behind.’  In short, the leader of the Republican Senate has fully embraced Trump over the American people, division over unification, and political opportunity over relief for those who are suffering the most.  Mitch is utterly failing to lead at a time when Americans need leadership more than ever.”  (When Democrats Turn Out, June 3, 2020)

I could go on, but this should be enough to make any thinking person realize the danger the Republican party poses to every citizen of the United States—and the world.  In closing, I ask one simple question: Was any of the above present during president Obama’s administration?  Honest Americans know the answer.

Welcome to Trump’s America.

Categories:   Political Affairs