Some thoughts on US politics as we wind down 2021.


First published: December 2021.


As we end a(nother) dreadful year because of the pandemic, a still too-partisan Washington, D.C., and a country whose citizenry seems to become more polarized by the day, we also look ahead to a year we all hope will see the pandemic “end,” the partisanship lessen and the polarization begin to melt.

One can hope anyway.

Some thoughts as we wind down 2021.

It’s not hyperbole to say that our democracy is at stake in 2022

Some states are changing laws to restrict voting. Some states are putting partisans in control to oversee elections. Some state legislatures are being given the right to take legal, well run elections and overturn them so their guys win. This is how democracy dies. And just because it’s “your side” that’s doing these things, doesn’t make it right. We all should fear what’s happening.

The mainstream media is becoming more important

The mainstream media is becoming more important even as media ranks are declining each year with local papers shutting down or vulture capitalists dismantling papers and chains they purchase. Still, the media need to adjust. No longer can “equal coverage” be the norm. The norm needs to return to the media telling us the facts so we can make up our own minds. And the “facts” don’t include lies told by some politicians to create a “narrative” they want and a significant portion of the electorate believes. This is a longer discussion but it used to be the media presented both sides because each side was offering facts as they saw them. Today, lies are told and the media repeat them rather than expose them. For example, Republican elected officials are willingly signing on to the “fact” that January 6 was just another Washington protest. It was not. It was an attack on our democracy and on our fair elections. They tried to stop the legitimate vote counting which means they were trying to destroy our Constitution. As one person wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post: “If mainstream news organizations strive for objectivity to the point of muddying the facts, the United States days as a democracy are numbered.” ‘Nuff said, for now.

More media developments

While the media somewhat cover the death of local newspapers it also needs to cover the birth of journals, nonprofit outlets that expanded during the pandemic. Membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) grew to more than 350 newsrooms this year from 195 in 2019. These newsrooms are financed by donations to those newsrooms – which INN has certified as independent and non-partisan.

More than 800,000 Americans have been lost to the pandemic since it began

Thousands more who had the virus and recovered will have long-term issues for years. That’s tragic and was avoidable thanks to vaccines developed in record time (thanks to huge investments made by the Trump Administration). A collateral piece of damage is a growing abuse of young women who are playing sports. High school girls’ sports teams have been subject to harassment, sexual shouts and racist chants. A recent Washington Post article reported, “Over the past year alone, alleged incidents of abuse by fans have been reported in California, Tennessee, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Maryland and New York, among other states, and some longtime stakeholders in high school sports agree: The behavior among students in the stands has never been worse.” The article didn’t explain why that is but a good guess is that it’s a buildup of frustration over the pandemic and a lowering of the bar for what once was decent behavior. More polarization. More acceptance of disgusting behavior.

It isn’t all Trump

Former President Donald Trump certainly owns some responsibility for the previous item and for the devolution of behavior in this country. But it isn’t all Trump. There is an element in this country that agrees with Thump's views and approach to politics. Plus, Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows and congressmen such as Jim Jordon, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene and others are to blame, too. They seized Trump’s lie about the 2020 election being rigged, model his sometimes crude, misogynistic, and racist remarks and bring down our standards tremendously. Many of these Republicans are out simply to build their brands on social media. Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebart come to mind. But Trump just contributed and then led trends that were going on in the Republican Party for years. The do-badders are ganging up on the country. How? They’ve called a fair election rigged. They don’t govern. They have not paid attention or respect to demographics and rather than welcome “minorities” into their ranks, paid lip service to efforts to expand the party. And now they play to a piece of the GOP that has become the Trump base – white voters without college degrees.

Biden operates as a senator

Being President is hard (surprise!). It takes various skills. Biden was a very good senator and served as a loyal vice president, which is basically his entire job experience. I’ve never worked on Capitol Hill but I think a big part of the job is (or was) being collegial, and compromising or at least that was the Senate Biden worked in. Your word was your bond. Compromise was the name of the game. The game is different now but, still, Biden seems to be operating so far as an old-time senator and not as a president. Losing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) vote was a huge arrow to the heart of what was the agenda Biden ran on. Unless he figures out a way to bring Manchin back, Biden’s agenda is stalled, some might say mostly gone.

Speaking of Manchin

A friend sent me a column today from a website called Truthout.com that posits that what’s behind the West Virginia senator’s blocking of the Biden plan is a possible run for president. The piece by William Rivers Pitt posits that Manchin could be setting himself up as a third-party candidate (the piece gives good reasons) which made me think, initially, that no independent candidate can win the presidency. BUT 2024 could be different. If you take, for example, the front-runners for each party’s nomination (Biden and Trump) and toss in Manchin, Manchin could win. Take out Biden and add in Vice President Kamala Harris, Manchin can win. Take out Trump and add in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantos, Manchin can win. Manchin is a moderate Democrat who wins in a Republican state. Very interesting piece.

Ending where I began

Our democracy is in danger. The United States has hit a new low in a global ranking of political rights and civil liberty. The drop, according to Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group that released the study, was “fueled by unequal treatment of minority groups and increased polarization.”

As I said, this isn’t all on Trump, but his candidacies and presidency had a big flavor of racism and his strategy if he had one, as President was to polarize the country. Trump’s style, in business and politics, always depended on having an enemy, a target, a foil. That became RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) and liberals, politically. And he operated on a transactional basis.

For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, became a partner, especially on naming conservative judges. But then McConnell congratulated Biden for his election win about two months after Election Day. He reasoned that giving Trump room to force recounts or file suits after Election Day right up until the final step, the Senate counting the state by state-certified electoral votes on Jan. 6, was sufficient. McConnell accepts the truth, that Biden’s election was legit, no rigging. McConnell became the disloyal enemy. Politics does depend a lot on loyalty. Trump’s correct there. But loyalty to country outweighs loyalty to an individual.

A key goal in politics is that you need to add your votes, your base. Trump succeeded only in subtracting voters. Still, he has literally taken over the Republican Party.

And our democracy remains in serious danger.

PMP Magazine



— AUTHOR —

B. Jay Cooper, Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Also headed communications offices at the RNC, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University.


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