Being thankful...and also very worried
We have vaccines. But a scary variant has emerged. Democrats have passed big legislation. But the forces of authoritarianism are on the horizon.
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It was a Thanksgiving to be thankful for a lot. A year ago right now we were seeing surging cases of Covid-19, and surging hospitalizations and deaths. It was a terrible repeat of an earlier time in the pandemic. This year, we have vaccines — and boosters! — and people are back out in the world (even as the anti-vaxxers are still spreading conspiracies). For many, it was the first Thanksgiving with family and friends in two years.
And yet — the United Kingdom last night banned flights from six African countries, as a new variant with a “constellation of mutations” has caused a surge of cases in South Africa.
As HuffPost reports:
Despite only very early information about the variant, several countries moved to restrict air travel, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe on Friday in reaction to the news.
The WHO’s technical working group will meet about the new variant on Friday to assess it. It will determine whether it should be a variant of interest, meaning it has genetic changes to the original, or one of concern, which means it can spread more easily or is more resistant to therapeutics and public health measures.
“Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study. It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has,” the organization said in a statement emailed to HuffPost.
Let’s hope that early concern — which is warranted — turns out to be overly cautious, and that this isn’t as bad as it might seem. We’ve seen other variants emerge that seemed like they would be worse than delta, only to be unable to overtake delta and go by the wayside, while we’ve (hopefully) brought delta under control.
Another thing I’m thankful about this week is the Democrats’ passage of the infrastructure bill — and President Biden signing it into law — and the House passing the Build Back Better bill, which now will be debated in the Senate. We also saw jobs numbers plummet this week to 199, 000, the lowest point in over 50 years — astounding news.
And yet — the media continues the “Dems in disarray” storyline, no matter what the Democrats actually get done, and the jobs story was buried, as much of the media sensationally keeps focusing on inflation, gas prices and the supply chain. But in fact, those latter issues, which are temporary, are partially a direct result of jobless claims plummeting and the economy taking off.
The story should be the other way around: The economy is surging back, people are back to work, but the labor market is very tight, causing temporary disruption. The supply issue is directly related to the tight job market — the inability to get enough workers fast enough, as we’re coming out of the pandemic, partially causing supply issues and the rise in prices. But that tight job market is also giving workers more power, and they’re demanding higher wages, which is keeping up with inflation.
If people are working and the economy is surging, that is the story, not inflation caused by worldwide supply issues that are causing countries from China to Germany to report record inflation — all temporary and because of the disruption of the global economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
And the gas prices are actually a whole separate issue that has to do with OPEC nations limiting supply, and MBS in Saudi Arabia trying to stick it to Joe Biden for not being as accommodating of his murderous ways as Donald Trump was.
A longer-term answer there is to get the hell off of fossil fuel-powered cars and onto electric vehicles, as well as other clean energy measures, and that brings us right back to the Build Back Better bill — and more legislation Democrats need to pass.
We hopefully will see Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia get aboard Build Back Better despite all his bombastic ridiculousness, and we might have seen Senator Kyrsten Sinema now satisfied and ready to back it. But even if that happens, getting legislation passed is not enough for Democrats to keep the House and Senate in 2022.
It’s a baseline for sure. But Democrats must pass voting rights legislation — which will mean ending the Senate filibuster — if they really want to secure a win and stop Republicans from stealing the elections. And at the very least they must bring Donald Trump, his family, his loyalists and the leaders of the January 6th Capitol insurrection among those in Congress to justice.
It’s not enough to prosecute the people in in the crowd who were there that day on January 6th. And the House select committee investigating January 6th clearly has limited power in bringing people like Steve Bannon or Congressman Paul Gosar or others to justice. Bannon defied the subpoena, was finally indicted, and is out and free, facing a trial one day but not compelled to ever talk — and he’s right now doing whatever he can to help the GOP win the House back, so that the committee will be squashed.
And I don’t have to go into the disaster that will unfold if Republicans take back the House and the Senate and win back the White House, as Trump gears up to run in 2024. You all know that this democracy will be officially dead.
We’ve got to see Merrick Garland and the Justice Department formally investigating Trump, his family, his top aides and his co-conspirators in Congress, independent of anything the select committee is doing, because that is where the real power lies.
The very smart Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, who’s covered national security and civil liberties for years and comes on my SiriusXM show often to discuss what’s going on regarding January 6th investigations, cautions that those investigations may be going on, even if we don’t “see” them.
This Justice Department — and this White House — is much more leak-proof, she notes, and just because we’ve not heard about those larger investigations it doesn’t mean they’re not happening nor that people aren’t cooperating with the government. She points to the indictment of Trump loyalist and fundraiser Tom Barrack this summer, which no one saw coming.
Let’s hope that’s going on. But we also have to keep the pressure up on so many fronts, including the Democrats’ bad messaging job on not only what they achieve but how dangerous the GOP is right now.
So, yes, a lot to be thankful for this year, no doubt. But a lot to be worried about. I hope you’re all having a great holiday weekend, even while trying to balance that anxiety and gratitude.
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