Monday, October 12, 2020

NOTES,   12 OCTOBER 2020

Greetings, blog reader, on this Monday, 12 October 2020. It is time to check in on the crises we have been following for months. Two issues are still front and center today as they were last week, the pandemic and the political crisis. Another problem, the economic turmoil, is also important now. The country is in bad need of another infusion of money into the hands of the people, businesses, and local governments but this issue unfortunately  has become a political football. It remains to be seen if the two parties can come to an agreement before the election. However, the stock market seems strong and that is a good sign that investors have confidence in the future. Meanwhile, millions of ordinary people who do not own stocks remain unemployed and facing food and housing insecurities. Their future is not so sure.

THE PANDEMIC. In the week of October 5-12, COVID-19 continued to spread apace in the world and in the United States although there was some sign of easing up in South Carolina. In the world, there were 2,344,427 new cases reported, a rise of 7%, a bit more than the 6% of the earlier week. As for deaths in the world, 39,213 were reported in the week, a rate of 4%, the same as the last few weeks. Over one million people have died in this plague (1,081,945).

In America, 354,336 new cases were reported for a total of 7,992,932. This was a rising rate of 5%, up slightly from the 4% of the earlier week. As for deaths last week, 5,077 Americans died of the disease, a rising rate of 2%, the same as the previous week. As of now, 219,706 Americans have died COVID-19. 

In South Carolina, there were 5,824 new cases last week, up 4%, the same rate as the week earlier. SC is now reporting a total of 157,406 cases. As for deaths in SC, there were 60 last week for a total of 3,552. This is a rising rate of 2%, well below the 4% of the earlier week. Charleston County reported 247 new cases last week for a total of 16,273. This was a rising rate of 2%, up slightly from the 1% of the previous week. The county reported just 2 deaths from the coronavirus last week, a considerable improvement. The county is now listing 267 deaths overall.

Alabama continued the same. It reported 6,173 new cases for a total of 165,342, up 4%, the same as the earlier week. It is also reporting 106 new deaths, for a total of 2,664, up 4%, a jump from the 2% of the earlier week.

Experts are predicting a sharp rise in the spread and mortality of COVID-19 as winter sets in. Apparently, a vaccine is still months away.

THE POLITICAL CRISIS. Today, all signs indicate that Biden will be elected president. Two big questions are still looming, however. The first is whether it will be close, or a Biden landslide. Some indications point to a landslide. The other is whether the Democrats will win a majority in the U.S. Senate. Again, signs indicate this may well happen. If there is a Democratic sweep, this could trickle down to state and local races.

Speaking of the Senate, the sort of quintessential race this time is in, of all places, conservative, red, South Carolina. Senator Lindsey Graham is a well-entrenched political power. At the start, everyone thought he would glide through another lopsided election over a weak opponent. Turned out to be different. Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, is giving Graham the race of his lifetime (Harrison crushed Graham in the debate). Harrison just reported receiving the largest amount of contributions per quarter of any Senate candidate in U.S. history, a staggering $57m (in three months!). Polls are showing the race dead even. It could go either way. Much of this depends on the relative strength of Trump in the state. If Trump wins big, straight ticket voting should put Graham over the top. However, all signs are that Trump is much weaker in SC than in 2016, and practically everywhere else (latest poll in SC=T 48%, B 47%). Trump will almost certainly win SC, but if the margin is small, and enough voters split their tickets, Harrison could win the Senate seat. The last I checked, the bookies in Vegas were given Graham a slight edge in the betting odds.

While SC is unclear, the national vote is not. The last two weeks have all but resolved the race. Trump's disastrous "debate" appearance and his handling of his own covid infection caused his numbers to crater with little hope of climbing out. The bookies are now wagering two to one for Biden, the largest spread ever. Again, the big question is the size of the vote margin which is looking more and more as a landslide. Early voting is overwhelmingly on the Democratic side.

Of course, Trump is Trump and he has three weeks to go before election day. Everyone knows anything can happen. We have learned to expect the unexpected. However, the signs of a coup d'état that were quite strong a few weeks ago, are fading, thank goodness. Leading Republican senators and the military brass have all signaled they will not support a coup to overthrow the election. Even so, worrying signs are still there that the Trumpistas will attempt such. Neither Trump nor Pence has committed to a peaceful transition of power. Then, there is the truly terrifying discovery that a group of heavily armed far right thugs was arrested for planning to kidnap a (Democratic) governor! Thankfully, the FBI is still functioning, and well. There is also the fact that thousands of Republican lawyers and "poll watchers" are being sent out, obviously to try to manipulate the election results. If the election is anywhere near close, we can expect Republican law suits galore to try to throw the election results into chaos in order to give the choice to the state legislatures and/or the House of Representatives where the Republicans could hand the victory to Trump. Unless Biden wins a landslide, we can expect a political crisis between Nov. 3 and Dec. 14, the likes of which this country has not seen since the Civil War. If Biden wins in a landslide, the chances of a coup succeeding are mercifully slim.

Something that is beginning to worry me as a student of history is that one of our two major political parties may well be severely wounded when the dust settles. Of course, this would be self-inflicted as the Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. They attached themselves to a man woefully unfit for the presidency. They made a faustian bargain, to give Trump autocratic power and in return he would support their counter-revolutionary roll backs of democratic reforms. 

How the Republican Party will survive Trump is an open question. We need a strong two party system. This is the way a democratic republic works best. It is not healthy to have a one party government. Of course, the Republicans will live on in the federal courts since they have packed them with young reactionary judges/justices. Still, if the Republicans lose in a landslide, the party itself could well shrink into long-term if not permanent impotence. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

We can all be sure, then, that the next two months will be tumultuous and wild. I suggest we all hold on tight. Americans are facing a big challenge; and how we respond will test our mettle. As a student of history, I believe we will get through this and come out the other side stronger as a nation and a society. We will see things clearer; we will know ourselves better than ever. 

I must confess that I am feeling a bit more confident about the state of our country of late. What I would like to see is a continuation of the Great Democratic Revolution that started in earnest in the 1960's. The freedom, equality, justice, and inclusion that came from the GDR has transformed America, for the better. I will assure you there is a vast difference between the America of today and that of my childhood in the 1940's and 50's. When Trump won the White House in 2016, I grew worried that the compact he made with the counter-revolutionaries would cause serious damage to the reforms of the GDR. In fact, there have been many roll backs in the reforms; and this will continue at least with the increasingly conservative make ups of the federal courts. 

Trump's impending failure at reelection means that the counter-revolution was not strong enough to overcome the soaring tide of the great revolution. My theory is that Trump came to power on the internal divisions of American society but that the coronavirus has forced a certain unity upon the nation and this unity has bolstered the democratic sense of one community. America was faced with a challenge; the political leadership failed to meet the challenge; the people will reject this leadership. This proves that the democratic nature of our society has held. Trump's kind of disunity fell flat in the face of the unity caused by the pandemic. Thus, the stronger (majority) democratic revolution continues to prevail over the weaker (minority) counter-revolution. In historical cycles of revolution, the last phase is a sort of compromise between the competing revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. It  may well be that this is where we are soon heading. The revolutionaries will likely have the executive and legislative branches while the counter-revolutionaries will have the courts. Perhaps this will be the historical settlement of the GDR.    


Finally, no one asked for all of this. No one caused it. Nevertheless, here we are, pilgrims traveling together on a journey, called life. We were sent by our creator for the living of this hour. It is our assignment, our mission. Let us find the strength and courage to move ahead faithfully. Peace.


P.S. This Thursday, October 15, will mark the eighth anniversary of the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina. The schism occurred at 12:00 noon on October 15, 2012, when the presiding bishop telephoned the bishop of South Carolina and placed a restriction on his ministry. Unknown to her, the leadership of the diocese had set a secret trap for her. Under an earlier resolution of the standing committee, on advice of the bishop, if the national church took "any action" against the bishop, the diocese would secede from the union (everything old in SC is new again). As soon as the call ended, Bishop Lawrence alerted the leadership and all agreed that the resolution of secession was in effect as of the phone call. The leadership soon announced to the world the independence of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. We know now, from the ruling of the federal court, that this was not the case. In fact, the secessionist leadership did not take the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church. They took themselves out of the Church and formed a new association now called the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina. The Diocese of South Carolina goes on valiantly, battered, bruised, and diminished but refusing mightily to be vanquished. 

At any rate, we should take a moment at noon on this Thursday, Oct. 15, to remember the schism.