NOTES, 28 SEPTEMBER 2020
Greetings, blog reader. It is Monday, September 28, 2020, time to review where we stand on the crises of the day. Let's focus on the two leading problems of the day, the pandemic and the political crisis.
PANDEMIC. According to our usual source, Worldometers, COVID-19 continues to infect and kill people at about the same rates except for an up-tick in South Carolina.
The case count in the world is 33,342,965. This was up 2,079,605 in the last week, September 21-28. This was a rising rate of 7%, the same as the earlier week. In the world there were 375,589 deaths in the week for a total of 1,002,985, a rising rate of 4%, the same as the preceding week. A million people have died of COVID-19!
The United States continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic, with the most cases and deaths. Last week, there were 316,700 new cases in the U.S., for a total of 7,321,465. This was a rising rate of 5%, up slightly from the 4% of the prior week. As for deaths, 5,336 Americans died of the plague last week, for a total mortality of 209,454. This was a rising rate of 3%, the same as the earlier week.
South Carolina saw a surge in new cases. It reported 8,179 new cases for a total of 145,887. This was a rate of 6%, up from the 4% of the earlier week. As for deaths, there were 127 in SC last week for a total of 3,326. This was a rising rate of 4%, up from the 2% of the previous week. It is clear the disease is spreading rapidly in SC.
Charleston County reported 328 new cases last week for a total of 15,817. This was a rising rate of 2%, the same as the earlier week. The county reported 4 deaths last week for a total of 260. This was a rising rate of 2%, up slightly from the 1% of the previous week. It is clear the disease continues to spread readily in Charleston County.
At present rates, we can expect about 300,000 Americans to be dead of the coronavirus by the end of the year although some experts are predicting much higher numbers because of seasonal changes. Winter weather will certainly facilitate the spread. All signs indicate a vaccine will not be available until next year, if then. The future of this pandemic looks bleak.
POLITICAL CRISIS. It is just 36 days until Election Day in the United States (actually people are already voting in many states). The political crisis is growing ever more intense as we draw nearer to the Day itself.
I have to confess, dear reader, that today I am worried about the future of our country. I have studied history a great deal for the past 67 years, since the Fourth Grade. I have seen many national crises come and go, as Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of the 1960's, Vietnam War, Iranian Hostages, the Iraqi wars, and 9-11. For each of these, the question was how it would impact on the country. There was never a doubt that the country itself was in jeopardy. Now there is. I fear that the very existence of the democratic republic we have come to know and love may not survive the coup d'état underway against it. A minority coalition appears to be making a concerted effort to overthrow the great nation state our ancestors built and handed to us. As I said recently, this is a pull-the-fire-alarm-emergency.
The President of the United States is leading this coup. He has said very clearly that he will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. He has also declared, repeatedly, that he will not accept the result of the election if he loses the vote. No president has ever said such things. Trump and the Trumpistas have thrown down the gauntlet against democracy. He is being backed up by about 40% of the American people, particularly by the Republican Party, and the reactionary media. He has heavily armed self-styled militias ready to take to the streets. More importantly, he and his Senators have packed the federal courts with young, right-wing judges who will do his bidding. Trump and the Republicans have said more than once that they fully expect the election to be decided ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, we will see the counter-revolutionaries most likely complete their coup. Under this internal assault, the old American democratic republic will be hard pressed to survive. The country we have known and loved is on the brink. This is something I never thought I would live to see but here it is. And, if you think this is just hyperbole, you have not been paying attention to the news.
It is always helpful to keep the big picture in mind. We are witnessing the clash between two historic forces that always appear in revolutionary times: Revolution v. Counter-Revolution. First, there is the force of the revolution. In this case it is the Great Democratic Revolution that arose strongly in 1960s America and gave freedom, justice, equality and inclusion to the elements of society that had been ignored and excluded, namely blacks, women, the old, the poor, and homosexuals. The changes were sweeping and enormous. However, a reaction arose led by the social elements that felt most threatened and displaced by the revolution, namely white working class men (fear of immigrants and foreign competition), white southerners (fear of blacks), white evangelical Christians (fear of secularism), and big business (fear of loss of control of wealth). This counter-revolution was solidified in 2016 by Donald Trump who combined their cause with autocracy. This right-wing alliance has attacked virtually all the institutions that made the modern democratic republic, now the election process itself. It is now asserting, or attempting to, its power over the will of the majority of the people.
A good deal of the problem at hand comes from the incongruity of the evolving democracy and the original institutional structure of the country. The United States did not start out as a democracy. At best, it would be called a representative republic. Power was largely in the hands of a minority, the white landholders. The majority were excluded: women, slaves, Indians. Moreover, when the founding fathers drew up the Constitution, they saw a collection of individual states, not of people. Thus, they created the Senate to represent the states, at two senators each. This is now wildly undemocratic. The smallest state, Wyoming (pop. 579,000), has the same vote in the Senate as the largest state, California (pop. 40,000,000). What this boils down to is that the small states, that tend to be rural and socially conservative, control the Senate over the large states, that tend to be urban and socially liberal. At present, Republicans have a majority vote in the Senate (53-47) and represent only 48% of the American people. At current demographic trends, by the year 2040, 30% of the population will have 70% of the Senators while 70% of the population will be represented by 30% of the Senate. This is a big red flag.
Even more undemocratic was the founding fathers' set up for presidential elections. Instead of trusting the people to choose the president, the democratic thing to do, they created out of thin air a strange and unique creature called the Electoral College. The president and vice president are elected by majority vote of the Electoral College. Each state gets the same number of votes in the EC that it has in Congress. For instance, South Carolina has two senators and seven representatives in Congress. This gives SC nine votes in the Electoral College. The EC is undemocratic because the Senate is undemocratic. Several times in American history, the choice of the people was not the winner in the EC. Twice in the last twenty years, the president chosen by the EC was not the choice of the voters. Trump won 46.1% of the popular vote in 2016 while Clinton won 48.2%. Thanks to the Supreme Court (a body not chosen by the people) and the Electoral College (a body not chosen by the people) we have had a president for the past nearly four years who is consistently unpopular with the citizenry, and for good reason.
One other point about the Electoral College that may impact on this year's election is that the Constitution specifies that the state legislature will decide how that state's votes are cast in the Electoral College. Most of the battleground states today have legislatures controlled by Republicans. Conceivably, they could discard the popular vote and choose electors pledged to Trump thus giving Trump a majority in the EC, and the election. This would be stunningly anti-democratic, but not surprising in the current climate. There are signs the Republicans are heading in this direction. If this does not work to secure Trump's reelection, the Supreme Court would be the backup. Either way, the coup would be complete.
Thus, there is a wide and growing divergence between the will of the people and the institutions of our government. This is highly dangerous for the future of the country. Having packed the federal courts with counter-revolutionary judges, we can expect all sorts of roll backs of the democratic reforms of the past sixty years, against the wishes of the majority, starting with Obamacare. A recent Pew Research study found that 53% of the American people favor keeping the Affordable Care Act while 38% want it overturned. With Barrett on the Supreme Court, it is all but certain the Court will declare the ACA unconstitutional. The courts will also go after abortion even though 61% of Americans want to keep it legal, a number that is continually rising. We can also expect the right-wing courts to restrict rights for homosexuals even though 70% of the American people say homosexuality should be accepted. This growing hostility between the will of the people and their governmental institutions is a bright red danger signal.
To summarize, the minority union of Trump and the reactionaries is now attempting a right-wing coup d'état to establish power over the majority of the American people who want to continue the Great Democratic Revolution. If Trump winds up getting reelected this will all but seal the coup. Some will depend on whether the Democrats win the majority of the Senate. If so, they could temper, but not necessarily shut down, this coup. If Trump wins and the Republicans keep a majority in the Senate, the coup will be complete and the democratic republic we have known and loved would be in mortal peril. It is highly doubtful that it could survive as we have known it another four years under such circumstances. This is why I am really fearful today.
I am not ready to assume the worst will happen. When we get right down to it, the outcome of this crisis all depends on whether the American people are more unified or disunified today. In my theory of contemporary America, the fundamental reason the Great Democratic Revolution (1960's+) succeeded was that the country had a (forced) unity in the Cold War for a long time. The coronavirus has forced a certain unity on the country in 2020, and the president has failed spectacularly to lead the country against this threat. Two hundred thousand dead Americans are testimony of this. So, I think the question of the day is, has the pandemic unified the country enough to keep the institutions of the nation from being seized by the minority?
I see reason for hope. At base, the future of our democratic republic rests on the will of the people to keep it. Even though the U.S. did not start out as a democracy, it has evolved more and more along democratic lines. After two and a half centuries of working this out, even at the cost of many lives and much treasure, I see a populace devoted to the principles of equality and human rights and the procedures of majority rule. Thanks to the GDR, America is a far more democratic society than it has ever been.
However, we know from history that states rise and fall. None lasts forever. The U.S. will not last forever. There are numerous democracies that failed in history. The first ones that come to my mind are the French Revolution (replaced by Napoleonic dictatorship in 1799) and Weimar Germany (replaced by Nazi totalitarianism in 1933). I would also throw in the Roman Republic (replaced by the Roman Empire in 1st Century B.C.E.) even though it was not very democratic. All of these happened against a backdrop in which the majority of the people were not steeped for centuries in a democratic tradition. America is. If we are saved from the present anti-democratic assault, it will be because the American people want to keep the greatest experiment in human government ever created. I believe in the end we will even though the institutional structures we have known may change. Meanwhile, I shudder to think what will happen in the next few months.
As always, remember we are here for the living of this hour. Let us seek to muster all the strength and courage we can to meet the challenges of this time of our lives. Peace.