In the last few months, the firestorm of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked death and economic destruction across the globe — and nowhere more so than in America. Our neglected social and physical infrastructure sits like a Potemkin village in a landscape where all the metaphorical streams and lakes that might have provided firebreaks and water sources have been drained by decades of “trickle-down economics,” diverted instead into private reservoirs of wealth.
All of our weaknesses are suddenly and starkly laid bare as years of “starve the beast” anti-government tax policies come home to roost, inevitably at the very moment we most need an effective government. And our many strengths — not least among them a talent for collaboration when the chips are down — are hamstrung by an administration staffed by people whose principal policy priority is providing “ ratings” for a calamitously incompetent chief executive.
The “less bad news” is that the damage from the pandemic will probably be so extensive that some mixture of policies Democrats have long advocated — universal health care, a comprehensive social safety net, quality public education, clean renewable energy, fair taxation, diplomacy, etc. — will be necessary to extract ourselves from this still-deepening disaster. But at what a terrible price!
The “worse news” is that modern history is replete with dictators and autocrats, down to and including the present, who have harnessed social distress with a combination of election-winning fear-mongering and subsequent institutional sabotage to vitiate the electoral system itself.
Unfortunately, our president, for all his incompetent leadership, is a competent practitioner of divisive demagoguery, and he is abetted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose passion for partisan perversion of the judiciary has led him to recall the Senate in the midst of an historic public health emergency, risking the health of his colleagues and, perhaps more importantly, that of the janitors, cafeteria workers, security personnel and office and committee staffers who are required to support them, to vote on confirmation of judges.
Not since the Civil War has the danger to the republic been greater! For Mainers and the nation, nothing is more important for reducing that danger than the defeat of President Donald Trump and McConnell’s enabler, Sen. Susan Collins, and we cannot take that defeat for granted, nor relax our efforts to ensure it.
What then to do? Stand up and be counted. Make our voices heard. Engage, and encourage and inform our friends and neighbors to engage, too. Keep the big picture in mind when some policy or person is not our preferred option. Tolerate our differences and support the common good.
Donate as your means permit — to food banks, the United Way, the Maine Community Foundation, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, to the folks out there doing the work to help the growing numbers of our fellow citizens in need and to those doing the political work to reduce those numbers, for example with $5 to a state legislative candidate running under the Clean Election program.
Friends, courage and discipline will be demanded from each of us in the face of the developing catastrophe that the Trump administration, instead of mitigating, has exacerbated.
Thank you for standing up and standing fast, now and through the election, and into a future where we begin the hard but hopeful work of rebuilding our communities, our country and this shrinking world that is our common home!
Will Neilson of Arrowsic is the chair of the Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee.