Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Paul Krugman: Covid-19 Brings Out All the Usual Zombies
Why virus denial resembles climate denial.
Let me summarize the Trump administration/right-wing media view on the coronavirus: It’s a hoax, or anyway no big deal. Besides, trying to do anything about it would destroy the economy. And it’s China’s fault, which is why we should call it the “Chinese virus.”
Oh, and epidemiologists who have been modeling the virus’s future spread have come under sustained attack, accused of being part of a “deep state” plot against Donald Trump, or maybe free markets.
Does all this give you a sense of déjà vu? It should. After all, it’s very similar to the Trump/right-wing line on climate change. Here’s what Trump tweeted back in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” It’s all there: it’s a hoax, doing anything about it will destroy the economy, and let’s blame China.
And epidemiologists startled to find their best scientific efforts denounced as politically motivated fraud should have known what was coming. After all, exactly the same thing happened to climate scientists, who have faced constant harassment for decades.
So the right-wing response to Covid-19 has been almost identical to the right-wing response to climate change, albeit on a vastly accelerated time scale. But what lies behind this kind of denialism?
Charles M. Blow: The Politics of a Pandemic
Trump wants us to see him as defeating a foreign enemy.
The coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a global public health crisis. But here in the United States — as is likely true in other countries — the response to it is heavily overlaid with political calculations. It is both obvious and inevitable. The crisis is unfolding in the lead-up to the election.
Viewed strictly in a political light, the consequences and rewards of responses to this virus — good responses as well as bad ones — suggest a new political dynamic that has few predecessors.
There was an election in the midst of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, but that was a midterm election year, not a presidential one.
I would submit that in general, a national crisis benefits the incumbent, if the nation is perceived to be at war against an outside actor. In such cases, there is a predictable nationalistic rallying. Fear becomes an adhesive; heroism becomes an antidepressant. And the president’s bully pulpit is amplified, as networks carry his news conferences and announcements live and the American public tunes in.
People need reassurance, stability and leadership, and changing the person in command in the middle of the process might not appeal to many.
Jennifer Senior: The Psychological Trauma That Awaits Our Doctors and Nurses
Don’t underestimate the moral anguish of deciding who gets a ventilator.
This is the moment to pray for the psychological welfare of our health care professionals. In the months ahead, many will witness unimaginable scenes of suffering and death, modern Pietàs without Marys, in which victims are escorted into hospitals by their loved ones and left to die alone.
I fear these doctors and nurses and other first responders will burn out. I fear they will suffer from post-traumatic stress. And with the prospect of triage on the horizon, I fear they will soon be handed a devil’s kit of choices no healer should ever have to make. It’s a recipe for moral injury.
Succinctly put, moral injury is the trauma of violating your own conscience. It is an experience known to many combat veterans — the term was in fact popularized by Jonathan Shay, a longtime psychiatrist at a Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Boston, in his book “Achilles in Vietnam.”
That this violation may be in the service of a larger, more defensible objective doesn’t matter — or rather, it does little to mitigate the guilt, self-reproach or spiritual crisis activated by making choices that feel so very wrong.
Rebecca Solnit: Who Will Win the Fight for a Post-Coronavirus America?
Every disaster shakes loose the old order. What replaces it is up to us.
The scramble has already begun. The possibilities for change, for the better or the worse, for a more egalitarian or more authoritarian society, burst out of the gate like racehorses at times like these.
Progressive and conservative politicians are pitching proposals to radically alter American society, to redistribute wealth, to change the rules, to redefine priorities. The pandemic has given the Trump administration an excuse to try to shut down borders and, reportedly, a pretext to try to secure the unconstitutional capacity to detain people indefinitely. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, among others, has made the case for reducing the prison population, whose crowding in poor conditions constitutes a health risk — for freeing people, rather than the opposite, in response to the crisis. Other progressives have sought to expand workers’ rights, sick leave and implement other policies that would improve lives even in ordinary times. Social programs long said to be impossible may well come to pass; so could authoritarian measures.
Every disaster shakes loose the old order: The sudden catastrophe changes the rules and demands new and different responses, but what those will be are the subject of a battle. These disruptions shift people’s sense of who they and their society are, what matters and what’s possible, and lead, often, to deeper and more lasting change, sometimes to regime change. Many disasters unfold like revolutions; the past gives us many examples of calamities that led to lasting national change.
The coronavirus has starkly revealed what most of us already knew: The concentration of wealth in America has created a a health care system in which the wealthy can buy care others can’t.
It’s also created an education system in which the super-rich can buy admission to college for their children, a political system in which they can buy Congress and the presidency, and a justice system in which they can buy their way out of jail.
Almost everyone else has been hurled into a dystopia of bureaucratic arbitrariness, corporate indifference, and the legal and financial sinkholes that have become hallmarks of modern American life.
The system is rigged. But we can fix it.
Today, the great divide in American politics isn’t between right and left. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system, and the vast majority who have little or none.
Forget politics as you’ve come to see it — as contests between Democrats and Republicans. The real divide is between democracy and oligarchy.
The market has been organized to serve the wealthy. Since 1980, the percentage of the nation’s wealth owned by the richest four hundred Americans has quadrupled (from less than 1 percent to 3.5 percent) while the share owned by the entire bottom half of America has dropped to 1.3 percent.
The three wealthiest Americans own as much as the entire bottom half of the population. Big corporations, CEOs, and a handful of extremely rich people have vastly more influence on public policy than the average American. Wealth and power have become one and the same.