Our Best Stuff From a Week in Limbo
The election is over but not over, and the pandemic rages on.
Happy Saturday. It’s a gloomy day here in Ohio, and not just because of the rain. We’re not even close to winter yet, but we’re getting a preview of what a battle of endurance it will be. Normally I’d spend this weekend planning for Thanksgiving, getting ready for family to come in, sorting out who was bringing which dish, and buying a couple of turkeys (leftover turkey is superior to Thanksgiving Day turkey—this is not up for debate).
That ain’t happening this year. We’ll still make too much food, and we’ll kick off the holiday season properly with our first viewing of Christmas Vacation, but that’s about it. If we’d had plans (we didn’t), those would have been scuttled Thursday when the call came in from the school district: Our youngest had a classmate test positive and now he’s in quarantine—complete with Zoom school—until the end of the month.
I’ll admit it: I didn’t have the best response to the news. My phone might have, um, fallen out of my hand and landed halfway across the room on a pile of laundry I’d been avoiding. I know it sounds petty, but he was supposed to have a swim meet this weekend, and quarantine meant he couldn’t compete. Our kids have been practicing since June, and practicing, and practicing. But they haven’t had a real meet since February. I was upset he was going to miss out. As it turned out, the meet got canceled anyhow. And I don’t see how they’ll be able to schedule anything for the rest of the season.
Of course all of it makes sense, and it’s just a small thing. It pales in comparison the news that hospitals are filling up, that in North Dakota (where we have family) a full 10 percent of the state’s population has been diagnosed with COVID at some point, that New York state just recorded its highest single-day total of cases (but hey, at least Gov. Cuomo is getting an Emmy for his “masterful” press conferences or something).
But we’re nine months into giving up “just” a sports season, “just” a vacation, “just” a holiday here and there, “just” a … normal school year. Everyone has sacrificed, yes, but this whole experience has taken so much from our kids. A year is a lonnnnnng time in a kid’s life. We really need to do better by them.
Ok, self-indulgent rant over. It’s been especially challenging to find anything to cheer about this week. The election is still … over but not over. (Don’t worry — I leave the punditry to Jonah and David.) But I’ve made a concerted effort to look for some.
Over coffee this morning I read an amazing story about a hiker who got caught in a white out on Mt. Rainier. He was rescued, but his heart stopped after he got to the ER. Doctors realized his hypothermia made him a good candidate for a newish treatment, a machine that, as CNN described it, “removes blood from the body and runs it through an oxygenator before pumping it back in.” They were able to get blood flowing and then, when his body had warmed up enough, restart his heart. The man was without a heartbeat for 45 minutes, but walked out of the hospital with no permanent damage eight days later.
This Wall Street Journal article shows innovation at work in a very different way. The gist is that the work-from-home economy is here to stay, but the really interesting part is how companies that cater to us as we’re stuck at home have responded. Amazon has beefed up its infrastructure, grocery stores have invested in pickup and delivery, and businesses that cater to people being at home (Peloton is one example) have enjoyed success. And that has created a demand for labor that helps make up for the millions of jobs that have been lost elsewhere. I remember thinking back when the pandemic started, as I watched the NBA shut down and colleges switch to remote learning, that our businesses and institutions were responding to the situation much better than the government. That remains true.
No, I’m going to turn this into a list of inspirational memes like a bad Instagram account. But sometimes it’s worth it to turn away from all the bad news and our toxic political discourse. And I look forward to the day that this newsletter can be about something besides coronavirus or election news. But that was pretty much the focus for the last week. Here’s the best of it.
Some genuine good news here. Vaccine development is a tricky thing. It can take years to find one that works and is safe, and then it takes months to produce it. That’s far from ideal during a global pandemic that has killed more than 1 million people and devastated economies. Which is why it’s worth it to take a moment and appreciate what Pfizer and Moderna have each pulled off, developing COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 percent effective and doing so in a matter of months. Both vaccines use messenger RNA, which offers a few benefits over traditional vaccines. Dispatch contributor Akino Yamashita is a practicing physician, and she walks readers through how the Phase III trials went, how the vaccines work, and why the science undergirding them offers hope for other vaccines and even the fight against cancer.
Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his legal team’s insistence that the election was stolen has prompted a dangerous response from the president’s most ardent supporters. Death threats have been levied against the secretaries of state in Georgia and Alabama, for example. David, who has experienced such threats in the past, writes about the problem with a deft touch in his Friday French Press. He looks at how Trump supporters use a carrot-and-stick strategy: Threats against those viewed as disloyal are the stick. The carrot? Conform … or else. Given that tension, he sympathizes — to a point — with those who have remained silent. “The right answer to the Trumpist carrot and stick is to defy conservative cancel culture, take the financial risk, and speak the truth as best you can discern it. The human answer is that defiance is far, far easier imagined than accomplished.”
Paul Miller didn’t support Donald Trump’s candidacy, he warned about his more dangerous tendencies, and he signed a letter opposing him penned by fellow national security experts. But he has spent the past few years trying to understand those who did support him. And he thinks that “cancel culture” has a lot to do with it. We live in an era in which progressives demand absolute adherence to an agenda driven by identity politics, and they threaten people’s livelihood if they don’t toe the line. And Trump stood up to those people. Just one problem: Maybe it’s not the best idea to mix politics and law with culture, or to enlist our political leaders to fight culture wars. “When we make the president a combatant in the culture war, we undermine his or her ability to act as a unifying symbol when we really need one,” he writes.
Settle in, dear reader, for some righteous anger. Jonah has been watching the Trump legal team’s machinations and outlandish claims, and he’s had enough. He argues that those who are upset that President Trump is undermining the legitimacy of the election are kind of missing the point. The refusal to concede, the baseless allegations, the frivolous lawsuits, etc., are more nefarious. “But the undermining isn’t the end he most desires—it’s the means to that end. The man is literally trying to steal an election,” he writes.
And now for the best of the rest.
About a week ago, the New York Times broke the news that Israel, working with the United States, had taken out al-Qaeda No. 2 Abu Muhammad al-Masri in Tehran. The article expressed some surprise that Masri had been in Iran, but in Vital Interests, Thomas Joscelyn explains that the Islamic Republic and the terrorist organization have cooperated for decades.
Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell made outlandish claims about voting machines switching votes to Joe Biden and essentially stealing the election from Donald Trump in a press conference this week. That led to Alec’s SIXTH fact check about Dominion Voting Systems.
In the midweek G-File, Jonah offers up some important advice: “If you’re a right-winger, you should read more left-wing stuff, particularly if you currently don’t read any at all. And, if you’re a left-winger, vice versa.”
On the pods: The gang talked about Big Tech and censorship on The Dispatch Podcast after Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg were dragged before Congress this week. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss Rudy Giuliani’s struggles when he appeared in a Pennsylvania court on behalf of the Trump campaign. And on The Remnant, Ryan Streeter joins Jonah to discuss economic stagnation and the working class.
Photograph by Marco Verch/Flickr.