I haven’t posted in a while because I have no particular insights on the Coronavirus, which has been the virtually exclusive topic on most people’s minds. With a perception that the course of the virus and peoples’ attitudes toward policies to address it will remain volatile for some time, I simply have had little to say.
Also, the presidential election has been in stasis: Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee and Bernie Sanders has embraced unreservedly the need to win. Biden faces some difficult challenges on messaging without appearing to be posturing for political gain, and the convention, campaigning, and the realities of voting are all challenging but I have no particular insights to offer on any of that at the moment.
Here’s what I do want to say now: The 2020 election will pivot more on turnout than prior elections because of the complexities of process. It is therefore imperative that Democrats mobilize our vote but also that we avoid helping Trump and his allies mobilize theirs. Whenever we act like the party of elites – individually as well as collectively – we are helping Trump.
I understand the temptation to castigate the people who protest because they are putting everyone – not just themselves – at greater risk by congregating. However, those who overreact – and call them stupid – are putting all of us at greater risk by helping Trump mobilize right-wing support and increasing sympathy for the protests.
For the record, the protestors are right that their freedom of assembly is abrogated by restrictions on the number of people who may congregate. They are also right that they are being asked to suffer economically as a result of actions of governments that many do not support.
There are several ways of disagreeing with what they are doing that do not feed it or make opposition to it an issue on its own. Wisconsin operatives are suggesting that the protests are a partisan effort and the Mayor of Madison is saying they are manufactured, as reported in Reid Epstein’s excellent New York Times article https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/23/us/politics/wisconsin-coronavirus-protests.html, which also shows that those organizing the protests recognize the danger in their looking like the political ones. There is also the option to say that while people certainly should have the right to protest, we hope they recognize that they may be putting their neighbors and coworkers at risk as well.
When those who oppose the protests call protestors stupid or crazy, as many have on social media, you are making it easier to mobilize against a party – the Democrats – that many believe harbors people who think others are stupid, crazy, or otherwise deplorable in comparison to themselves.
Social distancing helps contain the virus. When voluntary, it is also an economic privilege. The personal and financial costs of staying home are hardly the same for all of us. Many people are torn between the health necessity and very serious personal economic costs. Don’t help make the protestors point by raising the flag of your own privilege. And don’t help Trump make the point that anyone needs liberation by your displaying heavy-handed self-righteousness.
Trump’s presidency is a tragedy. It is costing tens of thousands of lives. It has wrenched the country and deepened cleavages of race, class, geography and gender. It has tarnished and perhaps destroyed our nation’s reputation in the world. Democratic voters have chosen a candidate who promises healing, calm, reliance on expertise in making policy decisions, and a re-birth of respect for people and their views. He may not have always been my first choice, but he is now. Let’s not make it harder for him.