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Sowing Discord and Strife

October 8, 2020 (613 words)

Going to bed early is my stock-in-trade, so i only caught the opening salvos in last night’s Vice-Presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris. That was enough for me to regret the strategy Ms. Harris was given to execute.

The VP challenger is always expected to assume the role of “attack dog,” so i guess we shouldn’t be too surprised by Ms. Harris going after President Trump with a vengeance, painting him as a villain who bears sole responsibility for the fatalities and financial fall-out we continue to experience during this once-every-hundred-years pandemic.

But such broad criticism overshoots the mark by quite a bit.

Certainly Mr. Trump deserves to be grilled for the way he has publically disparaged – in both word and deed – such commonsense precautions as social distancing and the wearing of masks. But he is not alone in his defiance. And those people we’ve seen crowding into bars, beaches, raves, and Black Lives Matter protests the last several months are not all Republicans.

From what I can gather, the best way to contain the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus is through testing, contact tracing, and treatment. But in order for such a comprehensive approach to be effective, a given population (city, state, region) must accept a complete lockdown, which would mean being confined to one’s home.

Can you see that happening here any time soon? As Americans we bristle at the mere mention of such internment. We pound our fists on the table, and rail against what we imagine to be the onset of tyranny and totalitarianism. Donald Trump may be shameless in playing to these “don’t tread on me” instincts, but they were hard-wired into our national DNA a long time ago.

The Democrats’ pointed critique choses to ignore this basic fact. Their unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious can generate some unintended humor at times, as when one hears Ms. Harris solemnly intone:

Can you imagine if you knew on January 28, as opposed to March 13, what they knew, what you might have done to prepare?

The only thing that comes to mind in response to this question is that we probably all would have started stockpiling toilet tissue and tomato soup, two months earlier.

The Democrats’ strongest issue is the “economic inequity” Republican fiscal policy has created. They should stick to that and make their case as calmly and clearly as possible. Their challenge is convincing the great swath of middle-of-the-road types that implementing a long-overdue economic course correction is not the same as a complete conversion to “socialism.”

The current pandemic has vexed political leaders around the world. No matter what anybody has tried, there is always something that backfires, leaving the people in charge exposed to some legitimate Monday-morning quarterbacking. So why pour salt on the wound now, and try to pin every last ounce of COVID-19 related turmoil on the current administration?

Pollsters tell us most voters have already made up their minds. The only thing left for candidates to do is prod their less-motivated supporters into casting a ballot. Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris and their handlers have decided to use the President’s questionable handling of the pandemic as their primary battering ram, in order to rouse those who don’t much care for politics and would rather not be bothered. This tactic does not appeal to our better nature.

In taking a contentious path to the Presidency, the Democrats are guilty of sowing seeds of discord in the hearts and minds of their followers. The very same behavior Mr. Trump has carelessly indulged during his brief but tumultuous time in office, for which he has been rightfully chastised.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
October 8, 2020

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