Back in 1989 an earthquake hit the Bay Area just before a World Series game between the Giants and the Oakland A's. After a brief moment of shaking the foundation of Candlestick Park, a collective shout of "Play Ball" filled the damaged stadium. After four years of shaking foundations, we are at as similar point as a country. Pessimists and Democrats see the Trump administration as an accelerant to the decline of the country; optimists and Republicans see decades of defects exposed, and a call to action to extend America's greatness.
1. The national security establishment: The last few years of the Obama administration saw a deep politization of the national security establishment. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explicitly lied to Congress about the Flynn investigation and a program to gather information about US citizens; FBI Director James Comey first exceeded his authority in deciding not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her illegal e-mail system, then tanked her presidential campaign by surfacing new evidence just before the 2016 election. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe oversaw a campaign to illegally spy on the Trump campaign, and to leak damaging false evidence. Former Director of the CIA John Brennan became a vocal member of the Trump resistance. The resultant Mueller investigation of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign came up empty. Whether the ongoing Durham investigation eventually holds offenders to account or not, the Trump administration's intelligence leaders have stayed out of partisan "dirty tricks" politics and the shaking has stopped - at least temporarily.
2. The impeachment: President Trump asked the president of the Ukraine for help in an investigation of corruption involving Ukrainian energy company Burisma and former Vice President Biden's son Hunter. Nancy Pelosi saw an opportunity for impeachment, which eventually failed on totally partisan lines. The Chinese saw a vice president willing to intervene to protect his son's shady dealings, and an opportunity to invest a few million dollars in Hunter as a conduit to a potential future American president. The media piled on to the effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election, and a few years later quietly accepted the corruption of the Biden family. If the Republicans hold the Senate, Ron Johnson will ensure exposure, but there is no way that Pelosi's House will find any hint of impeachable offense. The shaking has changed impeachment from a tool to remedy corruption or gross incompetence to being a totally partisan political tool to reverse elections.
3. The pandemic: Some 300,000 lives and counting have been lost in the United States (1,600,000 globally); Trump's remarkable economy, which had delivered record low unemployment and growing real wages was stopped in its tracks; the lower and middle class workers who populate the hospitality and retail industries are being particularly decimated; the stock market plunged 30% in three March weeks, only to recover to record highs before year end; and China - relatively unscathed by the virus - has accelerated its efforts to overtake the United States as the world's strongest economy. Operation Warp Speed has brought safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics to the public in record time, and the smart Wall Street money projects a solid recovery in 2021. But the shaking has taken a huge toll beyond the deaths: a generation of children have missed educational and social development; income inequality, which had been narrowing, has dramatically increased; main street retail has suffered probable long term losses to Amazon. We will recover, but we will be different.
4. The election: Massive expansion of mail-in ballots from 21 % in 2016 (mostly in the West) to 46 % in 2020 , played a major role in Biden winning the election - not so much because of any widespread fraud, but because the extended voting period and the ease of voting from home brought out marginal voters who tend to vote Democrat. Fortunately the election did not turn on machine politics in major cities or partisan harvesting of mail in votes; it did validate the role of the Electoral College as able to sort through all of the legal and political challenges and provide a definitive answer. Enough for Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell. Ongoing claims of massive fraud and Trump's refusal to admit defeat shake the foundations of our democracy.
5. The American essence myth: Perhaps as part of an effort to delegitimize Trump and his supporters, the New York Times launched the 1619 Project which stoked the "woke" story line that the United States has been an irredemably morally flawed society since its inception - the Civil War to abolish slavery, major civil rights gains in the past century, and the election of a Black president notwithstanding. Combined with the frustration of the coronavirus lockdowns, and with the political benefit of energizing Democratic voters, that story line and the prominent deaths in abusive police custody of several Black men has led to a year of demonstrations, riots, and a "defund the police; Green New Deal" lurch to the Left in our educational system and our politics. The underlying truth is, of course, that America remains the land of liberty and opportunity which attracts millions of immigrants, and that it is the most successful multi-ethnic society on the face of the planet. The woke goal is to shake and collapse the foundation.
The subtle promise of the Biden campaign was that the shaking of the foundation would be stopped if he were elected president. Perhaps the administration will be more predictable and the media will be supportive, but there are many millions of people who appreciated Trump's record economy of 2019, his ending of senseless wars in the Middle East, Operation Warp Speed, his control of illegal immigration, and his taking on China. The shaking has probably stopped, and the new game will soon begin.
bill bowen - 12/17/20