e pluribus pluribus (PEH)

This has been a stunning week. 

America’s Covid-19 body count officially crossed the threshold of 200,000 deaths—minimum—and rounded the corner toward a quarter million dead by Thanksgiving. 

President Trump was captured on tape acknowledging that—despite his public assurances to the contrary—he was fully aware of how deadly the pandemic would prove to be to the public. The Republican Party has been silent.

Employing the deadly dualistic thinking that made “Belfast” and “Beirut” synonymous with civic disfunction in Northern Ireland and Lebanon, President Trump attempted to spin his massive failure to protect the public by pointing out last week that “If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed.”

So. Their people are dead and it’s not his fault. Though morgues don’t log the political affiliations of those who die, one would imagine that there have been innocent Republicans among the corpses as well as Democrats and possibly Independents whose only crime was to vote against Candidate Trump. 

 The Constitution refers to “the States.” Not “red states and blue states.” Just…the States. “Red and blue states” was a clever production gimmick to make election night 2000 less boring and more comprehensible to a TV audience weaned on sports coverage. 

It has meant something different to Donald Trump who—most likely confused about the significance of the color scheme of the electoral map he tacked up on the wall in the White House—took it to be a repudiation of his 3-million-vote loss of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. (It wasn’t.) Whatever arguments are made in favor of the Electoral College, no one argues that it reflects the political will of the majority of Americans.

To Trump these days, red state/blue state signifies “worthy Americans/unworthy Americans;  Americans/not Americans.”

To be fair, President Trump was the Divider-in-Chief even before the pandemic cut its way through America. And he has not been alone. The fish may rot from the head down but that doesn’t matter. The GOP fish is rotten through and through.

In April, when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic, Republican Majority Leader Mitch “the Grim Reaper” McConnell opposed federal aid to states hard hit by the coronavirus as a “Blue State Bailout.” His proposal was that they declare bankruptcy. 

Before the pandemic worked its way west toward “Red America” (the real America, apparently)  its victims were overwhelmingly New Yorkers—and black and brown New Yorkers to boot! Trump tweeted “Why should the people and taxpayers of America (sic) be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?”

Beyond the obscenity of the idea of Blue States v America (and the fact of  federal aid to Los Angeles after earthquakes and fires, to Florida after Hurricane Andrew and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina), New York Governor Cuomo pointed out exactly which way cash flows throughout the country: “Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are federal ‘bag men’, he said…”They take more federal money for their state than they put in. They’ve been taking New Yorkers’ money for years, putting it in a bag in Washington, and bringing it home to their state.”

(New York is the top state donor to the federal treasury to the tune of approximately 29 billion dollars. Kentucky is the third highest recipient of federal aid. It receives approximately 37 billion dollars from the federal government.)

If rabid partisan hypocrisy were not sufficient, the stakes have been raised further still. Whereas most voters may see the 2020 election as a critical exercise in civic participation, the jihadis in the GOP see it as “a battle between good and evil.” 

Republican Federal Election Commission Chair James Trainor, III sees the electorate as embroiled in “a spiritual war” “striking—ironically— at the underlying foundations of our constitutional  republic.” To Trainor, the separation between church and state enshrined in the First Amendment is “a fallacy.” Unless they repent, Democratic Catholics, at least,  “face the fires of hell.”

Against this quasi-religious background, Senate Majority Leader McConnell ended the week by dangling before Republicans the prize for which all else was to be forgiven— a chance to strong-arm another justice onto the Supreme Court following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

The damage to the separation of powers and the rule of law, the impeachment, the cratering of the economy, global ridicule, petty self-enrichment, and the gross incompetence that has lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans— none of it matters against the possibility of packing the Supreme Court with justices who it is hoped by the Republicans will support their efforts as a minority party to extend its influence into the future.

There is no news here. 3-card monte Mitch McConnell successfully stole one Supreme Court seat from President Obama and is poised to award a second to Donald Trump if he can get away with it.

The question before Republicans this election is whether the Constitution and the health and well-being of their children will be collateral damage in this crusade against the democratic values that have led America toward becoming a more perfect Union.

E pluribus unum has a nice ring to it. E pluribus pluribus?  Not so much.

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