I was born in 1983, so you could say that I just missed the Kennedy Administration. It's been on my mind for the past few days because I wonder if the United States has faced a moment as tense as our present one since roughly 1962, 58 years ago.
Then, the concern was the placement of weapons that could conceivably destroy a portion of our country, which if fired would ostensibly plunge the world into nuclear war. Diplomatic back-channeling solved that problem, and with some hocus pocus involving the disappearance of Jupiter missiles installed in Turkey, all was well—but not before giving global observers some serious heartburn.
Now, the concern is slightly different, and magnified. The weapons—Donald Trump and his coterie of tyrannical, Nazi-loving fools—have been placed in the country, this time by the ghosts of Soviets past. They're not off the coast of Florida, however. They are actually in Florida, and occasionally in Washington as well when optics so require. And they threaten to destroy not just part of the country, but all of it. As in 1962, global observers may be suffering, but more on the order of heart attacks this time.
One might reasonably assume based on the events of the past couple weeks that this is all a reference to Attorney General William Barr's willful interference in United States Department of Justice decisions involving the criminal cases of loyal friends of the nominal President, namely Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. That's not necessarily incorrect. These events merely confirm what was immediately obvious to anyone paying attention to the shameful spectacle that was Donald Trump's impeachment “trial”—where every Republican senator save for one violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution, their oath of impartiality, and common sense. Upon their vote to acquit without hearing from witnesses or viewing subpoena-able documents, the United States ceased, at least temporarily, to be a democracy. It would instead limp along, mortally wounded, as a crony dictatorship with a laughably thin and quickly crumbling veneer of republicanism (the philosophical kind, not the political party). And pulling the levers of that dictatorship, Oz-like, a robust American oligarchy: old, rich, white men happily giving pointers to a mentally ill Thug In Chief wrapping himself in the flag while haranguing his phony judiciary and inept legislative branch into submission via nothing more than social media. Yet of paramount importance to Donald Trump—of more value than any American oligarch—are the views of the King of Oligarchs himself: Vladimir Putin, the man with the kill switch that makes all of the other levers contorting the United States government seem silly by comparison.
What could possibly make this situation, in which the United States is beholden to a hostile foreign power (which half the country adamantly refuses to admit is the case), worse? Nuclear weapons or even a simple meltdown on U.S. soil would certainly qualify, but when the long-since-defunct Soviet Union has finally had its revenge almost 30 years too late without firing a single shot, what would even be the point. Besides, radioactivity is so twentieth century. No, our modern-day nightmare needs more oomph, more pizazz than a silly mushroom cloud over Miami. It needs the je ne sais quoi of authoritarian censorship on a massive scale, preventing any reliable information from getting out, combined with a cheesy B-movie plotline, and hints of biological warfare gone awry. The Wuhan coronavirus, now properly called COVID-19, threatens to make what is already a very complicated and worrisome situation so much worse.
If anything is clear three years into his nominal presidency, it is that Donald Trump is a stupendously vacuous, incompetent, malevolent moron who does not care to hire people to fill necessary government positions. Yet when he does, he prefers to hire those just as incompetent as himself, if not more so. And if anything is clear three weeks into the rise of COVID-19, it's that the virus appears to flummox the efforts of even the most determined bureaucrats to contain its spread. (It goes without saying that those in the Chinese Communist Party rank among the very determined, having declared “war” on the pathogen, a strategy best described as imbecilic.) Widespread incompetence—including a proud disbelief in science and basic insurance math—and a fatal, highly infectious disease are on a collision course, and when they collide, the fallout will not be pretty.
How this all turns out is anyone's best guess. The possibilities range from “nothingburger” (a view espoused by too many Wall Street analysts to count, as well as Elon Musk) to millions of people dead (a view espoused by Harvard epidemiologists, among other scientific experts). The CDC is already planning for the disease to become endemic, striking yearly much like the flu, though the first cycle will be the worst given the lack of treatment options and the general fear and confusion.
So here we are. Rather than a repeat of the September 11th attacks, we are faced with a fast-approaching train wreck that we can barely discern thanks to the haze of Chinese disinfectant trucks, an unfathomable level of censorship, and Chinese Communist Party propaganda. The United States government is at best questionably prepared to handle the crisis, and the American health care system is assuredly not.
There don't seem to be many options. Politically, protesting Donald Trump in the streets daily would be the next logical step, but as protesters in Hong Kong have quickly learned, congregating carries new kinds of risks now—risks that are fatal with more reliable frequency than even police batons and tear gas. Truly, the best strategy for Americans seems to be one's right to vote in the coming election.
So assuming that we even make it to November at this rate, with nine months for disease to spread and Donald Trump to seek revenge on his political enemies, vote I will.
Pete Buttigieg, whom I have known since 2006 and donated to twice ($200 in 2010 and $10 in 2019), is regrettably not up to the task. Though he is incredibly smart and eloquent and charming, he also consistently exhibits faulty judgment, placing his trust in the same corporate interests that Barack Obama relied upon excessively during his eight years in office. More concerning than Buttigieg's own brief stint at McKinsey is the fact that one of his closest friends and supporters on the campaign is a partner (not a low-level associate) at McKinsey still, working on buttressing the very kinds of financial institutions that are in desperate need of reigning in. More concerning than that is Pete's chummy relationship with Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps the least trustworthy person on the globe, who should have no direct channel to any elected official except a warden. Add in the usual smattering of Goldman Sachs, Sand Hill Road and other financial alums, and you've got yourself a Democratic ticket with Wall Street's and Silicon Valley's seals of approval (coincidentally, they look identical: a letter "S" with some vertical lines through it); a sort of proxy candidate for Mark, who not too long ago thought he would be the one on stage. Sorry, Pete. No thanks. You know better. And I'm still waiting for you to correct the error in your book.
His patriotism aside, Joe Biden is of questionable mental fitness to serve as President now, and I don't want to find out how well he will be doing in two years. His biggest asset as a candidate is that people already know his name, and that he served alongside an African-American president who was otherwise mediocre and supported policies that I believe on net harmed African-Americans. That's not very inspiring, and after Donald Trump, we don't need another candidate who isn't completely able to fire on all cylinders.
Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire. That's disqualifying for all the reasons that have come to be associated with billionaires, most of which Anand Giridharadas has articulated with comic flair. He's also a racist and a mysoginist, which are also each disqualifying. So, in short, he's disqualified.
Tom Steyer is a billionaire. Disqualified.
Amy Klobuchar is very ambitious, but not very smart. She couldn't name the President of Mexico (or anything about him at all), when Mexico is both our neighbor and one of the United States's most important trading partners. She also is attempting to appeal to Trump voters, which to someone who views Trump in the same category as other authoritarian dictators, is incredibly unappealing. Her pro-corporate health care ideas are weak, her track record on progressive ideas is weak, and generally, her polling is weak. She should withdraw from the race, hopefully soon.
Bernie Sanders would be fine, assuming he doesn't have another heart attack or stroke in his old age.
But Elizabeth Warren would be better. In fact, she would be the best. My honest, uncompensated, self-determined opinion is that I believe Warren to be the most qualified candidate for President to run in probably the past 100 years in the United States. Her biggest liability is the fact that she is an incredibly smart woman, which the most vocal conservatives find more threatening than just about anything else (except perhaps an African-American in the White House) so they are therefore motivated to smear her. Her second-biggest liability is her slight track record when it comes to foreign policy, but that hardly has stopped other candidates from being seriously considered. And I have no doubt that she is smart enough to get up to speed with the proper intelligence briefings and introductions to world leaders, who would have no choice but to respect her intellect, energy and warmth. Ironically, the right has gone so far off the deep end that Warren's progressive policies at this point seem positively libertarian. Does anyone think for a moment than Warren would put up with a Federal Reserve run by the likes of a Bernanke, Yellen, or Powell? Any true conservative should be rallying behind her fierce calls for accountability and sensible government. And of course, the same goes for any true liberal.
The next post-Trump President is going to be faced with a mess of unprecedented proportions, likely starting with a raging pandemic. Then there will be the national divide between progressives and fascists, with a few true conservatives sandwiched in the middle; supercharged global warming; the national debt; the next macroeconomic cycle that will at some point involve a stock market crash; broken foreign alliances; income inequality; racial disparities; a commission to investigate the Trump era; and more. Bernie Sanders might be able to handle all of that. But Elizabeth Warren will be able to handle all of that, better than anyone else on the planet. There's no question in my mind that she should be President.