This past year there were 43 letters to the editor written in response to my articles - 2 positive and 41 critical. Most were written by frequent critics. I have a better average than the president and his allies have had in court in trying to overturn results of the election. Despite what people would expect, I encourage everyone who wants to comment to send in to the paper. On occasion, it helps me focus on my message and explain an argument that may have not been as clear as I thought.
In a normal year, I would be writing a review of the key events of the year. I would mention the highlights and lowlights. There is no need to do so this year. 2020 has been the worst year in the lives of many Americans. People would like to put it behind us and move on.
Unfortunately, it is not so simple, since the biggest tragedy in 2020, COVID-19, is not going away for months, if at all. It is going to be a cruel, deadly winter. Some of the optimism of the vaccines being a quick fix has been tempered by logistical delays and the unknown of whether new strains of the virus are immune to the vaccine.
As I have mentioned in prior columns, what we can learn from 2020 is the importance of unity. There are different types. There is unity in purpose and there is unity in approach. Although it may seem contrary to the idea of unity, there may be times where it is necessary to chastise individuals who engage in certain conduct or express certain ideas.
The best way to explain the distinction is by giving examples. A good example is dealing with COVID-19. Dealing with the coronavirus requires a unified purpose - namely, to try to limit the number deaths and hospitalizations and infections. COVID-19 is apolitical; it attacks people no matter what their political persuasion is. It is crucial that the country is united in this goal.
There may be disagreements as to the best approach to achieve that goal, such as whether to close schools or have mandatory mask wearing. It is important that diverse opinions are shared, since it helps formulate a correct response. Sometimes, when you only hear one side, you do not realize there are better approaches.
There is another group of individuals that has no interest in abiding by any guidelines or taking any precautions. For them, COVID-19 is a hoax or nothing worse than the flu. It would be foolhardy not to criticize them because it would be contrary to the idea of unity.
Another example is addressing the situation concerning the election of the next president. It is consistent to call for unity in moving the country forward with a new president while at the same time criticizing those who are anti-democratic.
The unifying purpose in the country is to have a strong America that continues the democratic principals upon which this nation was founded and has thrived for close to 250 years. There have also been disagreements as to which branch of government should have the most power. Each branch, or those who support them, has argued that they should have the most power and another branch of government is overreaching. These are different views concerning how to approach our democratic government. There are different political parties with varied approaches of how to deal with the country’s problems. Both Democrats and Republicans have had respect for democratic norms and the democratic process.
What is dangerous and deserves the strongest condemnation is the idea floated by Trump and some of his supporters that he won the election. They believe that the courts, the Justice Department, the state elected officials are all corrupt and conspired to steal the election away from Trump. Michael Flynn, among others, has advocated that the president should declare martial law in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin: Send in the troops and hold new elections. This is an attack on the fundamentals of our democratic system.
The new president has his work cut out for him to try to unite the country. The irony is that Trump’s conduct since he lost the election has increased the chances of cooperation between the new president and Congress and between both political parties. For example, the Republicans, including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have found out the hard way that with Trump, loyalty is a one-way street. You can support him 100 times but if you go against him the 101st time he will go after you. If they are on Trump’s bad side, they might as well try to work across the aisle with Democrats. The first chance for Republicans to show independence from Trump is to override the president’s veto on the defense authorization and, if necessary, on the COVID-19 spending package.
Hopefully, once there is a new president who has a different tone toward dealing with COVID-19 than the lame duck president, people will be more willing to abide by the recommendations of the CDC and other scientific professionals.
2020 has been a bad year, but there is hope for the future.