Waiting to Exhale

Dear All,

"And one day like a miracle he’ll be gone." So said my favorite yard sign from the 2020 election. And now, in just 45 days, it will become a reality.

Unlike many, I never obsessed about whether Trump would hunker down and, like a stubborn kidnapper holding us hostage, refuse to leave the White House while bingeing on cable news and carbs. Nor did I allow myself to buy into the quintessential Schadenfreude visual: the Gaslighter-in-Chief, decked out in an orange jumpsuit that matches his face, being led away in shackles from the People’s House he so thoroughly debased.

For the moment, it’s enough to finally see the power of the bully pulpit stripped from the sociopathic con artist with the vocabulary of a toddler and the temperament to match. The jig is up. In just 45 days, he and his cabal of hacks from the land of misfit toys will be peddling their election conspiracy mishegas on their own time — not ours. Still, it rankles to read in yesterday’s WaPo that only 27 congressional Republicans acknowledge Joe Biden’s historic win. (For those who still don’t understand the impenetrable silence of the jackals, remember that no price was paid in the recent election for blind allegiance to Trump. Republicans held on to 27 out of 27 House and Senate seats that the Cook Political Report branded as "toss-ups.")

No matter. In the month since the presidential race was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, many of you have written to describe your enormous relief and joy at the outcome that has made life less fraught.

Still, this exhilaration has been eclipsed by the cruel reality that, ever since Election Day, the twin crises of the pandemic and the economy have become exponentially worse. Watching Joe Biden — and the rest of the adults in his orbit — step up and seamlessly fill the leadership void left by a self-dealing poseur, has lifted my spirits. On the flip side, even worse than Republicans denying the Biden/Harris record-breaking win, I'm filled with dread by the escalating rumblings about the obstruction that awaits the new administration. Newly re-elected — and emboldened — Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is already dusting off the Republican playbook that blocked President Obama and his agenda at every turn. Similarly, I can feel the bile rising as born-again Republican deficit hawks talk about the necessity of fiscal responsibility even though they voted for budget-busting corporate tax cuts and even though millions of Americans desperately need Congress to provide massive aid from the ravages of the pandemic.

And, so, I may be breathing more easily these days and sleeping through the night — but I’m still waiting to exhale. Clearly, we were robbed when it came to a honeymoon in the wake of the Biden/Harris historic victory. Instead, we’ve been left to cope with the detritus of a monumentally incompetent and amoral administration, a set of challenges as daunting as they are energizing — from reuniting hundreds of traumatized children with their parents to finally framing a master plan to get a killer virus under control; from providing a safety net for the millions who face eviction from their homes right after Christmas to re-setting the economy for a more level playing field. Or, as the Biden/Harris slogan exults with bumper sticker simplicity, “Build back better."

Michelle Obama is already on that bandwagon. The thrust of her congratulatory message to the triumphant Democratic ticket and those who helped them win was a sober warning: “Let’s remember that this is just a beginning. It’s a first step. Voting in one election isn’t a magic wand, and neither is winning one,” said the former First Lady. "Let’s remember that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division. We’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.”

Given what may be the most insidious and destructive part of the Trump legacy — the normalization of the post-truth era — that will be easier said than done. How can a country riven by hyper partisanship and devoid of a collective set of facts start to unite? That roadblock - dubbed “Truth Decay” - to restoring national harmony has been the centerpiece of former President Obama’s current media sweep to promote his new book “The Promised Land.” Appearing on “60 Minutes,” Obama called out his successor for exacerbating the state of our divided nation. “It’s something that's been accelerated by outgoing President Trump, the sense that not only do we not have to tell the truth, but the truth doesn't even matter,” he said.

In fact, Trump has elevated the use of the Russian model of propaganda, known as the “firehose of falsehood,” to an art form. As Jonathan Rauch writes in his eponymously named essay in Persuasion, “Trump’s refusal to concede is more than sour grapes. It's an information warfare campaign to leave the public bewildered and cynical.”

"Unlike more traditional forms of propaganda, the firehose of falsehood does not aim primarily at persuading the public of something that is false Rather, it floods the information environment with so many lies, half-truths and theories that the public becomes disoriented, confused and distrustful of everyone,” Rauch wrote. "The goal? I don’t know, nor do you, nor do any of us. That’s the outcome Trump and his lackeys are playing for. Their latest campaign, which started months ago, is the most audacious. Trump’s drumbeat of false attacks on mail voting, quickly reinforced by the conservative media set the stage for the narrative that the election was rigged."

While Obama has distinguished himself as a master of the long game, tackling truth decay in our culture is going to be a tough and painful marathon. Restoring confidence in our institutions and elected officials is essential to that mission. On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden delivered a grim report on a battered pandemic economy plus the dire consequences it portends for millions trying to hold their lives together. After Biden offered reassurance that we would weather the crisis, he went off-script, and half whispered, “We gotta get Americans to believe in their president again.”

We also have to give our president a real shot at enacting an agenda that puts people ahead of politics and installing the best and the brightest to help him get the job done.

Which is why we need to pull out all the stops to win those two Senate seats in Georgia in the January 5 special election — and, to ditch Mitch as senate leader. McConnell has already promised that he’ll block Democratic policies if Republicans maintain control of the Senate in 2020.

“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell said. "None of that stuff is going to pass."

No wonder the double-bill contest pitting Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock against incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler has emerged as the senatorial election of the century. Despite Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia, Democrats are looking at long odds to snare both seats. And Republicans are winning the money race, according to The NYT, as GOP mega-donors like Rupert Murdoch and Steven Schwarzman shell out millions. Still, as we learned from recent high roller losses by Jaime Harrison and Sara Gideon, whoever has the most money at the end doesn’t always win.

Our chances may be slim but they’re growing. After all, between the antics of Trump's lickspittle lawyers urging Georgians to stay home unless state leaders fight to overturn the results of the November presidential election and Trump’s campaign slamming the integrity of the voting system, enough GOP voters may skip voting to allow Democrats to prevail.

But while the short game is existential, keep your eye on Michelle’s “magic wand” and work to build back better the foundations of democracy. If you’re looking for a way to help Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, you can lend your support to the following tax-exempt charitable organizations dedicated to registering new voters and helping Democrats to beef up their ground game:

Fair Count - Fair Count worked on the 2020 Census but has transitioned to Ballot Chasing/Vote By Mail (VBM) organizing and is increasing its field capacity to reach as many new voters as possible. Rebecca DeHart, who runs the organization, was previously the head of the Georgia Democratic Party. Also on staff is Stacey Abrams’ sister, Jeanine Abrams McLean, who left the CDC to help build Fair Count. Make a tax-deductible contribution to Fair Count here. Fair Count Website New Georgia Project - This non-partisan organization founded by Stacey Abrams is dedicated to registering new voters -- primarily young people and people of color as well as stoking turnout. In advance of the November 3rd election, NGP registered some 400,000 new voters. Now they’re scrambling to register the estimated 23,000 who will turn 18 before the December 7th registration deadline that will enable them to vote in the January 5 runoffs. Make a tax-deductible contribution to the New Georgia Project here (watch the video on the landing page) New Georgia Project Website The People’s Agenda - provides a range of voter education activities including registration, mobilization initiatives to get out the vote and election security and voter protection programs. Despite the fact that the Nov. 3 election went smoothly, voter suppression tactics are baked into the Georgia electoral laws and this organization is on the front lines of the battle to revise repressive requirements like mandatory ID and exact signature match. To make a tax-deductible donation to The People’s Agenda go to the home page of their Website (You will need a PayPal account or call them at (404) 653-1199)

Finally, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was on “Morning Joe” last week promoting a cast reunion of “Veep” being done to help Democrats win in Georgia. Sponsored by America Votes, you can chip in any amount of money to watch a virtual table read of the Emmy-nominated broadcast “Mother” in which Selena Meyer, lagging behind in her presidential election, famously yelled “Stop the recount.”

Hosted by late night talk show host Stephen Colbert, “Veep Uncut” will only be live streamed once tonight, Sunday, Dec. 6 at 8:00pm ET. Click here to purchase tickets.

Onward, Jane

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