Votes, Vaccines and Villains
On this episode of democracy-ish, the Electoral College has spoken and the transition to some semblance of post-Trump, post-pandemic normalcy continues. But Danielle doesn’t know “why everyone is sighing with relief,” she says. “As if we're not still in trouble.”
Electors met in every U.S. state and territory on Monday, officially voting to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and VP.
But most of the Republican party didn’t seem to get the memo. Why is the right wing still rallying behind a sore loser?
The first vaccine for COVID-19 rolled out this week across America. How can we overcome a history of medical racism and instill confidence in the vaccine among communities of color –– who need it most?
It’s official: We finally have a new president and vice president –– signed, sealed and delivered by the Electoral College.
“I never had a doubt,” says Toure. “But Trump continued to sow doubt and fight against reality to the bitter end.”
Danielle isn’t sure the drama is well and truly over. The stretch between Election Day and Inauguration Day “shouldn't be nerve-wracking,” she says.
It was upsetting that the Electoral College votes were newsworthy at all –– because until now, we’ve always just assumed we’d have a peaceful transition of power, she adds.
But it’s 2020, and Mitch McConnell’s mere acknowledgment of Biden’s win made headlines. So did the 126 House Republicans and 17 state attorneys general who backed a brief in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn election results in four battleground states.
That suit was meant “to overthrow our democracy,” Danielle argues.
“If it wasn’t for [the justices] doing the job they took an oath to do, our republic would be standing in the fucking gutter.”
Toure understands her fear. Over the last six weeks, it seems like “a very small number of people stood their ground when a bizarrely large number of people lost their minds,” he says.
This week, our fearless hosts unpack some of the most compelling reasons why Republicans continue to parrot Trump’s claims of election fraud and discuss the politics of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Episode Highlights –– Why Republicans Suck
Levee-ing judgment on Trump’s ‘fraud’ claims
Toure has been listening to Floodlines, a new podcast from The Atlantic that explores the devastation (and root causes) of what happened when the levees broke in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
He sees an analogy to our current slow-motion disaster: “Trump tried to be Katrina, New Orleans is our democracy and the levees are our institutions,” he says.
But this time, our institutions held. In lawsuit after lawsuit, judges across the country demanded Trump’s receipts. Of course, his motley crew of lawyers had none –– and even the highest court in the land agreed.
“Everyone thought all Trump needs to do is find a path to the Supreme Court,” he notes –– surely, his three handpicked conservative justices would “do whatever Trumpy wants.”
But in a 9-0 decision, the justices essentially said: you can’t come in here with that bulls**t.
‘Gut’ check: questions ≠ evidence
Biden will take the oath of office in just over a month. So why can’t the vast majority of the Republican party admit the truth?
“I think the depth of partisanship is a big part of it,” says Toure. “They have a separate media system, by which I mean a bubble ... sealed off from reality. They believe things that aren't true because they are being told so by their media, be it Fox, Newsmax or Breitbart.”
Through that media and the outsize personalities of right-wing leaders, conservatives have been “trained somehow to believe that gut knowledge is what's really important, rather than head knowledge. The assertion that we –– Rudy Giuliani, whoever –– have questions … that alone serves as evidence.”
The left functions in a fundamentally different manner. If Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton claimed there had been election fraud, “we’d say, we hear you; give us some evidence. And we would expect CNN and the New York Times to come up with it,” he adds.
Apparently, all Trump and his enablers need to come up with is a malevolent inflection. Anything can sound threatening if it’s delivered in a nasty tone: Hunter Biden. Election fraud. Clinton Foundation.
Republicans are on the ‘outskirts of reality’
We think of the Democratic Party as a big tent for a reason, says Danielle.
“We have varied agendas and issues … We are so multi-layered, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, cultural and religious that we question ourselves and each other. But [Republicans] don't do the same. They never will.”
She has come to realize why Republicans remain in lockstep –– “and that lockstep has taken them to the outskirts of reality,” she argues. “Fundamentally, what ties them all together? White supremacy.”
The notion of creating “room at the table” through progressive, equity-building policies leads to right-wingers “holding the line,” she adds. “They believe if they link arm and arm in their whiteness, they can push back the inevitable –– which is the demographic shift.”
That means they don't have to come up with new plans or ideas: “The one thing they advance that benefits the [their] whole is white supremacy. “That’s it. There is no nuance; nothing interesting or deep to unpack.”
Their media institutions uphold that view by questioning the legitimacy of our votes, Danielle adds.
“How dare these Black and brown people vote? They could not have possibly done so in accordance with the law because they don't do anything in accordance with the law.”
Alternative facts, alternate universes
Toure agrees: “Racial resentment is a core animating principle of the modern Republican Party. And it makes them feel like every victory for Black and brown people means that they –– as hardworking white people –– are losing something. That they need to protect their losses. And it paralyzes the country, in terms of accomplishing almost anything.”
As a result, “we are living in alternate universes,” he argues.
“We believe everybody, including ourselves, are trying our hardest to be the best Americans we can be. But they believe we are trying to take from the system –– welfare cheats, drug addicts, criminals. We need to be policed, and we need to be policed harshly. And they don't believe in our basic integrity as human beings.”
Our system relies on a collective economy that funds police, fire and other local services as well as things like unemployment insurance. It’s generally viewed as a good one by the left –– “government should be a backstop that helps people out when they fall on hard times,” Toure points out.
But the right doesn't see it that way because they can't trust everyone. Thus, “everything should be individualized. Every man for himself,” he adds. “And I use that pronoun purposefully because I don't think their ideology is inclusive of gender either.”
The projection paradox
The worst part about conservatives’ every man for himself ethos is that “they project all of the f***ing sh*t they do on a regular basis on communities of color,” says Danielle.
“Look who receives more welfare: white people. The drug crisis we’re in the midst of –– it's an opioid crisis. But when there was a crack problem, they needed to have a war on it.”
The paradox persists in so many areas of American life.
“Black women earn more degrees than any other f***ing group,” she notes. “Black people are the ones with multiple jobs in order to get half of white America has, but we're lazy. We're so lazy, you stole us away from our land so that we could come here and do what? The work you didn't want to f***ing do.”
Split-screen: breaking news vs. flaky coups
Toure loves to “flip between the two news channels and Fox.”
At one moment on Monday, CNN featured a split-screen of Electoral College votes across the country, while MSNBC’s coverage focused on the COVID vaccine. Over on Fox, there was a vital, timely conversation on … Hunter Biden.
The news channels made sure we knew that one of the key architects of the Moderna vaccine is a Black woman –– and that the first person in the U.S. to get the vaccine was a Black woman (which was administered by a Black woman, too).
“Yet again, Black women save the day,” says Toure.
“Images matter,” Danielle adds, nothing that people of color, particularly immigrants of color, make up such a large segment of the healthcare workforce. “It was important to see that visualized and to have the discussion about why it matters –– to her family and her community.”
It’s important messaging, particularly in the face of widespread vaccine cynicism, especially in Black communities.
For Blacks, the COVID-19 vaccine conjures Tuskegee
There are a host of reasons why Black people are wary of the vaccine. As Nicole Hannah Jones argued on Twitter this week, citing the Tuskegee Experiment is a particularly flawed and irresponsible one.
The Black test subjects in Tuskegee “were not given bad medicine,” Toure explains. “They were not given medicine. They entered the study having syphilis and they were not treated.”
That’s essentially the opposite of a vaccine.”
But we can’t just shrug off the fears Black people have, Danielle argues.
“When we reach the bottom of the list of people in the general population who can access it, I will take it. But I think we fail to understand that sometimes fear is not rational.”
“I understand the reticence and fear,” Toure responds. “It has been earned by the medical industry. But at the same time, are we going to refuse to drink water because there used to be segregated fountains? Come on.”
Danielle is incredulous: “Well, if our water wasn't poisoned …”
COVID, COVID everywhere
As winter approaches and COVID cases spike, virtually everyone has seen a tweet or a status update from someone who caught it and says: I've been so careful. I don't know how I got it. Everybody stay safe.
“I’d really like to see people do their own sort of contact tracing, or at least do it in public,” says Toure. “Tell us: I got it from going to a store. Or a restaurant, or a wedding. Especially now, as a lot of people are getting COVID fatigue.”
Danielle agrees. If we don’t hear the truth about how it happens, many people will think it doesn't matter if I wear a mask, wash my hands … contracting the virus is inevitable –– “as opposed to partaking in three indoor dining experiences over the past two weeks,” she argues. “They'll just be like, fuck it. Let's just get it and get over it.”
While plenty of people who contract COVID have only mild symptoms, there’s no guarantee you’Il be one of them.
“I know several people who have contracted the coronavirus,” she adds. “All of them have completely different after-effects. Some lost their sense of smell for weeks at a time. Others have such horrible migraines they're having difficulty working. It's not a risk you should want to take.”
If all goes according to plan (and Danielle does her homework), our next episode will include a discussion of Barack Obama’s new memoir, “A Promised Land.”