A warning: I probably should have screamed this post into a pillow rather than writing it out. Just saying it might be best to scroll on by if you’re looking for uplift.
Still with me? Okay.
Tip O’Neill’s maxim, “all politics is local,” has been turned ass-over-tea kettle. All politics is national now. That has implications that we’ll get to in a moment.
Remember when the MAGA howler monkeys went ape-shit in Michigan last year in response to what were called “lockdowns” but were actually relatively light measures to restrict the spread of a pandemic that at the time had few effective treatments and no vaccines? Armed people stormed the statehouse, and a cabal of incompetent goons plotted to kidnap the governor. It turns out that was a dress rehearsal for a national production we all witnessed on January 6.
This year Governor Whitmer encouraged Michigan school districts to require masks but stopped short of issuing a mandate at the state level:
“Districts and local public health leaders should keep working together to implement mask guidelines and create buy-in at the community level, which leads to better outcomes and better adherence to policies that keep kids, teachers, staff, and parents safe,” [Governor Whitmer] said. “Together, we can protect ourselves from COVID and ensure kids keep learning in-person.”
That would make sense in an “all politics is local” world, but that’s not the world we’re living in. What happened instead is that the crazies trained their ire on local officials who tried to do the right thing.
The following incident happened in Kent County, Michigan, but similar scenarios have been playing out all over the country for more than a year:
After a woman attempted to run Kent County Health Department director Adam London off the road just hours after he issued a mask mandate for some schools last month, the health officer issued a plea to the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
“I need help,” London wrote in an Aug. 22 email to the county commissioners, which Michigan Advance received today after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Kent County Board of Commissioners last week. “My team and I are broken. I’m about done. I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety…”
“There is nothing to be gained by entertaining such people with dialog,” London continued. “In many cases, these are the same people who dismiss the plot against the governor [Gretchen Whitmer] as “just guys joking around” and the January 6th insurrection [at the U.S. Capitol] as a peaceful patriotic protest. I think it is a grave mistake to unnecessarily give them targets and platforms. There is a sickness in America far more insidious than COVID. You are more empowered to fight this disease than I am.”
Dr. London says the commissioners are “more impowered to fight this disease” than he is, which is true since they are elected officials and he runs the health department. But because all politics is national, the board demonstrated on a micro scale the macro problem we face as a nation: the Democratic members of the board signed a statement in support of London and the health department. The Republican members declined to do so.
According to the article, Republican members of the state legislature also predictably sided with the kooks. Several pulled a DeSantis, threatening to defund the county health department unless it rescinded the mandate. One member, Steven Johnson (R-Wayland), issued an official statement accusing London of overstepping his authority, stated that he (Johnson) would “refuse to follow their mandate” and encouraged citizens to “disobey this overreach into people’s lives.”
In his email to the board, London identified what we’re up against and what needs to happen:
“These are people who hope to force their views on others through intimidation, aggression, and their rhetoric suggests violence as well. I will not participate in witch trials in which the science I’ve presented, and the opinions of legitimate experts, is reduced to the same stage as people living in echo-chambers of junk science, salespeople, and Youtube videos. For the leaders of these misinformation campaigns, it’s never really been about our data; it’s been about their dogma.”
“If you want to fire me, or censure me, or pass a resolution condemning me, by all means please proceed. Do what you need to do your job. But first, let me share my prayer with you: I pray that people more powerful than me, Democrats and Republicans, rise up with one voice and say, ‘we will not tolerate or provide quarter for this nonsense in our part of America…’”
In 2020, we all hoped for a clear and unmistakable repudiation of Trump and Trumpism. We got half our wish — Trump is gone. But Trumpism is still with us. Those of us who live in red states are still essentially living the MAGA nightmare, and the same tribe of crazies who are making it impossible for the Kent County public health department to do its job have prevailed in our communities. You can see the results by looking at a COVID hotspot map.
Those of you in blue states have your own hordes of nutbags making spectacles of themselves at schoolboard meetings and other venues, at least in the rural areas of your states. According to polls, the pandemic-deniers are vastly outnumbered, even in places like Florida. But will we “rise up with one voice” as Dr. London hopes and put an end to this nonsense? That’s really the only question that matters, IMO. Otherwise, collective action on anything is impossible.
So, it’s ultimately up to voters, but before it comes to that again, I hope to Christ the elected officials we’ve empowered at the federal level already will use every tool at their disposal to oppose the authoritarian cult that is bent on destroying this country. The vaccine mandates the president announced a while back were a good start. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect more can be done, such as vaccine mandates for all types of travel regulated by the feds.
How else can the feds turn the screws? They fund a lot of shit that goes on in states, and that can be a lever. The requirement that hospitals and facilities that take in Medicare and Medicaid dollars vaccinate employees is a great pressure tactic. Are there others?
How about agencies? Would it be possible for someone at the DoJ or other federal agency to have a talk with Lord Fish Stick von Haw Haw’s employer about the potential corporate perils of allowing “talent” to spread deadly misinformation during a pandemic? If so, it’s high time to have that talk. Etc. Again, I’m not a lawyer, just a citizen who’s spit-balling on a goddamn blog, but the feds have a lot of power. Are they using every bit of it?
Of course Republicans will screech about authoritarianism and censorship, but guess what, they already do, and they always will. Hell, one of the several contenders for the coveted “nuttiest GOP House member” crown recently published a fundraising video showing herself babbling about Democrats and socialism and then allegedly blowing up a car with a giant gun — a video that would have been absolutely indistinguishable from an al Qaeda recruiting YouTube if you just slapped a long beard on her stupid face.
We can’t let these crazies win, and we mustn’t let notions of comity or fear of retaliation when power changes hands stand in the way of a gloves-off effort against them using every legal means at our disposal right now. Because all politics is national, we need the most ruthless federal response we can legally muster to make the stakes perfectly clear and cut through all the “both sides” bullshit. If we wait until the election to address the “sickness in America” Dr. London warned us about, it will be too late.