Symptoms of the Disease

This piece ran as a newspaper op/ed on December 11, 2021.


A banner appeared in my neighborhood lately. It read: “Biden is Satan.”

One’s mind goes back to what Lindsey Graham said about Biden, back in 2015:

“Joe Biden,” Republican Senator Graham said, “is about as good a man as God ever created.” (And “the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics.”)

Whom are we to believe: Sen. Graham, who has known Biden for years, and who had – in 2015 – no political reason to say what he really felt? Or my neighbor, who hoisted that banner to serve a clearly political purpose? The question answers itself.

Either my neighbor believes “as good a man as God ever created” to be “Satan” – which suggests he’s pretty profoundly out of touch with reality. Or that he’s willing to demonize a decent man if that helps his political side to prevail.

Either crazy, or someone with no scruples about truthfulness, like the political hero whose banner my neighbor also put out: Donald Trump.


Historically, when the American people have faced a common threat – in war, in blizzards and floods, etc. – we have unified to surmount the challenge. Not now.

In 1905, in the case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court declared:

“[T]he liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good…. Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.” (Emphasis added.)

Very sensible. A principle followed throughout American history, and by every free society in our world during this Covid pandemic.

Republican governors in important states – like Florida and Texas – have gone out of their way to block effective measures, taking positions directly contradicting not only the global consensus of the experts, but also the sensible principle pronounced by the Supreme Court generations ago.

Meanwhile, many Republicans, following their leaders, have turned this national challenge into yet one more thing to fight over.


Twice before here, I’ve described the conduct of the Republicans in Congress as “placing their priority on making President Biden fail, rather than on helping America succeed.”

Any reader who doubted that description need only consider the clear and dramatic evidence the Republicans have just provided.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed the House with the help of the votes of 13 Republicans. (More Republicans had voted for it in the Senate some months before.) Polls showed the American people strongly favored the passage of such a bill, so the nation could make much-needed improvements.

Nonetheless, not only did the great majority of the House Republicans vote against that bill, but those who voted for it have been attacked by the Republican Leadership – with Trump declaring they deserve “the scorn from Great Republican Patriots.” And those Republicans who helped pass this constructive and popular measure have received death threats from the pro-Trump world for the sin of helping America achieve something while Biden is President.

It doesn’t matter that it has been clear for years – to both parties – that something like this was needed, that it will make the nation stronger, more prosperous, healthier.

That the Party wants to punish those Republicans who helped get something done that’s good for the nation proves my point: making Biden fail is more important to the GOP than helping America succeed.


We’ve been getting repeated reports that recent years constitute almost all the warmest years ever recorded.

Yet a recent poll says that only 29% of Republicans believe the planet is warming.

For more than 40 years, the mighty oil companies have recognized the growing crisis. They responded, in partnership with the Republican Party, by launching a systematic campaign of lies to paralyze this nation from taking action.

For decades, it has worked.


I’ve tried lately to imagine there arising in the Republican world, in 2023, the Ideal Conservative Candidate for the Presidency.

 “Ideal” would mean that this Conservative Candidate would:

  • Be guided by the most important Conservative Values;
  • Show Good Character, embodying the most important Conservative Virtues;
  • Act like a Patriot to serve America to the best of his/her ability.
  • And lead in a way that brings out the best in Conservative Americans.

(I can’t imagine how any conservative would disagree with that characterization of what would be best in a potential next Republican President of the United States?)

I’ve tried to imagine what that ideal candidate would say, were he/she to run for President? What kind of speech could be delivered that might win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024?

But I discovered that I couldn’t imagine anything that even a charismatic, telegenic, eloquent, bearer of a Good Message, could do in reaching out to today’s Republican world, that would inspire the Republican base turn to him to lead them in directions that serve good conservative values, including the good of the nation.

I can’t see how anyone could wrest the banner of leadership from that likely Republican Presidential candidate who is completely the opposite in all those “Ideal” respects.

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