November 24, 2020

Why People Are Traveling for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is in two days. In an ordinary year, millions of Americans would be traveling to attend family gatherings. This year, with coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths reaching new peaks, health officials have been telling people to stay home. But airline travel has seen surges not seen in months. Airports are filled with holiday travelers, often without masks, and seldom distant from one another.

Why are so many people ignoring what is clearly wise advice? Admittedly, I have not gone to the airport to interview airline partons, but I can offer a theory. (I’m staying home and keeping away from others, of course, so I’m not going to the airport.)

The most obvious explanation is that people are idiots. Either they are fed up with restrictions or they have considered the pandemic overhyped all along. Let me offer a less gloomy explanation.

Most people crowding the airports have likely heard the pleas to stay at home. Their logic for getting on an airplane may have gone something like this: Because medical experts are telling people to stay home, few people will be traveling. That means that airports and airplanes will not be crowded, and travel will be relatively safe. Unfortunately, if lots of people reason this way, their logic becomes self-defeating.

This phenomenon is akin to bank runs. If there is concern that a bank is unsound, an individual, protecting his or her assets, will go to the bank and withdraw whatever funds are on deposit. If one person does this, the action is innocuous. If hundreds or thousands of people do this, the situation becomes a crisis.

Alas, we have become a country in which many people are concerned only with themselves, ignoring the common good and whether their actions may have unintended consequences.

November 12, 2020

The Anti-Democratic Party

I created the graphic below for posting on Facebook. I was disappointed that it didn’t seem to get much attention. Perhaps it isn’t as clever as I thought it was, but I still think it deserves more exposure. Therefore, I am making this post on my blog.

The text in the graphic, of course, has a double meaning. Obviously, the Republican Party is, in general, the party that opposes the Democratic Party (the “Democrat” Party to GOP partisans these days). Being aligned against the Democrats, it is anti-Democratic.

Increasingly, the party that likes to think of itself as the “party of Lincoln,” is a party that seeks power at all costs to benefit the wealthy and well-connected. (Lincoln would not be pleased.) The GOP is the party of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, the party of outrageous claims and frivolous lawsuits. It may be the party of even more outrageous attempts to steal the election from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In that sense, the Republican Party is deeply anti-democratic. It cares about obtaining and wielding power and cares not a fig about the abstract idea that is democracy.

Feel free to copy this graphic for use elsewhere.

Republican Party: The Anti-Democratic Party

November 6, 2020

Is the Use of the Twentieth-Fifth Amendment in our Future?

 My last post expressed concern about how Donald Trump will behave after he has definitively lost his re-election bid and before his term expires on January 20. My concern has increased after seeing Trump’s unhinged briefing last night. The president lied so much and so outrageously that networks that usually broadcast his briefings in full cut away from the president and explained how what he was saying was untrue.

Last night’s briefing may have been a preview of the next few months. What will happen if Trump’s post-election actions appear to be those of a madman whose ego has been fatally threatened by failure? I will suggest a possible scenario.

If Trump’s actions become totally outrageous, a turn to the Twenty-Fifth Amendment becomes a reasonable step to rescue the country from chaos. This would require the co-operation of Republican leaders, of course, but one can hope that even Republican politicians can recognize that their party’s titular leader is ruining their brand. If Trump can be sidelined, allowing Mike Pence to assume presidential duties until January 20, the country will have a chance to achieve a normal and peaceful transfer of power without further damaging the Republic.

Am I putting too much faith in Mike Pence? I think not. Pence has been Trump’s lackey for the sake of his own career, but he is not stupid. If Trump loses, the vice president has little incentive to follow the president’s descent into madness. If Pence is accepting of the will of the people and actively assists in the transition to a Biden administration, he will earn the thanks of the nation and may even have a political future.