Trump’s Evangelical Legacy
November 10, 2020
The Good News
- Nikic becomes first person with Down’s syndrome to finish Ironman (BBC)
- Horrified by deadly attacks, French Muslims protect church (ABC)
- Dr. Fauci says Pfizer’s reported 90% vaccine efficacy rate is ‘extraordinary’ (Business Insider)
“Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither.” — Albert Einstein
“I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” — Thomas Jefferson
Trump’s Evangelical Legacy
(Brendan Smialowski via Getty Images)
While the majority of Americans were busy partying down in the streets Saturday — after the announcement Joe Biden would be occupying the White House come January — conservative Christians were most likely somber, sad, angry. Many would be counting their blessings, reflecting on their amazing gains during the Trump administration. Others are anxious about what the future holds in a Biden administration.
In Sheldon, Iowa, where 8 out of 10 people supported Trump, one voter worried that the election results were corrupted, and that Biden would reverse Trump’s priorities, like building the border wall and elevating conservative evangelical ideals on religious freedom. “He doesn’t stand for Christianity at all…,” she said. “He scares me. He’s not going to do everything that Trump did.” (Biden, a lifelong Catholic, often speaks of his faith.)
40 years ago, voting for a person like Donald Trump would have been unimaginable to evangelicals. Their hero of the day, Ronald Reagan, was a gracious gentleman who wore a white hat. But by 2016, personal character would run a distant second to the promise of tangible goals. They embraced Donald Trump as that imperfect figure who could best fulfill their prayers, and almost nothing he did, or had done, or would do could shake their loyalty to him. And he rewarded their loyalty: 200 conservative federal judges appointed for life; an embassy in Jerusalem; anti-abortion policies; three conservative Supreme Court justices. Evangelicals reached the pinnacle of their power under Trump. “The policies are absolutely remarkable,” said the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Trump’s presidency repeatedly revealed the chasm between white conservative Christians and other people of faith, or of no faith at all. Biden’s narrow margin of victory in several battleground states shows that the cultural clash between these groups is far from over. Some conservative political groups have already pivoted to other political fights — like retaining Republican control of the Senate. Their attention is on the two runoff elections in Georgia to be held on January 5, 2021. Republican wins would cement a GOP majority in the Senate, making it much harder for Democrats to do things like fund Planned Parenthood or increase the size of the Supreme Court. “To plan for the Biden administration, we’ve got to have a backstop; otherwise it is the Armageddon we feared in the beginning,” said the president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “That’s why Georgia is so important. The other side knows that, too.”
Vaccine: Coming Soon
- The stock market soared on Monday with the news that we really may soon have a COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in large trials. The drugmakers said no serious safety concerns were noted during the trial, which included about 44,000 patients.
- Pfizer and BioNTech are now increasing production of the vaccine; they expect to produce more than 50 million doses by the end of the year and more than 1 billion doses in 2021. About 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in development globally, with dozens in human clinical trials. None have actually been approved yet, but the one from Pfizer-BioNTech appears to be on track.
- Assuming that happens in the not-too-distant future, then comes the next big challenge: convincing people to get vaccinated. The World Health Organization estimates about 70 percent of people must be inoculated to break transmission of the virus, or achieve “herd immunity.” Numerous opinion polls carried out before and during the pandemic showed confidence is volatile, and that political polarization and online misinformation continues to be scary.
- Many people have concerns about the accelerated speed of COVID-19 vaccine development. Hopefully, the high rate of efficacy in the Pfizer-BioNTech interim results will help boost confidence. (Yahoo Finance, Reuters)
Could Animals Make COVID-19 Worse? Makes You Mink…
- Scientists and conservationists continue to worry about the vulnerability of animals to COVID-19, and what infections among animals may mean for humans. The most disturbing possibility is that the virus could mutate in animals and become more transmissible or more dangerous to humans. In Denmark the virus shifted from humans to mink and back to humans, mutating in the process.
- However, except for the initial transmission from an unknown species to humans, mink are the only animals known to have passed COVID-19 to humans. Other animals like cats and dogs have been infected from exposure to humans, but there are no known cases of people being infected by exposure to their pets. And the versions of the virus that have mutated in mink and spread to humans are not more transmissible, nor do they cause more severe illness in humans.
- The World Health Organization and scientists outside Denmark have said they have seen no evidence that the variant found in mink will have any effect on vaccines being developed. Public health experts are concerned that any species capable of infection could become a reservoir that could allow the virus to reemerge at any time and infect people. Some scientists studying susceptibility have been looking at the genomes of animals to see which ones have a genetic sequence that codes for a protein on cells that allows the virus to latch on. (NYT)
Additional COVID-19 Reads
- An Explanation for Some Covid-19 Deaths May Not Be Holding Up (NYT)
- EU Nationals Are Leaving the UK Over the Government’s COVID Response (Vice)
- Pfizer coronavirus vaccine: 2 reasons it’s good news for other vaccines (Inverse)
- Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain (NBC)
- Biden implores Americans to wear masks amid vaccine progress (AP)
- One in five COVID-19 patients develop mental illness within 90 days (Reuters)
Additional World News
- No, Paris didn’t ring church bells for Biden. And London’s fireworks had more to do with Guy Fawkes. (WaPo, $). Sometimes it isn’t always about America.
- Biden’s Win Means a Demotion for Netanyahu and Less Focus on Israel (NYT, $)
- Silence from the strongmen: Putin, Xi Jinping, and others haven’t congratulated Biden on election win (Vox)
- Kremlin wants final U.S. election vote count before congratulating anyone (Reuters)
- Apple supplier Pegatron found using illegal student labor in China (Ars Technica). The apple doesn’t fall far from the sweatshop.
- ICC Uighur genocide complaint backed by parliamentarians around world (Guardian)
- Iraq camp closures ‘could leave 100,000 displaced people homeless’ (BBC)
- Hooligans raise hell against public health: Far-Right Thugs Attack Police and Journalists at an Anti-Lockdown Rally in Germany (Vice)
- ‘Hypocrites and greenwash’: Greta Thunberg blasts leaders over climate crisis (Guardian)
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Trump Is A Lame Duck, But Not A Tame Duck
- Some analysts believe the next 11 weeks could be the most dangerous in American history, with a vengeful and fearful lame duck incumbent. “If Trump loses power he’ll spend his last 90 days wrecking the United States like a malicious child with a sledgehammer in a china shop,” said Malcolm Nance, a veteran intelligence analyst and political author, speaking before the result of the election was known.
- “We’re likely to see the greatest political temper tantrum in history … he may decide he will not accept the election result. Who knows what a cornered autocrat will do?” Nance believes Trump will absolutely pardon himself, and expect the Supreme Court to cover for him. “He has always fixed things in his life, and he now believes he owns the American judicial system,” he said. “Anything which benefits him personally, anything that benefits what he believes is his brand, he will do,” Nance says.
- One thing we know for sure Trump will do is fire his Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet, signaling he may use his final months in office settling scores within his administration. Trump was particularly mad at Esper for the secretary’s opposition to Trump’s threats to use active-duty military forces this summer to suppress street protests over racial injustice. That, and for Esper’s willingness to rename military bases named for Confederate soldiers. Trump has also indicated he might fire Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
- “Trump will likely spend his last months in a flurry of self-dealing, tossing out pardons and trying to discredit his opponents and the system itself,” said the chair of the Human Rights Foundation, “because there is little doubt that Trump and his supporters will not go quietly.” (Guardian, Reuters)
GSA Not Quick To Hand Over The Keys
- The administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as giving access to government officials, office space in agencies, and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.
- It amounts to a formal declaration by the federal government of the winner of the presidential race. So far GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, is refusing to sign a letter allowing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week. It’s another sign the incumbent president hasn’t acknowledged Biden’s victory and could disrupt the transfer of power.
- “No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Biden Names 13 Health Experts To COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board (NPR)
- A Biden Victory Isn’t a Defeat for QAnon (Atlantic, $)
- How Stacey Abrams and her band of believers turned Georgia blue (Politico)
- The diverging currents of the blue wave: Conor Lamb, House Moderate, on Biden’s Win,‘the Squad’ and the Future of the Democratic Party and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ends truce by warning ‘incompetent’ Democratic party (NYT, Guardian)
- Trump fires Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (CNN). The lame duck is on the defense.
- Trump Isn’t Going Anywhere After Biden’s Victory (Atlantic, $)
- What’s Next for Trump? Family Business Awaits His Return (NYT, $)
- While he may be out, he isn’t an outlier: Trump was no accident. And the America that made him is still with us (Guardian)
- Election 2020: Trumpism Isn’t Going Away Even If Trump Loses (Bloomberg)
- What Trump’s four years taught me about the two White Americas (CNN)
- The reality of racial politics: Trump’s gains with Hispanic voters should prompt some progressive rethinking (Vox)
- Residents Feared Low-Income Housing Would Ruin Their Suburb. It Didn’t. (NYT, $)
Remembering Trivia King Alex Trebek
(Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images)
- Alex Trebek, the most beloved game show host of our generation, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer over the weekend. The Canadian-born Trebek announced his diagnosis during an episode of Jeopardy!, the show he had hosted since 1984. Trebek was deeply proud of having missed only one installment of the show in his 8200-plus episode career. Despite suffering severe pain and bouts of depression in the last year, Trebek had soldiered on to the very end. He was in the 37th season of the show when he passed away on Sunday, at age 80, in his Los Angeles home.
- Game show hosts tend to be stereotyped as sunny and slick, often insincere cheerleaders for their games and their contestants. By contrast, Trebek was “real.” Known for his quick wit and sense of humor, Trebek was candid in his reactions, always ready to cock an eyebrow at a bad play and to bluntly call out obvious errors in the tones of a disappointed dad.
- Yet somehow he never seemed like a jerk; his corrections always felt instructive, not destructive. He didn’t soft-pedal his delivery of the facts for the sake of making players feel better about themselves, but he also avoided making them feel like the butt of his jokes. He treated his players like adults, capable of making adult decisions — expecting that those decisions would be good ones, and expressing gentle disappointment when they weren’t.
- “Alex Trebek provided a sense of consistency we’ve all been missing in a world of accelerating change and conflict,” said Arthur Chu, whose 11-episode victory run in 2014 made him the third biggest champion in “Jeopardy!” history. “He was firm but fair, cordial but stern, encouraging but impartial.” In short, Trebek found a way to reject foolishness without making people feel like fools. And that, perhaps, might be the greatest gift Trebek left for us, a nation where “Jeopardy!” is frequently a welcome respite from actual jeopardy.
- A template for how we should behave now, in the wake of the most vitriolic electoral contest in recent memory, in an era that has been the most politically polarized since the 1960s — or, some might even argue, since the 1860s. Trebek was a genuinely decent man, a generous philanthropist, an iconic television personality and — as fellow public savant Neil deGrasse Tyson dubbed him — the “Patron Saint of Geeks.” (CNN)
- Gabriel Byrne: ‘There’s a shame about men speaking out. A sense that if you were abused, it was your fault’ (Guardian)
- New tricks: Old Dogs, New Research and the Secrets Of Aging (NYT, $)
- Why childhood and old age are key to our human capacities (Aeon)
- Swiper no swiping! Anti-Capitalist Teens Are Sharing Shoplifting Tips on TikTok (Vice)
- Japan’s ‘Jo Baiden’ becomes overnight internet sensation (Guardian).
- Pandemic Advice From Athletes (NYT, $)
- Transformative transit: Virgin Hyperloop: first two passengers ride in historic test (Inverse)
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