Republicans will successfully frame and spin the relatively benign outcome.
Trump, who rarely speaks truth, is right when he says there are a lot of deaths every year from the flu. This season the Center of Disease Control estimates that, as of mid-March, between 29,000 and 59,000 have died due to influenza illnesses. Globally the World Health Organization estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. In comparison, as of April 8, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington forecasts there will be 60,000 deaths caused by (the first wave of ?) the COVID disease in the U.S. In Utah there are 13 deaths so far. Experiencing no more additional deaths than occur in a flu season will be a sort of success compared to how bad it might have been. It will be much worse than necessary, yet Democrats will fail to frame it as such.I don’t know why or how, but Ds will be unable to effectively spotlight all the failures of the Trump administration in managing the pandemic. As of March 30, South Korea had only 158 deaths out of 51 million people. If the U.S. were to have achieved the same rate of death we would have only lost 1,025 souls. It won’t matter. 60,000 deaths is acceptable to Republicans and Trump and Fox News will frame the economic loss as unnecessary and pile the blame on Democrats. Republicans know how to harness fear, hate, greed and ignorance. Facts cannot compete in the face of such powerful emotions. The R’s base is eager to embrace conspiracy and reject truth. The Republican party is out to amass power at any cost. To that, the Ds stamp their feet in ineffectual, passive outrage. The Ds have the moral high ground. In America it doesn’t matter.
Trump is likely to win in a landslide. My heart hopes I am wrong. My head fears I am not. Currently he wrests two hours of bombast on free national TV daily while Biden tweets platitudes from his basement. It is no contest. The immoral political lion will eat the innocent, pathetically bleating lamb.
How bad will four more years of Trump be?
It is a serious question. My first reaction is black and white that it will mean disaster. It will be a catastrophe. Our democracy will not survive it. I will be glad I reached old age in another era and despair for my grandchildren.
But is that true?
Yes, the Rs will pack the courts. This will allow increased gerrymandering and suppressed vote, as it did this week in Wisconsin. Minority rule will be enabled for another generation. Wealth inequality will continue to increase. Climate change will be ignored. There will easily be 30 million without health insurance and the U.S. will pay twice as much for health care than any other developed nation, and get poorer outcomes. Many more regional newspapers will fold their doors and original journalism will continue its decline, hobbling the Fourth Estate. Big corporations will become the equivalent of powerful nation states as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple gain market capitalizations of over $1 trillion each.
As bad as all that is, the nation will be like the proverbial frog in the heating pot. The accumulating negative changes will be hard to notice year by year. They will amount to a growing hole in a still fat donut. Income inequality has not kept our largest cities from thriving. As long as we have our big, crowded National Parks we won’t mind if the rest of the landscape is exploited. Long hot summers of wildfires and smokey skies will be the accepted norm in the West. We will meekly settle back to plenty of sports, beer, and porn, and we will be sedate.
Some of us.
Not all of us.
What to do about it?
Minority rule by the shrinking but powerful reactionary right may be tolerable for enough of the country, barely, but it will hold us back from what we could be. Don’t be content. Don’t be sated.
We can be so much better.
I suggest we act locally, identify and embrace our values, lead by example, and polish our rhetorical skills like the future depended on it, because it does. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Never surrender. In the long run the arrow of cultural evolution points up. Constant, unrelenting pressure for a more progressive society slowly, in fits and starts and setbacks, wins the day. Immovable obstacles finally, and suddenly, fall. Tipping points are reached.
I will have more to say about how all of this might play out in conservation and literature and how these disciplines can save us. Public lands, wild places, and story will be the redeeming elements of a hero’s journey.