America is in a state of shock in the wake of the assault on the U.S. Capitol, a second impeachment of President Trump and months of denial of the validity of November’s election. We have a new president who got the same number of electoral votes in 2020 as Trump did in 2016. The losing side can scream, holler and moan and the winning side can make grandiose plans for a new era, restricted only by how much our federal budget can absorb.
But we need an armistice. The real question is, are the combatants ready to move on, or do we spend another four years arguing over Georgia, mail-in voting and Twitter’s right to ban people from its feed? In case you haven’t noticed, roughly 4,000 people a day are dying of Covid-19, and the numbers are going up. The country is paying a heavy price for those who ignored warnings about holiday gatherings and the stupid people who still refuse to wear a mask because they consider it a political statement.
If you’re looking for help from some of the members of Congress, you’re seeking the wrong direction. It is shocking to see some of them refusing to stop for a metal detector in the Capitol, a week after a howling mob broke into the House of Representatives with the chanted intent to “Hang Mike Pence!” and kill Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The debate over Trump’s second impeachment revealed that there are still over 100 members of Congress who out of fear or stupidity are denying that an insurrection took place.
If Washington were a movie, we would be about to see the second run of what President Barack Obama faced when he was elected. The nation has been crippled economically by a virus that knows no political distinctions. It steals the last breaths from the young and the old, the healthy and the infirm, and is still very much not under control. Millions of people are out of work. You may be one of the lucky ones who have incomes and steady jobs, but it’s more than likely that some of your neighbors need the help of the local food pantry, and line up for free groceries.
It doesn’t take much vision to figure out how bad things really are in our beloved country. Many thousands of businesses in New York state have closed for good in the pandemic. Whether it’s a nail salon, a small restaurant, a children’s clothing store or some other place that you’ve patronized for years, they are slowly disappearing, never to return again. Landlords are entitled to collect rent, and if local businesses can’t afford that rent, it’s only a matter of time before the financial stresses cause more closings.
We have a new president and the opportunity to revive an ailing nation, but it will require a new dose of unity to make things happen. If you travel to places like Richmond, Va., or Nashville, Tenn., you can buy Civil War booklets, battle maps and even knockoffs of Civil War attire. Most of it is just for the tourists, but there are still plenty of people who believe the South won the war and they were “cheated” by the North. After World War I, many Germans believed they had won the war even though they signed a treaty of surrender.
Recovering from our current state of distress will not be easy. There are millions of true Trump believers who will stick to the lie that the election was rigged, and will resist any efforts to expand benefits into rural America and help their starving neighbors. There are lots of nut jobs out there with guns and loads of ammunition who are prepared to kill people who don’t follow their demented thinking.
The country is at a turning point. We can continue to look at everything through a political lens, or we can begin the job of healing. We have to set aside our political grievances and be open to the need to be a more united nation. If America fails going forward, it will be our failure.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.