Opinion | The Deep State Is on a Roll – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

“President Trump was right about the “deep state” — sort of. There exist, in government, people and forces rigged to foil disruption.

But the deep state isn’t, as he suggested, a reflexive defense of a corrupt status quo. It’s a righteous defense against the corruption of democracy, which he continues to attempt.

And that defense is holding. Three cheers for the deep state, which has been on a roll these past three weeks.

I’m thinking of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, who supervises its elections. He refused to cry foul and fraud just because others in his party couldn’t abide Joe Biden’s victory in a state that hadn’t gone to a Democrat in a presidential election for nearly three decades.

“People are just going to have to accept the results,” he told The Washington Post. “I’m a Republican. I believe in fair and secure elections.” He ordered a recount, but as President Trump, the two U.S. senators from Georgia and plenty of others on the right pilloried him, he stuck to his assurance that a fair and secure election was precisely what Georgians had participated in and what had delivered the state’s electoral votes to Biden.

He was bolstered on Tuesday by another top-ranking Georgia official, another Republican not about to let the republic go to hell. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, scolded and shamed Trump at a news conference at the state Capitol, warning the president that his unwarranted smearing of the balloting in Georgia was “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence” and that “someone is going to get killed.”

“It has to stop,” he said. That was the deep state speaking, and its words were gold.

Raffensperger and Sterling are hardly the only Republican election officials who have refused to buy into Trump’s conspiracy theories. They have restored some of the faith and hope in me that the past four years eroded.

So have Lee Chatfield, the Republican speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives, and Mike Shirkey, the Republican majority leader of Michigan’s Senate, who took that scary trip to the White House almost two weeks ago and then took a pass on propping up Trump.

“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and, as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors,” they said in a joint statement immediately following their meeting with the president. Follow the normal process. Such milquetoast verbiage, and such a titanic reassurance.”

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind (second half) – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . . .  People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.

People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime. The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.”   -30-

Opinion | All the Empty Seats at the Thanksgiving Table – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Courtesy Margaret Renkl

“NASHVILLE — In the box of old photos I found after my mother’s death, there’s a picture of me taken on Thanksgiving Day 1983, in the fall of my senior year of college. I’m lying on the sofa reading James Agee’s letters to Father Flye. I don’t know why the photo exists — we were not a family who documented ordinary moments. Our pictures centered on people gathered around birthday cakes and Christmas trees. Film wasn’t wasted on someone who has no idea a picture is being taken. Certainly not on someone who isn’t even smiling.

I remember that day, not because it was documented in a photograph but because I ran into my Shakespeare professor outside the liberal arts building on Monday morning, and he asked me how I’d spent the break. “All I did was eat and sleep and read James Agee,” I told him. “That sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving,” he said.

 
 

The author at home in 1983.

Maybe I remember that conversation because it startled me. It had not felt like the perfect Thanksgiving. My great-grandmother, the quiet, steady, patient anchor of the entire extended family, was missing. She’d broken her hip the year before, at 96, and then pneumonia — “the old folks’ friend,” my great-grandfather, a country doctor, called it — had taken hold. Mother Ollie was still herself right until up until the day she fell, and I suppose that’s what my great-grandfather must have meant by “friend”: that there are fates worse than death for the very aged. But a year later, the empty place at the table still felt like a rebuke. As with every death before or since, I could not get over the shock. How can love not be enough to save someone so deeply loved?” . . .

Opinion | Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elinor Carucci/Edwynn Houk Gallery

“After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself:

Approach with awe. C.S. Lewis once wrote that if you’d never met a human and suddenly encountered one, you’d be inclined to worship this creature. Every human being is a miracle, and your superior in some way. The people who have great conversations walk into the room expecting to be delighted by you and make you feel the beam of their affection and respect. Lady Randolph Churchill once said that when sitting next to the statesman William Gladstone she thought him the cleverest person in England, but when she sat next to Benjamin Disraeli she thought she was the cleverest person in England.

Ask elevating questions. All of us have developed a way of being that is our technique for getting through each day. But some questions, startling as they seem at first, compel us to see ourselves from a higher vantage: What crossroads are you at? What commitments have you made that you no longer believe in? Who do you feel most grateful to have in your life? What problem did you use to have but now have licked? In what ways are you sliding backward? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Ask open-ended questions. Many of us have a horrible tendency to ask questions that imply judgment: Where did you go to school? Or we ask yes/no questions: Did you have a good day? Which basically shut off interesting answers. Better questions start with “What was it like. …” or “Tell me about a time. …” or “How did you manage to cope while your wedding was postponed for a year?”

Make them authors, not witnesses. The important part of people’s lives is not what happened to them, but how they experienced what happened to them. So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events. They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it, so that, say, an event that was very hard to live through is now very satisfying to remember.

Treat attention as all or nothing. Of course, we all have divided attention. In “You’re Not Listening,” Kate Murphy writes that introverts have more divided attention than others while in conversation because there’s so much busyness going on in their own heads. But in conversation it’s best to act as if attention had an on/off switch with no dimmer. Total focus. I have a friend who listens to conversations the way congregants listen to sermons in charismatic churches — with amens, and approbations. The effect is magnetic.

Don’t fear the pause. Most of us stop listening to a comment about halfway through so we can be ready with a response. In Japan, Murphy writes, businesspeople are more likely to hear the whole comment and then pause, sometimes eight seconds, before responding, which is twice as long a silence as American businesspeople conventionally tolerate.

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Keep the gem statement front and center. In the midst of many difficult conversations, there is what the mediator Adar Cohen calls the gem statement. This is the comment that keeps the relationship together: “Even when we can’t agree on Dad’s medical care, I’ve never doubted your good intentions. I know you want the best for him.” If you can both seize that gem statement it may point to a solution.

Find the disagreement under the disagreement. In the Talmudic tradition when two people disagree about something, it’s because there is some deeper philosophical or moral disagreement undergirding it. Conversation then becomes a shared process of trying to dig down to the underlying disagreement and then the underlying disagreement below that. There is no end. Conflict creates cooperative effort. As neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes, “Being curious about your friend’s experience is more important than being right.”

The midwife model. Sometimes people talk to solve a person’s problem. The Rev. Margaret Guenther wrote that a good conversationalist in these cases is like a midwife, helping the other person give birth to her own child. That means spending a lot of time patiently listening to the other person teach herself through her narration, bringing forth her unthought thoughts, sitting with an issue as it slowly changes under the pressure of joint attention. “To influence actions,” neuroscientist Tali Sharot writes, “you need to give people a sense of control.”

Deeper conversations help people become explicable to each other and themselves. You can’t really know yourself until you know how you express yourself and find yourself in another’s eyes. Deeper conversation builds trust, the oxygen of society, exactly what we’re missing right now.

“Humans need to be heard before they will listen,” Amanda Ripley writes.

It’s been a rough year for all that, but this Thanksgiving, the possibility of deep talk is still out there, even over Zoom.” -30-

Opinion | This Election Put Politics Between My Twin and I – By Jeneen Interlandi – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Interlandi is a member of the editorial board.

Credit…The New York Times

“Once, when we were 5 years old, my twin brother jumped off a seesaw we were riding at the precise moment that we had been told never to do that. I was in the air, and he was on the ground, and when he made his move I came crashing rapidly and horrifically down.

I still remember the short burst of terror I felt, and the body-shaking thud that followed. But I also remember that the crash hurt him more than it hurt me. I wasn’t injured. His guilt was so great that nearly four decades later, he still gets upset when I tell this story.

We are best friends, my twin and I. Our relationship predates our actual lives, and except for the seesaw incident, we have never been on opposite sides of anything that could hurt one of us — until recently.

He believes that Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are the biggest threats to our ailing democracy, that Donald Trump is doing a fine job — maybe not great, but definitely not terrible — and that the mainstream media (of which I am a part) is biased in its coverage of the president.”

Opinion | This Might Be the Most ‘West Wing’ Election of Our Lives – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…David Rose/NBC, via Getty Images

“NASHVILLE — My favorite coffee mug is emblazoned with words of advice: “Lead like Jed. Advise like Leo. Think like Josh. Speak like C.J. Argue like Toby. Write like Sam.” What the mug doesn’t say but implies by its very existence: “Believe in America like a fan of ‘The West Wing.’”

Set in the White House of fictional President Jed Bartlet, “The West Wing” is an hourlong serial drama that aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006. It features the moral quandaries of President Bartlet — economist, Nobel laureate and Democrat — along with those of his family and staff. The show’s cast of thousands includes assistants and interns, journalists, political consultants, pollsters, White House attorneys, military advisers, Supreme Court justices, and congressional adversaries and allies.

The fictional West Wing of two decades ago doesn’t always hold up to 21st-century standards for workplace relationships and attitudes, but my coffee mug sums up the main characters pretty well. Imperfect though they can sometimes be — making colossal errors of judgment, sabotaging promising relationships, being rude to subordinates — they work collectively as a kind of role model for unstinting service to the country we all love.

Story lines on “The West Wing” include the usual grudges, hookups, missed opportunities and hurt feelings endemic to television drama, but the show is far more than a nighttime soap opera. At its heart, “The West Wing” is a multiyear civics lesson, and every episode is a parable.”

Opinion | Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

He’s also running in the middle of a political and cultural civil war. Eighty-two percent of Biden voters believe that “Donald Trump would like to gradually transform our country into a dictatorship,” according to that I.A.S.C. study. Ninety percent of Trump voters believe that the Democrats want to gradually turn America into a socialist country. According to a survey conducted by Braver Angels, a group that sponsors bipartisan conversations, 70 percent of Americans believe that if the “wrong” candidate wins, “America will not recover.”

Biden is campaigning in a land filled with fear, hatred and apocalyptic thinking. It would be so easy for him to reflect that fear and hate back to voters. That’s what Trump does.

But Biden is not doing that. Never in my life have I seen a candidate so confidently avoid wedge issues. Biden is instead running on the conviction that, despite it all, Americans deeply love their country, and viscerally long for its unity. He’s running with the knowledge that when you ask America about the greatest threats to our future, “political polarization and divisiveness” comes out No. 1.

It’s easy to say you’re for healing division. But here’s what Biden has actually done:

He’s de-ideologized this election. He’s made the campaign mostly about dealing with Covid-19. That’s a practical problem, not an ideological one. Conservatives and moderates don’t have to renounce their whole philosophy to vote for him. They can just say they’re voting for the person who can take care of this.

He’s separated politics from the culture war. Over the past generation, culture war issues have increasingly swallowed our politics. Trump has put this process into overdrive. He barely talks about policies. Instead, his every subject is really about why “our” identity group is better than “their” identity group.

So now the positions people take — on issues ranging from climate change to immigration — are determined by whether they see themselves as part of the rural white Christian conservative army or part of the urban multicultural secular progressive army. Policies are no longer debated discretely; they are just battles in one big, existential fight over who we are.

But Biden goes back to the New Deal, to an era of policymaking when there really wasn’t a polarized culture war. He sidesteps the Kulturkampf issues — which statues to take down — to simply talk about helping the middle class.

Biden has scrambled the upscale/downscale dynamic. The most important fissure in our politics is education levels. The Democratic Party’s greatest long-term challenge is that it might become the party of the highly credentialed college-educated class and let some future Republican rally a multiracial working-class coalition. Even Trump is now making surprising gains among Latino and Black men.

Biden has avoided all the little microaggressions that cultural elites use to show they are morally superior. Wokeness, for example, is partly about fighting oppression, but it’s also become a status symbol. It’s showing people that you are so intellectually evolved that you can use words like intersectionality, decolonizing and cultural appropriation. Political correctness is not just a means for the less privileged to set standards of behavior; it is also sometimes the way people with cultural power push others around.

Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton, Biden has a worldview and a manner that is both educated class and working class and defuses the divide.

Biden has avoided the stupid binaries about race. Donald Trump went to Mount Rushmore and made a speech essentially saying you can either believe in systemic racism or you can love America. Biden went to Gettysburg and argued that you can “honestly face systemic racism” and love America. He argued that you can believe in fighting racism and believe in law and order. His worldview is based on universal categories — the things we share — not identitarian ones — the ways we supposedly can’t understand each other across difference.

He’s done a good job reaching out to white evangelicals. Right now, many of them think he’s a godless socialist who will usher in a reign of anti-religious terror. In his campaign he’s done a pretty good job reaching out to those voters. His campaign has run ads on Christian radio and reached out aggressively to evangelical leaders. If he can allay their cultural fears (by making it clear he will not shut down Christian charitable groups) and win them over with working-class economic policies, he can create a long-term governing majority.

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Seventy percent of Americans in that Braver Angels survey say America is facing permanent harm, but 70 percent also say the most important job after the election is to heal our enmity, to do the hard job of working with people whose views we find completely objectionable. This unity impulse is powerful in the populace, but it is deeply hidden.

Joe Biden knew it was there.

Opinion | Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.”

Opinion | Joe Biden for President: The New York Times Editorial Board Endorsement – The New York Times

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The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

“Joe Biden has vowed to be a president for all Americans, even those who do not support him. In previous elections, such a promise might have sounded trite or treacly. Today, the idea that the president should have the entire nation’s interests at heart feels almost revolutionary.

Mr. Biden has also vowed to “restore the soul of America.” It is a painful reminder that the country is weaker, angrier, less hopeful and more divided than it was four years ago. With this promise, Mr. Biden is assuring the public that he recognizes the magnitude of what the next president is being called upon to do. Thankfully, he is well suited to the challenge — perhaps particularly so.

[Kathleen Kingsbury, acting editorial page editor, wrote about the choice to endorse Joe Biden for president in a special edition of our Opinion Today newsletter. You can read it here.]

In the midst of unrelenting chaos, Mr. Biden is offering an anxious, exhausted nation something beyond policy or ideology. His campaign is rooted in steadiness, experience, compassion and decency.

A President Biden would embrace the rule of law and restore public confidence in democratic institutions. He would return a respect for science and expertise to the government. He would stock his administration with competent, qualified, principled individuals. He would stand with America’s allies and against adversaries that seek to undermine our democracy. He would work to address systemic injustices. He would not court foreign autocrats or give comfort to white supremacists. His focus would be on healing divisions and rallying the nation around shared values. He would understand that his first duty, always, is to the American people.

But Mr. Biden is more than simply a steady hand on the wheel. His message of unity and pragmatism resonated with Democratic voters, who turned out in large numbers to elevate him above a sprawling primary field.

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His team has put together a bold agenda aimed at tackling some of America’s most pressing problems. The former vice president is committed to working toward universal health care through measures such as adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act — which he played a significant role in passing — lowering the age for Medicare eligibility to 60 years old and cutting the cost of prescription drugs. He recognizes the fateful threat of climate change and has put forward an ambitious, $2 trillion plan to slash carbon emissions, invest in a green economy and combat environmental racism.

Mr. Biden will not be morphing into an ideological maximalist any time soon, but he has acknowledged that the current trifecta of crises — a lethal pandemic, an economic meltdown and racial unrest — calls for an expanded governing vision. His campaign has been reaching out to a wide range of thinkers, including former rivals, to help craft more dynamic solutions. In midsummer, he rolled out an economic recovery plan, dubbed “Build Back Better,” with proposals to bolster American manufacturing, spur innovation, build a “clean-energy economy,” advance racial equity and support caregivers and educators. His plan for fighting the coronavirus includes the creation of a public health jobs corps. Progressives who want even more from him should not be afraid to push. Experience is not the same as stagnation.

Learn more about the journalists who make up The Times’s Editorial Board.

Mr. Biden has a long and distinguished record of accomplishment, including, as a senator, sponsoring the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and, as vice president, overseeing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed in response to the Great Recession. In a 2012 interview on “Meet the Press,” his remarks in support of gay marriage — which blindsided the Obama White House and caused a public kerfuffle — proved a watershed moment for the cause of equality. In 1996, Mr. Biden had voted as a senator in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages, making his evolution on the issue particularly resonant.

He has an unusually rich grasp of and experience in foreign policy, which, as traditionally understood, has not played a central role in the presidential race — though the pandemic, the climate crisis, a more assertive China and disinformation wars against the American public argue strongly that it should. The next president will face the task of repairing the enormous damage inflicted on America’s global reputation.

Mr. Biden has the necessary chops, having spent much of his career focused on global concerns. He not only took on thorny diplomatic missions as vice president, he also served more than three decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Aware that an “America First” approach in reality amounts to “America alone,” he would work to revive and refurbish damaged alliances. He has the respect and trust of America’s allies and would not be played for a fool by its adversaries.

Certainly, not all of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy decisions through the decades look sage in hindsight, but he has shown foresight in key moments. He fought a rear-guard action in the Obama White House to limit the futile surge in Afghanistan. He was against the 2011 intervention in Libya and skeptical of committing American troops to Syria. He opposed renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2007 and 2008 because it gave the government too much power to spy on Americans. He’s supported closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Little wonder that he has the backing of a who’s who of the foreign policy community and national security officials from both parties.

Mr. Biden is not an ideological purist or a bomb-thrower. Some will see this as a shortcoming or hopelessly naïve. Certainly, it’s unlikely that if Republicans retain control of the Senate, their leader, Mitch McConnell, will abandon his policy of fanatical obstructionism of any Democratic president.

That said, as the emissary often dispatched by President Barack Obama to deal with Republican lawmakers during tough legislative fights, Mr. Biden has intimate experience with the partisan gridlock crippling Congress. He knows how the levers of power work on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and he has longstanding relationships with members from both parties. More than any of this cycle’s other presidential hopefuls, he offered weary voters a chance to see whether even a modicum of bipartisanship is possible.

He is also offering a glimpse of the Democratic Party’s future in his choice of running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. Ms. Harris would become a number of firsts — a woman, a Black person and an Asian-American — as vice president, adding history-making excitement to the ticket. A former prosecutor, she is tough, smart and can dismantle a faulty argument or political opponent. She is progressive, but not radical. In her own presidential campaign, she presented herself as a unifying leader with center-left policy proposals in a mold similar to Mr. Biden, albeit a generation younger. Mr. Biden is aware that he no longer qualifies as a fresh face and has said that he considers himself a bridge to the party’s next generation of leaders. Ms. Harris is a promising step in that direction.

If he wins election, Mr. Biden will need to take his governing agenda to the people — all of the people, not just his party’s loudest or most online voices. This will require persuading Americans that he understands their concerns and can translate that understanding into sound policy.

Mr. Biden has a rare gift for forging such connections. In his younger days, he, like so many senators, could be in love with the sound of his own voice. Time and loss have softened his edges. He speaks the language of suffering and compassion with a raw intimacy. People respond to that, across lines of race and class — ever more so in this time of uncertainty. The father of the police-shooting victim Jacob Blake described his phone conversation with Mr. Biden as full of “love, admiration, caring,” in one of many recent examples of the former vice president’s hard-earned empathy.

Mr. Biden knows that there are no easy answers. He has the experience, temperament and character to guide the nation through this valley into a brighter, more hopeful future. He has our endorsement for the presidency.

When they go to the polls this year, voters aren’t just choosing a leader. They’re deciding what America will be. They’re deciding whether they favor the rule of law, how the government will help them weather the greatest economic calamity in generations, whether they want government to enable everyone to have access to health care, whether they consider global warming a serious threat, whether they believe that racism should be treated as a public policy problem.

Mr. Biden isn’t a perfect candidate and he wouldn’t be a perfect president. But politics is not about perfection. It is about the art of the possible and about encouraging America to embrace its better angels.”

Opinion | Wish a President Well Who Doesn’t Wish You Well – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

” “Any mans death diminishes me,” wrote John Donne, “because I am involved in Mankinde.” With that thought, let us all wish Donald Trump a full and speedy recovery from his bout of Covid-19.

We wish him well because, even, or especially, in our hyperpolitical age, some things must be beyond politics. When everything is political, nothing is sacred — starting with human life. It’s a point the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century understood well.

We wish him well because the sudden death of any president is a traumatic national event that will inevitably animate every crackpot in the country. If the term “grassy knoll” still means something in America, just imagine the reaction in the QAnon world if Trump’s condition were to abruptly deteriorate after his stay at Walter Reed.

We wish him well because of Mike Pence.

We wish him well because, even as he tweets “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he could still serve as a living witness to the fact that if you stick a lot of maskless people close together you are likely to spread the virus, as it has to more than a dozen people, and counting, in his circle. Courage, says Aristotle, is the mean between rashness and cowardice. Trump may still be rash, but his followers don’t need to be.”