DeSantis vs. COVID, Trump and Biden as funhouse mirrors, sleepwalking into disaster | Readings
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Gov. Ron DeSantis have particular views about the COVID vaccine and masking.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Gov. Ron DeSantis have particular views about the COVID vaccine and masking.
Published Sept. 23, 2023

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.


From “Do We Really Want a President DeSantis Setting COVID Policy?” by Jill Lawrence in The Bulwark at

The context, from the author: The resurgence of vaccine denialism from a man who runs a huge state and wants to run the country demands our attention. (Gov. Ron) DeSantis (and maybe at some point Trump) will soon be on a national debate stage trashing the medical establishment and persuading a few million people that vaccines are an evil government plot to rob them of their rights and freedoms. We can’t forget where we were and how far we’ve come, thanks to science. And we can’t put our lives in the hands of people like this.

The excerpt: There are many ironies in the DeSantis view of freedom, which is that some “freedoms” are more equal than others (see: classroom speech, corporate speech and certain types of health care). But let’s zoom in on the new COVID “freedoms.” Getting vaccinated (and masking if there’s elevated risk) is what drives down cases, contains seasonal virus surges and allows us to go about our normal lives. Vaccines protect not just the vaccinated, but also frail individuals and a strained health care system. Getting the shot is the best way to achieve and sustain freedom — the freedom to go to work or school, socialize with friends, attend group events, stay well and help others stay that way, too.

From “Americans Are Sleepwalking Through a National Emergency,” by Tom Nichols in The Atlantic at

The context, from the author: The United States of America is facing a threat from a sometimes violent cult while a nuclear armed power wages war on the border of our closest allies. And yet, many Americans sleepwalk as if they are living in normal times instead of in an ongoing crisis.

The excerpt: This is not a normal election. (We haven’t had one of those in almost a decade now.) The GOP is not a normal political organization; the party withdrew into itself years ago and has now emerged from its rotting chrysalis as a nihilistic, seditionist movement in thrall to Trump. And Trump is not a normal candidate in any way: He regularly expresses his intention to continue his attacks on the American system and has made so many threats in so many different directions that we’ve lost track of them. Yet millions of Americans simply accept such behavior as Trump being Trump, much as they did in 2016.

From “Enough About Harvard. Let’s Talk About CUNY,” by Liza Featherstone in Jacobin at

The context, from the author: The elite media loves to obsess about the Ivy Leagues. But great public colleges like the City University of New York, once dubbed the Harvard of the proletariat, are far more relevant to most people — and infinitely better at serving the working class.

The excerpt: CUNY truly represents the working and middle classes of New York City. Half are from families earning less than $30,000 a year. Eighty percent of undergraduates are students of color. The system, which includes two-year, four-year, and graduate programs, as well as professional training and continuing education classes, serves over 261,000 students. And CUNY succeeds where the Ivy League infamously fails: helping working-class students to improve their material well-being after graduation.

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From “What Comes After Is Usually Worse,” by Sumantra Maitra in The American Conservative at

The context, from the author: Historians should fear a weak, fragile and paranoid Moscow.

The excerpt: The paradox of Russia isn’t that Russia is too strong to embark on European hegemony. It is that Russia is strong enough to not be pushed around in its own neighborhood, and possesses thousands of nuclear weapons enough to turn us to radioactive ashes, if cornered. The challenge isn’t Vladimir Putin trying to replicate the Third Reich. The challenge is to ensure that there’s no civilization-ending nuclear exchange over the overlordship of some real estate on the Black Sea.

From “American Despotism,” by Newt Gingrich in The American Spectator at

The context, from the author: If you think I am exaggerating the distance between normal Americans and the totalitarians of the left, consider the reality in which we are all living.

The excerpt: One of the great questions for our generation is whether a ruthless minority weaponizing government and destroying the American rule of law can use sheer force and threat of force to make Americans accept things in which they do not believe.

From “2024: The Nightmare Ahead of Us,” by John Podhoretz in Commentary at

The context, from the author: So here we are. Two extraordinarily unpopular men whose reputations have been called into question on a daily basis all year are on what appear to be separate glide paths to their nominations in the first showdown between a president and a former president since the year 1912 and the first presidential rematch since 1956.

The excerpt: So our fun-house mirror shows elites in both parties out of touch with the party’s grassroots normal people, but for wildly different reasons. Rank-and-file Democrats are expressing an entirely realistic concern about the choice that is being imposed on them from above, while rank-and-file Republicans are more enthusiastic about Trump than they have ever been and are openly resisting efforts to provide them with a choice come primary season.