The Covid 19 “crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus––– like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to hold off mass suffering.” George Packer, The Atlantic, June 2020
A Message to Voters
In an article about British leadership in a time of crises The Economist gives its opinion that Boris Johnson is “the wrong sort of prime minister” for the moment, and then offers a thought for voters to ponder: “The pandemic has many lessons for government…Here is one for voters: When choosing a person or party to vote for, do not underestimate the importance of ordinary, decent competence.”
The Atlantic’s Packer makes the point that the pandemic is “the third major crisis of the short 21st century.” The first was September 11, and leadership responded by taking the country into two endless wars. The second was the Great Recession of 2008 in which millions of people lost their homes, jobs and hope. The inequality gap widened as the recovery favored the wealthy over the middle and lower classes, and the seeds of discontent were planted that sprouted in the 2010 rise of the tea party and blossomed in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. When the pandemic crisis hit, Packer wrote, “The virus should have unitedAmericans against a common threat. With different leadership it might have. Instead, as it spread, from blue to red areas, attitudes broke down along familiar partisan lines.”
Think again about the above lesson from The Economist: “When choosing a person or party to vote for, do not underestimate the importance of ordinary decent competence.”
Fake Good News VS. Fact-based Bad News
First the good news: President Donald Trump proclaimed the demise of Covid 19, saying that it is “fading away” and that he has done “a great job on Coronavirus (and) saved millions of lives.” Now the truth: “Texas, California, Arizona and four other states are seeing record numbers of cases. In total 27 states report that the cases are increasing…The rest of the world is watching aghast…the European Union is even preparing to bar American visitors because of the United States’ failure to manage coronavirus properly.” Devi Sridhar, an American professor who teaches global health at The University of Edinburgh said, “Those of us abroad are watching in horror, disbelief, and pity.” Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, June 25
Financial Markets VS. The Pandemic
“Fears of a resurgence of the novel coronavirus are dominating the news and spooking the financial markets. The flare-ups bear watching and preparing for, but the original lockdowns were never going to eradicate the virus short of unacceptable economic pain. The unhappy but inevitable truth is that Americans will have to learn to cope with the virus , which means trial and error and more individual responsibility.” The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 24
My response: The idea of individuals taking more responsibility for their own health and safety is a good one. But if social distancing requirements are loosened, I can foresee a case in which 100 extraordinarily responsible people come into casual contact with one irresponsible and infected person. The result is that the 100 (and their families) become vulnerable to sickness and death. Where is the balance between a binding public policy and individual freedom?
Is America Walking Away from Leadership?
The United Nations “is struggling, as are many of the structures, like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) designed to help create order out of chaos. This system, with the UN at its apex, is beset by the internal problems, by the global struggle to cope with the rise of China, and most of all the neglect–––antipathy even––– of the country (America) that was its chief architect.
“The threat to the global order weighs on everyone, including America. But if the United States pulls back, then everyone must step forward, and none more so than the middling powers like Japan and Germany, and the rising ones like India and Indonesia, which have all become accustomed to America doing the heavy lifting. If they hesitate, they will risk a great unraveling, much like the nightmare in the 1920s and 1930s that first impelled the allies to create the UN and its siblings.
“Some think the job of middling powers is triage, to keep the system going until America returns to the party under a different President. It is more than that…President Obama once asked like-minded countries to help America make the world safe. They shrugged. They must not do this again.” The Economist, June 20-26
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.