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Reflections on the Fourth

Author: Gary Hart

Our Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II are notable exceptions.  Otherwise, history will show the nation’s birthday celebration in 2020 to be one of the most fraught in our history.

We are beset by a pandemic that seems to have a life of its own, thanks mostly to the almost demented insistence on too many people taking their own lives and those of others into their own hands in a growing death spiral.

Our economy is characterized by almost Great Depression levels of unemployment, business failures, increasing poverty, homelessness, and hunger, and family tales of tragedy.

Then, we are hurtling toward a national election possibly unique in U.S. history with an incumbent alleging fraud four months before a vote is cast and arming himself with hitherto secret powers that represent a blueprint for dictatorship.

The American people are treated to a daily Svengali-like performance of denial and magical thinking.  The virus will disappear overnight.  The economy will totally recover by tomorrow.  Never fear.  “I alone can fix it.”

Underneath the reality t.v. hocus-pocus is the divisive drumbeat meant to distract the “base” into lashing out at minorities, liberals, Democrats, globalists, leftwing extremists, the traitor next door, gun snatchers, big city elites, and on and on.

This is the test.  Which America are we?  Trump’s America or Abraham Lincoln’s America?

On this Fourth of July, I am betting there are five or ten more Lincoln Americans than there are Trump Americans.  You cannot be both.  One or the other.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.  The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.  As our case is new, so must we think anew and act anew.  We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

And then, of course: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle; and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

These are the words of a true national leader.  A large figure, not a small figure.  A great humanitarian, not a pitiful nationalist.

May America once again earn God’s blessing.

Keep the Republic.

The Meaning of the Fourth

Author: Gary Hart

This is to wish all of you a memorable Fourth of July in this problematic year.

Stay safe and remember good friends.  And of course we always remember our good friends in Canada and Great Britain.

More to follow on reflections on the day.

Gary Hart

Post-Rational Politics

Author: Gary Hart

It seems very possible, if not probable, that Trumpism will not disappear with Trump.  He did not create the “base” that supports him.  With the help of some clever advisors, he discovered it and captured it…right out from under the nose of the Republican Party.

Too many smart commentators and would be pundits are assuming a Trump loss will magically disappear the “base”.  I don’t think so.

Consider whether what Trump discovered (but did not create) was a new politics that may, or may not, be peculiar to America.

Let’s call this new politics “post-rational”.

America’s Founders were products of the largely Scottish and English Enlightenment that put science and facts before mediation by monarchy and church.  They presumed that, with access to education and information, including contested information, men and women were rational creatures who would reach proper conclusions in both self-interest and societal interest.

With several notable exceptions, largely detailed in the well-known Hofstadter book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, we have generally adopted this Jefferson/Madison/Hamilton assumption.  We are rational people who know the truth when we see and hear it and find it in our collective interest to follow it and the leaders who uphold it.

But then several things happened.  Assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, CIA plots, Cold War secrecy, conspiracies real and assumed, and much else.  The confidence by the people in their government gradually, then massively, was eroded.

If you cannot trust the people you elect, then who can you trust?

Nobody, said the Fox network starting in the late 1980s.  Don’t trust any of them.  Your government is a swamp of self-interest and routine corruption (the “revolving door”), and there was increasing evidence to support this.

And, by the way, don’t trust the press and media.  They are covering up, or ignoring, wrong-doing and not telling the truth.  What they are giving you is “fake news.”

Even for small town and rural conservatives, don’t trust the Republican Party.  It’s run by self-serving career politicians doing what Wall Street and big wealth tells them to do.  Trump didn’t take over the Republican Party; he replaced it with the “base” eager to reject ambitious political leaders trying to be president in 2016 simply by ridiculing them and calling them names.  No position papers, no agenda, no thought, no rational arguments.  Just name calling.  And he moved on to do the same thing to Hillary Clinton.

Overwhelmingly, the “base”, systematically misinformed by Fox News, formed a closed social and political system in which facts were irrelevant, “trust me not your lying eyes” was the watchword, and an alternative universe was created.

America is now divided into two separate universes, one the remnant of the rational Enlightenment and the other a closed system impervious to facts, documentable information, perceivable truth, and one almost completely dominated by conspiracy.

There is no virus.  Anthony Fauci is perpetuating a myth to get rich and hurt Trump.  Putin or anyone else is welcome to surreptitious participation in our elections so long as it helps Trump.  Climate change is also a myth.  Our government is really run by a “deep state.”

Donald Trump is welcome to say whatever comes into his mind so long as it helps him and hurts the hated liberals.

Evidence that all this is fantasy and will pass on when Donald Trump does is welcome.

I fear we are teetering on the edge of a precipice with 50 million of our fellow citizens on one side and the rest of us on the other.

 

Make America America Again

Author: Gary Hart

Donald Trump has but one idea, and it is wrong.  He started from the assumption that America was faltering and had lost its way.  Somehow, the eight-year Obama presidency was at fault.  Because he could not fault previous Republican presidents, the loss of America’s greatness occurred on Obama’s watch.  But Obama inherited a serious recession and managed to claw his way out of it.  He also inherited two flawed wars and struggled to reduce their clutches on the nation.

Based on his destruction of a 75-year-old U.S. bipartisan international policy, by retreating from virtually every foreign policy engagement with democratic allies, he also implicitly blames all presidents of both parties going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt.

There never has been, and never will be, a Trump date when America lost its “greatness”.

When Trump leaves Washington, sooner rather than later, he will leave behind no blueprint for making America great again.  Because he does not have one.

Thus, the next president’s mandate is to restore the best elements of America’s post-World War II greatness in international leadership and to adjust our fixed principles of justice, equality, and liberty to the new social, political, and economic realities of the 21st century.

In a word, the next president must make America America again.

Through our national society, America has a soul.  That soul is being violated daily by the incumbent president who does not understand it.  That is why he cannot define “greatness”.  Our soul was defined by our Founders in our Revolutionary War, during our Civil War, and in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.  And by the tens of millions of Americans who care deeply for our country and its future but do not wear red caps and go to rallies.

There is hardly an area of our national life that has not been seriously damaged in the past three and a half years.  That includes our public educations system, environmental protections, health systems, public infrastructure, fair tax laws, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and even our proud military structures.

Has any of this destruction made us greater.  Hardly.

The great America Trump inherited is much less great now.  Our public esteem around the world now is in sharp decline.  Vast numbers of foreign citizens no longer see us as a shining city on a hill.  The torch of the Statue of Liberty is dimmed.  A nation of immigrants now builds walls to keep out those with legitimate claims for entry.  International trade creating millions of American jobs has been torpedoed by trade wars.

Nuclear arms control treaties with Russia and other nations are being summarily and unilaterally repealed and abrogated.  Is a new nuclear arms race making us safer…or greater?

When Trump returns to his golf course next January, the virus which he failed to address for too long will still be with us, our economic shambles will continue for at least a decade and we will continue to struggle toward racial justice in our society.

Teams of skilled diplomats will entrench themselves in the capitols of allies to repair the damage and restore alliances and in non-allied nations to restore good will based on mutual self-interests.

A new national recovery agency will help finance the restoration of millions of small businesses.  The Affordable Care Act will be stabilized and expanded.  The Jeffersonian public education system will be rescued from the clutches of the privatizers.  Corporate lobbyists will be driven from government agencies mandated to protect our environment and to preserve our nation’s natural heritage.  Most of all, our national security structures and our military services will be restored to positions of respect.

Serious damage has been done, so all of this will not be easy.  But restoring the ancient republican ideal of public service will once again attract the involvement of an army of young people.

And then, we can make America America again.

 

The Boundaries of Character

Author: Gary Hart

Like individual people, nations have boundaries.  These are not geographical borders, but boundaries or principles that define our character.  We’ve all known instances where an acquaintance does something uncharacteristic, and we say “that doesn’t seem like her.”

For more than three years, America has experienced the weakening and even collapse of principles that define us.  America today is not the same country we grew up in and experienced most of our lives.

We know this has been brought about by a president who does not care about our nation’s character or the principles we have proclaimed for ourselves throughout the world.  What is most troubling are the tens of millions of American citizens who don’t seem to care.

Insufficient attention has been paid to those fellow citizens as this president’s anti-American behavior distracted the media almost daily.  They evidence no concern for his path toward authoritarian power, his anger at dissent, his revolving White House door of reputable figure leaving to be replaced by sycophantic, kowtowing special interest lobbyists betraying the national interest daily, his systematic attacks on our intelligence and national security organizations, his delight in offending democratic allies and dismantling decades of bipartisan participation in international organizations.

Can four out of ten Americans really admire this man’s daily erosion of our national character?  Was it inevitable that so-called “reality t.v.” would replace thoughtful leadership?  Are elected officials of his own party so enamored by Washington, which they routinely campaign against, that they sacrifice their spine and their integrity to avoid offending this false prophet?

Donald Trump has set out to break down the boundaries that define our nation.  He has succeeded to a remarkable degree.  Everyone knows that he cannot tell the truth and yet his followers simply Don’t Care.

In five short months, we will have to chance to rescue our nation.  He will do everything in his power to prevent that rescue in his demented effort to dismantle America’s moral and ethical foundation.  The Trump Republican party will do nothing to stop him.  It will be up to the opposition Democrats and the Independent “undecideds” to prevent another four years of remaking America into something it has never been.

Nations have a certain kind of soul, the composite of what makes them who they are.  It is not an overstatement or overly dramatic to assert that America’s soul, possibly for all time, is at stake.

This president cannot experience or express empathy.  He cares more about himself than he does his fellow citizens.  He cannot create; he can only tear down.  He has silenced the billionaires and corporate elites with tax cuts.  He threatens peaceful protestors with the U.S. military.  He has turned over our natural heritage held in trust for future generations to private exploiters.  He intimidates, with little effort, the careerist politicians in his own party

By instinct and upbringing, Americans have concern for each other.  Most of us try to help those in need.  We shovel snow from the walks of the elderly and help push the neighbor’s car out of the ditch.  We care for our communities.  We have a conscience about the environment.  We seek the goodwill of foreign friends.  We welcome the stranger.  We seek the common good.  We work at being better human beings.

This president knows none of these things.  He seeks a different country.  One where it is every man for himself.  And devil take the hindmost.  Every day he is changing America’s defining boundaries and abandoning our traditional principles.

And we are watching him do it.

The Veneer of Civilization

Author: Gary Hart

The veneer of civilization is wearing thin.  Or is it just a confluence of bad news all at once.  Hard to tell.  And sometimes it just depends on your mood upon awakening.

Those of us whose natural disposition is fundamentally optimistic tend to believe (or at least want to believe) that step by step mankind is progressing, not evenly or even consistently, but struggling for inclusiveness, decency, and justice.

Then there is a war, a terrorist attack, an official murder, or even a virus.

The realists say, “that’s life, get used to it.”  Two steps forward, one step back.  Or is it the other way around?

Our outlook on life’s uneven events is influenced by forces mostly beyond our control.  The evening news, somewhere between gloomy and dreadful for 28 minutes and relieved only at the close by a “boy rescues puppy” feel-good story.  Civil wars, religious wars, cocaine wars, racial wars half-way round the world.

Then there is always the possibility that our fellow citizens, even a large minority of them, might hand power over the nation to a figure wholly unprepared by experience, disposition, mental fitness, or moral authority to lead a nation that claims to have its eyes on the stars.

Even if you have that climb-every-mountain optimism, that last thought will give you pause.

Between viruses, official murders, and a crumbling economy not a lot to feel good about these days.

And on top of all that, a national election looms five months away.  And serious people are beginning to count the ways in which American democracy and the Republic for which it stands can leave the tracks.  Secret presidential powers, to be opened only in a national emergency…that only the president can declare…are on the shelf awaiting any autocrat or tyrant who might want to unwrap them.

Let us count the avenues of emergency: a twice-as-fierce virus returns in October; riots sponsored by hate groups spring up; reports of massive voter fraud are heard in swing States; Iran has begun underground nuclear testing; foreign sources (Russia?, China?) are hacking into voting machines; and on and on.

A president trailing measurably in late polls could find any of these grounds for declaring a national emergency and ordering postponement of an election.  Anyone doubt where the Department of Justice stands on this?

Of course, the president has no Constitutional authority to postpone an election.  But that does not mean he cannot try.  And five Supreme Court justices are heard to say “aye”.

The forces of pessimism must be resisted.  But bad things sometimes happen, and bad times make them worse.  So, prudence alone dictates that it is better to be prepared for unprecedented events than to wake up some morning in November and be unpleasantly surprised.

So, prudent patriots, given the political roller-coaster of the past three plus years, have little choice but to anticipate and prepare for fall events that have no precedent.

The federal system could well be tested in ways not seen since our terrible Civil War.  Elections are conducted and the results certified by the States.  Provisions are made in our Constitution for results that are unclear or contested.  Our federal judicial system, only recently being manipulated by Senate Republican partisans, should be a bulwark of justice for the nation.

But the backbone of the Republic are the patriots.  They stand guard. And for them we say a prayer: Guard our nation for our children even more than for ourselves.  Be stewards of justice.  Protect our freedoms.  Make us worthy of the sacrifices of the generations that have gone before.  Help our flag represent everyone of us equally.  Raise up new generations of men and women who believe in the principles upon which we were founded.

God please bless and protect the United States of America.

Secret Presidential Powers

Author: Gary Hart

My late colleague and friend, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote a book entitled Secrecy: The American Experience.  After repeatedly being told that “I’m sorry we can’t give you that document or answer your question: that is secret” time and again, he led a commission that examined the U.S. Governments’ proclivity to classify anything and everything, even from Senators with a duty to know.

This came to with the recent head-snapping opinion piece “Trump Has Emergency Powers We Aren’t Secret Presidential Powers Allowed to Know About” (NYT, April 10, 2020).  To say this has caught the attention of many Americans, including present and former senior government officials, is a great understatement.

Various movements are afoot to identify these documents, referred to in the opinion piece as “presidential emergency action documents” or PEADs, to also identify the inner circle in Washington with access to them, and most of all to find out what these secret emergency powers actually are.

The fact that we are closing in on a national election featuring what might politely be called an unconventional president, whose right hand man has recently floated a trial balloon about postponing the election itself, has sharply honed the interest in these emergency powers which can be deployed by…the president himself.

Former senior officials of past administrations of both parties have either stated that they never heard of these secret documents, or they have been unresponsive.

Thanks to the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law, whose scholars researched the matter and wrote the opinion piece, we know that accumulation of these secret documents began in the Eisenhower years and continued through every administration since.  They were designed to anticipate massively destructive nuclear war and revised to greater or lesser degree in both the Reagan and Obama administrations.  Some of these powers may have been employed without fanfare following 9/11.

There is something called the Continuity of Government Plan, known by some but not all, who may, or may not, view these documents as implementation of that Plan.  Like virtually everything else about these mystery powers, this is not completely transparent.

And that is the point.  Why are these documents secret?  It would be less than prudent for the Government of the United States not to plan for extreme emergencies. To avoid this kind of planning would be impeachable folly.

So, are they secret from the Russians, who now gleefully participate in our elections without penalty?  To ask the question is to answer it.  They are secret from the American people.  Why?

Some sources say that the secret powers may include suspension of habeas corpus and thus imprisonment without a hearing or judicial review.  They may include blackout of the media.  They may include searches and seizures without a Constitutional warrant.  And, they might even empower a president to suspend an election required by law and the Constitution.

Why cannot elected representatives of the people in the House and Senate review these plans and powers?  It has been estimated that no more Members of Congress than the fingers on one hand even have heard of these secret documents, let alone have reviewed them.

After more than 50 years of active involvement in national security, defense, and intelligence matters, including as a member of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the United States, and as co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, I find these documents to represent a potential roadmap to dictatorship.

Despite a number of temptations to cry wolf, I have never done so…until now.  This wolf is very real.

The people of the United States have the right to know what secret powers the Chief Executive of our nation possesses, to be employed on his own recognizance.

Too many things can happen before, during, or after the November national election to leave this matter in secrecy.  We all need to know what is going on here.

It is our country after all.

 

 

Oh, What a Lovely Election

Author: Gary Hart

To anticipate is to reduce the scope of uncertainty.  Great leaders are almost always those who can see farther ahead, over the horizon, more than others.

With that in mind, let’s not let the sixty days between Labor Day and the election surprise us.  We avoid surprise by considering what might happen; based on today’s realities, what are the possible outcomes.

Here is what we know: the president has a “base” of 35% to 40% of the country.  Most will turn out and vote for him.  Most of that “base” is in red States.  So called blue States will not vote for him.  The total vote, with heavy margins in large blue States such as New York and California, could well constitute a national majority.

Most analysts once again foresee the contest being reduced to no more than six key States: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and  Arizona.  Since it is difficult for many analysts to see a needed majority of voters for Trump constituting 10% to 15%, there is every likelihood of 2020 being a rerun of 2016 with the electoral vote deciding the outcome.

In the interest of anticipation, what options does Trump have, as the election approaches, and the polls show him behind either by a little or a lot?

If he has demonstrated even the semblance of a strategy, it can be summarized as distraction, disruption, and diversion.  He is clearly desperate to recreate his mass rallies.  If the virus prevents him from participating personally, he will address those willing to risk their lives by live remote.

He will increase the childish rants and name calling against “sleepy Joe”.  His advertising will claim credit for an economic recovery yet to be seen and demonize China as the source of all U.S. problems.  He will use the stock market as evidence of the “recovery” even if unemployment is still at 15% plus.

We can anticipate this scenario regardless.  But what about actions rarely if ever witnessed before in American history?  He has already claimed a national security emergency to divert billions in the military budget to a border wall.  Sober people do not consider it unthinkable that a national emergency could be manufactured in a military clash with Iran or even China.

There can be claims that top secret intelligence warns of nuclear missiles being spun up in North Korea or even Russia.  There is every chance that the virus will return in force in the fall.  Crises can be imagined in a wide variety of scenarios.

As argued previously, there is always the chance of election interference at the State and local level, especially where the president’s party is in control.  Many precincts, especially in minority neighborhoods, will run out of ballots mid-day.  Outcomes will be challenged in late reporting big cities.  Law suits challenging results unfavorable to the president will be filed on election night in courts up to and including the Supreme Court.

Most recently his “senior advisor” son-in-law floated the idea of postponing the election, for example, if the virus returns…which all serious experts have said it will.

The president has made startling claims to extraordinary powers as yet undefined.  Thoughtful people are seeking to discover what those might be.

The most hateful word in his vocabulary is “loser”.  Does he intend to spend his remaining years at Mar a Lago as a loser?

We must assume he will do everything in his power—and then some—to avoid that outcome.  We now have abundant evidence that this president puts his own interests well above those of the nation.

And he does not consider himself bound by any laws, conventions, or even the Constitution.  Do not look to the Attorney General of the United States to protect and defend the interests of the American people.

 

A Nation on High Alert

Author: Gary Hart

A surprising number of very thoughtful people are beginning to fear a national election like no other in our history.  Some are taking steps to prevent it.

A toxic brew composed of an unstable president (who is not a genius, but seeks to become an autocrat), a political party which offers no constraints, a “base” that encourages his every excess, a captive television and radio system providing the propaganda and the drum beat, a society purposely being bitterly divided, a judicial system rapidly being converted to ideological orthodoxy, and a sinister set of operatives willing to subvert legal restraints and traditional behavioral norms.

And there are five months left for this brew to bubble and ferment.

And lying beneath all this, profoundly secret “presidential emergency action documents” are finally coming into public view. (“Trump Has Emergency Powers We Aren’t Allowed to Know About,” New York Times, April 10, 2020.)

According to this column, “These documents consist of draft proclamations, executive orders and proposals for legislation that can be quickly deployed to assert broad presidential authority in a range of worst-case scenarios.  These are one of the government’s best kept secrets.”  They are designed “to implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations.”

Given the past three plus years, how much imagination is required to consider this president considering an election loss, especially a close loss, as an “extraordinary situation.”

To invoke extraordinary authority the possibilities are endless.  With a single phone call, gangs of right-wing extremists can descend on State capitals fully armed.  Anti-viral medical supplies can disappear overnight.  Opposition party leaders can be jailed on phony allegations of treachery and habeas corpus suspended with no opposition from the US Department of Justice which will fully endorse the president’s “extraordinary authority”, invoking these secret documents.  Presidential loyalists now controlling our intelligence agencies can certify that Iran is preparing a nuclear attack on US forces in the region.

This president, his back to the wall, and though completely without Constitutional authority, can seek to suspend the election.  The votes of any State that goes against him by a slim margin will be challenged in court and a prolonged recount demanded.  Attempts will be made to fiddle the appointment of electors.

We know for a certainty that there will be massive efforts at voter suppression, especially in minority precincts.  Ballots will run out mid-day and some will be mysteriously lost.  Lines will be very long.  Registrations will be challenged at considerable length.

Several scholarly studies now document the various complex ways a national election can seek to be twisted and turned.  The election is early November.  The inaugural is the 20th of January.  Think of the mayhem that can occur in those few weeks.

It is to be hope that Governors, Secretaries of State, and Attorneys General will be prepared.  Efforts at fraud and manipulation will have to be challenged in courts across the land on election day.
Absent a landslide against the incumbent, which is to be prayed for, the forthcoming national election will be like no other in U.S. history.  Given all that has gone before, it would be to expect a miracle for this one to be conducted peacefully and maturely.

Contrary to the mythical “deep state” the Trump band blames for all its ills and failures, they themselves are creating a genuine deep state and it is operating well outside the Constitution and laws of the United States and two and a third centuries of American history.

In the words of a famous movie line: “These are desperate men, and they will stop at nothing.”

The World Beyond

Author: Gary Hart

Like wars and depressions, pandemics are a test of national character.   How we as a nation respond tells us much about who and what we are.  It may make us worse.  But, it could also make us better.

Wars, depressions, technologies, and pandemics have a way of disrupting established systems, norms, and conventional behaviors.  With the possible exception of Donald Trump, few if any others believe our current global viral attack will disappear soon and we will return to the status quo ante.

The dominant realities impacting life since the end of the Cold War have been globalization and technology, both of which have shrunk distances, eroded political boundaries, permitted if not also encouraged mass migrations south to north, upset political systems, parties, and institutions and, seemingly, slowed if not halted the forward march of democracy as well as the world order created at the end of World War II.

All this created a vacuum, and political nature abhors a vacuum.  Into it, has seeped national populism or populistic nationalism.  Either way, this phenomenon has raised legitimate fears of a restoration of the kind of authoritarianism, including in the United States, last seen in the 1930s leading up to fascism on the one hand and communism on the other.

Wars against fascism were fought and won in Europe and Asia and communism wound itself down a few decades thereafter.

The relative peace and homogeneity that followed proved too good to last.  As if to signal the demise of that brief era, along came the coronavirus.

Those of us congenitally inclined to peer over the horizon, especially that subset of us who do not see a near term-restoration of pre-virus life, search history for lessons, consult the wizards of the age (mostly self-appointed), and put moistened fingers in the wind for guidance.

Having seen much of human folly, those of us in advanced age are tempted toward cynicism and the tendency to think we are incapable of learning from history and are therefore doomed to repeat it.  Thus, the politics of Groundhog Day.  Another virus is creating itself ready to go shortly after this one retreats.

Of course, there are better outcomes if we are mature enough to find them.  If Trumpism can be retired to the shelf, there can in fact be a smarter, less political, world health organization prepared to anticipate, not just react to, pandemic crises.  Likewise, we might soon turn our attention to the looming climate crisis threatening whole economic systems and destabilizing virtually all seacoast nations.  Technology giants, mostly in the U.S., can become serious about devising cyber security that protect against manipulations of democratic elections.

Political parties must be sanctioned from voter suppression.  Our judicial system must be returned once again to judges selected on merit not ideological rigidity.  As impossible as it may now seem, a fairness doctrine must be restored to electronic media.

Sheltering in place has now vividly reminded us that we are not only a nation, we are also a society.  It will be a while before very many people will say “leave me alone” or wish to go bowling alone.  We are social animals and we need each other.  But post-virus society must become more fair, more open, and more just.  Poor people and minorities are becoming infected and dying in significantly greater numbers than upper class whites.  Revolutions have been caused by much less.

We must raise up the civics of duty to accompany the economics of profit.  So long as a chance exists for a young man or woman to rise up and accumulate wealth, we will be a capitalist nation.  Horatio Alger still holds the seductive promise of material success.

But Horatio Alger also has a duty to our society, a duty greater than building museums and libraries named after him.  We all bear a duty of public service to those left out, to hungry children, homeless families, unemployed workers, and support for those who provide our health care and are saving lives at minimum wages.

“Ask what you can do for your country” should be printed on every high school and college diploma, and maybe even brought up by stockholders at annual corporate meetings.

Our Founders consciously and purposefully created a Republic, and it is a Republic whose flag we salute.  Republics have always known that civic virtue, citizen participation, is the vital key that prevents the Republic’s decline into corruption.

If this virus, and all the disruption it is creating, produces one single important achievement, it will be to restore the sense of duty and civic virtue to our society.

Otherwise, we cannot say, “we are all in this together” and mean it.