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Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, "In Short, There Is Still Much to Do"

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Give Donald Trump some credit, he did manage to co*k the American gun with the help of a devastating virus, which he made all his own. In this pandemic year, gun sales have already totaled more than 17 million (including many first-time gun buyers). A record 15.1 million weapons were sold between March and September alone. Even for the country whose citizens were already (by far) the most heavily armed on the planet, this is record-breaking territory. We are an armed nation. No surprise then that, in these stressful election and Covid-19 months, gun deaths rose significantly in red states as well as blue states, red cities along with blue ones.

With his endless campaign of dismissing the coronavirus, his rejection of masking -- he even mocked his most loyal Fox News supporter Laura Ingraham for wearing one ("Is that a mask? No way. Are you wearing a mask? I've never seen her in a mask. Look at you. Whoa, she's being very politically correct...") -- with his dismissal of lock-downs ("LIBERATE MICHIGAN"), and his implicit support for potential "militia" assassins aiming to kidnap and possibly execute the governor of that state, Donald Trump has been America's own killer president. His legacy (if that's even what it is) will be dead bodies on a staggering scale. In fact, from his urge to heat the planet big time as history's ultimate pyromaniac to his super-spreader behavior on the campaign trail, he's brought untimely death to Americans on a scale unimaginable in this country since the Civil War.

It's been quite a record. As we now watch the election from hell playing out in a fit of Trumpian and Republican maneuvering, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon considers the staggering mountain of work that lies ahead for the world's wealthiest nation when you-know-who departs the stage (if he ever really does). It's a job that can't just be left to Joe Biden and crew, that's for sure. Tom

In a Looking-Glass World
Our Work Is Just Beginning
By Rebecca Gordon

In the chaos of this moment, it seems likely that Joe Biden will just squeeze into the presidency and that he'll certainly win the popular vote, Donald Trump's Mussolini-like behavior and election night false claim of victory notwithstanding. Somehow, it all brings another moment in my life to mind.

Back in October 2016, my friends and I frequently discussed the challenges progressives would face if the candidate we expected to win actually entered the Oval Office. There were so many issues to worry about back then. The Democratic candidate was an enthusiastic booster of the U.S. armed forces and believed in projecting American power through its military presence around the world. Then there was that long record of promoting harsh sentencing laws and the disturbing talk about "the kinds of kids that are called superpredators -- no conscience, no empathy."

In 2016, the country was already riven by deep economic inequality. While Hillary Clinton promised "good-paying jobs" for those struggling to stay housed and buy food, we didn't believe it. We'd heard the same promises so many times before, and yet the federal minimum wage was still stuck where it had been ever since 2009, at $7.25 an hour. Would a Clinton presidency really make a difference for working people? Not if we didn't push her -- and hard.

The candidate we were worried about was never Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton. And the challenge we expected to confront was how to shove that quintessential centrist a few notches to the left. We were strategizing on how we might organize to get a new administration to shift government spending from foreign wars to human needs at home and around the world. We wondered how people in this country might finally secure the "peace dividend" that had been promised to us in the period just after the Cold War, back when her husband Bill became president. In those first (and, as it turned out, only) Clinton years, what we got instead was so-called welfare reform whose consequences are still being felt today, as layoffs drive millions into poverty.

We doubted Hillary Clinton's commitment to addressing most of our other concerns as well: mass incarceration and police violence, structural racism, economic inequality, and most urgent of all (though some of us were just beginning to realize it), the climate emergency. In fact, nationwide, people like us were preparing to spend a day or two celebrating the election of the first woman president and then get down to work opposing many of her anticipated policies. In the peace and justice movements, in organized labor, in community-based organizations, in the two-year-old Black Lives Matter movement, people were ready to roll.

And then the unthinkable happened. The woman we might have loved to hate lost that election and the white-supremacist, woman-hating monster we would grow to detest entered the Oval Office.

For the last four years, progressives have been fighting largely to hold onto what we managed to gain during Barack Obama's presidency: an imperfect healthcare plan that nonetheless insured millions of Americans for the first time; a signature on the Paris climate accord and another on a six-nation agreement to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons; expanded environmental protections for public lands; the opportunity for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- DACA -- status to keep on working and studying in the U.S.

For those same four years, we've been fighting to hold onto our battered capacity for outrage in the face of continual attacks on simple decency and human dignity. There's no need to recite here the catalogue of horrors Donald Trump and his spineless Republican lackeys visited on this country and the world. Suffice it to say that we've been living like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, running as hard as we can just to stand still. That fantasy world's Red Queen observes to a panting Alice that she must come from

"A slow sort of country! Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

It wasn't simply the need to run faster than full speed just in order to stay put that made Trump World so much like Looking-Glass Land. It's that, just as in Lewis Carroll's fictional world, reality has been turned inside out in the United States. As new Covid-19 infections reached an all-time high of more than 100,000 in a single day and the cumulative death toll surpassed 230,000, the president in the mirror kept insisting that "we're rounding the corner" (and a surprising number of Americans seemed to believe him). He neglected to mention that, around that very corner, a coronaviral bus is heading straight toward us, accelerating as it comes. In a year when, as NPR reported, "Nearly 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity," Trump just kept bragging about the stock market and reminding Americans of how well their 401k's were doing -- as if most people even had such retirement accounts in the first place.

Trump World, Biden Nation, or Something Better?

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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