Scott Q Marcus started this petition to Eureka City Council, Humboldt Board of Supervisors, Arcata City Council, and Fortuna City Council
Point 1:We are facing the biggest health and public crisis in over 100 years. Everyone knows that. No rational person denies it.
Point 2:What we have done for the last year and a half has not stopped it. That’s not opinion; it’s fact – as published daily by the Humboldt County Department of Health.
Despite the fact that we now have a vaccine that we didn’t have last year, and that we know how to minimize the danger of COVID, we are at our highest levels of spread since the pandemic began. That’s just wrong.
Our hospitals are in danger of being overrun. Our health care workers are overworked and feel defeated and unappreciated. They face a shortage of staff and the options to bring in more are close to non-existent. Instead of being hailed as saviors and heroes, they have been treated as frontline pawns thrown into a winless war without regard for what they must face. To that point, we can’t even keep up with the demand for COVID tests due to the rampant penetration of the disease. And let’s not forget the societal, personal, and financial damage being done to individuals, organizations, and our local businesses.
For the last 18 months, many of us have chipped in and done what we were asked to do to mitigate this rolling disaster. We took care of ourselves and we did our duty to take care of our community. We did everything requested of us. We isolated. We (double) masked. We socially distanced. We sterilized our hands and workspaces. We worked from home when possible. We avoided crowds and travel. We missed family celebrations and gatherings. And when it was finally possible, we stepped to the plate and got vaccinated, looking forward to being able to (somewhat) return to our lives, assuming that we – the general public – would cooperate for our own health as well as the public good.
Alas, that was not to be the case.
Because so many have refused to cooperate, we are now in worse shape than we were a year ago. It is not however for not trying. We cajoled them. Nothing. We offered all manner of incentives. Nothing. We set up vaccination clinics. Nothing. We tried enticing them in every way possible. Still nothing. Study after study; expert after expert; have all reported that the ONLY way to overcome this pandemic is vaccination. Period. End of story. COVID will not just “go away,” it will persist, probably even mutate into more dangerous incarnations if we don’t do something NOW.
We are bitterly disappointed, frustrated, and even angry at how this has shaken out. There is no reason for our progress to not only stop but to go backward due to the irresponsibility of so many others. It’s just plain wrong that those of us who did the right thing have to sacrifice YET AGAIN for those who could get the vaccine but have refused. Their argument is “personal choice.” We get it. They have that right, but with choice, comes responsibility.
In light of what has not worked, it’s time to change course and do something different than previously attempted.We must take a different tact; not only for the reasons listed above but also because, as good citizens, we believe it is our responsibility to help protect that small number of citizens with serious medical conditions who cannot get vaccinated or those too young to get the vaccine; both groups of which are at heightened risk should they catch the virus.
The reality is continuing to yell at a wall won’t cause it to fall.
So, while continuing to try and convince and coerce and encourage the unvaccinated to step up, we need to change our tactics and target those who won’t do the right thing by, this time, making them sacrifice. Why should it be that those who won’t do the right thing get to drag down those who do? It’s time for a new approach; as the old approach didn’t work and there’s no reason to assume it will this time.
There is a public-health movement spreading across the U.S. and it’s time we instigated it in Humboldt County.
New York City is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for people to enter indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. New Orleans and San Francisco are imposing such rules at many businesses starting, while Los Angeles is looking into the idea. Smaller cities are doing this also: Cathedral City, CA, will require proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours must be shown for patrons entering a restaurant and/or bar with the exception of children under age 12 or those with a medical condition. Local businesses and organizations are doing what they can.
We understand that some don’t want to get the shot. Then, they don’t get to be with those who did. No shot? No public transportation. No shot? No restaurants. No shot? No attendance at public events. It’s really simple. Some say it’s wrong for the government to apply such rules but that’s not true. When public safety is necessary, we do what we have to do for the greater good. It’s not personal; it’s responsible.
We all want to get out again. We want to go on vacation. We want to go to the movies or theater. We want to eat at a restaurant – but we want to do it in a safer environment. Unlike some, we’re not willing to gamble with the virus — nor deny its reality.
We did what we were supposed to do to bring us back from the brink. We took care of everyone we could. Now, it’s time for others to help with the load. It’s the fair and right thing to do.
We want you to begin the process to require “proof of vaccination” for large and indoor events so those of us who are being responsible can enjoy the fruits of our actions.
There was a time, not too long ago, when media outlets were singing the praises of Florida’s evil Governor Ron DeSantis, lauding him for his so called “handling” of COVID-19 and claiming with no basis in fact that he “won the pandemic.” Well Florida has now become an epicenter in the recent surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and yet “Dick” DeSantis remains defiant in refusing to take action and even thwarting any effective steps then accusing others of being “judgmental” and criticizing anyone who would blame the unvaccinated for their own suffering.
As Delta Covid rages on in Florida, turning the Sunshine State not only into a virus epicenter of the United States but of the entire world the media and particularly the networks aren’t being honest about the public health crisis under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. They’re not being transparent about how months ago they embraced GOP spin and portrayed the derelict dictator governor as a pandemic star, regurgitating conservative rhetoric about how the critics had been proven wrong about DeSantis’ wrong-headed policy decisions, which have since propelled Florida into a grave health crisis.
DeSanctis’s fiefdom “Florida” recently broke its one-day record for new Covid cases, topping out at 21,000 which is as many new cases as the entire country of France tabulates each day. Florida now has more than 12,000 (unvaccinated) people occupying hospital beds battling Covid, another grim benchmark under “dick” DeSantis. It’s unthinkable that the state has been plunged into public health chaos when a safe vaccine is readily available to all Floridians over the age of 12.
At a time when states are supposed to be emerging from the year-and-a-half pandemic, Florida is shifting into reverse – it recently recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined. This all comes 15 months after DeSantis famously, and loudly, declared victory over the pandemic, back when the state was tallying 500 cases a day.
Thanks to the huge number of people whose refusal to get vaccinated leaves them primed to become living COVID-19 mutation labs, the conditions are ripe to produce yet more, potentially more dangerous, variants in the coming months, Thanks again covidiots!
Scientists and Public health officials have kept underestimating the coronavirus. In the beginning of the pandemic, they said mutated versions of the virus wouldn’t be much of a problem—until the more-infectious Alpha caused a spike in cases last fall. Then Beta made young people sicker and Gamma reinfected those who’d already recovered from COVID-19. Still, by March, as the winter surge in the U.S. receded, some epidemiologists were cautiously optimistic that the rapid vaccine rollout would soon tame the variants and cause the pandemic to wind down.
Delta has now shattered that optimism. This variant, first identified in India in December, spreads faster than any previous strain of SARS-CoV-2, as the COVID-19 virus is officially named. It is driving up infection rates in every state of the U.S., prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to once again recommend universal mask-wearing.
The Delta outbreak is going to get much worse, warns Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who leads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “The number of intensive-care beds needed could be higher than any time we’ve seen,” he says. He adds that his team’s analysis shows that almost every single one of the 100 million unvaccinated Americans who hasn’t had COVID-19 yet will likely get it in the coming months, short of taking the sort of strong isolation and masking precautions that seem unlikely in the vaccine-hesitant population.
The variant is so contagious that it’s set to smash through every previous prediction of how soon the U.S. might reach herd immunity. “We’ve failed to shut this down as we have other pandemics,” says Jonathan Eisen, a biologist at the University of California, Davis, who studies how pathogens evolve. “It may be around forevermore, leaving us continually trying to figure out what to do next.”
Delta, like most of the other variants, blindsided us, worsening and extending the pandemic. When the damage from Delta starts to subside, what other variants will be lurking just behind it to pull us back down again? The World Health Organization is already keeping an eye on several: Eta, which is now in several countries; Kappa, which arose in India; Iota, which first popped up in New York City—and especially Lambda, which has torn through Peru and shows signs of having unusual success in infecting fully vaccinated people, according to one early study. It has already spread to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador as well as Texas and South Carolina.
It’s too soon to say whether Lambda will turn out to be the next big, bad thing that COVID-19 unleashes on us. But it’s a good time to wonder: Just how destructive can these variants get? Will future variants expand their attack from the lungs to the brain, the heart and other organs? Will they take a page from HIV and trick people into thinking they’ve recovered, only to make them sick later? Is there a bad variant out there that shrugs off vaccines, spreads like wildfire and leaves more of its victims much sicker than anything we’ve yet seen?
The odds are not high that we will see such a triple threat, but experts can’t rule it out. Delta has already shown how much worse things can get. Its extreme contagiousness, with room to run freely through the tens of millions of Americans who haven’t been vaccinated and millions more who have no access to vaccines in developing countries, has good odds of turning into something even more troublesome. “The next variant,” says Osterholm, “could be Delta on steroids.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Early in the pandemic, most experts closely studying COVID-19 mutations downplayed the notion that variants would cause such serious problems. “They don’t seem to make much of a difference,” said Richard Neher, an evolutionary biologist at Switzerland’s University of Basel, in August last year. “We probably only need to worry about it on a timescale of about five years.” Today he calls Delta and other COVID-19 variants “the pandemic within the pandemic.”
Delta, more than any other variant, has reset scientists’ understanding of how quickly a virus can evolve into devastating new forms. “All coronaviruses mutate, and we knew this one was mutating, too,” says Sharone Green, a physician and infectious disease researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “But we didn’t think the mutations would so strikingly affect transmissibility and possible evasion of immunity.”
It may seem surprising that scientists were caught off-guard by the rapid emergence of a more dangerous variant. But unlike most other pathogens, Eisen notes SARS-CoV-2 was largely unknown when it emerged. In the absence of data, scientists assumed it would follow other viruses in being relatively slow to spin off much more contagious mutations. Even more important, he adds, scientists underestimated the sheer scale the pandemic would eventually achieve—a critical factor, because the more people a virus infects, the more opportunities it has to develop significant mutations. “Having billions of people infected presents a breeding ground for variants unlike anything we’ve ever seen with these sorts of viruses,” he says.
SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t mutate particularly quickly, compared to many pathogens. Just as with most human and other cells, a mutation occurs in a virus when it replicates but fails to make a perfect copy of its genetic material. That imperfect copy is a mutant. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t have a lot of genetic material to scramble compared to most organisms—about 15 genes, versus about 3,000 genes in an E. coli bacterium, a run-of-the-mill stomach bug, and about 20,000 in a human cell. What’s more, COVID-19 has genetic checking mechanisms that make it reasonably adept at avoiding replication mistakes compared to most viruses.
But while COVID-19’s mutation rate is on the low side—about one mutation for every 10 replications, or around a fifth of the flu’s mutation rate and a tenth of HIV’s—COVID-19 takes advantage of a grim numbers game. A single person infected with COVID-19 might carry 10 billion copies of the virus, enough to produce billions of mutated viruses every day. What happens to all those mutations? Almost always the answer is: nothing. The genetic scrambling is random, with the result that virtually all mutations either have no effect whatsoever on the virus, or else do something that makes the virus less effective or even renders it entirely non-functional.
But once in a while—perhaps every million trillion times—a random mutation confers some potentially dangerous new characteristic. What’s more, much of what makes the virus dangerous has to do with a relatively small portion—the so-called spike proteins that protrude from its surface and enable the virus to latch onto and penetrate human cells. Most of the mutations we’ve seen so far represent tweaks to these spikes, which means it only takes a minimal change within any of the few viral genes that control the spikes to create a newly threatening mutation.
But even when a virus hits the jackpot with a mutation that sharpens its ability to wreak havoc, that doesn’t mean a dangerous new variant has emerged. To become a significant variant, a mutated virus has to out-replicate the far more numerous copies of the virus that already predominate in the population, and to do that it needs features that give it big advantages.
What specific features will help the mutation become a better replicator and spreader in the population is determined by the environment. For example, in the case of a respiratory virus like COVID-19, the ability to travel longer distances in the air, and to latch more firmly onto cells in the nasal passage, would likely make a new strain a better contender to become a widely spreading variant.
“A virus’ job is just to keep propagating,” says Green. “Any mutation that helps the virus survive and spread will make it more successful as a variant.”
All told, the chances that a virus in the population will produce a much more dangerous variant in the course of a year would normally be extremely low. But when billions of people are infected with billions of copies of a virus, all bets are off. Thanks to Delta’s infectiousness, and the huge number of people whose refusal or inability to get vaccinated leaves them primed to become living COVID-19 mutation labs, the conditions are ripe to produce yet more, potentially more dangerous, variants in the coming months.
“It’s going to be very difficult to stop it from happening with masks and social distancing at this point,” says Preeti Malani, a physician and infectious disease researcher and chief health officer at the University of Michigan. “Vaccines are the key, and vaccine hesitancy is the obstacle.”
The growing number of people with natural immunity, from having recovered from COVID-19, won’t save the day either, says Eric Vail, director of molecular pathology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “At best it’s now a third of the U.S. population with natural immunity, and that may be an overestimation,” he says. “It won’t be enough to guarantee that Delta will be the last big variant.”
Can It Beat the Vaccine?
The most likely way a new variant will plague us is the same way the U.K. variant did earlier this year, and Delta is now: by being more transmissible. At first glance, that seems a tall order, given that Delta is already one of the most transmissible viruses ever encountered, falling short only of the measles. Then again, notes Osterholm, scientists thought the original COVID-19 virus was a shockingly adept spreader, only to be surprised by how much more easily the U.K. variant spread, just to be caught off guard yet again with the rise of Delta, which is about five times more transmissible than the original.
There’s no reason to assume Delta represents any sort of ceiling in infectiousness. “I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if something else came along that’s even more transmissible,” says Vail. Such a super-spreading virus might burn through the unvaccinated, non-previously infected population so fast that hospitals couldn’t come close to coping.
Making that possibility more likely is the fact that sheer transmissibility, more than any other characteristic a virus might acquire through mutation, confers the greatest advantage on a variant when it comes to outcompeting other versions. “If a mutation comes up anywhere that’s more transmissible, it will be selected out to propagate,” says Green. That means a single ultra-transmissible mutation popping up anywhere in the world in a single infected person could be enough to unleash a fresh round of heightened global misery.
Might a new variant get around the vaccine? Delta appears to be able to infect the vaccinated more readily than previous variants, reducing the major vaccines’ effectiveness at preventing infection from about 95 percent to around 90 percent. (A recent Israeli study claimed the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness plunges to 39 percent, but experts caution that the finding is an outlier that may not hold up.)
Most of the COVID-19 vaccines work by getting human antibodies to target the spike proteins on the virus. But because mutations can slightly change the shape of the spike protein, they can potentially disguise it from some of those antibodies, thus weakening the vaccine’s effectiveness. The different variants have different combinations of mutations in the spike protein, and while so far none of those combinations seem to do a great job of disguising the spike protein enough to get around the vaccine, some seem able to chip away at its effectiveness. Delta has three mutations that together seem especially good at keeping the spikes under the antibodies’ radar, leading to the breakthrough infections.
Still, the vaccines remain highly effective in preventing Delta from causing severe illness leading to hospitalization or death, to judge by the fact that 99 percent of the patients struggling with COVID-19 in U.S. intensive-care units are unvaccinated.
COVID-19 may well continue to evolve into new, widely spreading variants, but there’s reason to think that none of them are likely to routinely blow past the immune defenses conferred by vaccine, and even the lesser natural-immunity defenses. One reason, notes Vail, is that the vast majority of COVID-19 virus in circulation is in unvaccinated people who weren’t previously infected, and mutations that can avoid immunity have no real advantage in that environment. An immune-evading variant would be more likely to thrive in a population of vaccinated or recovered people, where such a mutation would allow it to outcompete non-mutated viruses—but there just isn’t enough virus circulating in that population to allow for rapid mutation.
That’s how Delta emerged, notes Vail. “There were four variants that arose in India, and three of them had some ability to evade immunity,” he says. “The fourth one was Delta, which didn’t have as strong an evading mutation, and that’s the one that spread.”
Green points out a second reason being immune-evasive will be a huge challenge to COVID-19: The human immune system, once it’s activated by vaccination or infection, is more resilient and effective than even most studies indicate. That’s because studies tend to focus on how the virus fares against antibodies specifically developed by the body to fight the virus, as observed in test tubes. In real life, the body rolls out other weapons, including innate antibodies that target a broader array of pathogens, and T-cells that only kick in when an infection starts to take hold—both of which most lab studies can’t easily measure. More thorough studies are underway, says Green, and the results should aid in the development of booster shots that will help block Delta and possible future variants.
The mechanics of mutation also work in our favor when it comes to dodging future variants that cause more severe illness. It’s not that such mutations can’t or won’t spring up in the coming months. Rather, it’s that causing the infected to be extremely ill takes them out of circulation, so they can’t spread the more-sickening variant. That means the variant would be at a disadvantage to competing forms of the virus that leave most of the infected feeling well enough to walk around and transmit the infection.
A particularly dangerous scenario would be a variant that left people feeling well for a long time, and then lowered the boom later with severe illness. But few viruses—HIV being one exception—master that trick, and so far that doesn’t seem to be a threat from COVID-19, either.
Eisen warns that such delayed-illness scenarios can’t be ruled out, either. There are ways new variants could inflict worse damage without compromising their ability to spread. For example, a new variant might attack the brain, heart or other organs in more subtle, slower ways that leave victims walking around but that eventually take a large toll.
“We’ve already seen that different variants have differing abilities to enter some types of cells, and that might have an effect on the nervous system or lung function,” says Eisen. “It’s very concerning.”
Malani notes that there’s anecdotal evidence that more young people are getting severely ill with Delta than has been the case with previous variants. That uptick may just be due to higher numbers of young people getting infected, or it may indicate a troubling shift toward greater vulnerability among the younger. That wouldn’t be a first: The 1918 flu pandemic preferentially killed younger adults.
While increased infectiousness is the most likely path for a fierce post-Delta variant versus getting past vaccines or causing more severe illness, there’s a catch: Such traits aren’t mutually exclusive. Simply as a matter of chance, a mutation that confers increased transmissibility might also cause more damage to health or give the virus a better chance at slipping past the defenses conferred by a vaccine. Although these latter traits aren’t likely to be selected on their own, they could ride the coattails of a transmissibility-boosting mutation. “There’s nothing to stop them from happening at the same time,” says Eisen.
Fortunately, there’s a built-in impediment to what might otherwise be a potentially endless march toward ever-more-dangerous variants: The virus will at some point run out of ways to become nastier, thanks to the relatively simple structure of the spike protein, which can only be mutated in a few hundred different ways, most of which won’t make the virus more harmful. “There are only so many changes that can be made to the spike protein without making it non-functional,” says Vail. “I’d be cautious about saying that it can keep mutating indefinitely.”
So called “Democratic” U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has just announced he will not support HR1, the critical voting rights protection and expansion bill already passed by the House of Representatives. “I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes allowing people to protect the right to vote making it accessible making it fair and making it secure,” Manchin told ABC News’ Rachel Scott. Republicans in at least 11 states have passed into law voter suppression bills, some of which literally reduce the number of ballot boxes, and access to those boxes, dramatically. Manchin, who is more conservative than Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, voiced support for the far less comprehensive John Lewis Voting Rights Act, saying, “if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it’s something that can be done — it should be done.” “It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system,” he added, ignoring that the ones who destroyed confidence in the voting system are the Republicans. On Tuesday Republicans on the Senate Rules Committee deadlocked the vote for the For the People Act, legislation that not only would secure voter protections but address rampant Republican gerrymandering as well as regulate dangerous dark money in politics. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer now will need at least one Republican to support the For the People Act if it is to even get to the floor for a vote. Most political analysts say that given there is legislation in 48 states to suppress the vote, if Democrats don’t pass HR1, they will lose both the House and the Senate next year.
On the same day as the Trump administration announced the elimination of 3.4 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top owl expert formally objected to the decision in a document recently unearthed as part of ongoing litigation. The Jan. 15 memorandum, written by Oregon State Office Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dr. Paul Henson, found that “it is reasonable to conclude that [the reduction in critical habitat] will result in the extinction of the [northern spotted owl].” The Henson memo references other documents, as yet unreleased, indicating this was not the first warning of the dire consequences of the proposed rule. On Dec. 9, 2020, Dr. Henson likewise warned, “Most scientists (myself included) would conclude that such an outcome will, therefore, result in the eventual extinction of the listed subspecies.”
“We suspected that political favors, not science, guided the last-minute rulemaking change by the Trump administration,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “Now we know that it was made clear to the Trump administration that its planned cuts to northern spotted owl critical habitat would result in the owl’s extinction. They knew but didn’t care.”
“We now know what we suspected all along, which is that the Trump administration actively disregarded the best available science when making wildlife and land management decisions,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Seeing in writing that callous disregard for the continued existence of this iconic species is sobering, to say the least, and revolting at worst. This is a clear example, and unfortunately not the first, of the prior administration giving out gifts to political allies rather than following the law. Thankfully, experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stood up for the northern spotted owl, and WELC and our clients are in court to ensure that the best available science rules the day.”
The Henson memo was written in response to a separate memo, signed by then-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipworth, which outlined the legal and scientific justifications for the reduction in critical habitat. The Jan. 7, 2021 memorandum was reportedly not provided to Dr. Henson until the day before the formal rulemaking, making a more timely objection impossible.
This is not the first time that political appointees have personally inserted themselves into controversial decisions. In 2007, Julie MacDonald, then deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, was found to have manipulated decisions and agency science to benefit the Bush administration’s political agenda. The Interior Department under Interior Secs. Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt have also been subject to a number of high-profile ethics scandals. Given this history, after the Jan. 15 critical habitat rule, eight Western lawmakers requested a formal investigation as to whether any government official improperly “inserted themselves into the scientific process in order to achieve preferred policy outcomes….”
Timber harvesting in the Northwest has resulted in a widespread loss of spotted owl habitat across its range, which was a main reason for listing the species in 1990. Owls depend on habitat provided by the dense canopy of mature and old-growth forests; unfortunately, those forests are still a target for logging throughout the bird’s historic range. The northern spotted owl is already functionally extinct in its northernmost range, with only one recognized breeding pair left in British Columbia.
In response to a court order, in 1990 the Service listed the northern spotted owl as threatened, citing low and declining populations, limited and declining habitat, competition from barred owls, and other factors in the bird’s plight. Even after its listing, northern spotted owl populations have declined by 70%, and the rate of decline has increased.
Eureka Police department has been likened to a pit of vipers by some, Look back over the years of posts we have had about EPD and particularly around the murder of Tommy McClain and cover up that followed. We have always pointed out how corrupt and duplicitous this department has been since the ouster of reformist Chief Garr Neilson
Has anything really changed at EPD?
Here’s a very recent “updated” recruitment video starring “Dirty” Sanchez“, his Brother in Law “Go back to the reservation” Goodale and his BFF/Academy classmate Captain “get away with murder” Stephens. In the background you can hear current Chief Watson lauding the POP team. Come on Chief Watson it’s time to fully clean your infested house
There is much more to come out about this scandal! The Sacramento Bee reporter is in Eureka conducting more interviews as we write this.
Don’t forget, keep sending us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Joe Biden stands poised to sign one of the most substantial and popular pieces of spending legislation in half-a-century, following the Senate’s passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. The American Rescue Plan will not only provide $1,400 checks for most American families and extend jobless aid, the bill provides money for vaccine distribution and financial relief for cities, schools, and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
The sprawling legislation also represents the largest increase in safety net spending in a generation. It includes huge assistance for day care, broadens eligibility for Obamacare, helps renters, and will likely cut the U.S. poverty rate by one third this year.
Reporting on the six most important “takeaways” from the bill’s Senate passage this weekend, guess what USA Today ranked as the most significant detail about the American Rescue Plan? Answer: The fact that Biden wasn’t able to win over Republican backing for the wildly popular bill, which has 83 percent public support.
Chalking that up as a White House failure, USA Today stressed, “Biden campaigned on bipartisanship following four divisive years under Donald Trump. Yet he was not able to win over a single Senate Republican.” The paper made sure to penalize Biden: “The lack of bipartisan support shows that breaking through the gridlock isn’t as easy as Biden predicted as a candidate.”
Detailing the GOP’s deeply radical and dangerous tendencies is not a story the press wants to dwell on. That’s a key reason the media screwed up Covid relief coverage for the last twelves months, constantly presenting a false picture of legislative negotiations, told through the prism of the GOP.
USA Today didn’t include one sentence about how bizarre it was that every Republican member of the House and Senate stands opposed to a bill that 70 percent of Republican voters’ support. Instead, the press continues to depict the GOP’s obstruction as being normal and understandable. That way they can ding Biden for failing to make the bill “bipartisan.” (Beltway media Golden Rule: Democrats alone are responsible for creating bipartisanship.)
Republican behavior over Covid relief last weekend at times bordered on madness, as they tried to drown the process with sure-to-fail amendments. At one point, they even tried to strip out funds specifically targeted for poor women and children. But that was definitely not the dominant media narrative in recent days. The New York Times insisted it was Democrats who faced an “awkward episode” on late Friday when details over extending unemployment payments had to be ironed out after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) raised objections. The event “threatened to defect and derail” passage, the paper reported excitedly.
Like USA Today, the Times was oblivious to the idea that Republicans faced any awkwardness for unanimously objecting to an emergency spending bill that the vast majority of Americans support, and doing everything in the party’s power to slow down its passage, including the demand that the massive bill be read out loud in its entirety in the Senate, a move that wasted hours.
The Times waved off the GOP’s extreme behavior as nothing more than, “a minority united in opposition.” (i.e. Nothing to see here!)
Over the last twelve months, Republicans sabotaged all Covid relief negotiations, including Trump who routinely, and publicly, gave wildly contradictory statements about the need for assistance. Yet since last April, the press tagged Both Sides for failing to pass a relief package that was universally seen as crucial to the country’s economic survival. (“Capitol Hill’s failure to compromise” is hurting America, CNN emphasized.)
Fact: House Democrats in May passed a massive $3 trillion Covid relief package. To win over Republican support in the Senate, they then agreed to pass a smaller $2 trillion version. They were then ready to sign off on a further reduced $908 billion proposal. Republican leaders wouldn’t even agree to that, yet the press consistently blamed “Congress” for not being able to meet halfway and pass much-needed assistance.
CBS News wondered, “Why hasn’t Congress done more at this point?” The Congressional Covid failure represented “an institution gripped with paralysis,” the Times stressed, while the Washington Post claimed the lack of legislation was due to “bickering.”
Last summer, journalists claimed “Congress” was to blame for weekly $600 relief checks being cut off. Wrong — the payments were ended because Republicans forced them to end. In October, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer launched into a heated argument with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, demanding to know why she wouldn’t accept a White House relief proposal, even though Senate Republicans didn’t support it, which meant the White House proposal would never be voted on.
Twelve months ago, the Beltway press echoed GOP talking points by loudly claiming Democrats were “blocking” the first Covid relief bill, which was eventually signed into law under Trump. The Times stressed that Democrats “risked a political backlash,” by lobbying hard for additional unemployment aid, as well as more money for hospitals, healthcare workers, and local governments. (Democrats won, and improved the bill.) Today, there’s very little media coverage of Republicans “blocking” the recent Covid bill, or facing “political backlash.”
Republicans never supported a second Covid relief bill, yet the press spent the last year pretending otherwise — insisting that of course GOP leaders urgently wanted to aid struggling Americans, where there was little evidence that they did.
The country will be well served by the American Rescue Plan, but the slow-motion train wreck of Covid relief coverage represented a distressing failure of journalism.
President Joe Biden is posting the best inner-party approval numbers for any new U.S. president in the history of modern polling. Gallup last week pegged Biden’s approval among Democratic voters at a staggering 98 percent. Clearly overjoyed that Trump has left office, Democrats are giving Biden nearly universal, unblinking support at the start of his presidency, and rallying around his larger agenda in unprecedented numbers:
• 99 percent of Democrats support Biden’s executive order for wearing masks in federal buildings.
• 97 percent of “liberals” support the Covid relief bill that Biden is championing.
• 96 percent of Democrats support his response to the pandemic.
Biden’s approval is also sky-high among independent voters, with 61 percent supporting him. Just 29 percent of independents backed Trump as he left office last month. He never received more than 47 percent of their support during his four years in office.
In terms of historical perspective, Biden’s stunning 98 percent approval from his own party today has only been matched once before in American polling. That was when President George W. Bush received 98 and 99 percent support among Republicans in the days immediately following the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, eight months into his first term.
The reason Biden’s stratospheric support is so amazing, and why it has clear media implications, is that the Beltway press just spent four years inundating news consumers with Trump Voter stories based on the fact that Trump’s hold on the party was so strong, and his base was so loyal that the phenomena demanded nonstop attention. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans was a sign of a political superstar in the making, the press insisted.
Today, Biden’s approval rating from his own party is even higher than Trump’s was. When the Republican was inaugurated in January 2017, his GOP approval rating stood at 90 percent, eight points lower that Biden’s backing today among Democrats. So if the press used Trump’s 90 percent GOP approval rating as reason to marvel at his superstar status — his “iron grip” on the base — why isn’t there an avalanche of media coverage now about the historically popular Democrat? Why aren’t reporters fanning out through blue state diners collecting quotes from Biden fans, discussing how enthralled they are by the new president?
Months into Trump’s presidency a platoon of reporters regularly traveled to red state strongholds, eagerly collecting quotes (“I think he’s doing a great job”) from people who voted for Trump and who wanted to confirm how much they still support him. (“Hitting it out of the ballpark.”) The New York Times in particular typed up hosannas from Trump fans and presented their praise and vociferous defense of the president as news.
In the winter of 2017, the Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump (explaining their support “in their own words”), a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump fan who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. That approach set the tone for four years as journalists remained committed to telling, and retelling, the same tale: Republicans love Trump. That’s it. That was the whole story, but it was treated as breaking news for his entire term in office.
“Inside the Mystery of Donald Trump’s Stubbornly Loyal Political Base,” read a McClatchy Newspaper headline, from 2018. The piece marveled at his “uncanny connections with supporters.” Axios recently gushed, “No president in our lifetime has enjoyed a more mesmerizing, seemingly unbendable hold on his political base than Donald Trump.” And from U.S. News: “Trump’s Core Supporters Remain Loyal.”
The press is still writing about how popular Trump is with Republicans. “Trump’s Loyal Fans Pose Challenges for Republicans, Biden,” read a recent Associated Press headline.
As for the wildly popular Biden? He’s often treated as a sidebar by the press. Biden just became the first candidate in U.S. history to win 80 million votes. He did it during a pandemic, yet some states saw an astronomical voter turnout rate hovering at 80 percent. Biden received 34 million (!) more votes than Bill Clinton did in 1996, and 16 million more than Barack Obama received in 2012. Shouldn’t that, along with the unprecedented 98 percent party support he currently enjoys, make Biden a political phenomenon in the eyes of the press? Shouldn’t his “iron grip” on the Democratic Party, in the form of his stratospheric approval rating, be the topic of endless reporting and analysis?
Instead, the news has been shrugged off, as if it’s common for a president to have universal support from his party members. The press seems completely uninterested in the fact that Biden’s base is more excited about its presidency than Trump’s base ever was about his.