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Opinion newsletter: The demagogue rages. So does the pandemic

President Trump
President Trump speaks at his first campaign rally since March in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 27, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

This was one of those weeks where I look back at the wreckage and ask, “Did we really live through all that in seven days?” To wit: COVID-19 cases in California along with hospitalizations are on a disturbing upward trajectory, and both the president of the United States and the mayor of Los Angeles (yes, the guy who scolded hikers for clogging trails in the early days of the pandemic but on Friday announced a new phase of L.A.'s dining-out program) have sent disturbing signals that major action to slow the spread of the coronavirus is not on the table.

President Trump, of course, manages to remain loud and bellicose while simultaneously keeping his head in the sand. Worse than his inaction on COVID-19 is his malignant effort to dismantle one federal law that’s actually helping blunt the effects of the pandemic, probably for no other reason than the fact that it’s the signature accomplishment of his predecessor: the Affordable Care Act. Is there anything worse that the president can do right now than ask the Supreme Court to take away the health coverage of 20 million Americans?

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As Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jon Healey writes: “Not to put too fine a point on it, but in the middle of a pandemic the administration is demanding the elimination of a law that has extended coverage to roughly 20 million Americans, and that protects some 50 million Americans with preexisting conditions from being gouged or dropped by their insurers.”

As for the substance (if you can call it that) of Trump’s campaign rallies in Tulsa, Okla., and Phoenix, columnist Nicholas Goldberg warns that the president was going “full demagogue” in his effort to win another term. Goldberg’s characterization of Trump’s rambling ought to sound frighteningly familiar to anyone acquainted with mid-20th century history: “Trump’s words came from a playbook that has worked well in the past: They’re coming for you, his words implied. For your towns, your homes and your freedom. I can protect you.”

More on Trump’s rallies: Robin Abcarian says it’s the height of narcissism for the president to take credit for rising awareness of Juneteenth because his campaign had originally scheduled the rally for June 19. Jonah Goldberg calls out Jeff Sessions and other Republicans who debased themselves to praise the president for putting on an obviously reckless and unnecessary campaign event. In a letter to the editor, one reader calls the president’s rally a comedy show: “Oh stop it, you’re killing me. No seriously, you’re killing us.”

Kamala Harris being less than candid isn’t exactly new. California’s junior senator has done some fine work in Washington, but being cagey about precisely where she stands on difficult issues is kind of her thing. It’s what has allowed her admirers to project whatever positive positions and qualities they want onto her — for example, she can be both the tough former prosecutor and the crusader for criminal justice reform, even though her record is, well, complicated. So it isn’t surprising now to see her pretending not to be campaigning for Joe Biden’s VP pick while she is at the top of his list. The Atlantic

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Freeways are Los Angeles’ biggest monuments to racism and segregation, and if we’re serious about obliterating hateful relics from our public spaces, we should bulldoze them, writes Matthew Fleischer: “Poor communities of color continue to suffer most from the legacy of segregation and racially motivated freeway construction through their neighborhoods. The health outcomes in these areas are bleak. Pollution kills. Children directly exposed to freeway pollution have higher rates of asthma and unnatural cognitive decline. Segregation endures.” L.A. Times

She’s a Black woman who uses Nextdoor, and as a resident of overwhelmingly white Santa Monica, she tries to sort the site’s ugliness from its utility. Ralinda Harvey Smith writes: “I found a nanny share for my kids on Nextdoor. When I posted looking for a mechanic to replace my car headlight, a neighbor offered to change it free of charge. When the pandemic struck and disinfectant wipes were impossible to come by, a woman on Nextdoor DM’d me offering to leave some on her porch. Yet I’ve long seen remnants of racism across the site that have left me with a bad feeling not only about the app, but the city I love.” L.A. Times

In observance of the Fourth of July holiday, I will not be sending out a newsletter next week, so look for this weekly Opinion roundup again on Saturday, July 11. Have a safe and celebratory holiday!

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