Opinion: ‘Don’t focus on Trump,’ you say. This is why you’re wrong

Rep. Paul Gosar walks down a hall with aides and reporters.
Rep. Paul Gosar leaves his office in Washington as the House prepares to vote on a resolution to censure him on Nov. 17.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and 2021 is the deadliest year on record for transgender people. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Allow me to make something clear right off the bat: I wish the ex-president would gracefully fade into political retirement as his predecessors did, letting us all focus on the current president’s ambitious economic agenda and the Republicans’ cogent, intellectually honest, wonkish objections (sarcasm alert). But he isn’t doing that. This isn’t to say he’s in the spotlight — after all, he’s off Facebook and Twitter, and his attempts to assert an internet presence turned out to be bluffs more than actual efforts to assemble the right-wing Silicon Valley that some of his followers wanted.

But as columnist Nicholas Goldberg warns, the 45th president indeed presents the biggest threat to this nation’s small-d democratic government, if not the best target for Democratic candidates right now. And his stranglehold over the GOP remains indisputable, as evidenced by House Republicans rallying around Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, arguably their most paranoid, white nationalist, Trumpist colleague (which is really saying something).


As you probably know by now, Gosar was officially censured by the House this week not for anything explicitly having to do with the ex-president, but his offense was in many ways quintessentially Trumpist: a death threat on Twitter directed at a progressive woman of color that was really just a joke, because the real threat is immigrants at the border, and take the man seriously but not literally and so on and so forth. Columnist Jean Guerrero has the sordid details and implications of Gosar’s tweet here, including the chilling observation that it “embodies the ugliness at the heart of the radicalized Republican Party, which cannot bring itself to condemn white male violence, but rather condones and even cultivates it.”

So we’re shocked at Gosar’s tweet and at the inability of almost every House Republican to condemn posting death threats online — and that’s a good thing. We should be shocked, and we should abandon our reflexive political cynicism and use our moral sense to declare that one side is right, and the other is dangerously wrong. But with this Trumpist Party, surely there are only graver offenses to come, ones that put the GOP beyond the bounds of what any decent person would find acceptable.

As when they quietly closed ranks behind a presidential nominee who bragged on tape about assaulting women. As when they barely winced after their leader couldn’t bring himself to say without qualification that neo-Nazis are bad. As when they maintained cult-like allegiance as the pandemic laid bare the lethality of the ex-president’s vanity and incompetence. As when they stymied a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of the Jan. 6 insurrection. And now, as they circle their wagons around Gosar.

So yeah, this is why we still have to talk about Donald flipping Trump.

Are you a unique individualist, just like every other American? The kind of prideful go-it-alone attitude causing many of us to shun vaccination and public health guidelines might actually betray a kind of conformity, write psychology professors Dominic J. Packer and Jay Van Bavel: “The autonomy people believe they are proving by refusing to conform to health protective behaviors is largely an illusion, itself a type of conformity. Independence and interdependence are not antagonistic, and we need to exercise both at the same time. It is our collective strength that allows for our individuality to flourish. There’s no clearer example of this fact than what we’re living through now.” L.A. Times

Glasgow was a failure. At a time when the world needed drastic action to curb climate change, the COP26 summit produced incremental progress. That’s failure, says The Times’ Editorial Board. On the op-ed page, Peter Kalmus offers this stark assessment: “For me, as a climate scientist, watching COP26 conclude without commitments to end carbon dioxide emissions was like watching a group of firefighters standing around squabbling in front of burning houses with children inside. Turn on the hoses! Save the children trapped inside! The houses in question? They are yours and mine.”

But Glasgow did produce reasons to hope. For starters, the participating nations addressed thorny issues including deforestation and methane emissions. Furthermore, China and the U.S. said they would commit to “enhanced climate actions,” including the phasing down of coal. Climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Susan Joy Hassol says this lays the foundation for all the hard work ahead: “The key aim of COP26 was to ‘keep 1.5C alive.’ Despite pessimism among many heading into Glasgow, there is still reason to believe that’s possible. But only if the hard work begins now. We need to hold leaders accountable for their pledges and see to it that plans are carried out. Our future depends on it.” L.A. Times

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Too many pregnant patients are refusing COVID-19 vaccination. They recite the facts about the risks of vaccination versus the risks of COVID-19 infection. They talk about the pregnant women who have died during the pandemic and those who endured intensive care, both outcomes that could have been avoided with vaccination. They share the harrowing details of emergency C-sections when an infected patient takes a turn for the worse. Still, OB/GYN physicians Alyssa Stephenson-Famy and Linda Eckert write, so many of their patients have wrongly decided that the vaccines pose an unacceptable risk to themselves and their babies, leading to preventable illnesses and tragedies. L.A. Times

How can kids learn without homework and rigid deadlines? Quite well, it turns out. Here’s a novel idea: Grade students based more on their learning and less on their homework completion or classroom compliance. The editorial board finds a lot to like in this: “Mastery-based learning gets students to think about their own progress and encourages them to take their skills as far as they can. If done right — and not as an excuse for lack of progress — it could reinvigorate classrooms and give students a sense of control over their own educational destiny.” L.A. Times

Finally, we’re taking a break next Saturday, so I’ll wish you a happy Thanksgiving now. You won’t find this newsletter in your inbox on Nov. 27, but we’ll be back on Dec. 4. Happy holidays.

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