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It’s Morning Again in Half of America

The Rising Sun (https://teachingamericanhistory.org)

“Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Ben Franklin uttered these words on September 17, 1787, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. He was looking at George Washington’s chair which was topped with half a sun and rays shining forth. Franklin, of course, was passing judgment on the work just completed in fashioning the very document in amended form that continues to constitute We the People to this very day.

Franklin’s comment was an expression of hope and optimism. He used the sun metaphor to exclaim his positive feelings about the Constitution. Franklin did not invent optimism in America, but he certainly exemplified it. As the oldest member of the Convention, he had the longest view of what had occurred in the time since even before the French and Indian War to the new beginning after the American Revolution.  Even in his old age, Franklin embraced the future with faith and confidence that became part of the American cultural heritage.

In 1932, one hundred forty-five years later, America was depressed. That old-fashioned optimism seemed obsolete in the face of the mounting challenges that had overwhelmed the country for several years. A new President was elected, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a name that has been in the news lately due to the new President today.

Happy Days Are Here Again (https://politicaldictionary.com)

Franklin Roosevelt did not draw on the sun metaphor of Franklin, Benjamin, at least not directly. But his campaign song did. “Happy Days Are Again” would become indelibly etched in the American cultural heritage as the Republican-written post-World War I song about returning veterans acquired a new meaning. It would be vigorously sung anew by Barbra Streisand among others as a clarion call to the positive outlook that is at the essence of the American Dream and way of life. And, yes, there is a shining sun.

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again.

Altogether shout it now
There’s no one who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again,

Your cares and troubles are gone
They’re be no more from now on
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again

Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again,

So long sad time, so long bad time
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times, cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again,

Altogether shout it now
There’s no one who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again,

Your cares and troubles are gone
They’re be no more from now on
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again

Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again,
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again

Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again.

(Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Jack Yellen / Milton Ager, lyrics © Wb Music Corp.)

Could this song be sung again today? Who would you choose to sing it?

It’s Morning Again in America (https://politicaldictionary.com)

In 1984, fifty-two years after Roosevelt and nearly two centuries after Franklin’s declaration, Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America” became the definitive successful presidential campaign ad. The phrase lives on usually without the “again,” a testament to the hope and optimism that continued to define this country. Part of American Exceptionalism has been this indestructible fully-embraced belief in a better tomorrow, in the best is yet come, in life is worth living. That deep-seated faith has drawn millions to this land. People who want a seat at the table in the room where it happens come to America and thrive here to fulfill dreams and live lives they could not at home.

Until recently. One President changed the song, altered the vision, and lost faith. The legacy of the one-term 45th President will include that the presidency was inaugurated and departed in carnage. It became with an inaugural description of America that resembled the landscape of Blade Runner or a Batman movie. It ended with an attempted insurrection to overthrow the government. January 6 will join December 7 and September 11 as a day of infamy in American history (and as April 12, 1861 has not). Instead of embracing America’s future, this loser sought an imagined American past, an America he knew when he was a child. It is a vision shared by tens of millions of Americans who no longer have the optimism and hope for the future expressed by Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan unless their Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his Name can restore it.

Our current President seeks to renew that faith and optimism, to lift us from the viral carnage of the previous President. On April 28, 2021, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Bidden drew on the American legacy while acknowledging that it is being tested at home and abroad.

Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us – created equal in the image of God – have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility? 

 Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people?

 Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart?

With these words, Biden harkened to the challenge faced by Roosevelt compounded by the ongoing effort of the previous President to tear America apart far beyond what Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis did. They sought to secede from the United States, not to overthrow the government and rule the entire country. This time the stakes are far higher.

America’s adversaries – the autocrats of the world – are betting it can’t.

They believe we are too full of anger and division and rage.

They look at the images of the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy.

Here President Biden draws on the sun imagery of Franklin. Without specifically saying so, he is addressing the claim Abraham Lincoln made in his annual address to Congress on December 1, 1862 about the United States as the last best hope on earth. Like Franklin, Biden envisions a rising sun but it won’t be easy.

They are wrong. And we have to prove them wrong.

We have to prove democracy still works.

That our government still works – and can deliver for the people.  ….

The autocrats will not win the future.

America will.

The future will belong to America.

Perhaps no one expected this President to join the ranks of his illustrious predecessors in boldly championing America’s future. Stirring oratory is not his political past. Yet for one moment and the right moment, he rose to the occasion to vigorously embrace the future that is stunning in its rejection of his predecessor’s carnage.

I stand here tonight before you in a new and vital hour in the life of our democracy and our nation.

And I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or more optimistic about America.

We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy — of pandemic and pain — and “We the People” did not flinch….

With light and hope, we summoned new strength and new resolve.

To position us to win the competition for the 21st Century.

On our way forward to a Union more perfect. More prosperous. More just.

As one people. One nation. One America.

It’s never been a good bet to bet against America.

And it still isn’t.

We are the United States of America.

There is nothing – nothing – beyond our capacity – nothing we can’t do – if we do it together.

Amen.

 

If Mike Pence Were President, How Many More Americans Would Be Alive Today?

Are we living in an alternate reality? (amazon.com)

If Mike Pence were President, how many more Americans would be alive today? The “what if” counterfactual has a special niche within historical thinking. It may be best known from science fiction for history scholars also engage in it. The time travel stories are a way to “fix” a wrong which had occurred. The result is a better timeline. In practice, such stories typically end with failure in that the past cannot be changed…or if it is changed, it is for the worse due to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Still, it can be fun to stretch one’s mind and consider a different future. In the very popular podcast Ben Franklin’s World about early American history, host Liz Covart ends her interviews with guest scholars with what she calls the “fun part” of the show: she asks the interviewee to comment on what if something had happened differently in the topic they are discussing. It is not unusual for the guest to conclude that the change proposed by Covart might have made a difference in the short run, but in long term, the greater momentum of history would have prevailed. I wonder.

During the Covid-19 crisis, BBC has been posing such questions to scholars. The most recent one (April 24) asks an eminent Cambridge classical scholar: “What if Alexander the Great had lived longer?”

In America, two counterfactuals loom large. First, suppose John Kennedy had not been assassinated, what would have happened specifically in Vietnam? Would Kennedy have followed the route Lyndon Johnson took? Less frequently is it asked, “Would the Civil Rights Bill have passed?”

The second one involves Abraham Lincoln. I grew up on the Twilight Zone episode Back There and Superboy’s attempt to prevent the assassination of Lincoln through time travel. Those efforts failed. If Lincoln had lived, sooner or later would the Confederacy have returned to power as in some ways it still is today? After all, after World War II, wasn’t the great hero whose words we keep hearing during the present crisis dumped from office in England?

Assassinations make for better “what ifs” than more general questions. An assassination may fail as it did with Ronald Reagan. So it is easy to contemplate a different scenario with Lincoln and Kennedy. The possibility of failed assassination attempt is very believable. Similarly, it is just as believable with Reagan to imagine a successful one. Very little needs to change for those moments to have ended up differently.

Bigger events are more problematical. For example, during the Covid-19 crisis, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth has been shown as a TV series on HBO. It is about an alternate America where Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. He then steers America towards a more accommodating relationship with Hitler than Roosevelt pursued. This counterfactual is less convincing. Here the change is not a matter of a bullet being moved a fraction of inch. Instead it requires a change in the American populace whereby such a person could have first become a viable national candidate and then triumph. That change moves the alternate reality to not totally farfetched but not quite believable either. It’s a really big change.

So it would be if the Senate had voted a President out of office and made Mike Pence the new President. Still, given all that has happened since February –– ONLY FEBRUARY? REMEMBER WHEN WHAT JOHN BOLTON WOULD SAY WAS IMPORTANT? THAT WAS IN FEBRUARY….OF THIS YEAR?! FEBRUARY! WAS IT REALLY ONLY FEBRUARY! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!?

If only there weren’t a Trumpican majority in the Senate, think how different America would be today.

If only Mitt Romney hadn’t been the one Republican in the Senate, think how different America would be today.

If only the Senate hadn’t gambled that what harm could the ignorant inept immature President do, think how different America would be today.

Did we lose that gamble or would the events have been the same if Mike Pence had become President then?

This time we have hard-based scientific evidence that the situation could have been different. We know that social distancing and lock-downs work. It is possible to examine the dates of when cities in the United States (like New York) and cities throughout the world commenced a lock down. The numbers aren’t hidden figures. They are visible in plain sight. We know that the earlier these actions were taken, the fewer deaths there would have been and would be.  The same applies to the states. It is possible to examine the numbers from the 50 states and observe how many lives would have been saved if a state had acted a day earlier, two days earlier, a week earlier, or two weeks earlier. We know with different national leadership fewer Americans would have died and the economy wouldn’t have collapsed as much.

Would Mike Pence have acted faster to implement what we know to be the successful way to curtail the spread of Covid-19?

Would Mike Pence have ignored all the warnings about the pending crisis?

Would Mike Pence have prevented a cruise ship from docking in order to keep the number of infections down in his country?

Would Mike Pence have claimed there were only 15 infected people and the number would soon be zero?

Would Mike Pence have said everything was under control?

Would Mike Pence have promoted hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer”?

Would Mike Pence have targeted Easter Sunday and then May 1 as dates when the country could be reopened?

Would Mike Pence have asserted his royal powers to do what he wants because the President calls the shots even if he is not responsible because the buck does not stop with him unless you are staying at one of his properties?

Would Mike Pence have conducted disorganized press conferences full of dishonesty and ignorance?

Would Mike Pence have used the press conferences as political rallies where he exults in insulting people?

Would Mike Pence have contradicted the scientific evidence about the possible return of Covid-19 in the fall or next year (assuming it ever disappears in the first place)?

Would Mike Pence have banished scientists who contradicted him or who have better ratings than he has? Ratings for honesty. Ratings for competence. Ratings for trustworthiness.

Would Mike Pence have suggested the ingestion of disinfectants should be investigated?

It is really not so difficult to imagine a different scenario being played out. The evidence is right there before us. We have the numbers. We have the multiple examples from the different cities, states, and countries. When the Unpresidential Library is built, an entire room will be dedicated to the failure of Donny Disinfectant to guide the ship of state through the turbulent wave of infection that washed over our country. Students of all ages and scholars, too, will debate the issue of the price America has paid because Mike Pence did not become President in February 2020. We the People will wonder what if we had had an adult in the White House instead of Donald Trump, the singularly most incompetent, inept, ignorant, and immature president in American history. How many more tens of thousands of Americans might be alive today if only Mike Pence had been President? On Election Day, we will have the opportunity to vote on whether we would have been off if Mike Pence had been President.

 

P.S. The previous post on Post-Trumpatic Stress Disorder: Is There A Cure? needs to be amended. If the Senate had voted to remove the President, would he have complied? Based on his words, he would have brought the matter to HIS Supreme Court to squash this hoax. Therefore additional requirements to prevent a re-occurrence of Trumpatic Stress Disorder are needed.

Congress shall have the authority to enforce subpoenas through the Sergeant at Arms seizing people who choose not to comply.

Congress shall have the authority to hold subpoenaed people in custody during their testimony.

Congress shall have the authority to indict people who are in violation of their subpoena or who fail to cooperate with the investigation.

Congress shall have authority over the Secret Service in cases where the President has been voted out of office by the Senate.