Overall, more than a quarter of a million people have died. In the last week over a million people have tested positive. Vice President Mike Pence says vaccine distribution should begin in mid-December.
The pandemic response has become political and battles rage in the states. Democrat governors are imposing lockdown restrictions. But the Republican governors of red states like Texas and Florida have ruled out further lockdowns. Said the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ‘The Governor will not lockdown and hurt families who can’t afford to shelter in place for 6 weeks. Especially not for a virus that has a 99.8% survival rate.’ Last week the United States Supreme Court struck down New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s rules limiting the size of religious gatherings. The suit had been brought by local Catholic churches and Hasidic synagogues. In Michigan, Republicans in the state legislature have filed articles of impeachment against Democrat Governor Gretchen Wilson, saying her new lockdown rules violate the state constitution and the state supreme court, which has already struck down many of the governor’s edicts. Republicans in Ohio have filed articles of impeachment against Governor Mike Dewine, a Republican.
Democrat Governors across the country urged Americans to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday. For foreign readers, Thanksgiving is a quasi-religious holiday celebrating the Pilgrim’s giving of thanks to god after a year in the New World. Turkey is traditional, as is as many side dishes as one can squeeze on the dinner table. Andrew Cuomo told New Yorkers to stay home for Thanksgiving and then announced plans to celebrate with his extended family. California Governor Gavin Newsome imposed draconian rules for Thanksgiving, limiting the number of attendees, proscribing the kind of utensils used and mandating all gatherings must be held outside. Newsome later attended a dinner with lobbyists at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant, indoors and without a mask. San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined there the next night. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted, ‘Pass the potatoes, not COVID. … Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners,’ just before getting on a flight to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving with is daughter.
Here in New Jersey, we’re averaging 4,000 cases per day. Deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise, though not at last spring's rate. Stores were crowded with holiday shoppers as normal. So far store shelves remain stocked and there is little chance of a toilet paper shortage like we saw last spring.
Governor Phil Murphy refuses to rule out a complete lockdown, but also says that rumors of a coming lockdown are only rumors. While dining out on November 23rd Murphy and his family were accosted by cursing hecklers, their video went viral. The next day Murphy brushed off the incident, "I have thick skin, that doesn't impact me at all. I would say this though, our kids are not part of that." Last weekend Trump supporters gathered at Bedminster, just a few minutes from Trump National Golf Course, for their weekly rally. This observer has attended several of those rallies, though not this one. When the rally was over, dozens of attendees went to Governor Murphy’s home to protest his lockdown rules.
Meanwhile the post-election legal wrangling continues. Representing the president, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani alleges extensive nationwide voter fraud by the Democrats. Giuliani and his lawyers have testified before the Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona state legislatures and have taken their case to the airwaves. Giuliani is urging Republican controlled legislatures in contested states to choose their own slate of electors. This would be an extraordinary move, requiring extraordinary nerve on the part of Republican.
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has come under heavy fire from Trump and his supporters for his lukewarm support of the campaign’s effort. Therein lies the rift in the Republican party. Many elected officials seem reluctant to help Trump and prefer to move on. But the president’s supporters are not ready to do so and have held Stop the Steal rallies throughout the nation. Protesting is no small thing for Republicans who have jobs to go to, homes to maintain, children to drive to extracurricular activities. Republican state representatives and senators, many of whom were initially reluctant to entertain Trump’s fraud claims, have climbed aboard that bandwagon, nervous that they’ll face a pro-Trump primary challenger or indifferent GOP voters come election time. Millions of Trump supporters are fanatically loyal to the president but couldn’t care less about down ballot GOP races.
This is a huge problem for the GOP in Georgia where two runoff senate elections will be held on January 5th. Both races are rated toss-ups and some analysts argue the Democrats are slight favorites. Republican media personalities are trying to rally the faithful, pointing out the if the Democrats win both races the senate will be deadlocked at 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie vote. The Democrats would then have the power to eliminate the senate filibuster, whereby 60 senators are needed to move legislation to the floor for a vote. That would clear the way for a host of Democrat legislation, from The Green New Deal, to racial reparations, to Medicare for All. That is if Biden is sworn in on January 20th, which is still not a sure thing.