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    How Covid Became a Red-State Crisis

    Less than a month ago President Biden promised a “summer of joy,” a return to normal life made possible by the rapid progress of vaccinations against Covid-19. Since then, however, vaccination has largely stalled — America, which had pulled ahead of many other advanced countries, has fallen behind. And the rise of the Delta variant has caused a surge in cases all too reminiscent of the repeated Covid waves of last year.That said, 2021 isn’t 2020 redux. As Aaron Carroll pointed out Tuesday in The Times, Covid is now a crisis for the unvaccinated. Risks for vaccinated Americans aren’t zero, but they’re vastly lower than for those who haven’t gotten a vaccine.What Carroll didn’t say, but is also true, is that Covid is now a crisis largely for red states. And it’s important to make that point both to understand where we are and as a reminder of the political roots of America’s pandemic failures.Just to be clear, I’m not saying that only Republicans are failing to get vaccinated. It’s true that there are stark differences in attitudes toward the vaccines, with one poll showing 47 percent of Republicans saying they are unlikely to get a shot, compared with only 6 percent of Democrats. It’s also true that if we compare U.S. counties, there’s a strong negative correlation between Donald Trump’s share of the 2020 vote and the current vaccination rate.That said, vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic Americans remain persistently lower than among the non-Hispanic white population, an indication that issues like lack of information and trust are also inhibiting our response.But simply looking at who remains unvaccinated misses what may soon become a crucial point: The danger from Covid’s resurgence depends not just on the number of cases nationwide but also on how concentrated those cases are geographically.To see why, it may help to remember all the talk about “flattening the curve” early in the pandemic.At that point effective vaccines seemed a distant prospect. This in turn made it seem likely that a large fraction of the population would eventually contract the virus whatever we did. Prevaccine, it seemed as if the only way to avoid long-run mass infection was the New Zealand strategy: a severe lockdown to reduce cases to a very low level, followed by a test-trace-isolate regime to quickly put a lid on any flare-ups. And it seemed all too clear that the U.S. lacked the political will to pursue such a strategy.Yet there was still good reason to impose social distancing rules and mask requirements. Even if most people would eventually get the virus, it was important that they not all get sick at once, because that would overload the health care system. This would cause many preventable deaths, not just from Covid-19 but also because other ailments couldn’t be treated if the hospitals, and especially intensive care units, were already full.This logic, by the way, was why claims that mask mandates and distancing guidelines were attacks on “freedom” were always nonsense. Do we think people should be free to drive drunk? No, not just because in so doing they endanger themselves, but even more because they endanger others. The same was true for refusing to wear masks last year — and for refusing to get vaccinated now.As it turned out, masks and social distancing were even better ideas than we realized: They bought time until the arrival of vaccines, so that a great majority of those who managed to avoid Covid in 2020, and have since been vaccinated, may never get it.But there are regions in America where large numbers of people have refused vaccination. Those regions appear to be approaching the point we feared in the early stages of the pandemic, with hospitalizations overwhelming the health care system. And the divide between places that are in crisis and those that aren’t is starkly political. New York has five Covid patients hospitalized per 100,000 people; Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis barred businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination, has 34.So, will Covid’s resurgence stop America’s much-awaited return to normalcy? In much of the country, no. Yes, vaccination has stalled far too soon even in blue states, and residents of those states should be a bit more cautious, for example by resuming mask-wearing when indoors (which many people in the Northeast never stopped). But so far it doesn’t look as if the Delta variant will prevent continuing recovery, social and economic.There are, however, places that really should put strong measures into effect — mask mandates for sure, and maybe even partial lockdowns — to buy time while they catch up on vaccinations.Unfortunately, these are precisely the places that will almost surely do no such thing. Missouri is experiencing one of the worst current Covid outbreaks, yet on Tuesday the St. Louis County Council voted to end a mask mandate introduced by the county executive.In any case, it’s crucial to understand that we aren’t facing a national crisis; we’re facing a red-state crisis, with nakedly political roots.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    America Has Too Many Elections

    This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment. Read more about this project in a note from Ezekiel Kweku, Opinion’s politics editor.

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    The ability of the American political system to deliver major policies on urgent issues is hampered by features of our institutions that we take for granted and rarely think about. Take the Constitution’s requirement that House members serve for only two-year terms.Just a few months into a new administration, as the country grapples with issues of economic recovery and renewal, Congress’s actions are being shaped not by the merits of policy alone but also by the looming midterm elections. It’s not just the fall 2022 election; many incumbents are also calculating how best to position themselves to fend off potential primary challenges.In nearly all other democracies, this is not normal.The two-year House term has profound consequences for how effectively American government can perform — and too many of them are negative. A longer, four-year term would facilitate Congress’s ability to once again effectively address major issues that Americans care most about.For several decades, party leaders in Congress have come largely to view the first year of a new administration as the narrow window in which to pass big initiatives. In a midterm election year, leaders resist making members in competitive districts take tough votes. In addition, much of “policymaking” discussion in Congress — particularly when control of the House is closely divided — is about parties’ jockeying to capture the House in the next midterms.The president’s party nearly always loses House seats in the midterm elections. Since 1934, this has happened in all but two midterms. Yet it cannot be the case that all administrations have governed so poorly they deserve immediate electoral punishment.So why does it happen so regularly? Presidential candidates can make vague appeals that allow voters to see whatever they prefer to see. But governing requires concrete choices, and those decisions inevitably alienate some voters. In addition, 21 months (Jan. 20 to early November of the next year) is too little time for voters to be able to judge the effects of new programs.One of the most difficult aspects of designing democratic institutions is how to give governments incentives to act for the long term rather than the short term. The two-year term for House members does exactly the opposite.In nearly all other democracies, parliaments are in power for four to five years. Political scientists view voting as primarily the voters’ retrospective judgment on how well a government has performed. Four to five years provides plausible time for that. But the comparison with U.S. House members is even starker than focusing on the two-year term alone. In most democracies, members of parliaments do not have to compete in primary elections; the parties decide which candidates to put up for office. But since the advent of the primary system in the early 20th century, members of Congress often have to face two elections every two years.Moreover, in most democracies, candidates do not have to fund-raise all the time to run; governments typically provide public financing to the political parties. The two-year term, combined with primary elections and the constant need to raise funds individually, generates exceptional turbulence and short-term focus in our politics.When the Constitution was being drafted, many framers and others strongly pressed the view, as mentioned in Federalist 53, “that where annual elections end, tyranny begins.” At the time, most states had annual elections. Elbridge Gerry insisted that “the people of New England will never give up the point of annual elections.” James Madison urged a three-year term, arguing that annual elections had produced too much “instability” in the states. In the initial vote, the Constitutional Convention approved a three-year term, but with four states objecting, the convention eventually compromised on two years. The Federalist Papers then had to devote a good deal of energy fending off the demand for annual elections.If you think American politics is not chaotic enough, imagine if the Constitution had adopted annual House elections.One argument for the two-year term is that it provides an important check against exceptionally bad or dangerous administrations. (Certainly those who felt that way about the Trump administration were glad to have the opportunity to give Democrats control of the House in 2018.) Other democracies have found a different way to provide a safeguard against this possibility, even as their governments normally have four to five years to govern before voters are asked to judge their performance at the polls. The mechanism is a vote of no confidence; if a majority of a parliament votes no confidence in the government, a new election takes place, or a new government is formed.As interim checks on government, midterm elections and possible votes of no confidence differ dramatically. Votes of no confidence, when successful, function as an exceptional check on governments. Midterm elections are a much cruder tool; in addition to the political turbulence they bring, they routinely punish virtually all administrations. This is not to advocate a vote of no confidence, which would have vast implications for American government, but to highlight that a two-year legislative term is far from the only means to provide an interim check on elected governments.It’s unrealistic under current political conditions, but through a constitutional amendment, a four-year term for members of the House, corresponding with presidential terms, could be established. Longer terms might well facilitate greater capacity to forge difficult, bipartisan bills in the House, with members not constantly facing primary electorates. With one-third of the Senate still up for election in midterms, voters would retain some means for expressing dissatisfaction with an administration. Giving the minority party in the House greater power to initiate hearings and other measures would be another way to provide more effective interim oversight of an administration.In discussions of the Constitution’s structural elements that we might well not adopt today, the two-year term for the House is rarely noticed. (Attention is usually focused on the Electoral College, the Senate or life tenure for federal judges.)Yet as other democracies demonstrate, there is nothing inherently democratic about a two-year term. We do not recognize how distorting it is that soon after a president is elected, our politics are upended by the political calculations and maneuvering required by always looming midterm elections and their primaries.Richard H. Pildes, a professor at New York University’s School of Law, is the author of the casebook “The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process” and the editor of “The Future of the Voting Rights Act.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.hed More

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    Confronting America’s Drive to Collective Amnesia

    It seems that there is a deep pent-up desire in America to avoid meaningful change at all cost. It is hard enough to confront issues honestly and forthrightly in the best of times. But it is nearly impossible to do so in an environment that prizes consensus over responsibility. The vocabulary of avoidance is everywhere and reaching epic proportions.

    Nowhere is this more obvious and dangerous than the way in which the vaccinated dance around the unvaccinated. If you are paying attention, there is simply no good excuse not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in America, with some very minor medically-sound exceptions. But instead of just saying that in a straightforward way and then demanding policies and programs that mandate vaccinations, we are acting like vaccinations are some prize for knocking over a stack of steel bottles at a carnival stand: “Step right up, little lady, a quick flick of the needle and you are on your way with this keepsake stuffed elephant. Bring that big guy along with you, and you win the daily double, the stuffed elephant and a genuine MAGA hat.”

    Biden’s Pirates of the Caribbean

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    It is time to stop begging ignorant people to do something smart, and selfish people to do something selfless. How about: “Step right up little lady and show me your vaccination certificate if you want to eat here. Same for you big guy.” Or: “Mom, your kid wants to play high school football, but he hasn’t turned in the required COVID vaccination certificate.” Or my personal favorite: “I would have invited you to join us, but you are not vaccinated, and adding someone so stupid and selfish to the group seemed like a bad idea that would only serve to validate your stupidity and selfishness.”

    Validating willful ignorance is never a good idea, but it is a really bad idea when doing so puts people at risk. Further, most of us usually try to avoid truly selfish people, so let’s double down now to contribute to the common good. For impact, we have to be willing to tell the ignorant and selfish what we are doing and why. We have to be willing to demand that our institutions meet this challenge as well. It is beyond time for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to aggressively mandate vaccinations wherever they are authorized to do so.

    Another useful component of the avoidance vocabulary is the word “colleague.” The word seems to imply someone with whom you work, a co-worker. It shouldn’t apply to the SOB in your midst who seeks to undo everything you are trying to do. So, stop using the word “colleague” for those you believe to be willfully ignorant, selfish, dangerous and/or just plain too stupid to get out of your way. This is particularly so in the public arena, where every moron seems to be somebody’s colleague during any discourse — “My colleagues are unable to see that making it harder for black people to vote is racist behavior.” They could either not be your “colleague” or not be “racist,” but they shouldn’t ever be both.

    Normal vs. New Normal

    How about “normal” and “new normal” to make things sound just great as we surge forward as a nation? Returning to “normal” only works if your “normal” was fine with you. It avoids the uncomfortable truth that many people don’t want to return to their “normal,” because it sucked. As for a “new normal,” it is hard to imagine a less precise way of confronting the critical need for change to actually achieve a more perfect union. It surely creates an easy path to avoiding any measured discussion about hunger, poverty, access to meaningful health care, access to quality education, rampant gun violence, and racial and social justice, among other difficult issues.

    So, when I hear people say they want a “new normal,” it sounds a lot to me like they are talking about some vision of a better world that will miraculously emerge if we hold hands and pray a lot. What is needed is not a “new normal” but a new and transformed America where eliminating poverty is more important than giving up a tax break for your vacation home, where health care isn’t rationed by insurance companies and their medical allies, where school buildings and the teachers in them provide the same resources to black children that are provided to white children, and no child, not a single one, goes to bed hungry in America.

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    That’s the America that I want to see and to which there is so much resistance. “Normal” and “new normal” are comfort food concepts to spare the already comfortable the discomfort of sacrifice for the common good.

    And then just when you think you might be getting at least some Americans to turn their attention to a better life on Earth for the community of man, along comes billionaire space “tourism” to further distract a population grasping for the most banal of distractions. If you can’t afford Disneyland, an RV or even a trip to Taco Bell, America’s wealthy can give you the illusion of tourism in space. It is truly heartening to hear the mega brats talk so lovingly of opening up space to the masses, while working so hard to avoid sharing their wealth with those same masses. And take note that this illusion is getting enough attention and gushing goodwill to give us another touchstone on the golden road to “normal.”

    While I await my economy center seat with Kim Kardashian on one side and Martha Stewart on the other, I am getting pumped up for the debates to come as schools are about to open and the parental handwringing season of rage is commencing. This is so much fun, because in America’s dysfunctional democracy school decisions are seen as local decisions, thereby ensuring that everything from masks to midriffs, from black books to white books, from defunding teachers to defunding cops and the like, will be on the agenda somewhere everyday beginning now.

    This will be fine theater that is inconsistent with informed dialogue and ensures further avoidance of confronting systemic issues of import. Optics again will win the day, and the symbolism of preserving norms will overwhelm the content of change. The real losers this time will be the kids who will have to watch their parents stuff social, political, economic and moral genies back into the bottles from which they have again emerged, while further polluting the minds of the same kids they say they are trying to save.

    It seems beyond hope that all of this avoidance of meaningful change and the vocabulary that enables that avoidance will engender an equal and opposite reaction. The reason is simple: Only the forgotten are seeking meaningful change while so many in the rest of the nation want nothing more than continued amnesia.

    *[A version of this article was co-published on the author’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. More

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    The Voter Fraud Fraud

    It was March 3, 2020, the day of the Democratic primary in Texas, and Hervis Rogers, a 62-year-old Black man, was intent on making his voice heard at the ballot box. He arrived at the polling place around 7 p.m. and joined the line. More

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    White House Offers Assistance After Haiti's President Is Assassinated

    Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Thursday offered U.S. assistance to Haiti in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and renewed American support for legislative and presidential elections that had been scheduled for September.Ms. Psaki did not say if the U.S. recognized Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, as the leader of the country, as a power struggle brewed between him and Ariel Henry, who had been appointed as prime minister by Mr. Moïse two days before his death.“We recognize the democratic institutions of Haiti, and we are going to continue to work with them directly,” Ms. Psaki said.Asked again about the power struggle in Haiti, Ms. Psaki suggested that the situation would be resolved with new elections.“We have been in touch with the acting prime minister, and we echo his call for calm,” Ms. Psaki said. “But I would again reiterate that’s one of the reasons we have called for elections this year, and we believe that they should proceed.”Opposition groups and protesters in Haiti had called for the elections to be canceled, citing violence and unrest in the country as well as a political crisis intensified by Mr. Moïse’s refusal to step down at the end of a five-year term in February.Ms. Psaki wasn’t asked about reports that at least one American citizen is among the six people detained in the assassination of Mr. Moïse. Haitian officials said another American may also be among the six, adding to their assertions that “foreigners” had been involved in the brazen attack.The Biden administration had publicly supported Mr. Moïse throughout the crisis — continuing the stance of the Trump administration on Haiti. In a statement, the State Department said that Mr. Moïse’s term of office could be extended to February 2022 — contradicting a ruling by Haiti’s judiciary branch.The Biden administration had also supported the Haitian president’s plans to hold elections and a constitutional referendum in September that would have centralized power in the presidency and allowed Mr. Moïse to seek an additional term in office.America has a long history of intervening in Haitian politics. The ruthless dictator François Duvalier enjoyed American support in the form of aid and military training. American support continued under the despotic rule of Mr. Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude. The Central Intelligence Agency funded far-right Haitian paramilitaries during a period of military rule in Haiti in the 1990s. The U.S. then invaded the country to overthrow the military government in 1994, and deployed marines to restore order after another coup in 2004. More

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    The Strange, Sad Death of America’s Political Imagination

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