Thoughts from the Chair

We have now lived a full month of COVID-19 restrictions: no school for our students, no gatherings of friends and family, public meetings conducted from kitchen tables and family room couches.

The federal government, under the abject “leadership” of Donald Trump, has failed us. Thankfully, our governor and local leaders have risen to fill this leadership vacuum. Thank you, Governor Lamont! Thank you, First Selectman Pierog! Thank you, Town Administrator Josh Kelly and Bolton Public Schools Superintendent Kristin Heckt!

Make no mistake: the failures of the Trump administration are no “bug.” They are the main feature, the place you end up when you set out on the road to getting government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Yes, not all Republicans would admit to such an extreme ideology, but with few exceptions they have—at almost all levels of government—chosen to stand shoulder to shoulder with the most extreme ideologues of their party.

We must hold them accountable.

For the tens of thousands of Americans who have already died because Trump and his echo chamber labeled the virus a hoax and refused to adequately prepare. For the tens of thousands of Americans who may still die because of the administration’s incompetence and inaction and because of the seeming willingness of the far right to trade tens of thousands more deaths for short-term economic advantage.

We must hold them accountable.

For the lies. For the self-dealing and outright corruption. For the refusal to take responsibility for failures and misdeeds. For the appalling example they have set our children.

We must hold them accountable.

For their refusal to promote the public good and, worse, their efforts actively to sabotage it and to weaken Americans’ faith in one another. This failing is the most grievous, the most deserving of condemnation, because from it sprang all of the others.

In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln pleaded that the American form of government “not perish from the earth.” What form did that government take, according to the founder of the modern Republican Party? It was “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” By turning Americans against their government, modern-day Republicans have turned Americans against one another.

I ask you, as you spend your days social distancing, to imagine what sort of world you would like to see (do it! or others will do it for you) once we’ve passed through this long caesura. What should “normal” look like? Do you really want to return to a world where federal leaders shrug off responsibility, refuse the advice of experts, lie with impunity, and concern themselves only with the needs and desires of the wealthy and powerful?

Do you really want to return to a world where a strong safety net is unfurled only in times of the greatest crisis—that is, only when the interests of the rich and powerful are threatened? More to the point, why must the pursuit of money trump all other pursuits? The complaint the Founding Fathers lodged with King George III makes no mention of money; it does, however, single out “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as examples of the “unalienable rights” the colonists were being denied.

If the present moment has reminded me of anything, it is that while unalienable rights might be exercised individually, they are always guaranteed communally. We engage in social distancing so that all may continue to enjoy the right to life. Rights are never absolute. Always there is tension, the need for negotiation and compromise to ensure that my pursuit of one right doesn’t impinge upon your pursuit of another. Hence, politics.

Republicans, as Jamelle Bouie notes in a recent New York Times op-ed, are terrified that the present crisis will lead people to imagine a new normal, one where ordinary people deserve the same guarantees of security now being extended in these extraordinary times. The need for that security, Bouie writes, “is as true in normal times as it is under crisis. If something like a social democratic state is feasible under these [COVID-19] conditions, then it is absolutely possible when growth is high and unemployment is low.”

Under Trump, the federal government has failed most of America. COVID-19, however, has revealed yet again that America’s greatest strength is its ordinary citizens, our teachers and nurses, checkout clerks and delivery drivers, mail carriers and local government officials. In short, America’s greatest strength is you, my friends. Together, we should insist on a federal government that more closely resembles the values of community and caring we see around us on a daily basis. Together, we should hold accountable any who would continue to push for a government that benefits only the wealthy and powerful and refuses to be “for the people.”

—Christopher Davey, Chair

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