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A Deadly Finale

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If the stakes weren't so high, it would be amusing — the last weeks in office of a reality show president, the one who made a career of the callous catchphrase "you're fired," now wholly unable to accept the fact that he was just resoundingly fired from the most important job of his life, destined to go down in history with Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison and a small handful of others as the only presidents voted out of office after a single term. If the circumstances were different, it would be entertaining to watch his team of infomercial lawyers' lawsuits laughed out of courts across six states as the president bloviates about a fictional multi-state conspiracy involving Republicans and Democrats, state and county officials, as well as media outlets from MSNBC and the New York Times to Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, to deny him a second term despite his wild popularity, good looks and all that "winning."

Of course, this is the president of the United States we're talking about, as well as the sacred peaceful transition of power in the world's flagship democracy, and all the president's bluster and baseless fraud allegations have real consequences, so none of this is funny. Not at all. It's not funny to the millions of voters who apparently don't trust news outlets or judges or local elections officials or even the attorneys general that William Barr has given the authority to investigate voter fraud but have found none. No, these voters trust Trump — and have continued to trust him despite thousands of blatant lies spread over four years about everything from the innocuous (crowd size) to the deadly (COVID-19).

And lest you forget, some of these people are our neighbors: The president got more than 21,000 votes in Humboldt County and the local GOP is currently organizing a "stop the steal" rally for Saturday. The anger inside these folks — no matter how ill informed — is real and being fanned. Where does that end?

But in this perfect storm that is 2020, there's so much more at stake than just anger and resentment and a fractured nation with diminished world standing.

Contrary to the president's wild, baseless assurances, COVID-19 did not disappear on Nov. 4, nor did it fall off the front pages of this nation's newspapers. That's because it's real and it's deadly and it's surging in the leadership void of a president who simply could not care less about the governed. It's surging in deep red states like South Dakota and Wyoming, just as it's surging in blue states like Illinois and Wisconsin, and just as it's surging — thankfully to a lesser degree — in Humboldt County.

The nation is seeing close to 200,000 new cases confirmed daily, with reports of overwhelmed healthcare systems coming from areas both rural and urban. And it's only getting worse.

In the midst of this national emergency that's already seen more than 255,000 Americans killed, what's the president's national strategy? He doesn't have one. How is he messaging the urgency of the situation and the need to flatten the curve? He isn't. Instead, like the grifter he has always been, he's flooding his supporters' email accounts with urgent pleas to fund a legal defense to "stop the steal," never mind the fact that donations less than $8,000 instead go to paying down his campaign debt and the Republican National Committee.

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is building his team and his plan for a national COVID-19 response — one that surely could have rolled out last February had our current president chosen to lead rather than lie to the American people. But our president's petulant refusal to accept his loss — and his even more petulant refusal to share information with Biden's transition team — means the president-elect is going to be largely in the dark about many facets of the virus and what can be done to mitigate its spread until he takes office next year.

So here we are, bracing to see unprecedented suffering and death in all corners of the country over the coming months as the most powerful man in the world treats the U.S. presidency like some reality show, peddling new catchphrases to his own personal benefit while the country burns around him. History will look back harshly.

To our neighbors who have taken this heretic's word over all reason, science and decency, and who plan to stand in solidarity with his tantrum Saturday, know this: History will judge you harshly, too, though your neighbors may not wait. And whatever you choose to do Saturday, wear a mask. We say that because, unlike your president, we still care about you, our community and this nation.

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, o  thad@northcoastjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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