There was a lot going on this morning.
I mentioned yesterday that many Americans have difficulty grasping the full measure of our national failure to combat COVID. People think we’re behind without realizing we’re orders of magnitude behind. People come to think catastrophe feels normal without grasping that in most other countries with a similar set of tools to the United States things really are close to normal. In a similar way even the President’s most ardent opponents are unable to see the extremity of the behavior, the bizarreness, the consistent revolt against the demands of the office, the aggressive betrayals.
Much as abuse victims don’t fully grasp the extent of their victimization before escaping their abusers, there are aspects of this dark era we’ll only see clearly in retrospect.
The virus is obviously invisible — increasingly, we’re learning that it spreads through tiny particles in the air, the now-infamous “droplets.”
But it’s wild to think that we may have watched as some of those droplets made their way into the halls of Congress yesterday.
You’ve likely seen reports of new flare-ups or surges or outbreaks of COVID around the world in countries that appeared to have been ‘doing well’ – Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, et al. These are real outbreaks and the countries are, unsurprisingly, reacting swiftly to stamp them out. But how these stories are received in the United States painfully illustrates our collective inability to grasp the sheer magnitude of our failure with COVID.
Let me give you one example.
Here is a graph that provides important perspective on the current outbreaks in the South and Southwest compared to the COVID outbreak in the New York City metropolitan region in March and April.
This graph shows daily fatality numbers in New York, Florida, Texas and Arizona on a per capita basis (fatalities per million residents) expressed as a seven day moving average. These are statewide numbers for New York. But it’s overwhelmingly the New York City metropolitan area. As you can see, that outbreak still totally dwarfs what is currently happening in any of the other three states. Arizona is substantially worse than Texas or Florida. But the state’s apparent peak is still only slightly more than a quarter of the daily death toll New York saw in early April.
There are plenty of explanations out there for President Trump’s minor shift in coronavirus posturing in recent weeks. The President is suddenly encouraging mask-wearing, cancelling the in-person convention and giving new COVID-19 briefings. Maybe fellow GOPers’ messaging on masks had an impact. Maybe he didn’t want another Tulsa repeat. Or maybe, as the virus creeps into his inner administration circle, he’s taking it more seriously.
But according to new reporting in the Washington Post, it’s the same as it ever was — all about his reelection.
One of the most pressing questions about the COVID epidemic is why some places are doing so much better than others. This applies both globally and within the United States. One example that gets raised a lot is why is New York State doing so relatively well while states in the South and Southwest are being hit so hard?
We need to start the conversation saying a) We don’t completely know and B) There are clearly multiple factors. But let me share some thoughts with you on one part of this debate.
While I still cringe that I see people in New York City not wearing masks, the truth is mask wearing is near universal in New York City. My sense is that aggressive mitigation efforts, both pressed by state authorities and embraced by the population, is the main reason why New York has at least to date avoided a second wave of infection. The last time New York’s case positivity rate went over 2% was June 2nd.
A new Politico report tells the story of how President Trump apparently made the move to cancel the in-person convention event in Jacksonville, Florida next month.
But I find that hard to believe.
The Jacksonville GOP convention flop is a microcosm of the administration’s failed COVID response. Months ago Democratic leaders saw the writing on the wall – the impossibility of holding a mass, packed indoor event during a pandemic – and essentially cancelled the 2020 convention in favor of an online affair. The President and many others at his lead portrayed this and messaged it as an example of the Democratic girlyman-ism which makes it so critical to keep Trump and Republicans in power.
President Trump has a rather transparent event on his schedule today around 3:00 p.m. ET: An address on “Operation Legend: Combating Violent Crimes in American Cities.”
Fascinating update here from TPM Reader JW on the Portland situation and the structure of the city government itself …
This pertains to your “More from Portland #2“.
From TPM Reader AR on how Trump “decided to throw a hand grenade into my city so that he could do a test run on his reelection platform of looking tough by having federal riot police beat up my neighbors.”
I don’t have any searing insight into city government or high-level local politics as the previously published anonymous readers. Instead, I’d like to just briefly expand upon what reader NM wrote.
I’m a fairly progressive liberal. A Warren liberal, though, rather than a Bernie liberal. I work ten minutes from the Federal Courthouse. I live five minutes from the police union headquarters. If you live anywhere in inner Portland, you are effectively living “ten minutes” from everything. That’s just a byproduct of our intentionally dense city planning (stretching back decades). This proximity leads to a general awareness of most things that occurring here in any given moment.
From TPM Reader RK …
Like NM, I haven’t been to the protests (I’m a bit too old for this, having spent some of my youth canvasing for Tom Hayden on the other coast, running from John Mitchell and hanging out with the great Eqbal Ahmad [one of the Harrisburg 8]). But I have been following closely on various Twitter feeds from the marvelous journalists embedded with the resistance (Zane Sparling @PDXzane, Cory Elia @TheRealCoryElia, Everton Bailey Jr. @EvertonBailey, Donovan “It was the blurst of times” Farley @DonovanFarley, Lindsey Smith (she/her) @LindseyPSmith7, Tuck Woodstock @tuckwoodstock, Robert Evans (The Only Robert Evans) @IwriteOK . . . .). I agree with both your anonymous reader from 10 blocks out and with NM (there’s a long history of division and conflict in Portland, and the Feds have really screwed our chances for real police reform, at least in the short run). A couple of additional thoughts:
Pretty predictably the presence of federal forces in Portland and widespread news coverage of the same has triggered big increases in the size of the crowds protesting each night near the federal court house. I’ve had a hard time getting a clear read of the crowd size, other than thousands compared to hundreds or fewer little more than a week ago. But a dramatically larger group of people were out last night, with a heavy presence self-identified “moms” and “dads” joining.
TPM Reader NM checks in with his take from Portland …
For what it’s worth, here’s some perspective from a non-anarchist, protest-sympathizing, typical-liberal Portlander. I get out to a protest of some sort every couple of years, but I stand with the mellow hippy contingent, and I feel liberal guilt because I’ve only been to one BLM protest since George Floyd was killed. So that should give a sense of where I’m coming from on this.
First, you need to be aware of JoAnn Hardesty, a long time police reform activist and now the first black woman to be elected to our small and very oddly constituted city council. Earlier in her term council voted down her package of mild Police reforms, but since the protests began she has started to make some progress. The unprecedented wave of awareness and support in the city may give Hardesty a unique opportunity to do amazing things to transform policing in Portland. The real possibility of meaningful change, enacted now, not punted until after the election, raises the stakes and the urgency.
This TPM Reader who we’ll keep anon even for initials gives what I think is helpful context for the larger situation in Portland …
As a resident who lives 10 blocks from the conflict zone and has long involvement with some of the actors involved I share observations regarding contextual dimensions of current turmoil:
Recent confrontations in downtown Portland and intervention by federal agents capture our attention but obscure broader, extended tensions that shape immediate developments. There have been a series of fatal encounters between Portland police and our minority communities, and these overlie an array of violent responses to people who are mentally ill. These stretch over several years so the George Floyd murder and similar events came not as shocks but as a renewed provocation. This accounts for the persistence and commitment of many Portland protestors. Ironically Portland police and demonstrators have in many respects work out informal “rules of engagement”to reduce property damage, injuries, and arrests only to have federal forces provoke renewed violence, presumably in their effort to dominate the streets.
Quite a lot happened over the weekend in Portland, Oregon. I’ll likely have a few posts and TPM Reader accounts to share with you over the course of the day. But first a bit of overview. I’m no expert on Portland. And I’d want ask TPM Readers in the city and region to keep sending me their accounts to help me and our team deepen our understanding of the situation and on-going developments.
The following gives, I believe, a good overview of the basic dynamics of what’s happening and the latest events.
It remains important to understand that quite apart from all the Trump shenanigans, there really is an issue in Portland. There have been on-going protests in the city since the nationwide protests starting in late May. But as the protests have dissipated nationwide they’ve continued, albeit in smaller numbers, in Portland. As the protests in Portland have gotten smaller they’ve also become more militant. There’s a subset of the protestors who have repeatedly over the last six weeks resorted to low level violence (throwing objects at police), minor vandalism and even arson, all focused on this one federal court house complex.