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Politics

The late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Washington (AFP) - Former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who rose from humble beginnings to lead the upper chamber during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has died aged 82.

"I am heartbroken to announce the passing of my husband," his wife, Landra, said in a statement released to US media, adding he died "peacefully... surrounded by our family."

Reid, who used his experience in Congress to help Obama steer his landmark Affordable Care Act through the Senate, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018.

Laconic and soft-spoken, Reid was born and raised in the mining town of Searchlight, Nevada on December 2, 1939, in a house with no hot water or indoor toilets.

A prize-fighter in his youth, he used his pugilistic instincts to work his way up to becoming one of the longest-serving majority leaders in the history of the US senate, and even called his memoir The Good Fight.

Current Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Reid was "one of the most amazing individuals I've ever met."

"He never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor & middle class," Schumer said on Twitter.

'Skill And Determination'

Despite his hardscrabble upbringing, he was elected to the Senate in 1986 and became the upper chamber's Democratic leader in the 2004 elections. He served as Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.

Reid often referred to his working class origins -- his father was a miner, his mother a laundress, and neither parent graduated from high school.

He hitchhiked 40 miles (65 kilometers) as a teenager to attend the nearest high school, and then graduated from Utah State University and put himself through George Washington University Law School by working nights as a member of the US Capitol police.

Quixotic, he once filibustered the Republicans by himself for nine hours, by reading from the history book he wrote about his hometown of Searchlight.

Reid was more conservative than most other Democrats in the Senate. A practicing Mormon, he was staunchly against abortion rights -- a stance that sometimes found him working at cross purposes with others in his Democratic caucus.

In lieu of a statement, Obama made public a letter he had written to Reid shortly before his death, in which he said: "I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Reid a "titan," describing him as "a leader of immense courage and ferocious conviction who worked tirelessly to achieve historic progress for the American people."

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said that Reid's rise from poverty to political power was a "quintessentially American story, and it took Harry's legendary toughness, bluntness, and tenacity to make it happen."

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As the Supreme Court reexamines the merits of Roe v Wade, it's incredibly ironic to see how the Republican Party still considers itself pro-life. The party's seemingly bizarre hostility towards single mothers, the working poor, and same-sex couples already totally invalidates their vociferous "pro-life" position. But once you factor in the pandemic, the party suddenly becomes a death cult spiraling out of control in its lust for anti-science misinformation and daft conspiracies. Republicans seem keen on espousing anything that opposes President Biden and Democrats, even if it proves deadly to their own≥

The notion that the GOP has become a death cult is easily supported by the graph below:

Image via Independent Media Institute


The graph shows a higher incidence of death among Republicans in the 2020 Presidential Election. But things look even bleaker when broken down by state.

States that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 have higher COVID-19 death rates than those that went for President Biden. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the average death rate from state to state was about the same along party lines before vaccines were available. But since Feb. 1, states that went for Trump averaged 116 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, which is 52% higher than the average of 77 deaths per 100,000 people in Biden states. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia--all won by Trump--had the worse per capita covid death rates.

What Does This All Mean And Why Would Republicans Want To Kill Off Their Base?

Even though nothing in this seemingly upside-down universe and toxic political landscape seems far-fetched or implausible anymore, it's difficult to fathom the Republican National Committee endorsing killing off its very own voting base as part of its 2022 midterms strategy. Complicating matters, however, and making all of this information even more difficult to digest is the fact that a large contingent of Trump supporters refuse the vaccine despite the fact that the former president is fully vaxxed and encourages his supporters to do so. In fact, former President Trump was just booed by supporters at an event with former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly. So is this a mystery wrapped in an enigma?

Wilful ignorance, discrediting sound and unbiased science, and the complete and utter worship of misinformation were all hallmarks of the Trump Administration. With every unhinged, conspiracy-driven tweet and fact-free egotastic rally, former President Trump made wearing ignorance with pride as fashionable as a silly red hat. After all, it was Trump who claimed the worsening of the virus was a "fake news media conspiracy", ignored and discredited the science while promoting unproven therapies (bleach, anyone?), mocked mask-wearing, and encouraged his supporters to violate lockdowns from the very beginning. Trump even got covid himself, unsurprisingly.

In short, it's really no wonder that all the recklessness, loony conspiracies, and willingness to politicize a virus that cares nothing about party affiliation resulted in his sheeplike adherents dying off at levels far higher than Democrats.