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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Why Republicans Need Jan. 6 Commission More Than They Realize

It's been a given that Democrats would benefit from an official probe into the January 6 rampage on the Capitol and Republicans would not. The thinking goes that Democrats would use a commission report to bash Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections. It would certainly detail how former President Donald Trump incited his supporters to commit the outrage.

Where Republicans err is believing that without a report, Democrats won't have the ammo to bash them effectively. But the trauma of that day is already seared in the American brain.

Legislation passed by the House would establish a 10-member commission appointed equally by Democrats and Republicans. Without Republican input, the official story of January 6 will be told by historians, journalists and the courts.

That was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's argument. "It's not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress," he said.

He's missing something. The trials of those who ransacked the Capitol will hardly help the Republican cause. And with Trump and many in the party continuing to reject the outcome of the election, Republicans would lose another chance to turn around the public's perception that they've got a screw loose.

It is rare that a president's party adds seats in midterm elections, but Republicans made that happen in 2002 under George W. Bush. That's because they campaigned on the terror of 9/11. They didn't need fancy explanations, because the national calamity — jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center —was so visual and visceral.

The same can be said of the horrific imagery that emerged from January 6 as Trump supporters vandalized the Capitol and beat cops with flagpoles. It's all on video.

And so is the rally at the Ellipse, where Trump pushed the dangerous lie: "We will never give up. We will never concede. ... You don't concede when there's theft involved."

Back in 2002, fear of terrorism created a new group of voters, the so-called security moms, who rewarded Republicans in the midterms. Shortly after, former President Bill Clinton criticized his party for failing to address Americans' widespread anxiety. "We have to have a clear and strong national security stand," he said.

Two years later, Bush was reelected, despite growing dismay at his Iraq War. Clinton had already seen that coming. "When people are feeling insecure," he'd said in 2002, "they'd rather have someone who is strong and wrong rather than somebody who is weak and right."

The recent election showed that Trumpification has already cost the Republican Party female voters, now called suburban moms. Come the midterms, these women won't like pictures of furniture piled up at the House chamber doors and officers with guns drawn as the mob tried to enter.

Some Republicans open to a commission pushed for a December 31 deadline to wrap up its work. That would have provided very little time to do an adequate job, but, they reasoned, in getting it over with by year end, the results wouldn't be waved at their candidates right before the midterms.

Republicans can't possibly believe that Democrats won't be featuring that sickening day in their campaign ads, however old a commission report. Republicans would be better off if they kept their hands in telling the story. They could have used their cooperation to do what Clinton wanted Democrats to do in 2002: to reassure the public that the democracy will be defended.

If they don't want to help construct a respected explanation of the awful events of January 6, then fine. Democrats will be happy to do it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Demand Justice, But Stand Up For Law And Order Too

The conversation started on a long Uber ride. The driver, originally from Colombia, said he knows a lot of Colombians living in the U.S. "without papers." He argued that they are good people paying taxes and should be left alone. I responded that I believe they are good people paying taxes but our immigration laws should be respected.

He then said, to my surprise, "I kind of like Donald Trump." Why, I asked. He went on heatedly about the riots that followed the killing of George Floyd. He thought Trump was more serious about restoring order.

The public really dislikes civic chaos. Democrats, you need to address this more forthrightly.

It matters not that only 6 percent of the racial justice rallies from May through October of last year saw violence. Nor is the intention to downplay troubling cases of police brutality. And let's not forget that the most outrageous incident of savage lawlessness, the Jan. 6 rampage on the Capitol, was staged by the Republican right wing.

It's just that the right talks a big game on maintaining law and order while some on the left leave the impression that Democrats don't care so much. The liberal media tend to give these radical voices outsized attention, which the right-wing media happily scoops up.

Thus, we hear stupid calls to "Abolish ICE" (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the agency tasked with stopping cross-border crime and illegal entry. And there are demands to "defund police," which President Joe Biden and the vast majority of Democrats totally oppose.

I recently had dinner with progressive friends who were angry over the violent demonstrations in the liberal strongholds of Portland and Seattle. They complained that the rioters' destructive behavior — and the apparent toleration of it by cowardly local officials — was helping elect Republicans opposed to their progressive values. And they were right.

The recurring mayhem in Portland has become a sport for punks. Though they may invoke the usual woke causes, they are performers out for thuggish "fun." And though they often riff on "identity politics," the few who get arrested are almost all young and white.

Earlier this month, May Day demonstrations brought another fresh round of havoc to Portland. Buildings were damaged and windows smashed. Garbage piling in the streets prompted The Oregonian to rename the city "Dumptown."

Seattle is still recovering from the fallout of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, several blocks that city leaders astonishingly made off-limits to police last year. Early on, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan naively told CNN, "We could have the summer of love." Not quite. The area was tormented by rapes, assaults, burglaries, vandalism and shootings.

The Economist recently pointed to a study strongly suggesting that last year's civic disorder cost Democrats support in November. Biden's share of the vote, it noted, was lower in and around Kenosha, Wisconsin, than in similar places in the state. The apparent reason were the ugly riots that followed the Kenosha police shooting of a black man.

A poll of New York City voters has crime as the No. 1 issue. More than 60 percent of those responding said they wanted to raise the New York City Police Department's budget and hire more cops. The top-polling mayoral candidate is Eric Adams, a former police officer and the current Brooklyn borough president. When his chief rival, Andrew Yang, bashed the movement to defund police, Adams countered that he himself had bashed the movement first.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Mayor Eric Garcetti recently swatted down the noisy activists, saying, "If you want to abolish the police, you're talking to the wrong mayor."

This is how people in America's liberal cities feel. It's time the rest of America knew it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Why The 2022 Midterms Just Might Surprise Us

Tradition tells us that, come the midterms, the president's party loses seats in the House. If this tradition holds in 2022, that could be bad news for Democrats, whose House majority now stands at only nine seats.

But history of late doesn't seem to be commandeering the driver's seat. Right after Joe Biden turned Georgia blue, Politico confidently stated that to win the state's two Senate runoffs on January 5, "the Democratic Party will have to defy a long track record of failure in overtime elections." So everyone believed, Democrats included. "Everyone" was wrong.

Special elections tend to produce low turnout, and former president Donald Trump wasn't on the ballot to motivate Democrats to show up. But while Trump wasn't on the ballot, he was in voters' heads. Democrats took both seats.

And that was the day before Trump sent his goons on a rampage at the Capitol. Rather than outrightly condemning that violent attack on the democracy, Republicans are trying to downplay a horror Americans saw with their own eyes. Rather than evict the man who incited it from party leadership, Republicans have doubled down in demanding servile obedience to the toxic figure now walking the corridors at Mar-a-Lago.

As a result, Trump will still be in the voters' heads come November 8, 2022. And the party-turned-personality cult seems to be ignoring how unlovable most voters find its object of adoration. Or perhaps it doesn't know.

The National Republican Congressional Committee recently withheld internal polling showing weak Trump support in key swing districts. His unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher in these districts than his favorable ones. (Recall also that Trump left office with an approval rating below 40 percent, the lowest for a first-term president since Jimmy Carter.)

One imagines that as the 2022 election approaches, Republicans in swingable districts will say the party has moved beyond Trump. The evidence so far says otherwise.

A Gallup poll from February found that Americans' favorable opinion of the Republican Party had fallen to 37 percent, while 48 percent saw the Democratic Party in a positive light. It also reported that a record-high 63 percent of Republicans supported a third party, as opposed to 46 percent of Democrats. And though 68 percent of Republicans wanted Trump to remain party leader, only 47 percent of Republican-leaning independents — less than half — felt that way.

Meanwhile, the midterm tradition isn't unbreakable. In 2002, the party of then-President George W. Bush took another eight seats in the House and two in the Senate. Those elections took place about a year after the trauma of 9/11. The next midterms are scheduled about a year after another national trauma, the COVID-19 pandemic, the end of which President Joe Biden will have presided over.

In 2022, Democrats will be defending only seven House seats in districts Trump won. No Senate seat in a state that voted for Trump will be up for grabs. And the economy is expected to continue booming.

Republicans had a way out with Liz Cheney, a rock-ribbed conservative from Wyoming willing to condemn Trump for his efforts to cancel the will of the voters and for stoking the insurrection. But no, the cult turned Cheney into the enemy rather than a path for renewed respectability.

Some Republican operatives may hope that the voters will have relegated the Jan. 6 outrage to "the past." Good luck with that. A leadership that, six months after the election — four months after the riot — still won't concede that Trump lost will have a hard time rewriting that vivid history by next year. In any case, Trump won't let them. And neither will Democrats.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

What Do The Stunning Statistics That Emerged From 2020 Actually Mean?

We're a statistics-happy society. We obsess over the latest numbers on just about everything — birthrates, jobs and population changes — mining them for trends.

Some stats are really obscure, such as the shocking amount of electricity Bitcoin uses. The digital currency's complex computing process devours 143 terawatt-hours a year — more than the country of Norway! Can you believe?

Anyhow, the commonly quoted stats are dribbling in, but because they are being compared to those of the wildly abnormal pandemic year of 2020, what should we do with them? The answer may be to marvel at the dramatic shifts but with asterisks attached.

Take changes in state and city populations. California reported a net loss in population last year, the first time since 1900, when the state started counting. The effects of the pandemic, says Hans Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California, should put an asterisk on last year's shrinkage.

Two big reasons for the falloff were the large number of COVID-19 deaths and a sharp decline in international immigration. But as shots in Californian arms curb the disease and more normal immigration patterns return, the state should resume growing slowly, as it has in recent years, Johnson adds.

New York state also lost people last year. Some of it resulted from COVID lockdowns sending people out of its cities to less crowded parts of the country. As with California, however, more of it reflects a decline in foreign immigration, according to the Empire Center.

The country as a whole last year grew at its slowest pace since 1918 — by only 700,000 residents, or 0.2 percent. Some of that low count reflects deaths from COVID and a lower birthrate. The number of babies born in the U.S. hit a 4 million high in 2015 and has fallen every year since.

The pandemic may have accelerated the process. Last December, when babies conceived early in the health crisis would have been born, the U.S. birthrate posted its sharpest decline in history. Was a drop-off this severe a temporary phenomenon reflecting health and economic fears of those strange times? We will see.

Cities are reporting significant spikes in shootings. Experts have offered some pandemic-related explanations for that as well. Lost jobs, closed schools and suspended after-school activities have left vulnerable young people on the streets where violent youth gangs do their recruiting.

COVID knocked the economy on its rear, so a large jump to more normal levels of consumer spending is producing price numbers that just reflect a return to normal. Gasoline prices, for example, soared 50 percent in April compared with the same month of 2020. For perspective, though, they actually decreased 1.4 percent from March 2021.

Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal expect the economy to grow in the second quarter at an annual rate of 8.1 percent over the same time a year earlier. This would be the most torrid growth in about 40 years. Then again, consider the pathetic base we're starting at — the annus horribilis of 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of new COVID cases — almost 350,000 a week early this month — could drop to below 10,000 by August if vaccinations continue apace. The scourge seems to be ending, and barring some other astounding turn of events, the trend lines could start becoming less dramatic.

Clearly, 2021 is turning into a whole new ballgame. Making comparisons to the sick, sick year of 2020 may offer opportunities to exclaim over the biggest year-to-year surge or drop in this or that since the nation's founding. We can have fun with that, but, hey, remember the asterisks.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Liz Cheney Won’t Be Exiled To Political Wilderness

Liz Cheney's ouster from the House Republican leadership has prompted many observers to say that the Wyoming representative is headed to the "political wilderness." This assumes that the Republican Party is itself a civilization and not some decaying political entity about to be buried under the lava of its craziness.

The Donald Trump personality cult may have gotten its way for now, but Cheney's story is just beginning. The few sane Republicans left, Cheney among them, are now vowing a fight to remove the Trumpian scourge from their party — while others talk of abandoning the ship they see as too far gone and forming a third party.

One of the party's most serious conservatives, Cheney remains totally unrepentant about condemning former President Donald Trump's "big lie" that the election was stolen. She is said to have big plans to confront Trump head-on and march on the media to drive home her message. And, yes, she is running for reelection and willing to face the possibility of losing the Republican nomination to a Trumpian clone. That would be another big story starring her.

Trump's own acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, just said that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. That sort of truth-telling finds no resonance in the cultish depths, a place so cracked that Arizona Republicans have conspiracy theorists examining last year's ballots for traces of bamboo. That would be evidence, they say, that fake votes from Asia invaded Arizona on Election Day, thus tainting the final count. Good lord.

As the never-Trump conservative Tom Nichols lamented on The Bulwark Podcast, many of the Republicans endorsing Trump's fraudulent claims that he won the election are not stupid. As an example, Nichols said, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum "was perfectly capable of mimicking normal human behavior" before disgracing himself as an unprincipled promoter of Trump's lunacy.

"But," Nichols added, these Republicans are now "like addicts ... in a co-dependent relationship with other addicts where they need to just keep giving each other bigger and bigger hits of crazy." They're on a hamster wheel.

A group of over 100 Republicans have joined to demand that the party take Trump off its altar and threaten to form a third party if it doesn't. These prominent Republican former officials include governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, and state party chairmen.

Cheney echoed their call for a patriotic defense of the democracy. "Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar," she said in a fiery address on the House floor. "I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy."

Republican Barbara Comstock, former congresswoman from Virginia, defended Cheney thusly: "I think Liz understands it's not worth selling your soul for No. 3 in the minority. She's just not going to do that."

Trump says that "Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being" and "has no personality." The Trump base swimming in the muck of post-truth nihilism may nod in a servile manner, but then there's most of the country.

Cheney is doing more than not selling her soul. Republicans may expel her from the position of House Republican conference chair, but in terms of national importance, she's going nowhere but up.

Liz Cheney is not headed for the political wilderness. She is destined for the history books. Her politics are not mine, but she's on the road to becoming a towering American political figure. One could say she's already arrived.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Biden’s Ambitious Agenda Is More Truman Than FDR

Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar plans to revive the economy, fix America's infrastructure and ease poverty have spawned comparisons between him and Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the 100-day mark of the Biden presidency, David Gergen, who has advised presidents of both parties, wrote, "Biden is off to an excellent start — arguably, one of the best since Roosevelt."

And Biden hasn't discouraged such talk. He now has a giant portrait of FDR in the Oval Office, right across from the Resolute Desk.

But while there may be likenesses between those two presidents' agendas, the less glamorous Harry Truman also deserves inspirational face time. Truman and Biden both came from modest small-town origins. Unlike the aristocratic Roosevelt, they knew firsthand about middle-class striving.

It's not surprising, then, that the Biden agenda seeks to recreate the Golden Age for the American middle class — the postwar years of 1947 through 1973, when productivity doubled but so did the median compensation of full-time workers. Truman was instrumental in launching it.

Truman understood that the well-being of workers depended on factors beyond the magic of the market. Widespread prosperity needed a third player in addition to business and labor. That player was a government willing to impose social norms through tax policy, the minimum wage, and protection for organized labor.

As World War II was ending, impatient workers launched destabilizing strikes. And so, in November 1945, Truman held a conference to create a new labor policy through which postwar abundance would be broadly shared. The participants came from business, the labor movement and — at Truman's insistence — government.

The business community came eagerly on board. As Eric Johnston, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the conference: "Labor unions are woven into our economic pattern of American life, and collective bargaining is a part of the democratic process. I say recognize this fact not only with our lips but with our hearts."

Truman proposed a national health care plan, which didn't happen, and higher taxes on the top incomes, which did. Biden's agenda both strengthens the Affordable Care Act and seeks to raise taxes on the top incomes.

Unlike Roosevelt's New Deal, Truman's Fair Deal took a strong stance on civil rights. New Deal programs broadly discriminated against Blacks. The National Recovery Administration, for example, gave preferences to white job seekers and allowed lower pay scales for Blacks.

Roosevelt appointed a few Blacks to token jobs. Truman put nonwhites in positions of real power, notably William Henry Hastie, the first African American federal appellate judge.

Biden just announced a racially diverse slate of judicial nominees. It includes sending Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered a springboard for the Supreme Court.

Biden is pursuing racial equity in some controversial ways. The COVID-19 relief bill includes a $5 billion fund for minority farmers only. And the infrastructure package says that 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy must go to "disadvantaged communities." How that would work is unclear.

The offshoring of American jobs and technological change of course accelerated workers' loss of economic security — and helped end the Golden Age. But the ditching of norms that only government could enforce also played a part.

Ronald Reagan cut taxes on the rich. Then George W. Bush did, and then Donald Trump. The federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. In 1973, it was equivalent to $9.81 in today's dollars.

Biden seems to be summoning his inner Harry Truman and bringing back the third player. In assuring a stable and happy middle class, the market has a job to do, but so does government.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

What We Will (Surprisingly) Miss About Masks

When told to wear face masks two COVID-plagued winters ago, we thought: "Can't wait until this is over and we no longer have to wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose. It's ugly. It interferes with breathing. It muffles voices and makes some conversations hard to follow."

But wear face masks we did. And responsible people still do — without voicing complaint — in establishments that require them and in other social gatherings where they are recommended. Members of my pod, even if they've been fully vaccinated, stick to the program if only to avoid making trouble for workers and others tasked with enforcing the rules.

But now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lightening up on the number of situations in which the public should wear face masks, our conversations have moved on. The CDC most recently advised that fully vaccinated people no longer need masks outdoors unless they are in a crowd. We are imagining a time when they might not be necessary at all. And this has led us to muse about the things we will actually miss when we no longer feel obliged to wear them.

For starters, we will miss how they helped us avoid other diseases spread by human contact. I haven't caught a single cold or suffered a stomach virus since the COVID prevention rules went into effect in March 2020.

Evidence mounts that masks — plus hand-washing, plus social distancing — have slashed the flu death toll. In the 2019-2020 flu season, the U.S. saw 24,000 to 62,000 deaths from influenza. By contrast, the number of flu deaths this time was 500 as of April 1, and the season will be over at the end of the month. Thus, there may be a case for continuing to wear face masks in densely packed crowds, say, in airports or on public transportation.

On the lighter side, pod members spoke about how having their mouths covered freed them from intense worry about their breath or food stuck in their teeth. Another advantage of masks is that in cold climates, they keep the bottom half of the face warm. And on the street, they bestowed a pleasant veil of privacy and even mystery that many will miss.

Then there was lipstick. What was the point of lipstick if no one would see it behind a mask? We who wore it will probably wear it again.

In the pre-COVID days, some attention was paid to an economic indicator dubbed the "lipstick index." After the downturn following 9/11, Leonard Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder makeup company, made this prediction: As financially strapped consumers avoided big purchases, such as cars, they would instead reach for small luxuries such as lipstick. In other words, when the economy goes down, lipstick sales go up.

Of course, masks made the lipstick index irrelevant, not that it was taken very seriously before. Lipstick sales plunged despite the early COVID-sick economy. Interestingly, sales of skin care and body care products, particularly body creams, remained strong.

Starting in March, makeup sales saw something of an uptick but still haven't recovered from the falloff early in the pandemic, according to market research company NPD. And though online sales remain strong, brick-and-mortar stores are now doing a better business in skin care and hair products, a reflection of more people leaving home to shop. As more faces come out in public, cosmetic counters may get very busy.

What a strange time this has been. It's been strange for so long that going back to what was normal may itself feel strange. And as we think about it, some of it will be missed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Henry Ford Would Support Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, he had a problem. There were almost no paved roads in America. To sell his product to the masses, he needed good roads.

No one would ever deny his place among titans of American capitalism, but Ford was not shy about urging the government to supply the infrastructure essential to his business. And it did.

The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 spent $2.1 billion (in today's dollars) to help states build modern roads. It survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge claiming that the federal government should not pay for such things.

Besides, cars were a novelty at the time, and many asked, "Why even bother with them when horses can do the job on muddy paths?"

To which Ford is said to have quipped, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Fast-forward to the unfounded criticism that no more than 7 percent of President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan goes to real infrastructure, defined as roads, bridges and ports. It comes from Russell Vought, director of former President Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget.

Vought is, to put it politely, full of it. We're all for replacing worn-out bridges, but expanding access to high-speed broadband and strengthening the electric grid are infrastructure projects in the year 2021. And so, we would be helping our carmakers and truck-makers transition to electric vehicles.

That's where the world is going. Britain will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks in 2030, and California will in 2035. Norway, despite its huge oil and gas reserves, will do it in 2025. Strong domestic demand for this technology would grow the U.S. EV car industry, which has been falling behind the rest of the industrial world in sales.

If electric vehicles are the future, China has been grabbing it. China is the world's largest market for EVs, accounting for 41 percent of global sales last year. Europe held 42 percent of world sales. And the United States? A paltry 2.4 percent.

A major theme of foreign policy prominent in the Biden infrastructure plan is helping America better compete with China in this area and elsewhere.

"We are one of the few major economies whose public investments in research and development have declined as a percent of GDP in the past 25 years," the White House fact sheet complains. China, meanwhile, now ranks No. 2 in the world in R&D spending.

And so, what is Biden's infrastructure plan doing about electric vehicles? Importantly, it addresses the big reason more Americans haven't been buying EVs in huge numbers: their understandable concern that they won't find places to charge their batteries. That's why it calls for building 500,000 charging stations by 2030. (There are currently only 100,000.)

The plan also includes incentives for buying electric vehicles. China offers such subsidies to its people, as does Europe. Note that the Trump administration tried to get rid of them altogether.

It also fought to kill California's more stringent fuel economy standards, which act to spur EV sales. When Ford joined four automakers in making a deal with California, Trump revenge-tweeted that "Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants," because they refused to fight the state's regulators. He also falsely claimed that EVs are less safe.

Electric vehicle charging stations are as essential to the prosperity of today's U.S. automakers as paved roads were to Henry Ford in 1908. Can anyone doubt that if Ford were with us today, he'd be on the talk shows banging the drums for Biden's plan to support his industry?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Vaccine Passports: A Culture War We Should Cancel Immediately

"We are not supporting doing any vaccine passports in the state of Florida," declared Gov. Ron DeSantis. "It's completely unacceptable," he said, for either government or the private sector to require showing proof of vaccination against COVID-19 "to just simply participate in normal society."

Actually, Florida requires proof of vaccination for any child attending school — and the list of mandatory immunizations, available on the state website, is not short. (The Florida Certification of Immunization, DH Form 680, documents a child's vaccination history.)

But why pass up an opportunity to play culture war when you might run for president as the Republican candidate in 2024? After all, President Biden's administration is working with businesses to come up with a standard vaccine certification document, which makes it extra easy to mischaracterize what this is all about, especially on the fevered right. I will spare you the comparisons to Nazi Germany already being aired on Fox News.

The idea of a document certifying that holders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus originated in the private sector. Airlines, restaurants and other businesses hurt by the loss of virus-fearing customers see the document as a way of reassuring the public that the person in the next seat very likely won't pass on a dreaded illness.

The European Union plans a Green Digital Certificate that would let those who've been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the virus travel anywhere in the region. Israel has created the Green Pass, which can be carried on a smartphone, confirming that someone has been fully vaccinated. It's required for indoor dining, going to a gym or attending the theater.

As for here, the Biden administration says there will be no federal database showing who has gotten the shots. And no one will be forced to get vaccinated. The police state has not arrived.

But let's address some of the frequently voiced objections to some kind of vaccine certification.

— Suppose you left yours at home: Well, suppose you get pulled over for speeding and you've left your driver's license at home. Suppose you try to enter any country — or fly back to this one from abroad — without a passport. It's best that you remember to carry these documents.

— Businesses should not be able to force employees to show proof of vaccination: Why not if they can already insist that employees wear face masks and dress appropriately for the job?

— What about variants that a vaccine might not stop?: In other words, suppose you're one of the tiny percentage of people who get the virus despite being immunized. I know I'd rather take a very small chance of getting the virus than the far bigger chance it would be if the unvaccinated were allowed to crowd me at a bar.

— Disadvantaged communities would be most adversely affected by a mandate: Disadvantaged communities are most adversely affected by the virus. The remedy is to ensure good access to the vaccines everywhere.

The beautiful day may come when America has achieved herd immunity to COVID and the need for this kind of documentation is lessened. Bear in mind, though, that travelers to parts of Africa still must show a card indicating they've been vaccinated against yellow fever. Meanwhile, Italy, India, and other countries are still dealing with high rates of infection.

Finally, the question arises of whether a bar, stadium, or convention center should have the right to deny service to the unvaccinated. Of course they should. If restaurants can post a sign reading, "No shirt. No Shoes. No Service," there's no reason why they can't say, "No Shots. No Service."

Just like the public schools in Florida — and most everywhere else.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Americans Shouldn’t Have To Live In Foxholes

In the 14 days after the death of George Floyd, 19 people across the country died in violent protests. Not all the deaths were gun-related, and some of the dead were engaged in criminal activity. Nonetheless, the nation responded with shock and talked of little else in the weeks that followed.

This week, a single gunman killed more than half that number in one hour at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. All 10 victims, we assume, were innocents.

I'm not particularly interested in the "what's his name" or the "why he did it." (The ritual still includes examining a psychopath's grievances.)

There have been at least 246 mass shootings in the U.S. since January 2009. We know the routine well.

It took no time for the partisan-divide reactions to emerge. Most Democrats said we must tighten the gun laws. Most Republicans who bothered to respond offered only prayers. And the National Rifle Association, as is usually the case after these outrages, went into temporary hiding.

But the public is not divided. Two surveys from 2019 show huge majorities, Republicans as well as Democrats, supporting stricter gun laws. Gun owners want them, too.

Twenty-two dead at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Twenty-six fatally shot at a rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twelve gunned down at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Seventeen students and educators killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Then there were really big ones: the 49 shot to death at the Pulse night club in Orlando and that astounding killing spree in Las Vegas, where a man perched in a hotel window picked off 58 lives at a music festival below.

For unspeakable horror, nothing matched 20 grade school children getting gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut. The next year, bills banning assault weapons and expanding background checks for gun buyers were introduced in the Senate and defeated.

If that didn't bring change, can change happen? Yes.

Just as the coronavirus has kept many Americans away from certain public places, so, apparently, has fear of getting shot, according to the American Psychological Association. Nearly a third of adults "feel they cannot go anywhere without worrying about being a victim of a mass shooting."

A foxhole is a hole in the ground in which soldiers shelter against enemy fire. Americans are now seeking similar protection by avoiding crowds. At some point, they will rebel against these restrictions on their movements. And they'll do that by voting, by electing officials who will stop mentally ill people from buying assault weapons with magazines that hold 15 rounds of ammunition.

The city of Boulder approved a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in 2018. A district court only days ago struck it down, citing a state law that forbids cities and counties from regulating firearms more tightly than the state does. Voters can replace the state legislators who passed this law.

On the national level, Colorado voters might want to replace their own gun-twirling exhibitionist, Lauren Boebert. Elected last year by Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, Boebert glommed on to the nation's attention by throwing a tantrum when asked to go through a metal detector at the House of Representatives. That was after she loudly encouraged the mob that rampaged through the Capitol.

Democratic candidates are already lining up to take her on in 2024. They include Kerry Donovan, a prominent state senator, and Gregg Smith, a Marine and former CEO of Frontier Services Group.

These mass shootings don't have to continue with the ferocity and the numbers we've come to know — but only if the voters will it. They may be ready. Americans should not have to live in foxholes.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

To Reform Immigration, Biden Must Show Resolve At The Border

Undocumented immigrants have been surging to the U.S. border, some wearing T-shirts with the Biden campaign logo and the words "Please let us in!" What gave them the idea that they could just show up and come on in? President Joe Biden did.

Oh, Biden didn't exactly say that. He said to not come now, as we rebuild the immigration system. But that isn't the same as saying they can't come illegally later. And since it implies that later on, whoever wants to come can, the migrants can reasonably assume that an arrival now without papers will eventually be overlooked.

Adding to that impression, Biden made a show on his first day in office of ditching five of the Trump administration's immigration policies. Sure enough, human smugglers began telling desperate Central Americans that Biden opened the door and the smugglers will get them through it for $6,000.

What did Biden think would happen? Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection warned the incoming administration of building pressure at the southern border. Fed by worsening poverty and gang violence in Central America and an improving U.S. economy, the rush had already begun in Donald Trump's last months.

It took until this weekend for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to firmly say the border of the United States "is closed." Roberta Jacobson, White House coordinator for the southern border, got still more specific. "The message isn't 'Don't come now,'" she said. "It's 'Don't come in this way, ever.'"

The earlier sloppy rhetoric handed Republicans a political bomb they are throwing at Democrats. Not that they've entirely earned the right. Trump's card trick was to hurl insults at undocumented immigrants while looking the other way when American businesses employed them as low-cost labor.

When Trump was asked whether he supported a national requirement to use E-Verify — a database that would confirm a new hire's right to work in this country — he said no. Asked why not, he used the bull argument that farmers don't have computers. Turning off the job magnet is the only way to cut the flow of illegal workers.

That is also missing from Biden's proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. He would confer legal status to most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. He would offer $4 billion in aid aimed at making life in some Central American countries less terrible. And he would reform the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. All good things.

But a plan that doesn't seriously stop Americans from employing people who entered illegally or overstayed their visas is not going to secure the border. Not any more than Trump's dramatics over a border wall.

Politicians of both parties should know where the public stands on these matters. A Gallup poll last summer found that for the first time, Americans want more, not less, immigration. Also, nearly 8 in 10 Americans think immigration is good for the country, with some Republicans in agreement.

In a 2019 poll, 65 percent thought the situation at the border to be a major or important problem. And 75 percent favored hiring significantly more Border Patrol agents.

What we see is that Americans support a large immigration program but want it kept legal. Canada and Australia do both. How sensible of them.

An experienced politician who wants to retain public support for a humane immigration program should know by now that an orderly border is essential — and that given the pressures, any show of laxness is a guarantee of disorder. On this issue, Biden can't be a nice guy without also being a tough guy.

He needs to show resolve and show it now.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Democrats Should Be Bragging About The Markets

On March 11, President Joe Biden gave a White House address touting his administration's response to the COVID-19 crisis. As it happened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at another record high the day before. But about that Biden said not a word.

Had Donald Trump still been president, the stock market would have almost certainly topped his list of glorious achievements. We'd hear popping talk about how our 401(k)s are sizzling and how he is the reason. Sample tweet from August 2017: "Stock market at an all-time high. That doesn't just happen!"

No, Biden last week spoke of "a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us." He spent a good deal of time on the anguish, but then he moved, happily, to his administration's successes — boosting production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, recruiting armies to give the shots, getting the vaccines into pharmacies.

It was a relief to hear a Democratic president bragging out loud about his accomplishments. But the message must move away from pain to prosperity. Biden has started on that path by touting the massive COVID relief bill that's sending checks to an overwhelmingly supportive public. His self-praise should expand to the stock market.

Democrats seem especially reluctant to use the stock market as a measure of their economic prowess. Under Barack Obama, the Dow hit record highs 118 times. Do you remember him ever talking about it?

Biden was basically right when he said, "Where I come from in Scranton and Claymont, the people don't live off of the stock market."

It's true that the wealthiest ten percent of American families own 84 percent of Wall Street portfolios' value. The bottom 50 percent — that's half of American families — possess none or almost no equities. Last year, gains in the S&P 500 added an estimated $4 trillion to American portfolios, but $3.4 trillion of it went to the top ten percent.

Many Americans don't understand that reality, as Trump knew well. Those in the middle who own a few shares, perhaps in their retirement accounts, do feel tied to movements in stock prices. Never mind that in 2019, the median portfolio size for households in this group was only $13,000.

Non-investors, meanwhile, often associate a booming stock market with a good economy, even if they themselves are hurting.

It's odd how Democrats shy away from taking credit for bubbling markets, when, in recent decades, stock returns have done better under their presidents than Republican ones, Trump included. The Dow posted an annualized return of almost 11.8 percent under Trump, according to MarketWatch. That was good but short of Obama's 12.1 percent. And it was nowhere near Bill Clinton's 15.9 percent.

As MarketWatch also noted, even Clinton's numbers were blown away by the 25.5 percent annualized rise under Calvin Coolidge, a Republican. Of course, Coolidge had the Roaring '20s blowing wind in his economy's sails.

We're now in the 2020s. Many economists are predicting that with the virus in retreat, the economy will roar once again. The Financial Times cites such prods as pent-up demand, government spending, and savings by the locked-down Americans who kept their jobs but had few places to spend money.

The stock market is off to a hot start in Biden's first year. We won't miss tweets like Trump's "Dow hit a new intraday all-time high! I wonder whether or not the Fake News Media will so report?"

But Democrats would be wise to at least applaud politely when stock markets sing of a new age of abundance now that they're in charge.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Deciding Cuomo’s Fate Is The Voters’ Job

Please explain again why New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must resign. Or, put another way, what gives his political opponents, many of them fellow Democrats, the right to undo an election on the basis of unverified assertions of sexual misconduct — some ridiculously trivial, none involving violence or threat to careers, several open to innocent interpretations.

The comments on news stories should warn the political swarm of growing public annoyance at this massive pile-on against a governor most New Yorkers still consider effective.

Cuomo made some missteps early in the pandemic, but when the dimensions of the crisis were known, he took a national lead in implementing painful measures to curb the spread. He calmed a scared public at a time when President Trump was clowning around. He won national respect and, for that, became a prime target of the right.

And so, are Democrats now to take him down on claims that he held a female staffer's hand too long? Or that he kissed a woman on the cheek at a wedding party?

Destined to live in infamy is a demand by New York's two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, that Cuomo resign. "Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations," they state, "it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York."

First off, an allegation, the Cambridge Dictionary says, is "a statement, made without giving proof, that someone has done something wrong or illegal." If you find these claims "credible," why not wait for the independent investigation by the state attorney general?

And what are the allegations? The most serious one — that Cuomo groped a woman at the governor's mansion — comes from an "unidentified" aide. Since when did an unproven claim by an unknown accuser warrant the removal of a governor?

Some of the other charges would be laughable if anyone around here still had a sense of humor. The best one comes from accuser No. 4, who complains that Cuomo kissed her hand. Hand-kissing, in today's culture, is a vaguely comical gesture.

Cuomo understandably hit back at Schumer and Gillibrand. "The people of New York," he said, "should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance."

Once again, Democrats are devouring their own. Many see a repeat of the Al Franken debacle in which Gillibrand pushed the popular senator from Minnesota to resign over a stupid, jokey photo.

Recall the hysteria over a woman's complaint that Joe Biden nuzzled the back of her head? That set the woke herd on a stampede, and soon, media were taking seriously a woman's whacko charge that Biden had penetrated her with his fingers.

As The New York Times reported last September, "Last year, Ms. Reade and seven other women came forward to accuse Mr. Biden of kissing, hugging or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable."

Reade, it was later learned, had a troubled personal history. If this had gone further, Democrats, you might have been into Donald Trump's second term.

Of course, Cuomo's political foes see opportunity in getting rid of a formidable foe without having to run against him. As of now, Cuomo is vying for a fourth term.

Reports that Cuomo hid the number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 are more disturbing, but that's not what set off the cries for his head. It was, as Cuomo himself conceded, the "unwanted flirtation."

Whether Cuomo has lost the confidence of New Yorkers can be made clear on Election Day 2022. The voters should have a say in this, don't you think?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Stopping Climate Change Is The Ultimate Moon Shot

As a pandemic hijacked the nation's attention, we pushed aside other, even bigger problems. But now that COVID-19 is being cornered, the crisis of climate change is returning to page one.

The threat of a rapidly warming planet is actually harder to deal with. It can't be fixed with a vaccine. Slower-moving, it's easier to put off addressing the impending disaster. And worldwide in scope, it's politically hard for America to step forward. After all, the United States produces 13 percent of the world's greenhouse emissions, but China is responsible for 26 percent.

Left unchecked, however, climate change will visit catastrophe on places where millions of Americans live. It will unleash global mass migrations that are dangerous and difficult to control. And it will pile on any number of medical crises.

Some health emergencies are already upon us. The wildfires in the western U.S. set off an epidemic of respiratory ailments. The surge of heat waves, floods, and storms — said to be churned by higher temperatures — has produced growing numbers of injuries and deaths.

Hotter and wetter conditions are spawning huge populations of mosquitoes and ticks. These insects spread such infectious diseases as malaria, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus.

Extreme weather events are breaking water, sanitation, food distribution, and electric systems. Hospitals caught in these disruptions can hardly manage their usual patient loads, much less take on the newly distressed.

Then there is drought. The 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California took 85 lives and incinerated 11,000 homes, plus schools and businesses. Some residents are building back, but many are moving elsewhere. All are suffering from PTSD.

Warming waters are increasing the number and intensity of storms and feeding the emotional turmoil that follows. Even as the focus in 2020 was on the virus, the Atlantic hurricane season broke the record for the most named storms. Twelve of them made landfall in the continental U.S. Louisiana was hit by a parade of five — Tropical Storms Cristobal and Marco, and Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. Each one caused dislocation, personal stress and economic loss.

The nonprofit research firm First Street Foundation estimates that the flooding caused by climate change will be worse than government estimates. Its models suggest that by 2050, up to 84 percent of the buildings in Cape Coral, Florida, and nearly all buildings in New Orleans will be at substantial risk of flood damage.

The Department of Defense has labeled climate change "a threat multiplier." This means that security threats already out there will become more ominous. They include poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — any of which can enable terrorism and spawn other forms of violence.

Climate change is endangering U.S. military installations themselves. Rising seas now imperil the giant Navy station in Norfolk, Virginia. As retired Rear Adm. David Titley, a naval oceanographer, put it, "These guys are in a whole heap ton of trouble."

More and more places are becoming uninhabitable. As one example, a doctor at a public hospital in New York writes of two patients whose villages in northeast Africa, plagued by drought and scorching temperatures, can no longer support human life.

Climate change is expected to turn millions of Americans into migrants as well. Matt Hauer, a sociologist at Florida State University, projects that the homes of 13 million Americans living on the coasts will sink under the waves. The residents will obviously have to go somewhere else.

Those who think President Biden's aggressive climate change agenda is radical should think about how very radically their world will change if the trend continues unhindered. Meeting the challenge will be the ultimate moon shot — making the defeat of COVID seem easy by comparison.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Women Accusing Cuomo Won't Come Out On Top

Three women have accused New York's Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. The complaints center largely around unsolicited shows of affection.

He very well may have said the inappropriate things being reported, but none of the women were physically harmed by what was at most unwanted flirtation. You have to ask: What will these displays of fragility do to the women's careers? Little that's good, unless they plan to seek tenure in a department of gender studies.

"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me," said Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, "and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared." A grown woman getting "scared" by a come-on? From a New Yorker, no less?

Wanting the world to know of her torment, Bennett made herself available to the media, done up in cat-eye makeup. Basically, that involves a vixenish wing of eyeliner swooshing to the outer corner.

Is your writer implying that Bennett somehow "asked for it"? She is not, because "it" never happened. It's possible that Cuomo was propositioning her — and if he was, he shouldn't have. But Bennett emerged from the ordeal untouched.

Next up is Lindsey Boylan, another of the governor's aides. She accused him of kissing her on the lips as she was about to leave his office. "I was in shock," she wrote, "but I kept walking." At least she didn't call 911.

Boylan also took great exception to Cuomo's alleged invitation to play strip poker while they were flying on a plane full of government officials. She might consider that he was joshing.

Cuomo's office is denying most of this, and his former aide Ashley Cotton came to his defense. "He can be funny, he can make lousy jokes," she said. "But I have never known him to cross the line."

Up to now, Boylan was an obscure candidate for Manhattan borough president. Obscure no more, but does she think this offended-dignity act is going to get her elected? Bad things happen in Manhattan, things far worse than stolen kisses.

Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, not an instrument of male domination in a patriarchal society. Or, in language sociologists might understand, it's "a cultural construct." Manhattan is home to a zillion cultures, each with its views and customs on kissing.

Which brings us to accuser No. 3. Anna Ruch complained that at a New York City wedding reception in 2019, Cuomo put his hands on her face, said, "Can I kiss you?" and proceeded to kiss her on the cheek.

"I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed," Ruch said.

Small wonder. Imagine an Italian kissing people at a wedding party.

The tabloids at least are having fun. "Quit It, Andy," said the New York Daily News front page, noting that the lefty Working Families Party is demanding Cuomo resign and end his "reign of fear."

On the right, Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin says Cuomo is guilty of "bullying, abuse and harassment." Also, he may run against Cuomo in 2022.

The New York Post had "Handsy Andy" with a picture of the governor holding Ruch's face. Under that was "Look of fear as Cuomo 'gave unwanted kiss': Third accuser."

Needless to say, The New York Times is treating these stories with utmost solemnity. Its readers' comments, meanwhile, overflow with eye-rolling. Many regard Cuomo as the savvy politician needed to lead the state out of its economic crisis. Some people care about those things.

Let's end with another of Cuomo's "inappropriate gestures," as recounted by Boylan: "He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine's Day and arranged to have one delivered to me, the only one on my floor."

And she thinks she can run Manhattan?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Trump Finally Made Me Smile

Donald Trump was never forever. The former president is 74, obese and the subject of serious criminal investigations. Resurfacing after disgracefully inciting a rampage on the Capitol, he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. The delivery was tired and the grievances now boring.

The big difference is he's no longer in power. Thanks to Trump, Democrats now hold the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. That the authoritarian clown show no longer threatens America makes it considerably more entertaining.

The speech was predictably heavy on attacks against the man who beat him. "Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history," Trump said. Biden, whose approval rating is 56 percent, as opposed to Trump's 34 percent, is ignoring him.

The question is whether there are enough sane people left in the Republican Party to fix it. Could the party, to borrow a phrase, build back better? That would be hard with the smart conservatives — Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, Lisa Murkowski, Adam Kinzinger — now marooned on RINO Island.

Tom Nichols, a prominent never-Trumper, thinks it's over for the GOP. The party, he writes, is now "controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man."

What happens when the old man leaves the scene? Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and other would-be Trumps might want his voters, but they don't have his skills. They lack the Vegas-comic patter and tough New Yorker persona and silly antics. In sum, they're not entertaining.

Same goes for the Trump children, hard as they might try on impersonation. (However, if Ivanka were to knock out the gutless Marco Rubio in a Florida primary, that would be OK.)

It's true that despite Trump's loss in November, Republicans took back several seats in the House. That, of course, was before Trump's cop-beating mob threatened to hang Mike Pence. (The former vice president, understandably, sent his regrets to the CPAC organizers.) And it happened after a campaign in which COVID-concerned Democrats failed to go door to door while Republicans did.

When the congressional midterms take place in 2022, things will be a lot different. COVID should be over. There could well be two years of nontraumatic governance and an economy fat with new jobs. At the same time, the voter bloc that still calls itself Republican is shrinking. And it's not good news that only 37 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party, whereas 48 percent have a positive view of Democrats, according to Gallup.

Should we worry that there may not be a Republican Party able to counter Democratic excesses? Another anti-Trump conservative, Jennifer Rubin, says no. She notes that many parts of the country are already basically one-party locales — say, Democratic New York City or Republican Mississippi. But their crowded primaries provide voters with a diversity of views.

Meanwhile, with Biden at the top, the Democratic Party has built up moderate appeal. The party's lefties are finding, much to their dismay, that their every wish is not Biden's command. By the way, Congress now has the highest job approval in almost 12 years, and it's run by Democrats.

When Republicans complained that Biden didn't spend much time negotiating with them on his COVID relief bill, the question was: Negotiate with whom? With the Republicans who wouldn't admit he really won the election? They happened to represent a majority of the House Republican caucus.

The happy news is that Trump doesn't even get me mad anymore. So what if he still insists he won the election? Crazy people on street corners claim to be president. Trump finally made me smile, because he no longer matters.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Keep Hope Up As Pandemic Ebbs — But Don’t Let Guard Down

Are we at the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? Let's call it the middle.

The COVID-19 numbers are going decisively lower, both infections and deaths. Millions, meanwhile, are getting the vaccine and becoming mostly immune to the disease.

Still, the seven-day average of American deaths from this virus continues in the thousands. And it would be much higher if more of us let our guard down by ignoring calls to wear masks, socially distance, and sanitize hands.

We each make our own policy for how far to go. There are the absolutists, who take no chances. They see no friends and never enter a restaurant, much less step on a plane.

Then there are moderates, like yours truly, who always wear a mask in public but do gather with their "pod" of careful friends. We eat in establishments that take precautions.

Finally, there are those who don't care at all and do nothing protective. They risk their own life and the lives of others.

As we move into a somewhat less scary phase of this disease, we moderates probably have the most to think about. That's because we were always open to weighing more options.

Consideration No. 1: mask-wearing. Of course we'll continue wearing masks. But two masks with one of tight-fitting cloth, as Dr. Anthony Fauci advises? On public transportation, OK. But as the risk of infection heads down, perhaps we can lighten up and wear just a lightweight mask while on a walk.

Infectious-disease experts now believe that outdoor activities rarely cause the disease to spread unless people are in close conversation. They say that with a few exceptions, we can safely jog or bike without a mask.

That said, hospitals are still rationing medical-grade N95 masks even as their stockpiles grow, according to the Associated Press. Why? They remain traumatized by the terrifying mask shortage of a year ago and don't want to be caught short-handed again. They also fear a future surge in cases. (More on that later.)

We moderates continue to frown on the mask-less multitudes who crowd at super-spreader events. A recent example would be the bar parties following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl win. Health officials in Florida warn of a possible coronavirus spike as a result. For people like me, the difference now is we take all that reckless behavior less personally.

Consideration No. 2: traveling. Early in the pandemic, I flew across the country on a JetBlue flight with few passengers and distanced seating. I would not go on a crowded jet. Now that I've had my first shot, I worry less about flying. When I get the second one, I'll hop right on.

Consideration No. 3: guilt. As frontline workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people get their protective vaccinations, less stigma is attached to easing up a bit on the restrictions.

However, unsettling thoughts remain. New coronavirus variants are reportedly more infectious and not as easily tamed by some of the vaccines. Variants are reportedly reinfecting people who survived the early version of the disease. And, undoubtedly, more variants are coming at us.

To reach herd immunity, 60 to 90 percent of the population must be vaccinated or protected by prior infection, according to medical experts. If the 15 percent of Americans who say they'll never get the vaccine follow through on that vow, that goal could be hard to reach.

The hope in this country is that the pandemic will end around summer. As the scourge shows more definite signs of weakening, we who tried to do the right things may be able to relax — if just a little. This will be a strange time.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.