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A new year’s vibe / January 07, 2021
It’s a little early in the year to be thinking about major subplots of 2021, but surely one is whether the festering insanity of the Trump years will give way to the competent assurance we are all hoping for out of our new president. Wait — you haven’t gotten the memo on President-elect Biden? Funny that.

As 2020 drew to a close, I received another reminder that I am old — and no, not to worry, this is not about my aching knee, hip or back. Rather, this is about the cruelest insult a nearly 60-year-old while male can suffer: to be on the receiving end of a whackadoodle email chain, courtesy of a friend with whom, shall we say, it is generally not advisableto bring up the subject of politics. You know you’re old school — and just old — when you hear about the latest political conspiracy theories via email.

Anyway, the missive turned up in my in-box and it was a truckload of bananas, which is sad because I had already consumed my doctor-recommended allowance of potassium for the day.

Ostensibly, the email chain was about the Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville, which I’m sure almost everyone has heard about. But that really wasn’t the point of this explanatory exercise. You see, according to the email, the bombing was actually a clever ruse to conceal a Democratic scheme to defraud Donald Trump of a second term in office. The evidence for this claim would send the ghost of Lewis Carroll scurrying down a rabbit hole: the bomb went off near a Nashville high-rise where AT&T is located, and the company has some bigfoot on the corporate board who has high-up connections to Democratic politics, and the bomb’s blast radius knocked out a supercomputer known as the Kraken that was to have been used to audit the election results in Georgia and rip the lid off the fraudulent accounting there, and don’t worry because Sidney Powell is on the case and she really isn’t the lunatic Trump lawyer she appears to be on TV, and ... and ... and see, it all adds up to the greatest scandal in American history which will come to light any day now. The email concluded with the exact same question Perry Mason used to ask of juries before he would always win the case: “Still think we are all crazy?”

Umm ....

Here’s a modest prediction, probably but hopefully not entirely wrong: this epic level of crazy will subside in the year ahead. Why the optimism? That’s actually a question with a fairly simple answer: on Jan. 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States. What explanation will the Kraken-in-the-head crowd have for that?

Something, sure. Something that sells, no way. You know, it’s obviously unfortunate this recent run of conspiratorial nonsense in America — the whole QAnon business, Pizzagate, whatever Rudy Giuliani is saying on Twitter at the moment — has gone on for this long. But would our political discourse ever have descended to these depths if (A) the circus didn’t have a ringleader, and (B) the ringleader weren’t the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation?

Trump is heading out the door as one would expect — whining, lying, sulking, blustering, lying some more, making phone calls to overturn an election he lost with the party on the receiving end of the conversation recording the whole sorry mess — in other words, Trump’s acting like a child and an idiot and getting burned for his troubles, tell me something else that’s new. He might have won a second term if he had acted just slightly more like a conventional president. The kicker to this tale, of course, is that Republican muckety-mucks and party faitful have lined up behind Trump from the get-go (or at least the moment when he won the 2016 election), eager to ride herd with a deranged base but afraid of it, too. Now we’ve arrived at the pathetic juncture of a president and major political party conspiring to undo the will of the voters in the 2020 election and declare autocratic rule in America.

In the interest of bipartisan comity, let’s start by recognizing Republicans — excuse me, “Republicans in Name Only” — who aren’t the least bit on board with this two-bit criminality: elected officials who have honored their oaths of office and sided with the cause of patriotism by pushing back hard at Trump. Senators such as Mitt Romney of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and various others on the list offer hope that the Grand Old Party may once again live up to the name someday. I wouldn’t normally give Romney, Sasse et al any more credit than I’d extend at a yard sale, but tricorn hats off to each of them, and others too numerous to list here. (Let’s single out just a few more: Georgia’s Republican governor, secretary of state and other GOP officials who’ve stood up to Trump’s bullying to defend the integrity of Biden’s narrow win in the Peach State. They deserve our genuine thanks.)

So who else does that leave within the GOP who isn’t a vandal, a loon, or worse? On Wednesday, both houses of Congress took up the electoral college vote that gave Biden his victory, and a reported 140 Republican members of the House and a dozen member of the Senate had pledged ahead of time to contest the results, despite their utter inability to present any evidence that the election was wrongly decided or voter fraud of any magnitude occurred. (You will not be surprised in the least to learn that one of the political arsonists in the House is none other than our new 5th District Congressman, Bob Good.) The mainstream of the Republican Party seems to consist of three major factions — smarmy and sleazy (Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas), too stupid to wear pants (Congressman Louis Gohmert of Texas, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and a cruise ship of others), and evil and conniving (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and recent Attorney General William Barr come to mind.) Maybe not surprisingly, it’s this last group that is least enthusiastic toward Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, which says something — maybe they’re smarter than the average bear, I guess.

Once Trump is out of office, who out of this crowd stands a shot of becoming his legitimate heir? Mike Pence? Please. Donald Jr.? Replication error is a cruel but unstinting fact of life. The usual suspects bandied around in the media — Hawley, Cruz, someone like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton — are all politicians at heart. The thing that makes Trump popular with the base is the thing none of the pretenders to the throne can claim: the wealth, the notoriety, the women, the epic mouth, the bottomless love of the grift, the screw-em-all mentality that goes hand-in-hand with coming out of nowhere and telling them all to go to hell along the way. What other figure on the political landscape begins to combine Trump’s toxic attributes with a conventional strategic appreciation for how to win and wield political power? Mitch McConnell? Hee haw.

It’s been a wild ride, America, but now it’s over. And much work lies ahead: for starters, there’s the task of rebuilding a country laid low by a novel coronovirus, mixed with a corrosive ideology that made the problem ten times worse than it ever needed to be. After 2020, what it is exactly that people want most? Relief. After Congressional Republicans play out their disgraceful games on the electoral college vote and Trump leaves the scene, to decamp to Mar-a-Lago or the golf course or a prison cell, depending on the fates, people will continue to cry out for relief. Won’t the pressure be enormous to deliver exactly that? Obstructionism won’t be a good look in 2021, that much we ought to be able to count on. And there’s nothing wrong with ringing in the new year with a little hope.


The column above was written Tuesday, Jan. 5, before America knew the outcome of the two Senate elections in Georgia and before the President of the United States incited an attempted coup at the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. I’ll stand by my prediction that we’ll see a tamping down on the pandemic of crazy in the year ahead. Who besides a handful of nutcases can be proud of the events that transpired in Washington on Wednesday?

Watch and remember, America. Remember that while Donald Trump was the ringleader of the violence at the Capitol, he had plenty of circus clowns in the Republican Party cheering him on every step of the way. It turns out America’s self-styled party of law and order is something of a cabal of seditionists and insurrectionists. The only thing missing from the GOP Street Convention at the National Mall on Wednesday was Lee Greenwood crooning about how proud he is to be an American.

Maybe some prison sentences would be another good way to tamp down on the crazy .... Along with three words:




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