What the vaccine won't cure

The election is over, but now comes the hard part. In seeking to accomplish his agenda, will President-elect Joe Biden face more opposition from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell or the progressives in his own party?

Posted: Nov 16, 2020 10:31 AM
Updated: Nov 16, 2020 10:31 AM

When the drug company Pfizer announced Monday that early data showed its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective in protecting people from the disease, the hearts of millions of people around the world leapt -- and stock markets soon followed.

On that day, America was still coming to grips with the results of the election -- and it wasn't fully clear whether the outcome would prove more than 50% effective in protecting democracy and unifying the nation.

By any measure, Joe Biden scored a clear victory over President Donald Trump. The former vice president, now President-elect, got 50.8% percent of the votes counted so far, 5 million-plus more than Trump. And with the red states of Arizona and Georgia now projected to flip into the Democrat's column, Biden has 306 Electoral College votes -- the same number Trump got in 2016.

Trump is challenging the results in the courts and refusing to concede, even as foreign leaders and a small but growing number of Republican officials are congratulating Biden on his win. "Trump is choosing to end his presidency as he started it, attacking the truth and undermining the nation's institutions," wrote Frida Ghitis. "In the end, Trump will have to move out of the White House, whether he likes it or not. But his shenanigans will leave the country wounded."

Karl Rove, the strategist behind George W. Bush's presidential campaigns, argued in The Wall Street Journal that Trump is entitled to pursue his court battles to overturn the results in swing states, "but the president's efforts are unlikely to move a single state from Mr. Biden's column, and certainly they're not enough to change the final outcome."

In the New Yorker, Susan Glasser wrote of Trump's "evidence-free fantasy" that the election was stolen from him. There were moments this week that "felt as though we were watching events unfold in Minsk or some other dictator stronghold where elections are not stolen the day votes are cast but in the weeks afterward, as the defeated President holes up in his palace, defying reality and increasingly urgent crowds in the streets," Glasser noted.

While many Republican elected officials enabled Trump's false claims with their silence, some, like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, actively helped spread doubts about the election's legitimacy, wrote Nicole Hemmer. In her view, it's a continuation of a decade of efforts by the GOP to suppress the vote and perpetuate minority rule. "All these efforts to undermine the electoral will of the people, from voter suppression to power-stripping to false accusations of fraud, are evidence that the pro-democracy alliance is smaller than many people think," Hemmer observed.

Trump's court challenges "are unlikely to pay off in the form of a second term for Trump," wrote Richard L. Hasen in the Atlantic. "He would need the equivalent of three consecutive Hail Mary passes to stay in office."

Shan Wu, a former prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, wrote, "To really overturn the results and try to throw out hundreds of thousands of votes, Trump's legal team would have to come forward with evidence of massive voter fraud. So far, no substantial evidence has surfaced beyond the baseless claims made by Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani."

Trump allies have suggested that the Electoral College vote for Biden is not a certainty, a notion that political scientist Robert Alexander, who has written a scholarly book on the college, rejected out of hand.

UK journalist Timothy Stanley pointed out that "the stakes were raised Wednesday with magnificent madness by Hollywood actor Jon Voight who released a video calling Trump's legal effort 'the greatest fight since the Civil War, the battle of righteousness vs Satan.' To be clear, there is no evidence of vote rigging or that Satan is a registered Democrat ... but some version of this narrative is taking hold on the right and the Republican leadership can't do much about it. They are, as ever, reacting to events, not shaping them." In effect, Stanley wrote, "they are a prisoner of Trump's decision making ... and have been for four wild years."

Transition time

Thinking of what might have been, Julian Zelizer wrote that Trump "could have started with a gracious concession speech, congratulating President-elect Biden on his impressive victory and urging his voters to throw their support behind the nation's new commander in chief." He could have invited Biden to the White House, as Obama did for Trump in 2016, authorized the release of funding for the transition, enabled the full briefing of incoming officials on the pandemic and national security matters. But he did none of those things, instead "devoting his energy to Twitter rants and lawsuits -- which keep getting thrown out -- rather than concerning himself with the important work of governance."

Baratunde Thurston spoke for many Americans when he wrote, "for the past four years, I have been holding my breath, in a defensive crouch and bracing for the worst. I've expected some fresh horror, embarrassment or trauma to find its way onto one of my screens, and it's been exhausting." Now, after the victory of Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, "my heart is lifted, and I can exhale." Thurston was one of 26 writers who responded to a request from CNN Opinion editors, led by Pat Wiedenkeller, for their thoughts on Biden's election.

"The lesson to learn from this election," wrote Oren Cass, "is that, whoever you supported, about half of your fellow citizens felt otherwise. Neither vilifying nor condescending to them will change any minds. If you cannot understand how they could reach conclusions so different from your own, the fault lies with you, not them."

The election was above all a fateful choice, wrote Melissa Gilbert: "America has resoundingly chosen truth over lies, inclusion over exclusion, science over ignorance, faith over fear, compassion over cruelty, respect over ridicule, love over hate, substance over style, selflessness over self-dealing, freedom over oppression, unity over division and a global outlook over myopia."

And to Penn Jillette, it's clear that Joe Biden now has "one job." The 70 million-plus people who voted for Trump "are our neighbors and our relatives." Biden must "fill all our hearts with love for each other" so we can "understand and move on together," Jillette wrote.

'Was it worth it?'

Something about Richard L. Eldredge's family changed four years ago with the election of Donald Trump.

As they quarreled over politics, "family birthday greetings, anniversary celebrations and graduation photos eventually disappeared from my timeline as other family members used social media to take sides," he wrote. "When I typed the names of relatives I've known and loved all my life into the Facebook search box, profiles popped up, along with the phrase 'Add Friend.'" Other family members blocked him.

"How did we get here?"

Eldredge addressed one of his relatives, with whom he recalled playing "hundreds of games of Wiffle ball in my backyard until dark. After the death of my older brother, you lovingly, instinctively took over the role. You introduced me to The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and R.E.M. I thought you were a god."

But then, "the invitations to your holiday gatherings stopped coming. Your daughter got married and I wasn't invited. We haven't spoken since 2017."

"Over our love-filled 50-year bond, you chose a hate-filled New York millionaire who has never spent a moment with you, cried with one of you when your dad died, hugged another of you at your mom's funeral or otherwise cared about you."

"Was it worth it?"

For more on Election 2020:

CNN Opinion contributors: Ringing church bells, relief and schadenfreude: the world reacts to the Trump-Biden drama

Roxanne Jones: Kamala Harris shows Black women they have the power to change the world

Joe Lockhart: Democrats' all-out battle over who deserves credit for Biden win

Thomas Balcerski: A history lesson on presidents who snub their successors' inaugurations

Paul Callan: The Watergate-era strategies that might win Trump a pardon

Elie Honig: With his days in office numbered, here's what Trump may try to do

Rich Thau: How to listen to Trump voters

Lawrence C. Levy: These are the gatekeepers who let Biden win

A vulnerable Thanksgiving

Covid-19 is spreading at record levels around the US and more peril lies ahead. Thanksgiving, a holiday that is so heavily based on family gatherings, poses the risk of more contagion.

"Small indoor gatherings are driving the recent spike in coronavirus cases," wrote Céline Gounder, Ben Michaelis and Robert Cialdini. "Family and friends are getting together without masks because they look 'fine.' It's not just that asymptomatic people are driving much of this spread. It's also that we don't want to think ill of our loved ones. We want to trust them and believe that they're not going to harm us. And this makes many of our Thanksgiving traditions -- whose comfort and consistency we crave -- particularly dangerous in the midst of a pandemic." Read their advice for celebrating the holiday safely.

The coronavirus surge is occurring when the nation is particularly vulnerable, wrote Kent Sepkowitz. President Trump is a lame duck whose term expires January 20, and President-elect Biden, who named a Covid-19 task force this week, can't yet implement any changes in US health policy.

"This deepening crisis requires immediate, thoughtful, informed, evidence-based and decisive attention by the President and his advisers," wrote Sepkowitz. "Otherwise, the pandemic will worsen, the economy will worsen and the morale of the American people will worsen." Among the key questions is how to design a plan to distribute a vaccine, whether from Pfizer or its competitors, once it is approved.

The onrushing train

In the late spring of 2016, Peter Bergen interviewed President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room and offhandedly asked him about his thoughts on what would happen if Donald Trump became President and had to make national security decisions. "Well, I don't have those thoughts. Because I don't expect that to happen," Obama said.

Reviewing the first volume of Obama's new book, Bergen wrote, "Trump hangs over Obama's moving, beautifully written memoir of his first three years in office like an onrushing train that both the reader and author know is hurtling down the tracks to collide with what Obama hoped to achieve. In Obama's own words, he was striving to 'see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed' and to continue the work-in-progress of making a more perfect, racially equitable 'promised land' that has already produced 'Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers ... Jackie Robinson ... Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan, Billie Holliday ... Lincoln at Gettysburg.'"

Obama traces the GOP's wrong turn in part to the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate in 2008. And then there was, as Bergen wrote, "Trump, who put into play repeatedly the lie -- concocted to try to invalidate Obama's presidency -- that he wasn't American, wasn't born in the US (and might even be a secret Muslim). As Obama explains of Trump, 'For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.'"

RIP Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek hosted an astounding 8,200-plus episodes of "Jeopardy!" over 37 seasons and was still doing the show in recent weeks -- before finally succumbing to cancer on November 8 after a long battle with the disease.

"Game show hosts tend to be stereotyped as sunny and anodyne, slick, toothy and insincere cheerleaders for their games and their contestants," Jeff Yang wrote. "Trebek was, by contrast, what one might call a 'real one.' He was candid in his reactions, always ready to cock an eyebrow at a bad play and to bluntly call out obvious errors in the tones of a disappointed dad."

"Yet somehow, he never seemed like a jerk. Though acerbic, his corrections always felt instructive, not destructive," wrote Yang, who called him a role model for how Americans can behave following a contentious presidential election.

To Gayle Lemmon, Trebek's death seemed like the loss of "a beloved relative." When she was 10, her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. "By the time I turned 11 and 12, Alex was our favorite man of the house," Lemmon wrote. "By then, he had settled into his hosting groove and my mother's fight against cancer had turned into a daily bout with a cornucopia of medication, brain radiation and spinal taps."

She and her mother would sit on a hospital bed and faithfully watch Jeopardy! at 7 p.m. each evening. Trebek's "calm erudition and steady hand had the healing power of a soothing, magical balm that offered a half-hour power of forgetfulness and ease."

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Jill Filipovic: The GOP is pitifully out of step with America on Obamacare

AND ...

The Queen's Gambit

The Queen's Gambit is a popular set of opening moves in chess, familiar to fans of the game like such other sequences as the Ruy Lopez or the Nimzo Indian defense.

It's also now a Netflix series about a fictional chess prodigy in the 1950s and 1960s. "For most of us, a show about a board game seems an improbable venue for riveting action," wrote Sara Stewart. "And yet! Against the odds -- kind of like its protagonist, Beth Harmon (played by Isla Johnston, then Anya Taylor-Joy) -- this show is the perfect escapist entertainment for right now."

What accounts for the success of the series? Stewart said, "it's a dynamic character study with the sweeping emotional arc of a sports movie, set in an era in which the cultural deck is stacked against its heroine."

The show celebrates a game in which intellect counts above all else. "It's an alternate universe in which being smart is glamorous and people behave honorably," Stewart wrote. "I'd like to spend more time there, so here's hoping calls for a second season might become a reality."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
Lauderdale5672174
Lowndes5186106
Lafayette482792
Lamar471162
Washington4700122
Bolivar3915105
Oktibbeha384279
Panola357274
Pontotoc356552
Monroe3463101
Union334755
Warren334692
Marshall333264
Neshoba3310149
Pearl River313891
Leflore2969104
Lincoln290185
Sunflower275868
Tate264759
Alcorn257850
Itawamba257058
Pike254876
Hancock246957
Prentiss240047
Scott238743
Copiah235649
Yazoo235054
Tippah233845
Simpson230166
Leake226764
Coahoma219054
Grenada213970
Covington207171
Marion203371
Adams200065
Winston196260
George195937
Wayne193029
Attala190958
Newton185142
Chickasaw179943
Tishomingo179059
Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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