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‘Normalcy’ is the last thing Biden’s hard-left base wants

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‘Normalcy’ is the last thing Biden’s hard-left base wants

Joe Biden ran for president on a “return to normalcy.” His challenge is that there are three competing definitions of normalcy for him to contend with.

Biden didn’t actually use the slogan “return to normalcy.” But as numerous political observers noted during the campaign, that was both Biden’s implicit appeal and his best shot at victory. As Jonathan Martin and Sydney Ember of The New York Times wrote in March 2019, “Biden, in speeches at home and abroad, has used much of the first part of this year pledging to restore the dignity he believes that the country has lost in the Trump years.”

For much of the primary season, the competition among Biden’s Democratic opponents was over who could offer the most radical agenda. When it became clear to rank-and-file voters — and a few key Democratic leaders — that such radicalism could cost Democrats the general election, Biden surged to front-runner status.

The interesting thing about Biden’s return-to-normalcy campaign is that it predated the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. That isn’t how it worked with the original version.

Under Woodrow Wilson, America was racked with extraordinary turmoil. World War I cost more than 100,000 American lives and yielded few tangible benefits for the United States. In fighting the war, Wilson stirred nativist passions, crushed political dissent, imposed food rationing and widespread censorship and stoked racial unrest.

Race and labor riots and anarchist bombing campaigns made the tumult of the 2020 summer riots and protests pale by comparison. And then there was the pandemic of 1918. Some 650,000 Americans died from the Spanish flu. Adjusted for population, that would be 2 million deaths today.

It was against this backdrop that Republican Sen. Warren Harding of Ohio promised a return to normalcy. “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise,” he declared. He won the 1920 election in a landslide with 37 out of 48 states and 404 Electoral College votes.

Biden has accomplished the easiest of the three normalcies already. Simply by refraining from venting his id on Twitter, he has turned down the political temperature.

But there are two other normalcies Biden has to address. Today, for most Americans of either party, a “return to normalcy” means being able to eat out, go to work and, most of all, send their kids back to school. If the first normalcy was instantaneous upon his inauguration, this second one is proceeding at a snail’s pace. Biden is getting a grace period, but national exhaustion with the pandemic is cumulative, and patience is in short supply.

Biden’s reluctance to forecast when Americans will return to anything like a pre-pandemic life may be prudent. He clearly believes in under-promising and over-delivering — a marked contrast with Trump. But there is certainly hardball politics involved as well.

The Biden administration’s reluctance to dial down the government’s crisis rhetoric is surely part of the strategy to cram through, on a partisan basis, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, complete with an enormous increase in the national minimum wage. Given that a large number of former Obama administration apparatchiks are now in the Biden administration, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they believe “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Similarly, Biden’s sometimes painful effort to stay on the good side of teachers unions — a core constituency — illuminates how the Democratic base isn’t on the same page with most of the public on what constitutes normalcy.

And that points to the third normal. Among party activists, the presidency is supposed to be an engine for social progress. A restoration of serenity and equipoise, which Biden hinted at in his inaugural, is the last thing the base wants from this White House. The base wants action of the sort they expected from Obama. Indeed, they want Obama-plus, given that the new conventional wisdom on much of the left is that the Obama years were a “wasted opportunity.”

Biden’s almost unprecedented suite of executive orders dismantling much of Trump’s legacy but also pushing a base-pandering agenda on everything from energy to racial and transgender issues is its own kind of a return to normalcy — the normal partisan and ideological activism we’ve come to expect from presidents.

This third normalcy is the most regrettable, but it’s likely to be the most enduring, which is why our politics will ultimately be equipoise-free for the long haul.

Twitter: @JonahDispatch

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Opinion

US gets closer to normalcy — it’s absurd to paint it any other way

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US gets closer to normalcy — it's absurd to paint it any other way

New US COVID-19 cases are a quarter what they were six weeks ago, with the daily numbers dropping 15 percent to 25 percent a week. It’s time for the country to start moving rapidly to normalcy — restoring jobs and restoring lives. Caution is still in order, but only that.

Yet President Biden, after vowing the nation will have enough vaccine doses by July’s end to vaccinate every American, just said he only hopes for a return to normal by “next Christmas.” Huh?

“I don’t want to overpromise anything here,” “A year from now,” he told CNN, “I think that there’ll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask.” That’s not avoiding overpromising, as he claimed: It’s outright telling everyone to expect yet another year of economic and social devastation.

Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, says the worst of the pandemic “might be” behind us. Yet he’s also telling Americans they’ll need to wear masks (maybe two at a time) at least through 2022 — even if they get vaccinated.

This is absurd: Our leaders should be nonstop pushing reluctant Americans to get jabbed so we can all get on with our lives.

Some point to variants — from Britain, South Africa, Brazil and now New York — as new reason for great concern. But though some of these strains have proven more contagious, none has proven more deadly.

Hospitalizations and deaths keep dropping, even as variants have gained ground: Deaths dropped 20 percent these last two weeks. The UK variant predominates in Britain, Switzerland, Denmark and Israel — and all are also seeing cases dive.

And the drug companies that (thanks to President Donald Trump ripping up red tape) developed life-saving vaccines at lightning speed are already testing updated versions that target the variants, though their “classic vax” still offers high protection against them.

And while America’s vaccination process has rolled out more slowly than it should’ve, it’s still moving inexorably along.

More than 13 percent of Americans have gotten at least one dose, and the majority are health-care workers or those in nursing homes or other high-risk settings.

Add to that the number of us estimated to have already been infected — 35 percent of Los Angeles County and more than half of Miami-Dade County, for example — and you can see why Johns Hopkins prof Marty Makary predicts we’ll have herd immunity by April.

And the most at-risk Americans have gained immunity. Data scientist Youyang Gu estimates that the number of “susceptible” Americans, those over 45 without immunity, has fallen from a third of the country at the start of the year to 10 percent or fewer now.

Cases in nursing homes fell more than 80 percent from late December to early February. When deaths spiked over the holidays, they actually fell at nursing homes.

But it’s the youngest Americans — least at risk of transmitting the virus or suffering badly from it — who must get their lives back immediately. At least 38,000 New York City teachers have been vaccinated, according to City Hall and the United Federation of Teachers.

Perhaps it’s just that normalcy makes it too hard to justify the rush to pass a $1.9 trillion “relief” bill filled with Democrats’ pet projects. We’d rather not think cynical politics is behind Biden’s gloom, but it’s hard to see any other reason he’s denying that the pandemic’s end is staring us in the face.

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Opinion

NY City Council is pushing for a school-safety disaster

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NY City Council is pushing for a school-safety disaster

Some on the City Council aren’t satisfied with Mayor de Blasio’s vow to shift the school-security budget from the NYPD to the Department of Education: They want to pull the safety agents out of schools altogether.  

At a recent hearing, a furious Councilman Daneek Miller (D-Queens) rightly called the idea “absurd.” But Education Committee Chairman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn), a former teacher and proud United Federation of Teachers member, loves it — saying the resources should go for more social workers and guidance counselors.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, meanwhile, claims the safety agents are an unaccountable force that has committed verbal, physical and sexual abuse of schoolchildren. And Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan and a candidate for Manhattan borough president), asked: “Why would we want anyone who is part of a paramilitary organization to be in our schools?”

Paramilitary? The agents are 90 percent black and Hispanic, 70 percent female and 100 percent unarmed — hardly the jack-booted thugs she pretends.

In the 2019-2020 school year, the system logged 288 major felony crimes in schools, ranging from rape to grand larceny, plus 976 other crimes, from assault to petit larceny. Switching to a force of social workers would see crime soar — though maybe not be reported.

Indeed, it’s an argument for keeping the agents firmly under the purview of the NYPD, an unparalleled public safety agency. When the DOE was last responsible for school safety, many school buildings had devolved into war zones.

At hearing, Greg Floyd, head of Teamsters Local 237, which represents the safety agents, noted, “School Safety Agents have been both hero and victim” in their work. They guided students in the evacuation of Stuyvesant HS on 9/11 and “saved a student from a vicious stabbing attack by four rival gang members” outside of a public school.

Action on this bill is likely ,as Council Speaker Corey Johnson — who’s reportedly mulling a run for Comptroller — is a co-sponsor.

Johnson, Williams and others support a “restorative justice” model for school safety that focuses on social and emotional support. The UFT should be using its heft to resist: The steady softening of school discipline codes that has brought a rise in disorder.

Kudos to Councilman Miller and his Queens colleagues Barry Grodenchik and Robert Holden, plus their GOP colleagues Steve Matteo, Joe Borelli and Eric Ulrich, for opposing the lunatic drive to eliminate school safety agents and put students, teachers and other school staff in danger.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — Feb. 28, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — Feb. 28, 2021

‘Woke’ school rage
The discriminatory lawsuits reported by the Sunday Post should serve as just the starting point for what deserves to be the largest class-action suit in New York’s history (“ ‘Black’ balled,” Feb. 25).

Every taxpayer (especially the parents of students) who has ever ponied up a dime to support this pathetic, woke-based farce masquerading as a “Department of Education” should not only be refunded in full but be given damage compensation.

The city has failed spectacularly in providing even a trace of a basic education to the vast majority of its students. Discipline in the classroom? “Racist.” Precision and accuracy in writing? “White supremacy.” Standards for excellence? “A colonialist construction.”

One needs look no further than the edicts and aspirations of former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and his imbecile boss to see what’s been wrought upon the city’s children and those who sincerely attempt to teach them. Disgraceful.
Anthony Parks
Garden City

Cop attack plea
Our new and enlightened federal administration has offered Urooj Rahman and Colinford Mattis a plea deal (“Van-bombing plea offer,” Feb. 23).

These two are lawyers, officers of the court, and they threw a Molotov cocktail into a police van. Is that not a worse offense than dressing like a Viking and storming the Capitol?

If anyone deserves a long stretch, these two misanthropes do. Left-wing lawyers are not automatically anointed as misguided or innocent. These are violent criminals.
Paul O’Keefe
Union City, NJ

Don’t rely on ‘czar’
So now this hapless moron of a mayor wants to appoint a “recovery czar” to bring the city’s businesses back to life (“Now He Wants To Save City Biz,” Feb. 23).

Once again, too little and very late. Asked why it took so long, Mayor de Blasio cited emergency issues that had to be dealt with first. Since street crime is out of control, the subways are treacherous to set foot in and the vaccine rollout has been a mess, what were the other emergencies he had to take care of?

Of course, the process will contain racial equity aspects that will result in some businesses remaining closed forever. All small businesses need to be helped, not just the ones he deems more important.
Robert DiNardo
Farmingdale

No Capitol justice
I am really glad that Miranda Devine is paying attention to the people who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 (“Left has a ‘law & order’ double standard,” Feb. 22).

Yes, it was wrong to do this, but how interesting that an anti-Trump activist who encouraged people to riot and trespassed himself was not only set free without bail but also given $75,000 from CNN for the footage. That is quite a payday.

Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland and President Biden say they will protect us from “white supremacists.” That will come as a great relief to the real terrorists. We are now living in a country where there is no equal protection under the law.
Catherine Adago
Manhattan

Fauci’s follies
Dr. Anthony Fauci says we now need to wear two masks (“Masking may go into 2022,” Feb. 23).

He can’t decide whether grandparents who are vaccinated can visit their grandchildren, and says Americans will be wearing masks until 2022.

Everybody wanted to hear his opinion, even though his opinions keep changing. The damage that following his advice has done is mind-boggling.
John Habersberger
New Paltz

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