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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday named former federal prosecutor Alex Oh as its new head of enforcement, the first woman of color to lead the division, which plays a crucial role in policing U.S. financial markets. The appointment of Oh, a native of Seoul who moved to Maryland when she was 11, is the first big move under Chair Gary Gensler and comes amid a diversity push by President Joe Biden's administration. Oh, who most recently worked for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Llp in Washington, has extensive trial experience and was previously an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
- The New York Times
George Floyd had been dead only hours before the movement began. Driven by a terrifying video and word-of-mouth, people flooded the South Minneapolis intersection where he was killed shortly after Memorial Day, demanding an end to police violence against Black Americans. The moment of collective grief and anger swiftly gave way to a yearlong, nationwide deliberation on what it means to be Black in America. First came protests, in large cities and small towns across the nation, becoming the largest mass protest movement in U.S. history. Then, over the next several months, nearly 170 Confederate symbols were renamed or removed from public spaces. The Black Lives Matter slogan was claimed by a nation grappling with Floyd’s death. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Over the next 11 months, calls for racial justice would touch seemingly every aspect of American life on a scale that historians say had not happened since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who knelt on Floyd, was convicted of two counts of murder as well as manslaughter. The verdict brought some solace to activists for racial justice who had been riveted to the courtroom drama for the past several weeks. But for many Black Americans, real change feels elusive, particularly given how relentlessly the killing of Black men by the police has continued, including the recent shooting death of Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb. There are also signs of backlash: Legislation that would reduce voting access, protect the police and effectively criminalize public protests has sprung up in Republican-controlled state legislatures. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, said to call what had transpired over the past year a racial reckoning was not right. “Reckoning suggests that we are truly struggling with how to re-imagine everything from criminal justice to food deserts to health disparities — we are not doing that,” he said. Tuesday’s guilty verdict, he said, “is addressing a symptom, but we have not yet dealt with the disease.” Moments before the verdict was announced, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, called Floyd’s death “a Selma, Alabama, moment for America.” What happened in Selma in 1965 “with the world watching demonstrated the need for the passage of the 1965 Voting Right Act,” he said. “What we witnessed last year with the killing of George Floyd should be the catalyst for broad reform in policing in this nation.” The entire arc of the Floyd case — from his death and the protests through the trial and conviction of Chauvin — played out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which further focused attention on the nation’s racial inequities: People of color were among those hardest hit by the virus and by the economic dislocation that followed. And for many, Floyd’s death carried the weight of other episodes of police violence over the past decade, a list that includes the deaths of Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor. In the months after Floyd’s death, some change has been concrete. Scores of policing reform laws were introduced at the state level. Corporations pledged billions to racial equity causes, and the NFL apologized for its failure to support protests against police violence by its Black players. Even the backlash was different. Racist statements by dozens of public officials, from mayors to fire chiefs, related to Floyd’s death — perhaps tolerated before — cost them their jobs and sent others to anti-racism training. And, at least at first, American views on a range of questions related to racial inequality and policing shifted to a degree rarely seen in opinion polling. Americans, and white Americans in particular, became much more likely than in recent years to support the Black Lives Matter movement, to say that racial discrimination is a big problem and to say that excessive police force disproportionately harms African Americans. Floyd’s death, most Americans agreed early last summer, was part of a broader pattern — not an isolated episode. A New York Times poll of registered voters in June showed that more than 1 in 10 had attended protests. And at the time, even Republican politicians in Washington were voicing support for police reform. But the shift proved fleeting for Republicans — both elected leaders and voters. As some protests turned destructive and as Donald Trump’s reelection campaign began using those scenes in political ads, polls showed white Republicans retreating in their views that discrimination is a problem. Increasingly in the campaign, voters were given a choice: They could stand for racial equity or with law-and-order. Republican officials once vocal about Floyd fell silent. “If you were on the Republican side, which is really the Trump side of this equation, then the message became, ‘No we can’t acknowledge that that was appalling because we will lose ground,’” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “‘Our worldview is it’s us against them. And those protesters are going to be part of the them.’” Floyd’s death did, however, drive some changes, at least for now, among non-Republican white Americans in their awareness of racial inequality and support for reforms. And it helped cement the movement of college-educated suburban voters, already dismayed by what they saw as Trump’s race-baiting, toward the Democratic Party. “The year 2020 is going to go down in our history books as a very significant, very catalytic time,” said David Bailey, whose Richmond, Virginia-based nonprofit, Arrabon, helps churches around the country do racial reconciliation work. “People’s attitudes have changed at some level. We don’t know fully all of what that means. But I am hopeful I am seeing something different.” But even among Democratic leaders, including mayors and President Joe Biden, dismay over police violence has often been paired with warnings that protesters avoid violence too. That association — linking Black political anger and violence — is deeply rooted in America and has not been broken in the past year, said Davin Phoenix, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “Before Black people even get a chance to process their feelings of trauma and grief, they’re being told by people they elected to the White House — that they put into power — ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that,’” Phoenix said. “I would love if more politicians, at least those that claim to be allied, turn to the police and say, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that.’” The protests that followed Floyd’s death became part of the increasingly acrimonious American conversation over politics. Most were peaceful, but there was looting and property damage in some cities, and those images circulated frequently on television and social media. Republicans cited the protests as an example of the left losing control. Blue Lives Matter flags hung from houses last fall. When support for Trump boiled over into violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, conservatives expressed anger at what they said was a double standard for how the two movements had been treated. Biden took office in January vowing to make racial equity central to every element of his agenda — to how coronavirus vaccines are distributed, where federal infrastructure is built, how climate policies are crafted. He quickly made changes any Democratic administration most likely would have made, restoring police consent decrees and fair housing rules. But, in a sign of the unique moment in which Biden was elected — and his debt to Black voters in elevating him — his administration has also made more novel moves, like declaring racism a serious threat to public health and singling out Black unemployment as a gauge of the economy’s health. What opinion polling has not captured well is whether white liberals will change the behaviors — like opting for segregated schools and neighborhoods — that reinforce racial inequality. Even as the outcry over Floyd’s death has raised awareness of it, other trends tied to the pandemic have only exacerbated that inequality. That has been true not just as Black families and workers have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic, but also as white students have fared better amid remote education and as white homeowners have gained wealth in a frenzied housing market. In a national sample of white Americans this year, Jennifer Chudy, a political scientist at Wellesley College, found that even the most racially sympathetic were more likely to endorse limited, private actions. These included educating oneself about racism or listening to people of color rather than, for example, choosing to live in a racially diverse community or bringing racial issues to the attention of elected officials and policymakers. Still, historians say it is hard to overstate the galvanizing effect of Floyd’s death on public discourse, not just on policing but also on how racism is embedded in the policies of public and private institutions. Some Black business leaders have spoken in unusually personal terms about their own experiences with racism, with some calling out the business world for doing far too little over the years — “Corporate America has failed Black America,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at PepsiCo, Ralph Lauren and Square — and dozens of brands made commitments to diversify their workforces. Public outcries over racism in the United States erupted across the world, spurring protest in the streets of Berlin, London, Paris and Vancouver, British Columbia, and in capitals in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. White Americans unfamiliar with the concept of structural racism drove books on the topic to the top of bestseller lists. The protests against police violence over the last year were more racially diverse than those that followed other police shootings of Black men, women and children over the past decade, said Robin D.G. Kelley, a historian of protest movements at the University of California, Los Angeles. And unlike in the past, they propelled defunding the police — the most far-reaching demand to transform policing — to the mainstream. “We had more organizing, more people in the streets, more people saying, ‘It’s not enough to fix the system, it needs to be taken down and replaced,’” Kelley said. Organizers worked to turn the energy of the protests into real political power by pushing vast voter registrations. By the fall, racial justice was a campaign issue too. Mostly Democratic candidates addressed racial disparities in their campaigns, including calling for police reform, the dismantling of cash bail systems and the creation of civilian review boards. “We will forever look back at this moment in American history. George Floyd’s death created a new energy around making changes, though it’s not clear how lasting they will be,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change. “His death pushed racial justice to the forefront and brought a multiracial response like never before, but we must remember this is about making Chauvin accountable and the work of making systemic changes.” One clear policy outcome has been changes to policing. More than 30 states have passed new police oversight and reform laws since Floyd’s killing, giving states more authority and putting long-powerful police unions on the defensive. The changes include restricting the use of force, overhauling disciplinary systems, installing more civilian oversight and requiring transparency around misconduct cases. Still, systems of policing are complex and entrenched and it remains to be seen how much the legislation will change the way things work on the ground. “America is a deeply racist place, and it’s also progressively getting better — both are true,” said Bailey, the racial reconciliation worker in Richmond. “You are talking about a 350-year problem that’s only a little more than 50 years toward correction.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
U.S. President Joe Biden raised $61.8 million for his inauguration events, receiving large contributions from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals, according to a financial disclosure. The Democratic president's inaugural committee took in $1 million in contributions each from about 10 big companies, including Pfizer Inc, the maker of one of the COVID-19 vaccines being deployed in the United States, as well as from AT&T Services Inc, Bank of America Corp and Boeing Co. Corporations making $1 million donations also included Uber Technologies Inc, Lockheed Martin Corp and Qualcomm Inc, according to the filing submitted on Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.
- The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Now that President Joe Biden has met his goal to have the coronavirus vaccine available to all adults, health officials around the country are hitting what appears to be a soft ceiling: More than half the nation’s adults have gotten at least one dose, but it is going to take hard work — and some creative changes in strategy — to convince the rest. State health officials, business leaders, policymakers and politicians are struggling to figure out how to tailor their messages, and their tactics, to persuade not only the vaccine hesitant but also the indifferent. The work will be labor intensive, much of it may fall on private employers and the risk is that it will take so long that the nation will not be able to reach herd immunity — the point at which the spread of the virus slows — in time to stop worrisome new variants from evading the vaccine. “If you think of this as a war,” said Michael Carney, the senior vice president for emerging issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “we’re about to enter the hand-to-hand combat phase of the war.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times In Louisiana, where 40% of the adult population has had one shot even though all adults have been eligible since March, officials are delivering doses to commercial fishermen near the docks and running pop-up clinics at a Buddhist temple, homeless shelters and truck stops. Civic groups are conducting door-to-door visits, akin to a get-out-the-vote effort, in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates. In Alabama, fewer than 40% of adults have had at least one shot. Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, is trying to reach out to rural white residents, who demonstrate high rates of vaccine hesitancy. They are mistrustful of politicians and the news media, so Harris is asking doctors to record cellphone videos. “Please email them to your patients, saying, ‘This is why I think you ought to take the vaccine,’” he has pleaded. Some companies are contemplating running their own vaccine clinics and trying to educate their workers about the benefits of getting protected against a virus that has already killed more than 560,000 Americans. But as the economy swings into gear, they are reluctant to mandate vaccination for their employees, fearing too many would seek work elsewhere. White House officials say they take it as a good sign that nearly 51% of American adults have turned out for a first dose — “a major milestone,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair, the White House vaccinations coordinator, and an indication that “there are tens of millions of people who are still eager to get vaccinated.” But he is well aware that there will come a time when Americans are no longer fighting for vaccine slots, and when supply will exceed demand. In some parts of the country, that point may be here. In Mississippi, which opened vaccinations to all adults a month ago, 21% of the population is fully inoculated. In Alabama, the figure is just 19%. In Georgia, home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 20% of the population is fully vaccinated. “There are states where they feel they have hit the wall,” said Mike Fraser, the executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “The folks that wanted it have found it. The folks that don’t want it are not bothering to find it.” The fear is that even as some regions race toward broad immunity, others will harbor coronavirus infections that could transform into more dangerous and more contagious variants, which could break through existing vaccinations. Fraser said the soft ceilings in some states do not mean, “‘OK, everybody, give up.’ It’s: ‘What do we need to change? What do we need to pivot to?’” The CDC, for instance, is working with states to identify primary care doctors in neighborhoods with a high “social vulnerability index” to get them vaccines. “It’s really going to be all about the ground game,” Choucair said. “It’s going to be about planning at the local level. It’s going to be about microplans. It’s going to be about county by county, ZIP code by ZIP code, census tract by census tract to make sure what are the strategies that work.” While estimates of what it takes to reach herd immunity vary, most experts put the figure at 70% to 90% of the population. That figure includes children, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. And judging by the vaccination rates so far, herd immunity will be difficult to reach, particularly in red states and in the South. Polls show that vaccine hesitancy is on the decline, as more people see their friends and relatives get vaccinated without incident. John Bridgeland, a founder and the chief executive of the COVID Collaborative, a bipartisan group of political and scientific leaders working on vaccine education, said the challenge was not being dogmatic in a public awareness campaign, but treating every person’s concern as unique and valid. But he added that “the last miles here are going to be the toughest.” “People have very legitimate concerns,” Bridgeland said, “and they need good answers from trusted people.” Complicating such reassurances is rising concern about vaccine safety after the government’s decision to “pause” the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine while regulators investigate reports of rare blood clots among six female recipients. A CDC advisory panel is expected to meet on Friday to determine whether to place restrictions on use of the vaccine, which public health officials had expected to use in hard-to-reach communities, like homeless shelters. In the meantime, Fraser said his organization was exploring ways to move away from mass vaccination clinics, which assume “everybody in the population is really chomping at the bit to get vaccinated,” toward “more retail public health,” in which state and local health departments and providers reach out directly to the unvaccinated, almost like a door-to-door campaign. In some states, there have been surprises. In Alabama, Harris said, officials prepared extensively to address vaccine hesitancy among African Americans and put “a lot of time into trying to build local relationships with trusted voices” — an effort that he said paid off. But officials did not anticipate such strong resistance from rural whites. The state has done polling to figure out how to reach that group, and learned that the techniques used to reach Black people were not likely to work with rural people who “are mistrustful of politicians in general and maybe state government in particular.” But, Harris said, they do trust doctors. Yet having individual doctors administer the vaccine poses a logistical challenge for pharmaceutical companies and the Biden administration, which ships doses to states in large quantities. One vaccine maker, Pfizer-BioNTech, ships 1,170 doses in a single pallet; the other, Moderna, ships packets of 10 vials containing 100 doses. Those amounts are unsuitable for doctors’ offices and smaller settings, which have been the focus of Alabama’s vaccination effort. Harris said the vaccine packaging “has been disastrous for us.” Private employers may be the next pressure point. The private sector is eager to jump in and help educate employees — and even administer vaccines, said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, the city’s leading business organization. But at this point, mandating vaccination for employees does not seem to be on the table. “Employers feel that COVID has caused such stress on their people, they are reticent to put on any more pressure,” Wylde said. Shirley Bloomfield, the chief executive of NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association, which represents small, rural telecommunications companies, has been working with the White House on pushing her members to get the vaccine. “One of my CEOs is paying everyone $100 to get the vaccine,” she said. “But I think we all have to be a little more creative because we’re seeing that saturation point.” Even with broad public awareness campaigns, television commercials, and incentives like cash payments and personal time off, Bloomfield said vaccination rates among staffs at her member companies were topping out at about 50% to 60%. On top of that, Bloomfield said her members reported to her that as many as 15% of people in small towns were not showing up for their second shot. She attributed some of that to social media posts about side effects. “That doesn’t help us,” she said. It also does not help that in a highly polarized nation, vaccination is still a topic of political debate. In Tennessee, for instance, Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, has emphasized that vaccination is a personal choice, a message that Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, criticized as “not on the correct wavelength” amid a pandemic that threatens all of society. When Ivanka Trump, the daughter of former President Donald Trump, posted a picture of herself getting vaccinated on Instagram and urged others to do the same, the responses ranged from “nope” to “no thanks.” Her father suggested in a recent interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News that Biden officials “want me to do a commercial” to promote vaccination. But, Trump indicated, he was not inclined to do so because of the Johnson & Johnson pause, which he described as “the worst thing possible.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- ABC News Videos
Plus, negotiations on President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan are underway, and the Senate holds a hearing on restrictive voting laws.
- The New York Times
A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, will call on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company has abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law. The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting. “We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Jackson said. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Home Depot, Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.” While boycotts can be challenging to carry out in ways that put meaningful financial pressure on large corporations, the call nonetheless represents a new phase in the battle over voting rights in Georgia, where many Democrats and civil rights groups have been reluctant to support boycotts, viewing them as risking unfair collateral damage for the companies’ workers. But the coalition of faith leaders pointed to the use of boycotts in the civil rights movement, when Black voters’ rights were also threatened, and said their call to action was meant as a “warning shot” for other state legislatures. “This is not just a Georgia issue; we’re talking about democracy in America that is under threat,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We’ve got to use whatever leverage and power, spiritual fortitude that we have, including our dollars, to help people to understand that this is a national campaign.” Home Depot’s headquarters are in Georgia, and it is one of the largest employers in the state. But while other major Georgia corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state’s new voting law, Home Depot has not, offering only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.” While not publicly wading into the fray, one of the company’s founders, Arthur Blank, said in a call with other business executives this month that he supported voting rights. Another founder, Ken Langone, is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Jackson said that the faith leaders were calling for four specific actions from Home Depot: speaking out against the Georgia voting law, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, offering support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and backing litigation against the Georgia law. Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott. “I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.” Faith leaders acknowledged concerns from state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough. “It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia. “And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
About 31% of adults in the United States have now been fully vaccinated. Scientists have estimated that 70% to 90% of the total population must acquire resistance to the virus to reach herd immunity. But in hundreds of counties around the country, vaccination rates are low, with some even languishing in the teens. The disparity in vaccination rates has so far mainly broken down along political lines. The New York Times examined survey and vaccine administration data for nearly every U.S. county and found that both willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where a majority of residents voted to reelect former President Donald Trump in 2020. The phenomenon has left some places with a shortage of supply and others with a glut. For months, health officials across the United States have been racing to inoculate people as variants of the coronavirus have continued to gain a foothold, carrying mutations that can make infections more contagious and, in some cases, deadlier. Vaccinations have sped up, and in many places, people are still unable to book appointments because of high demand. In Michigan, where cases have spiraled out of control, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, recently urged President Joe Biden to send additional doses. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times But in more rural — and more Republican — areas, health officials said that supply is far exceeding demand. In a county in Wyoming, a local health official asked the state to stop sending first doses of the vaccine because the freezer was already stuffed to capacity with unwanted vials. In an Iowa county, a clinic called people who had volunteered to give shots to tell them not to come in because so few residents had signed up for appointments. In a county in Pennsylvania, a hospital set up a drive-thru in the park, stocked with roughly 1,000 vaccine doses. Only about 300 people showed up. And in interviews with more than two dozen state and county health officials — including some who said they were feeling weary after a year of hearing lifelong friends, family and neighbors tell them that the virus was a hoax or not particularly serious — most attributed low vaccination rates at least partly to hesitant conservative populations. “I just never in a million years ever expected my field of work to become less medical and more political,” said Hailey Bloom, a registered Republican and the public information officer for the health department that covers Natrona County, Wyoming, which Trump won by a wide margin last year. The health department, Bloom said, set up a clinic in a former Macy’s at the local mall and was prepared to give 1,500 shots a day, four days a week. But it has never been able to fill all the slots, she said; usually, 300 or 400 people show up. Bloom, like many other county officials, said she feared that reaching herd immunity might not be possible in her community. “It’s terrifying to think that this may never end,” she said. “So much hinges on these vaccinations.” About 27% of Natrona County’s adult residents have been fully vaccinated, and the federal government has estimated, based on Census survey data, that about 32% of its residents may be hesitant to get a shot. The relationship between vaccination and politics reflects demographics. Vaccine hesitancy is highest in counties that are rural and have lower income levels and college graduation rates — the same characteristics found in counties that were more likely to have supported Trump. In wealthier Trump-supporting counties with higher college graduation rates, the vaccination gap is smaller, the analysis found, but the partisan gap holds even after accounting for income, race and age demographics, population density and a county’s infection and death rate. When asked in polls about their vaccination plans, Republicans across the country have been far less likely than Democrats to say they plan to get shots. Most recently, on Wednesday, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University polls indicated that almost half of Republicans did not plan to pursue vaccinations. Only around 1 in 20 Democrats said the same. Using survey data collected in March, the federal government recently created new estimates of hesitancy for every county and state in the United States. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services modelers used demographic factors and state-level responses of adults who said they would “probably not” or “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine from the Household Pulse Survey, then used Census data to estimate the share of residents who might say that in every county. In more than 500 counties, at least one-quarter of adults might not be willing to get vaccinated, according to the estimates, and a majority of these places supported Trump in the last election. In the 10 states where the government projected that residents would be least hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, voters chose Biden in the 2020 election. Trump won nine of the 10 states where the most residents said they would probably or definitely not get the vaccine. (He did not win Georgia, which is among those states.) Dr. Jean Stachon, the health officer in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, where federal officials have estimated that about 31% of residents may be reluctant to receive a vaccine, said her department has made the tough philosophical decision to prioritize getting shots to the willing. At least once, that has meant opening a vial even when there were not enough interested people to use up all the doses in it. “It pains me to think that the governor of Michigan is begging for vaccines,” she said, “and we’ve got vials and vials in our freezer.” Stachon, who has been both a registered Democrat and Republican in the past and considers herself politically independent, said she had not given up hope. Sweetwater has fully vaccinated about 29% of its adult residents. Trump won the county by a margin of more than 50 points last year. In Grant County, North Dakota, home to about 2,400 people, the federal government has estimated that 31% of the population may not be willing to get a shot. Trump won the county by a wide margin last year. “People tell me, ‘I would like to wait’; it’s the No. 1 thing I’m hearing,” said Erin Ourada, the administrator for Custer Health, which serves Grant and four other counties. “I keep seeing Grant County sit at the bottom of the list. It makes me sad.” About 13% of adult residents there have been fully vaccinated. Actual vaccination data has revealed a pattern similar to what polling and the federal estimates have shown. The Times analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau and found a party split that was significant, though smaller. In counties where a majority of residents voted for Trump in the 2020 election, adult vaccination rates were lower, on average, than in counties where a majority of residents voted for Biden. The rate was especially low in counties where Trump dominated, falling below 1 in 4 residents in counties where the former president won by a margin of 50 or more points. The divide in vaccination rates remained even after accounting for a variety of factors, including infection rates, population density and educational attainment. The vaccination data may not match the split predicted in the polling data because of the way the rollouts have been organized in the United States, with all states giving preference to older Americans early on and with younger adults in many states qualifying only recently. A recent poll showed that older Republicans were less resistant to becoming vaccinated than younger Republicans. The rate of full vaccination for older adults in Republican-leaning counties was 5% lower than the national average, the Times analysis found, but the rate for younger adults was 18% below average. It is an indication that the partisan divide in vaccinations may actually grow wider as younger people become eligible for the vaccine nationwide. It is possible that some of the differences in vaccination rates are driven by distribution issues and eligibility rules, said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.com, who has studied partisan aspects of the pandemic. But as eligibility becomes more universal, “the more the differences will be about hesitancy alone,” he said. The share of vaccine doses that each state uses may provide clues about how hesitancy will unfold going forward. At the beginning of March, all states were able to administer a similar share of doses delivered to them. But now some states are lagging behind. On average, the 10 states where residents were least hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to federal estimates, have administered 82% of the doses that they have received. The 10 states where residents were most hesitant have used 72%. Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, said she was not surprised that conservative-leaning people might be less likely to want a vaccine. “These are people who were fed untruths about how this virus wasn’t real,” Cooper said. “I think it is carrying through in the vaccination realm, too.” To be sure, there are counties that supported Trump in the last election and now have above-average vaccination rates. Some officials in those counties said their rates have lately plateaued. In Tama County, Iowa, where Trump won by a wide margin last year and the vaccination rate is above the national average, the health department runs a clinic a few days a week at a former juvenile correctional facility. Until recently, staff and volunteers were regularly giving shots to about 120 to 150 people in a day, according to Shannon Zoffka, executive director of the department and a registered Democrat. When the state expanded its eligibility rules to include all adults, she expected the phones to be ringing off the hook. Instead, she said, about 120 people made appointments for the entire past week. “When you hit that saturation point, you don’t realize it’s coming,” she said. “It just happens.” Likewise, some counties that supported Biden are now lagging behind in vaccination efforts. In Hudson County, New Jersey, which supported Biden by a wide margin last year, about 25% of adult residents have been fully vaccinated. David Drumeler, deputy county administrator and a registered Democrat, said that there was not enough supply to meet the demand and that many residents, some of whom do not have cars, were having difficulty getting to mass vaccination sites elsewhere in the state. Drumeler said that the county was strictly policing a residency requirement in the county to make sure its supply was reaching its intended target. “It’s so frustrating to be so low on the percentage of folks getting vaccinated when all our shots are getting into arms,” Drumeler said. “But hesitancy is not a hurdle we are encountering yet.” The situation is quite the opposite in Potter County, Pennsylvania, where Trump won by a wide margin and where a recent drive-thru vaccine clinic failed to draw large crowds. Kevin Cracknell, who has spent 13 years as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at the local hospital, said his biggest fear was that very few people in the area would get vaccinated and, as a result, waves of infection would continue to sweep through the community for years to come. Cracknell, a registered Democrat, recalled a time this past January when patients with the virus — people he knew from town — began to fill the beds in his hospital. “It’s like no other virus I’ve seen in my life,” he said. “The damage it does to the lungs.” Cracknell let out a long breath. “Most of my patients supported Trump,” he said. “I love them to death. I want them to succeed. I want them to be healthy.” So far, only about 15% of adults in the county have been fully vaccinated. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- Yahoo News 360
Adding justices could be a way to counter the new 6-3 conservative majority, but some fear partisan gamesmanship would threaten the legitimacy of the nation's highest court.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden met on Monday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have all served as governors or mayors, as the White House seeks a deal on his more than $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal. Biden said he handpicked the group of former state and local leaders with experience as compromise seekers, hoping he can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on an ambitious jobs and infrastructure package. The group included one Republican lawmaker who tried to block Biden's presidential victory.
- The New York Times
American democracy faces many challenges: New limits on voting rights. The corrosive effect of misinformation. The rise of domestic terrorism. Foreign interference in elections. Efforts to subvert the peaceful transition of power. And making matters worse on all of these issues is a fundamental truth: The two political parties see the other as an enemy. It is an outlook that makes compromise impossible and encourages elected officials to violate norms in pursuit of an agenda or an electoral victory. It turns debates over changing voting laws into existential showdowns. And it undermines the willingness of the loser to accept defeat — an essential requirement of a democracy. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times This threat to democracy has a name: sectarianism. It is not a term usually used in discussions about American politics. It is better known in the context of religious sectarianism — like the hostility between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq. Yet a growing number of eminent political scientists contend that political sectarianism is on the rise in America. That contention helps make sense of a lot of what has been going on in American politics in recent years, including Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid, President Joe Biden’s tortured effort to reconcile his inaugural call for “unity” with his partisan legislative agenda, and the plan by far-right House members to create a congressional group that would push some views associated with white supremacy. Most of all, it re-centers the threat to American democracy on the dangers of a hostile and divided citizenry. In recent years, many analysts and commentators have told a now-familiar story of how democracies die at the hands of authoritarianism: A demagogic populist exploits dissatisfaction with the prevailing liberal order, wins power through legitimate means, and usurps constitutional power to cement his or her own rule. It is the story of Putin’s Russia, Chavez’s Venezuela and even Hitler’s Germany. Sectarianism, in turn, instantly evokes an additional set of very different cautionary tales: Ireland, the Middle East and South Asia, regions where religious sectarianism led to dysfunctional government, violence, insurgency, civil war and even disunion or partition. These are not always stories of authoritarian takeover, though sectarianism can yield that outcome as well. As often, it is the story of a minority that cannot accept being ruled by its enemy. In many ways, that’s the story playing out in America today. Whether religious or political, sectarianism is about two hostile identity groups who not only clash over policy and ideology, but see the other side as alien and immoral. It is the antagonistic feelings between the groups, more than differences over ideas, that drive sectarian conflict. Any casual observer of American politics would agree that there is plenty of hostility between Democrats and Republicans. Many do not just disagree, they dislike each other. They hold discriminatory attitudes in job hiring as they do on the Implicit Association Test. They tell pollsters they would not want their child to marry an opposing partisan. In a paper published in Science in October by 16 prominent political scientists, the authors argue that by some measures the hatred between the two parties “exceeds long-standing antipathies around race and religion.” More than half of Republicans and more than 40% of Democrats tend to think of the other party as “enemies,” rather than “political opponents,” according to a CBS News poll conducted in January. A majority of Americans said that other Americans were the greatest threat to America. On one level, partisan animosity just reflects the persistent differences between the two parties over policy issues. Over the past two decades, they have fought bruising battles over the Iraq War, gun rights, health care, taxes and more. Perhaps hard feelings would not necessarily be sectarian in nature. But the two parties have not only become more ideologically polarized — they have simultaneously sorted along racial, religious, educational, generational and geographic lines. Partisanship has become a “mega-identity,” in the words of political scientist Lilliana Mason, representing both a division over policy and a broader clash between white, Christian conservatives and a liberal, multiracial, secular elite. And as mass sectarianism has grown in America, some of the loudest partisan voices in Congress or on Fox News, Twitter, MSNBC and other platforms have determined that it is in their interest to lean into cultural warfare and inflammatory rhetoric to energize their side against the other. The conservative outrage over the purported canceling of Dr. Seuss is a telling marker of how intergroup conflict has supplanted old-fashioned policy debate. Culture war politics used to be synonymous with a fight over “social issues,” like abortion or gun policy, where government played a central role. The Dr. Seuss controversy had no policy implications. What was at stake was the security of one sect, which saw itself as under attack by the other. It is the kind of issue that would arouse passions in an era of sectarianism. A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted in March found that Republicans had heard more about the Dr. Seuss issue than they had heard about the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. A decade earlier, a far smaller stimulus package helped launch the Tea Party movement. The Dr. Seuss episode is hardly the only example of Republicans deemphasizing policy goals in favor of stoking sectarianism. Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., penned an op-ed in support of unionization at Amazon as retribution for the Seattle company’s cultural liberalism. At its 2020 national convention, the Republican Party did not even update its policy platform. And perhaps most significant, Republicans made the choice in 2016 to abandon laissez-faire economics and neoconservative foreign policy and embrace sectarianism all at once and in one package: Trump. The GOP primaries that year were a referendum on whether it was easier to appeal to conservatives with conservative policy or by stoking sectarian animosity. Sectarianism won. Sectarianism has been so powerful among Republicans in part because they believe they are at risk of being consigned to minority status. The party has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, and conservatives fear that demographic changes promise to further erode their support. And while defeat is part of the game in democracy, it is a lot harder to accept in a sectarian society. It is not easy to accept being ruled by a hostile, alien rival. It can make “political losses feel like existential threats,” as the authors of the study published in Science put it. As a result, the minority often poses a challenge to democracy in a sectarian society. It is the minority who bears the costs, whether material or psychological, of accepting majority rule in a democracy. In the extreme, rule by a hostile, alien group might not feel much different from being subjugated by another nation. Democracies in sectarian societies often create institutional arrangements to protect the minority, like minority or group rights, power-sharing agreements, devolution or home rule. Otherwise, the most alienated segments of the minority might resort to violence and insurgency in hopes of achieving independence. Republicans are not consigned to permanent minority status like the typical sectarian minority, of course. The Irish had no chance to become the majority in the United Kingdom. Neither did the Muslims of the British Raj or the Sunnis in Iraq today. Democrats just went from the minority to the majority in all three branches of elected government in four years; Republicans could do the same. But changes in the racial and cultural makeup of the country leave conservatives feeling far more vulnerable than Republican electoral competitiveness alone would suggest. Demographic projections suggest that non-Hispanic whites will become a minority sometime in the middle of the century. People with a four-year college degree could become a majority of voters even sooner. Religiosity is declining. The sense that the country is changing heightens Republican concerns. In recent days, Fox News host Tucker Carlson embraced the conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party was “trying to replace the current electorate” with new voters from “the Third World.” Far-right extremists in the House are looking to create an “America First Caucus” that calls for “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and an infrastructure that “befits the progeny of European architecture.” It is not easy to pin down where political sectarianism in America. fits on a scale from zero to “The Troubles.” But nearly every protection that sectarian minorities pursue is either supported or under consideration by some element of the American right. That includes the more ominous steps. In December, Rush Limbaugh said he thought conservatives were “trending toward secession,” as there cannot be a “peaceful coexistence” between liberals and conservatives. One-third of Republicans say they would support secession in a recent poll, along with one-fifth of Democrats. One-third of Americans believe that violence could be justified to achieve political objectives. In a survey conducted in January, a majority of Republican voters agreed with the statement that the “traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 suggests that the risks of sustained political violence or even insurgency cannot be discounted. Whatever risk of imminent and widespread violence might have existed in January appears to have passed for now. Instead, Biden was sworn in as president — a person who did not attempt to arouse the passions of one sect against the other during his campaign. His nomination and election demonstrates that sectarianism, while on the rise, may still have limits in America: The median voter prefers bipartisanship and a deescalation of political conflict, creating an incentive to run nonsectarian campaigns. Yet whether Biden’s presidency will deescalate sectarian tensions is an open question. Biden is pursuing an ambitious policy agenda, which may eventually refocus partisan debate on the issues or just further alienate one side on matters like immigration or the filibuster. Still, the authors of the Science paper write that “emphasis on political ideas rather than political adversaries” would quite likely to be “a major step in the right direction.” And Biden himself does not seem to elicit much outrage from the conservative news media or rank-and-file — perhaps because of his welcoming message or his identity as a 78-year-old white man from Scranton, Pennsylvania. But sectarianism is not just about the conduct of the leader of a party — it is about the conflict between two groups. Nearly anyone’s conduct can worsen hostility between the two sides, even if it is not endorsed by the leadership of a national political party. Carlson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are only the latest examples. It leaves America at an uncertain juncture. Biden may dampen sectarian tensions compared with Trump, but it is not clear whether festering grievances and resentments will fade into the background with so many others acting to stoke division. Sectarianism, after all, can last for decades or even centuries after the initial cause for hostility has passed. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company