A year ago, we were awaiting a Super Tuesday primary on March 3 that could clench the nomination for Joe Biden. He had surprised everybody with an overwhelming win South Carolina after losing Iowa and New Hampshire. His momentum was huge and his opponents were dropping like flies. Mike Bloomberg’s millions had failed to produce the results he anticipated and nobody else seemed to have any traction. 

In less watched news, a mysterious virus had landed on our shores and was beginning to take its first American lives. In Europe and Asia, countries were taking dramatic measures to curb the spread of the virus. In the US, Donald Trump restricted travel from China and began a year of lying about the virus

Within days of the primary, attention to the virus escalated. The CDC recommended no gatherings of more than 50 people. New York City announce school closures. Throughout February, Trump had been assuring Americans that the virus would just go away and that his administration had it under control. As March rolled in, he insisted that the virus was no more dangerous than the flu. 

And so began a year of two realities. One part of the country followed what the media said about the virus and listened to the advice of public health experts. Another followed Trump as his rhetoric became increasing false. He announced several times over the course of the year that the pandemic was ending, while the CDC and epidemiologists were issuing increasingly dire warnings. Trump insisted the virus was a Democratic hoax. Often, he would walk back his statements, but the damage was done. A large portion of the country believed that the risk of the disease was overblown or completely fabricated. They refused to take precautions and became confrontational with business people and others demanded them. 

Today, those virus skeptics are still causing problems. Just yesterday, a police officer was shot and killed by a man being escorted out of a basketball game for not wearing a mask. The vast majority of people opposed to getting vaccinated are Republicans who don’t believe the virus is real or don’t believe it’s a threat. They have succumbed to the alternative facts pushed by the conservative media that has offered almost no solutions to dealing with the problem and a constant stream of criticism of political leaders trying to muddle their way through a pandemic with no precedent.

The greatest contrast between now and last March is the tone of the president. We aren’t waking up to inflammatory Tweets. Joe Biden is not walking back false pronouncements about the virus. The stream of information from the administration seems consistent and transparent. There’s a hint of national mourning for those who have perished and a sense of shared national commitment to defeating the virus. The hysteria that drove too much of the left in reaction to the lies from the right has even subsided. 

In other words, we’re moving in the right direction. What a difference a year makes. 


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