As we gingerly permit ourselves to look at the possibility of a post-Trump era, you should remember that it would be foolish to summarily reject everything Trump has been doing, simply because he did it. It is possible to understand that Donald Trump was a very bad president, that America are the best off under different leadership, and also that some of the policies Trump enacted have turned out to be effective.
Negative partisanship has warped American politics. Let's not let it warp policy, too.
Start most abundant in important subject: COVID. President Trump's leadership on handling the pandemic has been somewhere between deeply flawed and catastrophic. But even so, his administration has not been wrong about everything, and it's critical we recognize and retain things he's done right, as well as learn from important deficiencies he exposed.
For instance: Operation Warp Speed. OWS is an ambitious public/private effort to accelerate vaccine development, particularly, by enabling significant try to advance at risk. So far, it looks working. The key insight behind OWS was recognizing that the long timelines typically associated with conventional medical product development reflect the stage-gate nature from the process.
When researching a new treatment, drug companies happen to be traditionally cautious about investing in sequentially more expansive and dear stage developments until they're certain they've cleared the earlier hurdles.
This stage-gating belongs to what makes the development process so lengthy. With Operation Warp Speed, the federal government offset the costs associated with this risk, allowing companies to fully invest in and prepare for subsequent phases, to ensure that if a product meets the requirements of the previous stage, it can surge forward immediately in to the next one.
This is precisely the way the government should leverage its dollars to maneuver along vaccine development without sacrificing the science.
Not only was the idea behind OWS sound, but Trump decided on a strong and experienced leader for that project: a pharma industry veteran named Moncef Slaoui, who put his very comfortable life on hold to helm this effort.
Scott Gottlieb, whom Trump appointed as FDA Commissioner in 2021, was another savvy healthcare appointment involving the wisdom to value private sector experience. Gottlieb understood both Washington politics and the industry he was regulating. His selection was also greeted with predictable skepticism, based on the usual progressive canard that industry experience is intrinsically vulgar and inherently disqualifying, versus precisely what can enable someone, like Gottlieb, to become as effective as ultimately he turned out to be – as I argued when he was nominated.
Without question, Trump's discomfort with science led to a series of unexplainable, truly unforgivable decisions, best exemplified by his marginalizing of Drs. Brix and Fauci, and embracing instead . . . Peter Navarro. This really is batshit crazy-full stop. It's like having Josh Hader and Mariano Rivera starting to warm up in the bullpen, and instead calling Joe Buck in in the press box. Trump's meddling with the FDA and the CDC has been similarly destructive, undermining confidence that is desperately required.
In part, Trump appears to act this way because he believes that there's no \”truth,\” that everyone has an agenda, and corruption is really a universal way of life. This is not the perfect lens through which to view the American government's control over a pandemic.
But there is one of the ways in which Trump's post-truth belief in the universality of corruption ended up being helpful: In Trump's criticisms of traditionally \”untouchable\” institutions such as the World Health Organization, whose elevated intentions have typically placed them beyond serious scrutiny, much less public reproach.
Certainly, the WHO has a worthy mission. And Trump's criticisms from the group were self-serving. But they also turned out to be true. A rare and much-needed close look at the WHO, by the Wall Street Journal in February, suggested the organization had sucked up to Chinese leaders-and downplayed government missteps-to remain in the good graces of the authoritarian country.
So we ought to continue to pay close attention to the WHO and try to make sure the organization is reformed, and never a pawn of China's geopolitical ambitions, or other political agendas.
Trump's politicization of everything also revealed the extent that other spheres of public life have been unhealthily politicized.
For instance, the public health community did themselves no favors by stifling themselves when confronted with summer protests with which most were politically aligned.
Data from an academic political scientist at Stanford suggests that as a group, academics and journalists skew farthest left of all the groups studied. Within medicine, some of the disciplines most involved in public health, including infectious disease experts, were subsequently discovered to be most progressive; spinal surgeons the most conservative. Among professions, \”oil, gas, and coal\” was probably the most conservative.
This politicization of professional life seems to have metastasized out from the media and academia. Which is deeply disturbing for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it creates a growing lack of tolerance for unauthorized views-when such receptivity is the foundation of our liberal institutions.
While it's routine for journalists to evocatively describe relationships between companies yet others as \”cozy\” , it's hard to think of a cozier relationship than that between intrinsically politically aligned academics and journalists, whose careers-in relation to research funding earned and compelling narratives generated-are each concretely served and advanced by these personally syntonic and professionally synergistic relationships.
Consequently, it's disheartening, but perhaps unsurprising, that in both the media and academia, the intolerance is continuing to grow to the level of caricature, where independent, remarkably moderate voices such as Bari Weiss are vilified, and ultimately chased from premier publications, while few dissenting voices within academic institutions dare speak up, for fear of what might happen. See the tribulations of Erika Christakis, a distinguished Yale professor, who received attack for suggesting, within the most gentle way, that perhaps students don't have to be protected from every conceivable environmental trigger. Naturally, this affront to the Yale environment triggered such outrage that Christakis stepped away from teaching.
Beyond these well-publicized stories are hundreds of other examples: thoughtful colleagues both within and outside of academia, who feel compelled to hold their collective tongues, keep so far as possible from the fray, and offer the expected utterances and affirmations. All simply because they feel convinced that to do otherwise would be to risk their professional standing and restrain their career development.
They are almost certainly correct.
And just because Donald Trump demagogued this politicization and tried on the extender as a pretext for racism, know-nothing-ism, and worse does not mean that we should embrace it.
Fealty to an ever-more-stringent political orthodoxy is now routinely demanded from the growing number of organizations. The quest for diversity is an important and worthy goal-especially compared to the alternative-but unfortunately, one that tends to be pursued only selectively, in a way that rarely includes diversity of viewpoint.
We have valid reason to be concerned by this unhealthy, fundamentally illiberal trend, and also to yearn for a thoughtful counterpoint, a strong and compelling voice of reason.
Trump is not that voice.
The profound tragedy is the fact that there are few remaining on the right-and perhaps none in the Republican establishment-who can credibly step into this role.
That's because the GOP's reflexive and complete embrace of Trump has resulted in their utter loss of moral or intellectual standing. A party that defined itself for a generation on convictions and concepts has abandoned almost everything it once stood for in order to remain in the good graces of an impetuous man-child.
None of us should wish for a one-party state. We need voices that can respond wisely to the excesses of our political poles. This isn't to create a false equivalence: The excesses from the Trump years have been extraordinary, and with luck we will not see such again.
But in the normal course of political life, there will always be excesses. One expects that a competent and successful Democratic administration will have its own share. A healthy political product is one which allows for constant self-correction and recalibration.
If we are lucky, then the silver lining of Trump years might be a reaction that rekindles an awareness that what we need from your leaders is that they be engaging and inclusive. That they admit the possibility of good intentions even using their most ardent opponents. They appeal to our best natures, rather than our worst instincts.
And perhaps our encounter with Trumpism might even encourage us to model these behaviors ourselves.