A Weekend of Bleak News in America

Living in the decline of American empire is a weird thing. There’s nothing you can really do about it, after all—sometimes the only option is to sit back and marvel at the spectacular failure. 2020 has provided more than its fair share of opportunities to do just that. It’s been an endless barrage of bad news stories that one can’t help believe are the sign of some greater, monumental breakdown.

Yet still, even in this vivid hellscape of a year, there are particular days that make clear just how dumb everything is, filled with headlines and media you just know historians will eventually point to as obvious foresight of America’s inevitable fall from power.

Today is one of those days.

Michigan’s state electors meet today to cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden, but do so under “credible threats of violence.” It’s not clear if these threats are as credible (or incredible) as the plot to kidnap and assassinate Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer a few months back, but the throughline here is clear—the lowercase-d democratic process is being directly threatened by violent actors pissed off at its outcome. That leads pretty seamlessly to Washington, D.C., where more than a thousand Proud Boys marched over the weekend to express their general anger with…black churches?

The D.C. demonstration wasn’t much different from the others we’ve seen from the Proud Boys. It was mostly a bunch of angry dudes spouting hateful bullshit, receiving protection from police, and picking fights along the way. It was less than two months ago that FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that “white supremacist-type ideology” makes up the “biggest chunk” of domestic terror threats in the United States. It’s a statement that shocked no one, especially when videos like the one above become readily available almost every time a far right group decides to demonstrate in public.

This comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s most prominent election challenge failure to date. Over the weekend, the Supreme Court threw out a Texas lawsuit challenging election results, stating that Texas had no claim to challenge results in other states. The lawsuit, which Trump himself referred to as the “big one,” basically called for millions of votes in four states to simply be wiped out. It’s perhaps Trump’s last vestige of hope to subvert popular will and remain president. There’s no question he assumed that since he’d appointed three judges to the Supreme Court it would hear the case and vote his way. But since this absurdity was layered into an endless chain of lawsuits and legal challenges that everyone knew weren’t going anywhere, it wound up being a passing weekend blip.

Perhaps the darkest undercurrent is COVID-19 death tolls reaching record highs. Last Wednesday marked the first time the single day death total in the U.S. surpassed 3,000. That mark was repeated again on Thursday before dropping to a much more easily ignorable 2,749 on Friday. That the U.S. is surpassing some of the deadliest days in its history on a virtual daily basis is just another passing fact, one we’ve come to accept as an inevitable part of our current reality. And that might say more about living in America in 2020 than just about anything else.