Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather Dwight was the 34th President of the United States, offered a 2020 list of those we should be grateful to during this pandemic year (When the Followers Become Our Leaders). She starts by noting:
It has been a tumultuous year—one that strained us physically and emotionally. I fear the emotional toll has been harder to handle than the limitations on our physical activity. We discovered many things this year about ourselves, as well as our friends and neighbors. Many of my close associates say they have now culled their social lists forever. They tell me they hope never to associate again with certain long-time friends who put themselves and their own selfish interests over the health and safety of their neighbors or who’ve made excuses for a man who has occupied the White House and blatantly damaged American institutions.
I am not ready to condemn the president’s supporters quite so quickly. Since the election—for the first time—Americans are now forced to confront who we have become.
This year, as we grasped for signs of leadership and courage, it appeared that it came mostly from those in subordinate positions of power. Think about it. It was the followers, not their bosses, who stood up, took the hit, and suffered the consequences—including illness, intimidation, threats, and joblessness. I repeat: these were not the top people we elected to defend our constitution and our democracy, but their subordinates who risked everything without the prospect of turning their courage into best-selling books or upward career trajectories.
I agree with Ms. Eisenhower’s very comprehensive list – every name, every reason that she so-well states:
The medical and healthcare workers of America. What a legacy of sacrifice and fortitude they have left us. Our shameful policy of denial has endangered their lives, now for a second time. It has exposed them to significant personal risk, as other Americans turn their eyes from the unfolding crisis, including limited testing and dwindling ICU beds needed to save lives. COVID-19 will also prove unaffordable for many who will be stricken. It is unconscionable that in the middle of a pandemic there has been an effort to deem ObamaCare unconstitutional, with no proposed alternative.
The serving members of our armed forces. They have taken an oath to defend the constitution and serve, nonpolitically, the American people. This is exemplified by General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In June, a week after law enforcement broke up a largely peaceful demonstration in Lafayette Park, the general memorably apologized to his colleagues and the American people for allowing himself to be used by the President of the United States for his boss’s own political purposes. His courage to admit a mistake and learn from it was inspiring, powerful, and enduring.
The secret service. For duty’s sake, they had to protect a president who cared not one wit about their own health and safety. Not only did the president expose many agents to COVID-19, either personally or through his unmasked events, he also put their families in jeopardy. Fine thanks to the agents who agree, when they take the job, to put themselves between the president and a bullet.
The Vindman brothers, Alexander and Yevgeny. The twins came to the United States with idealism and hope, and they committed themselves to serve the American people. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was subpoenaed by Congress last year to testify in the impeachment hearings. His brother supported him. In February, both paid the price for doing so when they were fired and subjected to a humiliating exit from the White House, as if they were common criminals. I wonder if they’ve allowed themselves to acknowledge that their treatment was not dissimilar to the oppressive tactics used by the country they left—a part of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine.
The long line of people who have been fired for doing their jobs. Success has apparently threatened the narrative of powerful forces. I am thinking, for instance, of DHS official Christopher Krebs, who proclaimed that the 2020 election was the safest in American history. Rather than receiving accolades for his diligent work, he was dismissed.
Gretchen Witmer, Governor of Michigan. The Democrat governor has not faltered despite intimidation and an attempt to kidnap and possibly assassinate her—all because she was unflinching in her determination to address the safety and health of the people who elected her.
Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia, who refused to lie in the face of his political party’s abusive pressure. He is now, finally, defended by some in the GOP, but not before he received a range of death threats. This, too, has been the lot of Dr. Anthony Fauci, and many others who will not bow to demands that they change their expert opinions.
I would add to the list (and this event occurred after the above list was published) Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling‘s press conference earlier this week when he warned of threats from Trump supporters against election officers and workers for doing their job. Their job was to report the results of the 2020 election, and for doing so and not buckling to intimidation tactics to “change the results” in any kind of way, they have received harassment and threats, as Mr. Sterling passionately pointed out in his blunt and honest press conference. His boss is included in Ms. Eisenhower’s list above — Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia, who sadly noted, “It’s about time more people spoke with truth.”
I hope the GOP electeds and grassroots leaders are listening.
Ms. Eisenhower added, “Those who give a ‘wink and a nod’ to vigilantes, no matter which side they represent, shake the foundations of our country and the viability of the union itself. All of us must demand a calm and peaceful political transition for our country. The danger of this moment should not be discounted. Nor should the work ahead for all of us be underestimated.”
To these good and brave people who have gone over and beyond the call of duty and stood their ground, we as Americans owe them a huge thank you.