Thursday, October 22, 2020

Getting a leg up was pandemic prep -- Oct. 22, 2020 column


Anthropologist Margaret Mead said in a lecture the earliest sign of civilization is not a clay pot, iron, tools or agriculture.

To her, the earliest evidence of true civilization was a healed femur, the long bone in the leg. A healed femur showed that someone took care of the injured person – hunted on his behalf, brought him food and served him at a personal sacrifice, she said.

“Savage societies could not afford such pity,” surgeon and Christian author Dr. Paul Brand and co-author Philip Yancey wrote in the 1980 book “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” Other authors over the years have also cited the story, although when and where Mead gave the lecture remains unknown. She died in 1978.

The story may be apocryphal, but it rings true to me.

A year ago on Oct. 23, I was out for my morning walk when I slipped and fell hard on a charming, but treacherous, brick sidewalk in Old Town Alexandria.

I got my first ride in an ambulance that day. An x-ray at the hospital revealed I had fractured my right femur in three places. I had never before broken a bone.

The orthopedic surgeon said more than once it was a shame the break hadn’t been an inch or so higher. Then, I could have had a hip replacement, which, he assured me, would have been a speedier, easier recovery than I faced. I never dreamed I’d wish I qualified for hip replacement.

The surgeon put me back together with a long steel screw, a plate and four pins and said it would be a year before I felt like my old self. I spent a couple of days in the hospital and a week at a hospital rehab center, learning to coax my right leg to move. At first, lying in bed, I couldn’t raise my leg at all.

I learned how to get in a car by sitting first and then picking up and moving my right leg. I reversed the procedure to get out.

A couple of weeks after it happened, I wrote in this space about my mishap. After covering health care policy as a reporter, it was eye-opening to be on the receiving end of care. I was, and am, impressed by the dedication of health care professionals.

An anniversary is a good time to reflect on what’s happened and what we’ve learned. My mishap, as disruptive as it was, helped prepare me for life during a pandemic.

When the novel coronavirus hit in March, I already knew what it felt like to be plucked from the reality I knew and dropped into a world I did not know.

I could not drive for eight weeks and learned to rely on other people. My mishap made me grateful for not only for medical personnel but for family and friends who cheered me on.

I arrived home with a walker and in a few weeks graduated to a cane. The cane, though, became a crutch and I gave it up months later only because the surgeon said it was time.

At first, a nurse, physical therapist and home health aide came to my house. For a couple of weeks, I felt uncomfortable taking a shower unless someone stood right outside the door, in case I needed help. Fortunately, I never needed any.

Life during a pandemic also makes you aware that risks lurk everywhere. Health officials continue to insist we’re safer at home. I already worked at home, but sometimes we have to go out.

I’d never feared falling before, but danger loomed large.

In my three-story townhouse, stairs were a challenge. For the longest time, I held onto the banister tightly and took the stairs one careful step at a time.

In December, once I was cleared to drive, I went to out-patient physical therapy. After the pandemic hit, I moved to online PT and then to exercise videos.

After a year, I’m glad to say my femur has healed and I’m practically my old self. I’m back to walking four miles a day. I take the stairs without holding on. I even walk on brick sidewalks.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Trump ignores elephant in the room -- Oct. 15, 2020 column



When President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday night, a giant billboard at the airport helpfully pointed the way to the “TRUMP COVID SUPERSPREADER EVENT.”

Rural America 2020, an agricultural advocacy group that opposes Trump, paid for the billboard.

“We’re doing our part to warn Iowans that @realdonaldtrump is in town tomorrow. This billboard is directly outside the Des Moines Airport where he will hold his hangar rally,” the group tweeted Tuesday.

Darkly humorous and deadly serious, the billboard reminds us that Trump is hosting campaign rallies around the country that put his supporters, their friends and families at risk even as coronavirus cases are surging.

Iowa has seen such a jump in coronavirus that White House health officials warned the state Oct. 4 to limit gatherings to 25 people or fewer. Trump and his campaign ignored the advice and packed thousands shoulder to shoulder in the hangar.

Rally attendees receive temperature checks, but most do not wear masks or keep social distance. Trump still refuses to model good behavior by masking up. He revels in the large, enthusiastic crowds, urging the news media to turn their cameras on his fans.

So much about this is perplexing: The president continues to flout his own health experts’ recommendations. Fans still flock to his rallies. Republican politicians stand by and smile.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, did say he has not been to the White House since August because he disagrees with White House coronavirus protocols, but other GOP politicians have stayed silent or backed Trump’s irresponsible behavior.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, continues to warn against large gatherings, saying they are “asking for trouble.”

While declining to criticize campaign rallies specifically, Fauci said Wednesday on CBS, “large congregate settings with a lot of people” are an avoidable risk.

For months, we’ve heard that cooler weather will bring a surge of COVID-19 cases, as people head indoors where transmission is easier. We’re already seeing a surge in the upper Midwest and northern plains, where some hospitals are overwhelmed.

In the District of Columbia and 37 states, including Virginia, the number of new cases rose 5 percent or more this week over the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins University coronavirus trackers.

Fauci urged all Americans to “double down” on mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, being outdoors when possible and washing hands.

If we fail in these simple precautions, we’re likely to see more cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more suffering by “long-haulers,” people who fight the effects of COVID indefinitely.

The president insists he himself is now immune -- “I feel so powerful,” he said Monday at a rally in Florida -- after spending three nights in the hospital at Walter Reed National Military Center and receiving a drug that’s unavailable to most Americans. An antibody cocktail from Regeneron is in clinical trials.

At least 1,011 new coronavirus deaths and about 60,000 new cases were reported in the United States on Oct. 14, according to a New York Times database. New cases had dropped to between 30,000 and 35,000 a day in early September but averaged more than 53,124 cases a day over the past week, an increase of 23 percent from the average two weeks earlier, The Times said.

In 2016, Trump bragged he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone and not lose voters. Now, as he plays fast and loose with a deadly virus, polls show he’s losing support among seniors who are the most vulnerable to severe illness.

We’re in the campaign’s final stretch. If Trump should defy the polls and win re-election, he likely will orchestrate more mass events as COVID worsens.

“This winter – this November, December, January, February – could be the worst time in our epidemic,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said Tuesday on CNN. “Get ready to hunker down.”

Trump’s far different message: “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

But don’t be reckless. Be smart, follow health guidelines and avoid super-spreader events of any kind.  

© 2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.



Thursday, October 8, 2020

When scientists were prized -- now! -- Oct. 8, 2020 column


Growing up in Hawaii, Jennifer Doudna loved exploring the exotic rainforest near her home.

Fascinated by a plant whose leaves folded shut when she touched them, she knew a chemical reaction was involved. But why did it happen?

Doudna’s high school chemistry teacher encouraged her to pursue her questions and study science.

The curious girl eventually became a superstar of science -- professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and executive director of the Innovative Genomics Institute at Berkeley.

On Tuesday, Doudna, 56, received the Nobel Prize for chemistry for developing the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology. The CRISPR tool can change DNA in plants and animals and is used widely to treat cancer and cure inherited diseases.

She shares the prize with her French research collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, 51, who lives in Berlin. The two are only the sixth and seventh women ever to win the Nobel for chemistry.

“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life,” said Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announcing the prize.

It was a good week for science and scientists.

Nobel prizes also were announced for physics and medicine. The physics prize went to three scientists for their work on black holes, and the medicine prize to three scientists who discovered the hepatitis C virus.

The Nobel committee said by discovering the virus the scientists had “made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.”

The Nobel prize guarantees international acclaim, a place in history and cash prizes each worth about $1.1 million.

In this country, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named several scientists among the 21 winners of what are popularly known as “genius grants.”

The foundation does not like the term genius because it connotes only a very high I.Q. It calls the winners fellows, who are brilliant and highly original and creative.

Each fellow receives a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 paid out in quarterly installments over five years.

The money is liberating, but what makes the award so coveted is being recognized as exceptional in one’s field. You can’t apply for a MacArthur grant; you are chosen. Just about the only requirement is fellows must either live in the United States or be a U.S. citizen.

The Nobel and MacArthur awards remind us in 2020 of the good that comes when we believe in science and reward scientists. The recipients have devoted their lives to making the world a better place at a time when science is often disparaged and scientists denigrated. Their personal stories will inspire a new generation.

This year’s MacArthur class includes Damien Fair, 44, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine who studies the developing brain from infancy to young adulthood. His research aims to improve the long-term health for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism and other conditions.

Catherine Coleman Flowers, 62, of Montgomery, Alabama, is an environmental activist who works on sanitation and wastewater issues in rural areas.

Some of the winners focus on theoretical research, others work in more practical fields and some do both. During the pandemic, Doudna is using the CRISPR system in her lab to search for a simple, inexpensive test to detect the novel coronavirus in people’s saliva.

The sole American sharing the Nobel physics prize is astrophysicist Andrea Ghez, 55, a professor at UCLA who discovered an invisible and extremely heavy object that governs the orbits of stars at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

She is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel for physics. Marie Curie was the first in 1903.

Ghez has the distinction of also winning a MacArthur “genius grant” in 2008. She used three-quarters of the prize money in ways other parents will appreciate – on her two children.  

“Just hiring more help with the logistics of life and not feeling that was a bad thing – it was part of doing my job well,” Ghez told The New York Times in 2015. “I was so thrilled that I could have a work and family life.”

We’re thrilled she could too. Everyone benefits from the hard work of these dedicated scientists.

(c) Marsha Mercer 2020. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Learning from a messy presidential debate -- Oct. 1, 2020 column


Not that time stood still during the first presidential debate, but at one point I desperately checked the clock: How much longer can this last?

The 90-minute dumpster fire, street brawl, fiasco, expletive-deleted storm – pick your description -- still had nearly 30 agonizing minutes to go.

The way President Donald Trump behaved, he seemed determined to ensure he’d never again have to debate Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump broke the debate rules his campaign had agreed to, insulted Biden repeatedly and made many baseless claims.

His blab-athon – by one count he interrupted Biden or moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News more than 120 times – was over the top.

It was classic, classless Trump -- shocking but not surprising.

Trump is a showman, and his fans love his “gladiator” style. This time, even his allies said his jabs missed the mark.

Biden did not take Trump’s bait. He mostly kept his cool, though he called the president a “clown” and said, “Shut up, man,” when Trump was talking over him. Vigorous and sharp, Biden was not the least bit sleepy.

This doesn’t mean Biden’s performance was flawless. In a rare policy moment, he refused to say whether he supports ending the filibuster in the Senate or adding justices to the Supreme Court, both favored by progressive Democrats.

Trump again refused to offer any details of his supposed health care plan.  

The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates promised Wednesday to consider format changes so the two remaining presidential debates will be more substance oriented. Good luck with that.

Trump who trails Biden in most polls, tries to deflect attention from his record on the coronavirus by sowing confusion and distrust in our revered institutions – public education, public health and the electoral process, among others.

The president continues to claim, falsely, the only way he can lose is if Democrats steal the election.

The presidential winner should be decided Election Night, he says, even if millions of mail-in ballots are uncounted. He wants to install Amy Coney Barrett as the ninth Supreme Court justice to help settle the election.

Without evidence, he constantly claims Democrats will flood the polls with fraudulent votes and voters. Meanwhile, voter intimidation and suppression are in the air.

Trump and his family are recruiting an “army” of supporters to watch for fraud at early voting places and on Election Day.

“We need every able-bodied man, woman to join Army for Trump’s Election Security Operation,” Don Trump Jr. said in a video the Trump campaign posted on social media Sept. 23.

President Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox: “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys” at the polls.

But when Trump observers tried Tuesday to enter early voting places in Philadelphia, they were turned away. Trump tweeted:

“Wow. Won’t let Poll Watchers & Security into Philadelphia Voting Places. There is only one reason why. Corruption!!! Must have a fair Election.”

Three exclamation points do not make corruption the only possible reason poll-watchers were denied entry. As usual there’s more to the story.

Tuesday was the first day of early voting in a few satellite locations where people could register and vote. Rules are different at those locations than at regular polling places, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Election officials are also following safety restrictions because of the pandemic, the paper said.

Every state sets its own election rules. In Virginia, a poll watcher must be registered to vote, and the state limits on the number of poll watchers allowed per party in polling place.

As we go into the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, we can expect more Trumpian efforts to erode confidence in the election.

But remember this: Our neighbors, mostly volunteers, work the long hours at the polls and tabulate the ballots. State officials, not Trump, certify the winners.

I’ve been a city poll worker, and I know how hard these volunteers work for a fair election.

After the debate, analysts kept using the same word to describe it: chaos. Messy and stinky work too.

I won’t be surprised if democracy’s longest hour and a half was a preview of the election chaos ahead.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Voting in a Supremely important election -- Sept. 24, 2020 column


I voted. As a reporter, I’ve never put a campaign sign in my yard, donated time or given even a dime to any candidate.

But I always vote. So, six weeks before Election Day, I voted early and in person -- no excuse necessary. Voters in Virginia used to need an acceptable reason to vote absentee. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.

People were already in line – masked and socially distant – before the Alexandria election office opened at 8 on sunny Tuesday morning. I came back about an hour later. The line was longer, and again I passed by. But I was antsy to do my civic duty. I walked back.

The third time, oddly, there was no line. I walked in, showed my driver’s license and received a Registration Verified tag which I exchanged for my paper ballot. A staffer led me to the freshly wiped-off voting booth, and I filled in my choices, staying within the boxes. It took only a couple of minutes.

Outside, people again waited in line.

Voters are, to borrow a Democratic campaign slogan from the past: “Fired up! Ready to go!”

For many, the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the exercise of raw political power by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to name and confirm a replacement at warp speed adds urgency to voting.

As if choosing the next president weren’t motivation enough, voters also will decide control of the Senate, where a simple majority confirms who will sit on the Supreme Court and other federal courts for life.

Ginsburg served on the court for 27 years. Trump’s first two picks to the Supreme Court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – are in their 50s.

It now appears McConnell has the necessary Republican votes to push a nominee through before the election, despite refusing to allow even a hearing for President Barack Obama’s last nominee in 2016.

Since Trump came to office in 2017, Republicans have made filling judicial seats a priority. Besides the Supreme Court justices, Trump has named 210 other federal judges to lifetime appointments, according to the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal judiciary. That’s more than one in four federal judges.

The Senate currently has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats – including two Independents who caucus with Democrats. To win control, Democrats need to pick up three or four seats, depending on who wins the White House. The vice president breaks a tie.

Thirty-five Senate seats are up, including special elections in Arizona and Georgia to replace Republican senators appointed to serve out the unexpired terms of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died in 2016, and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who resigned for health reasons at the end of 2019. Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats.

Virginia is viewed as a safe Democratic Senate seat. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner holds a comfortable 19-point lead over Republican challenger Daniel Gade in the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls.

In the Electoral College contest for president, Virginia is Likely Democratic, according to projections by the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball.

Crystal Ball prognosticators this week moved the critical Senate race in Maine from Toss-up to Leans Democratic and, saying Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina “is in greater danger of an upset,” moved that race from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham’s role in the Supreme Court fight “could save him, though,” the Crystal Ball noted.

Meanwhile, we’re about to enter debate season. The first presidential debate is Sept. 29, with a vice presidential debate Oct. 7. Two other presidential face-offs are scheduled Oct. 15 and 22.

I think most people have made up their minds for president, and the debates won’t change much. If you’re undecided, you can still wait until Nov. 3 to cast your ballot in person at your regular polling place.

Mail-in voting is also an option – just request and mail in your ballot early.

I’ll still watch the debates, glad I put my ballot through the scanner and saw the waving American flag on the screen, indicating my ballot was recorded.

I voted. How about you?

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Liking Ike at his memorial -- Sept. 17, 2020 column


One of the surprising things about the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, which was formally dedicated Thursday, is that it exists at all.

In our time, many white American men once revered and honored by their country have been toppled – literally or figuratively – from their perches of prominence. 

The reputations of many presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson come to mind – have been tarnished.

And yet, the new Eisenhower memorial makes admiration not only possible but likely, even in 2020.

Renowned architect Frank Gehry elevates Eisenhower by focusing on his personal story, his ideals, his integrity and his lifetime of service to country.

The 34th president and five-star general is portrayed in the four-acre space at 540 Independence Ave., SW, in three separate, sculptural vignettes representing different phases of his life – boyhood, the military and the presidency.

But the memorial also includes two gigantic cylindrical pillars that look like smokestacks and a 450-foot-wide, 8-story-tall metal “tapestry” of woven stainless steel whose main purpose seems to blur the ugly federal office building right behind it. For that, the location is to blame.

The memorial sits in a new urban park across Independence Avenue from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and in front of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building. That modernist building, completed in 1961, is so charmless it was originally known as Federal Building #6.

The National Mall is nearly full, and this location does offer a view of the Capitol, where President Eisenhower respected and worked with Republicans and Democrats. It’s near buildings that house federal departments with links to his presidency. In time, when the trees grow, the location may feel less odd.

Creating a memorial to the man who led the troops that saved the world from Nazism and was twice elected president might seem straight-forward, but the process was mired in controversies that lasted far longer than World War II.

Congress authorized the Eisenhower memorial in 1999 and chose Gehry’s design a decade later. But the Eisenhower family was dead-set against having a statue of Eisenhower as a boy as the centerpiece as well as three huge, metal scrims. 

After congressional hearings and years of negotiations, the family came around when Gehry moved the boyhood statue to the side, dropped two of the scrims and changed what’s shown on the remaining one.

Instead of Kansas, it’s Gehry’s own sketch of the Pointe du Hoc cliffs at Normandy, France, in peacetime. Army Rangers scaled the cliffs under German fire on D-Day, the air, land and sea invasion that changed the course of World War II and history.

The bronze statues depict Eisenhower first as a boy in Abilene, Kansas, dreaming of his future, then as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, boosting the morale of six paratroopers on the eve of D-Day.

Finally, he’s shown as president with three aides in the Oval Office. Seeing the office takes a bit of imagination, but the free audio tour, part of the E-memorial available on personal electronic devices, provides context.

The three aides are symbolic of the competing influences of domestic progress and strength abroad. Closest to Eisenhower is a Black man, carrying a briefcase. He symbolizes the work Eisenhower did to advance civil rights, the audio tour explains.

In 1957, he sent 1,000 troops from the 101st Airborne to protect nine Black students as they integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Etched into the reverse side of huge granite blocks behind the sculptures are excerpts from Eisenhower’s most famous speeches.

“I’m quite overwhelmed by it,” granddaughter Susan Eisenhower told CBS News as she toured the memorial for the first time this week. “I’m really thrilled.”

But the $150 million memorial has received mixed reviews. “Monumentally Mediocre,” pronounced The Wall Street Journal.

 The audience for the Eisenhower memorial is not art critics, of course. The main audience is children in grades K-12, who may be inspired to dream of greatness, as well as tourists and office-workers.

They are likely to visit the memorial in the daytime, but the better views are at night, when the sketch of the cliffs is illuminated.

I think children and their families will be grateful the Eisenhower memorial exists.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Scared yet? Fear again a campaign tool -- Sept. 10, 2020 column


Since businessman Donald Trump glided down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president in June 2015, he has stoked fear.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said that day. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems . . . they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In the home stretch of the 2020 campaign, Trump is running as the law and order president, claiming Democrats will tolerate lawlessness.

“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” he warns, raising the specter of anarchists running loose to loot, burn and obliterate American cities whose police have been defunded by Biden and “radical socialist Democrats.”

Former Vice President Biden does not support defunding the police and has made clear rioters, looters and arsonists should be prosecuted.

“Donald Trump keeps telling us if he was president, you’d feel safe. Well, he is president – whether he knows it or not,” Biden tweeted.

Fear is a time-tested campaign tool used by both parties to excite voters. More than half a century ago this week – on Sept. 7, 1964 -- perhaps the most effective presidential campaign ad in history aired on TV.

Known as “Daisy,” the 60-second, black-and white spot for President Lyndon B. Johnson shows a little girl counting as she picks petals off a daisy. An ominous male voice then counts down to a nuclear blast, and the camera focuses on the child’s eye, which transforms into a massive, fiery mushroom cloud. 

“These are the stakes,” Johnson intones in a voiceover. “To make a world in which all God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

The Daisy ad was shocking at the time, but it’s more subtle than campaign ads we see today.

It didn’t even mention Barry Goldwater, LBJ’s Republican opponent, and it ran only once – although it aired repeatedly on talk shows and news programs.

Goldwater was already trailing Johnson, so it’s unclear how much the ad contributed to Johnson’s landslide victory of 486 electoral votes to Goldwater’s 52.

To win reelection, Trump doesn’t need to scare vast numbers of people into voting for him – just enough to carry the battleground states, as he did in 2016.

But will it work? In 2018, Republicans wielded the cudgel of fear in congressional races, and Democrats still flipped about 40 House seats to regain control.

Trump’s strategy is to attack Biden with everything and the kitchen sink.

Biden wants to raise your taxes, offshore your job, throw open the borders, wage endless foreign wars, surrender to China and destroy the suburbs, Trump says. That’s a hefty agenda for someone Trump derides as “Sleepy.”

As technology accelerates, campaigns can target digital ads to individual voters through social media in record time.

Hours after news broke of journalist Bob Woodward’s bombshell book, “Rage,” a new Biden ad on Twitter played audio tape of Trump saying to Woodward about COVID-19: “I wanted to always play it down . . .  I still like playing it down.”

The ad faults Trump for failing to inform the public accurately and blames him for tens of thousands of lost American lives.

“It’s unconscionable,” Biden tweeted. Trump maintains he just wanted to avoid panic.

The anti-Trump Lincoln Project, founded by a group of Republican operatives, fills social media with ads attacking Trump and Republican senators.

A new Lincoln Project ad hits a new low. The ad shows hideous pictures of flesh-eating parasites and likens Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to a parasite.

Still, the worst in negative ads and fearmongering may be yet to come.

Of the nearly 70,000 political television ads that ran in the final days of the 2016 campaign, fewer than one in 10 were primarily positive, according to a CNN analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG.

The reason is both parties believe, as Richard Nixon did, that fear is a great motivator. Nixon’s speechwriter William Safire wrote in his book “Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House”:

“People react to fear, not love – they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true,” Nixon said.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.