A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 169

An old tactic resurfaces.

Wednesday, November 11

Was Trump stabbed in the back? Did he actually win the election, only to have his victory stolen away by traitorous slime—including some turncoat Republican officeholders?

Let me ask you another question: Did Germany actually win World War I—only to have that triumph snatched away by a secretive cabal of Jews, anti-monarchist opponents of Kaiser Bill, and agents of the British Empire?

It’s pretty much the same scenario at work. Who can say just how deluded MAGA man might be—but he and his enablers sense that, whatever the outcome this time, they have in the past profited from proclamations of outraged victimhood—just as the Nazis profited in the aftermath of WWI.

Get ready for “fraud at the polls” and “stolen election” to become the bywords of GOP fanatics and Fox News commentators for years to come. Evidence? “We don’ need to show you no stinking badges!” A large number of Americans already feel victimized and are eager to shout from the rooftops a shared sense of outrage with the Big Orange man.

A Morning Consult survey conducted over the weekend found that seven out of 10 Republicans now doubt that the 2020 election was “free and fair.”

Prior to the election, 68 percent of GOP voters said they had at least some trust in the U.S. election system. Post-election, that dropped to 34 percent.

It’s not just the everyday wackos. In Georgia, the two Republican senators, both of whom face runoff elections shortly, have called for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, who they imply presided over a corrupt election process.

Even more vociferous howling has taken place where the election officials happen to be Democrats. In Pennsylvania, the GOP leadership of the state legislature has called for the secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, to resign. 

And in Wisconsin and Michigan, legislators are forming investigative committees and issuing subpoenas to search out “election irregularities.”

Trump himself seems focused on Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Recounts of ballots now cast won’t do much for the GOP. The former GOP Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, has pointed out that election recounts may differ from the first vote by no more than a few hundred votes—not the thousands needed by Trump to overturn the presidential election. 

So what? If Trump can’t get a reversal of the vote count, his peals of protest can probably win him a new slot on television or a megabucks book deal. Why not both? Ripped Off can command the No. 1 spot on the failing New York Times best-seller list and mega-sales at crooked Jeff Bezos’ amazon.com

Dinner: Avgolemono soup and a salad.

Entertainment: More of our marathon viewing of As Time Goes By on Britbox.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 84

Stefan Zweig (standing) with his brother Alfred, around 1900.

Wednesday, June 3 

Tomorrow, it’ll be 13 weeks since we left New York City for our East Hampton pandemic retreat.

Without jobs or even solid gigs, it may have been mostly habit that held us to the city. There were times when we put a bit of effort into cultural pursuits—hearing jazz or classical performances, visits to museums, jaunts to particular shops where we often just looked at stuff without buying. Other times, we just hung out, enjoying the vibe. Now, Gotham may never again be what it was. To return there may be like subjecting oneself to the memory of a lost world. 

New York was never to me the near-paradise conjured by Stefan Zweig in his memoir of pre-World War I Vienna, The World of Yesterday. But the feeling of a lost world may be somewhat similar. Zweig—a highly popular writer in his time if not so well remembered today—describes that Hapsburg Empire capital as a center of music and learning, a place where he became acquainted with cultural luminaries ranging from Rainer Maria Rilke to his friend and fellow writer Romain Rolland. Then came World War I and, all too soon, the Nazis. 

Zweig, who had thought of himself less as an Austrian than as a citizen of Europe, fled to London, New York,  and ultimately to South America, where despair led to suicide. He wrote that “the past was done for, work achieved was in ruins, Europe, our home, to which we had dedicated ourselves had suffered a destruction that would extend far beyond our life. Something new, a new world began, but how many hells, how many purgatories had to be crossed before it could be reached!”

In a vandalized New York, broken glass can be swept up and windows replaced. Even burned buildings can be reconstructed. What worries me more are the small institutions that could very well become casualties of the current catastrophe. And these—not Dunkin’ Donuts but the intimate Jack’s Coffee or even the very hip Think Coffee—are what make New York what it is. I was glad to hear that Small’s, the tiny West Village jazz club, was sponsoring some streaming concerts in the next days. That seemed a sign that the club, and its nearby sibling Mezzrow, sees itself as having a future life.

Food halls like Essex Market on the Lower East Side are likely to suffer. That mid-size emporium is made up of many independent vendors including sellers of Italian and Latin grub, cheese, seafood, and baked goods.

Dozens of small art galleries could well disappear. And if the citizenry is poorer and global tourism put on hold, even much larger cultural institutions could be threatened. Does the avant-garde New Museum have an endowment large enough to weather the current storm?

Optimists will say that, no matter how it changes, New York will always be New York. People and places disappear, but the essence remains. 

Another memoir of a vanished world is Dan Wakefield’s New York in the Fifties. That author ends on a wistful note, cognizant of the many unwelcome changes that have come since he departed the city in the early 1960s. Yet he concludes with a sentimental poem about New York by the radical John Reed: “Who that has known thee but shall burn//In exile till he come again….”

On a less elevated note, Peapod made its food delivery today at around 6 p.m. Of the 43 items we ordered they delivered 29–and no receipt to tell us how much we were charged. Still no toilet paper, of course, and no mushrooms, sugar snap peas, walnuts, or garlic. Does our $20 tip seem warranted?

Dinner: Spaghetti with fried eggs, green salad.

Entertainment: More episodes of the Belgian policier The Break