A Tale of Two Pandemics

by Shasti Conrad

It is the best of times and the worst of times. A time to celebrate the inauguration of a new president and a history-making vice president. Yet this is also a time of insurrection, impeachment, and a Republican party that continues to fail to take any accountability for lies and inaction in our nation’s capital and here at home.

This is a tale of two pandemics.

Nearly 24 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 400,000 have died. But you wouldn’t know that by the actions of some in Congress this week. 

We know how to slow the spread of the virus, and yet this week, hours after a failed coup at the U.S. Capitol, three Members of Congress — including Representative Pramila Jayapal — tested positive for the virus after being sheltered in a room with dozens of their colleagues while a mob stormed the Capitol around them. In her own recounting and as shown in a video, her Republican colleagues not only refused to wear masks, they laughed when offered one.

Rep. Jayapal is angry, as we all should be.

Now, these same Republican colleagues and their cohorts have tried to smear Rep. Jayapal, showing a doctored image of the Congresswoman a moment after removing her mask during the insurrection, strategically cropping out the gas mask in her right hand that she is attempting to put on at the direction of Capitol police charged with her security.

This is a tale of two pandemics: a virus killing more than 3,000 Americans each day and a Republican party that each day refuses to distinguish between fact and fiction, killing our democracy.

In recounting her experience as insurgents stormed the Capitol, Rep. Jayapal shared both her terror and her anger at what the Republican party has put her, her colleagues, and our country through. We now know that had the mob realized their intention, the day would have been far more deadly.

The desecration of one of our most potent symbols of American democracy and the fear, violence, and danger directed at elected officials and their staffs, shows a blatant disregard for American values.

These same Republican truth deniers refuse to acknowledge their accountability for the white nationalist mob who attempted to overturn the election and overthrow our government in the process. 

There can be no unity, no healing, and no “moving past” the insurrection that happened last week until Republicans today take meaningful accountability for their role in promoting the extreme elements of our society who stormed the Capitol, leaving five dead and our own Member of Congress trapped for hours uncertain if she would live through the day.

This lack of empathy and disregard for any basic social compact has been the hallmark of the Trump Administration, putting us all in the same peril faced by Rep. Jayapal during the insurrection.  

Yes, ten Republicans (including two from our Washington delegation) voted to support impeachment of President Trump for incitement of an insurrection; 197 did not. And a majority of those —147 Republican Members of Congress in all — voted to deny the election results altogether and overturn our votes and our voice.

These votes have real impact and are not just symbolic. Even as half of registered Republicans want to “move on” from Donald Trump as their party’s leader, nearly three out of four Republican voters still question the legitimacy of the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

In Spokane, former Rep. Matt Shea led a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” protest with the same ilk that mobbed the Capitol, broke windows, and beat Capitol police officers with American flag poles ripped from the walls. King County Republican Chair Joshua Freed has thus far refused to disavow this violence and, instead, says his GOP counterparts who voted for impeachment were perpetuating “socialist violence” by aligning with Democrats.

This is a mob, which President Trump describes as “special,” and who Freed seeks to lead without taking any accountability for their violent actions. Instead he continues to draw a false equivalency between the actions of a white nationalist mob and the summer’s peaceful protesters seeking justice, equity, and a nation where Black Lives Matter.

As we celebrate MLK Day here in a county bearing his name, it is a good time to reflect on Dr. King’s stark warning that by failing to become a “person-oriented society,” “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

In the last week, we have seen these triplets at their worst as elements of our society put our entire democracy at risk, encouraged by President Trump and with the support of Republican leaders like Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.

We cannot be safe, free, and just until Republicans nationally and here at home inoculate us against alternative facts and acknowledge their lies.

The best and only vaccine is the truth.

Shasti Conrad

Shasti Conrad is the first Woman of Color chair for the Martin Luther King County Democrats in Washington State, the fourth-largest county party organization in the country. In 2020, Shasti founded two organizations — Opportunity PAC and CTRL Z. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Shasti Conrad served as a senior staff assistant in the White House, and a briefings manager on the 2012 campaign. She was also the Associate Director of Vice Presidential Planning for the 2013 Inauguration. Shasti has served as a senior graduate fellow at the Malala Fund and U.S. campaign manager for the 100 Million Campaign, launched by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, to end child labor and trafficking. She served on the National Advance team for Senator Bernie Sanders, 2016, and political director on Jim Barksdale’s U.S. Senate campaign in Georgia. For the 2020 election cycle, Shasti was the National Director of Surrogates for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Shasti is a graduate of Seattle University and received her MPA from Princeton University.

Featured Image: “Capitol, January 17th,” by Victoria Pickering on Flickr; used here under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Before you move on to the next story …

The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With around 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible.

If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn’t have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference.

We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!

Leave a Reply