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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Congress Flails Around...
      •  ...And So Does Trump
      •  Is It Time to Take Away Trump's Platform?
      •  DNC Says They Are Moving Forward with Their Convention
      •  List of Primary Postponements Keeps Growing
      •  Sanders Wins Another Primary
      •  The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part I: The Intolerable Acts (1774)

Congress Flails Around...

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to develop his version of the trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief bill without any Democratic input, he told everyone to "trust him" because this was the most efficient way. After he said that, we wrote that the Democrats most certainly do not trust him, as he long ago lost the benefit of the doubt. It turns out we were right about that; the whole process is now bogged down, as yet another procedural vote on the McConnell bill failed yesterday, on a mostly party-line vote (with Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, being the only one to break ranks).

There appear to be three things, in particular, that are holding up the bill. The first, and apparently biggest, is the roughly $500 billion fund that Senate Republicans want to give to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to distribute as he sees fit, including the privilege of keeping the exact beneficiaries a secret until after the election. Team McConnell says that putting things in Mnuchin's hands allows maximum flexibility as circumstances on the ground change, while keeping things super-secret will stop the handouts from having an undue impact on the stock prices of corporate recipients. Democrats think that this would be a repeat of the errors of the TARP program, allowing corporations to suck up government money and then spend it in their own self-interest (e.g., buying up their own stock to raise the price) rather than the interests of the American people. They also do not particularly trust Mnuchin or his boss. And they note, quite correctly, that while TARP was actually a Bush-era program, Democrats got most of the blame for its shortcomings. Since the non-Jones Democrats in the Senate are clearly holding the line on this, and House Democrats can be counted upon to do the same, Senate Republicans are going to have to accept some pretty big changes to this part of the relief package, sooner or later.

The second problem is essentially the yin to the yang of problem #1. The Democrats want more money for the most vulnerable members of society, particularly those who have lost, or will lose, their jobs. Republicans' concerns here are similar to the ones that Democrats have about the corporate welfare: Too much money, with too few restrictions, opens the door for all sorts of potential abuses. Presumably, the Democrats are going to have to yield a bit on this point. On the other hand, "we were fighting for more money for the people" is a much more salable position than "we were fighting for more money for big corporations," so it also appears that the blue team has the stronger hand to play here.

The third problem, meanwhile, is that it's near-impossible to have a trillion-dollar spending bill (and the price tag is now in the vicinity of $2 trillion) without a whole bunch of pork and other pet projects sneaking in the back door. The Democrats, for example, want higher fuel emissions standards for airlines, and expanded wind and solar tax credits. The Republicans, for their part, have even stuck some literal pork in the bill, in the form of relaxed worker visa rules for pig farmers. In general, the lobbyists on K Street are going nuts right now, recognizing that this is likely to be the biggest, fattest giveaway of their entire careers. And the lack of face-to-face contact is apparently no issue. "Have you adjusted your consultant strategy and team lineup in light of the new Corona virus realities?" wrote one lobbyist in an e-mail to potential clients. "Fidelis Government Relations now has best in class reach into both VP Mike Pence and incoming White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows."

In short, there are some pretty large issues to be overcome. And each side has grown testy as the other side has dug its heels in. That said, the clock is ticking. The U.S. COVID-19 death toll on Monday was more than 100, the first time it's reached triple digits in a single day. The stock market also had another lousy day; at its low on Monday the Dow Jones was down 960.33 points, which meant that every bit of territory it had gained since Donald Trump's election was gone. It eventually rebounded a bit, and closed 259 points above where it was on Election Day 2016. Dow futures tell us there will be another bounce today, though Wednesday and Thursday will bring another decline, if recent patterns hold.

Meanwhile, as Congress spins its wheels, other parts of the government are trying to tackle the crisis, each in its own way. The Federal Reserve, which is exploring the absolute outer bounds of its powers, announced that unlimited bond purchases would now be allowed, and that it will make $300 billion available for loans to businesses. Democrats, both within Congress and without, are pushing Trump to exercise his authority under the Defense Production Act to order manufacturers to begin producing needed medical supplies. AG Bill Barr wants to suspend habeas corpus, so his department can jail people indefinitely without charges. From where we sit, that last one seems a particularly poor idea.

In any event, the situation is developing rapidly. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of this item will be hopelessly out-of-date 24 hours from now. (Z)

...And So Does Trump

Congress is not the only branch of government where leadership appears to be a bit...lacking right now. Donald Trump isn't doing any better. In fact, it's fair to say that he is doing worse, as his messaging has been very...mixed. So it was on Monday, when he conceded that things are going to get "bad" on the COVID-19 front, but at the same time hinted (both in person and on Twitter) that he sees "social distancing" and other restrictions as a very short-term thing. As in, he's thinking about calling for an end to these measures within the next week.

This is, of course, entirely at odds with what the experts are saying, including the experts in Trump's own administration. At almost the same time that Trump was talking about walking back the restrictions in just a few days, Surgeon General Jerome Adams was painting a much bleaker picture, warning that the next week is going to be particularly bad. In fact, the health professionals in the administration are pressing Trump to double down, not back down. That includes NIH official Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the primary administration spokesperson for a vigorous response to COVID-19. Because Fauci has walked a fine line, showing an uncommon level of political skill for a bureaucrat, Trump has tolerated his pronouncements. For many people, he has become the only voice in the administration that can be trusted and some people are calling him St. Anthony. However, the word is that the President has lost patience with Fauci's insistence on, well, facts. And the doctor's absence from recent briefings has been noticeable. It's certainly possible that he's a short-timer.

Ultimately, there are two intractable truths about Trump that make a significant change of course very unlikely. The first is that he has virtually no ability to think long-term. This has been a dominant theme of his political career, where he has consistently obsessed over the current news cycle, and has shown zero concern for what might happen next week or next month or next year. He wasn't an especially skilled long-term thinker in his business career, either. His role in the Trump Organization was to "finish" the deal; to sign the paperwork, or show up for the ground-breaking/ribbon-cutting photo-op. Actually executing his deals, over the course of months or years, was the job of faceless folks in the vice-presidential suite. Anyhow, the President really, really wants this whole thing to be in the rear-view mirror by the weekend, and he really hopes (vainly) that he can make it so by force of will.

The second issue is that Trump views everything in transactional terms—"How does this help (or hurt?) me?" That means that he continues to see this situation as primarily a political and PR problem. And that means that his purpose, when he speaks out about COVID-19, isn't really to tell people how to weather the storm and to be safe. No, his goal is to rally the base. Indeed, as CNN's Daniel Dale points out in a perceptive op-ed, since the President can't hold rallies right now, he's using his daily briefings in their place. And, of course, we all know what that entails: a litany of exaggerations, falsehoods, media-bashing, and complaining about being victimized (more on this below). Trump's Monday briefing was close to two hours long. That is much closer to "rally" length than it is to "helpful information and an update on our progress" length.

At the moment, the President appears to be accomplishing what he wants to accomplish. The latest poll asking about his response to COVID-19 has 50% saying "good job" and 45% saying "bad job." As we've noted, those actually aren't very good "crisis-time" numbers; in the midst of something like this, a president should be able to crack the 70s without breaking a sweat. After the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush had an approval rating of 89% in Feb. 1991. The only president to beat that was his son, George W. Bush, who hit 90% in Sept. 2001 for his handling of the 9/11 attacks. Nonetheless, those results about Trump suggest the base, as always, is sticking with the President, and that he's getting the COVID-19 thumbs up from a very small fraction of voters who are not part of the base (maybe 5% of the voting public). Meanwhile, his overall approval is holding steady around 45%. We shall see how long these things hold if the pandemic stretches into weeks and months, and if the death toll rises into the thousands (or beyond). (Z)

Is It Time to Take Away Trump's Platform?

Under normal circumstances, almost anything a president does is newsworthy and should be covered by the fourth estate. That is doubly true when the country is in the midst of a generation-defining crisis. However, Donald Trump is most certainly not a normal president, by virtually any standard of judgment, and his response to COVID-19 has been very unlike that of his peers around the world (not to mention what the response would have been if Hillary Clinton or Jeb! had won the 2016 election instead). This has led Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan to a stunning, but also understandable, conclusion: The media should stop covering his daily briefings (or, at very least, should stop live-streaming them).

As noted above, Trump isn't especially interested in sharing useful, high-quality information at these events. What he's interested in doing is propagandizing, which includes repeatedly asserting the following dubious or outright offensive ideas:

  • The media is dishonest/evil/out to get me
  • My response to this crisis has been perfect, a 10 out of 10
  • COVID-19 is really no big deal
  • To the extent that COVID-19 is a problem, it's the fault of foreigners (especially the Chinese)
  • There are easy solutions to COVID-19 right around the corner (medications, Google websites, etc.)
  • What do scientists know, really?

If you want all of these conspiratorial notions wrapped up in one package, we would direct your attention to the conversation the President had during last Thursday's briefing with "reporter" Chanel Rion, who works for the Trump-loving One America News Network. The exchange began with Rion observing that the phrase "Chinese food" isn't racist, so how could the phrase "Chinese virus" be? And as the rest of the conversation unfolded, Rion and Trump reached agreement that his brilliance is being downplayed by the evil media, who are content to ignore that the real culprits here are not only the Chinese, but also...wait for it...Latin gangs, communists, and ISIS. Really! You can click the link and read for yourself if you're skeptical that someone could make so many logical leaps. Anyhow, if propaganda is the order of the day, the Post's Sullivan argues, then the media does not need to give the President free airtime for it.

Indeed, at this point, even if Trump does change course and starts providing valuable non-partisan information, it won't matter much, as 60% of voters say they don't trust him to tell the truth on the pandemic. At the same time, his lies, exaggerations, and spin are actively harmful. As we've pointed out Republicans are much less likely to take COVID-19 precautions than Democrats are; undoubtedly some of that is due to the fact that a Republican president has repeatedly pooh-poohed the epidemic. There are also more specific cases of his inexpert, unsubstantiated pronouncements doing harm. Last week, the President touted the possibility that chloroquine is a possible curative for COVID-19. On Monday, a Phoenix man and his wife decided to self-treat with chloroquine phosphate (which is not actually the same thing). Now he is dead and she is in critical condition.

It is unlikely that the media is going to follow Sullivan's advice, especially since "the media" includes many right-wing outlets like OANN that are happy to give the President a platform for anything at all that he wants to peddle. But the fact that the possibility of silencing the leader of the country could even be a consideration is a really damning indictment of how inappropriately he is handling this situation. (Z)

DNC Says They Are Moving Forward with Their Convention

Is this a case of the power of positive thinking? Or one of burying their heads in the sand? We're not sure. However, the DNC pooh-bahs were asked about their convention plans on Monday, and insisted that they are moving ahead at full speed, and that the Party will meet in Milwaukee from July 13 through the 16th.

Uh, huh. It's not surprising that this is the public position of the DNC, because the moment that they concede a postponement is a possibility, the die is pretty much cast. But an actual convention requires a lot of planning in advance. So too does a hypothetical e-convention. That means the Party has to commit to a course of action by May 1 or so. Are the party muckety-mucks really going to be able to state confidently, by that date, that there is no risk in holding an in-person convention? And even if Tom Perez & Co. are willing to take that risk, they would need buy-in from other stakeholders. What if the Biden campaign (which has been pointedly silent on this matter) says it is not willing to gamble? What if several state parties say they are not willing to expose their delegations to risk?

The salient parallel here continues to be the Olympic games, which are supposed to start about a week after the conclusion of the DNC. Up until this week, Japanese PM Shinzō Abe insisted that the games would go forward. Then, several delegations (USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics, the entire USOC) urged postponement, while others (the entire Australian team, the entire Canadian team) said they will not be there if the games are held this summer. On Monday, IOC member Dick Pound conceded that a postponement was inevitable. Pound does not have sole authority to make that decision, but he's very dialed in, so you can pretty much take his prediction to the bank. It is probable that the DNC's hand will be similarly forced, if they don't just make the call of their own volition.

The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, NC. That is 6 weeks after the Democrats meet, so there is greater chance that the COVID-19 situation will be better by then. Also relevant is that ultimately Trump will make the call on whether to have an in-person convention or an e-convention, not RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel. Given that he loves having thousands of people adoring him and understands nothing about computers, videoconferencing, and the like, unless things get really bad, the Democrats might have a virtual convention and the Republicans might have an actual one. (Z)

List of Primary Postponements Keeps Growing

On Monday, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo (D) announced that she plans to postpone the state's primary elections, pushing them from April 28 to June 2. This makes Rhode Island's primary the ninth one to be postponed. Here's the complete list, as of Monday:

State/Territory Original Date New Date
Georgia March 24 May 19
Ohio March 17 June 2
Connecticut April 28 June 2
Maryland April 28 June 2
Rhode Island April 28 June 2
Indiana May 5 June 2
Louisiana April 4 June 20
Kentucky May 19 June 23
Puerto Rico March 29 Sometime after April 26

Note that the new date for the Ohio primary is subject to several pending lawsuits.

At very least, the remainder of the March primary calendar has been cleared (though see below). It certainly looks like the four Apr. 7 primaries/caucuses are set to move forward, though with significant (and possibly exclusive) vote-by-mail in all four cases. As to the Apr. 28 primaries, one wonders if maybe we'll see a string of additional postponements in the Mid-Atlantic this week, now that roughly half the states there have already taken the plunge. In particular, it's hard to envision New York moving forward with in-person primaries in just over four weeks, and equally hard to see how they could pull off vote-by-mail for millions of people in that same, short timeframe.

Speaking of vote-by-mail, one person who is not happy about all these postponements is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She argues that postponements undermine the integrity of Election Day, and potentially lay the groundwork for other kinds of shenanigans. In this, she has at least one historical ally in the form of Abraham Lincoln, who was adamant that the 1864 elections be held on schedule regardless of the circumstances. "We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us," he observed.

Warren is not suggesting, of course, that people should take their lives into their hands by congregating in the middle of a pandemic. Her view is that all states should already have made the pivot to a vote-by-mail model, so as to protect the sanctity of the elections, and also so that they can work out the kinks during primary season, in the (very possible) event that the general election ends up being vote-by-mail as well. The Senator's viewpoint is undoubtedly going to gain more adherents, particularly if the Apr. 7 primaries go smoothly. (Z)

Sanders Wins Another Primary

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got some good news on Monday, as he won another primary (his ninth win overall). You might be wondering how that's possible under current circumstances. Well, it's possible if the primary actually concluded before the COVID-19 crisis hit, and it was conducted mostly by mail, and a lot of time had to be allowed to give the ballots an opportunity to arrive. All of these things are true of the Democrats Abroad primary, which officially ended on Mar. 10, but which does not become official for roughly two weeks thereafter, in case people are mailing their ballots from Outer Mongolia, or Inner Siberia, or Upper Franconia, or Lower Egypt. The good news for the Vermont Senator is that he trounced Joe Biden, 57.9% to 22.7%. The bad news is that he netted only 5 delegates, winning 9 to the former veep's 4.

Despite this setback, such as it is, Biden also got a bit of good news on Monday, as he landed the endorsement of the 1.7-million-strong American Federation of Teachers (AFT). He already had the endorsement of the other major teachers' union, the 3-million-strong National Education Association, which is also the largest union in the country. The AFT endorsement wasn't particularly close; in the union's balloting, Biden got the support of 60% of members as compared to 30% for Sanders. Overall, Biden has a pretty large edge in terms of the union membership that is endorsing him as compared to Sanders. That's a pretty big deal, as unions are a good source of money for political campaigns, and are a great source of volunteer labor (knocking on doors, working phone banks, etc.). This, of course, is something that Biden sorely needs. (Z)

The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part I: The Intolerable Acts (1774)

You may recall that, two or three months back, we did a series of items on American scandals. We never actually finished the series; there was so much impeachment news, and then so much Democratic primary news, and then so much COVID-19 news that time and space did not allow us to bring it to completion. We eventually will get back to it, though the timing seems a little poor right now.

On the other hand, we think the time is very good to take a look at some of the past crises in American history: what led to them, what actually happened during the crises themselves, and what happened afterward. We are moderately inspired here by Richard Nixon's book Six Crises, which approaches the major crises of his political career in the same basic way. However, we're going to talk about a few more crises than he did. We imagine doing about three a week for the next five weeks.

In developing our list, we tried to adhere to a few ground rules. Specifically:

  1. The crisis in question had to unfold over one year or less.
  2. The crisis had to divide the nation in a truly substantive manner at the time it happened.
  3. The effects had to be substantial and long-lasting.

What this means is there are some very dark moments in U.S. history that do not qualify under the guidelines we have set out. Entire eras full of crisis and controversy (the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War) fail the first test (although specific events from each of those did make the list). Actions that are offensive to modern Americans, but that were broadly accepted or were largely unknown in their own time (the Trail of Tears, Plessy v. Ferguson, the denial of asylum to Jewish passengers on the S.S. St. Louis, the internment of the Japanese during World War II) fail the second test. Similarly, events that were unquestionably shocking in their time, but did not substantively divide the nation (the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine, the JFK assassination, the Challenger disaster) also fail the second test. And events that sparked a momentary uproar, but whose long-term impact was fairly muted (the Trent affair, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, the Palmer Raids, the U-2 incident, the O.J. Simpson trial) fail the third test.

We tried to put together a list that covers many different eras, and many different kinds of crises (political, economic, military, etc.), and we stayed away from crises that were also major scandals, so we're not covering the same ground we already covered recently. And finally, our opinions, particularly the opinion of resident historian (Z), will obviously play a big role here. In other words, our list is subjective as much as it is objective. Perhaps you think the Kennedy Assassination was more divisive than we do, or that the Tea Act was actually the pivotal event of the 1770s. Reasonable minds can differ.

And with that groundwork out of the way, let us begin with crisis #1: The Intolerable Acts of 1774.

Background: The basic backstory of the American Revolution is undoubtedly familiar to folks who did their elementary and/or secondary schooling in the United States. After establishing its North American colonies, mostly in the 1600s, Britain generally left said colonies to their own devices for about a century. After all, the Atlantic Ocean was very large and North America was very far away from England, and there wasn't all that much wealth or other benefit to be extracted. To a large extent, the greatest value of the colonies was that they served as a "release valve" for excess population that could not be accommodated in the British Isles themselves. And during this "hands off" period, the colonies developed a strong tradition of (mostly) self-government.

There are two major factors that very much changed the equation in the mid-18th century. The first is that the British began to develop a robust industrial economy, which meant they needed both raw materials and a market for their finished goods, consistent with the philosophy known as mercantilism. The industrialization and the mercantilist thinking actually began in the mid-1600s, but took about a century to become a vigorously enforced element of British colonial policy.

The second major factor, very much related to the first, was the emergence of England (after 1707, Great Britain) as a major world power with territorial ambitions around the globe. England's longtime rival, France, emerged as a world power at roughly the same time, and had similar sorts of ambitions. The competition between them ultimately culminated in the Seven Years' War (1756-63), which is sometimes called the "first world war" or "World War 0," because it ended up ensnaring most of the great powers of Europe and it was fought on five different continents (only Australia and Antarctica were left out of the fun).

The American portion of that war is known, at least to Americans and Canadians, as the French and Indian War. As any history teacher will tell you, that name is somewhat regrettable, as it causes students to conclude that the war was France vs. the Indians. In fact, it was actually the British Army and American volunteers (including a promising young officer named George Washington, who rose all the way from major to colonel) fighting against the French Army and Native American braves. Anyhow, Britain expended quite a bit of blood and treasure during that conflict protecting its American colonies, which had really begun to prosper by the mid-1700s. And so, the Brits expected the Americans to (help) foot the costs of their defense, both past and ongoing, by paying taxes, serving as eager consumers of British manufactured goods, quartering soldiers as needed, and so forth. While "quartering soldiers" seems a bit quaint now, at the time it was important enough that it made it into the Constitution. In particular, the Third Amendment reads:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

The Incident: The relationship between Great Britain and the United States between 1763 and 1776 was, to be blunt, a pissing contest. Admittedly, a slow-motion pissing contest, as the great distance between Europe and North America meant that it took a lot of time for moves and counter-moves to play out. One can easily find long lists (like this one) of all these incidents. In our view, the specifics aren't all that important, and are really only the kind of thing you need to know for a multiple choice test. It's enough to know that a sequence like Stamp Act-Virginia Resolves-Declaratory Act (all in 1765-66) is part of a decade-long, high-stakes game of tit-for-tat.

There are two, more broad, things that are useful to keep in mind, however. The first of these is that because the slogan "taxation without representation" rhymes, and is easy to understand, and conforms with modern sensibilities (we don't like paying taxes, either), people are sometimes left with the impression that the Revolution was about taxation. That is largely missing the point. If you really must reduce the conflict to a single issue, that issue is, for lack of a better term, respect. Or, if you want to use the parlance they would have preferred in the 1770s, honor.

You see, for well over a century, Britain's North American colonists had operated with the understanding that they were full-fledged Englishmen who just happened to reside on a different continent (it was men who ran the show back then, and men who were the subject of these sorts of abstract questions in that era, and so it is men that we will speak of in this paragraph). The King and his Parliament did not share that understanding. And so, what happened in the 1760s and 1770s was a case of both sides trying to insist that their perspective was the correct one. The colonists would have paid their taxes (perhaps grudgingly, like everyone else) had they been given proper representation in Parliament, which they saw as their just due as Englishmen. That the British government saw things differently raised some very serious questions about the colonists' identities as British citizens, as men, and as human beings worthy of respect in a world where, as John Locke had argued, all men are created equal. Should you have any doubt that taxation was merely one expression of this much broader philosophical struggle, take a look at the text of the Declaration of Independence, which is just a list of complaints the colonists had about the British government. Taxation doesn't appear until the 17th item on the list, long after other things they saw as deeply disrespectful of them, their rights, and their honor.

The second useful thing to keep in mind is that there were, to a greater or lesser extent, three basic factions when it came to America's issues with Great Britain. The first was the Loyalists, who largely took the Crown's side in the whole affair, and were willing to accept that a colonist is not necessarily a full Englishman. The second was the rebels, who insisted on full rights as citizens, and who concluded by the early 1770s that would not be happening as long as they remained a part of Great Britain. And in between those two extremes were moderates who felt there was a way the views of the colonists and of the British government could ultimately be harmonized.

And that brings us to the Intolerable Acts (the American name; the Brits called them the Coercive Acts). In December of 1773, in one of the most famous acts of defiance leading to the Revolution, a group of Bostonians raided the city's docks and dumped a bunch of British tea into the harbor. This was a direct response to the aforementioned Tea Act; there's no truth to the legend that they were celebrating a Red Sox World Series victory. Infuriated, Parliament imposed the Intolerable/Coercive Acts in April 1774. Intended to punish those bad little Bostonians, the Acts were indeed quite coercive, and required the rebels to repay the cost of the tea, while also taking away nearly all rights of self-government in Massachusetts. Parliament also declared that, henceforth, colonists across British North America would be punished if they did not provide free-of-charge accommodations for British soldiers (though, contrary to legend, people were not required to house soldiers in their private residences).

So, why have we chosen this as the crisis of the 1770s? First, because it represented far and away the most aggressive ramping up of British authority that took place at any point during the game of tit-for-tat. Parliament went further and faster than it ever had before, by a wide margin. Second, because the three factions we described above essentially became two thereafter. Put another way, what had been a spectrum of opinion became highly polarized. Most of the folks who thought that this whole thing might be worked out were persuaded that was no longer possible, and so rallied to the rebel banner. That includes, in particular, Col. Washington, who had enormous influence, and was not prone to knee-jerk reactions. After the Intolerable Acts, he became an outspoken advocate for independence. And further, as you may have heard, he played some small role in the little war that began in 1776 and ran for the next 7 years.

Afterward: Obviously, everyone knows how the story turned out. The Americans won that war. Well, actually, it's probably more accurate to say that they did not lose it. Sometimes, people will pooh-pooh Washington's record as a general because he didn't win very many battles. And it's true that he was often a so-so tactical general. However, he was an excellent strategic general who understood well that his job was not to win battles, it was to keep the war going until Britain decided it was no longer worth the trouble (had Washington's grandson-in-law, Robert E. Lee, more fully embraced that view, the Civil War might have turned out differently). Anyhow, though the British remained a vastly stronger military power than the United States in 1783, they did indeed conclude that the North American colonies were no longer worth the trouble, and so they gave up the fight on September 3 of that year.

This, of course, had profound consequences for Americans. They were officially an independent nation, with all the good and bad that implies, while Washington earned stature as a national hero and would go on to play a dominant role in the new country's formative years. Certain key elements of the American character were crystallized during the struggle with Great Britain, and in particular in the days and weeks after the Intolerable Acts, among them a suspicion of government overreach, a dislike for standing armies, a very great dislike of taxes, a fondness for protest, and a sense that guns are an important means of resisting tyranny.

Meanwhile, this particular crisis also had consequences that reverberated around the world. The United States became, many would argue, the world's first modern democracy. It is true that the U.S. is actually more of a democratic republic, and it is also true that a few other nations (Switzerland, Iceland, etc.) had proto-democratic systems in place before the U.S. did. Still, there is little question that citizens of the world looked to the American example, sensed that a new era of governance had arrived, took stock of their own situations and, more often than not, decided to do something about it. The French Revolution came soon after the American one, and that was followed by more than a century of monarchic and/or dictatorial regimes being overthrown. While that was going on, the U.S. sorted out some problems of its own (e.g., slavery), and became a great world power, often partnering with former colonial master and adversary Great Britain to shape the world order.

Next Up: The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Mar19 What Is an Essential Business?
Mar19 Trump Attacks "Chinese Virus"
Mar19 Washing Your Hands Affects the Election
Mar19 Campaigns Are Already Adapting to COVID-19
Mar19 Census Bureau Suspends Operations
Mar19 Weld Calls It Quits
Mar18 Federal Government Gets Ready to Dump Money into the Economy
Mar18 It's a Biden Sweep
Mar18 Maryland Moves Its Primary
Mar18 What's Next for Sanders?
Mar18 Fox Shifts Gears
Mar18 Down Goes Lipinski
Mar18 From the House to the Big House
Mar17 Trump Says Virus Outbreak Could Last for Months
Mar17 What Should Be Done?
Mar17 Ohio Governor Has Postponed Today's Primary
Mar17 Today Is MiniTuesday
Mar17 Wall Street Did Not Have a Good Day
Mar17 Takeaways from the Debate
Mar17 Clyburn's List
Mar17 Absentee Voting Requires Advance Planning
Mar17 Kentucky Delays Its Primary until June
Mar16 Sunday's COVID-19 News
Mar16 Sanders Goes on the Attack
Mar16 Looking at Potential Biden VP Candidates
Mar16 Polls Predict a Good Tuesday for Biden
Mar16 Honest Graft
Mar16 What Trump's COVID-19 Bubble Looks Like
Mar16 Gillum's Career Appears to Be Over
Mar15 Saturday's COVID-19 News