Frank DeFilippo: While We Were Sleeping, Life Around Us Didn’t Stop

A periodical cicada nymph climbs a tree after crawling out of the ground at the U.S. Capitol. The Brood X cicadas are emerging by the billions after living underground and feeding off of tree roots for 17 years. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Well done, Maryland. The state deserves a pat on the back, an atta-boy — or these woke days more appropriately an atta-person — as it proceeds to phase out its Big Top vaccination sites and take its needles directly to communities and even neighborhood hangouts.

The state — our state — ranks in the top percentile of those that’ve completed the most COVID shots — more than 6.2 million and more than 3 million fully vaccinated — to be exact, eight slots ahead of neighboring Virginia and five notches ahead of the District of Columbia, to complete the DMV roundelay, and eighth by actual count among the 50 states.

Frank A. DeFilippo

That’s better than okay. We’re catching up with the top three — Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts, in that order — with bonus prods such as $40,000 lottery prizes, the relief of unmasking, liberated watering holes and even the convenience of the barber’s chair for relaxing vaxxing sites.

There have been hardheads and holdouts who reject the needle for abstract reasons that border on lunacy, while others have legitimate concerns based on history and outcomes. But that latter group is coming around as the efficacy of the shot is obvious and get-out-the-unvaccinated campaigns torque up.

Initially the airborne consternation was this: Who are you going to believe, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, or a president who prescribes swallowing bleach as an antidote to the covid?

The pressure intensifies on China — was it a lab leak or a dead bat? — to come clean with information on the germ’s source. Or did Dr. Anthony Fauci create the bug with the chemistry set he got for Christmas as a kid, as Qanon might conspire and suggest that Tucker Carlson promote the loopy notion on Fox News?

We’re emerging from a year-long hibernation at the same time the cicadas awake from a 17-year Rip Van Winkle slumber to buzz their high-decibel love song, have sex and die. What a way to go!

Many of us have discovered that we’re not as extroverted as we thought, more inclined to remain in a Barcalounger than on a park bench, while those of a certain age feel cheated out of a year of the few that remain.

While we were sleeping, or near to it, liberation and the eye-rubbing awakening reveal that life around us didn’t actually stop, as we might have thought, but continued apace at its usual tempo and obstinate consequences.

Gov. Larry Hogan is a Republican who discovered that the best way to beat the Democrats is to act like one. But often Hogan rears his true Republican head.

In this case, Hogan followed a pattern laid down by many staunchly Republican governors: Jobs are plentiful; end the handout; go back to work.

Economics is about money in motion. Idle money does no one any good. The discordant downbeat in Maryland’s fight against COVID was Hogan’s decision to end the $300 federal bonus award to those collecting unemployment insurance.

The action is being contested by Democrats in the General Assembly. They’ve asked the attorney general for legal guidance on whether they can override Hogan’s decision.

The federal bonus money, designed as an add-on to help the jobless through tough times, debt and displacement during the COVID crisis, is scheduled to end on September 6. Hogan is scuttling state participation on July 3.

In actual money terms, Hogan’s cancellation adds up to an estimated $1.5 billion that will not flow hand-to-hand through Maryland’s economy to help the state rebound from COVID’s devastating impact on consumer spending. And they’re all gratis federal dollars, though still taxpayer-funded, now or later.

In politics, pillow talk is a powerful weapon. Baltimore’s fun couple, Nick and Marilyn Mosby — he’s City Council president and she’s state’s attorney — continued to drag out a sad saga that could easily be resolved with a Board of Estimates vote.

Nick delayed a Board vote for a second — or is it third? — time on revised travel regulations for city officials as a result of his wife’s wanderlust from her municipal desk job. While Nick appears to be protecting his wife’s interests, stoking suspicion of a conflict, he claims to be waiting for a clarification of details.

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates is a curious anomaly. The mayor, who sits on the board, controls three of its five votes, but the City Council president is also president of the board and controls the agenda.

Meantime, the federal investigation into the Mosby’s finances proceeds before a fully empaneled grand jury.

It used to be said, and maybe still is, that more cars are stolen in Prince George’s County than in all the rest of the state combined. Now add to that statistic carjackings. There have been more than 100 in the first five months of 2021, according to The Washington Post.

And gun violence is stalking both Prince George’s and Baltimore like a menacing plague. There were eight murders in Baltimore over the Memorial Day weekend, bringing the year’s total to 127 as of May 31.

As for gunplay in Prince George’s, a consortium of community, religious and elected leaders is replicating the awareness programs that are frequent in Baltimore as an attempt to combat the recent dramatic increase in violence.

At the national level, voting rights are front-and-center as Republican controlled states continue to impose tighter restrictions on when, where and how voters can cast their ballots.

There have been 389 bills introduced that would restrict voting in 48 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Already states have adopted 20 laws that would make it more difficult to vote.

The most egregious proposal was blocked in Texas when Democrats walked off the Senate floor to deny a quorum for action on a bill that had passed the House. As retaliation, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to defund the legislature and deny the salaries of Democrats. Most dreaded of all, Abbott has raged that he intends to recall the legislature into special session to take up the bill again.

Florida is another example of a state that has made voting more difficult by limiting the use of drop boxes and mail-in ballots.

Democrats are imploring Congress to act as the last line of defense against state voting restrictions. The House has passed the expansive For the People Act, the birth-child of Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes (D), which combines voting rights protections as well as campaign spending reforms.

But its future is doubtful in the Senate, where the vote is split 50-50 between parties. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has said he will kill the bill.

Nonetheless, President Joe Biden (D) has designated his understudy, Vice President Kamala Harris (D), the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, to lead the fight for voter protections.

So it’s easy to see that while we were sleeping, life went on around us as usual and without a let-up in the comic opera.

The really good news is that Former President Donald Trump has shut down his new website after only a month because nobody was paying attention. Facebook, in turn, has silenced Trump for two years.

And Mike Lindell, the pillow guy, claims credit for starting the rumor and giving purchase to the notion that Trump will reclaim the presidency by August.

Maybe we were better off in quarantine and lockdown.

Frank A. DeFilippo
Frank A. DeFilippo is an award-winning political commentator who lives and writes in Baltimore. DeFilippo has been writing about the comic opera of politics for more than 50 years. He reported on the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years before joining the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) as press secretary and speechwriter. Between times, he was a White House correspondent during the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he has covered six national political conventions. DeFilippo is the author of Hooked, an alleged work of fiction, and an unpublished manuscript, Shiksa: The Rise and Fall of Marvin Mandel.