Leonard Zwelling

Gerard Baker discusses two forms of reality denialism in his editorial in The Wall Street Journal on November 1.

The first is the GOP denialism about who won the 2020 Presidential race. This is just stupid stuff on the part of anti-intellectual Republican candidates wishing the blessing of the Orange Menace from Mar-A-Lago. Joe Biden is the legitimate President of the United States. He won the popular vote by 7 million and won the Electoral College by the same margin Trump won it in 2016. Give up the “stop the steal” nonsense. It is unbecoming of the GOP and has given rise to a bunch of unimpressive candidates for the Senate and for governorships in a host of key states and probably explains the less than stellar performance of the GOP last Tuesday. Despite this, some of these less than candidates may win for example in Pennsylvania (update—no), Nevada (update—pending), and Georgia (update—stay tuned for the run-off). That’s because the Democratic denialism is even worse than the Republican denialism.

Democrats want you to forget that the most important issues to most Americans are inflation, the economy, immigration, and crime. All of these are perceived to have worsened under a Democratic President, Democratic Senate, and Democratic House. In large part, the reason that so many of the races for Senate, House, and governorships were competitive—even in blue states—is that Democrats are perceived as not having made things better over the past two years. We shall see on November 8 (or later) which form of denialism wins the day. Hint: bet on the GOP to take the Senate, the House, and a majority of the governor’s races. (The votes are still being tallied, but I appear to have been wrong on the extent of the GOP victory. In the end, candidate quality does matter.)

Are the same forces at play at MD Anderson? I think so.

From Dr. Pisters’ remarks at the annual Faculty Convocation, one would think MD Anderson is in great shape getting award after outside award for being a great employer and for attracting more grant money for stellar research. But is this too a form of denialism as suggested by the Faculty Workload survey? If things were so great, why are so many faculty considering leaving? Why are so many positions of authority still vacant? And, why do the hallways of the LeMaistre Clinic look long in the tooth? Who is denying reality? Dr. Pisters or the faculty who are voting with their feet?

It seems to me that just as our national and state political leaders are heading toward a day of reckoning with the voters, the leadership of MD Anderson needs to face a day of reckoning with the faculty of the cancer center and the Board of Regents in Austin.

The first question is easy. Is your life as a faculty member better or worse under President Pisters?  The burnout question on the Workload Survey makes this point moot. It’s worse. There still is no faculty dining room. Lawyers including outside attorneys are dominating issues between the faculty and the administration and the faculty have less and less influence on policy as they are supposed to have under putatively mandated shared governance. Human Resources dominates the administrative landscape, and not in a good way. Having PRS under HR is insulting to the clinical faculty.

The GOP denial of the results of the 2020 election is infantile. But the Democratic denial of what really ails the American people is even worse. It appears to have resulted in yet another stalemate.

Dr. Pisters’ insistence that things are going well at Anderson is naïve and indicative of a lack of vision and planning let alone management and team building abilities. Lucky for him that unlike the candidates for political office, he may avoid any responsibility or accountability for the current state of affairs unless Austin actually does its job. How likely is that?

2 thoughts on “Denialism”

    1. I cannot. That would be for the Senate to do. I cannot overstep my boundaries here. That being said, the Senate ought to do that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *