We are now several months into the Covid-19 crisis and the position of the Republican Party and US government is becoming clearer. Rather than learn from their early mistakes or take the time to craft a cohesive strategy to rebuild the economy and protect the American people from the pandemic, the Trump administration’s official position seems to be to ignore the pandemic and hope it will go away.
This has, in some respects, been the Trump administration’s policy since the halcyon days of February when the unhinged president ranted at rallies about concern over the virus being a “hoax” and how it would go away by a “miracle.” After a few weeks of calling for social distancing policies and enjoying the feeling of being a pretend wartime president, Donald Trump quickly tired of that and began to call for reopening America. This call was quickly picked up by the rest of his party, eager to please their leader and unconcerned about the Americans whose lives would be lost in the process.
Over the last week, this approach has been further refined as Donald Trump has told the American people that we need to be “warriors” and accept that well over 100,000 people will die due to the virus, although by the end of the year that number could be much higher, because, well, there is nothing we can do about it anyway and we need to go on with our lives. In other words, ignore Covid-19 and it will eventually go away.
According to Trump’s plan, tens of thousands more Americans will die, so that the stock market can have a temporary bump, but more significantly because Trump is so overmatched by this pandemic that he has no idea what to do
This is a foolish and fantastical approach to public policy, but it is also murderous. According to Trump’s plan, tens of thousands more Americans will die, so that the stock market can have a temporary bump, but more significantly because Trump is so overmatched by this pandemic that he has no idea what to do. Rather than turn over the authority to the many experts who know how best to fight the pandemic, Trump has instead decided to tell us to be warriors, whatever that means, safe in the knowledge that he will be protected by the virus and that his cronies will profit from the crisis.
This position is deeply intertwined with the broader anti-science position which has become part of the political DNA of the modern Republican party. For a party that has spent at least a decade telling their supporters that climate change is not real, telling those same people that the empty hospitals in their county is proof that there is little to fear from Covid-19 is a short leap. Both of these anti-science positions are, in some sense, deadly, but in the latter case the consequences of ignoring reality will be much more immediate. Donald Trump and his followers, can and are, ignoring the virus, but it is not going away. Being this disconnected from reality may be fun, and is clearly unavoidable for the Trumps, but it is a disastrous policy that will cause deep and enduring damage to the health, prosperity, reputation and internal cohesion of the US.
This toxic stew of white supremacist protestors calling, often while heavenly armed, for the various states to lift social distancing related restrictions, presidential leadership that is essentially in denial about the pandemic, projections for total deaths that have doubled in the last week or so, and indications that the Coronavirus is now spreading to smaller towns and rural America will be devastating for America. Leaving aside the human cost about which Trump seems absurdly unconcerned, any short term economic gains will be destroyed by the economic impact of tens of thousands of more deaths as well as the reality that no matter what Republican officials say, a huge proportion of Americans are still wisely hesitant to act as if nothing is wrong.
Leaving aside the human cost about which Trump seems absurdly unconcerned, any short term economic gains will be destroyed by the economic impact of tens of thousands of more deaths as well as the reality that no matter what Republican officials say, a huge proportion of Americans are still wisely hesitant to act as if nothing is wrong
In the coming months, while the US needs to be focusing on both stopping the pandemic from spreading more and on rebuilding the reeling economy, Trump will likely continue his campaign of discrediting the pandemic. This has already taken the form of deciding to reopen America because of impatience rather than any scientific or public health related reason, and of consistently proposing fantastical, but dangerous, solutions to the pandemic such as injecting disinfectant. Within a few weeks it is very possible that Americans will be spending our time arguing about how many have died as the pandemic continues to, regardless of what Trump and his followers want to believe, drive that number upwards. Each of those deaths is a reminder to the world of Trump’s abject incompetence and murderous cruelty.
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