This post first appeared at BillMoyers.com on Aug. 5, 2020.
The Trump Virus
Try as he might, Trump cannot rebrand the virus. He blames China, but COVID-19 in America will always be the Trump Virus. He has distinguished the country in ways that are remarkable:
- Although the United States comprises only four percent of the world’s population, it has almost 25 percent of worldwide COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- As a result, Canada, the European Union, and most of the rest of the world have banned US travelers.
- While the virus rages out of control in the US, other countries have contained it — reopening businesses and schools, recovering economically, and using testing and contact tracing to deal with relatively small outbreaks as they occur.
This Pandemic Timeline series began in March with a simple question: “How Many Will Die from Donald Trump’s Lies?” The twentieth installment now weaves together the earlier strands to provide the answer: more every day. Trump is the reason.
The Trump Virus Playbook
Trump seeks to dictate every news cycle, dominate every confrontation and deflect responsibility for his every mistake. In doing so, he has undermined the advice of medical professionals and rejected science-based guidelines that leaders throughout the world have implemented successfully to control COVID-19.
After disbanding President Obama’s pandemic response team, Trump refused to follow its Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents. Instead, he:
- Lied that President Obama had left America’s pandemic cupboards “bare”
- Lied about the seriousness of the pandemic and the resulting deaths
- Falsely compared COVID-19 to the seasonal flu
- Lied about the extent of US testing and tracing
- Lied about the timing and significance of his so-called travel bans
- Attacked and blamed the World Health Organization and China for his failings
- Refused to wear a facemask and made them new weapons in his culture wars
- Violated CDC social distancing guidance in favor of television optics
- Subverted social distancing and facemasks at campaign rallies in Oklahoma and Arizona
- Promoted a bogus and dangerous miracle cure
- Suggested ingesting or injecting poison as a possible remedy for the virus
- Pressured governors to reopen states prior to compliance with CDC guidelines
- Threatened to withhold funds from schools that didn’t reopen classrooms in the fall
- Attacked the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci
- Destroyed the integrity and independence of the CDC itself
And Trump isn’t finished. Recently, he doubled down on his dangerous pitch for hydroxychloroquine, promoting a dubious doctor who agrees with his false claims that masks aren’t necessary and that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19. She also claims that modern medicine uses alien DNA for research and that women’s gynecological problems come from their sex dreams involving witches and demons.
At every opportunity, Trump and loyal accomplices led by White House Coronavirus Task Force Chairman Vice President Mike Pence told lies that helped the virus explode and, to this day, remain uncontrolled.
The Trump Virus Loyalty Test
Trump’s motive is clear: win re-election at any price. Because polls show him losing by wide margins, he desperately needs a recovering economy. That means people must feel safe enough to send their children to school and go back to work. But forcing states to reopen businesses and schools too soon invites an endless cycle: reopen-outbreak-close-reopen-outbreak-close again…and so on and so on and so on.
And Trump’s lies — that COVID-19 isn’t that bad, that bogus miracle cures work, that masks infringe on individual freedom, that social distancing isn’t necessary, that businesses and schools can reopen safely without adhering to CDC guidelines — are actually prolonging the epidemic and hurting his re-election prospects. Only 30 percent of Americans now trust Trump on COVID-19 and the vast majority are Republicans.
On June 20, Trump surrogate Herman Cain attended the infamous campaign rally in Tulsa where Trump’s staffers hadremoved signs previously placed on auditorium seats to create social distance among mostly unmasked audience members. Cain posted a photo on Twitter:
Less than two weeks later, he was hospitalized with COVID-19. He died on July 30.
Herman Cain was among the most enthusiastic members of Trump’s political base. But the virus is shrinking that base. In counties where deaths from the virus are increasing, voters are moving away from him. It turns out that disastrous pandemic policy is not only bad economic policy, but also bad politics.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his core supporters would still vote for him. Those supporters now face his ultimate loyalty test: Trump is shooting directly at them. Will they still vote for him?
Herman Cain passed Trump’s test, but along with more than 150,000 Americans who have succumbed to the Trump Virus, and thousands more to come, he won’t be voting in November.