Trump testing positive for COVID will dominate the news this weekend. Out of a sense of decency, we should all hope that he and Melania recover quickly. Otherwise, we will never hear the end of the conspiracy theories about leftists poisoning the president. Instead, we need a healthy President Trump to lose by a healthy margin to Joe Biden on November 3.
Still, the storyline of Trump’s reality TV presidency seemed inevitable. Of course he’s testing positive. We were given hints from the beginning. First, he lied to us about the virus, telling the American public that it was under control and that it would quickly just go away. Then, as the seriousness of the disease became increasingly clear, he downplayed the threat and defended his administration’s lack of action. While much of the country started masking up, Trump and his supporters shunned them. As recently as last week, he was telling us the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.” Now, he’s the nobody. It reads like a predictable Hollywood script.
Trump’s diagnosis should remind everybody that the administration’s response to the virus has been one of disinformation and deceit. They began by dismissing the threat and accusing the public health experts of exaggerating its potential impact. Researchers and epidemiologists warned that if the virus were not contained, deaths could climb to between 500,000 and 1.5 million over two years. Republicans called the predictions irresponsible and overblown, designed to scare people. Now that the we’ve crossed 200,000 and may reach close to 500,000 by end of the first year, they’re claiming that the disease disproportionally hurts sick people and people with pre-existing conditions. They should tell that to the family of the 19-year-old basketball player who died of COVID in North Carolina last week.
Instead of a national response, the White House claimed that states had the responsibility to address the coronavirus. Republicans saw it as an example of federalism. Governors know what their states need more than the federal government, they reasoned. The flawed theory failed to contain the disease and we’re still at a point where as many as 1,000 people a day are dying. Florida passed the dubious distinction of having 1 of every 1,500 residents die of the disease. Georgia and South Carolina will probably cross that grim threshold this weekend.
Conservatives in North Carolina who have bashed the Cooper administration for opening too slowly are wrong. Or at least wrong if the measure of success is how many lives we can save. They have pointed to other states opening as criticism that Cooper is impinging people’s freedom and harming our economy. The numbers tell the tale. The death rate in North Carolina is about half that of South Carolina and Georgia, the states that conservatives wanted us to emulate.
Trump and his enablers have also blasted Democrats for politicizing the virus, but they are the ones who see everything through a political lens. Again, in North Carolina, they gloated as the public, tired of the shutdown, soured a bit on Cooper’s response. When polls showed the governor’s popularity shrinking, one Republican tweeted, “It turns out ‘lockdown forever’ wasn’t as good of a political strategy as @RoyCooperNC and his advisors thought.” The sentiment was echoed by conservatives across twitter, never considering that Cooper was listening to experts instead of polls.
This morning, reality crashed into Trump world’s alternative facts. They live in a world where white nationalists are “fine people.” Where vandals are more of a threat than armed militia. Where voter fraud is more of a threat to our democracy than voter suppression. Where lower taxes produce higher revenue. Where denying people health insurance produces healthier populations. Where politicians and business owners know more about containing a pandemic than public health officials and doctors. Where Sean Hannity tells the truth and Anthony Fauci tells lies. Where the coronavirus affects virtually nobody. And today, nobody is Donald Trump.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >