A federal judge blocked Governor Roy Cooper’s order prohibiting indoor religious services. Conservatives cheered the ruling as a victory for religious freedom. But Cooper didn’t try to restrict anybody’s freedom. He was trying to keep people safe. Republicans are so bent on politicizing the virus that they are ignoring health risks and listening to pundits and politicians instead of scientists and researchers.
On twitter, conservative social media warriors compare North Carolina’s cautious approach to reopening to the policies in surrounding states. Georgia and South Carolina have in-house dining. Nail and hair salons are open for business. In their telling of it, individuals and businesses should be responsible for their own safety and that of their customers. They contend keeping the state closed will cause more death through poverty than opening it up.
Besides, they say, the majority of people dying are either in nursing homes, over 65 years old or have underlying conditions. The implication here is that either their lives aren’t as valuable because they are old and sick or they were going to die anyway. They must consider the 1,000 health care workers from across the globe who have succumbed to the illness just collateral damage. The pro-life party doesn’t seem to really value the sanctity of life.
For conservatives, the story of the virus has been one of constantly moving the goal posts. When experts told us back in March that, unmitigated, the virus would kill between 250,000 and 1.7 million people over the next two years or so, conservatives screamed that they were trying to scare people with high death tolls. Trump called it all a hoax and accused Democrats of crashing the economy to hurt his re-election chances. By the end of this month, more than 100,000 people will be dead.
Originally, they bought into the president’s claims that the virus was under control and would wouldn’t affect the United States, despite the warnings of the intelligence community and public health officials. Then, they believed that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu, despite the mounting death tolls in places like Italy and Spain. Today, they’ve landed on story lines that the virus only kills old and sick people, it is only in New York and the northeast, and testing is an overblown response.
Conservative researchers and scientists disagree with the conservative pundits and activists. Trump’s own former FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, laid out a plan for re-opening that includes benchmarks that most states have not met and includes extensive testing and tracing that the federal government has not provided. This weekend, an economics professor from the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University offered a “federalist” plan to reopen the economy, but it, too, requires a big investment in testing the Republicans refuse to support. Finally, the president’s own advisor Anthony Fauci has said repeatedly that we need to improve our testing and tracing before we are prepared to open.
Republicans claim that keeping the economy closed will cause more deaths than opening it back up. They don’t have any research to back those claims up but they also don’t have any plans to protect the workers who will be most exposed if an outbreak occurs. If they were really concerned about losing lives instead of losing fortunes, Republicans would offer some sort of plan to protect the most vulnerable people in society. They haven’t.
All of this leads me to conclude that Republicans seem to be confused about their core values and that they don’t understand cause-and-effect very well. First, let’s get cause-and-effect out of the way. The virus is not predominantly centered around New York and New England states because those places are more susceptible to infection. It’s because we kept it from spreading to other places by limiting travel, movement, and human interaction. Shutting down the economy contained it. Opening back up prematurely will lead to it spreading again.
Second, if you are a pundit, personal responsibility includes calling out misinformation. If you say sat silent while the President of the United States claimed the virus was a hoax or that it would mysteriously disappear or that it was like the flu, then you were personally irresponsible. If you are blaming Cooper for keeping the economy closed and not blaming the president for lack of a plan, you should probably now STFU.
The pro-life position on this virus is to stay shutdown until we have a plan in place to protect our vulnerable populations. Right now, we don’t. The goal of shutting down and flattening the curve was to buy time to build capacity for hospitals and medical facilities and to put in place a program that almost every expert, conservative and liberal, says includes testing and tracing. Reopening without a plan will certainly cause more people to die. That’s not pro-life.
People want know what the government is going to do to protect them, not who to blame for them dying. They don’t care that the virus originated in China. They care that they or their loved ones are still at risk from the spread of the virus. The GOP’s attempt to turn the conversation into a blame game is just silly. By the time the election happens, more than 150,000 Americans will be dead. Yes, most will be old, but that doesn’t mean their lives have less value.
So far, Republicans have been wrong about almost every aspect of this pandemic. It isn’t a hoax, regardless of what the president’s son said this weekend. It won’t magically go away. It is far more deadly than the flu. The initial mortality estimates weren’t overblown or designed to scare people. They are still in line with estimates today. Georgia is not a success story compared to North Carolina. It’s a state about the same size. It shut down later and opened earlier. It has about 1,000 more deaths than North Carolina. Yesterday, two weeks after re-opening, it saw a spike in hospitalizations. Re-opening with few precautions may be a legitimate position to take, but it is not the pro-life position. Republicans who support re-opening should call themselves anti-abortion, not pro-life.
Republicans are listening to pundits instead of experts. The party has eschewed science and embraced disinformation coming from the White House and conservative news outlets. So far, they’ve been wrong about almost everything. That’s what the election will be about, not China.
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 >