It appears that the GOP plan to deal with the pandemic is the same as their health care plan—nonexistent. In North Carolina, conservatives are just flailing about the way Roy Cooper has handled the crisis. While they bash him for the slow economic recovery, they offer no suggestions for containing the virus or keeping people safe. Their approach seems to be to sacrifice enough people to reach herd immunity. It’s a steep price.
The root of the problem is that conservatives are in denial about the plight of North Carolinians and their health care. John Hood of the Locke Foundation criticizes Cooper’s approach to the virus as using unconstitutional power instead of relying on local authorities and the legislature. He bemoans North Carolina’s slow recovery. In the article, he never mentions the Trump administration’s lack of a national plan to address the problem.
Hood and conservatives spend far more time worrying about the economy than the health of citizens. Our neighbors to the south, South Carolina and Georgia, followed conservatives’ directions. They opened businesses more quickly and left more decisions to local authorities. They now have death rates twice that of North Carolina. But, hey, their economies are stronger.
A study from the UNC School of Public Health finds that states with Democratic governance have lower death rates than those under Republican control. That makes sense. The GOP has been downplaying the impact of the virus since it arrived on our shores. The president lied repeatedly to the country about the seriousness of the pandemic and Republicans followed his lead, resisting restrictions and pretending it would go away. It hasn’t.
The pandemic required a national response that should have included a massive increase in testing capabilities and a program of contact tracing to isolate cases. Instead, we got nothing. By the time the urgency of the matter became apparent to the public, the government was already too far behind to contain the virus. Consequently, we have lost more people to the pandemic than any developed country in the world and we have done less to contain it.
Conservatives who criticized as alarmist public health experts who warned of hundreds of thousands of deaths last spring, now contend the deaths are unavoidable and are predominantly among the elderly and infirm. They tell us now that the economic hardships are more dire than the continually spreading disease. Even as cases are spiking, they want more schools and businesses open and they will attend superspreader Trump rallies to demand it.
Republicans are ill-equipped to handle any crisis that requires a substantial government response. They failed to address the financial crisis in 2007 and they are failing to adequately confront the pandemic that faces us today. They are correct that we cannot continue to let people fall into poverty. As European countries have proven, they are wrong in believing the free market is the only, or even the best, vehicle to solve the problem. COVID required a comprehensive plan that Republicans failed to deliver.
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 >