Thursday, August 06, 2020

Inviting Autumnal Disaster

Spurred by "How the Pandemic Defeated America" by science writer Ed Yong of The Atlantic and "The unique American Failure to Control the Virus," Will Bunch notes

the anti-science, anti-expertise bent of dominant Republicans in tandem with cuts to the public-health infrastructure, the libertarian streak that confounds the empathetic, communal responses called for in a pandemic (like wearing masks), and finally an authoritarian, narcissistic buffoon in Donald Trump who seems uniquely unsuited to the overlapping crises of 2020.

He warns, however, that

If America changes only at the top in January and not from top to bottom, if there isn’t a mass movement to get rid of “killer” hospitals and soul-crushing schools and overstuffed prisons and the systemic racism that undergirds all of them, then our nation will have learned nothing from our near-death experience.

His money quote is "The pandemic defeated America not so much because of Donald Trump but because of America."

Wikipedia explained

Beginning in mid-April 2020, there were protests in several U.S. states against government-imposed lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.[1][2] The protests, mostly organized by conservative groups and individuals,[3][4] decried the economic and social impact of stay-at-home orders, business closures, and restricted personal movement and association, and demanded that their state be "re-opened" for normal business and personal activity....

The reopen protests have generally been small, with protester numbers ranging from a few dozen to the low hundreds; the first protest in Michigan drew several thousand. Protesters included mainstream Republicans but also far-right groups including Proud Boys and armed militia movement supporters.

Armed militia movement supporters.  There was little or no effort to shut down the armed protests. Governors feared the political fallout were they to act and neither was law enforcement itching to confront these guys with firearms, or even those without.

Governors had to balance this fear with the knowledge that, if they "opened up" their states, the numbers of individuals contracting Covid-19 would surely rise.

And they did. In mid-July New York  reported

Since late April, states have been lifting restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus. As nonessential business, bars, and restaurants reopened and limits on crowd sizes expired, a surge in COVID-19 cases, and now coronavirus deaths, has followed. That has some governors heading in reverse.

Over the past several weeks, a handful of states have begun reimposing restrictions that were lifted in May or June.

The protests begun in mid-April and were very effective. In response to the show of force, states began recklessly to lift restrictions which, almost inevitably, they would have to re-impose.

It was clear months ago that the task of each state would be to maintain restrictions severe enough that school could begin on time or shortly thereafter. For most states that would be a day or two after Labor Day, for some in August. The inconvenience citizens would assume in late April and May through August would have been inconsequential compared to that we will face as either schools do not open as usual or, more perilously, open and suffer the consequences of children getting sick and making family members sicker.

The goal should have been to begin school on site safely in early autumn (or late summer), allowing parents and guardians to return to work.

Governors, with an IQ over 50, understood this. They also understand the threat posed by protesters with rifles and did not want splashed across traditional media and social media the murder and mayhem which may have followed had they acted.

There were two alternatives. The terrible governors, most (not all) of them Republicans, asked virtually no sacrifices from their residents. The latter have paid the price. Other governors, most (not all) of them Democrats, would give in, partially. If some restrictions were lifted, they could be re-imposed later, after more Covid-19 cases were diagnosed and more people died. It was an understandable, albeit irresponsible, response.

Although not what Will Bunch means, that is how "the pandemic defeated America not so much because of Donald Trump but because of America." It defeated America not only for the reasons he delineated but because fifty state governors faced an incomparably evil President and protesters, armed and unarmed, bearing down on them. All 50 took the easy way out, preferring to ease restrictions against the mid, and long, term interests of their populace.  

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