Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Money Talks. So Do Guns.

It's no coincidence that the per capita incidence of, and death rate from, Covid-19 is higher in the USA than in virtually any developed country.

Some governors, such as the one here in New Jersey, recognized that the novel coronavirus was serious and have taken responsible measures to prevent its spread.  Others, such as Republican governors in Texas, Florida, and perhaps Arizona, have prioritized profits in the short term over public health. And in South Dakota, GOP governor Kristi Noem arguably took the matter to a new low by encouraging a quarter of a million bicyclists to travel to Sturgis and eat and drink themselves to- well, death:

But no state chief executive was sufficiently focused on September. None imposed a severe lockdown with the express purpose of ensuring (as far as possible) that schools and colleges in the state would be able to open as normal in fall.

Obviously, most of the blame must be attributed to President Trump He continually has downplayed the severity of the virus; stalled on invoking the Defense Production Act: propagated the myth that the economy could flourish only if measures weren't taken against the coronavirus; pressured states to "open up" businesses; discouraged testing by the federal government; competed against states for personal protective equipment; took politics into consideration in distribution of ppe; and in mid-August warned "We’ve got to open up our schools and open up our businesses."

Moreover, in mid-April the President was

demanding state officials "liberate" Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia amid the coronavirus pandemic, after saying hours earlier it would be up to governors to reopen their states.

The president issued his demands on Twitter on Friday in short tweets as protesters were "massing," as a local television station put it, in front of the official residence of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat. Earlier this week, conservative protesters, many wearing pro-Trump gear, stormed the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, to demand leaders there open that state from a "stay-at-home" order.

"I think they'd listen to me. They seem to be protesters that like me and respect this opinion, and my opinion is the same as just about all of the governors," Mr Trump said Thursday night when asked about the open-up protests.

The President's supporters heard the call to take up arms. There were two similar protests in Michigan's state capital. In all three, protesters were armed and in the second

demonstrators entered the Capitol and chanted: "Our House" and "Let Us In" outside of the House chamber against a line of Michigan State Police. Many protesters didn't wear masks or follow social distancing. Some armed demonstrators entered the Senate gallery and stood above lawmakers. At least one lawmaker donned a bulletproof vest.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the time maintained "we have legislators who are showing up to work wearing bulletproof vests." She pledged not to be swayed by the demonstrators, but the state did not ban weapons on the premises and no one was arrested.

It strains credulity to believe there weren't governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, who didn't take notice and proceed accordingly. No governor wants to have otherwise (presumably) law-abiding citizens storm her capital and demand action contrary to the public interest.  It is bad publicity and makes it appear that the governor's actions are opposed by a popular majority.

Additionally, police would be called out, at least as a precautionary measure. There might be confrontations which would result in, at best, viral moments and at worst, deaths.

There may be other states in which anti-lockdown protesters were armed. It is hard to determine the extent to which that occurred because contemporaneous news reports generally conflated those protesters with anti-BLM protesters or ignored entirely the issue of whether firearms were present.

However, the armed intimidation continues. Late last month

In Boise, the first day of Idaho's special legislative session erupted into chaos before it began. Dozens of unmasked protesters, some of them armed, shoved their way past state troopers to pack the gallery overlooking the state's House of Representatives.

The clash was a manifestation of the anger and frustration from a vocal minority of far-right Idahoans that has been compounding over the last several months as the state has navigated its reopening amid the pandemic.

To enforce social distancing, the gallery area above the House chamber was restricted with limited seating. But after the confrontation with state troopers, which resulted in the shattering of a glass door, Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke relented and allowed protesters to fill every seat.

Of course he did. They were armed.

Idaho's House Speaker responded as governors across the country have responded.  Firearms have a way of focusing the attention, and state legislators and governors don't want trouble. If that trouble includes gunfire- even if no one is killed- a governor's political career may go up in smoke. Moreover, dead constituents are hard to explain away.

This concern extends to the Police Department, whose members prefer to go home, upright,  at the end of a shift. They would rather live till retirement than to go out as a deceased hero.

However ignorant they appear, right-wing mobs understand this.  They can claim credit as the fatality rates from SARS-CoV-2 continue to mount and their country proves itself morbidly exceptional.

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