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The Noise? Endless tweets by a president who, amid a lethal pandemic, doesn’t seem to have anything more important on his mind than insults and boasts. This past Sunday’s torrent covered everything from his poll ratings to attacks on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former president George W. Bush, and the “Fake News,” from retweets of people praising his administration to thanking Golf World for honoring one of his golf courses, from photos of speedboats festooned with Trump logos to lies about how he’d correctly predicted the magnitude of the pandemic before his intelligence agencies.
One particularly bizarre tweet, presumably written from the perspective of the future, was about a time when a “great and powerful Plague” changed everything and how America arose from it stronger than ever. Other than that, though, nothing on the lives lost, the families shattered, the cities bankrupted and heavy with grief, the people beggared by the accompanying economic calamity.
The real Signal this week is that, at Trump’s urging, GOP-led states are stampeding toward a reopening of business despite meeting almost none of the public health requirements for doing so. As a result, estimates of the number who will die keep going up.
The unholy trinity underpinning Trump’s election strategy seems to consist of siding with back-to-work protesters and blaming blue-state governments for keeping the economy shuttered, accusing immigrants of spreading disease and taking jobs away from Americans, and lobbing accusations about the origins of the virus at Chinese and global health agencies while accusing those who try to temper that assault or who ask for evidence to back up the claims of being enemies of the people.
While some Republican governors are resisting this madness, large parts of the GOP are siding with Trump’s warped vision. On China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has embraced the theory, largely dismissed by the scientific community and US intelligence agencies, that the virus originated in a virology lab in Wuhan. And on protections for laid-off workers, Senator Lindsey Graham said last week that the Senate would extend enhanced unemployment benefits only “over our dead bodies,” arguing that unless benefits are quickly pared back, lazy people would simply choose the dole over work. Unspoken was the other part of the calculus: that unless the GOP can quickly drive down the unemployment numbers, Trump’s reelection chances will shrivel. No matter that for many, going back to work at the height of the pandemic—or for that matter, going out shopping and consuming, as they are being encouraged to do—could be a death sentence.
Apparently, the right-to-life party doesn’t give two hoots about the postnatal lives of workers. That’s no surprise, of course, but it’s still shocking to see the veneer peeled back this fully, to see so clearly the party’s profit-over-health priorities in full Technicolor.
Not too long ago, Trump assured Americans that, like a miracle, Covid-19 would vanish come April. It didn’t, of course. In April the administration was forced to accept that some 60,000 Americans would die of the disease, and Dr. Anthony Fauci was rolled out to present those awful numbers in somewhat rosy hues. Now close to 70,000 have died, and the epidemic is still going strong. On Sunday, Trump was forced to admit on Fox News that the death toll would be closer to 90,000. Now even that number looks optimistic, since state-by-state estimates on likely death counts are going up by leaps and bounds after the ill-thought-through reopenings. And public health experts are warning of the inevitability of a second wave of infections this year and into next.
Meanwhile, death rates from the current wave are cresting. On Friday alone, it was reported, a startling 2,909 Americans died of Covid-19. And internal White House documents show the administration anticipates 3,000 deaths a day by June, with 200,000 new cases per day. If that happens—if Trump and his acolytes force the economy back open with the epidemic in full swing—we could have hundreds of thousands of deaths before the November election.
This isn’t simply disaster capitalism; this is full-fledged death-cult capitalism, willing to seed a level of misery not seen since the Civil War in order to produce economic numbers that might, somehow, bolster Trump’s reelection chances. It is no different from Stalin or Mao tolerating famines that killed millions simply to further their awful political ambitions.
Trump almost never mentions the deaths in his tweet blitzkriegs and shows no kernel of empathy in his briefings and other public statements. Indeed, during his Sunday Twitter blast, he tweeted not of the need to end the pandemic so as to put a stop to the suffering that accompanies these deaths, not of the need to help the billions of people around the world at risk of economic devastation, but about longing for the days when he can again hold political rallies. “Hopefully our Country will soon mend. We are all missing our wonderful rallies, and many other things!” was the text of one particularly inane and self-centered tweet.
That is what passes for leadership in Trumpland. Exclamation points standing in for empathy. The nationalism implied by the uppercase in “Country” standing in for human solidarity. It is all so debased, so tawdry, so mean of spirit. Cry for the beloved country…and then fight like hell to vote these thugs out of office.