My next newspaper column:
This coronavirus is becoming a great teacher, exposing the falsehood of Republican shibboleths handed down through the decades, starting with Ronald Reagan, and still believed. For example, their Senators’ first-attempt bailout package was “trickle-down” at its worst, unregulated gifting of the wealthy, crumbs for the needy. Democrats managed to make it somewhat better.
Equally important, the virus is confirming the vulnerabilities of human nature.
Regarding the first, it’s possible, seeing the lack of preparedness and initial governmental inaction, the Republican party will finally regain its sanity. Till then, it’s easy to show how “modern” Republican philosophy has brought us here. Writing from the inside, a few lifelong conservatives have done just that. Here’s an excellent example, presented to edify Trumpists.
The linked article spells out the roots of their current national leadership failures. If we’re to handle things better next time around, today’s Republican leaders must retire their disregard for science, expertise, education, international cooperation, and good government. Then, improbably, they might even apply it to the more existentially devastating and economically challenging threat of climate change.
Unlikely. Even now, they cling.
Which brings us to the other viral unmasking: the blindness of half of humanity. With eons of evolution behind it, that may never change. Something fundamental separates humans into two very different world-views: for simplicity, call them liberal and Trumpic. Responses to the corona crisis make the distinction visible from blocks away. People maintaining separation in lines: liberal. People ignoring it: Trumpic. The latter is the equivalent of idiots in pickup trucks coal-rolling people in electric cars.
Humans separate along willingness to accept difficult challenges and deal with them, versus the desire for easy answers and pretense. What better demonstration is there than Trump’s “news” conferences and campaign rallies, rife with fake news and false promises? It explains why, despite the damage he’s doing, supporters eat up everything Trump says, including his claim that “no one could see this coming.” Except for the intelligence warnings he’d been receiving and ignoring for months, and despite which DHS ended its preparedness program. Trump’s half of humanity wants to be lied to. Which tells us who the real “snowflakes” are.
Trump’s predictably pathological first response to Covid-19 was to pretend it away; just Democrats and “fake news” trying to take him down (because everything is always about him.) Trumpists were happy to believe. Similarly, his response to the climate crisis is to say it’s a hoax and, in order to prove it, to take actions that are making it worse. Trumpists love that, too. God gave us Trump, Trump says not to worry, turn off brain. Same with his rallies: Easy answers, gut reactions, thought not required. It’s a dangerous, but effective, positive feedback loop.
That cerebral software is pre-loaded, and has been exploited by demagogues like Trump throughout history: make people distrust expertise and education, provide scapegoats, and they’ll demand to be fed pabulum. The more of it they consume, the more they’ll reject truth-tellers and follow the liars.
Worried about the effects of sheltering on his reelection, Trump, who, even in crisis, can’t stop his infantile tweeting, is ready to have us return to dangerous behavior. Other Republican leaders, too, arguing, because they’re only about money, that people should be willing to die for the economy.
Unconcerned for the people he’d put at risk, Trump wants the country “opened up” by Easter. Experts don’t. Intelligent governors, concerned for their citizens and not themselves, don’t. Will Trump try to convince people to ignore their local leaders? And if they do – in red states, one assumes, and the red parts of blue states – and if some get sick and die, will he tell us again, “I take no responsibility”? For them, or the Colorado man who killed himself taking Trump’s touted cure?
Covid-19 has turned America into a massive social experiment; a test to determine whether liberalism or Trumpism is our future, and what that future will look like. Red state governors and their like-minded citizens are ignoring the warnings of science. Laughing them off. Coal-rolling themselves. Blue states and the thoughtful among their citizens are paying attention, for their own and for the greater good.
Liberalism vs. Trumpism. Cuomo and Inslee vs. Trump and Rand Paul. In the next few months, we’ll learn about ourselves, about our national sense of community, and in what direction “American exceptionalism” is headed. Especially those who survive the culling.