Pandemics and Partisan Politics

From the Oval Office: Beware of foreign viruses

W.J. Astore

If ever there was a time to put aside partisan politics, you’d think it would be now, as the United States faces the COVID-19 virus.  (When the American Mecca, Disney World, closes, you know times are tough.)  Instead, partisan politics are raging, especially in the White House, as President Trump implausibly blames his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the chaotic response by the Trump administration.  (Will “Crooked Hillary” be blamed next?)

Americans need to come together, and I think we are; Bernie Sanders gave a fine speech emphasizing science and teamwork as well as compassion and aid for those who lose their jobs and so on.  We need a much better testing regimen and we need to give doctors and health care personnel the resources they need to do their jobs.

But as I read David Lauter (LA Times Essential Politics), I despaired at the games being played as America faces a serious health crisis.  Here’s what Lauter had to say:

The Democrats have made clear what their line of attack will be: As Biden showed, they’re poised to say that while Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus outbreak, he made it worse by cutting government agencies designed to deal with epidemics and by refusing to take the advice of health officials and act aggressively to counter the illness when he could.

What Biden offers voters, Doyle McManus wrote, is a return to normalcy.

Trump has also tipped his hand on his likely response: Portray the disease as a foreign threat.

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, Trump repeatedly used rhetoric of a foreign invasion to describe the virus, as Noah Bierman wrote. His main policy response was to ban Europeans from traveling to the U.S., blaming them for having “seeded” many of the disease outbreaks in this country.

The speech did nothing to calm markets — indeed it roiled them further, as Bierman and Eli Stokols wrote. But it did provide a preview of Trump’s likely path.

Since the first moments of his astonishing political rise, with his opening blast against Mexican rapists, Trump has campaigned against immigrants and foreigners. And, despite much talk about blue-collar workers voting for him because of economic distress, the overwhelming weight of evidence is that opposition to immigration, concern about the changing demographics of the country and a belief that white Americans face discrimination form the biggest factors in predicting a person’s support for Trump.

In 2018, faced with the prospect that Republicans would lose control of the House, Trump tried to turn the election into a referendum on the supposed threat of immigrant caravans moving north through Mexico — a specter that largely evaporated soon after the election.

In 2020, deprived of the chance to campaign on economic prosperity and a rising stock market, it’s near certain that he will return to the theme that has powered his rise.

That approach might not work. His effort failed spectacularly in 2018 as suburban voters turned against Trump in droves. But Democrats would be wise to avoid overconfidence: The history of epidemics is also a history of xenophobia.

It would be a disaster if COVID-19 led to yet more fears of “foreigners,” however defined.

If anything, a threat like COVID-19 should remind us of our common humanity.  We are all vulnerable, and the smart way to meet this threat is to remain calm, to work together, and to listen to the experts.

Sure, the people who’ve botched America’s response so far should be held accountable.  But let’s first and foremost get a grip on the virus itself and stop its spread.  Because one thing is certain: partisan politics won’t stop a pandemic.  It’ll just make a bad situation worse.

12 thoughts on “Pandemics and Partisan Politics

  1. Though I detest the “normalcy” of US foreign and domestic policies, I will “take” a “return to normalcy,” thank you, over the Trump presidency. Anyone who fails to recognize that his reign has been genuinely unique–in its horribleness–is operating in a vastly different “reality” than the one I live in. It would be a dandy irony if POTUS himself was to come down with this strain of flu. We may be very confident we will never hear words like the following from Trump’s lips: “I made a mistake”; “I was wrong”; “I apologize.” An even bigger irony, a splendid little joke by Mother Nature, would be confirmation that this virus was initially transmitted to humans by the Pangolin. The Pangolin was subject of an episode of PBS’s “Nature” series not so long ago, titled “Most Wanted Mammal.” This cute critter, kind of a cross between an anteater and an armadillo, was being mercilessly exploited in its limited geographical range because ancient superstition held that some of its body parts have medicinal qualities beneficial to humans. China was one of the leading importers of Pangolin body parts. I say: Leave the Pangolin in peace, in what’s left of the “wild.”


    1. The way we humans collectively exploit nature — often murderously — it does make you wonder whether nature is striking back. Of course, nature isn’t a person. Nature is simply nature, and it cannot be appeased or intimidated via bullying, bluster, boasts, and empty words. Hence our president is somewhat at a loss.


  2. Our system puts money and profit first. It’s tough for that system to handle a crisis where people and health should be first.

    We should have a system — a commonwealth — that promotes common health. But our system promotes ultra-wealth for a few at the expense of the many, and it simply hasn’t responded in a quick and logical way to aid the many as we face a health crisis.

    It doesn’t help that our system is run by rich sociopaths who have no concern for the “little people.” And that their first thought is to meet with bankers and inject $1.5 trillion into Wall Street.


  3. From the Guardian:
    He fingered the microphone and put his lips up close. He shook hands with everyone he could. Donald Trump, who promised you’re going to win so much you’ll get sick of winning, might also just make you sick.

    In the White House rose garden on Friday, the US president defied the advice of medical experts standing behind him and behaved like a one-man coronavirus cannon.

    The wartime president Harry Truman used to keep a sign on his desk that said: “The buck stops here.” Trump, however, seems eager to wash his hands of the matter, if not actually wash his hands. “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time,” he said. “It wasn’t meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.”

    At least from what I read on Face Book my MAGA Hat “friends” are convinced the Mueller Report, the Impeachment Hearings and now the Corona Virus are all plots by the Deep State to remove The Trumpet. The Deep State was plotting to remove The Trumpet since Hillary suffered her epic defeat.


  4. I had the amusing thought of people lined up like we did during the “gas crisis” of 1973 in stores, limited amounts available per person.

    My daughter here in the Indianapolis area witnessed a fist fight between two woman in one of our Mega-Stores over napkins.

    What next semi-trucks being hi-jacked for toilet paper and napkins??? Shady characters putting aside their knock off Rolex Watches and selling toilet paper out of van???

    As usual with The Trumpet it is always someone else’s fault.


  5. YES, virus needs to be contained….. we are in this together HOWEVER Americans need to know, the Prez is a racist…. he has treated the same reporter with contempt some months ago and calls a legitimate question “nasty” and does not know what he or his administration has done to the detriment of whole country.

    AND, Sen Brown’s response…


  6. I work in healthcare at a large Hosp in TX. Our hosp system has implemented restricted visitor access, meaning staff are at each public entrance screening everyone who enters. All other entrances are locked to the public. Hand sanitizer is being stolen off the walls. If any employee has come into contact with anyone suspected of having covid19, they are furloughed for home quarantine and must call employee health daily with updates (fever, body aches, etc). If the patient tests neg, then they are allowed back to work. I have been sleeping in a separate bedroom from my husband for the last month. Cheers from the front line!


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