In the movie Blade Runner the Rutger Hauer character catches up with his girlfriend, another replicant, played by Darryl Hannah, and gives her the bad news of how they’re getting wiped out. He tells her, “Priss, there are only two of us left now.” She replies, “Then we’re stupid and we’ll die.” Maybe that’s a description of America in 2020, because those who listen to Donald Trump right now are signing their own death warrants, because he doesn’t care about the science or the math of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is listening to a number of conservative advisers who are telling him to reopen the economy because it’s the only way he can win reelection — and the lives of Americans are apparently of no consequence in this equation.
As Rick Wilson pointed out Saturday, Fox News and Facebook are ginning up the base, and the base doesn’t believe coronavirus is real — or if they do, they don’t believe that it’s going to affect them personally. Like Heaven and Hell, Hell is for somebody else. Everyone believes s/he is going to go to Heaven. And the Trump campaign is capitalizing on this folly. Politico:
They point to emerging signs around the country. Trump-supported activists are protesting strict stay-at-home orders. Conservative groups’ internal polling in red-leaning and swing states show a significant uptick in Americans who favor reopening the country. A growing chorus of Republican lawmakers across the nation are on board.
“If you don’t see something start to happen … you’re going to see a conservative revolt by our base,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative group which recently polled on reopening the economy. “The worst strategy for him is to keep things shut until August. Trump is basically going to win or lose his election right now, in the next month.”
It goes without saying that facts are being cherry picked and manipulated. Trump stated two weeks ago that the death rate in New York City was down, despite the fact that the morgues, funeral homes and even the refrigeration trucks were packed with the dead, and there was discussion of temporarily interring bodies in a mass grave in a local park.
I'm currently working in a hospital in Boston. A lot of my patients had Fox on today, where the message seems to be that the pandemic is cresting and we're now on the back end. Meanwhile an entire building of our hospital is dedicated to COVID, mostly ICU-level care.
— topherius (@topherius1) April 6, 2020
That was April 6. On April 17, Trump took to Twitter to foment civil insurrection in the states of Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan. Trump wants to reopen the economy, the human cost be damned, and other GOP leaders are with him on this. They don’t care about human life, either.
The poster child for this proposition is Ron DeSantis, who just reopened Florida beaches on April 17, because “Floridians need fresh air.” Now bear in mind that April 14, last Tuesday, marked the height of the Florida death toll from coronavirus, with 72 people dying in 24 hours. Yet three days later, it’s volleyball on the beach. This is in spite of the fact that the number of cases in the state is still increasing as of Saturday April 18, bringing the totals to 25,269 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 740 deaths. Nearly 3,500 people in the state are hospitalized due to the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health. But DeSantis not only thinks it’s fine to reopen the beaches, he wants to reopen business as well. And he’s not the only red-state governor with these ideas, either. Daily Beast:
…DeSantis said that a task force would also begin meeting daily next week to work on reopening businesses. He added that the state was considering opening four testing labs and was working with commercial labs to produce test results in 24 hours or less.
Florida was not the only state moving toward a gradual reopening. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order this week allowing state parks to reopen Monday, though visitors would still be required to wear masks and stay six feet away from anyone not in their household. Abbott also said restrictions on elective medical procedures would be loosened Wednesday and retail stores could open for curbside pickup on Friday.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also ordered state parks and beaches to reopen from next week, but some local authorities insisted the order allowed them to open immediately. Officials in Harrison County were spotted removing “beach closed” signs from the boardwalk as early as Friday afternoon.
In Alabama, business owners were reportedly confused by a set of suggestions released by the Small Business Emergency Task Force this week, suggesting that everything from jewelry stores to waxing salons could reopen “immediately.” The suggestions have yet to be adopted. Gov. Kay Ivery plans to announce which restrictions will be lifted by April 28.
This is what a Lake Worth City, Florida beach commissioner had to say.
When a person doesn't believe in science, they do dumb things. When a person in power doesn't believe in science, they do dumb things that hurt the public. This move is so dumb that I had to make sure it wasn't fake news. You guys, it isn't fake news.https://t.co/PAVTwRwVao
— Commissioner Omari Hardy ????????♂️???? ???? ???? ???? ???? ???? (@OmariJHardy) April 17, 2020
This is happening for two reasons: 1) Trump can’t stay on message for even 24 hours at a time; 2) as the days go by and COVID-19 doesn’t go away as Trump prophesied, with a wave of his hand, “One day it will just go away, like a miracle,” he is becoming more desperate to do something that looks like winning, and him being in control, regardless of the deadly consequences. That consideration is entirely secondary, if it’s considered at all, to the stakes he’s looking at, which is not getting reelected. And to him that’s a great deal worse than you and yours ending up six feet under. Thomas Friedman, New York Times:
This is the state of play when you have a president who one minute is responsibly issuing sober guidelines for when and how people should go back to work, and the next minute is telling states that they are responsible for getting the testing, tracking and tracing units that we need in place and then, in the third minute, is inciting people on Twitter to “liberate” their workplaces, cities and beaches — even though none of the conditions are in place to do so safely.
“Liberate”? Think about the use of that word. We were not in jail! We were not doing something wrong! We were doing what our president, governor, mayor, and national epidemic experts told us to do: behave responsibly and shelter in place to break the transmission of this virus.
Friedman goes on to explain how this is all just Russian Roulette, and it’s going to be your brains on the wall, not Donald Trump’s. Trump is gambling on herd immunity to save us, and herd immunity only happens when 2/3 of a given population is immune to a given malady. So who knows how many lives would be loss before that statistic would be achieved? You don’t know, I don’t know, and Trump sure as hell does not know, but that won’t keep him from gambling with your life and those of your loved ones.
I just know three things:
First, this is the bet Trump is urging you to make in his “liberate” tweets — when he should be ordering out the National Guard and mobilizing American industry to get testing everywhere.
Second, this bet will fall very unfairly and unevenly in our society, when so little testing and tracing is in place.
And third, if this is the future, every business, restaurant, hotel, theater, sporting facility, factory, nonprofit and government office needs to ask itself: What does my business look like when, on the best days, the responsible people coming to my door will be wearing a mask, gloves, distancing six feet apart and volunteering to have their temperature taken before they enter, and the irresponsible ones won’t be? How do I handle that? Whom do I serve? What kind of business will I really have? Because that will be our economy until we have a vaccine or have established herd immunity.
And neither one of those options, either the vaccine or the herd immunity, is going to happen in the next thirty days that Trump has to get his act together and give the appearance of having conquered COVID-19 or lose the election. And that, my fellow Americans, is where we’re screwed. Because he will sacrifice us without batting an eyelash before he will consider going down in flames at the ballot box. His ego is too immense and too fragile to even consider the larger parameters of this national emergency. And don’t look to Mitch McConnell to counsel Trump. McConnell wants to win, too, so he’s on board for the herd immunity bet and if it goes south — McConnell will just say he advised Trump to exercise discretion and he wouldn’t.
But if he does do this insane thing, if Trump and his GOP enablers reopen the country prematurely, then he may end up going down in history as a mass murder of Hitlerian proportions, or certainly as a greater traitor than Benedict Arnold. And the GOP backing him could self immolate by doing so. Making a partisan issue out of a global pandemic is pure insanity but that is where we are and who we are in 2020. May God help us.