When Republican politics is a public health threat in the time of pandemic

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The Washington Post reported this week that As virus takes hold, resistance to stay-at-home orders remains widespread — exposing political and social rifts.

Pew Research Center finds Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see the coronavirus in the most serious terms. 5 facts about partisan reactions to COVID-19 in the U.S.: “As of last week, nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (78%) say the outbreak is a major threat to the health of the U.S. population as a whole; a much smaller share of Republicans and GOP leaners (52%) say the same” [and this is an increase from polls earlier this year].

The resistance to CDC guidelines for social distancing and stay-at-home orders is more prevalent among Republicans who have regularly been advised not to be concerned, and even that it’s all just a “Democrat hoax” to attack their “Dear Leader” (by Donald Trump himself, no less).

If the coronavirus only infected people who believe this nonsense, I might be tempted to say that it is God’s way of weeding out the weak and stupid, so knock yourselves out. But the coronavirus does not discriminate. It neither knows nor cares about your political affiliation, religious affiliation, age, race, national origin, sex or marital status. It is an indiscriminate silent killer that can easily be spread by ignorant people who do not take it seriously and who are ignoring the CDC guidelines for social distancing. They represent a public health threat to us all.

The President

The single greatest source of misinformation and downplaying of the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic has been President Donald Trump and his administration.

Emily Singer from The American Independent Foundation has compiled a list of 19 Times Trump belittled the coronavirus threat. Here are just ten of those moments in a video mashup from the Washington Post.

Even today, with thousands of Americans dying, President Trump has not yet declared a nationwide stay-at-home order, stressing the need for flexibility between different states (i.e., “states rights”).

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Thursday ‘I don’t understand why’ every state hasn’t issued stay-at-home orders as novel coronavirus cases continue to surge across the US.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during CNN’s coronavirus town hall.

Fauci said governors that have held out thus far “really should” reconsider with the number of US cases passing 236,000 on Thursday and continuing to climb.

“You know, the tension between federally mandated versus states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into,” he said. “But if you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that.”

Fauci’s message appears to be at odds with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly said that he doesn’t think a nationwide stay-at-home order is necessary, stressing the need for flexibility between different states.

“You have to look — you have to give a little flexibility,” Trump said at Wednesday’s White House press briefing. “If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska, for example, doesn’t have a problem, it’s awfully tough to say, ‘close it down.’ We have to have a little bit of flexibility.”

Republican Governors

Republican Governors have followed President Trump’s lead in downplaying the coronavirus threat in their states. As The Washington Post reported above:

Kay Ivey, the Republican governor of Alabama, put down a marker last week in affirming that it was “not the time to order people to shelter in place.”

“Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California,” she said, suggesting that the fate of hard-hit parts of the country would not be shared by Alabama.

In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson said he was not inclined to “make a blanket policy,” adding, “It’s going to come down to individual responsibilities.”

And in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order only this week under growing pressure as his state’s death toll mounted.

And in this subsequent report from The Post, Which states are resisting tougher coronavirus measures?

[S]everal states still aren’t on board with tougher measures, even as their numbers are mounting and there are increasing worries that things there will deteriorate.

Chief among the holdouts, until Wednesday, was Florida.

Given the emphasis on early mitigation, one reporter asked a very logical question Tuesday: Should Florida be doing more? In that state, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has come under fire for declining to shut down beaches weeks ago or to take other, more severe measures. As The Washington Post’s Fred Barbash wrote, Florida is registering some of the biggest increases in cases of the novel coronavirus in recent days.

Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence on Tuesday was willing to go there, though.

When Pence spoke, he seemed to offer a carefully worded response about why the White House wasn’t leaning on Florida harder: Trump doesn’t want to.

“At the president’s direction, the White House coronavirus task force will continue to take the posture that we will defer to state and local health authorities on any measures that they deem appropriate,” Pence said.

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On Tuesday, DeSantis said at a news conference that he had no plans to issue a statewide order because the White House had not told him to do so.

In other words, DeSantis was waiting for the White House to tell him to get tougher, but the White House wasn’t doing it because, according to Pence, Trump has decided not to make such calls. It was a stalemate, in which both are pointing the finger at each other. In the meantime, the situation in southeast Florida deteriorated and big questions remained about whether allowing spring break to proceed on Florida’s beaches in March meant that the infection spread to other states once the spring breakers returned home.

DeSantis ultimately succumbed to the pressure Wednesday, issuing a statewide stay-at-home order [with lots of loopholes that make it ineffective].

But Florida hasn’t been the only state resisting tougher measures.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had left it up to local governments on whether to employ more severe measures, such as stay-at-home orders. On Tuesday, he issued an executive order telling people to go out only for essential services, but he declined to label it a stay-at-home order and exempted religious groups, among others. The order effectively overruled more-stringent local orders for churches. Health-care groups have urged him to go further. The state recorded 662 new confirmed cases Tuesday, according to a Post compilation of state-by-state data — the highest to date by more than 140.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) is also facing increased calls for a statewide stay-at-home order but has resisted them. Many of the state’s biggest counties have been taking this measure by themselves. But Missouri on Tuesday saw a near-doubling of its previous worst date for new infections, with 306 new cases.

Apart from Florida, the situation in Georgia is perhaps most acute. There, too, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) had faced pressure but left more-strict measures up to local officials, with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) issuing a stay-at-home order a week ago. Georgia recorded one of the biggest spikes Tuesday, with more than 1,121 new cases — more than double any previous day. Eventually, on Wednesday Kemp said he would issue a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday.

The Washington Post editorialized this weekend, Foot-dragging GOP governors are imperiling the whole country (excerpt):

[These] governors, all Republicans, have been enabled by Mr. Trump, who points to states that don’t yet “have the problem,” and remarks that it’s “awfully tough to say, ‘Close it down.’ ” He favors flexibility and is seconded by Vice President Pence, who says the federal government “will defer to state and local health authorities on any measures that they deem appropriate.”

As the White House leads from behind, the effect is to endorse and induce complacency. Faced with a stealthy pathogen that can spread from asymptomatic individuals, or incubate for weeks before a victim falls ill with fever, states are free to delude themselves into thinking the virus has passed them by — until, having bidden its time, it erupts inside their cities and towns. Governors of those states can entertain the illusion of alternative facts, imagining their borders are impermeable.

[T]heir magical thinking endangers the nation. It gives people license to minimize the threat — a threat the White House says could kill up to 240,000 people even with effective social distancing. It allows state-to-state gaps in the firewall that will likely encourage a raging disease to erupt in a series of rolling blazes across the country. As many states get tough, even deploying the police to encourage people to stay indoors, their odds of impeding the pandemic’s path of destruction are undercut by their neighbors’ selfishness.

Conservative Media Entertainment Complex

While all sources in the conservative media entertainment complex have been reckless and irresponsible (per usual) in covering the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News aka Trump TV has been particularly reckless and irresponsible in spewing political propaganda rather than public health information that might actually save the life of their key demographic: old, white conservative Republicans living in red states.

Last week, Fox News acknowledged that it is concerned about “potential legal action” over its misleading coronavirus coverage: Fox News insiders are concerned that the network could face “potential legal action” from viewers over its misleading coverage of the new coronavirus, according to Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman.

Sure enough, a Washington State Group Is 1st to Sue Fox News for Calling Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’:

Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, or WASHLITE, the plaintiff, has become the first in the nation to sue Fox News over its coronavirus coverage, asking a state court to keep the cable network from airing false information about the pandemic.

The 10-page complaint — filed Thursday in King County — also names as defendants Fox News Corp., owner Rupert Murdoch, AT&T TV and COMCAST.

It seeks an injunction to prohibit the conservative-leaning outlet from “interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content.”

There has been a massive amount of reporting on how Fox News and its propagandists have been misleading the public about the coronavirus pandemic. Just Google it.

An op-ed by Kara Swisher in the New York Times, Fox’s Fake News Contagion, made Trump’s Minister of Propaganda at Trump TV, Sean Hannity’s head explode. Sean Hannity Has Full-On Meltdown Over Criticism Of Fox News Coronavirus Coverage. Jennifer Rubin explained why Fox News is a public health hazard. Fox News has succeeded — in misinforming millions of Americans.

The Lincoln project just released a new video ad that bashes the entire cast of Fox News hosts and guests who’ve been passing misinformation, lies, and Trump propaganda about the coronavirus.

And The Daily Show with Trevor Noah has a similar mashup of right-wing propagandists, or “Heroes of the Pandumbic.”

Christian Right Megachurches And Televangelists

The Christian craft store Hobby Lobby was defying coronavirus-related shutdowns and prompting police intervention in some sates before finally agreeing to shut down. Pinched by shutdown orders, Hobby Lobby closes stores.

But Evangelical ministers of megachurches and televangelists have been far more militant about defying CDC social distancing guidelines.

Televangelist Jerry Falwell, Jr. opened Liberty University last week to welcome back from spring break some 1,900 students to its Lynchburg, Virginia campus. Irresponsible decisions like Jerry Falwell Jr.’s put untold numbers of people at risk:

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., who has blamed the media for hyping the threat of covid-19 to damage President Trump, framed his decision to reopen the evangelical college as a favor for students. “I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” he told the (Lynchburg) News & Advance.

Rod Dreher writes at The American Conservative, Christians Who Make Christians Look Bad (excerpt):

It is not news that most Christians in this country are doing the right thing and staying home from services during this extraordinary period of crisis. They are doing that not because they want to miss church, but out of love for their neighbor — which requires this sacrifice to slow the spread of this deadly virus.

But not every Christian church is doing this. Some arrogant megachurches are still holding services, in defiance of the authorities, common sense, and Christian charity. What about the people who are going to get sick because these people are continuing to crowd together? They don’t care. What about the fact that the economic paralysis that is crushing the livelihoods of tens of millions will carry on longer because of gatherings like this persisting? They don’t care.

[A]nd they’re hurting their neighbor, making all of us Christians look bad, and laying the groundwork for anti-Christian scapegoating.

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The pride, the arrogance of these people — it is infuriating! These are the kind of Christians who will make people hate Christians because they are putting the lives and the livelihoods of all of us in danger so they can speak in tongues together on Sunday, and then claim they are being unfairly persecuted.

UPDATE: CBS Evening News aired this report Sunday on religious leaders still holding services, putting communities at risk.

Anti-Government Patriot/Militia Movement and Doomsday Preppers

Right-wing anti-government extremists who have fantasized about the day these “patriots” (sic) can wage a Glorious Revolution against the United States government, or doomsday preppers preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse like in The Walking Dead or World War Z are the least likely to follow any orders issued by a government entity. They are sovereign citizens, dontcha know.

If you want to understand why the Coronavirus pandemic has pushed U.S. gun sales to all-time high, look no further. “Because you can never have enough guns and ammo in your zombie-killer arsenal in your bunker, boys.”

This asshole is back again seeking attention: Ammon Bundy Pledges ‘Physical Defense’ For Those Who Defy Idaho’s COVID-19 Order:

Anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy led a meeting last week where he agitated for Idahoans to physically defy the state’s stay-at-home order, which is meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bundy is perhaps best known for leading the armed, 10-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. But these days he’s threatening to rise up against the public health measures to ward off COVID-19.

David Neiwart, who has been reporting on these right-wing extremist groups for years, goes into greater detail. Always paranoid, ‘Patriot’ militiamen push back against coronavirus social isolation measures.

Republican politics is making it difficult to control the coronavirus through containment measures, and may actually be encouraging the spread of the disease.