And while the White House man deserves much of the blame for our national failure to do the bare minimum to solve this pandemic, whose coronavirus has revealed something, it's proud ignorance and no-danger is largely a Republican problem. And now these qualities cost American lives.
Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida – all states with Republican governors – have announced plans to roll back social distance measures over the next few weeks. According to public health experts and institutions, including WHO
, social distancing is already the absolute baseline when it comes to facing a deadly and highly contagious disease. We really need mass production of tests and related supplies needed to test, not to mention adequate tracking and processing. Plus, of course, actually widespread testing.
The United States has tested around 4 million people over several months. A new Harvard report
says we need to test more than 5 million every day. But because our federal government fails so miserably in that effort, the rest of us are left to do what we can to at least try not to get this thing in the first place. It means staying away from other people. And that means hoping that our states, cities and municipalities will step up and fill the leadership vacuum that the White House has left. Because this is less a human problem than leadership: The overwhelming majority of Americans under the order of closure follow them. The overwhelming majority of Americans Support
limitations. But we know that many people, understandably, will trust what our leaders tell us – and too many of our conservative leaders do not earn that trust.
These Republican governors don't even want to do the bare minimum to tell people to stay home, despite it almost unanimous advice
by public health authorities and experts.
(I say "almost unanimously" here simply as a hedge; in fact, I couldn't find a single recognized public health authority or expert who recommends ending social distancing).
"If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you will set yourself back," says Dr. Anthony Fauci told
ABCs George Stephanopolous. As painful as it is to follow the strict guidelines for gradually phasing in a reopening, it will strike back. "
What is behind these governors' incredibly wiped-out decisions? Well, this is what happens when large parts of your party unite against scientific consensus and expertise, and when you think carefully and studied conclusions are for liberal eggheads.
Trump did not invent any of this. A Republican party that sowed mistrust of science because climate change was economic impracticable
for fossil fuel companies, and decided that conservative, patriarchal Christian morality should take precedence over public health in how we teach our children
about sex and the human body, is exactly what brought us Trump in the first place.
Republican leaders are not universally ignorant. It is true that many Republicans have learned that undermining the scientific consensus and driving distrust of experts – and even education in itself – helps keep them in power. Idiocy is not an unintended consequence; that's the whole plan.
Of course there are exceptions. Republican authorities. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Mike DeWine of Ohio have followed the researchers and put the public's health and safety first. And some Democrats have missed the mark. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has gone sharp (and rightly so) criticised
to avoid addressing the threat quickly and thoroughly. But many of the governors who have tried to protect the people of their state have paid a price. Trump began one of his press releases going after
Hogan and said "he didn't quite understand what was going on."
Unfortunately, viruses do not respect politics or borders. A lot of Georgians supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as governor (and a lot of them were systematically excluded
from voting on her) in a hugely controversial race in 2018.
Democrat Andrew Gillum faced like
underhanded (and racist) tactics when he ran (and lost) the Florida governor's race that year.
The people of Florida and Georgia who wanted better than they got are going to suffer with everyone else. And frankly, given the devastating effect the virus is having black community,
many of the same voters who supported rational, science-affirming candidates will be the ones who will suffer most from the impeccable leadership of their states.
But the ripple effects of a bad decision by the Georgia governor will not be limited to Georgia (or Florida, or Tennessee or South Carolina, or any other state that opens again too soon). Viruses do not stop at state lines. They do not respect physical boundaries. If a person in Florida has the virus and goes to a meeting across the Georgia border, the virus will not be home.
Even Trump South Carolina sidekick Lindsey Graham knows this. "I worry that our friends and neighbors in Georgia are going too fast too fast," Graham tweeted
on Tuesday, noting that "(w) hatred in Georgia will affect us in South Carolina." Indeed, it will, and that is why we need clear federal guidelines based on scientific evidence and aimed at facilitating good public health, not hodge-podge and politicized proposals based on individual governors' whim.
But Graham predictably didn't go that far. "We respect Georgia's right to decide her own destiny, but we're all in this," he tweeted, somewhat nonsensical. Good for Graham for pushing back next door. But if we are all together, Georgia's decisions do not just determine their own destiny – it determines all our fates.
Especially in times of crisis, civilians need intelligent, thoughtful leadership. We need leaders who understand that they are not experts at everything under the sun, and that leading with a narrow and reactionary ideology is no way to govern. We need leaders who want to do something to understand the scientific consensus, make difficult choices when needed, and lead with the truth.
Unfortunately, the United States does not have it at the federal level – nor do several red states at the state level. And we all pay the price for this longstanding GOP error.