Trump and the Virus: It’s All About the Base

In confronting the coronavirus pandemic, it is striking that President Trump, who normally likes to be seen as The Man in Charge, driving events, has instead dragged his feet when pressed to take decisive, radical measures that most experts argue are necessary to avert the most catastrophic infection and death rates.  For months he downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, before finally in the last week or so finally accepting that it is indeed serious.  He then, ludicrously, claimed that he knew it was a pandemic long before it was called one.  Was he then lying to the public earlier?  Or is he lying now?

The result has been a federal response that has been incoherent, inconsistent and confusing, leaving it to state governors, mayors, business and community leaders to improvise as seems best to them.  Confronting a pandemic that is national and global in scope, the United States are hardly united.  Piecemeal policies allow the virus many openings.  At this writing the federal government has yet to mobilize, as it alone can do, the vast resources that could blunt the effects of both the pandemic and its attendant global depression.

The thing is, this incoherence is not just Trump’s: he is both reflecting and feeding the partisan and ideological divide of our society.  A recent Economist/YouGov poll  found that approval or disapproval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus was highly correlated with both party identification and ideology.

                                    Democrats      Republicans                Liberals           Conservatives

Strongly approve          6%                48%                              4%                56%

Strongly disapprove   53%                  5%                            66%                 6%

The other major variable is education:

                                    HS or less       Some College             College Grad  Postgrad

Strongly disapprove   24%                30%                            41%                46%

Similar patterns are found on how well the US is doing relative to other countries: Republicans and conservatives tend to see the US as doing better than other countries; Democrats and liberals tend the opposite.

How one evaluates the crisis and the efforts to deal with it is thus intimately linked to which political current you are in.  This then gets manifested in how we respond to the crisis.  The New York Times studied changes in how far people travelled in each state as the crisis deepened.  While people everywhere have been moving around less over time, states that are most Democratic have tended to reduce travel more than Republican states.

So when Trump downplays the seriousness of the crisis or undercuts his own scientific advisers, he’s both taking cues from his base, and sending cues.

Because we are so divided as a country, it seems we are doomed to incoherence in our response to COVID19. And we are therefore doomed to see more infections and more deaths than we could have had.  Cheers!

More articles by:

John Peeler is the former chairman (now retired) of the Political Science department at Bucknell University.

Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers