The Perils of Politicizing the Pandemic

President Trump has so thoroughly polarized the nation that almost every conceivable action is now seen through the false lens of red and blue. If the sky is blue, does that mean it’s Democratic? If the sunset is red, does that mean it’s Republican? Inane questions — until you consider the perils of this foolhardy president’s latest moves to politicize the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s get one thing straight, coronavirus doesn’t care about political parties, skin color, religion or whether you wear a MAGA hat or think Trump is the worst president in the nation’s history. Nope — it’s a virus. Humans are nothing more than a target organism, and a handy one at that since we tend to congregate in masses and perpetuate the virus’ spread through contact with other humans.

Of course virologists know this, which is why they recommended shelter in place and limited group sizes to minimize the virus’ opportunity to spread — something this particular virus is very, very good at doing. That containment measures are causing economic hardships is undeniable, but if people think not going to the restaurant or bar is a pain, they ought to think about what kind of pain comes with being intubated on a ventilator, struggling to breathe.

The problem is we don’t have a scientist in the Oval Office, we have a con man who sees the world and every situation in one metric — whether it enriches him or enhances his chances of re-election in November. When you’re riding the economy to the ballot box, what counts most is what benefits you and damages your political opponents.

Hence, after last week’s demonstrations of his loony gun-toting supporters on the steps of the capitols in Michigan and Ohio, our benighted president didn’t say, “please respect the hard steps states have taken to contain this incredibly dangerous disease.” Nope, instead he tweets out in all caps “LIBERATE MICHIGAN, LIBERATE MINNESOTA, LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

Two questions immediately come to mind. First, what are the crazies going to do with guns — shoot the coronavirus? Better be good shots since the virions, at .125 microns, are about 14 times smaller than a single red blood cell. Second, from what are you going to “liberate” the states? Social distancing? Well, Trump’s supporters are most likely going to liberate themselves from life instead, especially when you consider on the exact same days these fools were massing in their misdirected protests the coronavirus set a one-day record of 4,591 deaths in the U.S.

These are Americans dying; mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers who join 33,000 others who have fallen to coronavirus. These are the very citizens the government is supposed to protect as its highest and most fundamental obligation. Yet we have a deranged president cheerleading foolish protests against the exact measures medical professionals say are absolutely necessary to slow the spread of the contagion.

Trump’s idiocy may backfire spectacularly — and tragically — however. The latest PEW poll of 4,917 people showed a whopping two-thirds say “they are more concerned that these restrictions will be lifted too quickly” and 73% saying “the worst is yet to come.”

In the span of one short week the president went from saying the Constitution gave him “ultimate authority” to saying the states should “call your own shots” to inciting protests against states that have taken measures to contain the disease and protect their citizens. In short, Trump is politicizing the pandemic and by doing so is imperiling the lives of 330 million American citizens. And for what? To theoretically help his dimming chances of re-election.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.