Trump’s Herd Mentality Won’t Save Us

By now most people are aware of Donald Trump’s latest blunder when he claimed “herd mentality” would ultimately save us from the coronavirus pandemic that has decimated the nation’s economy, killed nearly 200,000 American citizens, and shows no sign of “disappearing almost like a miracle” as he predicted six long months ago. Given Trump’s denial of science and increasing disparagement of those who actually understand infectious diseases, the “herd mentality” of those who believe his baseless drivel may, in fact, doom us.

What our science-challenged president was trying to pull out of the squirming mess that passes for what’s left of his mind was the term “herd immunity,” not “herd mentality.” Disgruntled that the top doctors at the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, won’t follow his desires to “play down” the pandemic and embrace herd immunity, he sought someone who would cast aside the harsh realities of coronavirus’ lethal virulence, ability to spread by air, and increasing prevalence in our society. He finally found someone willing to support the “herd immunity” concept, immediately appointed him to a high position in his administration, and is now parroting the insanity to sacrifice perhaps millions of Americans to develop theoretical “herd immunity.”

Albeit against the wishes of the clueless president, our top infectious disease experts continue to advise that lacking a safe and effective vaccine, the best methods for slowing the out-of-control spread of coronavirus are the simple measures of wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and frequent hand washing. Herd immunity, on the other hand, basically says let the disease run rampant, kill as many and as indiscriminately as it will and hope there are enough survivors who exhibit resistance to infection to save “the herd.”

One really has to wonder if Trump truly understands the cost of the “herd immunity” measures he’s now embracing in order to save his failing prospects of a second term in the White House. Does he get it that his precious Ivanka might wind up cold and dead on a ventilator, that his grandkids (if he can even remember their names) could carry serious damage to their brains, internal organs, and ability to function even if they survive COVID-19? Or that his seldom-seen son Barron might not live to see adulthood? That’s the potential cost of adopting Trump’s insane “herd immunity” approach — although many more families and individuals will suffer in our 330 million American “herd.”

In Montana we still have large herds of deer, antelope and elk. It’s still possible to see hundreds of elk grazing in a herd or trailing single-file across a high mountainside traverse. Those herds put their trust not in some bellowing bull, but in the “lead cow” — an old and experienced elk that’s wise enough to know where to graze and when to hide to avoid hunters. That’s Montana’s version of herd mentality.

But nationally we get Trump’s idea of herd mentality — follow me, do what I say, ignore the experts, and we will be great again. That’s the “herd mentality” of lemmings — follow me right off the cliff.

The choice is ours — follow someone who was never a leader, who seeks to divide us and turn us against each other as we perish in vast numbers. Or seek the “herd mentality” of the wise old cow elk, keep the herd together, protect each other from threats, and make it through another year. Even for non-elk that doesn’t seem like a tough choice now, does it?


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