F*** – And I Cannot Stress This Enough – Trump

For so many things, but today, particularly for his abject failure and inability to lead on the pandemic that continues to ravage our country even as other countries are coping and managing it.

I spend a fair amount of time on this blog hectoring the Democratic Party for its multiple, ongoing failures, its cowardice and lack of ability to understand the moment it is in. But that’s because I expect it might be able to be coaxed, threatened, inspired, reasoned-with…to do better. To rise to the moment and be more like what we need. It’s the only party that might be able to.

I stopped doing those things a long time ago with the GOP. As the rank and file sink further and further into the Q-Anon fever swamps so that outlets like FOX and even OAN now seem “normal” by comparison, the national party has become simply an arm of the extremists, and the wealthy (who are happy to let the lunatics run the asylum if it means increasing tax cuts and deregulation). Back in the 1970s after forty-plus years of Democratic control of Congress, the GOP made its bargain with the devil. The fringe lunatics, the Birchers and bigots and assorted snarling idiots that they’d previously kept on the fringe, they now invited into the main dining hall and gave them seats at the table, in order to give them enough votes to sustain their electoral viability as they continue to appeal to a smaller and older segment of the electorate. It worked…sort of…but the cost was their party’s soul and any semblance of sanity. So I don’t spend the kind of time on the GOP that I do on the Democrats – other than to occasionally note the worst of the facts – because I don’t have any hope they’d listen to me, or do anything except continue to get worse.

But every once in a while an article comes along that requires taking note. This was that article, on how America blew its response to coronavirus, from The Washington Post. And despite the article’s multiple flaws, it is an utterly damning portrait of the failure of Donald Trump’s administration and the GOP disinformation machine. Apologies in advance for the extensive quoting, but although we knew most of this already, seeing it summed up this way all in one place is just infuriating. Here’s the money quote that contained information I did not previously know:

In October, not long before the novel coronavirus began sickening people in China, a comprehensive review ranked the pandemic preparedness of 195 countries. The project — called the Global Health Security Index and spearheaded by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Nuclear Threat Initiative — assigned scores to countries as a way to warn them of the rising threat of infectious-disease outbreaks.

With a score of 83.5 out of 100, the United States ranked No. 1.

Number one. Now, you might be able to argue that such a thing is difficult to quantify empirically, and no methodology was given regarding how specifically the review judged preparedness. Perhaps it suffered from assumptions about America’s first-in-the-world wealth and presumably preparedness. But I doubt it. If our score was even remotely accurate – and I believe it probably was – how are we now so far behind most of the rest of the world (certainly the wealthier “first world”)? Andrew Cuomo, of all people (no paragon of exemplary leadership himself during the pandemic), had the correct one-line summary:

“It was science denial meets government incompetence,” he said.

Just so.Which is what makes this article so frustrating at the same time as it’s a revelation. Because sprinkled elsewhere throughout this article are maddening lines that suggest “political polarization” is one of the main drivers of our failed response. No. Just…no. “Political polarization” means two or more parties or ideologies, intractably and stubbornly fighting it out and refusing to cede any ground, to the detriment of everyone. There is only one party doing this, and that’s been true for a while (and not only on, but perhaps most visibly on, this issue). When one “team” is listening to the experts and recommending the very measures that have worked to the extent they’ve been used elsewhere in the world and the other “team” is spouting nonsense and conspiracy theories and its leader is actively promoting some of these while dismissing mask use, it’s not just ordinary political gridlock. It’s not “both sides.” I say this without a shred of hyperbole: if a group of people are pro-murdering your family, it is not being “stubborn” to oppose it with every fiber of your being and every waking moment. And any group who “sides with you” in your opposition to that isn’t just “another side” or “another view.” It is literally sense against nonsense, against senselessness. It is right against wrong, correct against incorrect. Full stop. That’s why passages like the following (versions of which appear two or three times throughout this article) are so infuriating:

The fumbling of the virus was not a fluke: The American coronavirus fiasco has exposed the country’s incoherent leadership, self-defeating political polarization, a lack of investment in public health, and persistent socioeconomic and racial inequities that have left millions of people vulnerable to disease and death.

Arrgh. Literally leave out that one clause and the entire rest of the sentence is accurate and worthy. Add it, and it begins to sound like the kind of lazy, shoulder-shrugging “both-sides” journalism that has itself been part of the problem in recent years: the inability or unwillingness of our non-lunatic media to call things by their right names. Lies are in fact lies, not disagreements on truth. Racism is racism…not “overtones of race.” And only one party’s increasing rabidity and embrace of harmful policies and imaginary facts isn’t “polarization” – it’s collective madness contrasted against those who refuse to engage in it. Like this passage:

Many Americans now believe the pandemic has been exaggerated, or even fabricated, by scientists and the mainstream news media. The rejection of scientific expertise has flowered into a conspiracy theory holding that the experts are lying as part of a political agenda.

This is exactly correct. Why muck it up by calling that “polarization?” Just let the undisputed facts that those calling themselves “conservatives” in America lately have peddled all sorts of conspiracy nonsense and simple bad information, sometimes even from the highest office in the land, speak for themselves. “Polarization” didn’t cause that. One of two parties going off the deep end caused it. You want to talk about gridlock, broken government systems (hello, electoral college and filibuster!) causing dysfunction, I’m right there with you. But the fighting and opposition isn’t what’s to blame. The GOP’s decades-long choices and current mania are what’s to blame, which this article makes clear yet tries to soft-pedal. When it gets out of its own way, you read passages like this:

Even before the pandemic hit, local public health agencies had been decimated by years of staffing and budget cuts. They had lost almost a quarter of their overall workforce since 2008 — a cut of almost 60,000 workers, according to national associations of health officials. The agencies’ main source of federal funding — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency preparedness budget — had been cut 30 percent since 2003.

Just so. When you have as an animating principle that government is always bad and should be eliminated or reduced (and taxes cut) at every opportunity, well, these are the consequences.  On a good day, a normal day, you don’t see the rot unless you work in the system, and maybe not even then. 

But take an extraordinary event, a crisis, and we all find out just how harmful decades of deregulation, budget cuts and “PayGo” are (hello, Nancy Pelosi!). This. Is. The. GOP’s. Fault – and particularly Trump’s fault – period. The GOP’s fault for taking the most prosperous nation in the world and turning it intentionally into something resembling an emerging third world nation full of needless want and misery, ripe for the kind of disaster that should be much more easily prevented or dealt-with. And Trump’s fault for spending two months trying to bullshit or ignore a virus, turning over what should’ve been a coordinated federal response to the states, projecting a cavalier, “eh, sure, whatever” attitude toward masks and social distancing, and for insisting we “reopen” without having actually flattened our case curve enough to do so without killing potentially tens of thousands more, unnecessarily.