America Surrenders To Covid-19
After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it.
Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were hitting new records in multiple states.
At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon — and will be around through the November election.
I’ll give the White House grudging credit for leveling with the American people, but what a massive defeat this has been for our country. Thomas Chatterton Williams, who lives in France, writes about how shocking it is to watch his native country fail like this. Excerpts:
Glued as I am to the news from the U.S.—where I was born and grew up and travel frequently— I couldn’t shake the feeling that France was also opening up recklessly early. But I was wrong to worry. As Donald Trump’s America continues to shatter records for daily infections, France, like most other developed nations and even some undeveloped ones, seems to have beat back the virus.
The numbers are not ambiguous. From a peak of 7,581 new cases across the country on March 31, and with a death toll now just below 30,000—at one point the world’s fourth highest—there were just 526 new cases on June 13, the day we masked ourselves and took the train back to Paris. The caseload continues to be small and manageable.
America, however, is an utter disaster. Texas, Florida, and Arizona are the newest hubs of contagion, having apparently learned nothing from the other countries and states that previously experienced surges in cases. I stared at my phone in disbelief when the musician Rosanne Cash wrote on Twitter that her daughter had been called a “liberal pussy!” in Nashville for wearing a mask to buy groceries.
That insult succinctly conveys the crux of the problem. American leadership has politicized the pandemic instead of trying to fight it. I see no preparedness, no coordinated top-down leadership of the sort we’ve enjoyed in Europe. I see only empty posturing, the sad spectacle of the president refusing to wear a mask, just to own the libs. What an astonishing self-inflicted wound.
The view of the US from abroad is something rather less than MAGA, he says:
If the country sparked fear and intense resentment under George W. Bush and mild resentment mixed with vicarious pride under Barack Obama, what it provokes under Trump has been something entirely new: pity and indifference. We are the pariah state now, but do we even see it?
Trump has failed as president, but the failure on Covid is something shared by both liberals and conservatives. Trump’s pride, coupled with the ideological belief of many conservatives that the Covid danger was fiction, caused the failure from the Right. The self-righteous ardor that led progressives to take to the streets to protest George Floyd’s killing, and that led woke medical professionals to give it their blessing, because the mobs were being foolish for a good cause, caused the failure from the Left. And then there were the non-ideological failures who just didn’t want to let a deadly virus spoil their fun.
I’ll be delighted when Trump goes, but it’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t only because of Donald Trump that Americans never really locked down, and then started moving around again in late April.
It wasn’t Trump who went out to bars in Tempe, Austin and Los Angeles in June. It wasn’t Trump who put on hospital gowns and told the American people you could suspend the lockdown if your cause was just. Once you told people they could suspend the lockdown for one thing, they were going to suspend it for others.
Our fixation on the awfulness of Donald Trump has distracted us from the larger problems and rendered us strangely passive in the face of them. Sure, this was a Republican failure, but it was also a collective failure, and it follows a few decades of collective failures.
I just read a Twitter thread by a young LSU med student who has the virus. Here:
As the Fourth of July weekend commences, I urge everyone to take precautions to fight #COVIDー19. I’m going to share my battle as a 23 year old very active male with this VERY REAL and novel virus to shed light on some of the typical and atypical symptoms of the virus.
— Stewart Lockett (@stew_lock) July 3, 2020
Sorry for being so down about all this. It’s just so damned frustrating.
Inauguration Day: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation – and their pain is our pain.”
122,000 Americans dead from Coronavirus and counting: “We need to live with it.” https://t.co/wKgw9BDmec
— Ari Schulman (@AriSchulman) July 4, 2020
I’m watching the beginning of the Trump pageant at Mount Rushmore. They’re playing 1980s oldies over the speakers there, preceding the president’s arrival. It’s so kitschy and cheap. Casino-owner rhinestone junk.
I’m old enough to remember the last time the country felt defeated like this: 1980, the final year of the Carter presidency. There is no Ronald Reagan galloping over the horizon, though.
UPDATE: So, I watched Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore. Of course I agreed with all of it. It was a powerful speech, though he seemed weary delivering it. His lines about how we will never let the left tear down the monuments were great, but the delivery was entirely flat, as if he didn’t really believe it. I got more of a punch from the speech reading The New York Times‘s presentation of it on their front page:
Here’s how the Washington Post presented it:
They make me sick, our national media. They really do. If Obama had given a speech like this, they would have presented it as a standard patriotic address. It was not a “dark speech.” It was a speech that asserted things that were uncontroversial just a few years ago. Ninety percent of this could have been given by the kind of Democrats we have until four years ago. Not anymore. Trump sounded worn out and defeated tonight, but the text of the speech — it was superb. Still, Trump has lost it. We needed to hear what he said tonight, but it needed to be delivered by someone who could make good on those words. Instead? Well:
At base he’s a deeply unserious person, and in serious times that’s no longer amusing or reassuring. Some people want a revolutionary firebrand and some people want a adamantine protector, but no one wants a clownish irrelevancy. The world moved, and left him behind.
— The End Times (@TheAgeofShoddy) July 4, 2020