To give Trump credit for one thing, he has managed to fully politicize the coronavirus crisis.
Signs of the Republican full-court press to stop any bad news from getting out and protect Trump’s political interests are everywhere. Trump overruled his own Vice President, Mike Pence, when he ordered a cruise ship with sick Americans on board to stay at sea. This despite the fact that the experience in Japan showed such an approach is the worst thing you can do under the circumstances.
Then there’s Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s biggest lackeys, wearing a gas mask on the floor of the House to ridicule attempts to address the coronavirus. And Rush Limbaugh falsely claiming that the coronavirus is nothing more than a common cold. Or Trump calling the deadly virus a “hoax” and muzzling government experts on infectious disease from talking.
The strategy seems to be working with his base. According to a recent poll, Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to have concerns about coronavirus. Apparently, in their view, the virus only infects liberals.
In typical fashion, though, Republicans have argued that it is the Democrats who are politicizing the coronavirus crisis. But pointing out that the government needs to do more to address this crisis is not politicizing it. Trying to keep it secret is.
Consider the contrast between Trump’s response to coronavirus and Obama’s measured response to the ebola scare. Obama acted as the president of all Americans, not just his supporters. He did not hurl accusations at Republicans. And he allowed the experts to speak freely to give the public accurate information. These are all the things Trump has not done in this crisis.
And by the way, Republicans, including Donald Trump, did hurl accusations at Obama for his handling of the crisis. So much for us politicizing things.
The reality is that Republicans have been the ones making everything political for decades while Democrats try to do the right thing. To them, Democrats are the enemy, not foreign adversaries. Consider the efforts of Erik Prince, a Trump supporter and brother to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, to recruit ex-spies to infiltrate liberal groups. Or the successful efforts of Republicans to demonize the media, academics or anyone else who tries to report facts. Their strategy is to attack the truth itself.
The goodwill of Democrats is what Republicans have preyed upon in their efforts to achieve their political goals. At the height of the last recession, Republicans fought Democratic efforts to extend unemployment benefits to folks who could not find work. They argued that we should reduce government spending at a time when those funds were most needed to help stimulate our economy that was in crisis. Now, when a Republican’s in charge, and unemployment is at a historic low, they are spending government funds like drunken sailors.
They play hardball. As evidence, I mention only Merrick Garland. Contrast that with when Obama was working to pass Obamacare, a health care plan that had its origins in the Republican alternative to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan and in the Republican-proposed health policy from Massachusetts, he met with Republican members of Congress. Despite Obama’s efforts to compromise, and to build upon prior Republican efforts, Republicans fought his efforts tooth and nail. There was no compromise as far as they were concerned.
So now Trump faces the first real crisis of his presidency, at least the first one he didn’t create himself. Democrats and the media are right to point out that his administration’s response has been pathetic, even downright dangerous. They are also right to point out that the government needs to do more. But Trump has fought them every step of the way.
Some things can’t be papered over, however. One such thing is the plunging stock market, which Trump views as an existential threat to his presidency. He might be right, by the way. The only rationale he had for his re-election is the relatively strong economy, at least as certain measures seem to indicate. But with the stock market crashing and the economy appearing in danger, what does he have to tout? His tax cut for the rich? I think not.
So now Trump comes to Democrats looking for help. To help gin up the economy, he wants another tax cut and assistance for industries particularly hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, including the oil industry.
All I have to say to that is Merrick Garland. It’s time for Democrats to take a hard line and refuse to help Trump out of this crisis he has only made worse.
I can already hear the howls. How can you politicize such a crisis? But the horse has left the barn on that one. When Mitch McConnell said regarding Merrick Garland that “one of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,” he made it clear that politics comes before governing. Indeed, McConnell has made it clear that obstructionism can be good politics, especially in an election year.
The truth is that it’s time for Democrats to take off the gloves and stop giving in to Republicans. The best thing we can do for this country is to elect a Democratic president and Democratic Congress. Giving Trump a helping hand out of this crisis might provide some short-term relief, but in the long-term, it is the worst thing we can do for this country.