written 29 November 2020
published 6 December 2020
President Eisenhower said, "if a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power." The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the country, and Republicans have failed Eisenhower's challenge.
Trump, who takes credit for everything, and responsibility for nothing, shrewdly knew that the virus would be a problem for him. His first response was to ignore it, then he minimized it, declaring it a hoax perpetrated by fake news and the whole world, just to make him look bad.
Travelers brought the first confirmed cases to the US in late January. By late February, community spread was confirmed, growing from 30 cases by the first of March to almost 200,000 cases by the first of April. With no federal leadership, the states were forced to deal with this on their own, leading to a variety of responses, from total lock down to business as usual. The economic dislocation was widespread, the stock market dropped 37 percent, and a $2 trillion CARES economic relief act was passed in late March.
By May first the case load was 1,091,038 (worldometer.com), with an average daily increase of 29,459, and 68,326 dead Americans. At that point Trump realized that the economic collapse threatened his re-election, and began insisting that businesses and schools open up, getting "back to normal", contrary to advice from medical experts. Trump's denial of reality is understandable, given his brittle fragile ego, and his niece's report he has always lied for sport.
But Republican "leaders" supported his lies. Perhaps they naively believed their religion would protect them from infection. Perhaps they cynically believed the virus was only an urban blue state problem. Perhaps they feared the vengeful wrath of an emotionally unstable president. The result was an abdication of responsibility in a craven pursuit of power, fulfilling Eisenhower's description of a conspiracy.
With Republicans urging people to ignore the virus and get back to business, America experienced case load surges after the holidays in July and September. The center of infection shifted from the northeast to the south, and then diffused across the entire country, hitting the upper mid-west hard. Not wearing a mask, and denying the validity of the virus, became tests of Republican loyalty. As the election neared, Trump predicted that after election day nobody would talk about Covid again, and Texas Senator Cruz claimed that all the Democratic states that were restricting business would immediately open up again in November, implying Covid was just a political ploy. Rank and file Republicans still believe their "leaders", even screaming "Covid is a hoax" as they gasp for breath, while being intubated to save their life.
But Covid is real and didn't "go away like magic". Colder weather is forcing people inside and for the third time, cases are surging exponentially, straining health care capacity, so even red state governors are now ordering restrictions. On November 28th, US cases hit 13,525,501, with a one day increase of 241,718, and 271,628 Americans dead. It took 10 weeks for the first million cases, and 6 days for the most recent million cases. The holiday season will only accelerate this pace.
To add to this insanity, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned New York State's limit on the size of religious gatherings during the pandemic. The founding fathers were ignorant of the germ theory of disease, let alone RNA viruses, but these Constitutional originalists, four Catholics and an Episcopalian, put religious practice above public health. Given that the core of Christ's teachings, the Golden Rule, directs the individual to act with regard for our fellow man, this ruling is disingenuous. This is the result of Republicans choosing to pack the court rather than pass further pandemic economic relief.
Society is a balance between individual rights and collective responsibility. Trump is a poster boy for the disaster of an unfettered ego. Democracy is an attempt to moderate those excesses, and public health is an extreme need for social restraint on individual action. Republicans demonstrate by their words and actions that they are just a conspiracy for power, uninterested in the welfare of even their own supporters.