The one thing that I have been saying that never came across particularly clearly in the way some people — and I’m not mentioning names — have expressed this: We are in the escalating phase of a very serious pandemic. That is a fact. We have got to realize that and to prepare and respond. It is not, as it were, under control.
Further to the topic of my last post, see Susan B. Glasser, The Trump O’Clock Follies: The President’s mendacious nightly press briefings on the coronavirus will go down in history for their monumental flimflammery:
During the Vietnam War, the United States had the Five O’Clock Follies, nightly briefings at which American military leaders claimed, citing a variety of bogus statistics, half-truths, and misleading reports from the front, to be winning a war that they were, in fact, losing. Richard Pyle, the Associated Press’s Saigon bureau chief, called the press conferences “the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd,” which, minus the “Southeast Asia” part, is not a bad description of the scene currently playing out each evening in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, in the White House. We now have the Trump Follies, the nightly briefings at which President Trump has lied and bragged, lamented and equivocated, about the global pandemicthat poses an existential threat to his Presidency. Just as the Vietnam briefings became a standard by which the erosion of government credibility could be measured then, historians of the future will consult the record of Trump’s mendacious, misleading press conferences as an example of a tragic failure of leadership at such a critical moment.
Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy, Red vs. Blue on Coronavirus Concern: The Gap Is Still Big but Closing
Andrew Sullivan, America Is Trapped in Trump’s Blind Spot
All the data in the last few days show that the Trump Bump in popularity is continuing. A number of generally reliable pundits have given a pollyannish spin on this development, and I hope they are right. My own view is that you can fool some of the people some of the time, and that Trump’s nightly coronavirus shit shows are currently fooling a few more people a little more of the time.
The question is what happens going forward. How many bodies will pile up, and where, and how will the Trump Base respond to his abdication of leadership? After all, they fell for Trump’s con and thought they were electing a strong leader. What they actually got was an authoritarian weakman.
Andrew Sullivan sees Trump’s behavior in this crisis as flowing directly from his mental deficiencies. Think of it this way. I barely passed elementary calculus. If you, nonetheless, insist that I plan the trajectory of your next missile launch, then you should bloody well not be surprised if the missile lands in the wrong place.
By contrast to Sullivan, Warzel presents Trump’s dastardly behavior during the crisis as a choice. But, I suppose that, in the end, it doesn’t matter whether Trump’s malfeasance results from irresistible impulse or from conscious choice. What matters is how his base reacts, as the bodies pile up and as the churches don’t reopen for Easter services.
So let me say three things about that. First of all, we don’t know the answer. Second, the material laid out in the Badger/Quealy piece is very informative, and generally hopeful.
Third, I rely not only on data and analysis but also on what my own gut tells me. I grew up among people who were racists then, who are still racists now, and who are Trump supporters. They have those characteristics in common, but there are lots of differences too. There are white trash bully boys, there are mild-mannered store clerks, and there are professors and doctors and nurses and lawyers.
What the data tell me, what common sense tells me, and what my gut tells me, is that there is a limit to their irrationality. And even, may I say, a limit to the irrationality of the white trash bully boys.
And so, on the day when Trump fires Dr. Fauci, what are these people going to say, and what are they going to do?
If, by chance, you do not know who the Reverend Ralph Drollinger is, then permit me to tell you. Rev. Drollinger is the spiritual leader of the White House Bible Study Group, which includes ten Cabinet members.
Recently, Rev. Drollinger applied his high theological wisdom to the question whether the coronavirus represents the wrath of God on America—a topic I addressed in my last post. His detailed taxonomy of the various forms of divine wrath may be found in an essay titled Is God Judging America Today?
Great theological minds, it is said, think alike. I am, accordingly, more than gratified to find that, after much hemming and hawing, zigging and zagging, toing and froing, Rev. Drollinger concludes, with me, that we are experiencing the form of divine wrath that comes from sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.
Regrettably, the reverend does not describe in any detail the nature of wind that we have sown, i.e., the exact source of the whirlwind we now reap. For that, you will have to turn to my theological analysis.
It is a well-known fact that God is in the business of micromanaging the universe. The thought is captured in this beautiful hymn:
Unfortunately, some professed Christians deny and revile one of God’s greatest gifts: our rational minds, and our ability to do scientific investigation. A New York Times op-ed captures the consequences of this grievous impiety: The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals: Trump’s response to the pandemic has been haunted by the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.
If God micromanages the universe, it follows as the night the day that God micromanages who gets covid-19 and who doesn’t. Thus, as the Times op-ed notes, some pastors are keeping their churches open and packed on Sundays, confidently declaring that God will protect them.
And, by like token, on a larger scale, God has the power to micromanage which countries suffer the worse outbreaks and which do not. If, today, the United States is suffering the worst ravages of the pandemic, it must because God is especially angry at the United States.
Likewise, if God starts killing congregants at megachurches that defy the pandemic and stay open for business, it follows by ineluctable logic that God is angry at them.
And what, you may well ask, would be the reason for God’s anger at the United States, and His coming decimation of the megachurches?
There can be one reason, and one reason only: divine rage at the impious denial and refusal of His greatest gift, the gift of reason.
As one of my posse remarked yesterday, “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood, and America chose the psychopath.”
And now, ladies and germs, let us all rise for our closing hymn.