At this point the Covid-19 peril is well understood.
The metrics are plain. On March 15, two days after President Trump declared a national emergency, the United States counted 3,100 cases and over 50 deaths. Today: 49,594 cases and 662 deaths.
The economic menace also is crystal clear. Tens of millions of Americans shelter inside, shops and restaurants are closed, city streets and airports lie vacant. A ‘closed until further notice’ sign appears on the door of at least 40 percent of American commerce.
In the confrontation between medical experts intent on safeguarding Americans from a diabolical virus, and industrialists and financiers worried about securing the national economy, the doctors until now held their own. Governors, mayors, and sports league commissioners followed their counsel. Large events shut down. People were ordered out of offices and into their homes. The president, who’s been episodically disinterested, then erratically concerned, buoyed medical opinion with his emergency declaration.
That uneasy parity between safety and economy is about to radically change.
On Monday, the president displayed another familiar dimension of his personality and public style: his precipitous decision-making. He signaled his intent to confront governors and mayors and relax or end restrictions on businesses and personal movement. “America will again — and soon — be open for business,” the president said on Monday. “Very soon, a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner.”
Today he wanted the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” and added that as early as Monday he is going to make the most consequential presidential decision of our lifetimes. Trump indicates he is prepared to shove public safety to the side and throw the federal government’s weight to protecting the stock market, jobs, business income, and corporate profits. The consequences for Americans are both fairly simple to predict and beyond measure to calculate.
First let’s address the president’s perspective. Trapped in a crisis that is killing Americans that he was far too late to acknowledge or address, the decision to relax social distancing is a last-ditch effort to preserve his presidency and re-election. He’s convinced himself that the mortality risks of Covid-19 are as acceptable as those from the flu and gun homicides, and that sufficient numbers of Americans will believe him. They’ll return to their goods-consuming, full-bodied, entertainment-rich, travel-oriented lives.Continue reading “Trump’s Reckless Bid For History and Re-Election”