Coronavirus Lite: Trump Style
A global pandemic, as experienced by *Trump supporters
*Yes, I know, “not all Trump supporters.” But I’ve yet to encounter a never-trumper who downplayed the significance of a global pandemic. Just sayin’.
What is it that seems to insulate Trump supporters from data-driven, scientific, provable facts? Our country is the midst of a global pandemic. An unprecedented health crisis. A national emergency, so declared by Trump himself. As a proud Gen X’er, I can state, unequivocally, that the situation in which we now find ourselves is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.
I’m a lifelong Democrat and North Carolinian. I live inside a purple state, a swing state. At various times throughout my 45 years, I’ve been my own blue island in a sea of red. Though I now live in a more progressive area, it’s still not unusual to encounter local neighborhoods where yard signs that read “Trump 2020,” and “Any Functioning Adult 2020” are separated only by a thin line of fine fescue.
Now, I’m not one who’s easily panicked. I’m only mildly concerned about the coronavirus (if not reasonably so, given the circumstances; I’m one of those adults with a compromised immune system). But, I’m being careful, heeding all local guidance to stay home, and I’m self-quarantining. On March 14th, our Governor issued an executive order to close all public schools until March 30, unless extended beyond that date. In a county-wide school system that houses over 160,000 students and over 10,000 teachers, school closure is a big deal with tremendous, unprecedented impact.
The Governor of N.C. also issued executive orders that day to stop mass gatherings of 100 people or more, and to shut down all dine-in service at restaurants and bars. Most places are closed. Some restaurants are providing curbside pickup or delivery only — but more and more by the day seem to close down altogether. By March 16th, NCDHHS recommended no mass gatherings for more than 50 people.
Everyone I know is practicing social distancing. Our streets are empty. No one is playing, jogging, or hanging around outside. The wicked N.C. pollen has arrived hand-in-hand with coronavirus, and people are taking no chances.
You just can’t escape the reality of a global pandemic. No amount of yelling “fake news” at the TV will make it go away, nor will calling it “the latest Democrat hoax.” For those of us more privileged, we’re learning what “teleworking” looks like while also dealing with displaced kids whose schools and colleges have closed. And while several college students are able to participate in online classes, no core instruction can be given for our county’s public schools at this point. Because the county is so large, we’re home to families from every possible demographic and socioeconomic status; we can’t ensure that each child has equal access (or any access) to technology.
Many of our families are homeless. And for those less privileged kids whose only refuge is in school, they’re suddenly now forced to remain in very unstable or even unsafe homes. The school system is doing a hell of a job getting meals delivered to as many in need as possible, via school buses, but a warm meal doesn’t protect the kids who suffer from psychological or physical abuse at the hands of family — factors that will certainly be compounded by parents who now can’t work, rely on daycare, or earn money.
And then there’s the folk who have to work, come hell or high water. They risk getting sick themselves, and/or carrying the disease and spreading it to more high-risk populations.
There is no ideal situation in any of this. It’s one giant mess that our country is largely ill-prepared for, with a president at the helm who’s even more ill-prepared to handle it.
On March 3rd, my state saw its first case of coronavirus. By March 16th, 41 cases were reported, and two days later, that number more than doubled itself, jumping to 91 confirmed cases. As of today — another two days later — the upward trend continues, as predicted. North Carolina now has 172 known cases of coronavirus. There will continue to be more.
Although no one (at this point in time) in North Carolina has died from COVID-19, the national death toll is currently at 150.
And more people will die. Chances are, people in N.C. will die from COVID-19; it’s only a matter of time.
But the disturbing trend I’ve witnessed across three different social media avenues this week, exclusively from Trump supporters, has been stupefying. Several local Trump supporters who I know have flocked to Facebook, Twitter, and online neighborhood forums to significantly downplay coronavirus, and generally complain about what they perceive as “everyone freaking out over a big old ‘nothingburger.’”
It’s like we’re living on two different planets, although that has undoubtedly been the case since the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Again, I’m not “freaking out” over this new global pandemic, and I don’t see anyone who is, but I am remaining cautious and taking it seriously. However, I keep seeing Trump supporters taking the exact opposite approach. Over and over again, all week. I kept thinking, how are they so blase, so apathetic about the whole thing?
Then I remembered that they’re taking their cues specifically from Trump himself, and/or all the networks that follow suit: Fox News, One America News Network, Breitbart, The Federalist, The Blaze, and every other hyper-partisan right wing “news” outlet that also feeds a steady diet of extremism and has reliability issues, according to the latest media bias chart.
Take one of the latest Trump rallies in South Carolina earlier this month as an example. Incidentally, it was this rally where Trump specifically called coronavirus the democrats’ latest hoax:
“Now the democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it… this is their new hoax…”
“We will do everything in our power to keep the infection and those carrying the infection from entering our country. We have no choice. Whether it’s the virus that we’re talking about, or many other public health threats, the democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now you see it with the coronavirus. You see it.”
Following the rally, when local mandates began surfacing for individuals to stay home and avoid mass gatherings, Trump was asked about cancelling his rallies out of respect for what public health experts were saying. To that, he responded, “We have tens of thousands of people standing outside the arena, so, it doesn’t bother me at all, and it doesn’t bother them at all.”
March 2, 2020, at a Charlotte, N.C. rally (as reported via CBS):
“The threat of the virus didn’t deter fans of Mr. Trump from attending Monday’s rally in Charlotte, where people in the stands shared buckets of chicken fingers and dunked their hands into shared vats of popcorn while they awaited the president’s arrival.”
Trump rallies supporters in Charlotte, North Carolina
President Trump gloated about the stock market roaring back Monday, while throwing sharp barbs at the thinning…
Some Trump supporters from N.C. were spotted waiting to attend a different Trump rally in South Carolina. They were interviewed and specifically asked what they thought about the coronavirus. When asked whether they were worried about it or not, none of them were.
“It’s like a bad flu. I mean, I was very surprised by how many people die annually from the flu, so, even if this is twice as bad… I’m not concerned about it.”
Like a bad flu. This is exactly what Trump equated the coronavirus to.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in late February, former acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, spoke of the coronavirus calling it “the hoax of the day” and saying, “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they (the press) think ‘this is gonna be what brings down the president.’ That’s what this is all about.” He indicated that since the impeachment didn’t quite work out, now it was time for the media to hype coronavirus.
Washington Post media critic, Erik Wemple asked Republican CPAC attendees (both before and after knowing a fellow CPAC attendee tested positive for coronavirus), if they agreed with Mick Mulvaney’s assessment that the media was “hyping up” coronavirus to try and bring down the president.
One lady responded:
“So, they [mainstream media] are going to damage Trump any chance that they can get.”
When Wemple clarified, “with the coverage of a virus, you think they would do that?” she answered: “Yeah! Oh, of course! No question about it.”
Another person responded:
“You know, they skew the coverage of just about everything else for political purposes, so it wouldn’t surprise me.”
“That’s all they’ve been doing the last three years. If he does something, they don’t like it.”
When this gentleman was asked, “so you think the media would even do it for a medical emergency or possible pandemic?” he responded, “I wouldn’t put anything past them.”
“Sure they would. I mean, they’ve equated him with Adolf Hitler. Why wouldn’t they try to do that? Anything to get rid of President Donald Trump.”
Wemple then explains in a Vlog on YouTube (below) how this all sort of underlines a paradox about Trump.
“Here is a president who’s told thousands upon thousands of falsehoods and lies. And here’s also a president whose people, his followers, believe in him to an incredible degree. They’re unwilling to shake their faith in the president’s truthfulness. And concomitantly, they also distrust the media. So (they) trust Trump completely, and have a deep ingrained mistrust in the media. It’s that dynamic that gives the president basically some permissions to sugarcoat coronavirus, to talk about it in ways that help (he believes) help him politically, and disregard the consequences.”
This is all very unnerving, to say the least. What a complete and utter sense of confusion we have in the country right now.
I think one of the late-night hosts, John Oliver, summed up the bizarre but sad reality perfectly while describing a recent viral TikTok video featuring a hamster with coronavirus health advice (like, wash your hands for 20 seconds). He said:
“That TikTok hamster is now my favorite thing in the world. And yes, I fully understand I have a wife and two children. But I’ll say it again, that TikTok hamster is my favorite thing in the world. And it is truly sad that a hamster just genuinely offered more useful public health advice in one twelve-second TikTok than the president has in multiple addresses to the nation.”
Even if you personally aren’t worried about getting the coronavirus, please do us all a favor and practice social distancing anyway. Even if you think it’s nonsense. Just humor us. Do it for everyone else.
This is a perfect example of a sacrifice we should all be willing to make for the greater good; a sacrifice in order to protect the more vulnerable among us. Which, honestly, is something Trump is notorious for not doing. Ever. Please, be the better person and do it. Your country is depending on you for it.