From the moment the coronavirus surfaced in this country, it was clear that it could exact a brutal toll of sickness and death and that, absent a vaccine or treatments, managing it would require Americans to make wrenching sacrifices on a massive scale.
To rally the country to do what was needed in response would require our leaders to tell us hard truths and demand painful steps — actions that are about as natural to politicians as pants are to a giraffe.
When the horrendous economic impact came, and leaders had to make a choice between those hard truths and pandering, you knew the weak would cut and run.
Until he didn’t.
More concerned about surviving the fall election than he is the survival of his citizens, the president has leaped on his trusty steed Resentment and hopes to ride that old nag to victory in November, as he has before.
Yes, Trump is right when he says that the economic cost of working to bring the virus under control has already been catastrophic. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs or businesses almost overnight. People are desperate to get back to work and normality.
But this race to reopen idea he is fanning is predicated on his politics, not solicitude for the suffering and certainly not on the science. The health experts — even his own — couldn’t be clearer: open the country prematurely and carelessly, and we risk being right back where we were in March, with sharply rising infections and deaths that threaten to overwhelm our health care system.
If we go there, the economy will have to shut down all over again or will simply collapse.
The president has made a cold, hard political calculation and decided to take the path of selfish expedience. He’ll be on the side of opening at all costs. Play his favorite red-state-versus-blue-state card. Blame the doctors for being overly cautious and the Democrats for prizing science over American jobs. Force the governors to make the tough, agonizing decisions and make them walk the plank. Use China as a shield against his own inexcusable failure to act earlier.
Instead of unifying the country, Trump is hoping to pry open and deepen the divides that have been so central to his political project. Already you can see the polarizing effect — in polling, on social media and Fox News. While most Americans still favor a cautious approach, the familiar fault lines are beginning to form.
A responsible leader would have behaved differently; would have followed the science and told the country that quitting the distasteful prescription mid-course would only prolong…