Susan Estrich: Don't stay home! Die!
Summary: I don't know how you forgive a man who considers opening shops and businesses, getting the cash registers rolling, to be in any way worth the lives that will be lost.
Or, to be fair, you may not die; you may just be the type who kills other people.
Sound like government playing God? Making life and death decisions? Just what conservative orthodoxy has insisted for years government must never do? Yes.
Reports agree that President Donald Trump, for some time now, has been gaming to try to reopen the economy. He's floated balloons about ignoring health advisors, encouraged states to ignore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and directly contradicted his own top experts. By his own conduct, he's shown complete contempt for the only realistic hope pre-vaccine, which is a world of mask wearers.
But make no mistake, I hate it when my liberal friends describe the president as stupid, as if he lacks the ability to understand the consequences of his actions. He understands quite well. If he restarts the economy, if people leave home before they should, more people will die. Tens of thousands more? Hundreds of thousands more? The only question is the number. On the other hand, if we don't restart the economy, President Trump, who, for three years, has pulled every trick he could to make sure he would be running for reelection on history's strongest economy, will instead find himself running as a depression president who failed to save the economy or the country.
If Donald Trump looks angry, that's why. It's not because he's broken up about the prospect of Americans losing their lives. The scientists have been hectoring him with that prospect for months. No, it's his increasing realization that just as he claimed victory for all that went well even when it was beyond his control, he shall be blamed for all that is going so tragically wrong, much of it once within his control. A presidential record that features 86,000 dead Americans and 1.43 million infected, along with the worst unemployment rates since the Great Depression, is not one that bodes well for reelection.
In his "malaise speech," Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was the subject of widespread disapproval, blamed it on Americans.
Malaise seems like such a small and solvable problem compared with what most Americans are facing.
While his aides run around wearing masks and whispering to reporters about being afraid to come to work, the president seems increasingly disengaged from the life and death battles being played out across America. If only a few phone calls to his fellow oligarchs could solve everything. Pandemics, sadly, don't work that way, and the oligarchs have, to date, been largely useless. Trump's miracle cures have also been useless. His criticism of the Chinese might have held water had he not followed the same tip sheet about putting politics in front of public health, by denying, diminishing and dismissing the coronavirus long after any of those were an option. It wasn't just China that slowed America down. I'm happy to blame China, but how can anyone also avoid blaming Trump?
I know what the president will say to people reopening their stores, wisely or not. He'll tell them he hopes they get great business, tremendous business, the best business in the world. Really, can you imagine him saying anything else? What I don't know is what he will say to the tens of thousands who will lose their loved ones because in Trumpland, making money, more and sooner, means more. It's one thing to disagree with the president. It's one thing to disagree about policy. No permanent enemies and no permanent friends, we all used to say, referring to the legislative process. That's not applicable when you're talking COVID-19 and a loved one.
I don't know how you forgive a man who considers opening shops and businesses, getting the cash registers rolling, to be in any way worth the lives that will be lost.
Susan Estrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.