‘Trump Virus,’ please–not ‘Chinese’ one

Herbert Hoover didn’t singlehandedly cause the Great Depression, but he fumbled in his efforts to fix the American economy. One upshot was the name given the shantytowns housing hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken Americans. “Hoovervilles” popped up near free soup kitchens.

Should Donald Trump now face similar obloquy, by way of the term “Trump Virus”? Most emphatically. Patriotic Americans of all beliefs, not only Democrats, should use the phrase again and again. About 12,000 Americans are already dead, with many more fatalities to come. Some 701,000 U.S. jobs vanished in March alone–very possibly the first stage of a Trump Depression.

Earlier presidents could have spent more on public health, of course.  And Trump did not cause the virus. But he owns the crisis anyway, far more than Hoover is to blame for the Great Depression—hence, the aptness of the name “Trump Virus.” His term “Chinese Virus” is yet another of his countless outrages, and not just because it has incited hatred of Chinese-Americans. The average Chinese in any location had virtually zero responsibility even if China’s wet markets may have played a role. The biggest villain instead, at least here in the United States, is Trump himself.

The “very stable genius” and his people didn’t merely make honest budgeting mistakes in public health. Instead, just to mention one example, they dismissed the virus early on as a hoax. The Trump White House feared that too much news about it might drive down stocks and jeopardize the president’s reelection chances. Decades from now, teachers should quiz high school juniors: “What was the Trump Virus and what did it reveal about the president and his political methods?”

I’m delighted that “Trump Virus” and related taglines in social media are already catching on. “Trump Virus” yielded more than 600,000 results on Google Wednesday. It’s even the name of at least two Facebook groups (one spelling “virus” with a lower-case v and another with a cap V). The second group, also a Web-based political organization, has seized on the name “virus” for other, understandable reasons, too.

Most notoriously, however, Trump is responsible for most of the American deaths in the epidemic and probably is causing many deaths elsewhere. Might thousands of Americans now be doomed even if Trump had vigorously learned on public health officials to take full precautions—both before and after the virus’s arrival here? Who knows? But Trump surely has multiplied the victim count through both misfeasance and malfeasance. As I write this, we are now the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Up to 1.1 million Americans could die, by one estimate from Imperial College in Britain, even with measures in place such as social distancing. And the Trump administration itself concedes the possibility of 100,000-240,000 people dying here in the U.S. Even if the real numbers turn out to be a fraction of those, the statistics are horrendous–with a fatality count already bigger than the one for 9/11, killing “only” 2,753 Americans.

Tragically, Trump’s early virus-denial appears to have influenced the thinking of certain like-minded foreign demagogues such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who even now is shrugging off “this measly cold” and fighting efforts to suppress the epidemic. U.K. Prime Minister Borris Johnson, Trump’s friend, has been on oxygen in an intensive care unit.

Want a cause-effect showing Trump’s baleful influence in the United States? A March study from the University of Washington notes: “All else equal, Republican governors and governors from states with more Trump supporters were slower to adopt social distancing policies. These delays are likely to produce significant, on-going harm to public health.” The same, undoubtedly, for Trump’s failure to encourage state-level lockdowns early enough on. Suppose Republican governors would have risked Trump’s wrath for not sternly enforcing the stay-at-home lockdowns that they themselves were empowered to declare.

Serious lockdowns can help. Instead, however, until public health officials finally prevailed, the president last month was talking about business-as-usual by usual by Easter, along with packed church pews–pandering to evangelicals along the way. And we still lack the full national lockdown advocated in effect by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who sits on the Trump Administration’s coronavirus task force. Major damage has already happened.

If nothing else, consider Trump’s delay in invoking the Defense Production Act and then his failure to use it fully to assure us enough anti-virus supplies delivered at fair prices (and without special favors for Trump-loving states). We still have a shortage of testing kits to identify people with TV, as we might abbreviate “Trump Virus.” Above all, what if Trump Administration officials had more aggressively insisted early on that the Chinese cooperate with American scientists eager to spot viruses there before they reached the U.S.? Warnings from public health professionals abounded for years about the potential threat there.

How unfortunate that “Moscow Mitch” McConnell and his ilk make impeachment unlikely right now despite King Trump’s recklessness with commoners’ lives. But November is nearing. The best way to honor Trump Virus victims will be to vote this monster-buffoon out of office and see His Majesty vigorously prosecuted for his manifold crimes.

Image: Creative Commons-licensed from DonkeyHotkey.

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David Rothman

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