Americans are human guinea pigs in the GOP's wild experiment to retain power

Americans are human guinea pigs in the GOP's wild experiment to retain power
President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Tuesday, March 10, 2020, upon their arrival to the U.S. Capitol for a Senate Republican policy lunch. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)
News & Politics

In case you hadn't heard, things are going great. The coronavirus scare is all behind us now and everything's coming up roses, if only the media weren't quashing this obvious good news story.

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed," said Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner Wednesday on Fox News. "So the federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story, and I think that that’s what really needs to be told.”

That story is not being told precisely because it has no basis in reality for any sentient being living on planet Earth. But the White House has clearly decided it can bamboozle the American public right into reelecting Trump after he's presided over the worst disaster in our country's history.

The Washington Post writes, "The president and his allies have embraced optimism as a central part of his new reelection push, offering a rosy message about a swift return to normal life despite the rising death toll and jobless claims resulting from the outbreak."

And therein lies the problem. Enough Americans can still read, view events through their own eyes, think critically, and reach reasonable conclusions on their own. What they have concluded is that none of the groundwork has been properly laid for a safe reopening of the country. That's why poll after poll has demonstrated that wherever it is Trump is trying to lead the country, the American people aren't following. Even though the public remains deeply worried about the economy and some 50% say they or someone in their household has been financially impacted by the pandemic, people still largely oppose reopening the economy too fast. Like many other recent polls, this week's NPR/PBS/Marist poll found that 80% or more Americans say further testing should be done before restaurants reopen, students return to school, and large sporting events resume. Another 65% say oppose sending people back to work without further testing.

Graph of NPR/PBS/Marist polling showing 65% of Americans think returning to work is a bad idea, 80% say the same of going to restaurants, and 85% think sending kids back to school is a bad idea.

But Trump and the Republican party aren't having it. Despite public sentiment, about 20 states (mostly red, but some blue) began to ease their social distancing restrictions this week even though not a one has met the federal guidelines of seeing a decline in cases for a 14-day stretch. Some of those states (like Tennessee) also saw their biggest one-day spike in new cases this week, while others (like Texas) recorded their largest number of deaths in a 24-hour period.

Turns out there's a reason the public doesn't feel safe. Even as testing continues to lag nationally, the U.S. has barely even managed to flatten the curve, according to stats kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Graph tracking new cases in the US over the last couple months, showing new cases have basically plateaued since the end of March.

Ideally for a safe reopening, per the federal guidelines, we would see a clear decline in new cases over at least a two-week period. That’s what the actual scientists are stipulating is necessary at the state level, yet we’re not even close to achieving it nationally. Just for the sake of comparison, here's how a graph generally looks for a country with a declining case load.

Graph showing that Italy has seen a steady decline in new cases since late March.

Graph showing that Germany has seen a steady decline in new cases since late March.

But even as Republicans make their big push to reopen, they're giving away the game that not all is well. Officials in several GOP-led states like Iowa, Tennessee, and Oklahoma are threatening to strip employees' unemployment benefits if they decline to return to work. It’s effectively like handing a gun to someone and making them choose between playing Russian roulette and starving. In fact, Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act this week in order to force meatpacking plants to stay open after about 20 already shut down production due COVID-19 outbreaks among the workforce. He has consistently declined to use the order to force companies to produce lifesaving protective gear for frontline healthcare workers, but when it came to forcing meatpacking employees to continue working in unsafe conditions, Trump was finally moved to act.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are promising to cover the employer side of this horrific GOP scheme at the federal level by protecting businesses and corporations from being sued if they endanger their employees through providing unsafe working conditions. If, as promised, GOP lawmakers succeed at including that provision in the next pandemic relief bill, workers who return to an unsafe work environment because they fear losing unemployment benefits will also lack any recourse if their health is compromised due to employer negligence.

Alongside these Dickensian machinations, the White House and its allies are engaging in an elaborate cover up about the real state of affairs concerning coronavirus. The White House has decided Trump's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is a tad too honest to greenlight for a congressional appearance, so Trump officials are blocking him from testifying to lawmakers.

At the same time, the White House is doing everything possible to project a maskless business-as-usual environment at its events so viewers at home will get a false sense of safety. But behind the scenes, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and their top aides are all tested regularly, according to the Washington Post. Additionally, anyone who visits the White House campus to meet with them is also administered an on-site rapid test developed by Abbott Laboratories that provides results in 15 minutes. "It is a cocoon of safety that does not exist almost anywhere else in the country," notes the Post.

The White House also sent the Intelligence Community on a wild goose chase to substantiate a Trump-backed conspiracy theory that China purposely produced and released the novel coronavirus that is currently ravaging the U.S. Despite Trump's push to get intelligence backing for scapegoating China, the intelligence community couldn't find any evidence to support Trump's latest reelection push. After Trump falsely claimed he had seen evidence that the virus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was forced to publicly debunk the conspiracy theory Trump's now trying to foist on the American people.

"The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified," read an ODNI statement released Thursday.

Even at the local level, states run by Trump toadies are working to cover up the consequences of their failure in leadership. In Florida, for instance, public health officials working under Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths compiled by Florida’s medical examiners after it showed a death count that was 10% higher than figures released by the state's Department of Health, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

At the time of this writing on Saturday around noon eastern, the U.S. had logged over 6,000 more deaths than the 60,000 Trump declared would be a huge a success just three weeks ago; the U.S. government had just ordered 100,000 new body bags; and the country was embarking on a GOP-led experiment in policy making in which the American people are serving as human guinea pigs. The entire Republican party will be on the hook when their sick experiment doesn't end well. And it won’t end well.

But make no mistake: What we are witnessing is a Republican party in the throes of an authoritarian spasm in which no one is indispensable. Republicans no longer work for the people; the people are simply pawns in their quest to retain power. As always, Republicans came after Black and brown people first; but here’s a news flash for white folks, now everyone’s on the chopping block. First they targeted the undocumented and migrants, forcibly separating parents and children and putting kids in cages. Then they told us white nationalists were “very fine people” with a legitimate political cause. Then they declared the elderly of every creed and color expendable in their fervor to reboot the economy. Now they’re coming for all the workers; Black, brown, white—anyone who doesn’t have enough of a nest egg to refuse work and still eat.

For the moment, only the very rich are being spared. But if Republicans succeed in retaining their grip on power, any semblance of rule of law as we know it will eventually break down as the GOP stacks the courts with ideologues and the Attorney General turns the Justice Department into a tool of political oppression. Eventually, young or old, rich or poor, Black or white, well-connected or not, only loyalists to the regime and their families will experience any semblance of safety. But it will come with conditions, grave and unconscionable conditions.

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