GOP voters are buying into Trump's magical thinking on reopening. A reckoning is coming

GOP voters are buying into Trump's magical thinking on reopening. A reckoning is coming
President Donald J. Trump participates in a roundtable on the economy and tax reform Monday, April 15, 2019, at Nuss Truck & Equipment in Burnsville, Minn. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

One data point in Monmouth University's pandemic poll this week suggests that Republican voters have overwhelmingly bought into Donald Trump's magical thinking on reopening the country, hook, line, and sinker: Fully 79% of Republicans expressed confidence that the country would be able to limit the impact of the coronavirus outbreak over the coming weeks.


It's a particularly startling sign of optimism given that Trump's top scientist spent the bulk of his time Tuesday at a Senate coronavirus hearing warning the country about the dangers of opening too soon. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that if states open without meeting the federal guidelines, “there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.” Americans, he added, might experience needless "suffering and death that could be avoided," and paradoxically, such an event could also set back any economic recovery.

“If some areas, cities, states or what-have-you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” said Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

What we know is that some of those spikes have already begun to occur in areas of the Midwest and South, according a White House task force report that had been kept private before it was leaked to NBC News.

But instead of heeding the warnings of the administration's scientists, the vast majority of Republicans have been buying into Trump's "mission accomplished" declarations.  "We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden Monday, flanked by giant banners portraying the U.S. as the global leader in testing. That’s not true by any reasonable measure, but it was all just part of the continuing alternate reality in which Trump spouts completely unfounded theories and leaves the rest of the nation to clean up his mess. On Friday, Trump similarly assured reporters, “This is going to go away without a vaccine,” a contention Dr. Fauci unequivocally swatted away during Tuesday's hearing.

“That is just not going to happen,” Fauci told senators.

Overall, in the Monmouth poll, just 50% of voters expressed confidence about containing the virus over the next few weeks as more than 40 states begin to ease their social distancing requirements. Here's the breakdown.

CONFIDENCE LEVEL THAT THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK CAN BE CONTAINED
ALL AMERICANSREPUBLICANSINDEPENDENTSDEMOCRATS
VERY CONFIDENT16%29%14%6%
SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT34%50%31%24%
NOT TOO CONFIDENT25%11%27%33%
NOT CONFIDENT AT ALL25%9%26%37%
NOT SURE1%2%1%0%

Many of those confident GOP voters are likely in for an unfortunate wake-up call over the next month, particularly because the coronavirus flare ups seem to be taking place in regions that heretofore haven't been hit as hard by the pandemic. Those spikes could also be greatly exacerbated by states reopening before meeting the federal guidelines, as Fauci cautioned at the hearing. Meanwhile, Trump has set all these states up for failure by cheerleading their easing of restrictions without providing any of the testing, tracking, and treatment infrastructure necessary to contain outbreaks.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned of just such a phenomenon during Tuesday's hearing. "The president needs to stop pretending that if he just ignores bad news it will go away. It won't. The time for magical thinking is over here," Warren said. "We are running out of time to save lives."

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