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Monday, June 15, 2020

Unmasking Trump’s Biggest Mistake


From his candidacy for president through three plus years in office, Donald Trump has made a host of mistakes. Some have been in the process of governance like the pointless Trump shutdown, separating families at the southern border, the Muslim ban, his response to Charlottesville, his blundering of the coronavirus pandemic response, his taking the wrong position on the George Floyd murder-inspired Black Lives Matter protests, as well as other instances. #hocopolitics

He also made a number of political miscues along the way, such as demeaning the late Sen. John McCain, making fun of a disabled journalist, calling Mexicans rapists, insulting a Gold Star family, and more recently his stroll to the St. John’s Church with Bible in tow for that infamous photo-op after law enforcement broke up a peaceful demonstration using tear gas and other weapons.

So far, Trump, who had been impeached but not convicted for abusing his power to pressure an ally for personal political gain, has more or less weathered the storm, hanging around within single digits of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in most polls.

But President Trump has made one mistake that arguably is his biggest to this point, and that will do more damage to him politically than any of the others. To put it simply, his dismissive attitude towards wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic could have an oversized effect on his reelection prospects not to mention adversely impacting the health of large swaths of the population.

Trump needs a strong economy to make the case for reelection but pesky Covid-19 put a halt to that. The ensuing stay-at-home orders provided by his own administration and the nation’s governors closed most businesses, sent well over 40 million folks out of work and plunged the economy into a recession. For this reason, Trump had first denied the seriousness of the pandemic and eventually downplayed it so that he could pressure governors to open their states’ businesses sooner than health officials advised. Remember, for Trump, "it's the economy, stupid."

While some states are seeing their rates of infection decline, the Sunbelt is experiencing a marked rise. In this environment of “re-opening the economy,” it is more incumbent than ever to practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and to wear face masks to at least mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Somehow, these common sense precautions have been politicized by Trump, who refuses to wear a mask in public.  His followers take his cue and view wearing masks as a sign of “weakness” putting everyone around them at risk. To be fair, some of the Black Lives Matter protesters have eschewed masks but that appears to be more of a personal decision (albeit a risky one) rather than following the President’s example.

Early on, when there used to be briefings from the White House Pandemic Response Team, Trump never wore a mask on the podium and was in close proximity with other members of the team. He continues to go without a mask in subsequent public outings, and his supporters are following him. For his part, Vice President Pence tweeted a photo (pictured) of him since deleted at a campaign headquarters in Virginia with no masks in sight.

The biggest test to date is Trump’s upcoming political rally in Tulsa, OK on June 20. The planners have not mandated the use of face masks and we know the thousands of expected rally-goers will not wear masks so they could piss off the liberals.  Those attendees will have to sign a waiver so that they cannot sue the Trump campaign if they are stricken with the very virus they seem to deny.

Nonetheless, Tulsa’s health director is concerned for the well-being of the attendees and the president himself.

“I think it’s an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic,” Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, told the Tulsa World. “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”

We’ve learned this much about Covid-19.  It doesn’t care about party affiliation or the righteousness of causes. Instead, the virus is hell-bent in finding a host and to penetrate his or her lungs to decimate them. Masks help prevent the spread, and without a workable therapeutic or a vaccine, Covid-19 is going to be around for quite a while.

By Trump’s not taking the coronavirus precautions seriously like wearing a mask, he is putting his own base, his own voters, his own people and everybody who are in contact with them in danger. The further spread of Covid-19 will slow down the re-opening of the economy if not set it back altogether as the public will be less likely be sufficiently comfortable in patronizing those businesses. Therefore, Trump’s cavalier approach will not help his reelection chances since the economy is unlikely to bounce back under these conditions.

Wearing a mask is the prudent thing to do but Trump doesn’t see it that way. It’s his biggest mistake thus far.

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