There is No Plan

A sober assessment of President Trump's plan to get the country running again.

President Donald J. Trump participates in a FOX News Channel virtual town hall entitled America Together: Returning to Work, with co-moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum live from the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
President Donald J. Trump participates in a FOX News Channel virtual town hall entitled America Together: Returning to Work, with co-moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum live from the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Jay Rosen offers his “read on what the government’s guidance and actions amount to” in order to “challenge the American press to be a lot clearer in its descriptions.”

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence. 

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable

Judging by my Facebook feed, it’s working reasonably well.

People are indeed confused. Many wonder whether the closures of schools and businesses made any sense at all. Lots of people point to Sweden as a much preferable alternative path, despite ample evidence that they’re both not a comparable case and faring much worse than their Nordic neighbors.

And, as best I can tell, people seem to be much more irate at their governors than Trump. In that much, they’re right in the narrow sense: the governors ordered the lockdowns and only they can lift them. The President can put pressure on them to open or close by simply issuing pronouncements, but he has no actual power in this regard.

It’s true that Trump is doing worse in the polling than are the governors. But that was the case three months ago. Yes, he’s underwater by 6.5 points in the RealClearPolitics average. But he was 7.5 points underwater four months ago and 11.3 points underwater six months ago.

I continue to believe he’ll lose his re-election bid. But even if the transfer of power goes smoothly, that leaves him in charge of this crisis another nine and a half months.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, COVID-19, Donald Trump, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    People are indeed confused.

    What part of “trump lies, we die.” don’t they get?

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  2. Teve says:

    “The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.

    https://pressthink.org/2020/05/the-plan-is-to-have-no-plan/

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  3. drj says:

    The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing

    Nobody in the GOP is going to speak up, though. They’re all cool with it.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    This isn’t just the Trump administration. Starting with Reagan the national Republicans decided that actually governance was a bad thing. That avoidance of governance was made the absolute core strategy of the party under Gingrich and Hastert. Republicans can destroy institutions, they can repeal safety precautions and pollution controls, and they can target minorities for scapegoating. But they cannot govern. So there are no Republican members of Congress forcing Trumps hand. There are no Republican led committee meetings investigating corruption. There are no Republican demands for testing or anything else, lest it highlight Republican failures.

    James, you are right in that there is no plan, but even more so, there was never even a thought about a plan. Trump literally went from denial to blaming Obama in a matter of days. And the national Republicans have been staring at their feet with their hands folded in their lap ever since.

    Do you know why Mitch McConnell is insisting the Senate come back? He wants to appoint a right wing judge to a powerful seat. As the second most powerful person in the US government he has taken no responsibility or initiative in this fight, except to pull others down. And not a single one of the Republicans, not one single one, is willing to stick their neck out for the sake of even the oath they have sworn.

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  5. Lounsbury says:

    And, as best I can tell, people seem to be much more irate at their governors than Trump. In that much, they’re right in the narrow sense: the governors ordered the lockdowns and only they can lift them. The President can put pressure on them to open or close by simply issuing pronouncements, but he has no actual power in this regard.

    Queer impression as the objective evidence – not the loud mouths and twitter – say rather the opposite. as this WP poll indicates

    but the loud minority is apparently successful in distorting

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: So, I think this is mostly wrong. Had this happened during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan or Bush 41 or 43, we would have seen much more aggressive and much more competent administration and they would have gotten things through Congress, regardless of the party makeup.

    The party started to go off the rails with Gingrich and the wave that came in with the 1994 elections. It got worse with the Tea Party and the 2010 wave. Those guys were nihilists. But a President Romney would nonetheless have been a perfectly competent leader during this crisis—as would any Republican nominee during the pre-2016 period.

    My former party is in deep trouble with no obvious signs of recovery down the road. But a large part of the problem is that everyone is afraid of crossing Trump and even the sane ones seem to be either going off the cliff with him or simply leaving Congress.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Lounsbury: Yes, I’ve seen the polling. But I’m comparing against baselines. Trump’s numbers are actually UP compared to where they were at the start of this crisis, despite rather obvious signs that he’s botching it and probably mentally ill.

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  8. Scott F. says:

    @Lounsbury:
    What’s this “objective evidence” you speak of? Objectiveness died during Trump’s Inaugural Address. It’s all Dem said, GOP said now.

    The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable.

    More than the blatant corruption, it’s the Trump administration’s successful deployment of gaslighting that will have the most profound and lasting effect on US government. A protracted government shutdown, malfeasance in response to the Puerto Rico hurricane damage, impeachment, deadly mishandling of a pandemic, etc. and still Trump’s approval rating has never sunk lower than 40%. At least 4 out of 10 people you pass on the street think this clown, his administration, and his party are doing a good job. Amazing… and deeply depressing.

    We have Trumpism to thank for the post-fact world we live in now. How will we ever confront the pressing issues in a country where despite the science, the expertise, the objective evidence, nearly half the country can decide something else is the truth?

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, I think this is mostly wrong.

    I’m puzzled. The comments that followed seem to match what I said. The process started under Reagan (or is that the part you disagree with?), but became core to the Party under Gingrich. And while I agree that Romney would be infinitely better than Trump, and probably pretty good in these circumstances even without that comparison, it doesn’t change the fact that the Republican Congress-critters can only follow someone else’s lead.

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  10. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:
    But governors are in general receiving bigger bumps in polling, compared to baseline, than Trump is.

    See second chart.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing,

    That would, in general, keep from overwhelming the health care system. If there is no effective treatment coming, and no vaccine on the way, managing the flow of the pandemic to avoid overwhelming the health system would be a decent goal. It would avoid deaths because of lack of health care.

    Sometimes all options are bad, and you have to choose the least worst.

    I think this massively oversells the Trump administration’s “plan.”

    We’ve held the numbers down with massive effort, and Trump wants to open the country up. I don’t see how that keeps the infection and death rate between one and three thousand. Not without massively increased testing and contact tracing, which doesn’t seem to be coming.

    They’re hoping for a least worst outcome, but not putting in the work to get there, and formenting dissent to the restrictions that would let us get there.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Reagan talked an anti-government game, to be sure, but he was a two-term governor of California and pretty damned good at getting legislation through a Democratic House. Bush 41 was a pragmatist and also pretty keen on getting things done. Bush 43 was certainly more a mixed bag but even he got things like Medicare Part B and some rather sweeping foreign aid bills through.

    So, really, pre-Trump we had an ever-increasing number of ideologues and kooks in the Congressional wing of the national party but mainstream, competent nominees for the top of the Presidential ticket.

    And, yes, I think that a President Jeb Bush or President John Kasich—and probably even a President Ted Cruz—would be handling this crisis like a normal President and the Republicans in Congress would be behaving much less stupidly under their leadership. While one would like to see some spine from Senate Republicans, there are strong institutional reasons why it’s unrealistic to expect them to go against a President of their own party, regardless of their feelings toward him.

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  13. Kathy says:

    I can’t say I am surprised, but I am puzzled: Why doesn’t Trump even bother to try to lead?

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  14. Teve says:

    Maybe the Reagan administration would’ve handled this virus better than they handled HIV. But I haven’t seen any Trump administration official make fun of people who have COVID-19.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Because that’s work.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Then do what my boss does: find the nearest person and say, “Take care of this. If you have any question, don’t bug me with them.”

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: That’s exactly what trump does. Well that and strut around in front of a camera babbling complete nonsense, but to him that’s like playtime outside of his crib.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @Jon: Honestly, I think that’s just a function of everyone already having a hard-and-fast view of Trump. His popularity has a hard ceiling of 47 percent or so favorability and a hard unfavorability floor of 49.5. He has been operating within those ranges since a month into his presidency.

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  19. Nightcrawler says:

    The GOP is totally okay with killing hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in the name of “the economy.”

    Only, all that death is not going to “save the economy.” Employers can force a certain percentage of their workforce back into the workplace, but they cannot force them to patronize restaurants and movie theatres, take vacations, or do anything but essential shopping. Even if only 50% of Americans stay home other than for work and essential shopping, that’s a lot, and I think it will be more than that as the bodies pile up. Consumer confidence is already in the toilet.

    Even if international travel bans are lifted (a big if), foreign tourism is going to go down the toilet. Nobody in their right mind will want to vacation in a disease-ridden country with a 3rd World healthcare system. Florida is heavily dependent on foreign tourists, and I know a lot of other vacation destinations are as well.

    Speaking of Florida, no way will Disney reopen until it’s safe. They’ve got too much at stake with their brand to risk an outbreak at their Orlando resort, and again, without foreign tourists, it’s not even worth them reopening.

    Without Disney, Florida is toast. Universal and Sea World won’t reopen until Disney does, and there is no other reason to go to Orlando. There is literally nothing worth traveling to see there except for those theme parks. They don’t even have a beach. Without those theme parks, Orlando is nothing but a congested little city under perpetual road construction.

    I’m glad I’m out of here next week.

    I’m not ruling out secession of the blue states. In fact, I’m banking on it as the death toll rises, and the blue states decide to save their people and their infrastructure.

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  20. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Kathy, I think he believes he is leading.

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  21. Jax says:

    I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what will happen if Biden does win. The virus is not going anywhere. Cult45 is going to be PISSED. I suspect these “Re-open Protests” are going to get much, much worse, particularly if hot spots have to be shut down to protect people from….themselves. I mean, at that point, they’re not just gonna be protesting lockdowns, they’ll be protesting a Democratic president. They’ll CALL it a lockdown protest, but it will be with a wink wink.

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, really, pre-Trump we had an ever-increasing number of ideologues and kooks in the Congressional wing of the national party but mainstream, competent nominees for the top of the Presidential ticket.

    That’s mostly fair. I disagree about Reagan, as I think his painting the government as the enemy and his single minded focus on crushing unions and dismantling Roosevelt’s social safety net and Nixon’s environmental policy were really the hallmarks of his presidency, along with a total embrace of the racist Southern Strategy pioneered in 1964. YMMV. I agree that Bush the elder was a throwback to earlier days of Republican governmental competence, but don’t think it’s an accident that he lost his second term. Dole and Romney were competent, but wholly part of the establishment. I think they were the last gasps of the Republican elder statesmen. McCain is interesting in that he was part of the establishment but still had a fair amount of independence and integrity, but he was fundamentally flawed in that he was impulsive throughout his whole life and damaged himself and his causes through that impulsivity. In any case, none of those three were enthusiastically backed by the party.

    Bush II was incurious and gullible and got his entire management philosophy from a Cliffs Notes version of business 101 (“My main job is to be the decider”). But despite being the scion of the ultimate establishment President, he himself was seen by the Republican electorate as being outside that. They embraced him.

    My point? If the establishment candidates you mentioned (Bush I, Dole, McCain, Romney) had achieved power (or stayed in, in Bush I’s case), they might have been able to reverse the course. But they didn’t.

    I’m trying to think of significant positive Republican domestic policy achievements in the past four decades, and after Medicare Part B, I’m stuck. If I turn to negative ones, I can think of dozens, from James Watt dismantling the Interior Department, to the Republican dismantling of banking regulations, and on and on. By positive and negative I don’t mean whether they had a net benefit or a net harm, as depending on political philosophy we might come to different conclusions. Instead I simply mean positive to be “adding”, with all the hard work and the need to understand unintended consequences and so forth implied by that. Negative is “subtractive” and simply means knocking or tearing something down.

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  23. Teve says:

    @Nightcrawler: 112 million tourists come to Florida every year, 21 million to Disney World. The beach is a big draw. My mom owns two condos right on the beach in Fort Myers and northerners pay $5000 a month to rent it.

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  24. Teve says:

    I’m not ruling out secession of the blue states. In fact, I’m banking on it as the death toll rises, and the blue states decide to save their people and their infrastructure.

    How much longer are the blues states going to spend billions of dollars a year to subsidize a place like Kentucky, which then turns around and sends Mitch McConnell to the Senate to try to destroy the blue states’ healthcare? I don’t think secession is imminent, but in the next 10 or 20 years? Sure.

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  25. Kingdaddy says:

    @CSK: Yes, this is how he ran his businesses. Strut in front of the camera, bloviate, then make the little people clean up afterwards.

    That’s his strategy for everything. There is nothing too serious for a better approach, because he can’t imagine one. Someone asked me this morning, “Is he really going to start a conflict with China?” Yes, it’s conceivable he could, because the little people will clean up afterwards. Except this time, with COVID-19, China, the collapsing economy, and other problems we face, they can’t.

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  26. Nightcrawler says:

    @Teve:

    Yes, but are those Northerners going to want to come to a disease-riddled state? And it’s not just disease. We’re going to see serious outbreaks of civil unrest and violence as the death toll rises. Of course, some percentage of people are lunatics and will come here no matter what, but even if “only” 50% decline, that’s an enormous hit.

    I know a lot of Canadians come here to escape the cold, but I don’t see them wanting to visit the U.S. anytime soon, even if the border is unsealed, and I think that’s questionable. The GOP has desperately wanted the borders sealed for years. Now that they finally got it, I don’t see them letting go of it.

    Speaking of borders, this is all assuming that the blue states don’t secede, another big assumption. If they do, the Trump Republic or Galtland or whatever the hell the red states decide to call themselves are going to kill anyone who tries to cross their border. There won’t be any foreign tourism in a country like that.

    Get out of here while you still can.

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  27. Nightcrawler says:

    @Teve:

    The reason why I think it’s imminent is because of the severity of the situation. Check this out, particularly the commentary from conservatives who can’t wait to see blue states burn:

    https://www.linkedin.com/feed/news/california-ask-feds-for-more-funding-4828980/

    California is leading the charge among states seeking federal funds to help pay unemployment benefits. The Golden State is borrowing $348 million after it was approved to lend up to $10 billion in federal loans to continue pay outs amid mounting jobless claims. A surge in new claims since mid-March — more than 30 million were logged nationwide — has found many states rapidly draining their unemployment funds. Illinois and Connecticut have also been approved for federal loans and will likely follow California’s lead in coming weeks.

    As the death toll rises and the economic losses balloon, blue states’ hands are going to be forced, and it’s going to happen in weeks, perhaps months, not years. If they stay part of the U.S., they’re going to be yanked into the type of 3rd World conditions that the red states are hellbent on recreating in their territories.

    I reiterate: Get out of here while you still can.

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  28. Kathy says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Vegas is entirely dependent on tourism. Much of the rest of Nevada as well. Some are talking about casino dealers and customers wearing masks, and giving more space.

    The latter is hard. Vegas casinos are cramped. They’d have to deactivate between 1/3 and 2/3 of all slot machines, and about 1/3 of all gaming tables (and restrict craps to maybe five players). The other major draw are night clubs, imagine how that will work out.

    Not that buffets and restaurants will fare any better. The latter could offer take out you can bring to your room. The former may disappear entirely.

    Vegas shows may not be profitable without a full house.

    The hotel rooms should be fine, and entirely empty.

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  29. Teve says:

    @Nightcrawler: I am working on getting out of here, again, hopefully for good. I work for a giant corporation and normally it’s very easy to move all over the country, but right now every single job listing of my type is suspended indefinitely.

    I honestly don’t know how much it will affect tourism except that right now a lot of it is closed, but I was living in Tampa when the Deepwater Horizon thing happened and I thought Florida tourism was done for good and just in a year or two it was back to normal (i think, I haven’t tracked down numbers to verify that).

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  30. Teve says:

    Speaking of borders, this is all assuming that the blue states don’t secede, another big assumption. If they do, the Trump Republic or Galtland or whatever the hell the red states decide to call themselves are going to kill anyone who tries to cross their border. There won’t be any foreign tourism in a country like that.

    The company I work for has 10 stores in Portland Oregon and I had planned a few months ago to already be doing interviews by this point, but the virus and has thrown everything off. The new plan is to get to Portland sometime toward the end of this year. I’ve got about 4k saved up and if it works out that I can move there I will sell my car and be going JAX to PDX.

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  31. senyorDave says:

    @Kathy: Why doesn’t Trump even bother to try to lead?
    The concept is foreign to him, he only knows one way to act and that is the Donald way. Last year I read an autobiography by Tommy James, of Tommy James and the Shondells fame. He signed early on with Roulette Records, owned by Morris Levy, who was totally mobbed up. He was the inspiration for Hesh Rabkin on the Sopranos. He also stole most of the royalty money from Tommy James, estimated to be about $40 million in today’s dollars (he was very big for about five years, one of the highest selling American groups). In the book he said something about Morris Levy that I think could apply to Trump. To paraphrase, he said that Morris Levy would rather make a dollar illegally than make a thousand dollars legally. That was all he knew, and that was what he enjoyed most in life. All Trump knows, and all he enjoys, is acting the way he does. Bullying people, surrounding himself with sycophantic bootlickers, lying – that is the essence of Donald Trump.

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  32. Kit says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    I reiterate: Get out of here while you still can.

    I’m way ahead of you! And it’s a choice I do not regret in the least.

    Which reminds me that @harvardlaw92 made for greener shores after Trump’s election. At least that’s the way I remember it. But I don’t recall having seen much of him these past few months. Pity.

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  33. KM says:

    @Teve:
    Florida as a state is very tourism dependent but not all Florida has beaches. @Nightcrawler is right that without the theme parks, Central FL is *screwed*. I personally disagree that Disney won’t be opening anytime soon because money talks but it will still be a month or two before we see tentative openings**.

    Tourism is also related to conventions, which will not be happening so the whole “bring the family down for a week while I spend a few days at a conference” thing is over. Heading down for a cruise and spending a day or two in Miami is out. Unless there’s *drastic* price cuts, the majority of people won’t want to risk planes so we’re looking at the drive market to keep them afloat. People aren’t going to be able to afford a vacation without a job so unless you can drive to the beach, sunny FL vacay’s not on the list this year.

    **Disclaimer: we’ve got a WDW vacation still sched for after Labor Day. The family still believes we’re going and try to convince me daily it’s happening and will not kill us all. I remain convinced that $$$ will win out, the park will be open in some capacity and will do everything possible to prevent infection for sheer liability reasons. I am unconvinced we should take that risk though. If nobody hears from me after mid-Sept, assume it’s because they dragged me down there and we died paying homage to the Mouse.

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  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Judging by my Facebook feed, it’s working reasonably well.

    Is it possible that you should reassess/curate your Facebook contacts. You seem to have a lot of RWNJs on it. (And I assure you, they are not all intimidated into their positions by fear of Trump, either.)

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  35. MarkedMan says:

    Oh, get real. Succession? A thousand reasons why it is not going to happen but here’s number 1: Do we Northerners, Midwesterners and Westerners really want a nuclear armed Trumpistan on our border?

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  36. CSK says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    If I missed it, forgive me, but where are you going?

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  37. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    And the geographical division isn’t north vs. south, as it was during the Civil War, or east vs. west.

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  38. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Because Trump is a malignant narcissist surrounded by enablers. In his mind, everything he does is perfect. He judges actions not by what effect they have on the outside world, but whether they bolster his ego or not. And the myrmidons following him love Trump’s cult of ego-propping self-pity. Anything that goes wrong in their lives can now be blamed on someone else. It’s a religion of self-worship.

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  39. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I never thought I’d live to see a cult of personality based on self-pitying masturbation.

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  40. James Joyner says:

    @Nightcrawler: I think people are misreading the “save the economy” thing. While I’m sure some of it is corporatist propaganda and the effects of its spread via the right-wing media complex, it’s more than that. I’m seeing tons of high school and Army friends hopping mad that they can’t go to work or even just go out and enjoy their daily lives. In large swaths of the country, the virus looks like a phenomenon that’s mostly hitting the Acela Corridor and the shutdowns look like a massive over-reaction.

    I think that’s wrong, mind you. But the fact is that not everyone is able to work from home. Lots of businesses are going under, lots of people have no means of making a living, and even those who still have a livelihood feel like they’re being forced to stay indoors for no good reason.

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  41. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: My Facebook feed is a weird and eclectic mix: high school and college acquaintances, Army buddies, relatives of my late wife who can keep up with what my girls are doing only through my feed, plus lots of people I’ve met (virtually or otherwise) through the blog. They’re not universally against the lockdowns or pro-Trump. But, as noted in my response to Nightcrawler above, they’re not living in major metropolitan areas and just have a very different lens on the world.

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  42. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    What you’re saying is a bit like what I’ve said: it’s not about what you know, that lots of people are getting sick and dying, but about whom you know, as in no one you know has gotten sick.

    I can understand the feeling, but in essence it’s: the leak is on the their side of the lifeboat.

    There are places where the virus hasn’t spread widely because isolation measures were taken on time. the most notable may be New Zealand. The lock down there is ongoing.

    Also, people itching to get out, should ask those of us who are out every weekday how we feel about it. They should ask those infected how they feel. And they should ask those dying on a ventilator how they feel, if they could do so. You cannot as the dead any more.

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  43. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: I suspect that a lot of people in more-rural areas aren’t going to understand the problems of coronavirus and why so many of us are insisting on distancing until their own towns get hit and the hospitals (if they exist) get clogged with people on ventilators.

    The problem with rural areas is that the possibility of catching the virus is probably lower–but if you have a serious case you’re less likely to have access to medical support.

    I mean, how hard is it to make sure you wash your hands and make sure you shop with a mask? Yet these belligerent idiots are acting as if insisting on prudent behaviour is the equivalent of getting thrown in a concentration camp.

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  44. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. I understand the pain from people who own independent businesses that aren’t bringing in money (because I’m one of them), but how do they think that “opening up again” is going to magically fix things? I suspect that those who want to “open up again” are more likely to disavow the existence of the virus in the first place (“it’s just a flu….”). So we might as well open up again anyway–as long as those demanding it are willing to sign off on a) taking care of their own health problems if they get it (no hospital for you!), and b) willing to undertake the potential liability of exposing their customers to the virus.

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  45. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m seeing tons of high school and Army friends hopping mad that they can’t go to work or even just go out and enjoy their daily lives. In large swaths of the country, the virus looks like a phenomenon that’s mostly hitting the Acela Corridor and the shutdowns look like a massive over-reaction.

    And this is the crux of the issue and why Trump’s been so successful in turning this from a health concern to a culture war clash. Framing it as an Us/Them thing instead of an inevitability that may not be as severe in your rural area – all areas will get hit, it’s just a matter of how bad. The virus doesn’t give a damn about your bills or your bowling score. Now that we’re seeing more effects from COVID-19 like blood-clotting, the number of deaths in small towns over the next 5 years is going to be staggering. Oh, they won’t call it corona when Jim Bob strokes out at the bar – he was always going to die young with his habits. They won’t call it corona when Sarah has a heartattack even though there’s no family history or when young Lyle throws a clot out of nowhere at age 15. Nobody was “sick”, ain’t no coughing or ventilator needed! The truth is these people will willingly expose themselves to an unknown pathogen because “libs over-reacted” and call it a win when they don’t die right now. But in a few years when the damage starts manifesting, expect to see small town deaths due to heart attacks / strokes / PEs go WAY up.

    But hey, COVID-19’s a city problem. Only liberals packed in dirty cities or coastal elites get it – out here in God’s Own Country, the fresh air and wide open spaces mean no outside illnesses ever come a-knockin’. We’re all just dying more often then we should of the basics all of a sudden for no reason – ain’t no COVID here so let us open up, ya commies!

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  46. DrDaveT says:

    @KM: I think both you and @James Joyner are overlooking the importance of who is dying. General perception of the situation among contributors to James’s twitter feed would be totally different if the racial distribution of victims matched the general population.

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  47. Kit says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think people are misreading the “save the economy” thing.

    Everyone has an opinion on this, but hard economic predictions seem relatively few. I’ve no doubt that every government is relying on some numbers to guide their policy, but the trade offs between lives and dollars are, seemingly, deemed too sensitive for the general public. That’s probably the correct approach, even if it treats us all as children. Still, it effectively leaves economic considerations as the prerogative of the Right and with their wish of dying for the good of the economy. Half of this equation has now become toxic by association. If only for my own understanding, I’d love to see one or more posts on this subject.

    And to head off any potential over reactions, I think all of the first-world responses to this pandemic have been serious and reasonable. Yep, some countries guessed wrong and regret it. But now many of the frogs are starting to jump from their boiling pots, each one taking a calculated risk. Some will certainly regret it, but perhaps not all. I’m frankly worried that the coming election will turn on whether the American bullfrog jumps too early or too late. Can I really be the only one?

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  48. Kathy says:

    Perhaps the media ought to carry more video and photographs of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

    I don’t care to watch such things, but some people seem to need to be sacred before they can act.

    Speaking of this, and of plans, the sad fact is most countries lacked any kid of plan. The exceptions, that I know, are South Korea and Taiwan, which had plans in place as a result of the SARS epidemic.

    We need to make every country have a plan, the means to implement it, and most important the will to implement it.

    There are no excuses left. We all know now what can happen. And we know this is not the worst that can happen. If we don’t get ready for the next pandemic, it will mow us down like COVID-19 is doing, or worse than that.

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  49. Nightcrawler says:

    @CSK:

    Delaware, which had the good sense to become part of that multi-state conglomerate with NY, NJ, PA, RI, and a few others.

    Delaware knows that if it struck out on its own, it would be invaded within, like, 20 minutes.

    My husband and I own a house there. We’d been renting it out, and the tenants left in March. This whole move was planned pre-apocalypse, for reasons that had nothing to do with red states or Trump. Once the apocalypse happened, we put it on hold, but then, it became clear that the longer we wait, the more things are going to get worse, not better. Even if I’m wrong and there’s no secession, I do not want to be mired here.

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  50. Nightcrawler says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Do we Northerners, Midwesterners and Westerners really want a nuclear armed Trumpistan on our border?

    As the death toll skyrockets, states’ finances collapse, and the GOP lets the blue states burn, it will become the best option of a Hobson’s choice.

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  51. Nightcrawler says:

    @James Joyner:

    Lots of businesses are going under, lots of people have no means of making a living, and even those who still have a livelihood feel like they’re being forced to stay indoors for no good reason.

    Oh, I completely get that, and the GOP is allowing this to worsen by refusing to provide aid to individuals. That’s what I mean when I talk about how employers will be able to force some percentage of workers back into the workplace, even those who know they’ve got a very high risk of dying or killing a vulnerable family member if they get infected.

    What will happen when the infections and deaths start happening is a whole other issue. I think a lot of people haven’t considered whether they’ll be able to live with themselves if they end up infecting and killing a spouse, child, or another family member.

    If we implemented a temporary UBI, we could sustain a lockdown, not indefinitely, but long enough to figure out another realistic option. But that’s not going to happen; the GOP is steadfast against it, and they’re in charge.

    Opening everything back up isn’t just going to kill people; it’s going to wreck the economy even worse than it is right now.

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  52. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    they’re not living in major metropolitan areas and just have a very different lens on the world.

    It’s bound to hit rural areas and completely overwhelm the healthcare system there — barring something radical that we don’t know about the virus it’s inevitable (perhaps it bootstraps off a minor inflammatory response to cockroach allergies or something… not likely, but possible).

    My fear is that it’s going to hit large swaths of the rural areas pretty much simultaneously, so there’s not a chance for people to say “well, golly, it sure did a number on Shelbyville, and them thar’ is people like us!” and change behavior to minimize it. By the time there’s national reporting on the crisis in small town America, the virus will have spread far enough to make containment even harder.

    This does bring up a question — how are the rural areas of Spain and Italy doing? I haven’t seen any reporting on it, but US reporters overseas are basically just in the big cities.

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  53. Jon says:

    @Gustopher:

    how are the rural areas of Spain and Italy doing?

    At least as far as Spain goes, poorly.

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  54. Raoul says:

    JJ: I will bite. What government initiatives were well run by prior GOP governance. Yes many government institutions run quite despite republican interference and yes prior republican presidents would be better than Trump’s colossal failure but would any of them have the political will to ask Americans to sacrifice? I don’t think so, so please give us good example of republican governance the last forty years.

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  55. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    One thing many people don’t seem to understand, especially those protesting lock downs, is that the virus spreads through personal contact. We are the source of the infection. With pre-symptomatic transmission, you can’t even avoid likely carriers, as we all look healthy but may not be.

    Wearing masks helps, not shaking hands helps,keeping a distance of 2 meters from other people helps, but staying home and away from others as much as possible helps the most. In terms those on the right may understand, by staying home you starve the beast.

    When the source of infection is under-cooked meat, you avoid it. When it’s contaminated water, you avoid it. When it’s people, then you have to avoid people. At that, you can cook meat thoroughly, and boil water, and make them safe. You cannot make people safe, absent a vaccine.

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  56. Jax says:

    I’m seeing a lot of memes on Facebook from Trump fans about Hitler and concentration camps, equating the people who don’t want to open back up quite yet with sheep. To my mind, it goes the other direction.

    Trump’s actually outdone Hitler, in that regard. These people are willingly sacrificing themselves and their loved ones, walking straight into the ovens, and Trump hasn’t had to hire one armed guard to force them into it. He’s got them brainwashed into thinking that their sacrifice to the God of Capitalism is part of their free-dumbs.

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  57. Nightcrawler says:

    @Jax:

    He’s got them brainwashed into thinking that their sacrifice to the God of Capitalism is part of their free-dumbs.

    The 9/11 terrorists thought they would be rewarded in the afterlife with, like, 70 virgins or some such nonsense.

    I wonder what the Branch Covidians believe their reward will be? 70 mansions? 70 yachts? 70 big-screen TVs?

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  58. Lounsbury says:

    @Kathy: Well that’s not entirely true, you can make people safe by irradiating them and killing the virus. Of course this somewhat regrettably has a lethal side effect of killing them, but Mr. Orange is brainstorming on that front.

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  59. Jax says:

    @Nightcrawler: That’s what’s so seriously messed up about it. They’re not even getting a “reward”, they’re doing it for free, in the name of the Lord Their God, Trump And The Economy, And Stickin It To The Libs.

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  60. Liberal Capitalist says:

    There is a plan, but they dare not speak it’s name.

    But it is clear the with their plan to disband the Virus Task Force, then it is obvious that they are going full speed ahead with trying for Herd Immunity.

    Much like the deer on the road, it’s too late to try to stop, so we may as well try to go through it.

    Getting people out and about will expose the greatest number, with the expected (but denied that anyone could have seen that coming) results. Getting people to hate masks will move it along faster.

    Those who remain will need to find a way to go forward with what is left.

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  61. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    When the source of infection is under-cooked meat, you avoid it. When it’s contaminated water, you avoid it. When it’s people, then you have to avoid people. At that, you can cook meat thoroughly, and boil water, and make them safe. You cannot make people safe, absent a vaccine.

    When we start resorting to cannibalism, I’m definitely cooking my people steaks well done.

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  62. Jax says:

    @Gustopher: I mean, if we’re gonna get down and dirty with it, I might even dry-age them. “Top 1%” steaks, much like the class of men themselves, are probably dry and stringy, but I bet those kids have eaten well. 😉

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  63. Gustopher says:

    @Jax: I wouldn’t rule out the 1%… Jared Kushner looks like veal.

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  64. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    He may also be a source of mad Trump disease.

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  65. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: I think that’s mostly fair. Nixon was the last Republican President with a truly additive domestic agenda.

    Reagan was trying to lower taxes, shrink the welfare state, and expand the Defense Department.

    GHW Bush had the Americans With Disabilities Act and a much-expanded Clean Air Act, making him more like Nixon than Reagan.

    GW Bush was arguably an outlier. In addition to the aforementioned Medicare Part B, he had Amber Alerts, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (which, like Medicare Part B, hurt him with the base), doubled National Science Foundation spending (ditto), massively increased funding for the International Space Station, a ton of environmental legislation, No Child Left Behind, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act,

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  66. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “I can’t say I am surprised, but I am puzzled: Why doesn’t Trump even bother to try to lead?”

    Trump’s entire life was: born rich, largely immune to the rules and laws for people like us. Rip off people of vast sums of money, again and again and again, and get away with it. Lie up, down and sideways, and get away with it.

    He is continuing as he always has.

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  67. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “Then do what my boss does: find the nearest person and say, “Take care of this. If you have any question, don’t bug me with them.””

    Trump doesn’t even care that much, and competency is clearly a threat to his ego.

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  68. Barry says:

    @Jax: “I’m seeing a lot of memes on Facebook from Trump fans about Hitler and concentration camps, equating the people who don’t want to open back up quite yet with sheep. To my mind, it goes the other direction.”

    All right-wing propaganda is Freudian projection. It’s just like slaveowners being hypersensitive to the slightest hint of a potential threat to their freedom.

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  69. Barry says:

    @Gustopher: Veal… with Mad Cow Disease. There’s something creepy about him.

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  70. Jax says:

    @Barry: He’s always reminded me of this song. 😉

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAnyYTjjhJ0

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