The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The protesters aren’t the only ones on the wrong side of lockdowns

An anti-Trump protester at a rally in Sacramento on April 20. (Josh Edelson/Afp Via Getty Images)

Echoing a similar finding in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that “a full 60 percent of the public opposes the largely pro-Trump protesters whose calls for governors to ‘liberate’ their states by lifting lockdown measures have attracted intense media attention in recent days — and whose message the president amplified Friday in a series of all-caps “LIBERATE” tweets about three swing states: Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.” Only 22 percent agree with the protesters and President Trump. The position is also unpopular among Republicans (47 percent side with the protesters, while 36 percent do not).

The reason? By josh, Americans do not want to die. They overwhelmingly favor their own safety and that of their loved ones over the economy:

Seventy-one percent of Americans — and 56 percent of Republicans — say they are more concerned about lifting the coronavirus restrictions too quickly than lifting them too slowly. Only 29 percent of Americans say the opposite. . . .
The reason, according to the poll, is that nearly 90 percent of Americans think a resurgence of coronavirus cases would be either “very” (51 percent) or “somewhat” likely (36 percent) if lockdown ended today. Overall, 79 percent continue to say that stay-at-home orders are “the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19”; only 21 percent say “the cure is worse than the disease.”

These results should not be surprising despite the media hyping these protests as evidence of some significant objection to actions by governors. The survival instinct tends to kick in, regardless of what right-wing media and greedy Wall Street mavens such as Larry Kudlow, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, have to say. What is stunning is that Trump, who seems to care only about himself (and his pocketbook), thought he could stir up opposition to governors. Trump’s thinking was faulty on two grounds: Governors are far more trusted — “Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) say they trust their governor more than the president to handle the pandemic; only a quarter (26 percent) say the opposite” — and the public knows fully well that Trump messed up badly. “Overall, 65 percent of Americans say that Trump could have reduced the damage done by the coronavirus — either ‘a lot’ (41 percent) or ‘somewhat’ (24 percent) — if he had acted sooner.”

With severe shortages of protective equipment, nurses and other workers are having to choose between helping others and ensuring their own safety. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Patricia Lafontant/The Washington Post)

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

There are several lessons here. First, members of the mainstream media are too easily bamboozled by Trump tweets and tiny, loud actions. Second, Trump made an horrendous political mistake betting he could blame governors and stir discontent. In fact, the public has largely decided that the president is untrustworthy and incompetent (did not act soon enough). Third, former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be pushing on an open door to enthusiastically embrace the governors and demand the federal government provide assistance so states can engage in widespread testing — a precondition for safely reopening the economy. Fifty-two percent of Americans think the federal government rather than the states should be responsible for testing, opposed to 31 percent who don’t.)

Tying Trump’s early inaction to both the death and the economic ruin that followed should not be a tough sell. Nevertheless, Biden has not yet said unequivocally that Trump contributed to unnecessary deaths and tanked the economy (because the only avenue was extreme social distancing). The most Biden has said is that Trump was not responsible for the pandemic but that he is responsible for the response. That’s a far cry from affirmatively declaring, “Trump’s incompetence resulted in avoidable deaths and made the recession far worse; now he wants to risk more lives.”

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I am uncertain why Biden has not spelled that out. Perhaps he thinks the public would recoil from such a blunt argument. He might reconsider. The public appears to be ahead of the media and the Democratic messaging. They know who messed up. They know it is crazy to force people back to work under present conditions. They are remarkably supportive of continuing social distancing even after rules are loosened (67 percent to 13 percent); wearing masks (about 50 percent); canceling public gatherings (54 percent); and regular testing (57 percent). I suppose the public is more pro-life than Trump.

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Read more:

Karen Tumulty: The tea party is back — and endangering lives

The Post’s View: Trump’s reckless incitement to ‘liberate’ states endangers lives

Max Boot: The anti-quarantine protesters aren’t Rosa Parks. They’re more like Typhoid Mary.

Michael Gerson: Scientists remind us of a moral universe where truth matters

Greg Sargent: Trump’s support for right-wing protests just got more ugly and dangerous

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

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