Trump, a world-class narcissist, seems to think only of himself, so naturally he would not think that others might be afraid for their own well-being and decline to risk life and limb. It nevertheless is remarkable that the Trumpified right has become so obedient that everyone from Fox News hosts to Republican governors plunged ahead. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.)
The extent of the misjudgment is stunning. The latest AP-NORC poll finds, “Only 12% of Americans say the measures [for social distancing] where they live go too far. About twice as many people, 26%, believe the limits don’t go far enough. The majority of Americans — 61% — feel the steps taken by government officials to prevent infections of COVID-19 in their area are about right.” Twelve percent. That’s how unpopular Trump’s scheme is.
But it’s not just Trump or his advisers and media flunkies who have acted irrationally. A whole lot of Republican voters themselves are clueless. “Just 36% of Republicans now say they strongly favor requiring Americans to stay home during the outbreak, compared with 51% who said so in late March. While majorities of Democrats and Republicans think current restrictions where they live are about right, Republicans are roughly four times as likely as Democrats to think restrictions in place go too far — 22% to 5%.” “Republican” has increasingly come to mean a Trumpian extremist who has adopted dangerous, fringe views.
In addition, most of the country is not expecting to meet Trump’s artificial deadline of May 1 to open the economy. “Few Americans — 16% — think it’s very or extremely likely that their areas will be safe enough in a few weeks for the restrictions to be lifted. While 27% think it’s somewhat likely, a majority of Americans — 56% — say conditions are unlikely to be safe in a few weeks to start lifting the current restrictions.”
How does a president, his party and a political base get so far out of touch with the vast majority of public opinion? Well, it starts with an utterly incompetent president who, in lieu of facts, data and expertise, uses magical thinking and propaganda to wish problems away. It continues with a right-wing media that has become a closed loop of misinformation and therefore amplifies the president’s bad ideas, as well as a mainstream media too eager to cover the president’s propaganda. Top it off with the right’s ongoing contempt for science, expert opinion and competent governance. The result is a dangerous, daft and just plain dumb idea that may serve only to convince voters that Republicans are unfit to govern.