But I want to focus on this remarkable explanation of why this may happen:
Trump, as well as his Russian and Brazilian counterparts, Vladimir V. Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, has followed what critics call a comparable path in their pandemic response that leaves all three countries in a similarly bad spot: they were dismissive at the outset of the crisis, slow to respond to scientific advice and saw a boom of domestic cases as other parts of the world, notably in Europe and Asia, were slowly managing to get their outbreaks under control.Countries on the E.U. draft lists have been selected as safe based on a combination of epidemiological criteria. The benchmark is the E.U. average number of new infections — over the past 14 days — per 100,000 people, which is currently 16 for the bloc. The comparable number for the United States is 107, while Brazil’s is 190 and Russia’s is 80, according to a Times database.
And so, in this, we are parting ways with our Western allies, while being quite similar to Russia and Brazil, whose responses were similarly tangled in their leadership’s disdain for empiricism and science.
Trump has long admired dictators and authoritarian strongmen — indeed, he has explicitly praised them for their hatred and violent suppression of independent sources of information — so he will probably see this as a compliment.
But nonetheless, it’s extremely galling that Trump’s hostility to reason, reality-based governing, and liberal democratic values has now manifested itself in this schism, one defined by our disastrous inability to manage a public health crisis that has now claimed over 120,000 American lives, with cases again rising in at least half of states.
Obviously, there are other systemic reasons that our response has been so hampered. But Trump’s authoritarian mind-set — his absolute faith in his magical ability to brush aside science and empiricism to bend reality to his will, and his corrupt prioritization of his own interests and the (perceived) interests of his parts of the country over those of the full democratic polity — have been the overarching cause.
That generally lumps us into a category with Russia and Brazil, and puts us at odds with our Western allies.
This arguably runs deep. As Laura K. Field chronicles, Trump-friendly thinkers have concocted an intellectual rationale for his approach that recasts him as a kind of heroic resister of enlightenment liberalism’s supposed overreliance on science, while in the process badly distorting the true nature and value of our inheritance from that tradition.
Trump may not be aware of this line of illiberal thinking, but he is its vessel, and he is very much putting it into practice, with utterly catastrophic consequences that are all around us.
In light of all this, it’s also worth noting a crowning irony. Recall that Trump had previously banned travel from the E.U. back in March, when coronavirus cases were soaring in Europe and the virus was only beginning to spread seriously here. Notably, Trump explicitly criticized Europe at the time for not taking the gloriously brave step he did in banning travel from China, and blamed Europe for having “seeded” the virus in the United States.
Now, however, the situation is reversed: Trump’s heroic ban on travel from China did nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus here, which Trump allowed to rampage out of control due to weeks of depraved negligence. And now cases are again spiking here — even as Europe has the virus far more under control.
Maybe all this is what Trump means by “transition to greatness”?