For many weeks, the basic story that President Trump told the country — and himself — went like this: The only thing restraining us from roaring back to greatness is the oppressive restrictiveness of overzealous officials, mostly Democratic governors and pointy-headed health experts.

In this narrative, by tweeting things such as “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” Trump aligned himself with the proposition that once lockdowns were lifted, Americans chafing to resume normal activity would instantly do so by the millions, unleashing a miraculous “V-shaped recovery.”

Yet privately, Trump’s own allies are suddenly making a major admission that completely overturns this narrative. Instead, they are acknowledging a core truth about this whole crisis — one that has already landed his reelection effort in deep trouble.

CNN reports that Trump allies and top Republicans are “only now coming to the realization” that mask-wearing will be key to containing the coronavirus’s resurgence. With cases rampaging once again, White House officials are “discussing taking a more active role in encouraging masks.”

Now gaze upon this, and try not to slam your head violently into the nearest wall:

The bungled response has caused grave damage to the President’s political outlook — with his reluctance on masks only deepening the impression that Trump is not taking the pandemic seriously. Many of Trump’s closest allies now say in private that wearing a mask in public could help him appear more attuned to the crisis.
They fear his failure to do so — and to encourage his supporters to follow suit — could threaten the economic recovery Trump is counting on to fuel his reelection, because further outbreaks could roll back the reopenings he desperately needs to have a chance in November.

This is not just an admission that Trump’s depraved refusal to take the coronavirus seriously continues undermining his reelection hopes. It’s also an admission that the story Trump has been telling about our current moment has it entirely backward.

In short, Trump’s allies are admitting what numerous experts have said for months: That in order to seriously get back on track to economic recovery, we have to tame the virus first. And they’re admitting that this is a key reason he’s in trouble.

There is little doubt that this is a correct diagnosis of both Trump’s and the country’s travails.

Trump’s allies are right

Right now, the resurgence we’re seeing is indeed stalling reopenings. Unsettlingly, the seven-day averages of cases have hit new highs in a dozen states, and the rolling national average continues to set new records as well.

Many states are already pausing reopening plans. And a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that a second virus wave could deliver a second massive spike in unemployment in 2020, one almost as big as the one we’ve already seen.

The report recommends — yup — extensive mask-wearing to avoid this grim outcome.

And so, the worst fears of Trump allies are coming to pass, in two ways: The reopenings are getting rolled back, and the threat of further resurgence will very likely continue discouraging people from resuming economic activity on their own.

Indeed, some economic data suggests that despite the addition of a few million jobs in June, the new spikes are already causing people to pull back in untold numbers. That will likely get worse, now that the virus is smashing new records pretty much daily.

Yet CNN also reports that Trump himself still won’t embrace mask-wearing. Unlike many elected Republicans, Trump refuses to set an example himself, and his speech at Mount Rushmore marking the Fourth of July featured a largely maskless audience — a spectacle his propagandists are treating as a glorious triumph.

And Trump remains fully confident in the ability of his magical reality-bending powers to make the coronavirus disappear as a factor in people’s minds:

It’s a lie that we have the lowest coronavirus mortality rate in the world — we actually have the sixth-highest in the world. But this again shows Trump’s refusal to accept that actually taming the virus, rather than trying to make it disappear in a puff of magical lies, is essential to enabling states to reopen permanently and giving people confidence to resume normal activity.

The Trumpist mythology

In the Trumpist mythology, when he called for the LIBERATION of states from lockdowns, he was harnessing the populist rage rolling across the land over elites who were constraining Real Americans from getting back to their labor.

Trumpism’s propagandists have worked hard to keep this mythology alive. And media coverage of this or that Trump voter showcasing his disdain for masks as a badge of loyalty to him surely helps fuel it in his mind as well.

Yet it’s plainly obvious that Trump’s refusal to accept that core contrary truth — that we can’t roar back economically until the virus is tamed — is also a big reason his reelection is in trouble.

Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers on the coronavirus, which were at parity back when deaths first hit 10,000, have steadily worsened all the way to an abysmal 39 percent to 56 percent today. Joe Biden’s lead has steadily expanded since then, too. Meanwhile, poll after poll has shown that sizable majorities prioritize getting the virus under control even if it slows the economic recovery.

That’s a ringing affirmation of the very core truth that Trump’s allies have come to accept — even if Trump himself will not.

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