Trump makes it hard for red states to fight coronavirus


To George Fuller, the mayor of McKinney, Texas, his recent decision seemed obvious: demand that everyone in his city wear a mask within companies to stop the spread of the coronavirus and prevent a complete economic shutdown.

Some constituents in his Dallas suburb saw it differently. They threw profane emails at him, calling him a “cowardly little dictator,” even belittling his teenage daughter for contracting the virus. The vitriol towards the masks, Fuller said, reflected President Trump’s refusal to fully embrace them as a tool to stop the spread.

“It’s from above, that’s why we have the problem we have,” said Fuller, a nonpartisan mayor who has long voted Republican. “It is amazing to me that he has become political as he is. Our president could have easily changed this or deviated from this path. “

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting previously saved red states, officials in these hot spots are finding their efforts to combat the outbreak weakened by their own party leader.

Many Republican politicians followed the President’s example in the early months of the crisis by adopting a quick reopening of their economies. Now, as infection rates are increasing in various states, these same leaders are increasing their efforts to curb the spread. But doing so without contradicting Trump, who continues to forgo wearing a mask in public and largely downplays virus threats, has proven difficult.

“The dilemma is that they have been playing politics for so long and trying to be loyal to the president for so long that they are now cornered and cannot get out,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who works with The Lincoln Project, a group campaign against Trump.

So far, Republican officials have found the largest consensus around promoting face liners, which experts initially downplayed but now believe could substantially slow transmission of the virus.. In recent days, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Fox News personalities have talked about the benefits of the masks. On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who at one time banned local governments from requiring masks, issued an order in most counties to cover the face in public, and also allowed local officials to ban meetings of more than 10 people.

Trump remains reluctant to be seen wearing a mask, going so far as to wear one in May while touring a Ford plant, but took it off when cameras were present. Soon after, he retweeted a message taunting Biden for wearing a mask in Memorial Day celebration.

Under pressure from allied building, Trump changed his tune on Wednesday, saying in a Fox Business Network interview that he thought the masks were good and that he would have no problem wearing one publicly.

“He had a mask on. I liked the way she looked at me, ”she said. “It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked good. He looked like the lone ranger.

Overall, however, Trump has placed more emphasis on revitalizing the economy. He was exuberant on Thursday over the 4.8 million jobs added in June, and said the country was on track to “beat and kill the virus,” despite the increasing number of cases.

The president’s continued insistence that the crisis will pass soon has left the Republican Party fighting for a coherent approach.

The initial pandemic sweep left many Republican-led states relatively unscathed, especially compared to states like New York, Michigan, and California with Democratic leaders. Governors in some red states lobbied for the early reopening of their businesses and the resumption of normal life. Now, some of the fastest growing infection rates are occurring in such states, including Arizona, Texas, and Florida.

The phenomenon does not only occur along partisan lines. In states led by the Republicans of Massachusetts, Vermont and Maryland, among others, cases of coronavirus tend to decline. California, a Democratic stronghold, has seen its number of cases remain stubbornly high, prompting new restrictions on Wednesday.

But much of the increase is concentrated in red states, where leaders have taken different approaches to stem the outbreak. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who welcomed the Republican National Convention after North Carolina’s original host warned it would impose security measures, has resisted new restrictions to curb the spread. But the Republican mayor of Jacksonville, the new site for Trump’s nomination festivities, imposed a mask requirement for indoor gatherings.

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem said there will be no social distancing application this weekend at a July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore, which Trump is scheduled to attend. But other Republican governors like Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona have given a decidedly more urgent tone.

“Our message for Arizonans today is clear: They are safer at home. If they come out, we want them to mask themselves. We want them to physically move away. We want them to wash their hands, ”Ducey said Wednesday at a press conference with Pence. They both wore masks.

Republicans may have to work overtime to incorporate their constituents. A poll supported by the National Science Foundation found that the gap between Democrats and Republicans is growing over health behaviors that could mitigate the spread; the latter were less likely to wear a mask, avoid meetings and quarantine.

Shana Gadarian, a researcher at Syracuse University in that survey, said people tend to receive signals from their elected officials.

“The Republican party’s political leaders have long had a consistent message about what keeps people safe,” Gadarian said.

The politicization of the virus is a powerful sign of our times, a fuel combination of a long-standing skeptical streak in some quarters, along with this president’s enthusiasm for engaging in culture wars.

“It is a broad and deep tension in the culture and history of the United States,” said Michael Steel, a Republican and former adviser to former Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner. But “the president’s mistrust of experts and analysis and his penchant for operating on his own instincts is, to my knowledge, unparalleled in the Oval Office.”

Trump’s allies say the blame should not rest on the president, who is dealing with very different scenarios across the country.

“A couple of states in the south and southwest are on fire. Should the president ask people in states who have no problem wearing a mask? said Matt Mackowiak, a veteran Texas Republican strategist who plans to attend the Republican convention as a delegate who supports Trump. “It is reasonable not to reach a conclusion in this regard. I think the answer is to listen to public health officials and experts in your local area who have the best information. “

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a member of the San Francisco-based Republican National Committee, said many elected officials have confused the messages, pointing to Democratic officials who restricted meetings at places of worship, but tolerated mass protests in support of Black. Lives Matter.

“When a government leader exhibits that level of hypocrisy and double standards, he undermines everything that comes out of his mouth,” said Dhillon.

Officials in states that had previously loosened pandemic restrictions now face the daunting task of getting the public once again to comply with a crackdown.

In Arizona, state restrictions on staying home were lifted in mid-May. Businesses were encouraged to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it was an honor system, said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

“Very quickly, a lot of nightclubs and bars started acting like a pre-pandemic,” he said, pointing to clubs in Scottsdale that hired celebrities for DJs and gave free champagne to crowds with fire capacity.

New cases have soared since Memorial Day, surpassing 4,800 in the middle of the week before falling on Thursday. Meanwhile, the number of available hospital beds declined to the point that the state activated an emergency plan to help hospitals prioritize scarce resources based on factors such as how long a patient would likely live if they recovered.

Republican Mayor John Giles of Mesa instituted a city-wide mask requirement last week as soon as Ducey backed down from the state order prohibiting cities from taking such measures.

“There is an absolute perception that this is a political statement from some people, that it is a kind of acceptance of a Big Brother conspiracy and that is very unfortunate,” said Giles. “We have to do a lot of education.”

That has also been the case for Fuller in North Texas, who has been sharing scientific research with constituents on the benefits of wearing masks. Most have supported, but said resistance comes from the Trump base.

He appreciated the recent favorable comments from the President on facial coatings. Now he wants Trump to go further and wear one in public.

“There is nothing like leading by example,” he said.