The numbers are staggering. More than 50,000 Americans have succumbed to the coronavirus, and hundreds of thousands more could have long term health implications from their brush with the disease. They are our family members, our friends, our neighbors and our coworkers. But while we work together to lessen the effects of this pandemic, one man uses it to boast and brag about how many frightened Americans tune into his daily sideshow.
Donald Trump, who from the start lied about the severity of the illness and praised Chinese dictator Xi Jinping as he covered up the virus, is delighting in the bright lights of coronavirus TV. The song and dance he performs now every day, gives very little in the way of useful information. Instead it alternates wildly between fury at simple questions and calm, cool lies about his own performance. This is all he ever wanted, to be the center of a nation’s undivided (even if terrified) attention.
It couldn’t be more clear that he was both unprepared to handle the proverbial “3AM crisis” and uninterested. Even as multiple agencies and officials warned him of the emerging pandemic, he publicly told us all it was nothing, it would disappear “like a miracle.” Then he said it was like the flu, even as Americans died. Then he denied saying any of those things.
As states clamored for more resources like masks and ventilators, Trump lied and said we had plenty. When it was clear that lie wasn’t working, he said it wasn’t his responsibility. States fought with each other – and the Trump administration – to find new sources for life saving materials and still Trump held his daily show to yell at the press and celebrate himself.
It’s been months now, and thanks to the efforts of countless Americans who’ve listened to experts instead of the president, we’re finally starting to see progress. But even that success is at risk of a president more interested in his image than in saving lives. He threatens Democratic governors who enforce good public health policies, and praises Republicans who ignore experts and put citizens at risk. He even attacks Republican governors who succeed without him.
This isn’t what leadership looks like, and it couldn’t be further from the traits that have always made America great. At a time when we all need to pull together, the President is desperately trying to pull us apart for his benefit. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that many Americans have died who would not have under a normal, functional administration, Republican or Democrat.
The failures of the Trump presidency have always been clear, but they’ve never been as dire as they are during this pandemic. Even though the president desperately tries to avoid accountability, the ultimate check on presidents will come in a little more than half a year.
Until that time we will need to lean on each other more than ever before. Look to proven state leaders of both parties for guidance through these dangers, and take care of yourself, your family, and your community. America is more powerful than any virus, and better than any one person.
Our time will come to emerge from this crisis. When it does, we must rise together, united in strengthening and reinforcing the ideals, norms, and institutions that make our democracy so effective even in crises. This country was built on the power and freedom of its people, and if we keep working together, we can ensure that America continues to thrive for generations to come.