Trump's Botched Covid-19 Response, Right-Wing Media & Conservatism's War on Science
Donald Trump and conservatives generally have a problem with science, experts and intellectuals and we are seeing the results as the President careens from one uninformed, boneheaded decision to another concerning the Covid-19 outbreak.
This antipathy to expertise predates Trump and runs deep in the Republican DNA. It led George W Bush to ignore warnings from Middle East experts and the intelligence community about the probable aftermath of his Iraq invasion. It also resulted in Bush's disastrous Hurricane Katrina response.
Vox: "This hermetic intellectual insulation created a movement scornful of elite credentials and basic ideas of expertise, a tendency that has led to disastrous responses to crises before. There’s a reason President George W. Bush felt comfortable appointing Michael Brown — a man whose pre-administration work centered on Arabian horses— to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown proceeded to horrifically botch the response to Hurricane Katrina; despite that, Bush stood up with Brown at a press conference and told “Brownie” that he was doing a “heckuva job.”
Moreover, since the early 1980s, it's been in the Republican Party's best interests to ignore experts, scientists and intellectuals because they get in the way of the conservative policy agenda.
National Memo: "Over the years, several unfortunate trends came together in the Republican Party, producing a deadly confluence that disrespects science and downplays expertise. One of those trends was the acceleration of efforts by large industries, especially those that produce environmental toxins and release greenhouse gases, to persuade congressional Republicans to doubt the science that held them responsible for causing widespread harm. Dependent on contributions from those industries, the GOP went along, some of them denouncing climate change as a “hoax.”
"There is also a cultural component to the crazy. Modern science tends to dispute some long-held beliefs of religious conservatives, including the notion that homosexuality is a mental illness. Mainstream psychologists denounce so-called conversion therapy, which claims to “cure” gays and lesbians. But the Republican Party long ago arranged a marriage of convenience with socially conservative Christians; many of its current elected officials hail from fundamentalist religious backgrounds. Thus the anti-gay plank in the GOP platform was laid."
And, as those in the Republican base turned to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his many imitators for their news and opinion and abandoned the world of investigative journalism and academic research, things really went off the rails for conservatives. Limbaugh conquered AM radio in the 1990s when he discovered that there were millions of Americans who didn't give a whit about science or research or facts. They just wanted someone who would reinforce their "opinions," no matter how ignorant or misguided. And because facts play such a small role in right wing talk radio, you can't throw peer reviewed research at the likes of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck or Michael Savage; they have "gut instinct" and "common sense" on their side.
And, Donald Trump has taken conservative anti-intellectualism to an entirely new level.
New York Magazine: "Donald Trump was able to vanquish his rivals [in 2016] and capture the Republican nomination for many reasons, but one of them was his ability to win a race to the mental bottom. He dominated the many televised debates with crude bullying. No candidate before Trump had made such a mockery of the very idea of having facts to support his position; he would simply dismiss his adversaries as short, ugly, nerdy, or female. His inability to grasp complexity has forced Trump to fixate relentlessly on a simple themes, like the wall and the lack of gratitude displayed by minorities, that resonate with his supporters. Trump is the apotheosis of the anti-intellectual style, the perfect spokesman for the conservative agenda."
So, is anyone surprised that the President was slow to heed the warnings and guidance of public health experts and scientists regarding the best ways to address the crisis and reduce the spread of the Coronavirus? Of course not. As the virus spread beyond China and began its march across the United States from late January into March, Trump was still on board with right-wing conspiracy theorists who argued that Covid-19 was less dangerous than the common flu and that mainstream press coverage was part of a plot to damage his presidency.
Fair.org: "Conservative pundits encouraged their audiences to join Trump in his denial in the face of a health disaster. But “the aggressive and deadly coronavirus is unimpressed by the bluster of a con,” wrote David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker (3/22/20):"
"For many weeks, the president resisted understanding the magnitude of the problems and the responsibilities of his office. In late January, he declared, “We have it totally under control…. It’s going to be just fine.”… A month later…“One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.” Was he doing a good job? He gave himself a “ten.” Those who raised concerns about the administration’s cuts in emergency preparedness or the outrageous failure to supply testing kits were promulgating “a hoax.” "This blithe unconcern for the looming crisis was hardly limited to Trump. His satraps in the “alternative fact” industry took their cues from him to rest easy in a warm bubble bath of denial. Rush Limbaugh, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom at Trump’s latest State of the Union address, told his immense radio audience that the virus was “the common cold, folks.”
So, yes, Trump's botched response to the Covid-19 crisis was entirely predictable and years in the making. It's often fun to make light of "pointy-headed" intellectuals, but sometimes they come in handy and are a lot more useful than Sean Hannity's gut instincts.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content