How the Republicans’ Poor COVID Response Helped Their Voter Suppression Efforts

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Voter suppression was in the news this week as the media also noted that the Trump administration never had a plan to distribute the COVID vaccine to contain the virus. What’s the connection between the two?

Throughout Trump’s adult life, he and his Republican supporters have pushed a racial, white nationalist, pro-white themes to divide and conquer key political groups that oppose his policies or him personally.

At the state level, governors in Florida, South Dakota, and Georgia, key swing states, also downplayed news about how serious the pandemic was becoming and failed to take the needed public health actions.  At the same time, they were gearing up voter suppression efforts. They did this in an effort to prop up Trump in his pre-election posturing. As they did this, their citizens, mostly minorities, were dying.

The common theme of Republicans and Trump’s intentional neglect has a racist theme.  As reported in the Daily Kos, “Republicans across the country, from senators to governors and state legislators, downplayed the virus and spread lies about it from the moment it arrived and began killing Americans by the dozen.

“They did it with an election in mind, knowing that people of color were dying at higher rates and that stoking inane and vulgar culture wars allows GOP powerbrokers to continue their plunder of the American people and the dying planet. The virus wasn’t preventable, but much of the devastation could and should have been avoided.”

If this information is added to concerted Republican efforts to suppress minority votes nationwide, oppose any Covid financial relief bills that would benefit minorities, immigration restrictions, and beating back federal voting rights legislation, it’s apparent Republicans have a common target: minority groups and their voting representation.

Then, there were also the confirmed racists that have passed through the Trump administration. These people range from Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller, all of whom engaged in racist fearmongering while in their positions. One of their common goals was to suppress the minority vote.

As an example of the links to far-right groups, Miller, one of Trump’s closest enablers, sent hundreds of e-mails that Miller exchanged between 2015 and 2016, with editors at Breitbart, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Miller’s e-mails “included links to articles on the white-supremacist Web site, as well as an enthusiastic reference to “The Camp of Saints,” a racist French novel about the ravages of immigration,” according to an article in the New Yorker.

As Miller and the Trump administration focused on immigration, while the Republican Party focus on voter suppression, the Covid virus gave them the opportunity to raise the mortality rate in minority communities and Advance voter suppression.

Thousands of Lives Could Have Been Saved

The latest COVID-related news that broke in late March 2021 came from Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, who both said thousands of lives could have been saved if Trump and the Republicans had a coherent, scientifically-based response to the pandemic. This charge got a sharp rebuttal from Trump. In this interview, Dr. Birx said that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if the Trump administration had wanted to act quickly.

In other reports on the Trump administration’s poor response to fight the virus, the Washington Post has done a few articles on the topic.  In one Post article, Trump’s top aides, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, adopted a retaliatory response to any scientific responses.

“A hallmark of the response has been the secrecy of some in the White House, including Meadows, whom other officials described as outright hostile in his denial of the virus and punitive toward colleagues who sought to follow public health guidelines or be transparent,” the Post article said.

What’s the Link Between Low Voter Turnout and an Epidemic?

While the statements from Drs. Birx and Fauci both reach the same conclusion, the unanswered question is why did the Trump administration, and not Trump himself, move to save American lives?

Commonly, reporters only refer to Trump himself and not his administration, when trying to answer this question. But where were the other people?  Were they too terrified to confront Trump?  Were they that wimpy or ideologically aligned with him to act as public servants?  Or, did they look at the American fatalities and see that the virus’ victims were disproportionately minorities, people who would not vote for Trump in the first place?

A national, venerable newspaper like the Post or New York Times, would never raise this question unless they found a White House memo on this specific action of intentional neglect.  That is good, responsible journalism.

But like everything else in the Trump administration, one of the most secretive in history, Trump’s personal history, including his racist comments, combined with the anti-immigration policies enacted by Stephen Miller and many others, and his known white supremacist links, the unthinkable becomes more explainable.

Trump’s poor Covid response was more than just his “scrambled and faulty communications,”  “lack of desire to listen to the actual scientists and also a lack of leadership in general,” as the Washington Post reported. 

Instead, a more complete response would be that the Trump administration’s intention to malign neglect had a racist motive.  A Southern Poverty Law Center official, Laura Rivera, said “This administration has chosen racism and xenophobia over a science-based approach in its gravely misguided response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” She notes that Trump’s poor COvid containment response was happening at the same time (March 2020) it had declared war on immigrants.

At Last: A Conspiracy Theory From the Left

Many would say that accusing the Republicans at the state and local levels and others in the Trump administration and their enablers of using the virus to victimize minority groups is an odious accusation.

But the Republicans, as evidenced by their legislative and policy actions, have been doing this exact thing for decades.

However, in order for this accusation to move from accusation to fact, investigative journalists and historians must find the smoking-gun memo or an account of a meeting between high-level Trump officials that this idea was floated and accepted. We need the Pentagon Papers or the Nixon tapes to verify this Republican-COVID accusation.

Until this is discovered, anecdotal facts will serve to connect the dots of intentional neglect, malfeasance, and animosity that the Republicans have demonstrated against minorities for years. How else do you explain the recent voter suppression attempts in Georgia that prevent bystanders from offering water and food to people standing in line to vote? If this same law was applied to dogs tied to a tree in the summer, the ASPCA would be mobilized nationwide to revoke the law.  But, in Georgia, this provision of the law is allowed to stand.

Republican Voter Suppression vs. Minorities

Trump’s long racist history has been well documented. (See video). So what is missing from a solid journalistic report is a memo from a Trump White House official saying that delaying the COVID response would be beneficial to Trump’s re-election because it would kill or debilitate anti-Trump voters, or that it would be part of a racial campaign.

This is unthinkable from an American president, but so was most of the entire Trump presidency. The invisible part in most of this exceptional national reporting was that it doesn’t address the Trump base, most of who agree with his anti-immigrant policies.

The virus was also a dividing line. Many Trump supporters believed they were better than others. To the hard-core white supremacists and Proud Boy followers, they were part of an insurrection, patriots who were also part of a master race. They knew the secret origins of American policies and had deciphered the conspiracy.  QAnon told them who and what was behind the curtain.  As a result, the virus would not affect them. They did not have to wear masks because they were protected.

So, is all this a conspiracy theory from the left?  Maybe. But the right-wing does not have a monopoly on conspiracy theories.  Maybe this one has some validity and the missing memo could prove that Trump’s mismanagement of the cCOVID crisis had an underlying motive.

The Pandemic, its Victims, and Voter Suppression

The virus also gave Trump’s macho message of exploiting the weak members of the US population. Due to bad luck for average Americans and good timing for Trump’s predatory, venal campaign managers, Cabinet members, top donors, and supporters, the COVID virus gave Trump’s clan a new powerful vehicle to push his misguided message of social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism (explained below) is a discredited idea, but it appeals to racists. It basically is a perversion of the “survival of the fittest” idea (a phrase Darwin never mentioned), but it helps explain why NOT wearing a mask became a political statement.

In Trumpworld code, if you don’t wear a mask, it means you have “better” genes and more immunity than others. Trump followers understand this to mean that racist Caucasians don’t have to wear masks since they won’t get the virus because they have “better genes.”  This idea has no medical validity, but hard-core racist Trump followers don’t care. Not wearing a mask is part of a hidden code. It’s like a secret handshake or codeword used on racist websites.

Then, there is the herd immunity theme to deal with the COVID virus. Herd immunity, also known as “community immunity,” is defined by the Center for Disease Control as “a situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely.”

But, herd immunity could have been a good cover story. In reality, Trump and his top advisors saw that the COVID virus was killing more people of color and people with media to low incomes at a faster rate than other segments of the population.  These statistics were certainly noticed by Trump’s top advisors in the White House and in alt-right groups.

Rate ratios compared to White, Non-Hispanic persons American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic persons Asian, Non-Hispanic persons Black or African American, Non-Hispanic persons Hispanic or Latino persons
Cases1 1.8x 0.6x 1.4x 1.7x
Hospitalization2 4.0x 1.2x 3.7x 4.1x
Death3 2.6x 1.1x 2.8x 2.8x

Source: CDC , Nov. 30, 2020

This chart shows that Afro-Americans and Hispanics were 2.8 times more likely to die than white, non-Hispanics.  American Indians and Alaskan natives were 2.6 times more likely to die than whites. This information and more showed that whites were not dying as fast as non-whites.

Who Approved of the Higher Minority Mortality Rate?

Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka

That is just the beginning of the white supremacists in the Trump administration. America’s Voice website lists about 25 names and affiliated white supremacist groups were in the Trump administration in 2019.  Other media outlets have assembled articles on Trump’s racist White House that, for the most part, are not discussed on cable networks. Plus there are social media outlets. The website Slate found that during his presidency Trump retweeted at least four white nationalist accounts, including one account that was unambiguously called “white genocide.”

Worse, some 40 million Americans support Trump and his policies, including his dog-whistle racism from the Oval Office. How many of them share their views?  If they did not share his views, why don’t they stop supporting him?

Historians and good reporters could find a memo to this effect, but Trump’s actions speak for themselves. Some of the criminals who vandalized the US Capitol were Nazis and white supremacists. They did not enter the Capitol by accident. They were there to support their leader, Trump. So how did he keep earning their allegiance? By engaging is racist action that was eminently powerful, but hidden.  The dotted lines connect the reasons.

The media will be very reluctant to entertain this story since they do not have the hard evidence; a memo or tape.  But, Trump’s linked actions and inaction to controlling the virus, combined with his burning desire to appeal to racists, is part of his whole mental pathology for the last 70 years. Mary Trump knows this. She may have some insights here, but the general public can see a pattern.

Herd Immunity Was a Cover Story

The Republicans like the herd immunity scenario since it gets them off-the-hook for mismanaging the virus since they were told about it in early-2020 by intelligence officials. Since then, the Trump administration has famously done nothing to implement a scientifically-based anti-pandemic strategy.

“If the U.S. allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked in an attempt to try to achieve so-called herd immunity, the “death toll would be enormous,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Health said in an August 2020 interview. “If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms … a lot of people are going to die.”

Trump Revives the Discredited Theory of Social Darwinism 

But, in practice and in messages created by his in-house anti-immigrant staffers, probably led by Stephen Miller, Trump’s herd immunity message essentially means “survival of the fittest”,  which is a gross misunderstanding of Charles Darwin’s use of the term. Darwin repeated the idea of “survival of the fittest” in 1859 and applied it to nature, but the idea originated with Herbert Spencer, a conservative economist, no less, who developed the term around 1851.

Spencer’s teachings were eventually discredited, and according to this article in the Smithsonian magazine, his ideas have been further discounted since they became intertwined with social Darwinism, another idea that is probably discussed in private in the Trump White House.  The idea of social Darwinism, as described in the Smithsonian magazine, is “roughly, the idea that the successful deserve their success while those who fail deserve their failure.” This should sound familiar as a Trump speech theme.

As for Spencer, “modern scholars, and the public at large, understandably view this idea (of social Darwinism) with disdain. Philosopher Daniel Dennett has described social Darwinism as “an odious misapplication of Darwinian thinking in defense of political doctrines that range from callous to heinous,” while the journalist Robert Wright said that social Darwinism “now lies in the dustbin of intellectual history.”

Today, the magazine said Spencer’s ideas are rarely taught. “Gregory Claeys, a historian at the University of London, writes that of all the great Victorian thinkers, it is Spencer whose ‘reputation has now indisputably fallen the farthest,’ the article said.  This may be news to the Trump White House, but they don’t care about the past anyway if it does not meet their present needs.

Instead, as we fast forward to today and the impending 2020 election, Trump’s use of herd immunity, when associated with “survival of the fittest”, means no masks, no social distancing, attending large public gatherings, saying the death toll “is what it is”, and that Trump has no regrets about how he mishandled the virus and public health directives.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. The most startling new revelation by his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is that the COVID virus cannot be contained, no matter what recommendations public health officials in the wealthiest nation on earth can suggest or mobilize.

Meadows said: “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigations.” He said this even though over 224,000 people had died from the virus in the U.S., and that toll continued to climb.

What Meadows said, however depressing and stupid, has its basis in many previous Trump administration statements. Trump’s and the Republican’s basic message is that the weak will die, and the strong will survive.

This will happen in every community, regardless of race and age, in every state in the union. And when the plague runs its course, as plagues have done for thousands of years, a new class will survive that will be genetically superior to the previous generation exposed to the plague and died. Whether or not this is medically true is irrelevant. Trump has telegraphed this dog-whistle message his whole adult life. This has allowed him to be a racist and still maneuver in polite society.

Of course, honest public health officials outside of Trump’s sphere of influence say this COVID uptick is preventable in 21st Century America.  The reality is that Trump wants to encourage this bleak heard immunity scenario. He benefits from it. Trump boasts that he survived a mild case of the virus, bolstered by the best, free medical treatment on earth.

But when the herd immunity takes hold, average Americans in Phoenix, Philadelphia, or St. Cloud, Minnesota, will have to wait for treatment. That will be too bad. To Trump, they don’t count anyway, especially if they lived in Blue (Democrat) states.

Don’t Forget Billionaires Who Benefit from Voter Suppression

Trump’s rise of a Master Race theme also directly benefits his wealthy donors and fellow neoliberals.

A Twitter post by Mohamed A. El-Arian (Oct. 24, 2020), a well-respected investment manager, said this exact thing about how the COVID virus has made the rich richer.

El Arian’s posted stated:

“The strong get stronger and the rich get richer while the weak get weaker and the poor struggle more.  A larger disparity of wealth is one of the many awful outcomes of the #covid economic shock, a great unequalizer which is also worsening the inequality of opportunity and income…”

Trump’s Social Darwinism Theme is Too Hot to Handle

Mainstream American media, print and electronic, don’t want to advance Trump’s “fittest of the fit” social Darwinism message since it is socially uncomfortable and politically unsettling. It is anti-institutional, and the top editors and reporters covering Congress and the White House have great respect for the federal institutions.

Trump was phenomenally successful, however, because he told his supporters precisely the opposite. He allegedly hated the Washington political scene, its institutions, and establishment politicians. He also never had the mental capacity, attention span and negotiating skills to pass legislation in Congress. These same deficiencies also explain when he is a failed businessman, who was successful only when he allowed smarter partners or advisors to conduct any profitable deals.

But Trump does not have that luxury today. His policy and political failures outnumber the successes. Voters dislike him personally, and this downward spiral needed a lifeline. Unfortunately for all except those politically desperate Republicans who love Trump, this lifeline was the COVID virus.

So, instead of creating and executing a successful public health strategy, Trump let his paranoia, incompetence, and anti-science advisors run the show. His advisors mismanaged the health program as evidenced by the fact-based death toll. When this toll kept rising, they stumbled on the herd immunity idea that dovetailed with his social Darwinism, macho man theme as seen in this video from a Trump rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Now, when it’s apparent he helped kill thousands of Americans, he uses herd immunity as a new cover-up.

In Trump’s perverted world, some of his followers have already picked up on this dog-whisted theme. They are healthy and young and will benefit from the bad luck of others. Instead of promoting economic advancement through job creation and an expanding economy, some of Trump’s followers will see the virus as a new way to get upward mobility. Is this sick?  Of course. But so are many of the other ideas and policies that have come from the Trump White House.

This article was originally published on Jan. 22, 2021

 

 

 

 

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