We’re going to listen to our scientists on when we go back to work, not the White House

I wonder if Trump realizes how ferocious the pushback will be if he follows through on encouraging people to go back to work next week.

Nearly every scientist in the country will start howling that he’s inviting a catastrophe. Every Democratic official in America will ignore him and warn people to stay put at home and keep slowing the spread. But maybe he’s priced all of that into his calculations and is willing to proceed anyway.

Has he priced in the fact that lots of *Republican* officials may also resist? He’s not used to that so he may not be anticipating it. If so, he should start thinking about it now: If the plan is to claim that liberals and experts are colluding in a plot to suppress our glorious economy by encouraging people to stay home, that message will be weakened if members of his own party start agreeing with the other side. Here’s Larry Hogan getting ahead of the curve.

“So what?” you might say. Hogan’s a known RINO who governs a deep blue state and nearly primaried Trump. Of course RINOs think the Great Culling to appease the economic gods is a bad idea. Republicans with greater loyalty to MAGA will feel differently.

Some will, yeah, to their eternal shame. But not as many as usual.

Next week will be the ultimate acid test of the twisted degree of “loyalty” congressional Republicans are expected to show the president. What will Lindsey Graham or Tom Cotton do if both Trump and his hardest hardcore base starts screaming at them that they’re co-conspirators in a Democratic scheme to undermine the economy because they won’t condone prematurely relaxing our only defense against a global pandemic?

I think that demand for loyalty might be a bridge too far for them. I think. We’ll see.

It’s not just Republican pols who’ll contradict Trump if he insists on people going back to work. Here’s his former FDA commissioner, gently encouraging him to not be crazy:

“It’s the classic trolley problem,” said one snarky Twitter pal. “If we do nothing the economy will be in shambles and millions of people will die. But if we ‘flip the switch’ and take serious action, the economy will still end up in shambles and millions of lives will be saved. A quintessential catch-22.”

The best outcome here, and the likely point of the tweets from Graham, Cheney, and Cotton, is to nudge Trump to reverse course before he goes all-in on getting people back to work ASAP. He doesn’t have the authority to actually lift shelter-in-place orders; that belongs to local officials. But he can make it politically painful, especially for red-state governors, to stick with a lockdown by encouraging Trump fans locally to view the social distancing measures as “unpatriotic” or whatever. Graham et al. are trying to avert that. I’m happy to credit them with pure motives in all this — “common sense” and “basic decency” are good reasons not to ease off the gas pedal in constraining an epidemic — but they’re political animals and are doubtless looking ahead to the potential political fallout if we move too soon on reviving the economy and catastrophe ensues. Who’ll be blamed if an outbreak takes off here nationally at around the same time countries like the UK and India are beginning to see infections slow thanks to their stay-the-course approach on lockdowns? Trump, sure, but maybe the GOP writ large.

The most bizarre thing about the “get back to work” push is that nothing should be simpler for a politician at a time like this than to project empathy with constituents who are frightened and vulnerable. I’ve written half a dozen posts over the years about what a tone-deaf halfwit Andrew Cuomo can be but his tone in these two clips is exactly right.

Graham, Cheney, and Cotton are watching that and thinking, “I don’t want my party on the wrong side of a partisan debate about whether certain people’s moms are expendable or not.” It’s one thing to say that we can’t deep-freeze the economy forever in the name of saving every life; it’s another to say we shouldn’t freeze it for a few weeks with massive government fiscal relief in the name of saving hundreds of thousands of lives at a moment when we haven’t even begun to see the peak of cases. It’s unbelievably revolting and callous, not to mention destined to backfire enormously. Trump may not see the political danger there but other Republicans will.

Anyway, hopefully we can speed this debate up and arrive at our final destination soon: Trump says it’s okay to go back to work, local officials ignore him, scientists call him insane, much of the public remains at home to protect themselves, and then he complains daily for the next seven months that the sluggish economy would have been roaring along by now with only a few dead grandmas here and there if everyone had listened to him. That’s a fair trade — he gets a domestic scapegoat onto whom he can shift blame for the economic calamity and a few hundred thousand, or a few million, of us who otherwise would have died get to live. I’d take that deal.

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