Is Stupidity as Contagious as COVID?
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Touré are coming to you as protestors amass at the Michigan state capitol to defy Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. Similar rallies popped up in Kentucky and North Carolina as Trump supporters rail against the COVID-19 lockdown.
That’s where we are right now. Let’s break it down.
Conspiracy theorists have a new endeavor: COVID-19 truther-ism.
We all know Trump doesn’t read, but it turns out he’s emotionally illiterate too.
Obama endorses Biden in a video message that feels like a throwback to normalcy.
Do we Democrats owe Joe Biden our votes, or does he need to earn them?
This week, it seems that right-wing coronavirus skepticism has become COVID-19 truther-ism: doubt over how many people have actually died, how scared we should be of this thing, whether or not it's actually real.
“They’re politicizing a medical situation,” says Touré. “The right is saying enough of this. We've got to get back to work.”
Touré wants to get back to life as normal as much as anybody.
“But I need the doctors to say that this is okay,” he says.
“I guess stupidity is contagious,” says Danielle. “Maybe it's just as contagious as the coronavirus.”
Episode Highlights –– Repubs: Go Lick a Pole
The COVID-19 coverage critique
Blaming the media is usually Trump territory, but Danielle has a few critiques of her own.
Journalists haven’t really “brought us inside [hospitals and other healthcare facilities] to see the devastation that the coronavirus actually causes,” she says. People who refuse to follow social distancing guidelines aren’t personally touched by the crisis –– yet.
“So they can move forward with their conspiracy theories,” Danielle adds. “A part of me is like … if they want to crowd into their fucking white evangelical right-wing churches and go to their tiki-torch white supremacy rallies … go for it … I just don't want them spreading it to me.”
Over-education and doubt
“For a long time I’ve felt like the GOP and Fox are a cancer in the modern American collective mind,” says Touré. “The impact is clear: decades of the GOP doubting experts, doubting media, doubting reality, no matter how many facts and experts you provide.
“And this precludes Trump. This goes back to Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush. A lot of people in Middle America believe we should not trust people from the coasts who have been so over-educated that they no longer know anything.”
“Is there such a thing as being over-educated? Is that a real thing?” asks Danielle.
Apparently, it is. Touré points out that political analyst Thomas Frank wrote about the phenomenon in his book “Listen, Liberal.”
“There's a class of people who never say doctor without saying quack … or lawyer without saying hack. It’s part of what the conservative movement has become all about. And in a moment like this, their guiding principles are: Media is always fake. Democrats are always wrong. That leads to corona is a hoax, and we should not be stuck at home,” Touré says.
He adds: “And then you are basically advocating to go out and kill each other.”
The dangerous anti-science, #FireFauci agenda
Danielle is done with trying to convince Republicans of facts and science and truth, she says.
“The 38 to 40 percent who are with Donald Trump … they’re gone. I hope they go off a fucking cliff with him, frankly. But in this particular moment, their ignorance really is deadly.”
“It's not abstract. It is acute and specific,” Touré adds. “What really makes me want to pull my hair out? People who say it's true on both sides. There is nothing that I believe as a liberal where there is a community of experts saying it’s not true … the left is very much enthralled with experts and data and facts … but we’re in conversation with a party that stands in opposition to those things.”
The right's anti-science position congealed very neatly around the #FireFauci movement, he adds.
“Fauci is the voice of reason, who comes to the briefings to say real things. Why is reality so frightening to these people?”
Compassion required, but ‘Republicans have none’
Even as Governor Cuomo projects a plateau of COVID-19 cases in New York, “this is not going to be a quick return to normal after a couple of weeks,” says Touré. He cites Ed Yong's excellent feature in The Atlantic that suggests we’ll live with the pandemic for at least a year –– likely more.
Danielle points out that we’re not staying home just to keep ourselves safe. Our self-quarantine is meant “to keep your family, community, friends and loved ones safe,” she says. “It is a virus that requires compassion. Republicans have none.”
Nowhere is the compassion deficit more apparent than in Trump’s infomercial-style briefings and Twitter feed.
On Tuesday — the deadliest day of the crisis so far — there was no mention of the thousands of people who have died. Instead, Trump fell back on the classics: self-aggrandizement, corporate cheerleading and attacks on the media.
Earlier in the week, news broke that Trump insisted on having his name printed on stimulus checks, quite possibly delaying their delivery.
“Are you crazy right now?” Danielle asks. “People are about to lose their homes, can't afford rent and groceries. This motherfucker sitting around like, no –– I need to put my stamp on it. You're not John Hancock. No one cares.”
Trump’s leadership strategy: The blame game
Although Trump claims he wields absolute power, he can't actually do anything to supersede individual governors’ decisions.
“He makes himself look like a fool by going out and saying, I have the ultimate authority. No, you don't,” Danielle says. “But he's not responsible for any mistakes. How is it … we went from Truman’s ‘the buck stops here’ to ‘I take responsibility for nothing.’ But if anything goes right, I'm taking responsibility for that.”
Meanwhile, Trump blames everyone else for everything that goes wrong: governors, the WHO, the Democrats, the media … it’s been three and a half years, and he's still blaming the previous administration. Give him a half a chance he'll blame Hillary too.”
Now, Trump put together a committee to “reopen America.”
“How the fuck are you going to open something you didn't close?” Danielle asks.
The voter fraud non-issue
“The president is tripling and quadrupling down every day on voter ID as if there is some massive voter fraud in this country,” Touré notes. “That is not true. His recent tweet about how we must stop ballot harvesting –– what is that? That is not a thing.”
Danielle is nonplussed.
“It's made up bullshit,” she says, pointing to one of Trump’s recent altercations with a reporter who asked him whether he voted by mail in the last election (as a relatively recent resident of Florida). He answered with “yeah, but I'm allowed to.”
Mail-in voting is nothing new, Touré notes. “It's called absentee balloting, and we don't have any problem with it … but suddenly he decides it’s rife with fraud.”
That’s because Republicans know that making voting easier puts them at a disadvantage.
“Nothing they offer the American people is popular,” says Danielle. Instead, they suppress the vote because when more Americans vote, Republicans lose.
Back to Barack
Yesterday Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden with a video message.
“He didn't have to mention Trump's name, but acknowledged in all the ways in which the country is struggling,” says Danielle. “He acknowledged our collective anxiety. Told us that he knows Joe Biden is decent. He cares about you. It's the best decision I ever made, because I know that Joe will surround himself with experts and scientists and people who believe in their oath.
“It was just such a contrast ... how far we've fallen. Listening to Barack Obama say that we need a leader. We need the world to believe in us again.”
“We've fallen quite far,” says Touré.
“I feel like we're in hell,” Danielle replies.
Joe Biden: Better than a ‘lunatic narcissist, wannabe authoritarian’
As a lifelong Democrat, Touré is willing to hold his nose and vote for Joe Biden –– even though he’s also a New Yorker.
“I've been effectively disenfranchised at the federal level by the Electoral College. So spare me with the ‘every vote matters’ crap. It doesn't.”
For Touré, Biden is “far from what I would have ever hoped or dreamed we would get as a potential alternative to Trump.”
He’s “troubled” by the way Biden seems to be moving toward Republican and independent voters rather than progressives.
But when he talks about it, he gets pushback from fellow Dems.
“I feel that I should be able to criticize Biden –– if only to pull him to the left –– without being criticized myself as traitorous,” he says.
For die-hard Berners and Warren supporters, it seems like “we’re getting nothing out of this deal,” Touré says. “Joe Biden does have to earn our votes. We don't owe him our votes.”
Danielle agrees: “You don't owe him your vote, but we don't have a fucking alternative. Was Joe Biden my first, second, third or fourth choice? No –– but we have a fucking lunatic narcissist, wannabe authoritarian fascist in the White House.”
Kanye is orange all the way
In the middle of the lowest moment of 45’s presidency –– and that’s saying a lot –– Kanye West wants to make sure you know he is voting for Trump in November.
“He's been very Trumpy for a while, and it's just disgusting to me,” says Touré, who brings up the artist-versus-art issue. He’s a former New York Jets fan and My Pillow customer who ditched both after their CEOs turned to the orange side.
“Kanye is a little bit different,” he adds. “I’ve interviewed him. His music has meant a lot to me … just throwing him aside has been much more complicated and difficult. But his persistent Trump love is making it nearly impossible to listen to his rhymes without thinking … this fool is repping for Trump.”
Danielle has considered canceling artists in the past (Jay-Z: no; Chris Brown and R. Kelly, hell yes), but she canceled Kanye when he said slavery was a choi