Hardcore Trump supporters, rural Republicans, and right-wing and libertarian activists who enjoy bringing assault weapons to their demonstrations seem destined to be the next demographics to seal their own fates with this pandemic as protests against social-distancing orders ramp up across the country.
It has mostly been a foregone conclusion that the less urban parts of the country would not see the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the fact that the virus has been slow to impact rural communities and smaller towns could spell disaster for the many idiots nationwide who have joined Fox News and President Trump in politicizing this public health crisis and protesting sheltering orders.
A well attended and rather crowded protest happened in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday at the State Capitol Building, in which flag-waving Trump supporters gathered to wave banners, cause gridlock, and yell at the state's governor to reopen the economy and quit with all this social-distancing nonsense.
"Our Jobs are Essential" read one protester's sign. "Lock her up!" they chanted, referring to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
A similar protest happened Friday afternoon outside the home of Minnesota Governor
Protests against social distancing (shelter in place) scaling up in the US. https://t.co/oBM1OiaRED— Shaun Haney (@shaunhaney) April 17, 2020
And a photo of another protest in Ohio — taken by Joshua A. Bickel of the Columbus Dispatch — went viral on Twitter because of the weird zombie-esque moment it captured, Trump hats, flags and all.
World War Q pic.twitter.com/rd5mSNR5ub— Scott Linnen (@ScottLinnen) April 15, 2020
"In an era when hardly anything feels nonpartisan, the coronavirus was starting to look like a consensus issue," the New York Times writes today. "But this week, a rash of well-organized protests against state restrictions broke out — a jolting reminder that not everyone is on board with the new, government-mandated limits on public assembly and economic activity."
As Vanity Fair reports, the venal and blindly pro-Trumpian figures at Fox News were quick to praise the Lansing protest — providing a clue as to who they think their base viewership agrees with. Laura Ingraham on Wednesday tweeted "Time to get your freedom back" in response to a video from Lansing. On Sean Hannity's show, Jeanine Pirro laid it out there saying "And what happened in Lansing today? God bless ’em, it’s gonna happen all over the country."
Hopefully she's wrong about that. But other anti-social-distancing protests have been taking shape in Boise, Idaho; Richmond, Virginia; and even Seattle, Washington, where the earliest outbreak in the U.S. began. (That's the work of gun-toting creep Joey Gibson, remember that asshole? In case you don't, he spent half of 2017 threatening to hold "Patriot Prayer" rallies in the Bay Area, only to show up here, cancel, and try to cause a media circus for no reason other than his own ego.)
But a Pew Research poll published Thursday shows that a majority of Americans — two thirds, actually — think the Trump administration was too slow in its response to the pandemic, and they're worried that the country will try to reopen too quickly, not too slowly. 73 percent polled said last week that they believed the worst was still to come with the pandemic, and not already behind us.
But, as the New York Times noted, 65 percent of those who identified as highly conservative said they worried the country would be too slow to reopen.
Once again we seem to have an outrage machine, likely built on Facebook and Twitter, that is not unconcerned about the spreading virus, but is more concerned with arguing about the infringement on civil liberties and with economic impacts. As one Republican pollster tells the Times, "If there’s a statement that I think I’m hearing the most, it’s: 'Tell us what to do and trust us to do it, don’t try to make us do it by law.'"
Hmm. Does anyone really trust Idaho or Alabama to do the sensible thing here without draconian measures and leaders who enforce them? We've already seen a 53% increase in cases in Oklahoma over the past week, as CNN reports, in a state where first-term Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has refused to issue a stay-at-home order. And in South Dakota, where Governor Kristi Noem has also refused to tell people to stay at home, there's been a 205% spike in cases, and a huge pork processing plant has shut down due to a coronavirus outbreak — potentially threatening a portion of the country's food supply chain.
In a statement, Noem's office said she "trusted South Dakotans to exercise personal responsibility," and said that stay-at-home orders would not have prevented the pork plant outbreak.
Governor Pete Ricketts, Republican of Nebraska, echoed these sentiments speaking to Politico and saying, "This is a program that depends on people exercising personal responsibility and their civic duty. This is about making that decision, not the heavy hand of government taking away your freedoms." Social distancing is happening in Nebraska, and a health expert there said today he expects the current death toll of 25 to rise to between 50 and 180 in the state.
Photos from some of these protests even show protesters wearing protective masks — so it's not like they're unaware there's a pandemic. They just don't want the government — or Democrats — telling them how to live.
Right Wing Irony. Wearing protective masks to protest an order to shelter at home.— TheUnknownCritic (@A_Nonny_Maus) April 16, 2020
Fragile snowflakes. Why don't you RAW DOG the epidemic like the tough guys you think you are?
Bunch of soft, yielding genital flesh extrusions, yous. pic.twitter.com/7a2tAK0Ehk
The economic impacts of both a recession/depression and an ongoing, spiraling, out-of-control pandemic in this country are sure to be far worse than the impacts of following a pandemic that's brought under control. Each state will find a balance, or not — and the ones that don't may just put more Americans in other states at risk.