Saturday, August 01, 2020

Fuq the Blues, They Don't Vote For Us

Illumination ca, 1413-15 by the Boucicault Master, Paris, depicting the Roman emperor Galerius "on his deathbed, suffering from a horrendous malady that reportedly caused his entrails to decay inside his body and worms to come out of his mouth, ears, and nose... as two servants cover their mouths from the stench of his rotting flesh." J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

In March 1992, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, wrote that Baker had dismissed concern about Jewish anger [over G.H.W. Bush administration demands that Israel join Madrid peace process], saying “F*** the Jews, they don’t vote for us.” Baker adamantly denied it.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-area businessman and Republican fundraiser who is friendly with the Bush family and with Baker, said the remark has long been misunderstood. Baker was aiming his ire at another Cabinet member, Zeidman said, and intended it as a joke. (JTA, December 2018)

Meaning, of course, Baker really did say it, and providing evidence that calling your racism a "joke" is an old Republican habit, but let that pass. Nowadays Republican politicians demand lockstep fealty to the Israeli government, but most American Jews don't agree, and so they still don't vote for them. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the latest outrage is the revelation, in a terrific piece by Katherine Eban for Vanity Fair ("How Jared Kushner's Secret Testing Plan 'Went Poof Into Thin Air'"), that the coronavirus response team of business bros convened at the White House by Jared Kushner had managed by early April to put together a plausible proposal for a national Covid testing plan to coordinate distribution of test kits and contact tracing, beef up antibody testing, and report all test data directly to a national repository as well as state and local authorities, but ditched it under the impression that only Democrats were really suffering from the disease so it wasn't worth the trouble, because it really looked like a lot of work, and besides the virus might just disappear (according to models pushed by Dr. Birx), and

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment [a public health expert who worked with the team] said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

Fuck the Blues, in essence. Kushner decided he could probably get away with killing me, so why not? (Press Secretary McEnany has not denied that there was a plan that went poof, but denied that politics played a role in the decision.)  And announced that all the problems had been solved already:

Of course they didn't get away with it, in a certain sense: Birx's happy talk was wrong and Fauci's warnings were right, the virus didn't disappear, and the prematurely unlocked Red states all became epicenters as the situation in the Northeast began to ease off, and the political situation for Trump became really dire, with previously unshakable Republican states like Florida and Arizona and Georgia, even Texas, starting to look attainable for Democrats. But it's not clear that there will be any direct retribution for the tens of thousands of human lives that have been lost because of this crazy callousness, if that's what it was.

Is it? The New York Times's Maggie Haberman suggests not only that it's true, but well-known to the savvy, which has led some of our friends to wonder why she didn't report it:

and I began to wonder, did she? Because I feel that I've kind of known it all along, first in the form of thinking about how convinced the Trumpies were that all the Covid victims were going to be black or Latin, later in terms of all these Democratic state governments getting shafted while the GOP ones were favored, in a pattern that goes back to the beginning of the administration
President Trump’s major policy moves over the course of his first year in office have had a common denominator: They either overtly favor his base of support – the roughly one-third of voters who solidly back him – or they appear to penalize those states that vote Democratic. (Christian Science Monitor, January 2018)
Maybe it had been reported.

So up to now I've found Haberman's byline on a bunch of articles mentioning the coronavirus task force, but the only thing that really matches is material by Philip Bump at Washington Post, who began pointing out as early as 25 March that 
One of the challenging dynamics of the spread of the coronavirus in the United States is that the response to the pandemic has varied based on politics. Democrats consistently report more concern about the virus and more shifts in their behavior meant to limit its spread. Republicans are more likely to share President Trump’s view that the scope of the pandemic will be limited....
Part of it... may be a function of where the coronavirus has spread the most. About three-quarters of the confirmed cases in the United States are in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. About half are in New York alone.
but that that might not last, because
In states that voted for Clinton in 2016, which make up three-quarters of known cases, the number of new confirmed cases from March 17 to March 24 increased by an average of 530 percent. In red states, the average increase was 860 percent.
And then by 17 June, as those trends had become undeniable to everybody except a Republican governor

For months, Trump has treated the coronavirus as something distant, a vague threat that would simply evaporate on its own. His base of support has often echoed that sentiment, regularly expressing less concern about contracting the virus. To some extent, that was rational: Coronavirus cases spiked in blue states but were generally more limited in states Trump won in 2016.

That’s no longer the case.

Bump really did know that it was going on—he just wasn't scandalized by it. It struck him as "rational", until it wasn't any more. It's only now that we're starting to see it as scandalous, and I'm curious why. Is it because we've now got a specific incident reported, where somebody not Trump made a decision based on it? Is it because it was a self-evidently unproductive, as opposed to immoral, decision, misreading 
  • the epidemiology (anybody who knows how to read a chart should have seen by late April that the Southeast was going to be struck hard if the governors followed through on their reopening plans) 
  • and the politics (in the first place because Trump has never had close to a majority, and the constant playing to his base means he never will, and in the second place because the bad planning meant members of the base were going to die)?
Is it because the political press is sharper as the election grows closer? Is it because Trump is dying, politically, and they're not taking the trouble to pretend any more?

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