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How the organized Left got Covid wrong, learned to love lockdowns and lost its mind: an autopsy

It is hard to destroy your own cause and feel righteous while doing so, yet the American left has done it. After more than two centuries at the vanguard of the struggle for freedom, the American left, broadly defined, executed a volte face and embraced anti-working-class policies marketed as purely technical public health measures.
 
by Christian Parenti
 
Part 11 - Covid as Trump Derangement Syndrome
 
The pharmaceutical industry and its friends at the CDC, National Institute of Health (NIH), and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have, since the Swine Flu fiasco of 1976, tried to hype every potential pandemic. This one was sucked up into the political tornado of a very unusual presidential election of 2020, and quickly spun out of control. In the process, the US Left lost its mind.

The Democrats embraced Covid as a political strategy to beat Trump, and it worked. But then they could not let go. Towed along in this overreaction was the Lockdown Left, with each new wave of infection outdoing its own previous levels of vehemence and militancy against alleged anti-vaxxers and official “misinformation.” 

When in Spring of 2020 evidence emerged showing that Covid was not as severe as first assumed, the mainstream press was too united against Trump to allow a rethink based on new facts. New York City had erected five field hospitals, New York State had spent $1.1 billion on ventilators and other Covid gear and the badgering Governor Cuomo had compelled the Trump administration to send the one-thousand-bed military hospital ship, Comfort, to New York Harbor. But this was not the moment for a recalibration based on new evidence. Trump was finally on the ropes.

The timeline is worth recounting: On January 31, 2020 – one day after the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a month before New York City recorded its first case, a week before the US saw its earliest known death from the virus – President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions from China to the US and soon added several other countries to the list.

The immediate reaction from the mainstream and liberal press was total hostility. The New York Times called the travel bans racist. The Guardian, in an article that was actually full of qualified endorsements of the travel restrictions, framed the question of lockdown with worries that the move “could be an overreaction that causes unnecessary fear and weakens the global response” and “waste limited resources on potentially ineffective tactics, needlessly limit civil liberties and even cause more harm than good.

On March 1, 2020, New York City recorded its first Covid -19 case. Nine days later, Mayor Bill DeBlasio was still downplaying the risk, telling MSNBC: “If you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy.

But five days later, as Covid cases soared and governor Cuomo leaned into the fear, DeBlasio, scrambling to catch up, closed the city’s public schools. Soon thereafter the virus was rampaging out of control; so too was the damage of lockdown as the largest public school system in the country shut its doors. 

By late March 2020, the US was logging more than 20,000 new confirmed cases every day. New York was the epicenter due to its density, connections to Europe, and bad management by Cuomo who sent sick people back to nursing homes.  Newspapers were filled with heartbreaking stories of patients dying in medical isolation.

Then on March 24, 2020, as infection rates of the first wave were peaking and lockdowns had shuttered much of the economy, Trump, who had started the lockdowns with his “China travel ban,” announced that he now wanted the economy to “open by Easter.

As Trump put it: “I don’t want the cure to be worse than the problem itself — the problem being, obviously, the problem.  And you know, you can destroy a country this way, by closing it down…  And then we’re supposed to pay people not to go to work. We never had that.

The media erupted in expectorations of total disbelief and outrage.

The White House Covid-19 Task Force headed by Anthony Fauci and Ambassador Debora Birx set the tone by stoking fear. According to Dr. Scott Atlas who was part of the task force during spring 2020, the team around Trump, particularly Jared Kushner, got spooked by the press coverage and could not bring themselves to disband or restructure the Covid Task Force. All Trump could manage was some of his own counter messaging about the need to end lockdowns. But the lockdowns were all being imposed by state governors, and they were listening to Fauci, Brix, and the media.

Two weeks after Trump’s call to re-open the economy, protests echoing his message began. The first were on Thursday April 9, in Casper, Wyoming, and Columbus, Ohio. On April 14 anti-lockdown protesters gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina. On April 15, a much larger armed protest – organized by the Devos family financed Michigan Freedom Fund and the Michigan Conservative Coalition – mobbed the Michigan Capitol and targeted Governor Gretchen Whitmer in particularly disgusting and alarming ways.  Two days later, Trump urged his Twitter followers to “LIBERATE” three states led by Democratic governors, including Michigan. That afternoon, Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted back, accusing Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies.

At the exact same time, New York State was closing its five field hospitals because they had been almost totally unused. This rather remarkable fact was largely ignored by the media for fear that discussing the large-scale public policy miscalculation of a star Democratic Governor and potentially presidential candidate, would have played into Trump’s hands. 

On April 30, a smaller but more heavily armed protest, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, went to the Michigan Capitol building again.  This time, many protesters carried automatic rifles. Their chants and signs compared Governor Whitmer to Adolf Hitler. Rep Rashida Talib tweeted out shock and disgust. A day later Trump tweeted: “The governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire.” Adding that, “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.” 

According to one overview, at least 32 states saw anti-lockdown rallies during the spring of 2020.

Thus, by late April, the Republicans and their right-wing base were aggressively “owning” the idea of re-opening while alarmed Democrats and the left were, without having publicly vetted the policy or even clearly decided on the political direction, defensively “owning” the lockdowns.  The story of the virus was now totally and hopelessly politicized – never mind that many Republican governors were running robust lockdowns.

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