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The Politics of the Coronavirus

A friend in Germany just wrote about how political correctness has persisted in his country despite the Corona Pandemic. Although Chancellor Angel Merkel spent years responding to critics of her generous welcoming policy toward Muslim migrants by insisting that borders are fluid, she has now sealed those very borders. Apparently German borders are no longer fluid because of the coronavirus, even to fellow-Europeans. But the German administration has kept its once-fluid borders open to migrants from the Third World, although assurances have been given that these prospective “new settlers” will be “tested” to make sure they are not carrying the virus. Not surprisingly, such “testing” will not be available to Frenchmen or Austrians trying to cross into Germany.

 
In the United States, political biases have also been evident in responses to the virus. Republicans are stressing the dire economic consequences of the shutdown and warn about doing irreparable destruction to our material well-being. Republicans have also played down gloomy predictions about the possible spread of the pandemic and note its obviously disproportionate impact on different sections of the country. Sometimes these messages downplay what is still a serious health problem. One might also notice that much of the party’s base consists of the owners of small businesses. Republicans are also trying to win over a working class that is now sitting home and which the Democrats have abandoned in favor of intersectional politics. Still and all, the warnings from economically concerned Republicans seem motivated by something other than partisan opportunism or, as in the German case, exercises in virtue-signaling. 
 
In an interview with Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York two nights ago one heard what has become a characteristically leftist combination of panic and complaints about insufficient action from the Trump administration. DeBlasio begins by telling us that half of the reported Corona cases in the U.S. have come from the New York City area. But this, he maintains, has nothing to do with anything peculiar to New York (for example, that it’s a sanctuary city loaded with illegals in which the residents are densely packed together). The virus will eventually reach the rest of the country and possibly infect many millions of people, with a severity comparable to what has been seen in New York City. DeBlasio also called for a large National Guard presence throughout the country, as a first step toward dealing with a health crisis that may go on for years. 
 
True to the maxim of Democratic operative Rahm Emmanuel about “never letting a crisis go to waste,” Democrats in Congress have put together a relief package for the virus that includes all their trademark identitarian fixations. Their bill proposal called for the creation of more “diverse” corporate boards and generous allowances for “women’s health providers” (read: abortion mills). The Democratic proposal also provided for $25 million for the Kennedy Center and $350 million for what are mostly sanctuary cities that are in violation of federal law. Republican senators have already caved on these last two outrageous demands. At the beginning of February, presidential candidate Joe Biden denounced President Trump as xenophobic for stopping flights to and from Corona-infested China. More recently, however, Biden, with an assist from the friendly media, has assailed Trump for not doing enough to contain the virus. Presumably if Democrats were running the show, they would be combatting the virus more efficiently, perhaps by filling our country with military personnel while pandering to their grievance constituency. 
 
This brings me back to how the Democrats dealt with epidemics the last time they controlled the White House. In 2009 and 2010 a Swine Flu epidemic infected millions of Americans and killed over 12,000 of them. It took Obama almost six months to declare this problem to be a national emergency. His response was belated and sluggish compared to what Trump has done in engaging the current health crisis. The media reacted to Obama’s lethargic response with generous sympathy for their favorite chief executive. 
Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried is Editor in Chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.

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