When it comes to the pandemic, the NC political right should #StoptheStupid

When it comes to the pandemic, the NC political right should #StoptheStupid

- in Top Story, Weekly Briefing
Image: Adobe Stock

#StoptheStupid. That zinger of a Twitter hashtag recently drew national headlines after Michigan Republican congressman Paul Mitchell used it in a public plea to President Trump to cease his baseless, irresponsible and destructive claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

One hopes it will make an impact – especially since it’s a prayer that could be applied to a host of foolish stances taken by Trump and his allies around the country in recent months, most notably with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take, for instance, some of the inhabitants of Right-wing Avenue here in North Carolina.

Having watched the near decade-long gubernatorial campaign of soon-to-be-retired Lt. Gov. Dan Forest be reduced to a smoldering wreckage  – thanks in large part to the candidate’s utterly ignorant and reckless pandemic denialism – you’d think these people might have grasped that spreading untruths and rosy fantasies is not the smartest approach for dealing with a deadly and unprecedented public health crisis.

Unfortunately, that lesson seems not to have sunk in just yet in a lot of places – even to the people in and around the Forest camp.

This troubling truth was displayed yesterday in an essay posted to the conservative website Longleaf Politics by Andrew Dunn, who served as the communications director for Forest’s campaign. Dunn entitled the essay “The Governor Who Cried Wolf” and in it he launched several broadsides at Gov. Cooper for, as he sees it, wrongfully stoking public fears about virus that’s infected more than 360,000 North Carolinians and killed more than 5,000.

According to Dunn, Cooper has rendered North Carolinians “numb” and caused them to stop paying attention. Gov. Cooper has “squandered his credibility,” Dunn wrote, by treating the crisis as an ongoing emergency and not providing enough upbeat messages about a positive future.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that Gov. Cooper has issued repeated statements of confidence and encouragement, calling for all of us to pull together as a community, the essay left a reader wondering as to what manner of public emergency would be sufficiently serious to spur Dunn and his easily distracted fellow travelers to maintain their focus. Would 10,000 dead North Carolinians do the trick? How about 20,000? Would they have grown bored with weekly updates from the nation’s leadership during World War II?

One also wonders whether Dunn has expressed similar “crying wolf” sentiments to his boss regarding the incessant claims made by longtime Forest top lieutenant Hal Weatherman. For several years, Weatherman tried to stoke fears about the supposed existential threat to American domestic security posed by the spread of “radical Islam.”

Sadly but not surprisingly, Dunn’s misguided assessment is far from the only preposterous recent take on the pandemic authored by a member of the state’s right-wing political literati.

Just a few weeks ago, for instance, Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation authored an embarrassingly ill-informed post in which – we are not making this up – he spent 800-plus words vehemently denouncing Gov. Cooper and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen for urging North Carolinians to wear masks.

According to Sanders, Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen (as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC and scores of reputable and respected global public health experts) are all completely wrong. Instead, they are bent on a diabolical plot to control people’s lives for no good reason other than that they feel like it. As the essay noted in conclusion: “’Because We Said So’ is the unscientific answer from an administration grown far too comfortable in ordering people about.”

Earth to the North Carolina political right: The crisis we’ve been weathering for the past nearly nine months is just that – a deadly serious and, in all likelihood, once-in-a-lifetime crisis. It was not something that Gov. Cooper or Dr. Cohen manufactured in order to control your paranoid lives.

As the desultory performances of President Trump and several conservative governors around the country have plainly demonstrated, where and when the virus gets downplayed, more people get sick and die and, ultimately, the economy suffers even more. Where and when leaders remain more vigilant, enact strong public health policies, and speak bluntly and regularly, the results are better.

If anything, it seems likely that Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen would have been even more aggressive in their directives had they not found themselves forced to contend with Trump’s outrageous irresponsibility and the resistance to sound health policies he spurred in his supporters.

The bottom line: Anyone paying even a modest degree of attention can see clearly that there is no single act that Gov. Cooper or Dr. Cohen would enjoy more than stepping to a microphone to announce that the pandemic has been overcome and that life can return to something close to “normal.”

What’s more, it’s one of the great tragedies of our time that the people carping loudest about their performance have almost certainly helped to delay the arrival of such a joyous event.

#StoptheStupid indeed.