Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson – “The Great Society”
Pursuant to my last post, I’d argue that it is unsurprising that two years ago the Trump regime disbanded a crucial National Security Council Directorate charged with responding to pandemics. (The Trump White House closed the office responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic in May 2018. In today’s Washington Post Dr. Beth Cameron describes the situation in “I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it.”)
(When asked about the closing in yesterday’s news conference Trump claimed to be unaware that this had happened. But even if he was unaware of it then, shouldn’t he know about it now?) Here’s the video:
There are many reasons I find the current fiasco of a response to this crisis unsurprising. First, the Republicans are anti-government. They have been decrying government at least since Ronald Reagan told us in his inaugural address that government is the problem. The video below may make for a nice campaign slogan, but there are many, many problems that can only be solved by the power of government—using the common wealth to take collective action in the interests of us all. Of course, Republicans won’t hesitate to use that governmental power to transfer wealth and power to the already wealthy and powerful.
Second, Republicans hate democracy and will do whatever they can to gerrymander, suppress voting, and the like. Third, the Republican party, as Mann and Ornstein put it, is a radical outlier in American political history “best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.” Fourth, the Trump regime has done everything possible to replace experts with sycophants in every agency in government. Fifth, Republicans want to cut or undermine anything that might help ordinary people—such as expanding Medicaid under the ACA. This list could go on and on.
But I’d like to focus on this issue of disbanding an office dedicated to fighting pandemics as an examplar of the potentially catastrophic results for all of us of the modern-day Republican Party. (We could also use climate change, environmental degradation or other threats to civilization to explain how Republicans threaten our very survival. Noam Chomsky has explained clearly why the Republican party is the most dangerous organization in world history.) Why then do Republicans invite these catastrophes?
It is well-established that the US government—especially when under the influence of Republicans—responds to the wealthy and powerful and is deaf to the concerns of ordinary citizens. Once you understand this basic principle it is easy to see why an office dedicated to a government’s response to a pandemic—which benefits all of us and not only the wealthy—wouldn’t be backed to the extent that issues only affecting the wealthy would. Why, for instance, have Republicans have done everything possible to subvert and dismantle the ACA, which helps ordinary citizens gain quality health care? Because insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies profit from the current system.
The reason for all this is that a Republican Party-led government simply doesn’t care much about ordinary citizens unless doing so helps them maintain their power or they find that their own interests converge with those of the masses. (Given the present pandemic, they may now be discovering that it is in their interest to make sure others have access to health care, aren’t infected, stay home from work, receive sick pay, etc. That we really are all in this together.) But generally, they respond almost exclusively to the wealthy wanting tax cuts, the military-industrial complex wanting profitable contracts, corporations wanting to eviscerate the environmental protection, etc.
This is so obvious it hardly needs to be stated. (Yes, Democrats also fall victim to their corporate overseers but not to the extent that Republicans do. To claim otherwise commits the fallacy of false equivalence.) Republicans will sacrifice anything—including the health and safety of their citizens—to appease their wealthy and corporate masters with tax cuts and other favors. The Democrats try to get the people affordable health care, a living wage, a clean environment, etc. (The historian Thomas Frank explained much of this years ago in What’s the Matter with Kansas?)
So here is how I’d explain all this to the non-rich and powerful Trump supporters.
The fiasco regarding the current pandemic primarily results from having Republicans—who don’t believe in government—in charge of government. Republicans may throw red meat to incite you against intellectuals or gays or immigrants or atheists or feminists or environmentalists or socialists or Muslims, or whoever. But they scapegoat these others so that you don’t turn on them and their wealthy masters. The powerful want to remain powerful so they divide the people who could otherwise unite and challenge that power.
So yes they may hate the people you hate. But what you can be sure of is that they will never give you things that actually help you like the Democrats do—the social security and unemployment insurance of FDR’s New Deal; the Medicare and Medicaid of LBJ’s Great Society; or the Affordable Care Act of Barack Obama. And they will disband any offices and agencies designed to contain pandemics.