Most would agree a global pandemic demands a decisive governmental response to avoid an economic & health catastrophe. Unfortunately, for many Americans, federal overreach of any kind triggers fears of a socialist dictatorship.
In recent days, President Trump has been forced to table emergency measures in order to mitigate the worst effects of the outbreak: cash bailouts for struggling industry, tax deferrals, hospital reimbursements for the uninsured, and universal sick pay for those struck down with the virus. There is even a plan to send $1,000 checks to every American citizen. These economic directives, along with the necessary restrictions placed on freedom of movement, have caused many to worry that a unique form of left-wing thinking is infecting the American government, under the guise of so-called ‘disaster socialism’.
“This is what SOCIALISM looks like,” tweeted one right-wing pastor. “Govt restricts crowd sizes. Where do we get food & toilet paper? Govt schools closed. Waiting for our instructions. Fear to leave home for anything.”
“I'll be very intrigued to see Trump rail against socialism when his Administration was the first to propose cutting a check to every American,” tweeted Democratic congressional candidate Christopher J. Hale. “I guess we're all socialists now!”
Hale is right, the irony would be rather stark.
By and large, conservatives believe that government overreach is the arch-enemy of US prosperity, entrepreneurship and freedom. The message at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was clear: socialism is a disease, and it needs killing off before it can do any real damage to the American way of life. Ironically, as the speakers railed against what they believe to be a defunct, distorted and pathogenic ideology, a deadly disease of the upper respiratory tract, Covid-19, began to emerge as a primary global threat which could, in theory, tear a gaping hole in the American economy and claim thousands of lives in the process.
Of course, socialism evokes concerns beyond the stifling of a successful free market economy.Also on rt.com The Democrats are weaponizing Covid-19 against Trump to do what Russiagate & impeachment could not
“Our view is it’s not capitalism versus socialism, because socialism isn’t just about economics,” CPAC’s Matt Schlapp said early in the conference. “Socialism, we believe, gets to the very core of violating the dignity of the individual human being that has God-given rights.”
Perhaps, though, these concerns are not applicable to government responses under the shadow of Covid-19. We must remember that aside from the potential for economic meltdown, the collective risk to the vulnerable and infirm is enormously grave. As such, the government must take radical action in order to minimize deaths and save the country from financial ruin.
That’s not enough to convince conservative activist and pundit Candace Owens. “We’ve got conservatives who have been screaming about the necessity for individual freedom, for free market and capitalism, almost transforming into socialists overnight in terms of what they want the government to do to solve this issue,” she said in a recent periscope broadcast. “Every person that I follow and respect deeply is suddenly making the emotional arguments that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes about why we need to give up our rights and freedoms.”
“I’m very confused about that,” Owens added, before saying that the government was “out of touch with reality” for asking Americans to self-isolate.
“This situation has revealed to me who is actually conservative, and who is just a conservative until they are scared, and then they go running to the government,” she added in a tweet.
This is wildly misguided. Why? Because the circumstances are unprecedented. For the next few months at least, conservatives would be wise to view Covid-19 as the real enemy, not socialism. With the spread showing no sign of slowing, relief policy should be trumping staunch ideological positioning, and conservatism must remain flexible and responsive to the reality of such a unique situation.
There is no doubt that in a regular and stable situation, measures as considered by the Trump administration would be classed as bread-and-butter democratic socialism at worst, and over-regulated capitalism at best. Plus, an $850-billion stimulus package sounds rather unsettling. To many free-market-championing conservatives, it’s an outrage. Simply let the unstable businesses die and other, more entrepreneurial-minded ones arise, right?
The problem is, it doesn’t matter how rock solid the particular industry might claim to be, companies simply will not be able to survive a crisis of this magnitude. And so, the government is forced to step in and help by way of necessity.
Sadly, the talking heads on various conservative outlets have whipped up many Twitter warriors into such a visceral hatred of everything left-wing that the mere notion of allocating federal funds to resuscitate the elderly is too much to swallow. It’s a government handout, they say. God forbid, it may even open up the door to a strengthened social security safety net that threatens to deduct a few more dollars from the paychecks of salary-earning Americans every month.
The simple reality is this: to many right-wing pundits, compassionate healthcare is equivalent to socialized medicine. And socialized medicine is a prerequisite to the end of self-determination and the beginning of tyranny.Also on rt.com US to China: drop dead, we get our jobs back. China’s richest man to US: here, have 1 million masks & Covid-19 test kits
In addition, most right-leaning patriots see any notion of government interventionism as distinctly anti-American due to its perceived undermining of personal autonomy. To those of a libertarian persuasion, when federal and state forces reach down into the lives of everyday Americans and tell them what to do, it elicits images of communist China: of armed hazmat suits and citizens being bundled into self-isolation boxes against their will. It’s important to note, of course, that China’s draconian measures have resulted in a significant reduction in the spread of infection. At its peak, thousands of new coronavirus infections were being diagnosed on a daily basis. On Monday, Chinese authorities recorded just one new domestic case.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised the country’s response to the outbreak, and urged other countries to emulate their strategy. “It is an epidemic that has been nipped as it was growing and stopped in its tracks,” WHO representative Dr. Gauden Galea told UN News from Beijing at the weekend. “This lesson in containment… is a lesson that other countries can learn from and adapt for their own circumstances.”
Would China be able to mobilize the personnel required to sterilize the streets, confine people to their homes and monitor the health of its population if it wasn’t such a heavily regulated communist state? Probably not. But you can be sure of one thing: in America, a large demographic will always baulk at state-mandated orders of a similar ilk, even if they are issued for their own good.
On the ground, the effects of these deep-seated attitudes are clear to see. At the weekend, a video emerged on Twitter of a group of police SUVs ordering patrons off the streets of New Orleans to reduce the risk of infection. “Large groups of people are prohibited from congregating together,” the authorities declared over loudspeaker. “Your actions are jeopardizing public health. We are asking you to go home.”
Despite the patrons completely ignoring the request, the Twitter replies erupted with ideological scaremongering. “Welcome to SOCIALISM. Have a taste and lets NEVER go back,” one person replied.
“How can the forced closure of small businesses, pause on worship, ban on travel, restriction of movement, control of purchases, and monitoring and reporting of behaviour of everyone not be concerning to the very people who constantly warn us about the dangers of totalitarianism?” asked another hardline conservative on Twitter. Candace Owens replied: “Yes. Conservatives have really lost the thread with this one. All the Left had to do was find something they were afraid of to prove that they too would give up all of their liberties for state control which is increasing every day. I continue to disagree with all of it.”
Police asking people to stop gathering in large groups for the good of public health is not a socialist takeover, nor is it unreasonable or unfair.
Interestingly, Trump - who has never been one to embrace a uniform expression of conservative libertarianism - appears to have grasped this. As part of a sweeping new set of measures aimed at stemming the spread of infection, Trump warned Americans away from gathering in groups of 10 or more. Stopping short of enforcing a national quarantine, he ordered citizens to cease eating out, to stop travelling unnecessarily and to make “critical changes and sacrifices now” for the collective good of the country and in the interest of overcoming the virus.
“We will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we’re going to have a big celebration all together,” he said.
Is this really all in the interest of compassion and care? Well, we can’t be sure. If we know anything about this president, it is that he always has one eye on the polls. Fires, floods and hurricanes -- his responses are always aimed at making him look strong, capable and in control.Also on rt.com ‘I’ll do what I want’: AOC Covid-19 spat shows Americans face same key problem in a virus crisis – OBSESSION with binary positions
The coronavirus pandemic is no different.
With the 2020 election fast approaching, the Trump administration is determined to execute a successful response, and firm interventionist measures may be the only way to do it. Trump is hell-bent on scoring political points, and if he can get a win over his detractors through the successful quelling of Covid-19, he’ll be well on his way to taking the White House for a second term.
Will there be those who continue to wince at Trump’s meddling approach during these uncertain weeks? Of course. But if by the summer coronavirus melts away and the economy remains intact, those voices will soon die out and President Trump will once again emerge as the leader who can direct his country through crisis and onward to greater prosperity.
If Trump can be victorious over a global health pandemic and display a steady hand at a time of national emergency, you can be sure that his broad church of conservative support, socialism-haters and all, will be heading to vote red at the polls this fall.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.