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How Trumpism Succeeded While The Establishment – Left AND Right – Failed in the Pandemic Response


Let’s begin with an understanding: the Wuhan-virus was the rare public crisis without a sufficient body of peer reviewed research to form the sorts of crystalline policy white papers issued at places like the Hoover Institution.

Like Trumpism itself, it was an unforeseen phenomenon where common sense, life experience, and the ability to construct theories of human motivation would identify the truly insightful.

The latter point was especially key in the initial stage of the outbreak.

Vanity Fair has noted that President Trump’s earliest and most ardent supporters were the first to express public alarm over the coronavirus.

In January, Jack Posobiec – a reporter for One American News Network – reported that China was taking extraordinary measures to contain a virus that was causing death in the Wuhan province.

He called for a China travel ban on January 22.  The same day,  Sen. Tom Cotton sent a letter to Alex Azar, Secretary of HHS, urging immediate action “to prevent the virus from becoming a pandemic.”

On January 24, Posobiec and OANN would broadcast the leaked cell phone footage from inside China showing the crackdown.

Posobiec also appeared that day on the newly launched War Room: Pandemic podcast with my editor at The National Pulse, Raheem Kassam, to sound the alarm, calling the events in China “the biggest story in the world.”

Tucker Carlson also hit the Wuhan-virus early and often from his mega-platform on Fox.

The mainstream media ignored the elephant in the room until Trump himself issued the travel ban on January 31.  Then the media interrupted impeachment coverage only to allow the president’s opponents to call him xenophobic.

Rather than occupy the political high ground always ceded to the first to sound an alarm, however, a vocal, powerful, entrenched establishment on the political right refused to admit that the virus was a big deal. 

Pandemic was converted into anti-left polemic as soon as enough facts could be cherry picked to say, “Relax, this whole thing is a plot against you.”

The talking point that emerged was the virus was either just the flu, or no different than the Swine Flu outbreak during the Obama administration – and any attempt to cast it as something more was a sinister flanking maneuver against President Trump’s successes.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

The purveyors of this dreck pander to their audiences by telling them what they want to hear, skipping blissfully into conspicuous traps on this and other issues.

Obviously, the Left was going to use the virus against Trump.  But the way to parry that was not to downplay the outbreak.  Politically, that position – though it gained clicks in February – was going to bite the entire Trump movement in the ass by March.

And it did.  The best gotchas the Democrats will have in their anti-Trump ads before the election will be some of the casual things notable Republicans said about the virus in February.

Trump’s response will be that he banned travel from China in January, which none of those establishment voices had asked him to do. Trumpism will owe its survival in November to those who issued the first warnings.

Score one for the asymmetrical thinkers on the Right who are not beholden to ideology or their place in the “promote my book, please!” hierarchy that some have appropriately called “Conservative, Inc.”

There is only one way to fight a pandemic, and it is not unlike fighting a war. Experts must intervene and develop coordinated strategy to save lives.

That is a problem for Trumpism, which at its heart is a movement against Washington know-it-alls who have ruined everything they touched for half a century.

Displaying typical inertia, Washington’s massive existing federal bureaucracies downplayed the outbreak and did not offer coordinated plans to battle it.

President Trump was left to create his own, ad-hoc group of advisors on January 29, whom he would call a Task Force.

The strategy chosen involved extreme social distancing and a de facto shut down of the economy. The purpose was to slow the spread of the virus so that the health care system could treat the sick.

There was really no alternative. Had Trump ignored his experts and formulated a different plan – keeping everything open, for instance – and if Americans were left gagging for air in hospital hallways, it would have been a national disgrace.

Trump’s working-class supporters have quietly borne the brunt of the shutdown. Unlike members of Congress, they have to show up for work to get paid.

President Trump is compelled, by his obligations to them, to loosen coronavirus restrictions as soon as he can, and he seems to know that.

As all choices in life, this decision cannot be left completely to the doctors. Drs. Birx and Fauci are being asked to solve a medical problem, and they are giving a “lose 50 pounds and don’t eat fatty foods” recommendation of the type Americans commonly ignore without dying.

At some point the President will have to save America by disagreeing with his doctors.

One of the incidental benefits of shutdown has been the accumulation of data, meaning the next series of moves will be better informed than what came previously. There is reason to hope that the virus is seasonal and a vaccine may be ready in time for its reemergence in the fall.

New York hospitals reached surge capacity but did not go over it. That is a massive policy win. President Trump is now moving to reopen the economy with reasonable restrictions.

If any state governors disagree, that’s on them. President Trump appropriately led the nation into these austere measures, and he was required – as soon as possible – to begin the process of leading us out.

Thomas J. Farnan

Thomas J. Farnan is an attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in Forbes and he is a regular contributor to and the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @tfarnanlaw.

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