Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Paul Krugman: We Should Help Workers, Not Kill Them

Unemployment benefits: an unheralded success story.

As far as I can tell, most epidemiologists are horrified by America’s rush to reopen the economy, to abandon much of the social distancing that has helped contain Covid-19. We know what a safe reopening requires: a low level of infection, abundant testing and the ability to quickly trace and isolate the contacts of new cases. We don’t have any of those things yet.

The epidemiologists could, of course, be mistaken. But at every stage of this crisis they’ve been right, while predictions of a quick end to the pandemic by politicians and their minions have proved utterly wrong. And if the experts are right again, premature opening could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths — and backfire even in economic terms, as a second wave of infections forces us back into lockdown.

So where is the push to reopen coming from?

Some of it comes from right-wing crazies. Only a small minority of Americans believes that freedom includes the right to endanger other people’s lives (which is what congregating in large groups in the midst of a pandemic does); that wearing a mask is un-American, or unmanly, or something; that Covid-19 is a hoax perpetrated by liberals. But that minority has huge influence within the Republican Party.

Some of it comes from Donald Trump’s obsession with the stock market. His initial refusal to do anything to prepare for the pandemic reportedly reflected concern that any acknowledgment of the threat would “spook the market.” And the push to reopen may similarly reflect a belief that going back to normal life would be good for the market, even if it kills many people. Let’s die for the Dow!

Michelle Goldberg: The Phony Coronavirus Class War

Defiance of public health directives has become a mark of right-wing identity.

“Yeah, I’m going to do the laser and the filler,” said a woman at a wine bar, looking forward to cosmetic dermatology. “When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics — I’m not worried,” said a man lounging in a plaza.

Only one person was quoted expressing trepidation: a masked clerk in a shoe store. “I live an hour away and was driving in this morning, only me on the road, and I was thinking, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’” she said.

Lately some commentators have suggested that the coronavirus lockdowns pit an affluent professional class comfortable staying home indefinitely against a working class more willing to take risks to do their jobs. [..]

Donald Trump and his allies have polarized the response to the coronavirus, turning defiance of public health directives into a mark of right-wing identity. Because a significant chunk of Trump’s base is made up of whites without a college degree, there are naturally many such people among the lockdown protesters.

But it’s a mistake to treat the growing ideological divide over when and how to reopen the country as a matter of class rather than partisanship. The push for a faster reopening, even in places where coronavirus cases are growing, has significant elite support. And many of those who face exposure as they’re ordered back to work are rightly angry and terrified.

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s attempts to smear Obama could backfire spectacularly

President Trump’s increasingly frantic attempts to smear former president Barack Obama reek of panic. As disgusting as these efforts are, they are likely to backfire, perhaps in spectacular fashion.

Late last month, according to widely published reports, Trump’s campaign aides presented him with internal polling that showed him losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the key swing states. The aim was to get Trump to curtail his unhinged daily novel coronavirus briefings, and he grudgingly complied. But he also launched an all-out attack on Obama and his legacy — a gambit that should cause GOP candidates nationwide to lose sleep.

Polls show the Republican Party in danger of losing not only the presidency but also the Senate in November. A key element of the party’s strategy for remaining in power is using the made-up specter of “voter fraud” to depress Democratic turnout. You will recall that if Hillary Clinton had squeezed just a total of 80,000 more votes out of three Democratic strongholds — Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia — she would now be campaigning for reelection and Trump would be just another Twitter troll.

In those cities, and across the nation, African American turnout in 2016 was lower than Democrats had hoped for and expected. But there is one political figure who has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to bring black voters to the polls in tidal-wave numbers: Obama.

Charles M. Blow: Obama Lives in Trump’s Head

The president feels the need to shower lies and blame upon his predecessor.

No one irritates Donald Trump quite like Barack Obama.

Trump’s run for president was in part triggered by his enmity for Obama, his desire to one-up him, and he has performed his presidency as a singularly focused attempt at Obama erasure, dismantling what he can of what Obama built and undoing policies Obama instituted.

Obama is everything that Trump is not: intellectual, articulate, adroit, contemplative and cool. He also happens to be a black man. The fact that he could not only ascend to the height of power but also the heights of celebrity and adoration vexed Trump.

Trump set about to demonstrate that none of that mattered, none of it could supersede the talents of a confident counterfeit. He convinced himself that Obama was the convenient recipient of affirmative action adulation from a world thirsty for racial recompense, an assuaging of white guilt. [,,]

Trump is trying to make Obama his Willie Horton, the black criminal George Bush successfully used as a racial cudgel in his race against Michael Dukakis in 1988. Trump believes that there is a seesaw mechanism to his political fortunes: If he can drag someone down, it will lift him up.

For now, that person is Obama, the man who lives in Trump’s head, who stalks his dreams, the countervailing symbol to Trump’s deficiencies.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump’s war on masks: It’s working — at least with his base

Trump supporters are eagerly trashing masks and social-distancing rules. Will we all pay the price for this folly?

On Saturday night, Eric Trump appeared on Fox News and, ignoring the nearly 1.5 million people who’ve been infected and the nearly 90,000 dead — more than that, by the time you read this — made a startling declaration: “After Nov. 3, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.” He added, “They’re trying to deprive [Donald Trump] of his greatest asset … the fact that he can go out there and draw massive crowds.” [..]

But it’s no surprise to hear the president’s second son going all-in on rhetoric meant to minimize the threat of the coronavirus. While the White House officially recognizes that the coronavirus is real — for a time, Trump even tried to play “wartime president,” before he found out that controlling a pandemic was real work and gave up — the president’s true feelings are clear: He wants everyone to pretend this pandemic isn’t happening, because he thinks that’s his best bet for re-election. So he showily refuses to wear a mask in public, inflames protests against stay-at-home orders and whines in public that coronavirus testing makes him “look bad” by recording the spread of the virus.

For a short while, there were reasons to hope, that the threat of being illness or death might outweigh the devotion to Trump among his base of supporters. Polls showed that despite Trump flirting openly with virus trutherism, Republican voters were taking the virus seriously and taking measures to stay safe. But after weeks of daily pressure from Trump, Fox News and other media outlets, Trump voters are getting the message: To show their loyalty, they must act like this pandemic is no threat at all.

At the center of this fight is the refusal to wear masks. Most Americans now wear face masks in public, out of a reasonable, science-based concern that asymptomatic people are spreading the virus. But Trump loyalists are increasingly making a big deal out of how anti-mask they are, both to show contempt for those who believe the virus is serious and to demonstrate their personal fealty to Trump, who himself never wears a mask.