Watching the continuation, if not deepening, of political polarization in this country during the Covid-19 pandemic is maddening. I expected the opposite. A deadly, common enemy should unite us. And yet, depending on your source of news and political persuasion, you are likely to have a very different narrative about the coronavirus, its impact, and how we should act to defeat it.
This makes no sense, especially for a problem rooted in cold, hard data like an infectious disease. Numbers do not lie, but people armed with statistics and an agenda can lie. Our brains are not wired to comprehend exponential growth. Nor are we able to understand why tiny changes in predictive models result in huge discrepancies in the outcome. These models are helpful, even if they over/under estimate the number of infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. Why not prepare for the worst and hope for the best?
On one side, we have a crowd who believe stay-at-home mandates and business closures are a gross overreaction. Protestors storm state capitals demanding to return to their jobs, ignoring the risk of spreading a highly infectious virus for which we have little treatment, no vaccine, and no immunity. A hairdresser in Dallas kept her salon open until she was thrown in jail. A popular FoxNews personality questioned whether there was in scientific evidence to support social distancing. (Hint: there is).
Elected officials face two losing propositions –
1. act early, save lives, and be accused of overreacting
2. act too late, lose more lives, and be blamed for their deaths.
If faced with this decision, I would choose the first option every single time.
But the United States did not act early. We fumbled our two months of advance warning. Our tests did not work. We were flying blind while the disease spread to every state and locality. This is the reason we have the highest number of total deaths and one of the highest numbers of per capita deaths of any nation in the world.
On the other side, we have the doomsday-ers and panic mode charlatans. Anyone who dares to leave their home or question the damage these shutdowns are doing to our economy is branded a murderous traitor. Governors who allow businesses to reopen with safety protocols in place are risking everyone’s lives for political points. If we dare to reunite our children with their grandparents, we are irresponsible disease spreaders.
But many states have smaller outbreaks of Covid-19. Within states, there are areas where the disease is so minimal that hospitals are empty as well as shuttered restaurants. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
So remdesivir is for Democrats and hydroxychloroquine is for Conservatives? Sorry, new to Twitter…
— Downtown Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker) April 16, 2020
This tweet sums it all up. Despite no scientific study finding evidence that hydroxychloroquine helped patients recover from Covid-19, Facebook posts and chain emails touted it as a miracle cure. Meanwhile, last week we get the promising news that remdesivir shows positive results. Why was this ever a political issue?
When the pandemic came to my door, I immediately dropped my politics. I just want us to make it through this crisis, and I pray for good decision-making from all elected leaders. Because we are at war with a virus, and I want to win THAT war, not the political war. And I don’t care if a politician I dislike gets credit for it. I just want to win.
Why does anyone need to “win” a political argument?
We all win if we beat Covid-19. We are all on the same team. I am baffled that we are failing miserably to understand that.