We all know the story by now. Voices on the far-right telling Americans in January, February and most of March that the coronavirus was nothing to worry about. It was a hoax perpetrated by Democrats in order to undermine their hero, Pres. Trump. The coronavirus was nothing more than a flu. You might get a few sniffles. Even then it was nothing to worry about.
This was the common theme across almost the entire far-right landscape.
Glenn Beck and Dan Patrick, the Lt. Gov. of Texas basically arguing it was OK for old people to die in order to save the economy. Jerry Falwell, the cretin leader of Liberty College starting up classes again against all good advice. Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram and Lou Dobbs on Fox News denouncing anyone who said this was a serious crisis.
Far-right minions like Bill Mitchell or Dennis Prager faithfully following their leader down the garden path. There could be no question of their loyalty to their feckless and ignorant president.
Even to the very writing this column, the dregs of the far-right, the very bottom feeders are still at it. Representative Devin Nunes said Tuesday, March 31 that closing the schools in California was a bad idea and did not need to be done. Never mind the rising death toll in California. Nunes long ago proved himself to be little more than a boil on Donald Trump’s butt and almost anything he says on any subject is completely ridiculous. He’s even starting to make Rep. Louis Gohmert from Texas seems sensible. And who would have thought that could ever happen.
And then there’s the issue of the value of science. For many years, the far-right did everything in its power to denigrate the value of science in the eyes of the American people. Whether it was climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, anti-evolutionists or even those who still said the Earth was flat, people with these ridiculous beliefs were often treated seriously by even mainstream media as were those scientists who had studied and researched these issues their entire lives.
Scientists who presented cold, hard facts about issues like the environment or clean air or clean water were merely elite snobs. And since the scientists often said things that the “low information voter” – let’s be honest, stupid people – did not like to hear these right-wing pariahs had a willing audience.
As Dave Roberts wrote for Grist a decade ago:
The right’s project over the last 30 years has been to dismantle the post-war liberal consensus by undermining trust in society’s leading institutions. Experts are made elites; their presumption of expertise becomes self-damning. They think they’re better than you. They talk down to you. They don’t respect people like us, real Americans. … The decline in trust in institutions has generated fear and uncertainty, to which people generally respond by placing their trust in protective authorities. And some subset of people respond with tribalism, nationalism, and xenophobia. The right … offer[s] a space to huddle in safety among the like-minded. The conservative movement in America has created a self-contained, hermetically sealed epistemological reality … designed not just as a source of alternative facts but as an identity.
How difficult it must be for them now to swallow their own bile when it comes to the value of science. Oh, they have still tried to undermine the data. They tried to depict Dr. Anthony Fauci as nothing more than another puppet of that deep state, especially ignorant know-nothings like Bill Mitchell. But he was not alone. I wonder how they’ll spin the deaths of 100,000 or 200,000 Americans in their fevered and fetid imaginations?
Let’s also look at the role of the government. I was reminded of the statement of Grover Norquist that he wanted government to be small enough that he could drown it in the bathtub. I’m wondering how Grover feels these days when the only thing that’s preventing this pandemic from killing 2.2 million Americans are state politicians and the people who work for the various levels of government that Norquist and his far-right fifth columnists tried to destroy.
I think several things will happen as a result of Covid-19 in a few months. The first will be the defeat of Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. The next will be a much greater appreciation of the role the government plays in the day-by-day lives of Americans. No one wants a huge, lumbering government that goes in the places where it shouldn’t be. We do need a government, however, that is big enough to respond nationally to things like a pandemic and deal with it efficiently and quickly.
The other important development will be a greater appreciation of for science. It won’t change much in the far-right. Those people will still have their guns, God and conspiracy theories and that’s what they’ll believe in. But for people in the middle, and perhaps the media, things will be different. They will be less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to those who would undermine science in such blatantly ridiculous ways.
And maybe the voices of those in the far-right whose actions have led and will lead to the deaths of many Americans will come to be valued less as more and more people come to see them as the grifters and charlatans they truly are.