July 31, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

New report suggests Trump chose negligent homicide as his pandemic response

Sadism often drives politics. So does masochism.

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I felt some pangs of regret after saying Thursday that a third of America would cheer, or shrug, if the other two-thirds were wiped out by Covid-19. My point was that we should vote like our lives depend on it (they do!), but no one likes hearing such ugliness about other Americans. An outraged subscriber alleged I was being “deeply cynical.” “Instead of talking about the work that needs to be done, you are sabotaging us.”

As I was thinking this through, Vanity Fair published an investigation by Katherine Eban establishing a timeline of the Trump administration’s pandemic response. In the early stages, the White House task force, led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, decided a national approach was best. “Simply working together as a nation on it ‘would have put us in a fundamentally different place,’” said Eban’s source.

While the president chose to let Americans who live in blue states get sick and die, Congressional Republicans chose to starve those same cities and states of needed resources.

By early April, things changed. Donald Trump, fearing its effect on the economy and Wall Street, minimized the reality of the virus while accusing his enemies and the press corps of hyping its dangers to wound him. Kushner’s team, along with GOP leaders and their media allies, followed suit. “Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert.”

Over time, Kushner’s team convinced itself that the pandemic was not affecting Republican voters. A national approach, therefore, wasn’t needed. Trump downplayed the body count even as he accused Democratic governors of failing to stop its rise. (Ohio and Massachusetts, among the early pandemic states, have GOP governors, but I digress.) “Because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. ‘The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,’ said the expert” (emphasis is mine).

Here’s the tip jar! Put something nice in it!

During this period, it bears remembering, the president pushed the US Congress to stabilize the economy by shoving billions into it. While GOP allies got preferential access to $2.2 trillion in stimulus, cities and states run by Democrats got nothing—despite being on the front lines of a national pandemic. Democrats in the US House have since passed a bill to replace lost revenues, and then some, but the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, maintains there will be no “blue-state bailout.” The Senate’s latest proposal, which is standing idle while senators are away for August recess, has no appropriations for cites and states, even deep-red Republican ones.

What does this mean? While the president chose to let Americans who live in blue states get sick and die, Congressional Republicans chose to starve those same cities and states of resources amid their struggle to save lives. Given that elected officials, from the president on down, tend to reflect the will of their supporters, it’s safe to say, in light of Trump’s 91 percent approval rating among Republicans (per Gallup), that about a third of America approves of the GOP’s informal policy of negligent homicide. It may sound cynical, but truth is, the pleasure other people’s pain often drives politics.

Paying so much attention to sadism runs the risk of ignoring its opposite: masochism. Some Republican voters are willing to hurt themselves, with exquisite pleasure, if hurting themselves exquisitely hurts their enemies. (A textbook example is Republican governors rejecting Obamacare’s health-insurance subsidies in order to undermine a Black president.) Even as the pandemic is rampaging through Republican-controlled states, setting records in Florida and Texas, many Republicans will never blame Trump, because if he’s wrong, the enemy is right, and the enemy can never be right.

Not all Republicans, though. As small numbers defect due to Trump’s failed leadership, they leave behind individuals still taking immense pleasure in losing themselves to the “collective power structure,” as an EB subscriber described it to me. “All they want is to continue feeling the way being part of a collective power structure makes them feel. The way Trump makes them feel.” As the group shrinks, so does that pleasure, until one day, however Trump leaves office, MAGA addicts will “crash, many with their entire senses of self having been stripped away. It’s not their ‘evil’ that worries me most. It’s their anguish, and how they will respond to that anguish.”

The collective trauma that’s coming from millions being forced to go cold turkey? And the fact that nearly every one of us on Team Blue is out of empathy for anyone who supported him? That is what should scare the shit out of everyone.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. David Mikulec on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    “…a third of America would cheer, or shrug, if the other two-thirds were wiped out by Covid-19.”

    I’m sorry some readers got their underpants in a wad over that statement but it appears to be quite true. Do a Google search on the BLM march that very recently occurred in the tiny Kentucky town of Grayson, KY. The racists showed up armed to the teeth and stood on rooftops with the weapons trained down on protest marchers. They’re due again there tomorrow. This is happening all across America but it’s not getting the coverage it deserves.


  2. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    I’d say we team blue folks should read an reread President Obama’s speech at John Lewis’ funeral yesterday. I’m sure if I responded to the way I feel about #45 and his admirers I’d do and say some things to some folks I’d regret. Better to follow John Lewis example.

    • John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

      Not me… when the time comes i’m stepping on some RED necks. I will cheers as they bleed out. I will; jump for joy as they expire…

      And don’t flatter your self with the Lewis example. He was changing a system – Jim Crow – we will be CRUSHING NAZIS. I will gleefully watch them burn. D-Day was not a sit in. We need to exterminate MAGAts.

  3. RUArmyNavyMominTX on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Anyone who states the obvious “…a third of America would cheer, or shrug, if the other two -thirds were wiped out by Covid-19…” risks blowback. But like racism, social justice, misogyny, and every other ill, denying it doesn’t make it go away, just underground. So, shine a light and shout about it; we need to confront the evil to destroy it.

  4. John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Do not kid yourself or pretend MAGA is the Raj or Jim Crow. It’s not. It is NAZISM and must BE FOUGHT and PULVERIZED.


  5. Simmons on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Truth sometimes leaves a mark.

  6. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    potus is “stupid”/”a fool” based on Bonhoeffer’s statement Stoehr posted earlier. An earlier translation from the German of that statement is “fool” and the later one is the one you used vis. “stupid”. Bonhoeffer was a pacifist but willingly and yet with feelings of guilt took part in an effort to assassinate Hitler but not Hitler’s NAZI associates. Unfortunately B. was apprehended and finally executed just as the war was ending. I do not think it is possible for us to crush evil. Yes we must expose and resisted but we will destroy it. A well known prayer says, “deliver us from evil”. That’s the way I see it at the present time.

  7. hw on July 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    I believe that we are dealing with overlapping triggers for the behaviors we are witnessing: racism, xenophobia, the replacement of religion with Trumpism, impotence over income inequality redirected by Fox propaganda at Democrats vs the true source of their misery (corporate greed exacerbated by the GOP). Trump has allowed his supporters to believe that they are supporting a movement, something that gives their life meaning. It’s a con game, of course, but I don’t believe that a Trump 2020 loss will result in rage. Rather, Trump’s base will follow him into his next con. Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo, and Ted Cruz are among those who have transformed themselves into variants of Trumpism. Will Trump’s supporters fall in line with an alt-right party or is their devotion limited to Trump himself? If Trump establishes an alternative media empire as is likely the case, will his base desert Fox to follow him? If the latter, Trump has the ability to further erode democracy even if he loses the election. Then what? At what point do we reexamine the breadth of our 1st Amendment rights? We cannot expect to have a functioning society when social media platforms, Fox, and talk radio spew hate and division 24/7. Trump’s supporters are responsible for their choices, but without stopping the flow of oxygen reinforcing prejudice and sowing discord, we are only addressing a symptom and not the underlying cause.

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