Egan: How Republicans became the party of death

Photo by Evan Vucci of The Associated Press / President Donald Trump listens during a demonstration of ways NASA is helping to combat the coronavirus in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Friday, April 24, 2020, in Washington.

I look at the numbers every day, sometimes every hour, sometimes before dawn. China is not to be trusted. Nor is Russia. I'm always curious about the latest death toll out of Sweden, a country with a riskier, more self-regulated approach to keeping people apart. And cheers for long-suffering bell'Italia, finally seeing a drop in active COVID-19 cases.

All of us want the same thing - a road map to the way out. The scientific consensus is clear and not that complicated: We need a significant upgrade of testing, contact tracing to track the infected, nuanced and dutiful social isolation, all to buy time until a vaccine is developed.

But the political way out reveals a stark divide, and some true madness. For Republicans, that pro-life slogan of theirs is just another term for nothing left to lose. They are now the party of death.

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas doubled down last week on previous remarks elevating commerce above life - There are "more important things than living," he said on Fox News - he was speaking for a significant slice of his party. People are disposable. So is income. But one is more important.

I'm not talking about the trade-offs that governors are making daily, trying to save businesses and countless jobs, while nursing homes and meatpacking plants remain killing fields.

But the lies spread by the crackpot media wing of the GOP, led by President Donald Trump's favorite radio host, Rush Limbaugh, can be lethal. COVID-19 has killed more Americans in a month than the flu kills in a year. Yet Limbaugh has compared it to a common cold or seasonal flu.

For the majority of state leaders, who favor listening to medical authorities rather than political hacks, Attorney General William Barr has threatened legal action if they err too cautiously on the side of public health. His Justice Department may have to intervene, he said, to help businesses that "need more freedom."

Trump's open-for-business cheerleading will cause many more deaths. Even Robert Redfield, Trump's whipsawed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that Trump's tweets about "liberating" states now on medical lockdown were "not helpful." These are code words for crazy.

Given that Trump is an Alpha male simpleton with no filter, it's never difficult to find the true motive behind his tactics. As he has said, he wants all the authority and none of the responsibility. If we lose a quarter-million Americans, it's the fault of governors running their respective shows. If the number is far less, it's because he took charge.

Who wouldn't love to bring back the buzz and vigor of normal life? I miss everything, from the Neapolitan pizza joint to my perpetually losing baseball team, to hugs and high-fives, even security lines at the airport. I wish we were getting close to herd immunity, when a large enough percentage of the population has contracted the disease that it nearly stops the spread.

I was initially encouraged by the studies out of California which, though flawed, showed through antibody tests that the number of people who may have contracted the coronavirus was far greater than the official tally of confirmed cases. This would indicate that the actual mortality rate is much lower than the body count.

The problem is that even if the higher number were true, more than 95% of the population is still vulnerable. The number of people who would die in order to get to herd immunity would be unfathomable.

When I think about how many doctors and nurses, how many cops, firefighters and other first responders, how many grocery store clerks and delivery people, how many parents and grandparents would lose their lives to get to that immunity threshold, I realize there's only one choice.

That is: to err on the side of life. Lucky for us, most Americans already feel that way. Most Americans expect no quick fix. Most Americans are willing to be patient. And if this holds, most Americans will reject the party of death in November.

The New York Times