Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Republican Leaders Are Ginning Up The Social Distancing Protests, Not The GOP Grassroots


Noam Chomsky couldn't be more correct: Señor Trumpanzee is culpable in the deaths of thousands of Americans by using the coronavirus pandemic to boost his electoral prospects and line the pockets of big business. And he's not alone. The Republican Party is right there with him.

The memo was specifically for Louisiana, a red state with a Democratic governor, by it outlines how the GOP plans to stir up protests and undermine orders meant to stem the pandemic. I don't know if it applies to other states' Republican parties, but my guess is that it does. The talking points came from GOP operative Jay Connaughton and was addressed to state Senator Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, but has circulated to all Republican legislators in the state.

Last week Lamar White wrote at the Bayou Brief that Governor John Bel Edwards' "orders are in conformance with the guidelines issued by the White House and follow the recommendations of public health experts and medical professionals... Covid-19 has now killed more people in Louisiana than those who perished as a consequence of the Federal Flood after Hurricane Katrina. More than one out of every 1,000 residents of New Orleans have died from the virus, which had been disproportionately affected when the novel Coronavirus was first reported in the state. Since then, the pandemic has spread to all 64 parishes.
The GOP memorandum contains a series of factual distortions about the state’s response and falsely claims that Gov. Edwards’s order was made against the advice of the Trump White House. The White House actually recommended Edwards take the exact approach that he’s now implementing, telling governors to ensure their states have satisfied a set of criteria before ordering a “phased reopening.”

The Trump administration also makes it abundantly clear that plans for a phased reopening are at the “governors’ discretion,” and recommends that any phased reopening-- which could only occur after meeting the initial “gating criteria” listed below-- consider “local circumstances.” As an example, the White House distinguishes between urban areas with severe outbreaks and “rural and suburban areas where outbreaks have not occurred or have been mild.”

...Trump has repeatedly singled out Edwards, a Democrat, for his coordination with his administration, praising the governor’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic on more than one occasion. “In the case of Louisiana, we have a very good governor, John Bel Edwards, though he’s a Democrat,” Trump told Fox News.

Vice President Mike Pence also praised the state’s response under Edwards. “I have to say how proud we are, despite the heartbreaking loss of people in our community and the families who’ve lost loved ones, New Orleans has made great progress, and Louisiana has made great progress by putting the health of their neighbors first.” Pence told WWLTV on Monday.

In a list of talking points outlined in the Louisiana GOP document, legislators are encouraged to argue that they are “disappointed in the Governor’s decision to delay the restart of our economy” (emphasis added), and to share the fact that some cities in Louisiana are closer to Dallas, Jackson, and Houston” than they are to New Orleans, though the memo leaves out the words “New Orleans.”

Already, legislators have lifted passages from the memo- often verbatim- to share on social media. One of the first members to do so was Hewitt herself:

Hewitt also prompted her followers to sign a petition, which is mentioned in the memo to legislators as well, by sharing a tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, announcing the state’s decision to no longer require visitors from Louisiana self-quarantine for 14 days. Abbott’s order created an almost entirely unworkable regime that attempted to force non-commercial traffic arriving from Interstates 10 and 20 into a check-in area (in the case of I-20, the area was located nearly five miles from the state border).

“Texas Governor lifts the quarantine of Louisiana citizens entering his state, but our LA Governor keeps us locked down,” Hewitt declared, misapprehending a “stay at home order” as an order preventing citizens from traveling anywhere. The Slidell lawmaker also failed to appreciate the justification Abbott provided for eliminating the requirement, which had been widely seen as an act of political theater.

“Louisiana has done a good job of corralling the coronavirus and because their increased rate of new coronavirus cases is less than what we have in the state of Texas now, it’s important for these people who either have families who live across the Louisiana border, or they may be living in Louisiana but working in the state of Texas, or they may need to come to the state of Texas for doing business-- whatever the case may be-- it was determined by the doctors and the data that it was fine at this time for people to be able to come into the state of Texas from Louisiana,” Abbott said.

While Abbott announced he would also let Texas’s statewide “stay at home order” lapse on Thursday, his directive is phased approach, and, like Edwards’s order, it follows the guidelines set out by the White House. 200 of 254 of Texas’s counties report no deaths as a result of the virus, compared with only 10 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

Although Texas’s population is 6.1 times larger, Louisiana has reported more than three times the number of Covid-19 fatalities than the Lone Star State.
As of yesterday Louisiana was reporting 6,844 cases per million and 496 deaths per million. Texas is reporting 1,376 cases per million and 39 deaths per million. The Louisiana Republicans are counting on no one bothering to look up the numbers.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a medical doctor and far right extremist, "is," wrote Melanie Zanona for Politico, "fed up with being locked down. He wants the freedom to get his nails done, even if it means steepening the curve and killing more people. Maryland is having one of the worst pandemic experiences in the country. From Sunday to Monday there were 786 more cases bringing the total to 33,373, and 39 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,683. Maryland's cases per million: 5,520, the 8th worst in the country, even though Maryland is just the 19th most populous state!

Harris fumed at a teletownhall that "They promised 2 million dead at the beginning of this... The media has a vested interest in making things sound worse so that you tune in the next day." A million was predicted if no precautions-- like social distancing-- were taken. And that's exactly what crackpots like Harris want to try now. He screamed and yelled-- without wearing a mask-- at a reopen America protest. And he's not the only one. Zanona wrote that "A growing list of House hard-liners say they have reached their breaking point with the stay-at-home orders, which flipped a switch on the once-booming economy in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In recent weeks, Republicans have been angrily lashing out at the media, local and state officials and House Democratic leadership over the continued shutdown-- and are now actively encouraging the fired-up protesters swarming state capitols across the country.

“It’s ludicrous, it’s arbitrary and it’s absolutely unnecessary,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), whose state has been one of the earliest to lift coronavirus restrictions. “In some cases, there’s no evidence whatsoever that they eliminate the spread of Covid-19. It’s just abusive, dictatorial, tyrannical-type leadership.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is also cheering on the protests.

"It's organic, it's nonpartisan, and it's basically an effort to send a message to government,” he said. “It's clear people across all spectrums are feeling the pain of these government actions."

The push among GOP lawmakers to end isolation orders comes as activist groups look to mobilize the conservative grassroots just as they fueled the tea party movement a decade ago. The move is intended not only to give the economy a boost but also potentially build momentum on the right ahead of the November elections.

“Time will tell if this will turn into a tea party-type movement,” Hice said of the growing social unrest. “Part of me is hopeful this will begin a movement of Americans taking a stand for constitutional liberties that have been eroding for quite some time, but rapidly eroding through this pandemic.”

Yet for all the heated protests taking place-- and as several states begin to wind down restrictions-- the desire to immediately end the lockdowns remains a minority opinion. According to new polling, most Americans do not feel comfortable with their states reopening salons, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses.

That might explain why some Republicans have taken a more measured approach to the debate, acknowledging it’s difficult to strike a balance between public health concerns and the need to get the economy humming again. And even if the economy is technically reopened, it’s not clear there will be many customers if fear of the virus is widespread.

"No matter what decision you make, there's going to be people second-guessing it,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is up for reelection this fall. “You need to do it gradually and you need to be careful... We all know how to manage risks in our own life-- that's if we have good information and know how to do that. But right now people are being inundated.”

President Donald Trump-- who has also encouraged protesters with tweets to "liberate" Democratic-run states-- recently tapped a bipartisan congressional task force to explore ways to get the nation back to work. It's a sign the White House wants some bipartisan buy-in for reopening the economy, one of the most consequential decisions that will be made during the pandemic.

Coronavirus casualties are still climbing, with over 80,000 Americans dead from the virus thus far. Republicans who have been clamoring to reopen the country have faced accusations from Democrats that they care more about the economy than people’s lives.

Many GOP lawmakers, however, counter that continuing the lockdown carries its own set of health risks, pointing to the increase in suicides and routine health exams getting pushed to the back burner.

“We need to get back to our way of life, because there are serious mental health issues,” said House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). “You’re seeing suicides on the rise.”

Others have given more blunt assessments. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) told a local radio station last month that the health risks are the "lesser of two evils” compared with the economic damage from the virus.

Republicans have also begun to decry the stay-at-home orders as a violation of constitutional rights-- a call to arms that plays directly to the right’s fears about government overreach.

“Power has gone to their heads, and they believe government is the answer to everything,” said GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, who accused Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of going “ballistic” with her threats to jail people who violate social distancing orders.

Meanwhile, Hice and Biggs wrote a letter to Trump over Easter weekend voicing concern that virus-related restrictions on public gatherings are infringing on Americans’ religious freedoms. They've complained that in some places, you can buy alcohol and a lottery ticket but can't attend your place of worship.

“Just because we have a pandemic does not mean our constitutional rights evaporate or disappear,” Hice said. “I believe there’s a tremendous abuse of civil liberties in certain cases across the country, and I’m hopeful some of these people will be held accountable.”

Attorney General William Barr has said the Department of Justice is monitoring the stay-at-home orders to ensure they don’t violate civil liberties, and he didn’t rule out stepping in if states go too far.

Republicans have also slammed various reports of law enforcement aggressively going after people and businesses who violate the rules.

“I don’t think [the police] should be going after them at all... It’s overkill,” Biggs said. “That’s where you begin saying, have we crossed the line? In some states, have we become martial law?”

The debate over reopening the country is also playing out in the Capitol. The Senate returned to D.C. last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has delayed the House’s return, citing recommendations from the Capitol physician.

Republicans hammered Pelosi for keeping lawmakers away from Washington in the middle of a crisis that requires congressional action. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is seeking signatures for a letter calling on the GOP to come back to D.C. no matter what this week and blaming the high infection and death rates in New York on "poor leadership at the state level."

“This is why we, as Republicans, must demonstrate leadership for the country by safely and responsibly coming back to work in Washington in order to minimize an impending economic calamity which could ultimately cost lives and dramatically increase misery across the United States,” the letter states, according to a draft copy obtained by Politico.

Some lawmakers have defiantly chosen not to wear masks in the Capitol. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), however, vigorously defended his decision not to wear a facial covering, maintaining that he is immune to the virus because he already contracted it in March while also denouncing the “Nanny State.”

“Modern medicine shows us that immunity is based on having antibodies,” Paul tweeted. “Why are fake news media and [petty] tyrants denying medical science? They so want to have everyone submit to busybody rules and regulations that they can’t stand it that someone might be immune and therefore immune to their people controls.”
Last week, the YouGov poll for The Economist asked if voters thought stay-at-home orders are an infringement of constitutional rights. 66% said no and just 19% said yes. But when you break that down by party, it looks very different. 85% of Democrats and 64% of independents say stay-at-home orders do not infringe on constitutional rights, while just 46% of Republicans agree with them that it isn't. Who thinks it is an infringement? 6% of Democrats, 19% of independents and 35% of Republicans. That's how out of step with the mainstream Republicans are!

The effectiveness of social distancing measures in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is agreed on by most of the population-- 90% of Democrats, 83% of independents and even 79% of Republicans. It is their leaders and a small radical contingent of extremists stirring up these protests. The answer to this question was important: "Many U.S. states have already announced plans to reopen large sectors of their economy. Do you believe it is likely or unlikely that this will result in an increase in COVID-19 cases ?" Overall 75% of voters think reopening will increase cases-- 87% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 61% of Republicans. 29% of Republicans disagree; they're going to be in for a big shock.

Another poll, this one for the Associated Press, reported that "55% of Americans disapprove of the protests that have popped up in some states as some Americans begin chafing at public health measures that have decimated the global economy. Thirty-one percent approve of the demonstrations."

Audrey Denney is the progressive Democrat running in pretty red terrain in a seat help by GOP radical Doug LaMalfa in northeast California. Yesterday she told us that "While Congressman LaMalfa believes we should disregard CDC reopening guidelines and that we should fully fling open our communities yesterday without any regard to public safety, I am grateful for the science and data based plan put forward by the state of California. No matter how worn down we are by the last two months, we must use data acquired from testing, contact tracing and tracking to establish how quickly or how slowly our communities and economies are able lessen our current stay at home guidelines. The only path forward to achieve our collective wellbeing is through facts, not emotions."

Chris Armitage is also running for a seat occupied by a Trump enabler, his in eastern Washington and the incumbent is shameless Cathy McMorris Rodgers. "Watching my opponent, who claims to be 'Pro-Life,'" he told us last night, "act as if human life doesn't matter, is unsurprising. This savage hypocrisy puts their dishonesty in full view and will cost them votes."

Lisa Ring's opponent is Buddy Carter in Georgia's coastal region, another one who has abdicated any pretense of independence to support whatever insane scheme Trump has cooked up. "Instead of advocating legislation assisting folks in staying home until the virus has waned and we have the resources to deal with it as responsible leaders should, Rep. Buddy Carter has joined his GOP colleagues in pushing to open everything immediately. In his weekly email, Carter highlighted expanded testing and stated, 'We must get back to work and fully reopen our economy, and testing will be critical to get us there.' I wonder if Carter and his donors in the pharmaceutical industry are looking for the many ways they will profit from a pandemic that has devastated his constituents and the rest of the country."

Goal ThermometerKathy Ellis has a tough race in a deep red district. But that doesn't prevent her from talking with the people there in southeast Missouri about how to make their lives better. "The decision by Republican leadership to sacrifice lives in an effort to line their own pockets is shameful. Since the beginning of this crisis, my opponent Rep. Jason Smith, has applauded Republican leadership, claiming that we must 're-open' our state immediately because  'there’s a lot of people that will make more money sitting at home on unemployment than if they’re at their job.' Seriously. Look, nothing about this situation is ideal, and our Republican leadership has made the entire situation much, much worse. But, our priority has to be the health and safety (and lives) of our neighbors, which is why I strongly oppose 're-opening' our country. This feeling is echoed by the large majority of Americans, and folks like Smith and other Republican leaders should be ashamed of themselves for using political ploys and American lives to build campaign support."

Texas progressive Julie Oliver is also taking on a Trump clone, Roger Williams. She told us that "The leadership at the Federal and State levels has been anything but leadership. State leaders in Texas continue to weaponize the ignorance surrounding Coronavirus, and in doing so, jeopardize the lives of thousands of Texans, including those serving on the front lines. And it's so unnecessary. There were opportunities to thoughtfully navigate this pandemic to not only save lives but to save the economy, but those opportunities were squandered by Republicans who have an insatiable desire to rile up their base."

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At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thom Hartmann is discussing this. He posits -incompletely- that this is an effort by the GOP to reduce the elderly and non-Caucasian portions of the population. If so, this is a barely modified Aktion T4 program lifted from the Nazi playbook - not surprising since Trump aide Stephen Miller can hardly disguise his vile political leanings.

And the Democrats do nothing - AGAIN.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pelosi took a dive in the impeachment, then immediately went into hibernation. Pelosi's normal MO is to let the Nazis do whatever they want because $he believes that their evil will help her ocean of pig shit party in the next election, even if it is their worst pos candidate by far ever, which it is.

As long as there are ONLY Nazis and democraps, the latter will never, ever impede the former in the persecution of their hatreds nor their suppression of voters nor their crimes nor their overthrow of government... because some brain dead fucktard might not vote for them in the next or the next or the next.

And we end up with trump and armed insurrection at state houses and covid parties and pardons for war criminals and charges dropped AFTER guilty pleas and voter suppression and rigged vote counts... and the like... because the democraps NEVER. DO. SHIT. ABOUT. ANYTHING.

Hey, I got a great idea... let's elect a lot more of those shit-tards and watch them magically fix everything!

better off buying lottery tickets. Your odds are about a bazillion times better to win that.


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