It doesn’t amount to a silver lining, but one result of the pandemic is that Americans are witnessing what it’s like when governments work together to protect and serve the public. From the White House to state houses, officials are spending incredibly long hours to mobilize resources, treat the sick and plan and implement containment policies — all while keeping people well informed.
Most important, the message up and down the government food chain has become remarkably consistent as the scope of the threat becomes more clear: This is a war and we’re all in it together.
The emerging unity and promises of victory amount to a welcome antidote to the polarization and general distrust that plague our society.
Ironically, because of their checkered history, the developing partnership between President Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the best example of the changing atmosphere. Their relationship is also shaping up as a model for the rest of the country.
Former friends, then partisan enemies, they were trading insults as late as Monday. But by Tuesday, they were praising and thanking each other in recognition of the fact that neither can do alone all the things that must be done. The timing is surely related to the fact that New York has overtaken the state of Washington with the most confirmed cases of coronavirus.
“We’re going right down the same track,” Trump said Tuesday about his repeated conversations with Cuomo. “We’re working very, very closely together.”
Cuomo, for his part, pushed back on what he said were attempts to “pit one against the other,” saying this is “no time for hypersensitivity.”
“The president is doing the right thing in offering to step up with New York and I appreciate it,” Cuomo said. “And New York will do the right thing in return.”
He also said that, “We’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans, we are Americans.”
You don’t have to be a Pollyanna to see the value of such teamwork and attitudes. The coronavirus is a unique shock that is ending daily life as we know it and injecting doubts about survival into the minds of millions of people.
Darkened stores, deserted streets and empty shelves in supermarkets reflect that fear — and create more of it.
Already the enormous scope of the economic consequences dwarfs the abilities of most individuals to comprehend the damage, leading even hardened cynics to realize that government has to be a large part of the rescue effort.
Case in point: Trump’s support for a $1 trillion plan to send money directly to tens of millions of people and bail out the moribund travel industry would normally spark wide opposition because the spending will add to the enormous national debt.
Yet so far, the plan is meeting with little resistance. “Whatever it takes, it takes” is the general attitude.
Similarly, government rules closing restaurants and bars would draw howls of protest in other times. Now there is grumbling, but most people are willing to try almost anything because medical and public-health officials say these extreme measures could turn the tide.
The sudden acceptance comes at a time when trust in the government at all levels, especially the federal government, has registered at or near historic lows.
Pew reports that in 1958, about 75 percent of Americans believed Washington would do the right thing all or most of the time.
Since 2007, that number has not been above 30 percent. In 2019, it was down to 17 percent.
Some obvious episodes help explain the trend. The FBI, widely considered the world’s premier law enforcement agency, fell out of favor among both Democrats and Republicans while James Comey was director. Internal probes found that he violated rules and procedures in his aggressive actions toward both Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016. Comey is so tainted that Democrat Joe Biden recently rejected his endorsement.
Imagine that. The former head of the FBI is persona non grata in Washington.
Comey, of course, was not alone, and his entire leadership team was demoted or fired for misconduct; some could face criminal charges.
Although the FBI may be unique in its fall from grace, mistrust of others is widespread, especially among young people. Another Pew survey found that nearly three-quarters of adults under 30 believe most people “would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance,” and six-in-10 say most people “can’t be trusted.”
As a group, young Americans, Pew says, “are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to take a pessimistic view of their fellow Americans.”
Those are scary numbers that predict there will be an even greater unraveling of society in the future. Without basic trust in each other and its leaders, no nation can solve its biggest problems.
We’ve already seen that the polarization gripping our politics leads to deadlock after deadlock and rising talk of secession and violence. Against that backdrop, something like the coronavirus has the potential to shred what remains of the social fabric.
So far, thankfully, it seems to be doing the opposite. It is up to leaders, government and private, to reward that public confidence with solutions and honesty.
While the enormity of the scourge incentivizes cooperation, it doesn’t guarantee it. All the more reason why the rest of us must nurture teamwork where we find it and demand that other people and groups pitch in to help.
The latest federal guideline, to simply stay home as much as possible for 15 days, is extraordinary when you consider the implications.
Yet the calm, clear explanations of Trump’s health team, led by doctors Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, make the idea seem not only reasonable but logical. The less contact we all have, the less chance there is for the virus to spread.
So, yes, trust the government. Besides, what’s the alternative?
Is de Blasio serious?!
There is an exception to every rule, and when it comes to trusting government, Mayor Bill de Blasio is the exception. His call to “nationalize” key industries is little more than a desperate plea for attention.
At least I hope that’s all it was.
Cheap shot vs. Don
Press release headline: “CAIR Condemns Trump’s Use of Racist Dog Whistle ‘Chinese Virus’”
Meanwhile, China’s Communist Party imprisons 1 million Uygur Muslims in “re-education camps,” a brutal policy Trump has condemned. But go ahead, CAIR, pick your safe and politically correct target.
Dems’ frack attack a gift to Vlad
Reader Sam Glasser, noting that Russia is waging an oil-price war to cripple American shale drilling, argues that pledges by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to eliminate fracking, if carried out, would serve Russia’s aim. He writes: “It is appalling that both aren’t aware of the implications of their position or are ignorant. Aren’t there any adults on the Democratic side?”