What Republicans don't get: Donald Trump is our biggest obstacle to coronavirus recovery

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Small groups of protesters egged on by the president, along with governors in redder states, are eager to “reopen” America — as if you can turn off a pandemic by inviting people back into Hooters. But if Republicans actually want to get Americans back to work, what they have to do is simple: Get rid of Donald Trump now.

While it’s almost science fiction to imagine the Republican Party and its billionaire backers growing something resembling a spine and compelling Trump to resign or, at least, not seek reelection in 2020, it’s at least a scientific possibility, unlike any hope of having a fully tested vaccine in the next few months.

Lyndon Johnson decided to not run for president when the failure of the Vietnam War became undeniable. More Americans have died of COVID-19 in the last three months than perished in that war, which lasted most of two decades. And since life has decided to turn into science fiction, why shouldn’t we entertain the possibility that there is enough sense on the right to get rid of the one human being standing in the way of any hope of returning to normalcy soon?

His own interests are the priorities

More than anything, we are where we are now because Trump prioritized his own interests above the well-being of the United States. And our response will always be limited by his addictions to adulation and political gain.

We’ll never know what 2020 would have looked like if the most powerful man on earth hadn’t spent the beginning of this year echoing Chinese government propaganda and downplaying the threat of COVID-19.

In seeming hopes of cultivating the trade deal he so desperately wanted and preserving the stock market gains he was relying on for reelection, Trump on Feb. 10 was still spreading Chinese President Xi Jinping's fiction the heat could kill off the virus. The next day, Trump attacked his own Federal Reserve chair for warning about the potential economic impact of the novel coronavirus. And later that month he raged at his own expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for saying that a COVID-19 outbreak in the United States was likely and could lead to a “disruption to everyday life.”

President Donald Trump speaks about reopening the country on April 29, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks about reopening the country on April 29, 2020.

The stock market, shocked by the sudden break in happy talk from the administration, lost nearly 2,000 points in two days. And instead of heeding the CDC warning, which echoed reports that had been in Trump’s intelligence briefings for weeks, the president and his advisers engaged in a “cover-up” for five days at the key moment of this crisis.

Two epidemiologists estimated that 90% of U.S. deaths in the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic might have been prevented if social distancing policies had gone into effect March 2, instead of March 16.

When he could have been taking action that might have saved tens of thousands of lives, Trump was busy tweeting, holding rallies, golfing, partying at Mar-A-Lago and silencing the CDC.

Vietnam vet Tom Ridge: Selfish protests against stay-at-home orders dishonor America's veterans

The American public, however, has demonstrated the patience and foresight our president and the protesters lack.

Polls have found wide support for preventive measures such as social distancing and staying at home. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll, for instance, 86% called them “responsible” policies. Remarkably, about 80% said that if these restrictions were lifted tomorrow, they would be unlikely to go out into public places where people assemble.

Despite the economic hurt slamming the most vulnerable today, the horror of dying alone on a ventilator has been far more convincing than Trump’s sick tweets encouraging his fans to “liberate” their states.

Trump never gets better, only worse

Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Iceland and Germany have already moved to reopen their economies, aided by strategic and effective testing. Trump, however, has taken almost every opportunity to make this crisis worse.

Rather than using the federal government’s massive power to alleviate a testing shortage that has lasted long after he said “anyone” could get a test, Trump has targeted medical equipment for political purposes. Rather than reassuring and consoling a suffering nation, he’s distracted us with his time-share salesman takes on unproven drugs and experimental treatments that may be encouraging Americans to inject bleach.

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Of course, all this talk about “reopening” is just code for forcing low-paid workers to choose between their lives and their paycheck. The right is happy to go along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s goal of using this crisis to bankrupt the states and rob teachers, firefighters and police officers of their pensions.

As long as Trump is punishing their enemies and propping up the stock market, his agenda is still the Republican agenda. That's why we can't imagine the party turning against him.

But you can only fool the Dow Jones for so long, as this president learned in late February. The horror of tens of millions out of work and the U.S. death toll heading toward six figures by summer is likely only to get worse, especially if Americans are forced back to work.

Then, at some point, even a right-wing billionaire’s conscience may force him to consider why he didn’t do anything to prevent what is now the only predictable thing left in this life: Trump getting worse.

Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of "The GOTMFV Show" podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: To end coronavirus pandemic and reopen America, Donald Trump must go

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