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OPINION

Let them eat coronavirus

Trump is willing to let thousands die to save his re-election.

President Trump wants to resurrect the economy — and boost his re-election chances.
President Trump wants to resurrect the economy — and boost his re-election chances.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Forget vaccines — science takes too long. Forget widespread testing — the White House already has.

Like a TV show he’s grown tired of binge-watching, President Trump has had it with this social distancing drama. Ignoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he wants the nation flung wide open again so that people can order a beer in a bar, get their hair done, play golf, or die alone on a ventilator from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

To force herd immunity, Trump is willing to let thousands die to resurrect the economy — and boost his re-election chances.

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“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” the president said recently about the probable cost of abruptly relaxing social distancing guidelines. “But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

More than 70,000 people haven’t just been “affected badly." They represent a death toll increasing by nearly 2,000 daily.

Like the savage men with bloody hands he admires, Trump is encouraging his own citizens to get sick and die so that he can maintain power. Instead of poisonous gas or starvation, he’s relying on the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s the balance of something that’s a very difficult choice,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a White House Coronavirus Task Force member, recently said. "How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be, some form of normality, sooner rather than later?”

No matter how high that body count gets — and Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC chief, testified that there will be “at least 100,000” COVID-19 deaths by the end of May — it won’t obscure Trump’s focus on himself. He has always believed a strong economy, one that overwhelmingly benefits his big money pals and supporters, is his best path to a second term. He’ll lose no sleep if that path is paved with the dead.

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So get ready, “warriors,” as Trump now sees the American people. Your president wants you to be cannon fodder for his re-election.

Trump’s plan is especially egregious for communities of color, already getting infected and dying at disproportionate rates. Of course, that would never give a racist president pause before inflicting even more pain and sorrow.

It’s not as if this administration doesn’t understand the very real dangers of loosening mitigation guidelines. Last month, the federal government ordered 100,000 body bags. According to one CDC estimate, deaths could hit about 3,000 people per day by June 1.

Trump knows the risk. He just doesn’t care. Neither do his fellow GOP death cultists who are so “pro-life” when it comes to controlling women’s reproductive rights. Promoting the administration’s abandonment of stay-at-home measures, Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor, said, “Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can — but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?”

Trump is acting on something he always viewed as a possible coronavirus solution. Two months ago, he reportedly asked Fauci, "Why don’t we let this wash over the country?” By “wash over,” Trump meant dangerous, de facto herd immunity.

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Fauci’s response: "Mr. President, many people would die.”

At a time when coronavirus cases are still rapidly rising, rushing to “open" states while ignoring best practice guidelines isn’t a strategy. It’s a prelude to mass murder.

“This is just madness,” Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in A World Out of Balance,” said Thursday on CNN. “We’re acting as if you can just wish away an epidemic.”

A day after reports that Trump planned to shut down the coronavirus task force, he said the task force instead will focus on “opening up our country again.” More than 33 million people have filed for unemployment since late March. Two major retailers recently filed for bankruptcy. Hundreds of cars outside food banks and pantries resemble soup lines during the Great Depression.

Few can deny the profound hardships this nation is shouldering in this pandemic. Yet none are so great as those endured by the dead, and those left to mourn. A man devoid of empathy and convinced only of his own perceived victimhood can’t begin to understand that depth of grief.

In a post-election “Saturday Night Live” parody of the film “Love Actually,” Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, uses poster boards to convince an elector not to vote for Trump. “If Donald Trump becomes president," the final cards warn, "he will kill us all.”

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What was once a perfect punch line now feels alarmingly prescient with an administration profoundly and intentionally mismanaging this pandemic.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.