Covid 19 Shutdown Politics

Advocates of quickly ending the shutdowns are in the news. Mostly, because one of them is President. Like most Americans, I think reopening soon would be a mistake (and remember I am in Italy where the shut down is severe compared to any State in the USA). I’m just going to assume that reopening by May 1 is a bad idea and try to understand who advocates it and why they do.

First the vast majority of Americans do not support reopening soon. There was the poll with 81% suppoert for a national lockdown. Also here is a poll which shows 10% believe gatherings of 10 or more will be safe by May 1. Interestingly the article reporting the poll is illustrated with a photo of an anti-lockdown demonstration. The silent majority is not photogenic.

So who and why

1. Wishful thinkers. The shut down is painful. It would be nice for it not to be necessary, so some people decide it is not necessary.

2. One of them is named Trump: I don’t pretend to understand him, but I think this is mostly infantile wishful thinking. He wishes there were no lockdown and no epidemic, so he believes it is possible. I am fairly sure this is also true of a majority of the small minority who thinks gatherings of 10 or more will be safe soon or in another 40 days.

3. Trump followers. I am sure that there would be even fewer advocates of reopening soon and no or very few demonstrations if Trump were’t against lockdowns. There are clearly many Americans who believe what he says and follow him blindly. I count the Fox News editorial staff among them. Fox follows Trump as he zigs and zags, and tens of millions of Americans follow Fox.

I am sure this is most of it, but I would like to go on.


4. rural vs urban. The epidemic has mostly hit large cities so far. There is clearly the sense among some people in rural areas that the problem is someone else’s problem and that policy is set by and for city and suburb dwellers. This isn’t even egoistic — if there were no Covid 19 in rural areas social distancing in the countryside would help no one. It is, however, foolish. The virus spreads quickly. This could be April’s version of the old belief that Covid 19 was China’s problem.

5. White vs non White. Always an issue. Anglo white Americans have suffered much less so far (as always) and some of them don’t care about non whites and don’t fully understand (or accept) that the virus isn’t racist. Here again, the division into us and them isn’t hostile and selfish. The argument is just that we are separated from them, so our social distancing can’t help them. However, focusing on the differences between people is racist even if the races don’t have conflicting interests.

6. Can work from home vs can’t work from home. Here I might have guessed that people (like me) who can work from home support the shutdown and people who are unemployed because of it oppose it. I think the pattern is the opposite (among the few thousand people shouting at demonstrations I haven’t heard of one complaining about being unemployed). I can rationalise this opposite pattern too. My guess is that no matter what Governors say, people who can work from home will. So they don’t expect to pay the costs of reopening. And some (a small minority) are horribly selfish

7. Rentiers. That goes double for people who don’t have to leave home to work, because they don’t have to work, because they live on capital income. I am sure that in the USA almost all such people engage in work like activities, but they don’t have to. Among the work from home or don’t really need to work at all I count Charles Koch and Lloyd Blankfein. Two people who don’t have much else in common who have stressed the high cost of shutdowns and advocated (extremely or moderately) relaxing the shutdown.

If someone’s interaction with the USA is principally through the stock market and he is depraved, he might even suggest people have a duty to die for the Dow. Extremely rich people may be confident that they can isolate themselves, so extremely selfish risk people may emulate Prospero in the Masque of the Red Death (a story they ought to read).

I think it is absolutely clear that this is an important part of the reopen movement. Trump is obsessed by the Dow Jones Index. Charles Koch is quite possibly not so super rich now that the Price of WTI Petroleum went negative. One hint that this is about the interests of the super rich is that Steve Moore is an outspoken advocate of reopening. Also Americans For Prosperity, Freedom Works, and the Club for Growth. References to the Dow are common.

The largest of the many small protests is known to involve astroturf (fake grass roots) it was organized partly by a De Vos funded group.

8. Grifters have to grift. Some of the astroturfers aren’t super rich, but they are trying. Extremist provacateurs have to provoke to raise money.

9. Libertarian ideology. The shut down is the most extreme regulation I have ever witnessed. People who believe in laissez faire must oppose the shut down. I believe that this is a very minor component of the cause of the opposition (while being a huge component of the signge)

But another problem is that a tiny minority is getting a huge amount of attention, because they are loud, colorful and telegenic. This post is part of that problem.