I’ve got good news and bad news. First the good news. Bad as the COVID-19 pandemic is it’s containable and we will survive it. Now the bad news. This pandemic is not the worst crisis we face. In fact, it’s just a dress rehearsal for the real crisis. And Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt just how staggeringly inept and ill-equipped they are to handle it.
I’m referring, of course, to global warming. If you think of the Republican response to the current pandemic as a time-compressed reaction to global warming you’ll get the general idea. Right now we are in the mockery stage of global warming, that is, to Republicans global warming is a joke or a hoax, which is roughly where we were with coronavirus from the beginning right up until about four or five days ago.
In social media the smug memes about the silly culture of overreaction are disappearing, to be replaced with somber silence. The “Democratic hoax to once again impeach the president” has suddenly become nothing of the sort. Donald Trump’s predictable, almost comic book transition from insouciance to sanctimonious is exemplified in his tweet about Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, symbolizing the sudden Republican virtue-signaling crossover: “Failing Michigan Governor must work harder and be much more proactive. We are pushing her to get the job done. I stand with Michigan!”
This is how Republicans behave when reality smacks them in the face. This is what it takes. It takes an entire world in panic before they will lift a finger. It seems surreal as I write this, but it was only nine days ago that Congressman Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the floor of the House of Representatives during a vote on the coronavirus aid package, or just four days ago Congressman Devin Nunes said, “If you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to go out and go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in easily.” Quicker than Larry Vaughn, the mayor in “Jaws,” they are suddenly coming to terms with what the scientist had been telling them all along. But their arrogance and indolence has cost human lives.
What lesson will they learn from this? What general principle will they carry forward and apply to the exigencies of global warming? None at all. Republicans don’t learn from history, not even their own. They’re chief concern is how this crisis will affect their paymasters, and it is reflected in Trump’s talk of stocks and hotels and cruise ships and airplanes. They still don’t understand how damaging such talk is to the frightened, the dispossessed, the voiceless and vulnerable. What token concern Trump can muster is inauthentic because he doesn’t know how. Lack of empathy is the unifying feature behind every Republican policy.
But our real enemy isn’t indifference or greed but ignorance. Our greatest threat is willful stupidity. The anti-science Republican pose is untenable in a world of reality. Most of us know the old joke about the man who falls from a fifty storey building who, as he passes the twenty-fifth floor is heard to remark, “So far so good.” The ground is coming up for us, and that smug, Republican self-assurance is about to fail in an ugly and spectacular way.
Global warming can’t be chased off with an AR-15 any more than coronavirus can. You can’t phoney-macho away scientific reality. It must be faced. Republicans don’t understand this and they must be gotten rid of. If these twin crises of coronavirus and global warming prove anything they prove that we cannot survive another term under Donald Trump and the Republicans. Circumstances have become so dire and so immediate that we must set aside our differences and unite to get rid of them. The alternative is too awful to contemplate, and too deadly for us to permit it to happen.