Trump Thinks Fear is Good—Except When it Comes to CoronavirusRoundup
tags: Donald Trump, coronavirus
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of "The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America."
In the recent movie Bombshell, a Fox News producer played by Kate McKinnon tells a younger colleague how the network decides what to cover. “The world is a bad place,” she quips. “Ask yourself, what would scare my grandmother or piss off my grandfather? And that’s a Fox story.”
That calculus has also been the engine of Republican politics in the age of Donald Trump, who has raised fear mongering to unprecedented heights. The country was under siege from immigration, terrorism, and crime, Trump asserted. Only he could make it safe—and great—again. As Democrats correctly noted, Trump has been exaggerating dangers to stoke voters’ prejudices and anxieties.
But coronavirus has scrambled politics in America, just as it has upended everything else. Until he declared a national emergency on Friday, Trump and his GOP media defenders were downplaying the crisis. And Democrats became the party of fear, warning that Americans should be afraid—very afraid—and that the GOP was in a state of denial.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, roughly 60 percent of surveyed Republicans said they were not especially concerned that the coronavirus would disrupt their lives. Two-thirds of Democrats, meanwhile, said they were somewhat or very concerned about disruption from the virus. Most remarkably, Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say they were afraid that they or someone they knew could catch Covid-19.
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