While the president’s disdain for Democrat-controlled states was apparent well before the pandemic, his combative dynamic toward a majority of American voters has escalated in recent months. According to Vanity Fair, Trump’s coronavirus task force led by his son-in-law did not execute an adequate national response in the early days of community spread in part because the deaths were largely cordoned off in blue states. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” one adviser told the magazine.
This week, Trump grew more hostile toward the cities and states he has blamed for unrest throughout the summer as a law-and-order campaign tactic. In a turbulent ABC town hall aired yesterday, when host George Stephanopoulos called out the president’s word choice condemning “Democrat states,” Trump doubled down on the matter, claiming that “Democrat-run states are the ones that are doing badly.”
In a White House press conference on Wednesday, Trump made the point even more callously. Attempting to explain away his administration’s disastrous response upon the cusp of another tragic milestone, the president said, “If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level but some of the states — they were blue states, and blue-state management.”
While the president’s response ruthlessly connects the value of American lives to their perceived political identity, it’s also inaccurate according to his own metric, considering the high number of deaths in Republican-controlled states like Arizona, Texas, and Florida this summer. And like most Trump statements involving public health, it was also part of a larger incoherent message. Minutes after claiming that Democratic governors did not do enough to shut down their outbreaks, he blamed them for not opening up their economies. “By the way, we’d recommend they open up their states,” Trump said. “It’s hurting people far more than the disease itself.”