Vice-President Mike Pence appeared before the cameras today to take his vaccine dose. But then, perhaps in an effort to erase any ill feelings he might cause by tacitly acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic as a very big danger, announced, “As President Trump often says, we are rounding the corner.”
Pence comes from the Reaganidolatry era of the Republican Party. And if there is anything he admires about Reagan, other than his broad, powerful shoulders, it is his unwavering optimism. Optimists can look at any situation, however objectively awful, and find the good in it.
Today is actually the six-month anniversary of Pence’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave’.” In it, he lambasted the liberal media for trying to scare the American public. In truth, he insisted, the pandemic was receding:
While talk of an increase in cases dominates cable news coverage, more than half of states are actually seeing cases decline or remain stable. Every state, territory and major metropolitan area, with the exception of three, have positive test rates under 10%. And in the six states that have reached more than 1,000 new cases a day, increased testing has allowed public health officials to identify most of the outbreaks in particular settings—prisons, nursing homes and meatpacking facilities—and contain them.
This prediction did not age well. Since Pence wrote that, hospitalizations from COVID-19 have more than tripled, daily cases risen nearly tenfold, and deaths shot up sevenfold, to more than 3,000 a day now.
Given that Pence fared so badly with this prediction, “turning the corner” has become a more useful metaphor. Unlike bold claims like there is no second wave, turning the corner is hazier and more difficult to falsify. The corner might be very long. We might, indeed, be turning the same corner we have already turned, or indeed spiraling further and further downward, turning corners all the while.
Turning the corner merely posits that, at some point, the horror will end. Indeed, like every disaster in human history to date, however badly managed, it will at some point end.