Transactions seem like a simple and straightforward way get things done. It only works, however, if both sides are willing to deal. Before he hits “tweet” on his phone, President Donald Trump should remember that viruses don’t work that way.
Last week, demonstrators gathered in Michigan’s capitol to demand that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relax her orders that closed down the state’s economy. Some carried assault rifles inside the building, including into the gallery above the chambers where legislators were in session.
Mask-wearing sergeants-at-arms stood at attention while unmasked demonstrators leaned close to shout and to spray dangerous droplets in their faces. One legislator expressed gratitude for those officers. Some legislators wore bullet-proof vests while trying to carry on.
On Friday, Trump tweeted, “These [the demonstrators] are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
Imagine how that negotiation might go with the COVID-19 coronavirus at the table. Its position would be something like: “You humans staying away from one another isn’t good for me. I can’t keep spreading and growing, so here’s my offer. Open up now.
“You can get together for beers and burgers. You can walk around without those silly masks. You can get your kids out of the house. You can finally get a haircut and enjoy your new normal
“In return, I will go back to killing only some of you. Unless you are old or sick or have taken on too high a viral load. Then you’ll die. Final offer.”
Everyone wants their lives back. The “safely” part of Trump’s tweet is the deal breaker.
Trump supported a position that will leave Michiganders vulnerable. He encouraged people to use the right to bear arms to try to intimidate elected officials into doing what they want.
That tactic is as dangerous for democracy as the coronavirus is for human life. Arms inside a legislative chamber are simply unacceptable.
Michigan has already relaxed some isolation rules. Others have been extended at least through mid-May to flatten the curve of that state’s high COVID-19 case numbers.
Finding ways to restart the economy while minimizing the toll of the pandemic requires more than tweets and assault rifles. Viruses don’t deal. Governors shouldn’t either.