by Gennady Shkliarevsky

The corona pandemic is the most serious ordeal that America has faced since WWII.  It is testing the very foundation of our society:  our unity, wisdom, values, skills, our very capacity to love each other.  The survival of our country depends on the strength of this foundation and we have yet to prove that this foundation remains strong.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has revealed a deep division in our society—one that can very well prove to be deadly.  It is the division between the establishment and institutions that represent elite rule and common Americans.  The former declared war on America at the very moment that 63 million common Americans elected Donald Trump President of the United States.

The elites rely on the levers of control that allow them to dominate over people.  Common Americans rely on the spirit of independence that animates America and its people, on their resourcefulness, penchant for innovation, their ability to work hard, their pragmatism, and their indomitable faith in a better future for themselves and their families.  The victory is not predetermined.  Much will depend on what the American people will do in the next few months.

The strategy pursued by the progressives is to use the pandemic as a pretext to smother the country’s economy and use the ensuing chaos and instability to remove President Trump and establish their domination.  They set impossible conditions for reopening the country’s economy.

In the center of their strategy is the demand for testing as a precondition for reviving the economy.  They estimate that in order to sustain the resumption of economic activity, there should be 500,000 to five million and perhaps even beyond that, according to the New York Times, tests performed in America on a daily basis.  (For reference, currently, the United States has approximately 151,000 tests a day).  This is quite a range since there is a huge difference between 500,000 and five million!

The New York Times cannot be sure of the exact number but it is certain that the current level of testing is absolutely not enough.

The Rockefeller Foundation who has joined the mêlée has come up with a road map to reach three million tests a week that in its estimate could be reached by late June.  By late June, we may not have any economy left to speak of since currently, even the high-tech industries that have so far been immune to the ravages of the pandemic are now considering reducing the number of employees.

But testing is not the only condition demanded by the progressives for the reopening.  They also consider necessary to have reliable systems of contact tracing.  Such systems that will be able to identify all individuals who have been in contact with the individual who has been diagnosed with coronavirus is simply a logistical nightmare where the numbers will grow exponentially and will be practically unmanageable even with the help of powerful computers.

With the much-wanted vaccine nowhere in sight, the current plan pursued by the progressives may delay the reopening of our economy till mid-summer and possibly even later.

Governor Cuomo, who has so far resisted President Trump’s plan, stated on several occasions that in order to revive the economy “You have to develop a testing capacity that does not now exist.”  Reaching this capacity will require hiring a huge number of people to perform testing and tracing and an enormous increase of production supplies required for them to perform their work.

Even with American ingenuity and the capacity for invention and innovation, the implementation of this task will require months of work.  In the meantime, productive individuals will have to stay home and observe orders of isolation and quarantine.  The federal government will have to provide the money to support them and compensate for losses while their businesses will be dying with little or no possibility of future revival.

The progressive plan is a nuclear option.  It may or may not improve the health situation, but it will surely kill the economy, which is what the progressives seem to want.

Intentionally or not, they drive policies that increase instability and sow chaos.  In addition to their efforts to hinder economic revival, they also actively work on implementing their proposal for a mail-in vote that many argue will create opportunities for manipulation of votes and voting fraud.

If implemented, this proposal will definitely contribute to more conflict and instability in America.

In the meantime, President Trump and his government insist in their plan for opening America that the current level of testing may be quite sufficient to start gradual data-driven revival with constant monitoring at least in many parts of the United States where the level of contagion all through this ordeal has remained remarkably low and unthreatening.

The progressives do not want any of that.  Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, a Democrat, described the administration’s claims that the current testing level is sufficient as “delusional.”

While the progressives continue to resist the revival of the economy, there is a growing grass-roots movement that demands the opening of the economy.

This movement includes local officials, leaders of local business communities, business owners, local police, and, of course, common Americans who have lost their livelihood.  These Americans want their jobs back, not government assistance.  They organize protests and demand that their state governors should immediately start the process of revival.  Local legislators, sheriffs, and other local elected officials support the protestors; they refuse to enforce governors’ stay-at-home and other orders designed to break the opposition.

The chasm separating the bureaucratic hierarchy from grass-roots democracy has never been clearer.

The progressives portray the protestors and their movement as a revolt inspired by white supremacists, racists, and maladjusted and resentful supporters of President Trump.

According to the progressives, these protests are irrational, driven by people who are willing to trade their and other people’s safety for profits of big corporations.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The protestors advocate approaches that are gradual and data-driven with constant monitoring of the levels of contagion, hospitalizations, and deaths.  The revival is to start in areas least affected by the pandemic and then gradually spread to areas that have had higher exposure.

Other countries have used such a measured approach to deal with the corona pandemic.  These countries include, among others, Sweden and, ironically China where two major cities—Beijing and Shanghai—are much closer to the epicenter of infection in Wuhan than New York, London, or Paris.

Again this is not to argue that New York City or other major American cities should not have been closed.  The mayor of New York City and the governor of New York State may have been well justified to close New York City, but what the grass-roots movements for reopening insist is that the situation in New York is vastly different from the situation in, say, Dutchess or Ulster county of New York State where the level of infections stands at a couple of thousands, the level of hospitalizations at a few hundred, and the level of deaths is less than twenty; and there are quite a few counties in New York State where the corresponding levels are much lower, numbering a few dozen for infections with no hospitalizations or deaths.

We do not have to create a political or economic apocalypse to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.  Using a nuclear option, requiring perfect and ideal conditions for reopening the country—conditions that exist only abstractions that have little to do with reality—is like trying to use a hammer to kill mosquitoes.  We should reject this deadly route.  We should focus our energies, efforts, and knowledge on maintaining our unity in the fight against a formidable enemy.  We must learn from this experience and save our country for our posterity and ourselves.


Gennady Shkliarevsky is Professor Emeritus of History at Bard College.


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