At a press briefing two weeks ago, Donald Trump insisted that the United States is faring well on the coronavirus as measured by "statistics" he didn't want to identify. The president added, "If you took out New York..."
Reminded that New York is part of the United States, and he can't just "take out" parts of the country he doesn't like, Trump added, "No, I’m just saying."
It wasn't altogether clear what the president was "just saying," but whatever the intended message, the Republican said it again yesterday. This time, however, he went a little further.
"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-managed."
The president went on to call on states to open immediately, arguing, in reference to mitigation efforts, "It’s hurting people far more than the disease itself.... Let your people have freedom."
This, naturally, reinforced concerns that Trump is moving forward with a herd-immunity strategy -- or as he calls it, a "herd mentality" -- in which most of the country gets infected and the White House stops trying to stop the spread of the virus.
As for the president's interest in "taking the blue states out," there's no real subtlety to any of this: Trump wants voters to believe the country's failed response to the pandemic should be blamed, not on him, but on Democrats in states he doesn't like.
By this reasoning, the failures of 2020 may be deadly and gut-wrenching, but he bears no responsibility for them.
This comes just one month after Trump promoted a message via social media that said, in reference to cities in his own country, "Let them rot."
Trump has made little effort to hide the fact that he considers himself the president of the parts of the country he likes, and "take the blue states out" is consistent with the ridiculous pattern.
But there are also factual details worth remembering. A Washington Post analysis noted yesterday, "It is true that the early surge in deaths was heavily weighted toward states that had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.... Over time, though, the percentage of total deaths that have occurred in blue states has dropped. The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states -- meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones."
To see the COVID-19 crisis as a blue-state problem isn't just offensive; it's wrong.