Where We Might Be Today If Trump Had Approached the Pandemic Differently


I recently found myself thinking about what a different place we might be in today if Donald Trump had taken a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic in two key areas that would have still been consistent with his public persona. First, suppose he had embraced face masks from the very beginning, urging his supporters to wear pro-Trump face masks as a way of protecting their communities while sticking it to the liberals. Second and far more important, suppose he had not only promoted vaccination but had done everything in his power to take credit for the fact that we had vaccines in the first place. Neither of these departures strike me as being inconsistent with who he seems to be, and I suspect that they would have made a real difference in the number of COVID-19 deaths we have experienced in the United States so far.

Had Trump done these two things, I have little doubt that we would have lost fewer people to COVID. I don't think we'd be 100% through the pandemic yet, though. I say that simply because the U.S. has not been willing to support widespread vaccination efforts around the world with a Democratic president, and I don't think the situation would be any better with a Republican president. For reasons that escape me, we still don't seem willing to fund global vaccination. Nevertheless, I think we'd have far fewer deaths so far in the U.S. if Trump had supported masks and vaccinations within our borders.

The truly bizarre question to consider here is what would have happened on the liberal side if Trump had done these two things differently. Would liberals have opposed the vaccine (and wearing masks) simply because Trump was for it? I doubt it. I mean, some on the left would have opposed vaccination because some opposing it now. But I am guessing we would not have seen a full-scale reversal where conservatives embraced vaccination and liberals refused it. I'd bet that many liberals would have complained about Trump taking credit for the vaccine but would have still gotten it. And I'd bet that they wouldn't have worn MAGA masks but would have still worn masks.

Why the difference? Overall, I think liberals tend to be a bit more interested in the public good than do conservatives. That probably makes them somewhat more inclined to go along with public health measures designed to protect others vs. just themselves. I'm sure there are exceptions; I know a few personally, after all. But this is one of the things that leads me to be skeptical that liberals would have done what so many conservatives are now doing by rejecting masks and vaccines. There's also the religious divide. It isn't just that liberals tend to me somewhat less religious, but those who are religious tend to be religious in different ways.