The stock market plummeted yesterday amid fears of the economic impact of the coronavirus. While there are only 80,000 cases worldwide, the “silk flight path” of the virus — from China to India and even Italy — show that the virus spreads rapidly. Experts agree that this is probably not containable. Coronavirus is at the tipping point of a pandemic.
The White House also announced this week that Vice President Mike Pence would head a new coronavirus task force established last month to coordinate a national response to the threat it poses to the American people. These are the sorts of things that all good governments do when faced with a serious health crisis. Oftentimes, it’s when the most fundamental good of a nation is threatened that our most heated partisan disputes fade into the background. Yet looking at the political responses to a real health crisis suggests that either Americans do not yet grasp the threat, or that threats to the nation no longer galvanize us. I’m not sure which it is.
Bringing the full weight of the Executive branch to protect every single American was immediately met with partisan posturing and mockery. NPR was fast on the story of how ill-suited the Vice President was for the task, diving into his health policy record as Governor of Indiana. Nevermind that Pence was not tasked to bring medical advice or write health policy, but to manage a coordinated multi-agency response to an impending crisis. Yet for the taxpayer-funded National Public Radio, it was time for an opposition story that helped them frame the 2020 Presidential Election. The Washington Post conveniently ran a nearly identical dismissal of Pence.