0832 GMT November 30, 2020
If not by the time you read this then shortly after, we will have crossed a grim marker: 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19.
Large numbers representing human beings are difficult if not impossible to wrap your head around; if I said that it was as if the entire population of Salt Lake City had died, would that make it any easier to understand? Probably not. As Joseph Stalin may or may not have said, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
We are surrounded by these statistics — 200,000 dead, 6.8 million people infected, 30 million out of work. But chances are you don’t need the numbers to tell you; you’ve seen the closed businesses, and you probably know someone who has gotten sick or even died. With so many families mourning and suffering, it has become inescapable.
Meanwhile, the president and his party tell us that we should be grateful that a mere 200,000 are dead, that were President Trump not so competent, so decisive, so brilliant, we’d be in far worse shape.
To which we have to ask: Like who? After all, their argument is not simply that our government’s response was on par with that of other countries, but that it was uniquely effective. Were that the case, it would mean not only that we wouldn’t be doing worse than other countries, but that no country would be doing better. In Germany or Canada or Japan or South Korea, they don’t have the benefit of Trump’s extraordinary leadership to guide them through this crisis, so they must have had millions of deaths.
Which of course they haven’t. Germany’s death total is 9,386. Canada has had 9,272. In Japan, 1,517. Only 385 people in South Korea have died of COVID-19. That is not a typo.
All the spin and lies in the world will not obscure the disaster we’re all living through. That is not to say, however, that Democrats and Republicans don’t have different views about how Trump’s government has performed. Data from the Pew Research Center shows significant differences in how Americans judge our performance compared with other countries.
Yet despite the differences between the two parties, it’s clear that Trump’s message isn’t really getting through even to Republicans.
There’s a powerful motivation to believe what the leader of your party is telling you and praise his performance, no matter what the subject at hand. And this is something Trump talks about often; it’s not as if any Republicans are unsure what he wants them to believe.
But only 22 percent of Republicans take the position Trump wants them to. Remember, he doesn’t say that he’s done as good a job as other leaders, he says he’s been better. Less than a quarter of his own partisans agree, a number smaller than the 34 percent who say our country’s response has been worse.
And while according to Pew’s international data people in most countries praise their own country’s performance — 88 percent of Germans, 74 percent of Italians and 86 percent of Koreans think their country has done a good job with the pandemic — they don’t think the same about us.
In fact, most of the world is united in the quite accurate perception that the United States has been a disaster:
They’re right, of course. And it’s a reminder that throughout the world, people are aware of what’s going on in America; the privilege of being the closest thing to a global hegemon is that we can be blissfully ignorant of other countries, while they pay a great deal of attention to our politics and our culture.
If Joe Biden is elected in November, he will have a great deal of work to do in repairing the damage this president has done to America’s standing around the world. But there will likely be an outpouring of gratitude around the globe merely for the fact that Trump is gone, just as there was when Barack Obama replaced the widely reviled George W. Bush.
Here at home, we watch as the grim statistics grow with each passing day. By the time of the next presidential inauguration in January, will that 200,000 number rise to 250,000, or 300,000? We don’t know, but we know it will rise.
More will find themselves stricken with long-term illness, more families will be shattered, more will suffer and more will mourn. The statistics are horrifying; the reality is worse.