The way supporters acted during Trump’s final RNC speech reflects the chaos and uncertainty of his leadership during the pandemic
We are still very much in a deadly global pandemic, and the United States is still the country with the highest number of cases and the most deaths from COVID-19 — by a lot. But you wouldn’t have guessed that by looking at the crowd that gathered Thursday night outside the White House to hear Donald Trump deliver his final speech at the Republican National Convention, formally accepting the party’s nomination for the presidential election in November.
News reports say around 1,500 people packed into the White House’s South Lawn to see and hear Trump speak, and from pictures taken by journalists at the event, anyone can see that masks were few and far between, and there was certainly no social distancing in the crowd. In fact, chairs set up on the lawn for attendees were just inches apart, far from the six feet recommended by public health organizations all over the world.
The actions of the crowd reflect the way Trump has handled the crisis from the beginning. He has consistently brushed off COVID-19 reports and downplayed the seriousness of the disease, which has killed almost 200,000 Americans. He’s turned recommendations from public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization into a bizarre culture war, encouraging his followers to take stands against mask mandates and social distancing in a baffling display of personal liberty over community safety.
As countries all over the world have swiftly contained outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, it has spread virtually unchecked in the U.S., where our response has been a patchwork of half-closures with no real strategy — no real leadership. And now we have these scenes from the White House.
President Trump, standing before hundreds of people who are not practicing social distancing and who mostly aren't wearing masks: "We are focusing on the science, the facts and the data."
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 28, 2020
Reports say there were no temperature checks to enter the South Lawn, and even though it’s been customary for anyone getting close to Trump to be tested for COVID-19, audience members weren’t asked to take tests. A senior White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta it’s because “Everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.”
Are we surprised by this? Not really. But to echo the sobering words from Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, we did “hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. That he might come to feel the weight of the office,” and his responsibility to lead and protect Americans against a deadly threat. It’s more clear than ever that that’s not the case.