How Can We Expect People to Be Sensible When Stupidity Comes from the Top?

Pandemic Politicians response stupidity

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Some politicians have acted in direct opposition to their citizenry’s well-being during the pandemic. The virus is scary. Our leaders’ response is scarier.

By Yehudit Mam

April 9, 2020

The virus is scary. Our political leaders’ response is scarier.

I am currently reading Adam Higginbotham’s book Midnight In Chernobyl, a sobering account of the disaster at the Soviet nuclear plant that ended Communist rule as we know it. Learning about the effects of a radioactive explosion is chilling to the bone, but even more terrifying is the realization that now, as then, we are at the mercy of deeply unqualified and incompetent people at the top. Quite frankly, I am as terrified of the medical, economic, political and social response of our government as of catching the virus.

Arrogance and stupidity are a lethal combination. This we have seen even in the case of relatively competent politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York. He spent precious time squabbling with the mayor of New York City, pussyfooting and downplaying the risks, and now the state is the epicenter of the pandemic in the world. Elsewhere, heads of state have shined by their myopic lack of leadership. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who at first boasted of shaking hands with everyone, is now in intensive care. 

One thing is becoming clear. The men in charge are not necessarily the brightest. They can range from a provincial party hack in a Chinese province, afraid of letting his superiors in Beijing know about the emergence of a highly contagious virus, and disregarding the warnings of a young doctor in the front lines out of sheer bootlicking fear, to the supreme party leader in China, who tried to conceal the extent of the pandemic and did not take steps quickly enough both to protect his people and alert the rest of the world. This turn of events is identical to what happened in Chernobyl. Official obfuscation and sclerotic bureaucracy led to the radioactive poisoning of hundreds of thousands of people, animals, lands, and towns that could have been spared.

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In the US, a motley crew of Republican governors like Ron De Santis in Florida, are hellbent on undermining the scientific recommendations in the name of keeping things open for business, or just of hogging the spotlight. Worse, they seem to think that condescending to their base is more important than keeping them alive. 

We can take some comfort in true leaders like Angela Merkel in Germany and governor Gavin Newsom in California, who took fast and straightforward steps to curb the pandemic. In the rest of the continent, we have a range of incompetents at the top, from power-hungry political dinosaurs like Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, to bullies like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, to malignant narcissists like Donald Trump. 

They are anything but leaders. I suspect that deep inside, these insecure men are aware of their unsuitability. But instead of surrounding themselves with the best and the brightest, they do the opposite. They fear and loathe the experts. They resent sharing the spotlight with anyone smarter than them. They’d rather risk the lives of millions of people than admit they don’t know how to deal with the crisis. They prefer basking in their own power and the blind adoration of their base to the stability of their country. 

Hence, Trump has taken it upon himself to prescribe unproven medication, has put his utterly unqualified son-in-law in charge of the pandemic, and was dismissive of early warnings about the coronavirus. He undermines every serious effort made by every responsible governor or medical expert. He is on a murderous vendetta against blue states or the governors that criticize him, or even the hospitals that are begging for supplies. Meanwhile, AMLO bears amulets and tells people to hug, bloviating about infrastructure projects and citing a tweet by the Pope. Even as authorities in Brazil try to stick to pandemic control guidelines, Bolsonaro is still dismissing the virus as “just a little flu.”

Setting a bad example, these men empower garden variety idiots like disobedient spring breakers, stubborn churchgoers, “corona party” animals, conspiracy mongers and spreaders of junk science who strain our already crumbling resources and put everyone at risk. The chaos that arises from the discrepancy between their pronouncements and the pleas by health officials like Dr. Fauci who are trying to contain the damage, is yielding very serious consequences. It should have equally serious consequences for Trump on Election Day. 

RELATED: Experts Predicted This Pandemic in 2017. Trump Ignored Them.




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