The Real Reason Behind Allowing the Protests During COVID-19
One of the apparent enigmas of our political moment is the behavior of countless governors and mayors who are allowing mass protests to erupt and persist in the midst of an infectious pandemic. Ordinary people everywhere are being compelled to wear masks; families, businesses, institutions and churches are in various stages of enforced lockdown; and social distancing is the order of the day. Yet thousands of protestors, demonstrators, vandals and rioters all across the nation are permitted to gather in close quarters, ostensibly on the grounds that the pursuit of (a fictitious) “social justice” and the fight against (an illusory) “systemic racism” outweigh every other consideration, including “flattening the curve” of viral casualties. On the face of it, such a phenomenon makes no sense at all.
But as many commentators have noted and ordinary citizens are aware, the reason is quite simple: November 3. The greater the disruption of everyday life, the more that businesses are forced to close, and the faster the economy sinks into desuetude, the better the chances that Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump at the polls. No lie is too vast to engineer that result, including the lie that contagion-prone crowds benefit the nation’s overall wellbeing more than preventive measures against a widespread disease. As Stephen Kruiser points out, “What’s most infuriating here is that we’re being asked to engage in some monumental suspension of disbelief and pretend that people hanging out in bars are responsible for some recent spikes in infection rates but that thousands of people marching, rioting, and looting for weeks had nothing to do with it… This makes me feel as if we’ll be in varying degrees of lockdown for at least the rest of the year now. If that’s the case, then Biden will probably be elected.” As if in confirmation, Barack Obama seems delighted that civil unrest and social distress constitute “a tailor-made moment” for electing Biden.
It’s hard to say if such electoral calculations are viable, but they are no doubt plausible. The Democrats are counting on a growing public perception that Trump is a weak president, unable to act decisively to deter those laboring to create as much social strife and discord as possible and to destroy the economy—a robust economy is Trump’s greatest political advantage. Trump, they hope, may come to seem ineffective and even powerless in the current circumstances.
I suspect there is another, more specific motive for selectively tolerating mass protests even during a COVID panic, and that is the determination to smother Trump’s immensely popular and energetic political rallies. TikTok hoplites had already schemed to undermine Trump’s Tulsa rally by registering for tickets with no intention of showing up in order to reduce both attendance and morale. For Trump has an undoubted talent for galvanizing the public, for packing stadiums filled with cheering supporters, and for creating a potent electoral momentum that will carry him to a second term. A second lockdown would be an effective means of depriving Trump of his most powerful, performative asset.
Nothing could serve the Democratic left’s action plan better. Deliberately cause a new outbreak of cases, generate a surge of new infections spreading throughout the country and a corresponding wave of fear, thus establishing a reason for a second lockdown, and Trump will have lost his megaphone. His rallies will fade into a distant memory. He will have been silenced in the very medium where he is most dynamic, vigorous and commanding.