But Trump is not the only problem with the United States. New York had the worst outbreak in the country (so far) because Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dawdled and procrastinated in its early stages. In this they exemplified perhaps the signature characteristic of American politicians: blame avoidance. When faced with a problem, most top politicians in both parties think first about how they can shift blame to others or appear the victim of circumstance. Halting the epidemic in its early stages would have required a lot of aggressive action before the need for it was clear — in a word, leadership. Politicians would have had to exercise power in a way that upset people, and carefully communicate why they were doing so. Instead they largely let events do their work for them — once outbreaks were underway and sports seasons were being canceled, they could impose lockdowns without risking a backlash. That cowardice killed tens of thousands of people. Only a handful of state governors, like Washington’s Jay Inslee, actually listened to their scientists and got out ahead of events.
Now multiple states are in the throes of accelerating outbreaks, and once again politicians are following events rather than anticipating them. Back in late May many experts warned California Governor Gavin Newsom that he was reopening the state too quickly, but under criticism from those who didn’t like lockdowns, he pushed forward. He largely left things up to county officials, many of whom are conservative goofballs who refuse to obey his authority. Now that reopening has plainly backfired — the state shattered its daily case record on both Monday and Tuesday — Newsom has belatedly threatened that counties that refuse to follow pandemic control guidelines may lose state aid. It’s a month late and a billion dollars short.