Even in a pandemic, the work of a propagandist is never done.
Today’s Post and Courier brings another reason-defying feat of illogic from columnist, and National Review editor, Rich Lowry. For Lowry, the most important thing we can learn from the abject failure of the administration’s response to the coronavirus is—wait for it—the hypocrisy of “the left.”
Because you see, the fact that critics of the President wanted him to act more swiftly and more decisively to meet a public health threat somehow demonstrates that the charge that the President is an aspiring authoritarian is without foundation. After all, if he was ignorant and indecisive about an issue of importance then he can’t really be a tyrant since “tyrants aren’t bystanders” and “they don’t have to be pushed to declare a national emergency.” Trump, says Lowry, isn’t an authoritarian but rather “he has a highly personalized view of the Presidency.”
My colleague in philosophy and fellow GSH columnist Larry Krasnoff could no doubt shred this absurdity more concisely and fully than I can (he may well be writing at this moment) but let us consider just two points:
- Authoritarian leaders do not generally assert control and bypass legal restrictions with regard to all aspects of a political community—this confuses authoritarianism with totalitarianism. Instead, they establish control with respect to activity that they view as a threat to their power or if they see opportunities to expand their political power. There is a great deal of relatively free activity in China, until the communist party decides that the activity is a threat to their power.
- President Trump did not see the threat of a pandemic as important because he only sees the world through the lens of his own personal interests and power. This is what helps define an authoritarian ruler.
Further evidence of the rise of authoritarianism is when propaganda replaces honest commentary and debate. Lowry’s column is more than a cheap and baseless shot at “the left;” it is meant to obscure the voluminous evidence that Trump has rejected legitimate legislative oversight, used his office to enrich family and business associates, purged his administration and party of those deemed insufficiently loyal, used the threat of conspiracy to undermine the press and government institutions, and dismissed evidence that a foreign power has and is continuing to disrupt free and fair elections.