Cliff’s Take: Willing Away The Virus

Magical Thinking on Coronavirus Put to the Test

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  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
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What a week. Things kicked off with a warning from public health experts that we have entered a “new phase” of the pandemic. We are told that the virus is now “extraordinarily widespread” nationwide. With more than 4.8 million reported coronavirus cases and 160,000 deaths in the U.S., the logic there checks out.

Trump’s response in his Axios Jonathan Swan interview – “It is what it is.”

Adding fuel to the fire, it is August and school is opening up. But not for long? At least one Indiana school had to close down again as a student tested positive within hours of arrival. And what does Trump have to say about school safety? No worries – "Children are almost immune,” as he claimed in a since-removed Facebook post. Oh, what a relief?!

Fatalism – is that our pandemic mantra? Perhaps, depending on your political genotype. Let’s see what this week’s polling data has to say.

  1. It won’t just “go away”. Americas are still very concerned about our COVID-19 reality.  This has changed little over the last five months. The pandemic is too close and too real for most to wish it away. But Republicans are still much more laissez faire than Dems. Magical thinking? Is the disconnect a lack of proximity to the disease?  Or do Republicans know something that Democrats don’t? Coronavirus concern


  2. Government, please. Again, in trying times, people look to government for the solution. Americans on both sides of the aisle want government to expand testing.  But we are mixed on the locus of control.  Republicans are less interested in seeing a single, national solution. Here again our age-old division on small versus big government is evident.  But, for me, the message is clear: we need government. Magical thinking alone won’t solve our problems. Big government


  3. School as a disease vector. In our most recent Washington Post/Ipsos poll, Americans only see risk in the upcoming school year. Look at the data. They are worried about school as a catalyst for further spread.  Republicans, however, less so.  Do they know something that Democrats don’t?  Ask Trump. What was it that he said? “It is what it is.” Back to school concerns


  4. Learning from afar. Just as we are operating in two versions of reality around the threat of the pandemic, the same is true when it comes to schools. Overall, a strong majority (66%) prefer distance learning to in loco classes – but not so for Republicans. With fear should come adaptive behavior. But if you are not afraid why change? Magic meets the virus.  Which will win? Remote learning preferred


  5. Who are we kidding? At the end of the day, enforcing social distancing in schools is almost bound to fail. Teachers agree. The majority think that school will be absolute chaos given the present conditions. If teachers can’t cut it, maybe Trump and Republicans have a magical solution. Or, maybe the burden of solving this problem will fall on moms, 62% of whom say they will be the ones stepping up to handle childcare if schools fail to reopen. Should we be surprised?  One more example of how COVID-19 is reinforcing the inequities of our society—whether that be race, economic, or gender. Teachers see trouble ahead


For a synthesis of the above, see my most recent interview with Tim Farley’s Morning briefing on POTUS radio. Again, please be safe and be sane!

For more information, please contact:

Clifford Young
President, U.S.
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2016
[email protected]

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The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs