Day 1,219: Trump continues risking lives, making coronavirus decisions based on poll numbers

It’s not a secret that Donald Trump has handled the response to the coronavirus with an eye, almost exclusively, toward the 2020 election.

That focus is continuing to shape his decisions, science and experts be damned. Seeing his support waver among the religious right, Trump is making proclamations not based on protecting society as a whole, but rather with an attempt to cozy back up to a needed 2020 demographic. Friday, that was a demand to immediately reopen places of worship.

The anxiety over Trump’s standing with the Christian right surfaced after a pair of surveys by reputable outfits earlier this month found waning confidence in the administration’s coronavirus response among key religious groups, with a staggering decline in the president’s favorability among white evangelicals and white Catholics. Both are crucial constituencies that supported Trump by wide margins in 2016 and could sink his reelection prospects if their turnout shrinks this fall.

To safeguard his relationship with religious conservatives, Trump on Friday demanded that America‘s governors permit houses of worship to immediately reopen, and threatened to “override” state leaders who decline to obey his directive. The announcement — which came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention omitted religious institutions in new guidance about industry reopenings — featured clear appeals to white evangelicals, many of whom have long supported Trump’s socially conservative agenda.

Despite other such statements in the past, Trump has no power, constitutional or otherwise, to “override” governors. (For decades, Republicans have puffed their chests out about the importance of federalism, but few have spoken out against Trump’s similar proclamations.)

Places of worship have already linked to outbreaks across the country. And unfortunately, despite no binding power, many faith leaders and their parishioners will treat Trump’s latest words as gospel. People will be emboldened to ignore laws and guidelines, potentially spreading the disease quickly and easily within their communities.

Trump isn’t thinking about how even a few moderately-sized outbreaks could affect actual human beings. As always, everything goes back to polls and what can help him get reelected in 2020.

1,219 days in, 243 to go

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