Since the opening phases of the pandemic, the media have tried to make heroes out of the Democratic governors who are presiding over the highest COVID-19 death tolls and coronavirus infection rates in the country. But they’re not heroes; they’re villains.
Undoubtedly, there are factors outside any policymaker’s control. Yet, despite implementing draconian stay-at-home orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Democrats govern eight of the 10 states with the highest infection and death rates per million residents. Unfortunately, these governors have been so fixated on depriving citizens of their most basic rights that they’ve made deadly mistakes.
The first reason is that the national media — committed to attacking my father even in times of national crisis — has lionized these governors and egged them on to ever more extreme action, casting them as anti-Trump heroes battling the White House to save their citizens’ lives. These governors have been more than happy to go along with that narrative, and have spent months blaming someone else, most often the President, for their own states’ woes.
Now, in addition to blaming Republicans and the White House, these governors have started to attack their own citizens and local officials — ordinary men and women who are desperate to start reopening their towns, their businesses, and their lives so they can avoid destitution for their families and ruin for their communities.
No politician more clearly exhibits this trend than Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who is desperately trying to exert authority over local leaders after numerous counties announced plans to proceed with reopening ahead of the governor’s timeline. Wolf, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is trying to drastically restrict the range of allowable activities in his state. Whereas Whitmer sought to dictate the specific items shoppers could purchase at stores that remain open, Wolf banned vital activities that experts widely consider to be safe, including construction projects. Both governors are contending with mounting frustration from residents in rural areas who are only being hurt by strict lockdown measures designed for more densely-populated areas.
In a long, flailing Twitter rant, Wolf threatened to withhold federal aid money from counties that refuse to comply with his orders, issue citations and suspend liquor licenses if restaurants reopen, and revoke liability insurance from small businesses.
Why is Gov. Wolf demanding “consequences” for Pennsylvanians who just want to safely get on with their lives and provide for their families? He’s trying to frame this as a brave stand on behalf of public health, stopping rogue counties from getting ahead of the reopening plan. A far more plausible explanation is that his bluster is a cowardly attempt to distract attention from his own awful decision making that turned his state’s nursing homes into death pits.
A staggering 68 percent of Pennsylvania COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes. That shocking statistic bears repeating. More than two out of three coronavirus deaths in the Keystone State had absolutely nothing to do with social distancing, business closures, travel restrictions, wearing masks, or any of the other measures “heroic” governors have demanded. Those have a single, common cause: the rapid spread of the virus among the elderly and other vulnerable populations in nursing homes.
Gov. Wolf’s administration failed to implement a plan to protect nursing home residents that his own experts developed, but the ineptitude goes much deeper. Wolf also — in defiance of all sound science and basic common sense — ordered nursing homes to admit patients who had already tested positive for the virus, putting them in close contact with the very people most at risk of experiencing serious complications and death from COVID-19.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat who likes to lecture citizens about the importance of following his orders, is embroiled in a similar scandal.
The results have been predictably tragic. More than 2,000 Pennsylvania seniors have died in nursing homes, many of them due to exposure to infected people who would otherwise have interacted with healthy people who had much lower risks of dying.
Now, Wolf is desperate to put the blame on someone else. His administration is refusing to release detailed information on individual nursing homes even as neighboring states do so. Instead of promoting transparency, Wolf is demanding blind obedience to his edicts and smearing anyone who questions his orders as an enemy of science.
Notably, coronavirus deaths in the counties seeking to reopen are even more concentrated in nursing homes thanks to the disaster Wolf created than in more densely-populated counties elsewhere in the state. Beaver County, which was among the first to defy Wolf, only has infection numbers that suggest the need to stay shut down because of a massive nursing home outbreak.
Wolf is struggling to keep Beaver County residents shut in not because there is a general outbreak that such measures could help contain, but because it is politically advantageous for him to pretend that this is the case, rather than acknowledging his own deadly blunder.
If Tom Wolf thinks he makes himself look less incompetent by stomping on the rights of individuals and businesses, he’s got another think coming. The same goes for any other “hero governor” who inflicts misery on their own citizens in an effort to burnish their reputation.
Donald Trump Jr. is Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization and the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book Triggered.