The Push to Open Schools

4 mins read

A follower asked:

Trump wants to pretend like everything is normal. His solution to the virus is to pretend like there’s no problem. He has the idea that if the economy is strong, he’ll get reelected.

Closing schools means parents have to work at home, which slows down everything. It also means acknowledging that there is a risk. Acknowledging a risk means people will be hesitant to go to bars and restaurants. Businesses will lose money, and people will get laid off.

Trump claims Democrats are playing up the virus to hurt the economy to hurt his reelection:

It makes no sense because mass death will also hurt the economy, but he seems to believe that he can normalize this. He thinks he can get enough people to believe that death from the virus is just “the cost of doing business” (to use Heather Cox Richardson’s phrase).

Other things are at work. Fascists despise weakness and wearing a mask is “weak.” Remember Bill O’Reilly saying that people dying are “on their last legs“?

What goes with this is the underlying racism: The virus is hitting the Black communities harder.

No. Schools are operated locally.

One irony of Trump’s “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!” tweet is that, when local school districts wanted to remain segregated and the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation unconstitutional, Republicans shouted SAVE LOCAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS.

That was back when Republicans insisted on “states’ rights” and abhorred “central government control.” Now Trump barks out orders to schools, and Florida scrambles to comply.

What the federal government can do is commit these kinds of assaults against Universities:

So while Trump does not have the authority to order school districts to comply, he has iron control over elected Republican officials and he commands a well-oiled and well-funded propaganda network. These things give him a lot of power.

One of the stunning things we’re witnessing is the power Trump has over not just the elected Republican officials, but the thinking of about 40% of the population.

He’s not capable of handling a pandemic. He hasn’t the slightest idea how to manage a business or the federal government, and he has no desire to learn. What he can do is control and manipulate people—and he controls and manipulates a lot of people.

The answer to this question gets complicated and takes us into tort law, which requires plaintiffs to do things like prove causation. I do believe that there will be lawsuits against Fox for knowingly spreading false information that endangers lives.

Meanwhile, Republicans are doing their best to shield employers from liability. Federal law requires that employers provide safe workplaces, so workers’ compensation law could provide remedies if people contract the virus at work. It’s probably best to assume that such lawsuits won’t succeed. Don’t get your hopes up.

It would be nice if one result of all of this was a return to the Fairness Doctrine (abolished under Reagan) which requires balance and truth in news coverage. Elect a Democratic House and Senate and we might see that.

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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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