A foreign threat, emanating from China and requiring border controls and the exercise of government power to protect Americans, has arrived in the United States.
Yet President Donald Trump spent the initial weeks minimizing the threat and talking of it magically disappearing, despite being a nationalist who has long emphasized the importance of borders and the danger of China.
One might think the coronavirus would activate Trump’s defensive instincts at least as much as supposedly problematic immigrants and Chinese-made products do. Instead, the same Trump who in 2015 famously urged a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming into the United States until we could “figure out what is going on” has largely tried to shrug off the dangers of a new disease the risks of which are still not fully known.
And so, what is supposed to be a populist nationalist movement is reacting foolishly to what otherwise would be a natural populist nationalist issue.
It is borders that are the first line of defense, both within countries and between them (Trump has indeed readily resorted to travel restrictions).
Relatedly, it is globalization and increased interconnectedness that have been a key vector for the spread of the virus.
It is the so-called Deep State, the vast apparatus that runs the federal bureaucracy, that played a big role in botching the initial testing here.
Nonetheless, Trump supporters on talk radio, on cable TV, and on Twitter have gone down rabbit holes of denial rather than reacting to a threat that should be in their wheelhouse with tools congenial to them.
President Trump has been on a path toward allowing the coronavirus to discredit him and his supporters when it rightly should vindicate their key assumptions — and spur them to action.