There have been two Republican Presidents presiding over two different pandemics at the beginning of their terms. Ronald Reagan (HIV/AIDS pandemic) and Donald Trump (Covid-19) both have similarities and their way of handling the pandemics. Reagan for the most part refused to even say the words AIDS as a nod to the Moral Majority who helped him get elected and Trump would raise racial enmity with the term Chinese Flu and other things to appease his far right followers.
Reagan would not dispute the Moral Majority when they said AIDS was a curse on the ‘Gays’. Reagan would oppose the dispensing of needles to prevent AIDS and Trump would mock the use of face masks to prevent Covid-!9. Trump because he did not know how to address the pandemic spreading across the United States would use a herd mentality as his ultimate plan. This was let enough people die and the population will eventually develop immunity. Reagan would not be influenced to address AIDS especially as long as the misinformed ideal that gays were the only ones being affected by the disease. Both of these approaches belie the often Republican proclamation of the value of life.
The apologists for Trump will bring up the fact that he closed the borders tot eh Chinese population although this policy conveniently bled into his anti-immigrant policies anyway. Reagan’s apologists will boast of his placing good Cabinet members such as Surgeon General Everett Koop to handle the crisis even though Koop would experience blowback from the White House Staff for his press conferences on AIDS. This was much the same thing that happened to Dr. Fauci in the Trump administration.
Another thing the Trump apologists will talk about was the implementation of the Warp Speed Vaccine Program administered during tenure as President. Yet Trump while asking schools to open did not offer money to help them open all the while refusing to encourage mask wearing mandates. Reagan apologist love to mention his funding of AIDS research but failing to mention that the Democrat Congress would continually have to more than double the amount he required to make it substantial enough. Each seemed willing to spend enough to say they were spending money on the pandemics but neither seemed too willing to supply the funds needed.
Both presidents would show an uncaring attitude toward the fatality numbers that both pandemics would cause. Trump seemed unmoved as the number pushed past 500,000. Reagan seemed unmoved even as the number increased to 89,343 deaths during his administration. It took Reagan three years before he would make his first significant remarks on the subject. And many speculate that his Hollywood friend Rock Hudson dying of AIDS was at least one of the reasons he finally would come out on the subject of AIDS.
Of course, there were differences such as Reagan was able to perform the empathy task of the job, while Trump was a total disaster at empathy. Trump spent most of his presidency attacking in hateful ways his opinion of his opponents, Reagan by contrast was able to reach across the aisle and even make friends with people such the Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. It is interesting that both came to us in part through the entertainment world. Reagan an actor and Trump a television reality star.
My point is that Republicans have a history of mishandling pandemics because of their concerns to make a culture war issue out of the pandemics. They have never been the right to life party when it comes to things that they disagree. They can only be said to be interested in fetuses. They also should have no real credibility when it comes to issues such as healthcare. Their prejudices, inability to administer a government, and their unwillingness to fund health issues will hamper them in providing the care we need.
Let it be said that we have seen two pandemics in recent times (AIDS and Covid-19) and both times Republican presidents and their administrations mishandled or ignored the situations causing the deaths of many. The party of pro-life turns out is not so much. They are quite capable of finding groups to be expendable. Gay, elderly, poorer communities and so forth were found suffering under the pandemic policies of these two presidents. And as for their most devoted followers they took the road of moral superiority to justify their support. No masks or vaccines become a cause under Trump. Under Reagan hatred for gays, bisexuals, and junkies became cause celebre. Hopefully the next pandemic will have a President who values all lives.
*Ronald Reagan Presided Over 89,343 Deaths to AIDS and Did NothingWalt Odets on the First Years of the AIDS Epidemic and the Stigmatization of Gay MenBy Walt Odets July 22, 2019 In Literary Hub